September 16, 2013

Classical Catholic Homeschooling, 2013-2014 Lesson Plans

I vowed to be one of those homeschooling parents that didn't let things slide during the summer.

That I would "do school" all year long.

I was going to be Super Teacher in this house, yes sir.

But...I wasn't.

Sitting out on the porch watching my kids ride their bikes was an irresistible attraction.

Watching them run through the sprinklers was irresistible, too.

Then I got started on my new blog project.

Eventually, I just gave up!

The positive side is, now I have an official start to the 2013-2014 homeschool year.

And all of you get a post.

1st Grade Plans

Princess is 6 and in First Grade. With her I'm doing:


We actually did the first unit last spring. It is excellent. I am really pleased with their curriculum.

We're just finishing up Unit 2 now. Each one takes about four weeks, depending on how in-depth you choose to go (extra reading, crafts, presentations, etc).

What I personally enjoy about the curriculum is that it covers a broad base of subjects. We're not only learning history; we're also doing geography, literature, language, social studies and religion. 

I purchased the Daily Lesson Plans, which recommend what I should do each day to cover all the material. I don't think I could do this program well without them!

They are a huge time and sanity saver.

The core books for our history program are the New Catholic Picture Bible, Founders of Freedom, and Usborne's Time Traveler.

Most of the other books we use I am able to check out from our local library as needed.


I decided on Math Mammoth because of the excellent reviews and affordability. I also liked that it is mastery-oriented and requires little prep on my part. 

My daughter started the workbook last spring and has taken off with her math skills.

I use beans and an abacus as our manipulatives.

Reading and Language Arts

My daughter is halfway through TOPGTR, but is still resistant to reading. My only real "must do" goal for the end of first grade is to get her reading confidently on her own.

Having only done a few of the lessons out of FLL, I can't comment on how well I like it. One conflict I've already seen is that it has the student memorize many poems and passages throughout the year, while our history curriculum also has similar memorization built in to their program. 

For now we are only doing that which is recommended in Connecting With History. If my daughter appears she can do more, we will add in those from FLL.

I'm excited about these early readers we just received from Seton Press:


It will be a year before my daughter will officially enter First Communion prep, but this little catechism is so perfect for teaching even little Catholics! 

We've went through the book last year, but I am doing it again this year. As children mature they pick up on more concepts.

The illustrations are a big help in facilitating understanding!

We'll also be reading these frequently:

And my absolute favorite little books (lucky library sale find):

We have a pretty healthy collection of faith-based videos for "Mommy Break Time." These are a few:

My (lofty) goal is to get them to a daily Mass at least once a week as well. It terrifies me, but I know I'll get over it eventually.


We started these last spring, too. They make learning the cursive letters simple, and to me they were the prettiest script.

Some parents choose not to introduce cursive until 2nd grade, or not at all. My own personal preference is that my children do learn to write neatly and beautifully. It's not one of those "must have" skills, especially in today's computer age where everything is done on a keypad -- but I still believe there is value to learning something that is attractive and requires detailed control. 

When to introduce cursive is ultimately dependent on the coordination (and willingness) of the child. My daughter was definitely ready at age 5. My son, who is 4 1/2, will probably not be ready until he is 7.


The above forms the core of our first grade curriculum. However, as supplements I am doing the following:

I seriously love the Spectrum workbooks. They are fun for the kids and give me a good benchmark for what they "should" be proficient in by the end of the year (as compared to national standards). 

I use them as a free-time activity. ("Oh you're bored? Here, do this! Yay!") 

I wouldn't recommend them as a stand-alone teaching resource. They're definitely more for reviewing concepts or giving kids extra practice in their studies.

For art and drawing, I rely on library books such as the one pictured above.

I also bought a lot of bottles of inexpensive acrylic paint from the craft & hobby store, and we have painting once a week. I show my children famous paintings and point out the techniques used (my dear friend here who homeschools taught me to do this!), then they paint their own using similar techniques. Or, for example, we look at a book on autumn leaves and their changing colors, talk about why it happens, then they paint their own leaves.

It's very basic and the emphasis is on enjoyment.

I wasn't going to introduce Latin until 3rd grade, but then I found this Prima Latina cd at a garage sale. Geared for the lower grades (1-3), it is a really nice, easy introduction to Latin and prayers such as the Our Father.

I don't have the corresponding workbook, but I don't really know that it's necessary. All the lessons are on the CD and if I need to know how to spell a word, I can just Google it.

(Some reviewers seem put off by the southern accent of the narrator, but honestly I barely noticed -- and I'm about as northern as you get. It only becomes obvious a couple of times, and even then it's not that heavy. So if you're considering this, I encourage you not to bypass it simply on these grounds.)

Our goal is to do this a couple times a week.

I don't do anything specific for social studies aside from what we learn through Connecting With History and the books we read.

But one thing we all enjoy are these short videos about families from other countries. Each video features a rural and urban family from a particular country and describes how they live from the point of view of the child.

We have a lot of interesting discussions afterward about how other people live around the world. It's especially eye-opening for my children, I think, because almost all of the families -- regardless of country of origin -- live in poorer material circumstances than we do in the U.S. It's important to me that my children understand this and see that even though these children rarely have toys, eat very basic and mundane meals, and at times literally have dirt floors...they are happy, energetic and content individuals.

Note: You may have noticed I don't have anything for Science. I am not formally teaching science this year, though I will be checking out science books from the library on a regular basis for us to read and discuss together. I also have a book of scientific experiments, Janice VanCleave's Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects, that we will be doing throughout the year.

Kindergarten Plans

My son is 4 1/2 and technically would only be in preschool or "K4." But since I have the luxury of teaching him at his actual skill level, we are doing kindergarten or "K5" work this year. (He is so adept with numbers that I project we'll be moving into 1st grade math this winter.)


This is such a neat math book! The content is solid, and there is Catholic artwork peppered throughout the pages. 


We're still working on pencil-holding skills and so this reusable printing workbook is perfect for my boy. It helps him to practice forming letters and become familiar with the lowercase versions.

There is also connect the dot, which is always fun!

For reading I'll be starting him on The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading soon. He already recognizes several short words and is just starting to show interest in sounding out letters, so it is a good time to begin.

I also have been printing off free worksheets for him from School Sparks. He thinks they are awesome.

Besides the above, there is no other "formal" schooling I'm doing with him. His interests right now are mainly in building Legos and Snap Circuits, which is fine with me. :)

If you homeschool, what are you doing this year? Feel free to share your blog post here if you have one!

June 12, 2013

Fast Fixin' Rolls

 I'm not the greatest meal planner.

Oh, I've been to all those beautiful mommy blogs with their unbelievably clever organizational tips. I have the charts, the weekly lists, the beautifully pink "homemaking binder." Sometimes I even open it. Sometimes I even fill the charts out.

But, most weeks?

Not a chance.

Maybe some day - like when the kids are grown and gone - I'll be a homemaker extraordinaire. Maybe. Meanwhile, we make it by with the lists and ideas I have rambling around in my head. This usually works fine, I promise. Unless it's those VERY (very) infrequent times where afternoon hits and I realize I only have some green beans to go with the chicken...

What to do?!

I make these rolls, of course! :)

They are relatively fast and they're homemade, so they make me look like Mom the Hero instead of "Mom who only has green beans to serve with dinner." (Having only one side dish is akin to child abuse in the mind of my oldest daughter...)

They can make you look like a hero, too.

Recipe: Fast Fixin' Rolls

  • 1 C milk (I prefer whole)
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 C warm water (110-120 degrees)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 large egg (if you don't have an egg, try a heaping spoonful of mayonnaise - I did once and it turned out fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 C all purpose flour

Scald the milk in a saucepan (bring just to boiling), then turn off heat and let cool.

In your electric stand mixer bowl combine the yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and warm water. Stir and let sit until foamy, about 5-10 minutes. Then add the cooled milk, butter, 4 Tbsp sugar, egg, and salt. Mix for 2 minutes on medium-low speed.

Begin adding flour slowly, 1 C at a time. Mix at medium speed for about 5 minutes and dough has come away from the sides of the bowl.

Place dough in a greased, medium sized bowl, cover, and let rise for one hour.

Punch down the dough, form 12 balls and place in a buttered 9x13 pan. Cover loosely with a cotton towel and let rise another hour. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

After rising the rolls should look like this:

Pop these beauties straight into the oven for 15-20 min or until desired doneness. I had to cook mine a bit longer because they were still a little dough-like in the middle.

If you prefer, you can sprinkle with coarse sea salt and/or herbs before baking. Delicious.

Slather with butter after removing from the oven, and serve hot!

June 11, 2013

Summer Refreshment: Cucumber Lemon Basil Water

This healthy, economical way to "dress up" water is the perfect refreshment to have sitting around on a hot day. Subtly flavored, it is a hit with kids and adults alike. My children think it's a treat when I place an icy pitcher of this on the table for dinner! When served in a glass pitcher the presentation of this unassuming recipe is suited for even the most elegant of dinner parties.

I personally like this flavored water because it's inexpensive, particularly when compared to buying flavored beverages at the grocery store. I almost always have cucumbers on hand since we love them so much, and lemons are a cheap way to add oomph to just about they're usually kicking around the fridge as well! I have a basil plant in my kitchen window, but the best part of this recipe is that you can use a lot of different herbs you may just happen to have around for other dishes. Mint is absolutely lovely.

Recipe: Cucumber Lemon Basil Water

  • Large pitcher
  • 1/2 Lemon, washed and sliced
  • 1/2 Cucumber, washed and sliced
  • Large handful basil (or other herb)
  • Water
  • Ice (optional)


Place the lemon, cucumber, and basil in the bottom of your large pitcher. (If using a 'tougher' herb like mint, gently crush with a wooden spoon to help release flavor. Basil is delicate and will bruise, which won't affect flavor but beware that it will not look as appetizing.) Fill with water, and let steep in the fridge for an hour or two before serving. When ready to drink, pour over ice and enjoy!

May 2, 2013

So You Want To Be A Stay-At-Home Mom (Or Dad)?

Perhaps the better question that we're all asking is, "Can I AFFORD to be a stay-at-home mom or dad?" To make it as a family living off one income in this culture of what I would describe as "hyper-materialist" is no easy feat. So many mothers, especially, long to be able to be home with their children -- yet they are told by the media, peers, and perhaps even their pastors, parents or spouse that to support a family in this day and age a two-income home is the only responsible option.

Our humble abode
Sadly, I have heard of too many women who have been verbally chastised and bullied by the people closest to them for their desire to choose to stay at home (the irony of the feminist mantra of "choice" should not be lost here). My own experience has been one of suffering, with friends and family both directly and indirectly voicing their displeasure at my desire to be "just" a housewife and "just" a stay-at-home-mom. I know about the painful assumptions people make toward women (and some men too, I'm sure) in this arena because I, too, have endured them. We are implicated in being lazy, lacking motivation, irresponsible, unwilling to contribute to the family, freeloaders, and non-functioning members of society. The accusations sound exaggerated, but I assure you they are not.

I want moms and dads to know that a stay-at-home parent, far from being a burden and a freeloader, is a significant blessing to the family and to greater society. The goal of this post is not to enumerate all the ways we benefit from this model of life so I won't spend time going into detail, but if one feels the pull to stay at home to raise their children you should be encouraged that it is a noble undertaking that requires hard work, enormous responsibility and makes countless contributions to the family.

Catching a rare moment of rest with my third

But, you ask, can a family really financially survive if only one parent works? My answer is yes, in most cases. A lot of it does depend on the income you'll be relying on. We are a family of five living off an income just slightly higher than the national median income of $40k. I know some families who are able to live off half that because of prudent budgeting and major sacrifice. They want to make it work, and so they do.

Sometimes there are situations where both parents must find work outside the home in order to make enough money to put food on the table and pay the utility bills. This is indisputable. Only you can be the true judge of your financial situation. Yet I really do think there's a stronghold of confusion regarding what makes it "necessary" that both parents have to enter the public workplace. All too often the average American family sacrifices a full-time parent for their children because they have been persuaded to believe that they "need" to live in that newly built 3000 square foot house, "need" to eat out often, "need" to take major vacations every year, "need" to furnish their home with the latest in furniture and knick knacks, "need" to drive a brand new car, "need" to wear designer clothing, "need" to own all the latest electronic gadgets, "need" to wear makeup and jewelry, "need" to have a gym membership/home gym, "need" to throw big parties every weekend, and on and on...

To afford to be a SAHM or SAHD requires going against the grain of the hyper-materialist culture, this can't be denied. But, to be cliche, where there is a will there is usually a way -- and the resulting benefits are great. Here's some ideas, gleaned from my own experience, on how to live in such a way that leaves room for mommy or even daddy to raise those beloved children and manage the home front full-time. I hope they help you!

1. Eat and drink simply
Eating adequately - and healthily - should not be compromised simply for the sake of tightening down the monthly budget. On the other hand, there's a lot of ways to feed the family nutritious, full meals while also significantly reducing the food bill.
  • To eat well AND frugally, you will need to be OK with eating "real," whole foods and staying away from the processed food aisles. Processed, packaged foods are significantly more expensive than the real thing. And yes, your children will be just fine without fruit gummies and those strange Gerber mini hot dogs. I promise!
  • Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, serve your family simple, basic meals. The fewer ingredients that go into a dish, the more economical it is. You don't need to serve five different things or prepare fancy main dishes that have an ingredient list 10 or 15 items deep.
  • Drink little - or no - alcohol and soda. These can ratchet up your grocery bill fast and they're nutritionally empty. If you're wanting to stay at home and you need to count your pennies, this is an easy choice to make. Fresh vegetables for the week or a bottle of wine? You be the judge.
    Prepping our garden :)
  • Make what you can at home (like homemade bread) and grow what you're able. We have a very small yard and a short growing season so my gardening abilities are limited, but even in my small raised bed I am able to grow tomatoes, peas, zucchini, carrots, lettuces, herbs, and the like. If you have the ability to garden (and better yet, learn the art of canning), it will save you major $ at the grocery store.
  • You don't need to "extreme coupon" in order to make ends meet. The best way I've found to buy cheaply is to shop only what's truly on sale (be aware that stores do try to trick you by putting big 'for sale' signs on items that are only a meager 10 or 20 cents off) and be willing to buy store brands. Yes, it may taste different from what you're used to, but in most cases the difference is insignificant and you can learn to adjust. 
  • Lastly, the no-brainer: don't eat out. If you do, only go for very special occasions or when you have a gift card. Even a meal for two at a casual chain restaurant can run you $30 a pop. If you have a $400 monthly food budget, you've just blown almost half a week's worth of food money for the entire family on one meal.
The extent of my couponing success...

2. Refuse all opportunities to acquire debt
There is no end to the "opportunities" the culture presents to us to go into debt. The biggest one almost everyone gets reigned into is a car payment. Families can end up shelling out $300, $400, $500 or more a month on one car ALONE. If you have two cars, as most do, that figure doubles. People may tell you "car payments are a way of life," but don't buy into it. With proper budgeting and planning, you can buy an adequate used car with cash and save yourself thousands and thousands of dollars. If you already have a car payment, do whatever you can to pay it off, even if it means selling the car and buying something you can afford with the resulting cash. With an extra $400 or even $800 in your pocket each month, stay-at-home parenting becomes a much easier way of life.

Other "debt opportunities" to avoid: financing furniture, appliances, and luxury items (aka: 50" LCD flat screen TVs or treadmills). Save up and pay cash or do without. It is my belief that debt is never, ever worth it with the exception of perhaps a home mortgage.

Our minivan, which is finally paid in full 

3. Go without Bowser and Muffy
Here in the U.S. pets sap up the most of our discretionary income. We spent $53 billion on them last year alone! If you didn't have to spend money on veterinary bills, dog food, and pet toys could you afford to stay home and raise your children yourself? It's a question we must ask ourselves. What comes first: pets or children?

If you're Catholic, we should think soberly on the blunt words of Pope Francis (spoken shortly before he was elected): "On those things that are not necessities, or superfluous things, the greatest amount is spent on pets. The most unnecessary spending is made on pets. Pets are idolized... And the second largest amount of money is spent on cosmetology. Cosmetics. ...There are millions and millions spent on these two things. Meanwhile the Pope [Benedict XVI] is talking about children who are dying of hunger in underdeveloped continents like Africa, Asia and America. First come pets. And then if there is something left, we throw it to the children."

We gave up our cats when our second was a toddler. (You may have caught a glimpse of our old cat in the window in the first photo!) I felt guilty for weeks, but looking back it was one of the wisest decisions we've ever made.

4. Be green
Going "green" does more than help the environment, it is a fabulous way to lessen the monthly expenses. Items like Pine Sol and 409 are dangerous for little explorers, bad for the environment and our health, and EXPENSIVE. I do 99% of my cleaning with vinegar and, occasionally, baking soda. Vinegar is so cheap - just pour into a plastic spray bottle and go. I also make my own laundry detergent, which has been a significant cost-saver.

Beauty products are also a big money sap (especially cosmetics, as referenced above). They are not good for us either -- almost all commercially-made products are filled with chemicals. There are a few ways you can "go green" and save money. One is to make your own products with natural ingredients, like my DIY Face Powder or the Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub. Also ask yourself if you really need to be wearing makeup each day -- or at all.

I think in the U.S. especially we don't realize what a superfluous thing it is to use makeup. I've even heard American Christian women claim we must wear it to be a "wise woman" or a "good witness." This is just silly. Millions of devout and beautiful women around the world don't wear makeup nor can they afford to, and some of the most extraordinary female witnesses to the Christian faith never wore a dot of foundation or lipstick in their life. If you're hesitant about putting the blush and mascara aside, I challenge you to try it for just a day. If you can do that, do it for a few days. Try to go a week. It gets easier, and you'll get used to your "new you." You'll also get used to all the extra money you'll have in the bank account and the extra time you'll have each morning! I recently threw my makeup out and while it was hard at first (primarily because of my own pride and vanity), I now rarely even think about it.

5. Make others' trash your treasure
In other words, buy used. These days so many people get rid of perfectly good, almost-new items in order to make room for the "newest" and "best" that it's incredibly easy to buy used and still have nice things. For instance, I almost always buy used children's clothing and used books. There are great bargains to be had, especially if you check out local garage sales! I've had no problem finding stacks of like-new, name brand clothing at garage sales for as little as 50 cents a piece. The same goes for books. In addition to garage sales, keep an eye out for used book sales at your local library.

For baby items, consignment sales are usually a stay-at-home family's paradise -- I've bought like-new baby bouncers and diaper genies at a third of their original price!

Of course there's also Craigslist, Freecycle, thrift stores and, for new items at used prices, clearance racks at your favorite stores. I've always found fantastic deals on the Target clearance racks.

6. Turn down that dial
Energy costs can add a great deal of strain to a one-income family budget. The good news is that's pretty easy to manage: just turn down the dial!
  • On your thermostat, set the temperature a degree or two lower than usual and put on a sweatshirt if you feel cool. At night consider a larger drop -- we set ours at 58 degrees this winter. I did it as an experiment, thinking we'd be too cold, but we haven't even noticed a difference! I'm still usually too warm at night, which is saying a lot considering I'm always accused of being the coldest person in the room. ;) We don't have air conditioning, but if you do consider doing the opposite: turn up the dial a notch or two so that it has to get warmer in order for the a/c to kick in. 
  • Turn down your hot water heater to the lowest setting, usually 120 degrees. This is both a means of cutting costs and a safety measure to avoid scalding.
  • Wash your clothes on cool or cold. I've tried this with my homemade detergent and it appears to work just as well. Using hot water for laundry is one of the biggest contributors to high energy bills!

7. Trim the fat
By "fat" I mean the extra, unnecessary fluff taking up room on your monthly budget. These are things that sure are nice to have, but can, ultimately, be given up. What "fat" is on your budget?
  • Cable TV? (hint: Netflix is a cheap alternative)
  • Movie theater money?
  • Magazine and newspaper subscriptions?
  • Memberships (for organizations, gyms, clubs, etc)?
  • Smart phone data package?
Most communities have free activities and events -- take advantage of them! Become a regular at the public library (where you can check out not only books but plenty of music and movies). Google search what periodical publications you can receive for free in subjects you're interested in and sign yourself up. If you want to exercise, take up walking around your neighborhood, on local trails or even at the mall. The things we think we "need" can often be satisfied with much less than we think.

8. Downsize
Just because you may live in a huge home now with an equally large mortgage payment doesn't mean you need to stay there (or upgrade). Oftentimes the most prudent thing we can do is live in a humbler home. If you've ever looked at older homes you'll notice that by and large they were much smaller, yet housed larger families! It's a rare family that "needs" a lot of square footage -- you can comfortably fit a lot of people in smaller home (if we're honest we must admit it's the stuff that doesn't fit). There's also another benefit to a smaller house: a closer family life!

Another option to consider is not owning a home at all. Not everyone needs to own a home, nor is it financially feasible to do so. In this market yes, you can find homes that will cost less per month than a rental...however home ownership carries with it a lot of extra costs. Whereas usually rental costs include utilities, maintenance, garbage and water, and even internet, home ownership requires you pay for all these yourself. Then there is the need to have home insurance, many places have HOA fees, and there are also unforeseen home repair costs. Sometimes if you have just one income to rely on, home ownership isn't always the best choice. (If you do buy a home in today's market, make sure you have a large down payment and it's a place you plan on staying in for the long term.)

Lastly, a very cost-effective move is to license and maintain just one car. Not everyone is willing to live that way, especially with the sprawl of many communities that make it impossible to get anywhere without motorized transportation, but it is an option -- even if only for the short term. Huge sacrifice? Definitely. But if it comes down to that or putting your kids in daycare so you can work to afford the costs of having a second car, it seems like a sacrifice worth making.

9. Travel lite
Traveling is fun, believe me I sympathize! There's nothing I enjoy more than a vacation. I love traveling and seeing new places. However, unless the one-income your family is relying on is a hefty one (in which case you probably don't need to be reading this list to begin with!), taking frequent vacations is going to have to go. If your family is itching for a break from routine, do a "staycation" or a day trip. If you're Catholic, visit a neighboring town's parish -- or the diocese cathedral - as a sort of "mini pilgrimage."

The gorgeous cathedral in our diocese

10. Quit the shopping habit
Contrary to popular belief, this is not just a message for women! Men can be just as "addicted" to shopping, they simply buy different things than their female counterparts. Whether it's new high heels, decor for the house, tools, or car parts, the shopping habit needs to be broken. To live off one income requires great discipline in spending habits -- the family has to be committed to only buying what they need, they must break the "I gotta have this!" mindset, and they have to choose to be frugal with gift giving. Our kids don't need $200 worth of presents on their birthdays, and either do we.

TOO much stuff...!
Less IS more.

No, it isn't as much "fun." The money isn't there to throw around as easily as it may be with two incomes. But, in the end, we can't take our things with us. What will endure into eternity is the time we had with the people we loved. Choosing our family over our stuff is a choice that will not go unrewarded -- in this life and the next.

The beauties with whom I'm blessed to spend my days!

April 2, 2013

Imitating the Pilgrim Witness of Jesus and Pope Francis

"At his last breath the multimillionaire is just as penniless as the dying beggar in a Calcutta street."
Thomas Dubay, Happy Are You Poor

What the Church desperately needs today is for its followers to give authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel. Over Lent, we were profoundly blessed by God to be given another simple, loving man with deep personal holiness to help us as our Papa: Pope Francis. His namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, being one of the most remarkable Christian men of all time -- remembered for his love, purity, peace, and of course, poverty.

By all accounts Pope Francis embodies what it means to walk in the spirit of evangelical poverty that Jesus calls His followers to embrace, that Francis of Assisi lived, and that Thomas Dubay outlines in his book, Happy Are You Poor. Catholics all over the world are thrilled with his simplicity and embrace of only the bare minimum to sustain himself and do his job. I, too, am so very encouraged and enlivened by his example! I eagerly look forward to all that God will say and do through him.

But -- and I have no doubt Pope Francis would agree -- our admiration is not useful unless we, too, follow his example in our daily lives. It is imperative for us as professing Catholic Christians not simply to stop at lauding the humility of a Pope, declaring what a great message he is giving to the Church at large, and hoping that more bishops and priests follow his example. Those sentiments are understandable, yes! But after we have done those things, we must go take the next step. We must pause to consider what Jesus Christ is saying to us personally through this man we consider our appointed shepherd and spiritual father. Can we in good conscience nod our heads in approval, call for others within the Church to imitate him, and then continue to spend large sums of our own money (or money we don't even have!) on acquiring fancier homes and cars, the latest in fashionable home decor, the newest electronics, artificial tans and wrinkle creams, toys/gear/supplies for our numerous hobbies, and the like?

Dubay's chapter entitled Pilgrim Witness opens up with this:
"There is much in Scripture to which a theist has little difficulty in giving theoretical assent but to which in concrete daily life he grants almost no assent at all. No convinced theist has any problem in admitting that idle talk is reprehensible for several reasons, one of which is that it impedes the biblical call to continual prayer. But in daily living few give any thought at all to the problem of continual chatter and the account we are to render of it on Judgement Day (Mt. 12:36). 
Most of us have heard over and over in liturgical readings the admonition of Jesus that we must give up all that we possess to be his disciples (Lk. 14:33), but few in the humdrum of the day-by-day round even advert to detachment, let alone practice it with any approximation of totality." [p. 81]
We have a particular problem here in the United States with the dominant value of our culture being economic: "the American dream" and "the good life" being two popular phrases where obtaining wealth and the indiscriminate spending of that wealth is the unsaid principle. For the Christian this should pose a serious dilemma, as this ideology flies in the face of the entire Gospel ideal. But the value of the economic "good life" is so pervasive that the ordinary American Christian has become utterly desensitized to Jesus' call to "give up all that we possess." We have been lulled to sleep -- by our education system, the media, our peers, sadly even our own family members and churches -- and we've convincingly assured ourselves that we can arrange our lives around the things of the world (possessions and pleasure seeking) and yet still have all the treasures of heaven added on to us as well.

Dubay relates a specific excellent example about how the underlying economic ideal forms our decisions as Christians:
At Mass one Sunday  morning in October a serious, deeply religious couple hear that the following week there is going to be a collection for the foreign missions. As they drive home Mrs. Jones is likely to say, "Bill, do you think we could afford something like $20 or $30 for this collection?" After some musing Mr. Jones may well respond that he, too, thinks they could afford that amount as their contribution. While most would indeed consider Mr. and Mrs. Jones a generous couple, we must note something significant. When both of them used the expression "we could afford", they meant "without changing significantly our level of consuming." They did not mean "we could afford $20 or $30 if we dine out less frequently or give up smoking and cocktails, or if we cancel our vacation trip, or sell one of our sports cars." 
Even in serious people the good life ideology is operative, and it profoundly influences what they do and do not do on the operational level. If Mr. and Mrs. Jones were to give up the good life ideal, they could give far more to the foreign missions. [p. 84]
Ethicist Richard McCormick wrote something similar: "It can be argued that the single dominating and organizing value in American culture is economic... This means that other values will be pursued and promoted only within this overriding priority. Thus, justice in education, housing, medical services, job opportunity is promoted within the dominance of the financial criterion -- 'if we can afford it', where 'afford' refers to the retention of a high level of consumership."

As Christians we are told plainly that we're merely pilgrims in this world (1 Peter 2:11, Heb 11:13-16), but we rarely live as if that's our reality. "We assume that we belong here, that this is our fatherland, that our security is enhanced by a higher salary, a paid-up mortgage, and adequate coverage by insurance," writes Dubay. We need to rediscover the great freedom and joy that we are offered in Christ when we arrange our daily living like pilgrims! We need it not only for our own souls, but for the sake of the conversion of the world -- a world that desperately needs and even desires to discover authentic pilgrim witnesses.

Dubay said in his book that the world and those of us in the world need "lived prophecy." Indeed. The lived prophecy has to be spoken through each of us, whatever our state in life, not just through our dear Pope, our parish priest, and some monks and nuns living in the cloister.

Before Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis he gave an interview where he spoke on some very relevant points pertaining to this consumerist idolatry that threatens so many of us in our quest for God. I want to end with a few of his quotes (and please, listen to the entire interview -- it's fantastic):

"In today's society new idols are continuously established and driven by consumerism... There is where people get hooked. Indeed there is a strong need to renew the faith."

"Only Jesus provides the answer to this rampant idolatry. And he reigns from the Cross. If we deny the Cross of Jesus, we deny Jesus."

"An interesting fact is the amount spent on non-necessities world wide... On those things that are not necessities, or superfluous things, the greatest amount is spent on pets. The most unnecessary spending is made on pets. Pets are idolized... And the second largest amount of money is spent on cosmetology. Cosmetics. ...There are millions and millions spent on these two things. Meanwhile the Pope is talking about children who are dying of hunger in underdeveloped continents like Africa, Asia and America. First come pets. And then if there is something left, we throw it to the children."

"If you don't worship God, you will have something else. I don't know which one: A pet. Cosmetics. I don't know."

(Last year in the United States alone, over $53 billion was spent on pets and at least $33 billion on cosmetics.)

This post is part of a continuing series of posts on the book Happy Are You Poor. Go here for the first post of the series!