Monthly Archives: December 2010

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I have been meditating about tires and rubber.

According to this magazine, in 2006 there were 1.3 billion tires purchased.

A tire is typically discarded when the tread depth falls from 10/32 in to 2/32 in. That is a loss of 8/32 in or 1/4 in of tire.

How much rubber is that?

Assume the average tire diameter is 24 in, and the average width is 7 in. That gives a circumference of 2*3.14*12 =75in. The surface area that suffers wear is 75*7=527in^2. So the volume of rubber worn off on a tire is 527/4 in^3=132in^3.

For all the tires used in one year, that is 171 billion in^3 of rubber “left behind”.

At .0043 gallons per cubic in, that is roughly three quarters of a billion gallons of rubber dust.

For comparison, a tanker truck holds between 5500 and 9000 gallons. So that is about 100,000 tanker trucks of rubber deposited on and near American roadways each year.

No, this isn’t an environmentalist rant. There are much bigger issues than tire dust. (Makes you think twice about living near a freeway, though, doesn’t it?) The point is, something we don’t even notice can be cumulatively so large.

Sin is like that. Every little sin we commit – the white lies, the gossip, the self-indulgence, viewing immoral entertainment – each of those sins contributes just a little bit of tire dust to the culture, and the culture becomes more and more coarse, more and more polluted.

It takes small individual efforts, repeated billions of times to clean up the environment. It takes small individual efforts repeated billions of times to clean up the culture. One good movie won’t do it. A petition won’t do it. A presidential candidate won’t do it. It takes us deciding each day, each minute: “I won’t sin, not this time. Not right now.”

And that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Why Santa?

Many Christian parents reject Santa Claus. They never have gifts from Santa waiting Christmas morning. They don’t trudge to the mall for pictures with Santa, and they discourage their kids from believing in Santa. They have good reasons for this – keep the focus on the Christian truth of Christmas, and minimize the materialism.

Our family embraces Santa. We do it all, the cookies, the carrots for the reindeer, the letters, and the stockings. Why?

First, I do it because it makes my kids happy, and I don’t like to puncture their balloons. Its an emotional reason, but there it is.

Second, I don’t want to become the dour, joyless Christian. The thing that Santa exemplifies is the joy of the Christian life. He lives to serve, and he is happy (jolly) about it. He lives removed from the world (at the North Pole) but he eagerly engages with the world. He is all about being happy, giving and sharing. I want to be a joyful Christian, even when I am fasting or practicing self-denial. And I want my kids to see that Christianity can bring joy without corrupting Christ’s teachings. I hope they can learn that from the way I lead my life.

Finally, I remember a scene from Thérèse where she was a little girl, putting her shoes out for Father Christmas and overheard the truth from her father and sister talking. If Santa was good enough for the Martin family, he is good enough for mine.

Our Destiny – The Nativity and the Resurrection

The pillars of our faith, the incarnation and the resurrection. Christ came into being (the incarnation), then that ended with death, and he came into re-being (the resurrection). In doing so, he made the same our destiny. This life here on earth is our being. It is our preparation time for our re-being.

That re-being is not a new being. We don’t become some other kind of being, an angel, for instance. Scripture says that we will be resurrected, body and soul.

This body of mine, with all its faults, with all the scars of a lifetime of sin, this body of mine will travel with me through eternity! This soul of mine, with all of my propensity to sin, my weakness and laziness, this soul of mine is what I will take with me to eternity!

This is why there is purgatory, to cleanse us and perfect us, so that we can be worthy of that eternal walk.

5 Ways to Have a Hobby without Compromising Family Time

A not infrequent complaint of married couples and especially of new parents is that they no longer have time for their hobbies. Most force the issue and accept the negative consequences, a selfish attitude, that just seems contrary to the whole idea of family. The solution, however, is not that a mother or father, husband or wife, is no longer allowed hobbies. Rather, one can take a positive attitude, that the hobbies of a spouse or parent can be a source of enrichment for the family. To do that, the hobbies must be integrated into the fabric of the family. With that in mind, here are 5 ways to bring hobby and family together, taken from my personal experience.

  1. Take ’em Fishing
  2. I grew up loving to fish. My wife grew up without a clear idea of which end of the fishing pole to hold. (Kidding!) When we moved to South Carolina, I badly wanted a boat. Many of the men I know at work have either bass boats or ocean-ready center consoles. Both of those are hardy, wind-in-your face kinds of boats meant for serious fishermen. Instead, I chose to purchase a bowrider with a big windshield and plenty of seating (and a much smaller price tag). So my hobby is now my family’s hobby. I never go fishing without at least some of the kids, and usually the whole crew.

  3. Back Yard Horiculturalists
  4. When we first purchased a house, I started a vegetable garden. I always enjoyed growing things, and eating the fruit of my labor was a great feeling. But with multiple babies, the garden went fallow. That changed when my son took an interest. Now the kids all get to pick out which seeds will be planted, they learn about composting and germination, and frosts and planting zones. We do it together. It might be a ragtag garden, but it is a garden of love.

  5. Finance is a Hobby???
  6. My wife is a businesswomen, through and through. She has brought the kids to her business and has set them up managing their own money. They receive an allowance. They plan for donations to the church, for a fixed amount to go to savings, and then are free to spend or save the rest. They end up saving the bulk of their (fairly small) allowances. In sharing her passion for business and finance, Mom has taught them to treat money seriously, as a grace from God, but not to worship it.

  7. Relive Your Childhood
  8. My wife enjoyed dance as a child, and so she steered our eldest daughter in that direction, where she has thrived. They are currently working together, choreographing a piece for my daughter to dance at a talent show.

  9. If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em
  10. My dancing daughter also has developed an interest in musical theater. After playing chauffeur for three separate shows, I decided that I might as well have something more interesting to do than sit in a lobby. So I auditioned, and she and I just finished a three-week run starring in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at our local community theater.

The hobbies are there – fun, challenging, and intellectually and spiritually fulfilling. They don’t have to take away from family. With a little creativity, they can bring the family together.

Children and Bible Verses

My 3 year old son came home from pre-school today quoting John 3:16. Perfectly. (Yes, it is a Protestant pre-school.) He learned this in one 3 hour school “day”. It floored me. (And gave a booster shot to my fatherly pride.) He is already pretty good with the standard prayers. I am thinking about instituting a family bible verse of the week. (I don’t think I can match him!)
My knowledge of the bible is good, but it doesn’t include knowing where the quotes are. It also doesn’t include getting them exactly right, but with the plethora of translations that is less critical, I think.
I am thinking of originating with this one:
John 6:53 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
The center of our worship is the Eucharist, Christ Himself. We really ought to have memorized his commands regarding that.

Jesus, please help me to teach my children the Word of God. Please grant me the wisdom to pass on the faith in ways that will plant it deep, so that they may be sustained by it their entire lives. Please send down Your Spirit to make my faith strong that I might share it well.

Marrying an Atheist

I ran across this post
Could You Marry an Atheist today and it struck home. My wife – cradle-Catholic, lector, and regular volunteer at Boston University’s Newman House – had planned to do just that – marry an atheist – the atheist in question being me. It was all set to go. We had met with her priest and fulfilled all the Church’s requirements for a mixed-faith wedding. I had agreed to raise any children Catholic, and I respected her faith just as I respected all other aspects of her life.

We had a long engagement during which I lived in Italy for almost a year. During that time, I had a “road to Damascus” moment. God made himself known to me in no uncertain terms. (That is a whole other story.) Atheism was no longer an option. On a cold night – a cold Advent night, as I would later find out – I was given the gift of faith. I returned to the states, enrolled in RCIA, and finally entered at the Easter vigil just months before we were married.
So my wife became engaged to an atheist and married a Catholic.
Not a path I would recommend.

I don’t mean that it worked badly for us. I believe ours was a relationship inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the blessings have flowed from it. But I doubt it would work for others. And most importantly, I would not want my daughter to marry an atheist.

Really, there are only two options. Either the Catholic believes that their spouse will eventually convert (and sees themselves as a catalyst for the conversion), or the Catholic accepts that they will forever be married to an atheist. Both attitudes are dangerous.

As a Pre-Cana couple, we counsel our engaged couples not to think they are going to change their betrothed. Bottom line, changes come from within – or through the Holy Spirit in the case of spiritual changes – they cannot be forced. Believing you will convert a potential spouse is a recipe for disappointment and worse.

Worse yet is the decision to live ones life not only with someone of a different faith, but with someone who actively disbelieves in God. There are more problems with that than I can possibly list, but here are a few that, having been an atheist, are prominent to me. First, each parent has a unique spiritual role in the faith formation of the children. Numerous studies show that if the father is not strong in the faith, the kids will not be either. The father is essential in that regard. Mom is imortant too. She tends to bring in the compassionate side. While Dad may be a by-the-numbers type, Mom is the one more likely to teach the children Christian charity and neighborliness. Every night I bless my children in bed. I frequently lead them in the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. They see me singing at Mass, so they assume they should be singing too. What if they were missing all that?
Second, everyone’s faith goes through difficult dry periods. In our experience, when one of us is dry, the other provides the inspiration to work through it. I know that there are times when the sight of my wife praying pulls me out of a dark place. I know I do the same for her. Without that? How hard would it be for a spouse to keep her faith when her husband is getting along just fine, thank you very much, with his secular humanism that doesn’t require all that silly sacrifice, mortification, and acceptance of suffering?
Third, atheism brings baggage. It usually means a more amoral or immoral background. It did with me. I am still unpacking and disposing of that baggage, and it has caused my lovely wife more than her share of grief. I do not want to see my children dealing with that.

Anyway, I am running out of steam. Sometimes – as in my case – God puts an atheist and a Catholic together with a grand purpose in mind. More likely, however, the marriage is according to a human plan, not God’s plan, and as such will lead down a very dark path.