The Personalist Project

(in keeping with my role as Pollyanna in Chief)

First: It turns out it wasn’t just me!  I woke up the morning of November 7th with a highly unusual urge to set things in order.  I cleaned a closet and a bathroom before breakfast.  No, really—you can look it up on Snopes.  And it turned out this was no isolated phenomenon.  My sister Abby described Wednesday morning at her house:

We cleaned everything. We soaked the stove knobs in ammonia. We cleaned the dried milk drops off the hutch. We cleaned UNDER the microwave and all the couches. We used up the ammonia and the bleach (but not at the same time). We cleared surfaces of objects that had been invisible before the election…

My other sister, Simcha Fisher, chimed in:

I took everything off my countertop, sorted it, washed all the containers, scrubbed the counter, and put it all back, folded lots of laundry, sorted Damien's socks, and swept under the dryer. That'll show 'em!

What has come over the women of America (not the Sandra Flukes, the other ones)?   I think we would have liked to clean house on a larger scale—scrub down the president, the vice president, the senators, the governor, the mayor, the local board of regents, and the assistant dog-catcher—or else give them the Flylady ultimatum.

That’s when you inquire of all the clutter in your house: Do I love you?  Do you make me happy?  Do you serve some useful purpose?  Yes?  Then you can stay.  Do you depress me?  Are you more trouble than you’re worth?  Have I outgrown you?   Yes?  Then you’ll have to go. 

As it was, I did what I could.   I addressed some things I do have power over.   Family harmony and hygiene increased markedly around here. 

Thank you, Mr. President.

Second: I’m not sure if this was widespread or not, but I was inspired to educate my kids better, faster, more engagingly.  Today we went over the Bill of Rights (with those awful Star Wars fruit snacks for memorization incentive), and I was struck by how far the country has strayed.  No, the bit about the government forcing you to let passing soldiers sleep on your sofa hasn’t come up lately, but other encroachments were glaringly evident.  (This lesson wasn’t a fire-breathing call to arms, just a straightforward explanation of phrases like “free exercise,” “enumerated rights” and “reserved to the States.”  The document speaks for itself.)

 For instance, although the fundamental right to donate bagels to the poor without a government inspection of fiber content was not mentioned by name, I contend that the Founding Fathers

would have been startled to see Mayor Bloomberg feeling free to mess with it.

In any case, if worse comes to worse, and I think it will, I want my children to know what America was supposed to be and to live by its ideals solo if need be.  If worse doesn’t come to worse, a solid education will make the restoration of those ideals easier. 

Thank you, Mr. President, for the inspiration.

Third: As someone pointed out, you have to give Mr. Obama credit: he’s achieved something no one had ever managed before: complete unanimity among the bishops.  Every single one joined together to protest his encroachment on our conscience rights.

But the bishops failed, didn’t they? 

Not so fast. 

They certainly failed to singlehandedly convince those few million extra Catholics (or other freedom-respecting people) to vote for somebody more respectful of life and religion.  But some 49 million citizens did vote for Romney; others voted for other non-Obama candidates or didn't vote at all.  Scant comfort, yes.  I wish the bishops’ dedication had produced quicker and more tangible results.  I wish laypeople like me had done a little better with the prayer and fasting they asked of us, too.

But you have to start somewhere. 

If we had begun the conversations we’re having now, like “What’s So Terrible about Contraception?” and “What Exactly is Marriage?” a few decades ago, things would be looking brighter today.  But this is precisely not the time to give up on those conversations.  I talked to someone today who sincerely thought that the Catholic Church requires people to force themselves--by willpower, or something--to believe things that make no sense.

 She’d also been under the impression that we think there's no truth whatsoever in any other religion.  She was happily surprised to learn otherwise.

As long as people are laboring under rudimentary misconceptions like this, they’re not likely to jump on board for a rejection of birth control.

So, thank you, Mr. President, for threatening us so unmistakeably that our complacency has vanished, our unity is strengthened, and our delusions about getting out of this one without a lot more prayer and fasting are pretty much dispelled. 

Thank you for convincing us that we need to be at the top of our game--from the shine on our stove knobs to the subtlety of our apologetics--for whatever you might throw at us next.

Let's roll.

Comments (10)

Marilyn Prever

#1, Nov 10, 2012 11:46am

So that's why I finished raking the leaves yesterday!


#2, Nov 10, 2012 4:47pm

Wow, Devra, I thought I was the only one...  :)  But all that was on my mind right after the election was that 1) we need to redouble our efforts on basic, basic reclaiming and redirecting of the culture (and all the catechesis on the human virtues that is so fundamental it doesn't even sound religious,) AND 2) that I needed to get my house in order (and lumped the children's education into that.)

Marie Reimers

#3, Nov 10, 2012 10:25pm

Yes.  The Reimers house is also getting a thorough cleaning and sorting.  Attended a great conference on martyrdom right after the election.  It was certainly a consolation after the election.

I also think that the timing of the Year of Faith is not coincidental.

Indiana, by the way, went for Romney.  Somewhat a consolation.

I firmly believe that America, unlike the Catholic Church, is in a state of decline.  Living out our Catholic faith is the best we can do for the country as a whole, even though it seems like we aren't making much difference. 

Devra Torres

#4, Nov 10, 2012 10:59pm

So, from New Hampshire to California to Indiana we're clearing the decks for action!  

I keep running into quotes from different saints to the effect that our job is to stay in close touch with God and do what it's in our hands to do, and not worry about the larger results--not that they don't matter, but that feeling burdened as if the whole thing were in our hands is not fruitful.  It makes us feel tempted not to bother doing what we can and to be depressed about what we can't. 


#5, Nov 11, 2012 12:09am

Devra, if you're so inclined, I'd love to hear more about the person who thought we forced ourselves to believe nonsensical things.  I don't think I've ever encountered that particular objection before.  :)

I think there are still encouraging signs of hope all around. Yesterday, I was talking with a mom, a very devout Protestant, who has started spending time with some serious-minded Catholics.  She's really impressed with what she's hearing about the virtues, that there exists such a sensible, appealing analytic framework, and also mentioned being kind of envious, in a good way, that we Catholics have this 2000-year treasure trove to draw upon to learn more about such things. 

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Nov 12, 2012 9:19am

I had that cleaning impulse too.  Also that "better get busy educating my kids one".  

But then my half-heartedness in taking up even those tasks became a new source of worry.  :(

I do have honest hope, though, that the spiritual clarity of the moment will, over time, prove a true source of joy and moral energy.  I don't think we Christians have quite realized to ourselves what a depressing effect the prevailing moral relativism and loss of true community has had on all of us.  

Scott Johnston

#7, Nov 12, 2012 6:55pm

I remember hearing somewhere (was it in a talk by Mark Henrie?), that a truly cultured person was steeped and imbued in his person with the virtues and education such that even if the present society were to collapse, he could recreate (enlisting the aid of others) a new humane, civilized society by drawing from the internal resources he possessed in his own soul.

Perhaps this is a bit of a rhetorical hyperbole? But I like the idea of asking ourselves the question: Do we have what it takes interiorly to rebuild a societal culture out of the internal culture now in our souls? (Knowing, of course, this internal culture cannot be developed apart from abundant grace).

I think, Devra, you remind us here that the combination of virtue, divine grace, and a deep and well-rounded education, is a very powerful thing; and it remains so always, no matter what is happening in the culture today and in the future.

Devra Torres

#8, Nov 12, 2012 8:51pm

Margaret, the lady I was talking with understood faith to be just that: making yourself believe something that makes no sense--on the one hand, reason--believing things that make sense, and on the other, faith--believing things that make no sense, or at least without regard to whether they make sense or not.  She also thought that because people have so many different interpretations of truth, that meant there was no such thing as truth.  So her problem was more with logic than with misconceptions about what the Church teaches.  

Devra Torres

#9, Nov 14, 2012 9:23am

Katie, I agree about the "spiritual clarity of the moment"--even though fallen human beings are still going to slip into half-heartedness and need to start over, and over, and over.  The morall relativism of the 70s and the captitultion of so many institutions to it woke a lot of people up, and we got the new apologetics, the founding of many schools and colleges, EWTN, the boom in homeschooling, Catholic radio--and this was mostly before the bishops were on board.  Maybe between the leadership of a new generation of bishops and the reassessing of priorities that financial hardship and outright persecution will force, good things will come of this, too.  

Devra Torres

#10, Nov 14, 2012 9:35am

Scott, whether rebuilding is possible, I guess only God knows, but, as Katie and St. Bernard and Cdl. Dolan point out here, whatever rebuilding does happen has to start within the person--we can't give what we don't have.  Impractical as it may seem in the middle of a crisis, we can't rebuild our institutions without first rebuilding ourselves (not that we can rebuild ourselves by ourselves, so receptivity to God's knocking us down and getting us rebuilt is the real first step).  Then we'll have something to offer our children, neighborhoods, cities, and so on.

It strikes me as I sit here glibly spouting about the wonders of financial hardship, persecution, and being knocked down and reconstructed, just how easy it is to TALK about all this.  Let's all pray for each other as it gets less theoretical and more immediate!

Sign in to add a comment, or register first.

Forgot your password?