A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Straw-orangalicious Smoothie

I am not the smoothie maker, nor the smoothie drinker, in our household, but we've both been experimenting with new smoothie recipes ever since I brought home the Taste of Home smoothie issue on one of my shopping trips. (It was there at the checkout line, beckoning. . . one of the few truly useful impulse buys. This $1 Hitchcock DVD was another successful checkout-line purchase, in case you're curious.) This variation on the classic Orange Julius was invented tonight, for the dual purposes of using up the last few strawberries in the fridge and injecting some fruit into my diet. It's pretty good: I doubt it would ever replace the original recipe, but it's a nice variation.


1 cup fat free milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup Splenda (or sweetener of choice)
6 oz FROZEN orange juice concentrate
3-4 large strawberries, sliced
1 tsp vanilla
8-10 ice cubes, crushed if possible

1) Prepare strawberries- wash, remove tops, slice. You can try substituting frozen berries, but as I've yet to try that myself, I'm not sure how many to use. Try 1/4 of a cup.

2) Add splenda and non-frozen ingredients.

3) Add frozen orange juice concentrate and ice cubes.

4) Blend.

5) Serve.

This supposedly makes about 4 servings, but you may find that a true smoothaholic can consume most of it on his own.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

What is an Interchurch Marriage?

I'd like to claim that people ask me the question above all the time. However, I don't think anyone has ever asked that question. I suspect this is because for the most part, few people have heard the expression "interchurch marriage" except those who are actually IN interchurch marriages. I also suspect that people who hear the phrase assume that they know what it means, perhaps equating it with the much more common expression "mixed marriage."

However, there's a very specific meaning to the term "interchurch marriage." And that's what today's post is about. It's probably long past time that I addressed the subject, given that the unstated background to many of my posts on Catholic and Protestant unity is the tension (and sometimes hurt or anger) that can result from trying to carve out space for an interchurch marriage in Christian communities that often have never even heard the term. This is not, however, going to be a confessional post. I'm not going to talk about specific problems we have faced. I am, instead, going to talk more generically about what interchurch marriages are, and what they are not.

Let's start with the textbook definition. For my purposes, I'll assume that the textbook is George Kilcourse's Double Belonging: Interchurch Families and Christian Unity, published in 1992. Kilcourse says that an interchurch family is one in which: "the wife and husband each participates in his or her respective church, and to various degrees in one another' s church; and each takes a conscientious and active role in the religious education of his or her children" (1).

Technically, an interchurch marriage does not have be a Protestant-Catholic marriage. It could refer to an Eastern-Orthodox - Roman Catholic marriage, or an Orthodox - Protestant marriage. In theory, it could even refer to a marriage between a Lutheran and a Baptist. In practice, however, the term most commonly ends up being applied to Catholic-Protestant marriages. These marriages pose unique problems, primarily (in my opinion) because the Catholic and Protestant parties share such different ecclesiologies. Because I'm a member of a Catholic-Protestant intermarriage, the points below primarily address those sorts of marriages.

There are a lot of different ways of having an interchurch marriage. But it be more helpful to see, first, what kinds of things don't qualify as interchurch marriages.

1) Marriages in which one spouse "converts" or formally becomes a member of another church are not interchurch marriages.

This seems to me as if it should be a "duh" point. What makes it tricky is that well-meaning friends, family members, and even church leaders may not understand that conversion is not an option for everyone. Those who identify themselves as interchurch couples generally have strongly held beliefs about their churches. They are intellectually and spiritually committed to their own tradition. Converting simply for the sake of marital unity may seem to these couples to be a denial of important religious truths, or it may seem to be a wrenching loss. There are some cases where conversion is an option (and in practice, it is probably the best solution). These cases, in which one partner is genuinely drawn to the other's faith, are not what I mean by "interchurch marriage."

2) Marriages in which one spouse continues to identify with his/her church, but ceases to maintain an active part in that church, are not interchurch marriages.

I have heard stories of couples in which one party, while refusing to actually convert, simply quit attending his or her own church and took an active role in the spouse's church. For example, a Catholic wife might attend Protestant services with her family without formally joining that church, but also without maintaining a sacramental life as a Catholic. Or a Protestant husband might go to mass with his family, rarely or never attending "his" church, but also choosing not to enter the Catholic Church.

3) Marriages in which neither spouse actively practices his or her faith are not interchurch marriages.

Sadly, I have heard of cases (you may have too) where a Catholic and a Protestant marry, and decide that rather than choosing between one church or another, they just won't go to either church. Sometimes this is a deliberate decision, made perhaps out of a desire not to "influence" the children. Other times it may happen gradually as the couple just quits going to church.

4) Marriages in which the couple chooses a compromise church in which to raise their family are not interchurch marriages.

When we married, for example, some people recommended that we both just join an Episcopalian or Lutheran church, as it would somehow be "half-way between" Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity. On the surface, this looks like a reasonable solution. However, those who offer this as advice need to realize that expecting a Catholic party to leave the Catholic Church --even for a "compromise" church-- means asking him or her to abandon a core principle of Catholic ecclesiology.

The next point seems to me to be the trickiest and most controversial. If one uses the term "interchurch marriage" as Kilcourse defines it, though, it is an unavoidable conclusion.

5) Marriages in which both spouses are active in their respective churches, but are never involved in each other's churches, are not true interchurch marriages.

Suppose, for example, that I went to my own church every weekend, while also attending Leopoldtulip's church regularly-- but he never attended mine. Suppose my Catholicism remained something private that I had to practice on my own time, but which was not allowed to influence our life as a family. Or suppose, conversely, that Leopoldtulip regularly attended mass with me, but that I was never willing to attend his church. Suppose that he were made to feel like the Protestant outsider in a Catholic household. In either case, we could not be said to have an interchurch marriage. Only if both spouses are willing to participate to some extent in each other's churches can they be said to have an interchurch marriage.

That "to some extent" implies an important qualification, which is that different interchurch couples come up with different solutions as to how to be active in each other's churches. Some will be more or less involved with their spouse's church than others. Some couples attend both a Catholic mass and a Protestant worship service every weekend. (The fact that most Catholic churches offer Saturday evening masses, very early Sunday morning masses, and sometimes Sunday evening masses makes this possible.) For other couples, attending worship together might be more like a once-a-month deal.

Further complications surround the issue of church attendance beyond Sunday worship. Both Catholics and Protestants are fond of pointing out that God deserves more than just an hour on Sunday. Many congregations --both Catholic and Protestant-- assume that committed members will be active in Bible studies, volunteer groups, adult education classes, or Sunday school. (In a Catholic church, participating in such activities is often the only opportunity for "fellowship" with fellow parishioners-- we don't tend to linger around after church socializing the way our evangelical brothers and sisters do.) But participating in such activities becomes far more complicated when one spouse is a member of another church, and does not share the specific viewpoint of the congregation in question. Sunday school and adult education classes are not designed to be ecumenical; they quite reasonably intend to teach a specifically denominational approach to Christian living and thinking. This may mean that a Protestant spouse would feel out-of-place or uncomfortable at a Catholic Bible study or adult education class. Likewise, a Catholic spouse might not be comfortable in a Protestant Sunday School.

Interchurch families may have to make compromises as to how they approach these kinds of events or groups. And different couples are likely to make different compromises, depending both on individual personality and the character of the congregation. The bottom line, then, is that though two different interchurch couples may take very different approaches to involvement in each other's churches, a common factor is that they will try to be involved, at least to some extent. That is what makes it an interchurch marriage.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Grilled Cheese Goes Gourmet!

Disclaimer: Duty compels me to warn my readers that this is really more of a product endorsement than a recipe, but rest assured, I don't get paid!

I don't know about you, but I have difficulty thinking of lunches that are easy to make but not boring. Years of bringing a sack lunch to elementary school have somehow soured me on most kinds of sandwiches. Left-overs make me go "yech." (Oddly enough, I can eat them for dinner, but they don't seem appetizing at lunch.) My general standby has been meal bars or omelets. I could, in fact, have blogged extensively about my shock at learning that the traditional two-egg French-style omelet has only about ~200 calories. I have always associated eggs with dietary decadence-because of the cholesterol count, not doutb- so it was a surprise to learn that in terms of caloric content, an omelet is not bad. Not until you had the cheese and the ranch dressing, that is.

Today's discovery, though probably not as healthy for you as an omelet (eggs have wonderful vitamins and such, right?), is even more elegant. I present to you: the gourmet grilled cheese sandwich.

1 teaspoon or thereabouts butter
2 slices whole wheat bread
1-2 slices Sargento's Bistro Melts Portabello Swiss sliced cheese

Directions: Duh. You know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, right?

But if not. . .

Take a small skillet. Add a dab of real butter. Preheat. Take two slices of bread. Put some cheese in between them. Place on heated skillet. Heat sandwich (turning as needed) until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted. Note to the perpetually busy: DO NOT WALK AWAY AND DO SOMETHING ELSE WHILE SANDWICH IS COOKING. Most skillet foods require a watchful eye to prevent burning. It's okay to multitask in the kitchen, but keep your tasks in the kitchen. Don't go off to check your email or grade papers. You'll be sorry.

There might be additional ingredients one could add to this sandwich; the basic grilled cheese sandwich is capable of expanding in many ways. (For instance, American cheese, tuna, and thinly sliced tomatoes make a good melt.) If you think of any additions that would go particularly well with this cheese, let me know. Rye bread might make an interesting alternative to wheat bread. As it is, the portabello swiss gives this sandwich a unique flavor. Enjoy with a small glass of white wine, if desired. Grilled cheese has never seemed so grown-up!

P.S.: If you're bored rather than hungry at the moment, take this cheese personality quiz.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Snow Day

If it snows in April, that means I don't have to do any work, right? I can just sit around reading classic children's books. . . at least until it stops snowing.

That's what I'm telling myself today, anyway.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Edward Oakes on the "H" Word

Those who weren't bored by my recent post on Catholic-Protestant interactions might be interested in this post over at the First Things blog. * What starts off as a call to conservative Catholics to avoid using the word "heresy" as a description of the doctrinal distinctives of their Protestant brethern ends up going into a very interesting discussion of what the Catholic Church lost in position itself in opposition to a misunderstanding of the Lutheran view of Justification. (Check out some very interesting examples of Therese of Lisieux's writings.)

His conclusion?

I do hereby conclude: When the Western Church fissiparated in the sixteen century, the Reformers took a portion of the essential patrimony of the Church with them, and they thereby left both the Roman Church and themselves the poorer for it.

I think what Oakes is alluding to here is the thesis, gaining ground among intelligent Catholics, that post-Reformation Catholicism, in defining itself so firmly against anything that looked Protestant, ended up exaggerating its own position and neglecting aspects of its own theology.
The same thing, of course, happened in the Protestant camps, too, where anything that looked or sounded too Catholic was automatically suspect. ("Celebrate the liturgical calendar? Not in this church! We only do what the Bible says! Now let's have the kids come to the front of the church for the kid talk, which incidentally, is never mandated by Scripture.") Oakes doesn't cover this ground, since he is, after all, addressing his fellow Catholics, but some of the recent blogging discussion on anti-Catholicism have highlighted this tendency.

In any case, I'm sure that we in the Catholic Church can think of plenty of areas in which our self-definitions are based primarily on opposition to an ecclesiastical Other. Sometimes the results are quite painful. Sometimes they're quite confusing, and they can make the work of grass-roots of ecumenism very hard. Sometimes this tendency can even lead people to defend positions that really ought not be defended, as in "My parish doesn't offer a Bible study for adults, but that's okay because evangelicals put too much emphasis on personal study of the Bible anyway. Really the Bible is supposed to read liturgically." Certainly the primary site for encountering the Word of God is in the church, rather than the small-group or the home, but that doesn't exonerate local parishes from the burden of providing opportunities for adult enrichment!

I digress, as usual. And please, don't take offense with my examples. Just go read what Oakes has to say on the subject.

Hat tip: Evangelical Outpost.

*Disclaimer: I hereby distance myself from the political views expressed over at First Things. Though I admire the "ecumenism of the trenches" practiced by the journal and exemplified in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statements, I worry that the First Things crowd in general is sometimes a little too concerned with only uniting over specific political stances, some of which contradict traditional Catholic social teaching or just war teaching anyway. But that's a blog for another day.