Signs You Suffer M.V.D.S on Your Faith Journey

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I drive a minivan. Don’t be jealous. It’s been seven glorious years since my husband and I decided to take the plunge and purchase our little Honda house on wheels. To my mind, we made the right decision. From the ease of the automatic sliding doors when hands are juggling groceries, diaper bag, and baby carrier, to the times we’ve happily hauled gaggles of kids on field trips, it’s been a helpful tool in achieving our family’s version of domestic contentment. However, there have been definite downsides that demand address. “What is that smell?!” Don’t get me started on the joys of finding hidden-away “treasures” in the very back row. Suffice it to say, the heralded discovery of a new antibiotic may be in our future. But a much more pressing and troubling concern regularly plagues me. Everyone else on the road who is not a minivan driver is suffering from a severe case of M.V.D.S.

What exactly is M.V.D.S? Allow me to enlighten you since I’ve been studying it for nearly a decade now. Many of you have heard of or personally experienced Trump Derangement Syndrome. M.V.D.S. or Mini-Van Derangement Syndrome is a similar strain of cuckoo, but I contend that it is sadly much more pervasive in our culture and crosses all segments of socio-economic status, political persuasion, racial and gender boundaries.

What are the symptoms of this dreaded sickness? Consider the situation: I’m getting on the freeway via a two-lane on-ramp, patiently waiting at a traffic light which allows two cars onto the highway per green light. I see the quick, fleeting flash of the green and naturally push the pedal to the metal. It’s a V6 for goodness sake. No matter who is in the lane next to me—a smiling, doting grandma or the most passive, Christ-like pastor of the local parish, the minute they notice a mini-van gaining on them, they are overcome by an intense ‘need for speed.’

Think Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, but swap the fighter pilots for a senior citizen and priest.

Here’s what goes through most drivers’ minds with acute M.V.D.S. “Oh no she didn’t. I will not let that mini-van-driving-soccer-mom pass me. It’s my duty to leave her in my fumes.” Some of you are shaking your head no, thinking “one incident does not a syndrome make.” This is not a single or occasional occurrence. It is EVERY time, folks! And over the span of many years! Don’t forget, before I was a lame-o mommy in a mini-van, I drove normal cars. I’ve also driven my husband’s manly SUV on occasion. It is clear, most drivers treat me differently when I’m behind the wheel of any other vehicle. They are less threatened. How could a minivan possibly be more threatening than say a mud-covered jeep or a hulking ford truck with those raunchy Calvin and Hobbes window decals? The mini-van and all of its super square, grocery-getter ethos triggers something primitive in people that causes them to compare themselves through a lens of negativity. “I may be slow, but I’m not that slow! I may be lame, but I’m not that lame. I may drive a 1983 Yugo that has a lawn mower for an engine, but I will not be passed by a freaking minivan!”

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Those of you smirking to yourselves right now—first off, shame on you! God sees how you treat the minivan driver. Secondly, realize this is a much bigger threat to our world than your smug faces care to admit. Shall we take a quick tour into the dark recesses of the soul of those suffering M.V.D.S.? It isn’t merely a major problem on the roadways of this country, its ill effects can be spotted all over. We see it especially in people’s moral and spiritual lives.

It’s part of our fallen human nature to judge ourselves through the lens of someone else’s shortcomings. We say, “well at least I’m not that bad. I mean she’s pretty bad, but I’m certainly better than she is.” In other words, we hit the gas and accelerate pass the poor schmucks, reveling in our own moral superiority. We pass them in the fast lane and take pleasure, if only briefly, that we have won this particular race. Look no further than your social media accounts. So many of us love to point out all the terrible people out there. We enjoy sanctimoniously expressing our outrage. Undoubtedly we follow up with, “But we would never!” We read countless news stories about how awful certain individuals are and then join the social media mob in an effort to shame them to death while speeding away full of pride in exposing such evil.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? —Matthew 7, 3

The #metoo movement is the perfect example. Suddenly everyone’s all high and mighty and has not said a single inappropriate thing in the course of their entire lives. “Harvey Weinstein is a monster! I, on the other hand, have never so much as looked at anyone sideways!” Granted, from all accounts he has committed crimes and horrid actions and deserves to be tried in a court of law. But should that be the measuring stick by which we judge our own behavior or shortcomings? Does trotting him out as an example of an evil black heart make us suddenly appear virtuous and good? One of the effects of M.V.D.S is that we never have a clear account of our own behavior. What car doesn’t look cool next to a minivan? What man doesn’t look like a Nobel Peace Prize Winner next to Harvey Weinstein? It causes us to settle for mediocrity at best when God created us to be exceptional. Drawing comparisons to the least common denominator does not impel us to greatness.

So how does one combat Mini-Van Derangement Syndrome in their faith journey? If we must compare ourselves, how about looking to the Saints? They have all been seriously road tested and yet have valiantly crossed the finish line. How do we measure up to a Maximilian Kolbe who inspired his fellow starving cellmates at Auschwitz to pray and sing hymns as their bodies suffered and shut down? How do we compare to Mother Teresa who gave up a life of relative comfort as a teaching nun to start an order that takes on an additional fourth vow: wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. We must strive to be like those who are the most virtuous among us. When we encounter those who have strayed, we must consider the words of St. Paul.

“For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.” —Rom 11:32

In other words, we are ALL sinners. Jesus died for each and every one of us. We must have the humility to realize we all fall short. In God’s eyes, we are ALL minivan drivers. Instead of blowing past others and leaving our brothers and sisters in our dust, we must pray for them and express the redemptive powers of God’s great mercy. We must expose our own shortcomings in the light of His grace.

Let’s help banish M.V.D.S.  The next time you encounter a dorky minivan on the road, consider giving a wave and offer them the right of way. While made up disorders are a laughing matter, our eternal souls are not.

Beware! Are you a ZOMBIE Catholic?

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(This was posted last October and got a lot of great feedback, so I’m reposting for those of you who would like a refresher on Zombie Catholicism. I added a particular prayer at the end of the post that has helped me personally keep the zombies at bay)

Halloween is just around the corner. And as usual, I expect to see my fair share of kids trick-r-treating in their zombie get-ups: pasty white masks with dark, vacant circles for eyes, torn shirts and pants, occasionally a little flourish of fake blood splattered here or there. It’s usually the teenagers who go all out with the most gruesome costumes, but occasionally a five-year-old will greet me at the doorstep decked out in full zombie face paint and garb. I respond the same way each time. “Oh… wow…quite a costume,” I stutter with my best perma-smile. “My, look at all that blood… here’s your candy,” I murmur, avoiding eye contact while timidly dropping a couple snickers in the outstretched bag. Then I anxiously scan the perimeter to make sure there aren’t any zombie parents lurking nearby.

Don’t chuckle. Zombies exist. They dwell in our midst.

Continue reading “Beware! Are you a ZOMBIE Catholic?”

Holding Out for a Miracle

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” 

—Matthew 7, 7-8

I was reading a very insightful reflection on prayer recently and was struck by something mentioned. It stood out because the author advised a practice I normally don’t adhere to.

“Pray boldly!” it stated in very clear black and white.

Hmmm… this shocked me to be quite honest. The writer’s directive for having a successful prayer life was essentially ‘to go big or go home.’ Huh.

What does praying BOLDLY even look like?

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A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools

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My kids are officially back in the swing of school. I know what you’re thinking: WooHoo! Carline drop-off must be the most absolutely magical part of the day! I must admit, watching my kids exit through the automatic sliding minivan doors with the exchange of a kiss, is pretty awesome. (What stay-at-home mom doesn’t crave a few hours of solitude to accomplish the endless household chores before they all frantically pile back in taking their seats in the constant carousel ride of family chaos?) But, believe it or not, the drop-off is not my absolute favorite part of the day. There’s another much more special moment that wins by a long shot!

It comes shortly after morning carline, and quite frankly, its significance kind of snuck up on me. Over time I’ve come to cherish it as the treasured gift from God that I know it to be.

Continue reading “A Case for Daily Mass in Catholic Schools”

Filth & Faith Part 2: Weathering the Storm in the Church

A couple of weeks ago, a huge fall thunderstorm erupted in the middle of the otherwise quiet night.  It startled me from a dead sleep. I tried my absolute best to disregard the racket and the flashing light in order to remain blissfully slumbering.

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I was in that foggy quasi-sleep state in the midst of trying to self-soothe back to a deep unconsciousness, when one of my sons snuck into our room and boldly announced, “What is going on out there?!” If you’ve ever had a kiddo swoop in while you’re trying to rest, you’ll understand when I say my hair was now standing on end. Children are like nighttime ninja. You never hear their stealthy approach but are made frighteningly aware when they are hovering mere inches from your face. It’s straight out of a horror film.

Continue reading “Filth & Faith Part 2: Weathering the Storm in the Church”

Serena Williams Doesn’t Speak for My Daughter or Me

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I’m not a serious tennis fan, but over the years, I’ve followed the amazing career of Serena Williams. In fact, she’s hard not to watch, such a force of sheer athleticism and drive, not to mention all the spellbinding, gutsy grunts that accompany each swing of the racket. In addition, her striking, glamorous face has covered countless magazines over the years from fitness to fashion. She’s got the world’s attention, including mine. That’s why her recent rant at the US Open truly disappointed this mom.

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Filth & Faith: How My Husband and I are Talking to Our Kids About the Problems in Our Church

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Is it just me or have you noticed how every single reading from Mass over the last couple weeks seems to point to all of the unrest and scandal in the church of late? Not in that oblique, beating around the bush kind of way, but overtly, and in a way that seems to strike you to the core. It’s kind of how I remember feeling after a romantic heartbreak. No matter what station I tuned the radio dial to, I’d hear a song that eerily seemed to be speaking directly to me. But this a lot different. It’s not the voice of Tears for Fears. It’s God who is knocking on our collective foreheads, trying to break through so we might truly hear Him in the midst of such devastation.

Continue reading “Filth & Faith: How My Husband and I are Talking to Our Kids About the Problems in Our Church”