7 in 7: What We’re Reading Wednesday

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Ceremony of Innocence by Dorothy Cummings MacLean (Ignatius Press 2013):

Full disclosure: I am a long-time reader and HUGE fan of Mrs. Cummings MacLean’s ministry for single women: Seraphic Singles and her other persona, Auntie Seraphic. Mrs. MacLean also wrote the book of essays on the single life, The Closet’s All Mine!. So I was quite thrilled to hear and then read her first novel for adults.

Catriona is a 30+++  year-old woman in Germany living with her boyfriend Dennis, nephew of an Archbishop. Yes living with living with. Though a popular spiritual writer in the UK now employed by an American Catholic news conglomerate, Catriona, or Cat, finds herself embroiled in a terrorist plot somehow connected to her new, young and naïve friend, Suzy. Told in a Lost-style narrative, the book gets creative with time: opening in media res with the murder of Suzy, flashing back and forth between the odd friendship between Cat and Suzy and the post-murder confrontation of relationships, morals, and the question of innocence.

Political intrigue, romance, suspense, moral musings—this book has got it all. It is an outstanding work of contemporary adult fiction. Unlike so many American bestsellers and literary “royalty” with their bloviated sense of self-importance and page count (hundreds upon hundreds), Ceremony of Innocence is a meaty , but just-the-right-size read. Mrs. Cummings MacLean does an excellent job depicting not just the current sociopolitical and religious climates of modern Germany, but how this setting and frame force us to confront our own notions of innocence and culpability; faith and fanaticism. Divided into parts—or acts if you—each section of the novel gives you something to feast on: the opening mystery of who killed Suzy Davis, the bombings that blow up the tension, the crescendo of all the action and subplots coming to a head—I didn’t want to put it down. And lest non-Catholics feel wary about this “Catholic novel,” I want to assure you that it is not thinly-veiled catechesis or overtly theological. Rather, the characters are Catholic, the themes—which are universal—are looked at through the Catholic lens of our narrator; giving it flavor.

From a Catholic point of view, Mrs. Cummings MacLean takes care to present the faith in a holistic sense. Suzy’s intense admiration for the teachings on marriage and family is one visage; the small asides about the flirtatious chaplain or the liturgical dance Mass at a more…liberal…parish are others. All experiences are real and true to our own lives, but described in such a way as to indicate to the reader which is the beautiful and which is the lacking; which is the faith and Church and which is the actions of people. Mrs. Cummings MacLean also takes care to not make the sin of scandal through her writing—Cat is very aware that her choices with Dennis are not in the right, so when she attends Mass, she does not present herself for the Eucharist. The novel respects the faith without resorting to preachy, flowery, or radical treatment.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to adult readers. If a 16++ teen girl has come across Mrs. Cummings MacLean’s writing for young single women (whom she says is her primary audience—young adult women, not YA in the mainstream sense of “teen”, but the Catholic sense of 18+/college age/young professional) and really wants to read “Auntie’s” book, I would leave it to the parents/guardians to determine if okay. The themes and plot points mentioned above are mature, but do keep in mind that in high school, particularly in advanced English classes, students are tasked with examining the “classics,” many of which deal with mature themes and plot points taken on by middle-aged adult characters. I think the reason we view these books as acceptable for older teen readers is because, at least in most of the classics, wrong was wrong, consequences suffered, and the reader was left not just with an understanding of human nature, but a sense of moral truth—not relativism. On that bar, A Ceremony of Innocence can be judged fitting.

Don’t forget to check out HouseWifeSpice!

What We’re Reading Wednesday: Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin’s Griffin 2013):

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Linking up with Housewifespice and the others!

I can see why the American Library Association Young Adult Library Services people gave this

book a Printz Honor Award. The writing is superb; the emotions true. Told in alternating perspectives

between the tow titular leads, this young adult novel pours out the contents of a bottle of a moment in time.

Eleanor, a high school junior, has just returned to her messed-up family’s fold after a year away. Not

svelte, and not Barbie-blonde, Eleanor is quickly pegged as the weird girl by the bus riders and roundly

mocked for her crazy red hair, odd fashion choices and standoffish demeanor. Finding a seat with Park, the

socially safe (because of his richer ZIP code), comes to be Eleanor’s saving grace. Over the Fall semester,

they quietly bond over the comics Park lets her read on the way to school. In a slow, delicious burn,

Eleanor and Park fall for each other and capture the essence of the eclipsing nature of a first love.

But while Eleanor’s happiness increases, her home life is in a downward spiral. Her mom’s

married to a nasty drunk of a guy who barely tolerates her and her four younger siblings. As most young

adult novels do, this difficult, depressing situation comes to an ugly head, forcing Eleanor to discover a

better path for her own salvation—better than the incredible boy who is so incredible by virtue of his

normalness.
From a literary point of view, Eleanor and Park is deficient in small, minor ways: the twist of the

climax should have been telegraphed—at least subtly—rather than coming as a sort of tacked on surprise to

be the straw that breaks Eleanor’s back into leaving; you never do get a satisfactory resolution about what

happens to Eleanor’s mom or the little kids; and the intensity of Eleanor and Park’s relationship goes

beyond giddy-first-love and into unhealthy Twilight-esque realms. Also, this book’s key problem depends

on the setting: in suburban Omaha in the 1980s. The characters and romance are strong enough to let most

readers immerse themselves in this foreign-to-them time period; but to others, the timeframe is could pose

a big disconnect: “Why doesn’t Eleanor or the school counselor call Women in Distress.” and “This would

be so different with texts and emails and smartphones.”

From a Catholic point of view, Eleanor and Park is a mixed bag. Park’s love for Eleanor is not

your typical teenage boy-hound-dog kind of lust; he wants to protect her, he doesn’t want to use her for his

own sake, and he welcomes her into his family. Now, he is a teenage boy of no discernible faith tradition,

so boundaries get pushed—but not until the final third of the book. For more than one hundred pages, the

relationship progresses without so much as a kiss. Eleanor, with no discernible faith background of her

own, has no framework with which to make moral decisions, or to draw upon in times of despair. But she

does love her family. Finally, Eleanor’s mom will require discussion with a reader. True to life, the mom

doesn’t want to leave her husband, and is so blinded by her dependency on him that she doesn’t see how

she is failing her children. A sentence at the end gives you hope that perhaps she does leave the awful guy,

but it doesn’t feel like enough. Oh, and there’s some cursing. But in a great, quick-make-sure-you-
rereading-every-word line, Park narrates that except for his family, all his friends’ parents are divorced, and

that divorce has caused all of their biggest problems. Being inside the head of a 17-year-old guy means

such an insight isn’t organically expounded upon, but a good detail to come back to with a teen reader.

Overall, I would recommend this book to teens ages 16 and up; possibly a mature 14 or 15 with a parent

or other trusted adult figure reading along or aware of the contents and themes. Though Eleanor and Park

don’t make the choices we’d want our teens to (especially regarding chastity), they do show others the

good amid the bad. Touching upon discrimination, bullying, and love as a healer amid breakdown, this

book is a contained mess of life spilled out. This article in Time explains how reading

fiction can help kids and teens be even more sensitive to others. Additionally, they’ll have to encounter the

real world at some point, and books like Eleanor and Park can be a safe window in which to glimpse the

issues they’ll likely have to engage with. I’m a firm believer that if you engage with your teens about the

content and choices of book, they can still enjoy a good read without risking their soul.

Verily, I Say Unto Thee…

Verily is very WONDERFUL.

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“Less of who you should be, more of who are.” AMEN.

Magazines are my very favorite indulgence. I usually only pick up a Marie Claire or Elle* on the rare occasion I need to reach a dollar amount for a grocery or CVS coupon or am taking a plane trip and want to settle in and escape.

This past week I had the chance to settle in and escape, right from my very couch, into Verily.

The cover girl: This first print issue and the preview issue depict a beautiful woman in a pleasant setting. It is fresh and feminine, without being stereotypical. What I love most is how the cover plays against the trope of typical women’s mag covers. Instead of depicting a celebrity in expensive clothes as the image of a woman the reader is supposed to fantasize being, Verily’s “cover girl” is recognition of the woman you already are. Rather than validating feelings of self-loathing (“I wish I had Christina Hendricks’ curves”; “I wish I had the budget for that cocktail dress;” “Maybe one day I’ll have Keira Knightley’s flawless skin, but right now my imperfections can’t compare.”), Verily validates your dignity as a human person (“She looks like me—and she’s also confident, warm, like she’s a good listener over a cup of coffee, like she’s interesting: I love riding my bike in the city, too!”) The woman I find in these pages is not going to teach me how to be some man’s ideal of a sex object, but a true friend.

The cover lines: Minimalistic and unobtrusive. I like that there is nothing screaming at me, but they do catch my attention with their content. They also tell me what the magazine is about and set the tone:

“One-Piece WOnders: Fun and Flattering Swimwear” (fashion); “Can Men and Women Be ‘Just Friends’?” (relationships); “Bare-Faced Beauty: Natural Makeup How-to” (beauty); “Prehistoric Dining: Flavorful and Healthy Paleo Recipes” (food & trend); and “Survivors Speak Out: Sex-Trafficking in America” (current event/issue of womanly concern).”

Each one of these appeals to a modern woman without sexualizing her, condescending to her, or ignoring her dignity by focusing on what she can do for a man, not herself.

Overall Interior Design: Clean, fresh, contemporary. Like Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living. It BREATHES. The white space gives the reader space to insert herself into the pages, and to breathe as well. So often lady mags can be full of graphics and gizmos that clutter the page and mirror our cluttered brains. I like that this mag is chill, not glib.

Sections:

Style (fashion, beauty, accessories, etc.); Relationships (with men at any stage; with female friends; advice; weddings; co-workers, etc.); Culture (books, shows, movies, music, etc.); Lifestyle (news, social issues, food, drink, living, home, physical fitness, work, money)

Editorial Voice: Like your best friend, but not so casual that it sounds sloppy–like she’s had too much white zinfandel. Warm, inviting, affirming. Doesn’t try too hard to be trendy. Witty and intelligent.

Constructive Criticisms: This magazine is brand new, so I understand that there be kinks to work out. With the beautiful spreads of companies that produce accessories and cosmetics to benefit charitable organizations, I would have liked to see direct Web site listings in the blurbs to reduce the amount of time it takes me to go shopping. 🙂 Sometimes the light, airiness made elements disappear. For example, the nail polish page looked almost like an abstract art advertisement, and the faint green text was not readable in gray light. No woman was overweight.

What I Especially Loved: The first fashion piece “Runway to Realway” was all about affordable options for stylish clothes. Only accessories (one bracelet and one clutch out of three looks) went for more than $100. Plus, the models were real women, not professionals, and had REAL figures. The blurbs also explained how the outfits worked for each woman. Throughout the magazine, I don’t think I saw any signs of airbrushing. For the first-date-outfit feature, they said to think twice before reaching for a style that shows skin!!!! The rest of the relationship articles affirmed marriage. The Girls’ Night Out tips were incredibly fun sounding, if a little more for the under-30 set. The features respect that women have brains and want to read things that are interesting and thought-provoking, not just cotton-candy fluff pieces.

*These two mags have the least percentage of offensive material, compared to others. Cosmo and Glamour, I’m talking about you. Your presentation of the female human person has lost me as a reader from back in the know-little college days).

What We’re Reading Wednesday: Would You Date You?

Would You Date You? By Anthony Buono (Servant Books, July 2012). With very many thanks to Sarah Reinhard, who sent this copy gratis as a prize in a raffle on her blog, snoringscholar.com. GREAT site for ProverbialMoms.

Having read my fair share of the “single Catholic lady” genre, I initially was excited to engage with WYDY. The cover is bold; the title provocative. Throughout the ten chapters, he is mostly careful to not skew to a male or female bias; or play the blame game. However, I do not feel it is one of those books that can be adequately reviewed in a paragraph or two. Sometimes books are capable of receiving a summary judgment. However, it does many more justice to look at each part of the whole, and that is what I have done for this book. The best summation I can come up with is that Mr. Buono says many wonderful, important things, but also some other things that should be taken with a grain of salt.

At the Start

Before reading this book, some readers may have to set aside pre-existing notions of who this book is for and what it is doing. For example, with asking one’s self the title, one might privately answer “Of course! Wouldn’t to say otherwise presume some kind of self-esteem issue?” But the charming Foreword by Lino Rulli and the Preface by Mr. Buono suggest that this book isn’t necessarily for Nice Catholic singletons who go on perfectly pleasant dates with other Nice Catholic singletons and are still stymied as to why a relationship won’t progress beyond one date, three months, or even three years. Rather,  this line: “What we need is to set aside enough time to improve ourselves so that there is no time to criticize the person you’re dating or married to,” (xv) suggests that this book is for those who know or at the very least suspect that there’s something flawed in their own behavior, especially when relating to members of the opposite sex. There are two dangerous implications with that quoted statement: 1) we develop such an egotistical scrupulosity that we don’t see the very real times our significant others need charitable correction or running away from (emotional manipulation, stealing, abuse, etc.).  2) Perhaps by improving ourselves to be worthy of the love we think we deserve (the greatest), the people we’re dating or are married to are also transformed into similarly quality people. 

Additionally, though readers may want to bring to the text their own experiences, some of Mr. Buono’s pronouncements are stated without much context, conditions, or exceptions that would address situations that often arise in real-life dating situations. So it falls to the readers to rely on their own prudence when certain beliefs or encouragements cannot be safely practiced or effectively executed in their own relationships. He does state at the very end of Chapter 10 a few words on how abusive relationships are different, but this is information he should’ve provided up front.

You will at first get the sense that Mr. Buono’s point of the book is that when analyzing the failure of relationships, we shouldn’t focus on questioning our date’s/spouse’s motivations (Preface). His primary goal is for us is to perform a sort of relationship Examen. Where the Preface fails is in not anticipating the readers’ “but, but!” statements and addressing them. Sometimes relationship failure really is a result of a problem with the other person and not our own behavior. To answer the questions Mr. Buono implies we foolishly ask of the other:  Sometimes “he doesn’t call” because he’s a cad or realized he doesn’t want a serious relationship, or at least not with you, despite how lovely you are. Sometimes “women won’t tell you why we’re upset” because sometimes we just want you to display some emotional intelligence and figure it out with the amazing brain God gave you, or telling you would break the emotional chastity rules we’ve set up for ourselves. Sometimes “men are picky” because they can afford to be, because for every one guy at a Theology on Tap, there is a table full of women to choose from. And sometimes when “women play games,” it’s because we live in a broken world and have been taught this is the way to manage relationships.

If readers have told their inner voices to pipe down, they will get to read about ten virtues that Mr. Buono says we need to develop within ourselves, and consequently improve our relationships with others: heavenly, humble, prayerful, pure, charitable, merciful, detached, self-aware, flexible, and practical. Where I take most issue is the whole conceit using the imperative verb “become.” In the Preface, Mr. Buono writes “We must all seek to transform ourselves into persons capable of loving and being loved,” (xvii). Here’s the thing, if you are a person, you already are capable of loving and being loved. God made you that way from the beginning (Catechism of the Catholic Church 27). Rather than transforming ourselves, we are called to continue being ourselves. Again, Mr. Buono doesn’t address readers’ valid protestations: “But I do practice humility.” “It was my date who acted impurely, not me!” “I have been single so long and spend so much time in adoration, I don’t think I could be any more self-aware.”  After engaging with each chapter, I would advocate for a different reading: instead of thinking you don’t already have these virtues, actually use the text as a tool for self-reflection:  “How was I heavenly today? Was there anything about that date that showed I wasn’t as flexible as I could be?”

Chapter 1: Become Heavenly – We begin with some heady theology about considering heaven first. Okay, marriage is a vocation, and a vocation is that by which we seek to attain heaven. Where Mr. Buono may lose people is his section on what it means to be a person. He writes: “Becoming a whole person is a process,” (3) which leads to such questionable sentences as: “Yet a seven-year-old is not fully a person” (3) and “To be a bad person is to be less of a person.” (4) He draws these conclusions from his definition of full personhood as “being in perfect harmony with God’s plan for us.”  So one could conclude that no one is really a full person because none of us are in perfect harmony with God’s plan – a lot of us don’t even know what it is! Further, the ethicist Germain Griesz has this has this to say about personhood in The Way of the Lord Jesus: Living a Christian Life, Vol. 2: “Personhood is not an attribute attained by development,” (bold in original; 489). In the larger scheme of this book, some of these sentences are mere trees in the forest. However, with the legal acceptance of destruction of human life (abortion to Physician-Assisted Suicide), it is imperative that definitions of personhood give anyone cause to think it is devalued.

Next in this chapter, Mr. Buono spends two pages discussing how the other shapes people’s personhood as they grow up. Of course other peoples’ influence is an important factor to consider in your adult relationship! I don’t know why he’s undermining his own argument that we need to focus on the self. However, I wouldn’t mind if he spent a couple sentences addressing the very common reality of how mental illness, stress, abuse, etc. from the self and from the other impact relationships.

Later on, another problematic line: “Working on yourself is continuous if you seek to be of value to someone else,” (4). You are a human being, ergo you always have inherent value to other human beings. What Mr. Buono neglects to realize is that poor self-esteem is a large inhibitor of healthy relationships and a condition for many singletons. Reading a line like that is far from affirmational. The only helpful thing about this chapter was the notion that to become “heavenly,” we should first seek to imitate the person of Jesus Christ and to see Him in every other person we meet and to love them with His love. It would have been a much more effective chapter if the material was presented as practical or more of the “reality check” promised in the Preface.

Chapter 2: Become Humble – Mr. Buono defines humility as truth. If you go with that, then the first part of the chapter makes sense. Essentially Mr. Buono advocates for us to look for people who are authentic (that’s the word he really means to use). However, the Catholic Encyclopedia defines humility first and foremost as a “quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God’s sake.” Humility is a GREAT virtue to have when dating, but is contextualized in this chapter as a form of co-dependence. Where I thought this chapter faltered was the lack of practical ways to recognizing issues the author brings up like “Do I live authentically? How do I think I am humble (according to the primary definition we all know)? Am I being a Pharisee?” He also should have provided more context for statements like “At this point it is critical to begin asking yourself some honest questions: ‘Did I do something to contribute to this?,’” (21). When your beloved is sullen because you unnecessarily yelled at him? Yes, you probably did. When your beloved hits/verbally abuses/starts using pornography? A resounding NO, you did not. If humility is truth, then it can be true to not assume such fault.

Chapter 3: Become Prayerful – A WONDERFUL chapter. It focuses on the reader of the book who wants his or her “reality check.” It offers practical advice and steps with just the right amount of correct theology! Particularly humbling were the paragraphs on the natural emotion of frustration. Lord knows we singletons have been there at some point – the Facebook announcements of other people’s engagements or the summer of seven baby showers for women who not two years ago were fellow singletons with you. It was particularly encouraging to read “God will not be outdone in generosity.”

Chapter 4: Become Pure – I LOVE the introduction to this chapter. Mr. Buono really evokes the primary essence of purity – not a list of dos and don’ts of sexual chastity, but the wonderment at the notion that living purely allows us to see God. However, I was disappointed by the focus on women’s dress in the discussion of modesty. Do physically fit men really not know what they do to us women when they go running or play volleyball on the beach shirtless? I shall give you a hint: it’s the same effect as low-cut tops or high skirts. Also, if men are visual creatures and clothing is the biggest problem, then as emotional creatures, women’s biggest problem is men’s emotional immodesty. Oh how I wish this was addressed so men could get their “reality check.” Another answer to that question we shouldn’t focus on – “why is she so upset?”: it’s because you confided in us and we thought that was a sign you liked us liked us. But you then went and courted our bible study partner. I do really appreciate the section on kissing: frank, informative, and non-judgmental. BEST theological pronouncement so far: “At the heart of virginity is the right to express our sexuality,” (49). 

Chapter 5: Become Charitable – Now see, this introduction is how to be affirmational! Another great chapter on the whole. To be charitable is to be a peacemaker. And I love that he referenced the Holy Family (who also could be looked upon as models to be pure). What is so great is that sometimes there can be a misappropriation of charity or a wrong interpretation of what it means (staying with an abusive partner out of charity; offering “death with ‘dignity’” as charity to the suffering), and Mr. Buono points out the correct definitions and emphasizes how true charity involves order and health in the relationship.

Chapter 6: Become Merciful – Much of this chapter is sensible: being merciful means helping the other feel safe to express themselves as they are, be who they are, without fear of reprisal or lashing out. However, mercy and forgiveness are qualities that need distinction and context when put in terms of dating life. For when you read “We are quick to dismiss someone for their flaws, their past, or other ways we determine them to be damaged because we see these things as a potential threat to having a hurt-free marriage,” (65), you get the sense we shouldn’t do these things, even though it might be prudent to do so. Perhaps it is the quickness with which we do this that bothers Mr. Buono, but he does not indicate that. No, there is more unpacking his concept of creating a “home” to make your beloved feel safe when they inevitably mess up. But what if the “messing up” really does cause harm to a relationship/marriage and makes you feel less safe? More distinctions need to be made, because what if the date’s flaw is porn, a drug addiction, or those rage issues that occasionally flare up? Also at issue is the sense one gets that Mr. Buono would prefer we always be forgiving and not cut a person out of our lives. He acknowledges that this is a step people can and do take, and is merciful enough not to judge us too much if we have cut people out. But I think enough people have been the victims of psychological or physical harm who are on the whole healthier persons with the offenders out of their lives. Perhaps Mr. Buono could have extended this chapter to explore how mercy is different according to situations. In the case of de-friending someone, mercy is prayers for the person (from far away) and never slandering the individual to others. This would have been a stronger chapter, like #5, if Mr. Buono could have illuminated how mercy, charity, and trust are interdependent on one another. Yes, we should “make the one[s] [we] love feel safe,” (76) through mercy and forgiveness, but really to create spaces of physical, emotional, and spiritual safety is to FIRST do no harm.

Chapter 7: Become Detached –  This chapter is not entirely about detachment from worldly things (money, things, fame, etc.), but about detachment from people. Here we have concrete “reality check” questions about the importance we bestow on our relationships with others and with God. A thought-provoking gem: When was the last time you cried and what was it about? Now, when was the last time you cried in confession? (cf 79). This chapter even includes “warning signs.” Reading about those make me wish certain other chapters had the same format. I also liked the clear connection to idolizing earthly things to problems in a real relationship situation. Finally, but most importantly, Mr. Buono forces us to begrudgingly confront our natural inclination to do our own will. Thankfully, he offers realistic ways of detaching from this mindset.

Chapter 8: Become Self-Aware – If you’ve ever looked at a pre-Cana program or pre-marital inventory, you will recall that it likely had some questions or statements about your upbringing, character, personality, past, and problems. This chapter is a basic pre-cursor to that self-reflection. Mr. Buono illustrates how much more self-awareness is than knowing who you are and what you want. It is more about how you are and why and how that affects relationships. What I object to is the use of the word “damaged.” On p. 93, he rightfully advocates for seeking therapy for addressing serious issues, but calls you “damaged.” I don’t think any therapist would call a client “damaged” to his or her face. I would also advise single readers that many times the past should stay in the past (ie no hang-ups on exes), in some instances in our sexualized world, if you think you want to marry someone, you do need to bring up the past and are both honest about any previous experiences so y’all can get tested and, in some cases, vaccinated (men are the carriers of HPV, ad currently have no signs nor any way to test themselves). Today’s reality is that virgin men and women may more than likely marry a non-virgin, and past will be important: instances of diseases, other children, or abortions will definitely affect marriage.

Chapter 9: Become Flexible –  Second most awesome thing Mr. Buono says: the best way to really get to know someone’s authentic self? Road trip. I have long felt that when done at an appropriate stage in the relationship that such an excursion – like flying out of a snowy city on the day before Thanksgiving – really gives you a feel for how you both are at your base level. So this chapter is more about how on certain levels, people and relationships can and will change. Sometimes being flexible means adjusting to the reality that even if you hoped your beloved would change, he or she likely won’t. But where Mr. Buono and I differ is on the issue of what happens when the other doesn’t change. While he states that “If you cannot handle who that person is, that does not necessarily mean they are not the right person…consider you need to change for the better,” (emphasis mine, 104). But if you know you can’t accept a man who will never come around from atheism, or you know that you can’t handle that a woman is always a shrieking harpy, you should be allowed to remain unchanged and have limitations with how your faith and dignity will be treated in a marriage. Mr. Buono wins me back a little with his advice about compatibility. I like how he dissected the word to show that it truly means more than just getting along because you like the same genre of movies, music, and food. By this point we should just presume that when he says there are times we feel a person is “unbearable” (111), he means they want you to watch boring television shows or are gratingly hormonal, and we should patiently endure our spouse’s human moments. But if you, dear reader, see the word “unbearable” and think about that guy who hit you, no, you never have to patiently endure that.  Also in this chapter, he advocates that we have a sense of humor. This section has yet another spurious statement: “It must make God chuckle whenever He comes across one of His children who is pitching a fit about a situation He has allowed for the good of that child, but who feels he or she does not deserve it,” (107). What about when we pitch fits about things that are allowed that do not have any discernible good and that no one deserves: abusive spouses, cancer from secondhand smoke, rape? I don’t think God is chuckling that one of His sons or daughters hurt another of his children in these ways.

Chapter 10: Become Practical –   Mr. Buono saved the toughest school of thought for last. He argues that we should be practical in our approach to dating and marriage. Romantic love/desire/butterflies/swooning are all mere bonus points to have when marrying someone…and in some cases, potential results some time into the marriage…and in other cases, not truly necessary. His thesis is that being practical is both spouses feeling the same about committing to living out a sacramental marriage because each one finds the other a quality person. For those who read that book Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, you’ll find a similar philosophy in this chapter. Yes, to love as Christians understand the word, is to choose to love, and Mr. Buono is correct in surmising that marriage is a lifelong period of continuously choosing to love your spouse and your spouse doing likewise. It is true that when dating we may not think of practicalities, and it is good of Mr. Buono to help us deepen our discernment process in this regard. However, it seems really dispiriting to think we should give up on having eros (passionate, romantic love) in our lives when practically speaking, all that’s required for marriage is agape/caritas (love that is willing the good of the other). The pope’s own homilist delivered a homily in which he says you cannot have eros without agape and you cannot have agape without eros.

 Chapter 11: A Meditation on the Crucifix for Singles–In this final chapter, Mr. Buono provides an examination of conscience specifically for singles, based on the crucix–that image of the height of love. He urges us to reflect on the negative choices we  might make with our thoughts, our hands, feet, flesh, hearts, arms, speech, eyes, and self.  Many of the questions are quite excellent and thought provoking. I only object to his calling “yes” answers to such questions as “sins.” For example, “procrastinating going to places…that offer me a chance to meet a quality person”…is not objectively an immoral action, and “indifference to nudity” needs to qualified, for, one should be indifferent to certain forms…like in art. Oh, and I shouldn’t get started on how one should “remain silent and accept annoying things on a date”…And your thoughts: why is overindulging in the news sinful? What if it’s Catholic news?