Book Review: Why I Am Catholic (and You Should be Too)

Book Review: Why I Am Catholic (and You Should be Too)

I was a Catholic nerd as a teenager, reading every Peter Kreeft book and listening to every Scott Hahn cassette I could get my hands on. Brandon Vogt’s recent work, “Why I Am Catholic (and You Should be Too)”, is a smooth, intelligible summary of all that led me to choose for myself the faith my parents raised me with. It combines the best aspects of personal testimony and Catholic apologetics into a book that’s easy to read and leaves you nodding your head in agreement, often surprised by the clarity with which he writes. He meets you where you are at and patiently, but not patronizingly, walks you home.

I’ve heard many a convert say, “There is no one book in particular you could have given me to convince me to become Catholic”, but I’d have to say that this is the closest thing there is to it.

Control freaks and The Land Before Time

Control freaks and The Land Before Time

I had an epiphany recently.

When things don’t go the way we wanted, the way we planned, we feel out of control. We hate it. It leaves us in a bad mood, asking “Why me?” or “Why would God let this happen?”

When things do go the way we planned, we feel in control. Happy. Peaceful. On top of things. We know what to expect: our desires becoming a reality.

Here’s the epiphany part: We were never in control to begin with! It’s kind of like that scene in The Land Before Time (my daughter is super into dinosaurs, so I get to relive the scariest movie of my childhood – yay!) where Cera is hungry but proudly wants to get the leaves down by herself. She runs into the tree, headbutting it again and again, until Little Foot mercifully and inconspicuously tosses a bunch down, timed with one of her attempts. She munches self-contentedly one her chlorophyll-filled meal, not realizing the goodness of her friend she so often snubs.

Sometimes things happen according to my plan, but I wonder how often it’s actually because I made them happen, and how often God just has pity on me and throws down some leaves while I walk away feeling so good about myself.

It’s not that we don’t need to try to do anything because our lives are predestined in a way that negates our free will. God gives us human means. We have intelligence and time, money and influence, knowledge of female reproductive systems, textbooks we can study, and rowboats we can float away in. But, for those of us who tend to want to control our surroundings, it’s good to remember that God gave us even those means. All that takes place in our lives does so under the loving eye of Our Heavenly Father, the Giver of good gifts. So when we pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on us, we can feel free, and tell God with Pope Saint John XXIII, “It’s your church, Lord. I’m going to bed.” It’s in his hands; we do our best and leave to God the rest.

Things not turning out as we had hoped is a reminder from Our Lord that we are not in charge and that we need him. Being a parent has taught me more about how God sees us than my theology degree ever did. How badly do my children need me! How badly must I need him? My newborn could literally not leave the room if I just left him there. And my two year old – well, we’ve all heard enough stories about two year olds to know that things don’t end well when you take your eyes off them for more than 30 seconds (check out the literal writing on all of our walls if you want evidence of that). I think I am so capable when I check things off my to do list, when a recipe turns out well, when have a pleasant day with no tantrums or tardiness. In reality, I need the days where I hide in the bathroom or turn the music to maximum volume in the car to drown out the whining to wake me up to my dependence on Our Lord. He often throws me the leaves, but sometimes, I need him not to, so I realize that all this good in my life? It’s not my doing. I’m not in control. And that is a damn good thing.

From “agenda” to “relationship”: an update to my bilingual parenting journey

From “agenda” to “relationship”: an update to my bilingual parenting journey

I have to read more about translanguage, but the rest mirrors my experience as well!

Españolita...¡sobre la marcha!


(Photo courtesy of, Flickr Creative Commons)

Last year I wrote about my then two-year old daughter’s language development in Spanish. My husband, D., a native of Spain, and I are raising our two children bilingually: our family’s language policy is Spanish at home/among us four and English with everyone else.

With the arrival of my daughter E. three years ago, I began my bilingual parenting journey with what some might call a “hard core” approach: use only Spanish with my children, all the time. Never English. No translating. Promote, promote, promote the minority language.

As a trained linguist, I can cite all of the research supporting bilingualism. I recognize the advantages of a family language policy that supports the minority language.

And, while I’ll be the first to raise my hand with an emphatic YES! to the benefits of being bilingual, I have to admit that my initial approach to raising bilingual children rested on…

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Why Raise Bilingual Children?

Why Raise Bilingual Children?

I speak only Spanish to my almost two-year-old daughter.

My husband only speaks English. Our last name is Butler. My daughter and I are blonde. She and my husband have blue eyes. We live in an English speaking community. No one else in the family speaks Spanish. Why do we do it?

I took Spanish in school growing up, and being a good student, I memorized the rules of the language until I was able to be in a literature class with native speakers my senior year in high school. I got to college, and with so much credit under my belt, a minor was only a few classes away, so why not? But for all that, I couldn’t have a conversation in Spanish. The summer after my first year in college, a friend talked me into spending six weeks in Chile as a Catholic missionary, learning to minister to Latinos and doing so in the local communities. It was a total immersion experience, they encouraged us to not even pray in our native language, but only in Spanish. My best friend was with me and, poor girl, didn’t have the vocabulary I did, so her very sincere and earnest prayers went something like: ‘Jesus, thank you. Forgive me. Help me. I love you.’ which is all you need, but still. It was a little easier for me. And after two weeks there, I woke up one day thinking in Spanish! I didn’t have to stop a conversation to translate in my head what I wanted to say. In that experience, I realized something that has changed my life: I now had one billion new potential friends in the world!

Of course, the studies show that being multilingual, especially from birth, has many intellectual benefits. Where I live in California, speaking Spanish is required with many jobs. Knowing another language allows you to more fully experience places and cultures when you travel. And I had to work hard to get here. I ended up majoring in Spanish and moving to Spain for a year after college. I spent a lot of time, energy, and money in order to be able to speak two languages. And if I could give my daughter all these benefits without the cost, why wouldn’t I?

But most importantly for me, if I can help open her heart to see that every person in the world is just like her, they just live in a different language, and that language does not need to be a barrier but can be a bridge, why wouldn’t I?
We don’t have it all figured out. She prefers to speak English so far (because it’s usually less syllables, I’m sure!). I have to look up new vocabulary words all the time (especially since we go to the zoo so often!). And I am not a native speaker so, even though I feel comfortable speaking Spanish, how will it be when she goes through hardships, life changes, on her wedding day? I have to work hard not only to expose her to the minority language through friendships, media, etc. and when the time comes to teach her to read and write in two languages, but to make sure that I am capable of fully entering into our moments together in a foreign language. You thought giving “the talk” was hard? Try it in another language! We will figure it out as we go. There is no manual for raising kids, in a monolingual home or a multilingual one. But when we are at the park and the only other people there are a Mexican family and we can become friends instead of pretending to not notice each other, that is worth it.