Caitlin Kennell Kim, seminary grad, baby wrangler, ordinary radical, writes about the life of a convert in the Catholic Church and explores how faith and everyday life intersect.
Click this banner to see the entire series.
June 24th, 2013
Thoughts on bodies and liberation this swimsuit season
This summer marks a Kim Family first. We have a pool membership. So we go to the pool. A LOT.
All of this lathering sunblock on squirmy little bodies and finding a swimsuit that works for my nine-month pregnant body and keeping a wary eye on the aforementioned little bodies as they dare closer and closer to deep water and navigating a veritable sea of bodies in pursuit of the good spot under the big tree has got me thinking. About (surprise) bodies.
Our bodies are vulnerable. They unabashedly announce our fragility and dependence and glory all over the place. They are truth tellers. Like the slightly drunken family member at every Thanksgiving table everywhere, they tell pointedly personal stories about us. Our bodies are us. Really us. And our bodies are more than just skin and sinew and bone and fat animated by our souls. We are whole persons made part and parcel in the image of God. And we are — all of us — fearfully and wonderfully made.
As I watch our soon-to-be born daughter roll and hiccup and kick under the thin veil of my stretched skin, I am reminded that God chose to have a …
June 10th, 2013
A convert’s guide to the month of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Church dedicates the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, one of the most popular Catholic devotions throughout the world. So what is the Sacred Heart, anyway? When Catholics talk about the Sacred Heart we’re referring to the physical (yes, blood and ventricles and valves … this is an unabashedly embodied faith, y’all) Heart of Jesus as a representation of his Divine Love for humanity. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus’ Heart was moved by compassion for the poor, the sick, the forgotten, and the grieving. Pierced by a sword on the Cross as an act of self-giving love and enthroned in Heaven for eternity, this same Heart still beats for us and yearns for us and overflows with mercy for us and aches in solidarity with us. Come along with your favorite convert and start your summer off right(eous) with a few ideas to celebrate the month of the Sacred Heart:
1. Begin at the Beginning. During June, make an effort to begin your day with prayer. If this is a new practice for you, start out simply. If you have a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, use it to focus as you pray. Try …
June 3rd, 2013
Swollen Feet and the Kingdom of God
Last Friday, amidst early morning preparations to get The Dude (i.e. our 5-year-old son who, to this point, has been known to Convert-sation readers as Sassy McSasspants) ready for preschool, it occurred to me that I couldn’t tie my shoes.
OK. That’s not completely accurate. It occurred to me that tying my shoes would involve balancing my enormously pregnant self against the footboard of the bed and hoisting my legs onto the bookshelf all while making a series of loud and unbecoming noises. I glanced at my sandals knowing full well that succumbing to their beaded and completely impractical siren song would cause my feet to swell beyond recognition. I glanced at my sleeping husband knowing full well that this was the first day off the hardest working man in theology (which is kind of like being the hardest working man in show business … you know, except with significantly less sweating and significantly more Latin) had been able to take in months.
So I woke him up.
To his credit, he was not cranky. He tied my shoes just the way I like, gave me a kiss on the belly, and cuddled back up to our 2-year-old and …
May 19th, 2013
A Convert’s Guide to Celebrating Pentecost … Today and Every Day
A scene from Pentecost at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Montauk, New York. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
It will always be Pentecost in the church,
provided the church lets the beauty of the Holy Spirit
shine forth from her countenance.
When the church ceases to let her strength
rest on the power from above –
which Christ promised her
and which he gave her on that day –
and when the church leans rather on the weak forces
of the power or wealth of this earth,
then the church ceases to be newsworthy.
The church will be fair to see,
attractive in every age,
as long as she is faithful to the Spirit that floods her
and she reflects that Spirit
through her communities,
through her pastors,
through her very life.
May 14, 1978
Archbishop Oscar Romero from “The Violence of Love”
The Church is alive. We — you and me and all of us who dare to call Jesus “Lord” — are the living Body of Christ on earth. We are the hands of Christ reaching out to comfort, to heal, to feed, to sacrifice for those in bondage. We are the feet …
May 6th, 2013
Thoughts on abortion in light of the Kermit Gosnell trial
Women’s Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia.
(This post includes some graphic details from a current criminal case. It’s a bit heavier than what I usually write about for Convert-sation … but I think it’s important.)
Let’s engage in a thought experiment.
Picture two men. Both have been convicted of a crime they did not commit. They are innocent. Can you imagine them?
The first man is stripped naked. Amidst shouts and jeers, he is dragged into a public square. An angry mob surrounds him and he is caught in a terrible and unceasing deluge of stones and bricks. After an hour, his body lies broken, bloody, and lifeless. The crowd disperses. His body is thrown into a shallow, unmarked grave. He has been executed.
The second man is given a new pair of denim pants and a new blue work shirt. He meets with a licensed physician to receive a comprehensive medical exam, to give a complete medical history, and to hear an explanation of the medical procedure involved in a lethal injection. He receives a final meal of his choosing. He is offered a Valium. He is led to a sterile chamber and strapped to a gurney. A …
April 29th, 2013
Thoughts on mindfulness in the wake of tragedy
I hate washing dishes. H-A-T-E.
About two weeks ago, our dishwasher made a horrid gasping, gurgling sound and ceased to work. I cursed, begged, and prayed. I may have kicked it (read: I did kick it … mercilessly, I’m afraid … while my children looked on in silent bemusement. Parenting fail.). I sent the extraordinarily handy moral theologian to the hardware store for a star-shaped Allen wrench. He took it apart. He put it back together. It was a lost cause.
For the few days between the untimely incapacitation of our dishwasher and the next available service call from our local appliance repair guy, the dishes required hand washing. I know there are probably a billion people who do this every day. I know — in the grand scheme of all tasks domestic and menial –hand washing a few days’ worth of dishes is hardly the end of the world. I’m not sure why I find this task so utterly loathsome … but, in the interest of keeping it real, I must confess that I do. I really do.
Whilst scrubbing my umpteenth tiny plastic cup, I remembered something I had read for a class at seminary. Thich Nhat Hanh, …
April 4th, 2013
Thoughts on the Octave of Easter
[+] Click image or here to view larger version.
The tomb is empty. The stone has been rolled away. Jesus is not there. A vacant grave in the dim light of morning. This is the height and summit of the story of Jesus the Nazorean.
Except it’s not.
This year’s Easter reading from the Gospel of John gives us the account of a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene seeking the tomb of her Rabbi, Master and friend. It is early. The sun has yet to rise. She finds the tomb empty and — with anguish and horror — runs to tell the disciples that someone has taken the body of her Lord. This Jesus (her Jesus), who was all mercy, all truth, all gentle and fierce and holy power, must he suffer the indignity of being stolen in the night? Was not the pain and humiliation of the cross enough? Where have they taken him? Simon Peter and John tear through the quiet streets of Jerusalem and arrive at the tomb. It is just as Mary has reported. Empty. They are left with questions and vague hope.
Jesus did not come to give us vague hope. The empty tomb is not the …
March 19th, 2013
Pope Francis greets a boy after celebrating Mass at St. Anne’s Parish within the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms;
I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him close in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. (from an ancient prayer to St. Joseph)
I want to talk about fathers. I want to talk about fathers because — despite what one might garner from nearly every aspect of popular culture — they matter. They matter profoundly. I want to talk about fathers today because it is the Feast of St. Joseph and the day in which our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, will celebrate his installation. So, in honor of these two humble and loving fathers and in honor of all humble and loving fathers, we need to talk.
One day early last week as our alarm clock radio started blaring at 6:30 a.m., the voice of a woman tore me from my sleep. “Top 10 reasons why your husband is just another one of your kids,” she chortled. …
March 11th, 2013
A Lenten Call to Action for Catholic Institutions
This is a call to action. Catholic institutions, I’m talking to you.
January 1, 2006, 31-year-old Lori Stodghill was admitted to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado. She was complaining of nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Lori Stodghill was seven months pregnant with twin boys. As she was being wheeled into an exam room, she lost consciousness. ER staff desperately attempted to page her obstetrician. He never answered. She passed away a mere hour after arriving at the emergency room. The Stodghill twins died in their mother’s womb. It was later discovered that Lori Stodghill had suffered a pulmonary embolism.
Jeremy Stodghill lost his wife and two children that New Year’s Day. Believing that an emergency C-section could have saved the lives of his unborn sons, he filed a Wrongful Death Suit. Lawyers for Catholic Health Initiatives, the hospital group that owns St. Thomas More, argued that the claims relating to the twins must be dismissed because unborn children cannot legally be defined as persons and, therefore, they have no legal status. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claims. Mr. Stodghill has appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. To date, he is …
March 4th, 2013
Farmers and their advocates protest outside a supermarket for fair wages. (CNS photo/Jim West)
This year I’m not fasting during Lent. Period. Not because I’ve given up on the concept of fasting as spiritually edifying. Not because I’m the worst faster in the long and storied history of fasting (which, by the way, I am). Not because I have a tendency to be rebellious, defiant, and stubborn (me, me, and — let’s face it — me).
This year I’m not fasting because I’m pregnant with our fourth little one and, in her inspired and loving wisdom, Mother Church has given me a pass. I’m still practicing abstinence from meat… but it didn’t quite seem like enough. So, this Lent I’m retracing the steps of a spiritual adventure I embarked upon last year. I am aiming at the fast the Prophet Isaiah describes — a fast from injustice. I have a few new ideas. I hope you’ll come along with me — in addition to your Lenten fast, in lieu of a traditional fast (not everyone is obligated to fast), or in an “oh… fudge” attempt to salvage a Lent that to this point resembles one long, drawn-out, and …
February 6th, 2013
There are approximately 45 women’s colleges in this country. A great many of them are Catholic institutions founded principally by religious orders. The Church has a long history of supporting the education of girls and women. As Catholics, we possess a rich legacy of great woman-philosophers, theologians, and saints. The truth is I’ve been thinking a lot about women’s education lately. A few weeks ago, those at the administrative helm of my alma mater — Wilson College — decided to end her days as a college for women by admitting men into all of its academic programs. This decision (as I understand it) was made in an attempt to dramatically increase enrollment in hopes of bolstering the college’s dire financial outlook. I have heard many people — highly intelligent people for whom I have sincere regard — suggest that the day of the women’s college has come to an end. I have heard it suggested that women’s colleges are archaic. I have been told that they are no longer needed. I respectfully and passionately disagree.
In a letter written to the editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, James F. Conneely, president of Notre Dame of Maryland University, responded to …
January 28th, 2013
Parishoners walk past a dress code sign at a Catholic Church in the Philippines. (CNS photo/Cheryl Ravelo, Reuters)
Holy controversy, Batman! I had no idea that so many people had such impassioned opinions about what other people wear to Mass. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to those who took the time to respond to my last post via the comments section on the Convert-sation blog and also on Busted Halo’s Facebook page. I decided it would be easiest to respond to your questions and thoughts in another post. So here we go …
When my husband and I were graduate students — newly wed and in the throngs of a very complicated first pregnancy — we spent an inordinate amount of time on a particular city block visiting our doctor, getting labs drawn, and being examined at the hospital. We were tired, broke, and scared. At the end of said block was a church. The doors of that church were open most of the time. Sometimes Mass was being said. Sometimes the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for Adoration. Sometimes nothing in particular was going on at all.
My husband and I would stop into that church before …
January 20th, 2013
Once upon a time there was a Mary. No, not that Mary. A different one. This Mary lived in Egypt at the end of the fourth century. She made her way across the better part of the ancient near east by trading sexual favors to pilgrims for food and lodging. She boasted heartily about her ability to seduce and, if legend bears any truth, her licentiousness knew no bounds (seriously).
Once she followed a procession of pilgrims bearing a piece of the True Cross through Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Donned in clothes meant to advertise her sexual availability, she sauntered among the pilgrims in search of her next conquest. When the procession reached the door of the church, she was barred from entering by a powerful and inexplicable force. Her eyes fell upon on image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her heart instantly overflowed with humility, love, and repentance. Mary of Egypt (St. Mary of Egypt, to be precise) was suddenly able to enter the church where she worshipped God fervently and joyfully. She was allowed in as she was — dressed in a way meant to elicit lust. She was compelled to enter …
December 31st, 2012
Attention! Christmas is NOT over! January 1, we celebrate the second most significant feast of the Christmas season: The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. New to this feast/season/faith? Come along with this convert as she explains the ins and outs of this celebration of Our Lady as the Mother of God.
T — Theotokos: This Greek word means ”God-bearer” or “God-birther” and has been used as a title of honor for the Blessed Virgin Mary since the earliest centuries of the Church. It is this title that is translated into Latin in liturgy and prayers as Mater Dei (Mother of God). Whenever we proclaim Mary the Mother of God, we are proclaiming that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate. Every Catholic doctrine pertaining to Mary is meant to instill a greater and deeper love for her Son in the hearts of the faithful. Mary is our model of perfect discipleship. All who claim Jesus as their Lord and Beloved are called to imitate Mary by being a Theotokos. We are called to bear Christ — our God Incarnate — into the world in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
H — Heresy: In 431, the Church convened the first Council …
December 18th, 2012
Mourners gather at St. Rose of Lima Church for a vigil service in Newtown, Connecticut. (CNS photo/Andrew Gombert, pool via Reuters)
Enough. This is enough. I look at the faces of our three children — our son the same age as the youngest victims of Friday’s tragedy — and I declare that this is enough.
It is Advent, the season of hope. It is the season of making ourselves ready for the coming of Christ. We … our grieving sisters and brothers in Newtown, Connecticut, and all of us who keep watch with them and pray with them and weep with them … have witnessed a dark shadow descend over this season of light. We have seen the hopes and dreams of little children and the selfless adults charged with their care extinguished by an act of indescribable violence. Enough.
We are a people who walk in darkness. In the mire of wanton death and destruction, we scratch and fumble and claw for some glimpse of light. And we have seen a light … small and fierce … beginning to penetrate the gloom. We have seen the people of Newtown wrap their arms around each other in love and solidarity. …
December 13th, 2012
Mary and the Child Jesus are depicted in this painting “Madonna and Child.”(CNS/Art Resource/Metropolitan Museum of Art)
This Advent, I am remembering how I came to love (really love) Our Lady. I am remembering an Advent about five years ago when a very pregnant me sat across a gargantuan desk from a stern-faced doctor tossing phrases around like “never be able to carry to term” and “lungs will not function” like he was ordering a meal from a drive-thru window. I remember the anger — the deep and desperate anger — that coursed through me as I tried to understand why God would allow such a thing to happen. I remember feeling like I couldn’t pray. Me — the third-year seminarian who had been trained to pray with individuals and communities in pain. I remember the first time I asked Mary to intercede for me … clutching the medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe that hung from my neck, my face leaning against the cold bus window in complete defeat as hot tears surged down my face. I remember asking her to put the ache that pulsed through every part of me — the aftershocks of a mother’s heart rent …
December 3rd, 2012
A mother holds her children during Mass at Jesus the Divine Word Church in Huntingtown, Maryland. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Advent is a time for cultivating our patience in anticipation of Christmas and the coming of Christ. What more fitting way to welcome the infant Jesus into our hearts (and to practice patience) than to go out of our way to celebrate the presence of children at Mass! Here are some tips for folks with and without kids for making Mass a welcoming place for the little ones who are so dear to Jesus.…
Tips for Parents
Feed Them: Little people who are too young to receive Holy Communion are not obligated to fast before Mass. So feed them! I recommend a big breakfast with lots of protein and easy on the sugar. Nobody finds it easy to sit still on an empty stomach.
Sit Up Front: Imagine attending a liturgy (or a play or concert, for that matter) where you couldn’t see what was going on. It would be hard to pay attention, wouldn’t it? Sit as close to the front as you can. You can quietly explain what all of the objects in the sanctuary are (the tabernacle, the
November 26th, 2012
It started out as a perfectly mundane shopping trip. Our youngest (nearly one) sat in the front of the cart and our two oldest (two and a half and four, respectively) were riding in the basket. I was at the helm. It was last winter and we were shopping for sweaters. Our oldest was calling out the color of each sweater on the rack. His sisters clapped with hearty approbation. A woman approached me and, with more than a soupçon of disbelief and disgust, asked me, “Are those all yours?”
“Yes,” I replied, “These are all mine.” She stopped. She stared. She shook her head and clucked her tongue in disapproval. She walked away. I prayed (Oh, Lord did I pray) for the self-control to not pummel her with the diaper bag and assail her with language below the dignity of Christian womanhood. I bit my tongue. Our oldest looked up at me with hurt and confusion. “It’s ok,” I said. “We’re ok.”
Yes, by today’s standards, our family is (kind of) big. Yes, our children are relatively close in age. Yes, we are a large, loud, interracial, Catholic family. And watch out, by the grace of God, we might …
November 19th, 2012
On the eve of our daughter’s third birthday, she and I spent hours in the kitchen baking bread. We mixed. We kneaded. We waited. We shaped the dough. We carefully opened the oven door just enough to fill ourselves up with the smell of baking bread. We got flour in our hair. We made a mess of epic proportions. It was beautiful — her little hands and my not-so-little hands working and playing and creating something good and wholesome together. It was almost prayer.
I have always found bread making to be an intensely spiritual endeavor. Somehow flour, water, yeast and salt — the most common and mundane of ingredients — are combined to make something warm and hearty and magical. A miracle. A little “ex nihilo” creation right in my kitchen. It is sensual. It requires creativity and attention and patience and hope. It yields something good and wholesome. It has the ability to nourish, to comfort, to provide a moment of reprieve from all of the coldness and harshness that bombards us out there in the world. I love bread. A lot. And what I love about bread is not so different from what I love …
November 5th, 2012
(CNS photo/Gary Cameron, Reuters)
It is an unseasonably warm morning in Northeastern Ohio. The pickles Kim (shorthand for the three little people who live at our house) are running wild in a choppy sea of motley leaves. (Raking is on the list. The list is long.) I ask our 4-year-old — the one loping around with a Tyrannosaurus Rex strapped across his torso in a self-styled Baby Bjorn whilst brandishing a stick/pirate sword — what I should write about voting. Without stopping, without so much as lowering his wooden scabbard he yells, “Tell everyone about how you love God.” Not bad, Captain Dino-Daddy. Not bad at all.
I love God. And this makes voting complicated. I don’t mean to be disingenuous. I am not an undecided voter … at all. What I’m trying to say is that neither of the candidates stands in line with the totality of Catholic moral teaching. Neither one of them perfectly conforms to the beautiful vision of Blessed John Paul II’s “culture of life.” Neither one of them has put forward a foreign policy that adequately addresses the most dire human rights issues facing our world. Neither one of them has addressed grave problems plaguing …