Great WaPo: “You left the door open, and there is a giant bee.”

There is an interesting article in the WaPo today, which I offer now with my emphases and comments.

‘We Live It Every Day’
Pope’s Visit Cheers Young Conservatives Who Reject ‘Cafeteria Catholicism’ in Favor of the Full Menu

By Jacqueline L. Salmon  [She’s been around here before!]
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008; B01

During an era when two-thirds of young Catholics say they can be good Catholics without going to Mass and many believe in a woman’s right to choose abortion and view premarital sex as morally acceptable, Karen and David Hickey might be considered renegades — because they are so devout.

The lives of the Fairfax County couple and their five young children revolve around the Catholic Church, and they stand out as devoted because so many others do not follow the teachings of their church to the letter.

For the Hickeys and a community of young, conservative Washington area Catholics who piously follow the teachings of the church, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Washington next week carries a special meaning.

They appreciate Benedict for his unwavering advocacy of what they hold to be "Catholic": ancient liturgical practices such as the traditional Latin Mass, the supremacy of the Catholic Church, Gregorian chants in worship and theologians who concur with the pope’s teachings. As the Vatican’s orthodoxy watchdog for 24 years before becoming pope, Benedict earned this group’s devotion.

"I love Pope Benedict," said Karen Hickey, 35, who keeps a bust of him on her piano. [A good place for it!  He would appreciate that.] "He’s done so much good in the little time that he’s been there."

Young, orthodox Catholics are more enthusiastic about Benedict than are many in the older generation, said Colleen Carroll Campbell, author of "The New Faithful," a book about the youthful set. "They like his countercultural stance on a lot of things. . . . They also like his emphasis on Catholic identity [exactly] and fidelity to Catholic doctrine."

But even Benedict in person isn’t enough to draw some traditional Catholics to the papal Mass next week at Nationals Park. They feel it will be too informal for their taste, and many dislike the idea of receiving Communion standing up instead of kneeling at an altar rail.  [And with good reason.  Pope Benedict is not all that hot about it either.]

Chris Paulitz, a Senate aide, says he won’t go, but he will show his support for Benedict by going to see him pass in the popemobile.

Such young Catholics’ strict obedience to the tenets of their faith makes them an anomaly in their generation. Only 14 percent of Catholics ages 20 to 40 attend Mass at least weekly, according to research by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, and just one in five goes to confession once a year or more.  [Boy, do we have work to do!]

For conservative Catholics, that’s unthinkable.

"You have to live your faith and practice, not just learn the doctrine," said Anne Francoise Guelcher, 40, the mother of six children — ages 15 months to 14 years — who lives with husband James in Montclair, Va.

Guelcher home-schools her children. "That way, I can really teach them about the faith," she says.

The family goes to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days and celebrates the myriad Catholic feast days. Like other devout Catholics, they keep holy water, which has been blessed by a priest, in a small font by their front door. They say the rosary and pray to the saints daily.

"We live it every day," Guelcher said. [A better way to put it is hard to imagine.]

Like Catholics of their generation, young conservatives grew up under the liberalizing changes to the church brought on by the Vatican II Council in the 1960s, but some rejected those reforms as they reached adulthood.

Paulitz, 32, remembers "lots of guitars and banjoes" at church services and priests who had fallen away from church doctrine.

"I felt uncomfortable about it constantly," he said.

Like the Hickeys and the Guelchers, Paulitz and his wife, Diane, found their way to St. Mary Mother of God, a 163-year-old parish near the Verizon Center in Northwest Washington. It is one of the few churches in the Washington area that offers the traditional Latin Mass every Sunday.  [It’s all about Catholic identity.  If you don’t know who you are and what the Church is, you can’t live it.]

To traditional Catholics, the old Latin Mass — a formal rite entirely in Latin — stands in marked contrast to the more informal modern Mass ushered in by the Second Vatican Council.  [Even though the newer form can be celebrated with great dignity and beauty and the older form can be shabby and uninspiring.] Benedict last year loosened restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass, [I am glad the reporter is getting the terms right… it takes so little, after all!] cheering conservative Catholics everywhere.

St. Mary’s, which has been holding the Tridentine Mass for more than a decade, has become a gathering place for traditional Catholics. Most Sundays, the church is overflowing.

Capitol Hill aide Paul-Martin Foss, 26, says he feels comfortable at St. Mary’s. Worshipers there, he said, don’t question church canon.

"On the major doctrinal issues, it’s pretty much settled," he said. "They are all pro-life and faithful on all the church’s moral teachings and dogma."

It is not an easy existence. Conservative Catholics, compared to "cafeteria Catholics" — the term for Catholics who pick and choose which doctrines to follow — say they can feel off the beaten path culturally.  [Signs of contradiction?]

Daniel Heenan, 25, a Sterling Catholic school teacher who plans to enter the seminary, faces the amused scrutiny of his peers for his devout life. "A lot of them think I’m a lunatic," Heenan said.

He said friends will say, "You’re 25; you should be out getting drunk and having a good time, not going to church."

Those who eschew artificial birth control and have large families say they hear comments and rude remarks when they venture out with their children: "Don’t you have enough?" and "Aren’t you done yet?"  [Amazing how this pervades so much of our society now and is the dominant attitude in mass media entertainment.  It slithers in everywhere.  I even noticed this nasty sort of inuendo in the first of the Lord of the Rings movies from Peter Jackson, when at the birthday party Bilbo made an nasty aside about the number of children someone had.  Grrr.]

Sam Fatzinger, a Bowie mother of 11, has learned to respond with a tart: "No, I’m just getting warmed up."

"So many people think that with large families you’re weird or crazy," said Nicole Santschi, 41, of Manassas, who is expecting her eighth child. "But we’re normal, down to earth. But our goal is to get our kids into heaven and doing what God wants us to do. It’s hard, but He gives us the grace to do it."  [I often mention to married people that a main purpose of their vocation is to help each other get to heaven and then help their children.]

In the Hickey household, daily life revolves around the Catholic Church.

"We try to make this like a mini-church — a domestic church," [A very "Vatican II" idea!] said Karen Hickey, a former Senate press secretary who grew up Jewish.

Even 3-year-old Caroline has memorized some of the evening rosary, chirping "Hail Mary, full of grace" with only modest prompting from David.

During the day, Karen and the children make it a practice to say novenas — a devotion modeled on the nine days of prayers that, according to the Bible, the Apostles said after Jesus’s ascension to heaven. On one recent warm day, Karen gathered the children together for the fifth day of the St. Joseph Novena. With 4-month-old Alice on her lap and the other wiggly children — 7-year-old Henry, 5-year-old Charlie, Caroline and 2-year-old Jane — around her, she read from the novena book.

As she read, "God employed only the humble who do not claim for themselves glory," Henry burst out indignantly, "You left the door open, and there is a giant bee."

Karen paused only briefly.

"Thank you," she said calmly, and kept reading.


Great article!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Volpius says:

    “Great article!”

    Agreed it is wonderful.

  2. J Basil Damukaitis says:

    Funny, I find the parents with lots of children are the happiest people (and children) I know! I’ve taught for years, and the more well-adjusted kids come from large families. There is a happy countenance one doesn’t see in smaller or “designer” families!

  3. Kradcliffe says:

    Fantastic article! Such fun to read, really. (That may be the Irn Bru and vodka talking. It’s happy hour in GMT, m’kay?)

    Seriously… that describes the friends I had in Cincinnati, in the parish of Old Saint Mary’s church. I hope to find young families like that over here, too.

  4. TomG says:

    It’s hard to imagine a fairer article in the secular press – and for that matter, in much of the Catholic press! Kudos to them.

  5. Matt M says:

    This is so great. And I must say if there were more families like these there would not be such a vocation crisis. But I guess that not having more families like these is just another type of vocation crisis.

  6. Margaret says:

    Knock me over with a feather. I’m stunned to see such a fun, positive article in the WaPo. And good for the people interviewed, who were ready to explain themselves in a positive, appealing way.

    Also, I loved, loved reading about the large families– as a mother of eight (so far) it was so heartening to read something that was just nice about the whole thing– no snarky, Bilbo-esque comment thrown in as an aside. (I caught that one too, Fr. Z., and don’t think Tolkien would have approved…)

    So was this just a brief moment of insanity from Ms. Salmon, or does she always write like this?

  7. Papabile says:

    This article is completely reflective of the DC area.

    People look at you as if you are insane when you have more than 3 children. In fact the third seems to freak a lot of people out also.

    My wife gets snide remarks all the time about our four (ages 4, 3, 2, and 7 Weeks). Some guy literally asked her if she was a “machine”.

    And yet, I sense, there are so few people in DC that are truly happy.

    The interesting thing about the DC Archdiocese is it abuts the Arlington Diocese, and the two could not be more different. In fact, I have had more than one DC Priest over the years suggest that I would “be happier south of the river”, or I would fit in “better in the Arlington Diocese”.

    And you can definitely see the difference in ecclesiology. The DC diocese is far from healthy, and the Arlington one has real demographic growth, and regular baptisms.

    One of the reasons St. Mary’s and the other TLM’s are so well attended is that people feel it’s the only place where they can leave the secular world and actually pray. They certainly can’t at many of the other Masses in DC.

  8. Demo says:

    I think what one could say is that they should be happy a particular reporter from the Remnant is positioned to try to make happy things like this happen.

  9. Patrick Rothwell says:

    “My wife gets snide remarks all the time about our four (ages 4, 3, 2, and 7 Weeks). Some guy literally asked her if she was a “machine”.”

    While I intensely dislike the hostility (jealousy?) of many people in the DC area towards large families, it is unfortunately also true that in the last few years, there have been several large Catholic families, particularly in the Arlington Diocese, where the parents were in over their head and unable to cope, with occasionally tragic results. While I would be the last person to want to pile on to their suffering, such people are NOT responsible parents.

  10. Mary says:

    “Sam Fatzinger, a Bowie mother of 11, has learned to respond with a tart: “No, I’m just getting warmed up.'”

    Well, that’s more polite than, “Ohhh, honey, I’m soooo sorry… your hubby’s impotent, huh?”, which would be my response.

  11. Geoffrey says:

    I cannot fathom anyone making any sort of negative comment about the size of someone else’s family, especially if it’s a stranger! What’s happened to common decency and manners?

  12. Janice says:

    “But our goal is to get our kids into heaven and doing what God wants us to do.” Can’t put it any better than that.

  13. Ken says:

    To answer an earlier question, this reporter is fantastic. She does her homework, visits traditional Latin Masses and spends a lot of time with her subjects. If only more religion reporters would be like her. This was her article from late last year:

  14. magdalen says:

    We have a family here with four young children-so far- and they really have had
    many negative comments. At the third child, there was some acceptance
    because they had two girls and the third was a boy so that made sense that
    they wished for a son although the children were fairly close together in age.
    But the fourth pregnancy really brought out the disgust. “Don’t you know
    what causes THAT?” they were asked. And another comment was, “Was THIS planned?”
    to which the husband said, “Sure, we got married.” The anti-child thought
    patterns run deep, very deep. This family is the ONLY family that comes
    to daily Mass. They are moving away in June…

    Having traveled recently I was SO very happy to go to a novus ordo parish
    that had devotions. There were ‘traditional’ families there too as there
    is no TLM community–YET. (it is coming). I felt at home. I also felt at
    home when I attended my second extraordinary form of the Mass. Having no
    TLM in my diocese, I only have opportunity when traveling. Most women in
    dresses as I was. I have worn dresses for years. To me this is how one
    dresses to attend a wedding (Feast of the Lamb). It is also how
    Our Lady would dress if she lived in these times.

    To be devout is to invite criticism in many parishes. Even from the
    religious. As one deacon said: There is something wrong with people who
    go to daily Mass; they must have guilt or something. I would not want to do
    it and look ‘churchy’. Well, the deacon was not ever accused of being
    churchy. He was divorced though… But human respect cannot be the
    reason for staying away from the miracle of daily Mass. Let folks say what they
    will. Our Lord did promise persecution…

    As Father Hardon would say, only those who are willing to face even
    martyrdom will be able to survive in the faith in these evil times and those
    to come.

    The cafeteria is closed.

  15. Mary Rose says:

    Loved this article!

    I am in the midst of reading The New Faithful: Why Young Adults are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy by Colleen Carroll. In the midst of returning to the Catholic faith of my youth, I believe one of the reasons is to encourage younger people to nurture their faith. I have no idea how it’s going to happen but I sense something is afoot. I’ve worked with plenty outside of the Catholic faith. Now perhaps I’m coming in to be part of something new.

    And by the way, Bilbo’s snide comment to “Mrs. Bracegirdle” in the first LOTR movie was not in Tolkien’s masterpiece. I suppose P.J. thought it would be funny to include it.

  16. Papabile says:


    I am more than aware of the few tragedies that have occurred over the years in the Arlington diocese, and they weren’t families with four children. But nonetheless, I KNOW one of the families where a tragedy occurred.

    They were not in over their head, though the press and some of their neighbors would have liked you to believe that.

    Funny how the press never mentioned that the neighbors tried to get them to move by complaining to zoning that their house should be considered a school because they schooled 9 children there, and that they were too noisy when they played tag.

    So, when there was an accident that resulted in the death of a child, the press had a field day with it.

    They didn’t mention that when the kids counted off leaving the house, one shouted two numbers, as his little brother was going to ‘scare’ his parents.

    It was a tragedy, pure and simple, but these people were not above their heads.

    The county, of course, tried to take away 4 of their children though. And the press loved the article, and the reporter who headed the assault lovingly covers a Planned Parenthood Banquet every year.

  17. “Only 14 percent of Catholics ages 20 to 40 attend Mass at least weekly, according to research by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, and just one in five goes to confession once a year or more”

    only more proof that Lifeteen doesn’t work

    To quote a person “The Life Teen Mass is effectively saying “We know teenagers are immature and stupid, and they do not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend, pay attention to, or get anything out of a normal Mass. They don’t even have the ability to care about their Faith or spirituality on a personal level. Therefore we have to dumb down what Mass truly is and make it seem ‘cool’ and ‘fun’ enough to get them to come, since they won’t respond to actual Catholicism.””

  18. JP says:

    Magdalen said: As one deacon said: There is something wrong with people who go to daily Mass; they must have guilt or something.

    Makes you wonder why he’s a deacon at all . . .

  19. RichR says:

    Big, Catholic families need all the encouragement and support they can get. They often get nothing but sneers and negative comments from the general public.

    Speaking of which, there is a family in my hometown that has 9, good Catholic kids – the oldest of whom are getting close to college age. Since the college tuition bill is looming overhead, they have entered the UPromise scholarship competition. The participants had to enter a video, and theirs has made it to the final 10 – which the public then votes on. They have been on the news and are asking for help with votes. The winner gets $25,000.

    Here’s their video:

    Here’s where you can go vote (once per day):

    I don’t mean to derail this thread, but there’s a segway in it somewhere….. ;-)

  20. Kathleen says:

    The deacon is right. There IS something wrong with people who go to Mass every day — it is called original sin. If someone asked me why I go to daily Mass, I would tell them that it is because I am a sinner in desperate need of God’s grace on a daily basis.

  21. Ann Koch says:

    I only have two children, yet I also have been on the receiving end of extremely inappropriate comments on my choice to have them! One gal, when I was purchasing graduate textbooks because I am a perpetual student, asked me if I read them or just looked at the pictures while looking pointedly at my toddler and very obvious near term belly. It seemed like she believed one could not be educated and choose to have two so close together–but fertility issues are in my family tree and we wanted as many as we could have.

    And to make it worse, I have had parents of large families accuse me of having used artificial birth control because I have so few children–but I am not one of the fortunate highly fertile and two was as many as God gave us in 15 years of trying!

    So the remarks can go both ways.

  22. Well let me compare our life teen Mass and the young people who attend it to the other Masses. Life Teen Mass hymns by Bob Rice, Matt Maher and other Catholic song writers. Those other Masses, 1970’s tunes full of how great we are supplemented by Protestant hymns of questionably varying Orthodoxy.
    Those same teens appear at Church Sunday evenings to discuss learn about their faith. This semesters lessons. The Trinity, Marian Tradition, The Incarnation, The danger of Relativism, Proving the Existence of God, A Loving God vs. the Existence of Suffering. All lessons informed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Scripture and the writings of the saints. You won’t find anyone making paper doilies with “Jesus loves me” inscribed in them (though He does, of course.)
    Just about any one of those kids could tell you the significance of the parts of the Mass, how the Church recognizes saints, and why Father is wearing white thsi week instead of green.
    On the first Thursday of every month a good portion of them will be at XLT adoration (and a number of them will stop in the chapel in the afternoon after school to spend time with the Lord at silent adoration.)
    Every summer about half of them will pay out of their (and their parents pockets) to go across the state and sleep on a church floor for a week while they do the kind of mission work for the poor that a lot of adults wouldn’t do. You see when you talk about genuine Catholic identity and orthodox Catholic teachings you don’t have to hit people over the head with “Social Justice” teaching. They know they’re suppose to be doing that stuff.
    Many go on to be involved at their college ministries. A few have expressed a desire to discern a vocation, and at least one is in serious discernment for the most challenging vocation of monastic life.
    Last year we had a young man who has helped us with our summer mission work enter seminary.
    I can’t tell you what goes on at all other Life Teen parishes, but the young people at the programs That I am familiar with seem to respond to Catholicism just fine. One young man, who is now the Youth Minister at a neighboring parish attends the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at a chapel associated with that parish regularly, and also still attends charismatic Mass. The other Masses with 1970’s based organ music? Only when there is no other way to meet his Sunday obligation.
    I have always said that most orthodox charismatics I know would embrace the TML if it was available to them, but still also attend abuse free charismatic Masses.

  23. MM says:

    I’ve noticed amazing amounts of judgementalism about the size of other people’s families.

    While it is true that parents of large families (in my city, anything over 3 kids is considered ‘large’) do bear the brunt of it, parents in traditionalist Catholic circles can sometimes be viewed with suspicion for having “too few”.

    My friend got married at 22, was determined to have a large Catholic family, never contracepted….and didn’t conceive for 17 years. At 39 she had her first child, and another at 41.

    It’s only charitable to give people the benefit of doubt…it is the Lord who opens the womb, and closes it.

  24. Maureen says:

    I’d also like to say that most teenagers have practically no _opportunity_ to go to Confession.

    Confessions are usually scheduled either during weekdays (while kids are at school and
    working adults are at work), or on Saturday afternoon (in the middle of kids’ scheduled
    extracurricular activities or sports). Unless a kid has a car, there’s no way to get to
    church at all; church is usually far out of walking or biking distance if you live in
    the suburbs.

    I’m an adult, and my situation’s not much better, when it comes to being able to get to
    Confession. I wasn’t able to go at all during Lent. (I could have gone once, but I was busy
    staying home in bed and being sick. Somehow, I didn’t feel able to walk up to church in the
    freezing weather.)

    If priests think Confession is an important sacrament, they bloody well should make it
    available. And if adults want to snark at teenagers for not going to Confession, they have
    obviously volunteered to be those kids’ shuttle service.

  25. cordelia says:

    have to agree on the “child discrimination” cutting both ways. i “only” have 3 children, once the father of 10 said to me “so what’s your problem, you need to have more.” in traditional catholic circles, orthodoxy is measured by the number of children you have. it just ain’t right.

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