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Why Do Parents Send Their Children to Catholic Schools. The Answer Used to Be to Teach Them the Faith

Why do parents send their children to Catholic schools?  The answer used to be easy: to train them in the Catholic faith.  Now?  The answer is as likely to be because the academics are better than public schools or that they are safer or maybe just because that’s where the parents went to school.

Another Catholic school controversy proves the point.  Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, PA has instituted a dress code for its prom:  “Women’s gowns may not be extremely short, have an extremely low cut front or back, have any excessively high cut slits, have overly revealing midriffs, or be inappropriately revealing – giving the illusion of nudity.  Gentlemen must be in formal attire: tuxedo or complete suit coat, dress pants (no shorts), dress shirt and tie.”

The school has asked that each girl email a picture of her dress to a school authority for approval.

Anyone who has observed how young girls dress these days won’t be surprised at the necessity for these guidelines.  Catholic parents especially should be happy that a school cares enough to establish these rules.  But, of course, at the school this has caused controversy.  Opponents of the policy have put a petition online.  The petition refers to the regulations as “antiquated and unreasonable restrictions” and complains that the policy was posted too late because some students have already bought gowns.  When I checked the petition today there were 255 signers.

Out of curiosity I went to the Delone Catholic High School website.  It is interesting to see how the school presents itself.  “As a diocesan secondary school, Delone Catholic serves students of all faiths in Grades 9 through 12,” they tell us.  Can you imagine any other religious school beginning its presentation that way?  The best the school can do in describing its teaching philosophy is to say that they offer “students a program of studies and activities designed to provide them with diverse experiences which will equip them to recognize and respond to the Truth.”   How about teaching them the Truth as in the tenets of the Catholic faith?

Is it no wonder that on an occasion when the school attempts something like promoting modesty in dress, a petition against the policy is the reaction they get?

Maureen Williamson

Why Catholic Converts Read, and Read, and Read…

My oldest stepdaughter will be Confirmed Catholic this Easter. I can’t tell you how her conversion to Catholicism swells my heart!  I haven’t spoken much about her conversion in respect for God’s work still happening, in boy does it happen in grand ways during a conversion! There’s so much my husband has taught me about how faith can grow, and one of the most important lessons has been to notice the times when I should keep my Italian/Irish/Polish/NY mouth shut.  Yes believe it or not, God can do things without me.

Back to the important topic: Kayla is right now enjoying a phenomenon that so many converts do, which is an unquenchable desire to read, and read, and read some more.  Prior to RCIA, on the scale of illiterate to Anne Shirley, she sat at roughly Jane Bennett. Where does this come from?  The desire to know God is in all of us, but learning about Him in this particular way seems to be so dramatic among RCIA students that it has piqued my curiosity.  An acquaintance in my husband’s RCIA class once read 10+ entire books in a week, in addition to attending RCIA classes, serving on a young adults’ committee, and maintaining a full-time advertising job (for those of you familiar with the industry, advertising “full-time” could be 70 hours/week).

Here are some human factors that I see, and I’m sure there is at least a little of each motivation in every conversion.  With more active conversations about faith, a more finely tuned ear to hear God’s words is a beautiful testament that verifies this good life choice.

  • Desire to articulate the change that’s happening inside. As soon as words are put to one problem, solution or emotion, another arises!
  • Want of relationships—new relationships—with people alive today and prior. It’s tough to have one less item in common with the people closest to you.  Especially among families.
  • Want of stability, which is unique to the two thousand-year-old Church, in a time of change. our personal changes may be nothing compared to the upheavals that the Church has outlasted, nonetheless inner conversions can feel more dramatic than social change, yes?
  • Curiosity about how the Church’s perspectives can fill the holes in secular world-history lessons. We all know when something told to us just doesn’t seem quite right. Through the lens of religion, many events in Western history make a lot more sense.

Can anyone chime in with more?

- Michelle Gracia

The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

101Surprising Facts about St. PetersFor more on the San Francisco archdiocese’s efforts to have teachers in its high schools uphold the tenets of the Catholic faith when teaching, see Joan Frawley Desmond’s story in the National Catholic Register on City Visions’ Forum on the controversy.   The Forum “will serve as a wake up call for anyone who thinks it is still business as usual for Catholic education,” says Mrs. Desmond….Father George Rutler examines 24 parables that give us Hints of Heaven in a new book from Sophia Institute Press….Read some surprising and troubling facts about Catholic Relief Services in Stephen Phelan’s “The Two Masks of Catholic Relief Services” published in Crisis….EWTN airs “The Feast of the Annunciation” at 9:30 a.m. eastern time on March 25.  The setting is London’s Brompton Oratory and your host is Father Lawrence Lew, O.P. who will discuss the meaning of the Annunciation through history, in our individual lives, and in society today.  At noon EWTN has live coverage of Mass from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth….How much do you know about St. Peter’s and the Vatican?  Read Father Jeffrey Kirby’s 101 Surprising Facts about the Vatican to find out….Ignatius Press is publishing The Wife of Pilate and Other Stories, a collection of short stories by German writer and convert Gertrud von le Fort….From the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank dedicated to dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy, comes word that Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow there, will be contributing to the New York Times’s Op-ed and Sunday Review sections.

Maureen Williamson

What Would Happen if Your Children Saw a Lion in the Library?

Library Lion

I live in a house filled with lions.  Stuffed lions, silver lions, plastic lions, ceramic lions…you name it, we have it here.  Well, except a real lionMy husband and I love lions.

Lions fascinate people, including children.  They are one of the most popular animals in zoos.  They are beautiful and, unlike other felines, they live in prides and interact with each other.

Recently, I came across a children’s book called Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. It naturally piqued my interest and it didn’t disappoint.

“One day, a lion came to the library,” begins our tale.

“Is he breaking any rules?” asks Miss Merriweather, the librarian.  No.  Well, “Then leave him be,” she says.

The lion fits very well in the library, helping Miss Merriweather, letting little children stand on his back to reach books, and listening quietly during story hour.

Artist Kevin Hawkes captures the beauty of lions in his illustrations.  The added dimension, necessary in a children’s book of this sort, is the expressiveness in the lion’s face and body.  Both children and adults will fall in love with this lion.

The story is more than just about the lion, however.  It looks at rules and when there is a good reason to break them.  Children don’t always understand nuances and this story does a good job of presenting one kind.

I find that most newer books lack the charm of older books (this book was published in 2006)  and this one is no exception.  Yet, it is a nice, gentle picture book that I would gladly give my great nieces and nephews.  The publisher recommends it for ages four to seven and provides a Story Hour Guide and Event Kit on its website that you may find helpful.

Maureen Williamson

Anti-Cordileone Forces Hire Public Relations Big Gun

In a footnote to my piece last week on Archbishop Cordileone’s attempt to insure that teachers in San Francisco’s diocesan high schools are respectful of Catholicism’s teachings, comes a story in SF Weekly News that “concerned parents” have hired a noted public relations professional, Sam Singer, to fight the Archbishop.

According to the National Catholic Register, Singer posted on Google+, “Everyone is praying that the Pope will remove the San Francisco Archbishop.”

For more on Sam Singer see a SF Weekly story that ran last August.

A couple of thoughs:

When I was in Catholic schools in the 1950s and 60s it was unheard of to have teachers who didn’t support the Church’s teachings.

Why send your child to a Catholic school if you don’t want him taught Catholicism, much less hire a PR person to turn public opinion against the Archbishop?

The devil has done his work well in the past half century.

Maureen Williamson




The Uproar in San Francisco When the Archbishop Tries to Be Catholic

Once again, Catholics are challenged in their own institutions.  You have probably read about the uproar in San Francisco over the new standards for teachers in the San Francisco diocesan high schools which in Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s words clarify “Catholic issues in our Catholic schools.”  In other words, the Archbishop is making a concerted effort to “present Catholic doctrine in its fullness” to [the archdiocese's] students and to make sure that the schools under his jurisdiction are “truly Catholic.”  To this end Archbishop Cordileone sent a letter to teachers in the archdiocesan high schools and issued a document on “Catholic faith and morals that is becoming part of the faculty handbook.”  Much of the statement covers what the Archbishop calls “hot bottom” issues regarding sexual morality.

Eight California legislators have written to the Archbishop objecting to the standards and to the Archbishop’s designation of teachers in the four high schools as “ministers.”  The Archbishop’s new standards set “a divisive tone, which stands in stark contrast to the values that define the Bay Area and its history” as well as sending “an alarming message of intolerance to youth educated [at the four schools].”

In his excellent letter responding to the legislators, the Archbishop asked them: “Would you hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those that you stand for, and who shows disrespect toward you and the Democratic Party in general?”

“I respect your right to employ whomever you wish to advance your mission,” he told them.  “I simply ask the same respect from you.”

Now the New York Times is chiming in with a story in the February 27 edition.  Interestingly, they do not quote from the Archbishop’s letter to the legislators.  Instead we get quotes from the mother of a student saying, “this language says some people are not O.K. – and that’s not O.K.”  And from a teacher and union official who says that union members are “worried about teachers who are gay and who are not able to live publicly.”

One of the things which strikes me about this situation is how the Church has lost the moral high ground.  Acceptance of evil behavior is now viewed as the greatest virtue.

To date the Archdiocese has said that the Archbishop won’t use the word “ministers.”  Beyond that it says that he “has not repealed anything.  He is adding explanations, clarifications, and material on Catholic social teaching….Nothing already planned to go in [the handbook] is being removed or retracted or withdrawn….Even if a substitute for ‘ministry’ is found, the substitute must guarantee that the teachers in the Catholic archdiocesan high schools promote the Catholic mission of the institutions.”

Good for Archbishop Crodileone.  Add him to your prayer list and go to to show your support for him.

Maureen Williamson

Looking for GOOD High School English Texts? Try This Series


Coming up with good textbooks is a challenge for homeschoolers and schools alike.  Recently Ian Rutherford of Aquinas and More gave me a copy of one of the high school English texts written by his mother, Fran Rutherford.  The series is called Questions for the Thinker Study Guides.  There are three books in the series, Greek Classics, Ancient Rome and, the one I have, Old World Europe.  Each one has a student’s book and a teacher’s guide.

Fran Rutherford homeschooled her children for 16 years and, unlike many texts written by homeschool moms, this one is literate.  Don’t laugh.  I can’t tell you how many books and articles I read as editor of Homeschooling Today and vice president of the Conservative Book Club which weren’t anywhere near literate.

Old World Europe is recommended for 9th grade and up.  It is certainly also suitable for adults who want to go back and read classics they missed.  This volume covers nine works: The Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Beowulf, The Rule of St. Benedict, The Life of Charlemagne, The Prince, The Song of Roland, selections from The Canterbury Tales, and Don Quixote.

Mrs. Rutherford provides background for each book and author.  Each chapter includes questions for each section of the work; words the student needs to know (the student must look up the words himself), as well as questions for further thought.  Mrs. Rutherford instructs the students to read all this before beginning each section of the work.  The general questions are specific and factual; while the questions for further thought require exactly that: thought and application and broad knowledge.  An added feature is a list of Significant Dates in Old Europe.

All of Mrs. Rutherford’s textbooks are available at  Take a look.

Maureen Williamson

The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

radical discipleshipEWTN televises the Public Consistory For The Creation Of New Cardinals on February 14 at 5 am eastern time with a rerun of the ceremony at noon; then on the 15th they televise the Mass which the newly appointed Cardinals will celebrate alongside Pope Francis from St. Peter’s Basilica.  The latter is scheduled for 4 am eastern time and will be rebroadcast at 11:30 am….You can sign up for Father Dwight Longenecker’s Faithworks this Lent for practical advice on the Faith….TAN Books recommends Diane Moczar’s book, Seven Lies about Catholic History: Infamous Myths about the Church’s Past and How to Answer Them to learn the truth about Catholics and the Crusades after President Obama’s inflammatory remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast….The 2015 Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Almanac is now available….Governor Greg Abbott of Texas will be the keynote speaker at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on May 7 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Gov. Abbott succeeded in protecting the right of Texas to display the Ten Commandments in front of its State Capitol…Francis Cardinal Arinze’s new books, Radical Discipleship  shows faithful Catholics how to participate in the consecrated life.

Altar Girls Revisited

Interesting things are happening in the San Francisco diocese.  Things that should help strengthen both the faith and vocations.  Let’s look on one of them.

At Star of the Sea Parish in San Francisco Father Joseph Illo, the pastor, has instituted a policy of only training altar boys – no girls.

“I want to emphasize that we are not discontinuing altar girls because females are somehow incapable or unworthy,” Father Illo said in a statement.  “The news media has portrayed our decision as discrimination.  It is not.  It is simply giving boys a role they can call their own, and more importantly recognizing the priesthood as a specifically fatherly charism rather than a motherly charism.”

Let’s take a look at a whole diocese which does does not allow altar girls:  Lincoln, Nebraska.  Anthony Esolen in an article for Crisis called “How to Kill Vocations in Your Diocese,” noted that Lincoln “serving not quite one hundred thousand Catholics, has forty-eight seminarians.”  The last statistics I read showed that Lincoln had the most vocations per Catholic of any diocese.

According to a report on San Francisco’s KPIX some parishioners at Star of the Sea are not happy.  However, as Father Illo pointed out, “If this altar boy policy bothers us, we must ask ourselves if we have not unconsciously accepted the errors of the current age; specifically that the differences between men and women have no more spiritual significance than ‘plumbing’ arrangements.  Do you think Mary, the Mother of God, would want to serve the Mass or be a priest, and even if so, why did Jesus not include her at the Last Supper?  Is it not because she, as a woman, has a distinct, an even more exalted role than the Apostles?”

Well said, Father.

Maureen Williamson


The Intelligent Catholic’s Guide News and Notes for Catholics

remade for happinessRemade for Happiness: Achieving Life’s Purpose Through Spiritual Transformation, Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s classic is being reprinted by Ignatius.  Originally titled Preface to Religion, this new edition has a Foreword by Jennifer Fulwiler….Interesting piece by Gerald J. Russello on called “Catholicism Before and After 1963.”  Mr. Russello uses two novels, Evelyn Waugh’s Unconditional Surrender, published in 1961, and Pier Paul Read’s 1969 novel,  Monk Dawson, to show how Catholicism changed during the sixties.  It certainly gives one pause….Nice to see that Providence bishop Thomas J. Tobin rejected an invitation to attend Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s inauguration because she is pro-abortion….Catholic Courses is offering a new lecture series called The New Testament Canon: The Development of the Gospels from Oral Tradition to Sacred Scripture. The 8 thirty-minute lectures are available  as a DVD set, audio CD set, audio or video download.  The lecturer is Monica Migliorino Miller of Madonna University in Michigan….Art and Laraine Bennett have edited Catholic and Married: Leaning into Love, a new book that includes testimonials of married Catholics on topics like parenting, family size, communication, characteristics of a healthy marriage, and contemporary challenges.  Contributors include Simcha Fisher, Dr. Joseph White, Dan and Hallie Lord and Meg McDonnell.

Maureen Williamson

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