On Being and Staying Catholic in the Modern World

(Originally posted on crisismagazine.com by Michael Novak, the following is an address delivered June 7, 2014 to the graduating class of St. Michael the Archangel High School in Fredericksburg, Virginia.)

I love being here at this school. I love what you are trying to do.

I am moved by the faith of your parents, and the generosity of your families, and the self-sacrifices of your teachers, grade by grade, room by room….


Bravery in the Face of Tragedy: One Mom’s Advice to Parents

If you’ve ever been a parent, you know the deep-seeded feelings of life, love, and hope we all harbor towards our beautiful children. Sometimes in the thick of life, we forget that these miniature people we are cultivating are the rarest, most precious gift from God, and we should spend more time holding and treasuring our beautiful gifts.

In the wake of their ultimate pain and loss, Idaho native Ashley Grimm took to Facebook to share the story of how she lost her little boy in a tragic split-second decision on a routine drive home after a day of playing baseball with 5 of her children. She shares the terrible details of her loss in hopes of inspiring other parents to stop and treasure the time they have right now with their children. Even though her story has garnered an almost insurmountable wave of hatred from internet trolls, she and her husband Nick have remained strong and faithful and have honored the memory of their precious son, and are an inspiration for us all.

In an interview with Today Parents, Ashley offered this advice:

“We as parents are running around bombarded by our email, our Facebook, our deadlines, our daily drama. Then there’s the projects, the housecleaning, the swirling chaos drowning us in an ocean of meaningless stuff. I hope my story will inspire parents to slow down and cherish every little moment, whether they’re in the midst of tragedy or just trying to make it through the day. Even the fits Titus would throw are endearing to me now as I look back,” she said. “While living the mom life can seem so overwhelming, there are so many beautiful moments we miss because we are stressed, overextended and downright tired.”

You can help support the family by donating to this GoFundMe page set up by friends wanting to help in their time of need.

Her original Facebook post is below, and her comments and advice are directed towards all of you mothers out there, but fathers take note: You are the one they look to for how to sort out and negotiate their way through life. You are the one they will learn their behaviors towards women by how you treat your wife. You are their hero.

ashleygrimm1As some of you know, I have gone through every mother’s worst fear. On June 2nd, I lost my youngest son in a horrible car accident. I was driving. I had pulled away from a gas station, checking each buckle, and I began to drive the curvy, mountainous road to my family’s house.

My son was notorious for doing everything he could to unbuckle in the car (“The Flash doesn’t wear a seatbelt, and I’m the Flash, mama”). We tried five point harness seats, boosters, I believe even zip ties at one point (probably not safe either) but he always viewed it as a superhero challenge. He was a superhero because he always succeeded. On average, I would usually pull over three or four times on any given trip to firmly make him buckle up again.

We were only five minutes out when a large rock rolled into my lane. I had three choices: try to straddle the rock, move to the oncoming lane which was a double line large curve with an angry river at the other side. Rock, head on collision, river. I chose the rock. I chose wrong. And yes, he had already unbuckled along with his 8 year old brother. (They were switching spots and I didn’t know.) The rock hit my axle, and sent us plummeting into the side of a cliff.

Our 13 passenger van rolled and my son was instantly gone. Our lives were instantly ripped apart. The little boy who had been my pride and joy was cruelly taken from me in a matter of seconds. I remember being smashed between my console (no airbag engaged) and our three ton van. I had blood everywhere. I fought and fought and then blacked out. When I awoke, I was unbuckling my baby from her car seat (she was upside down) and working to get each child (5 of my children were with me) out of the van.

ashley-grimm-titus-handWhen I came to Titus I worked with all my might to lift the heavy van off his tiny body. My 8 year old son was trying to help me. I could only see the lower half of his body. I rubbed his tummy and tried gentle compressions. But he was already gone. It was instantaneous, which only brings me comfort because I know he felt no pain. What followed was a blur. I refused treatment from the paramedics until they let me hold my dead son. All my children were whipped away and taken to an ambulance to be cared for. I was life-flighted and sedated, for the shock made me inconsolable.

It was two days later that I saw it all over Facebook. A news report reporting the death of my child as if they were reporting that the weather might change, or a new planet had been discovered. I was thankful they reported that no drugs or alcohol had been a factor. But that’s not what hurt. The readers commented the cruelest things about how horrible of a mother I was. How I deserved it. How my children should be taken from me. I wanted to punch them, shake them. Tell them how close we were, how hard I fought to keep him safe. How we had a special good night kiss and a designated McDonald’s date each week. I wanted to scream that he always told me he wanted to marry me, that I was the best mama ever. That he built me Lego ships, took naps in my bed while holding my hand with his dimpled little fingers.

But no one would have listened anyway. I feel led to write this to all you Mamas because I have a longing to look each of you in the eyes and tell you this: “Hold your babies tight”. That’s all I want to shout to the world.

ashley-grimm-titus-graveI’m not who I once was; death and loss changes a person from the inside out. I have held my dead sons body in the middle of a highway while I rocked him and screamed – no ordered God to bring him back. I have chosen a funeral plot for my four year old boy as I contemplated jumping from the cliff the cemetery overlooks just so I could be where he is.
I have purchased a 200 dollars superhero outfit for my son to wear as he decomposes in the earth. I have kissed a corpse over and over and wept as I traced over every feature of his ice cold face and held his still dimpled, but lifeless hands. I have slept in a cemetery just to try and take one more nap with him. I talk to the dirt. To the ground where he lies with his lovey blanket and his avengers outfit

And what I want to say (if you’ve read this far, you’re so patient and so kind) is this. And you can share it with any mama you know.

  • Maybe finishing broccoli at dinner isn’t as important as we might think. Watch how your children eat, soak in their hatred for corn (oh how Titus hated corn). Maybe they can still have ice cream – even just sometimes – while those veggies still sit on their plate.
  • Learn to pretend. Get into their world. Learn to play the Xbox with them. Embrace their beautiful, fleeting imagination. Let them really believe that they are Captain America or Queen Elsa. Get in their mind, see how they tick. The dishes will still be there.
  • Take every hug and kiss they bring you – even the twenty fifth one they use just to get out of bed at night. And really squeeze them.
  • Stop and look at the bugs, the rocks, the sticks, the sunset. Slow down mama, slow down.
  • Tell them you love them. But look in their eyes and say it like you mean it. Tell them they can do anything – anything they set their mind to.
  • Yes, we must hold them accountable but sometimes- maybe grace is the answer. Maybe, just maybe, they won’t end up ruined if we let some things slide.
  • Never judge another mama. We don’t know the whole story, we don’t know. We just don’t know.

Go hug your babies right now. Soak in their smell, look at the innocent sparkle in their eyes that is lost somewhere between childhood and adulthood. Really feel how they squeeze you. Set down your phone and see them through the lens of your eyes not only the lens of your camera. Remember the feeling of their head on your shoulder, their hand in yours, their sloppy kisses on your cheeks. Nurse them one more time. Sleep is overrated. Listen five minutes longer about Star Wars, Minecraft and Disney princesses.

Mamas, hold your children tight. How blessed you are to have been entrusted with such unique, beautiful, tiny humans.

From my heart to yours,


J.R.R. Tolkien on the Blessed Sacrament

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament…There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth…which every man’s heart desires.” –J. R. R. Tolkien (to his son, in a letter)

A Little More About Me

UPDATE NOTE: See the post Even More About Me for the latest updates!

I am a truck driver Commodity Relocation Logistician. I drive a dedicated lane, which means that I drive the exact same route every trip I take. In my case, I make an average of 4-5 60-mile round trips a night before hanging up White Tiger’s keys in favor of some much coveted sleep.


8 Easy Ways to Learn More About The Faith

Simple steps to learn more about Catholicism through resources right at your fingertips

OSV Newsweekly

Let’s be honest here. “Eight Easy Ways to Learn More about Your Catholicism” is good but “easy and cheap” would be better. No, wait!

Easy, cheap and fast.

Now we’re talkin’!

OK. Easy, meaning not too hard to do. Cheap, meaning not expensive. And fast, not meaning “learning a lot really quickly” but “learning something really good without it taking up a lot of your time.”

Put another way: catechetical baby steps.

So let’s get started.

1. Begin now

Do what you’re doing. Right now! Seriously. You’re reading an article in Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, and so you have a wealth of choices right at your fingertips. Flip through the pages. Peruse an article or topic that catches your interest and read it.

Boom! You’ve learned more about the Church. About your Catholicism. Maybe it was what happened last week in Rome. Maybe it was what the Church was going through in its first century. Maybe it had to do with canon law or the spirituality of medieval saints. But there it is.

2. Listen to the homily

Yes, yes, you always listen. But we mean the entire homily. For many of us (and allow us to add a personalmea maxima culpa here), we let our minds … drift a bit.

It might help to consider that homilists have a pretty tough gig. They’re presenting information to a very mixed audience, from those who are just considering entering the Church to those who have sat in “their pew” for decades.

The formal religious education of some ended in grade school while others have graduate degrees in theology.

Then, too, and we mean no offense here, a homilist can’t be expected to hit it out of the ballpark every week. Give him a break. And listen.

(And even if he’s offering something truly stellar, it could be you’re just not being that receptive on this particular Sunday morning because the warning light on your car’s dashboard popped on as you drove into the parking lot.)

3. Check out the Sunday bulletin

It’s not uncommon for the pastor or a parish staff member to write a small article based on the Sunday’s readings or the liturgical season, or offer a Catholic perspective on what’s happening in the news. Sometimes, there’s a bulletin insert that does that.

Shutterstock Image

Read it! Simple, easy, cheap but, oh, so valuable.

And again, honesty first, a little sneaky. Not on the part of the pastor or staff member, but on the Holy Spirit’s. A brief article might pique your curiosity and you’ll want to know more about the writing of St. Paul, the history of Lent or solid guidelines for a Catholic entering the voting booth.

But wait, there’s more! The bulletin typically includes upcoming opportunities and events designed to help you learn about your Catholicism, and so that same Holy Spirit may be inviting you (nudging you) to …

4. Look into attending an event

We don’t want to scare you off and say “you must attend an event.” But if you seriously consider all that’s offered in your parish, deanery and diocese, odds are you’re going to find something that fits your needs (interest, schedule and pocketbook) very well.

What might it be? A day for guys to examines what it means to be a Catholic man in the 21st century. A mission at the parish focusing on private prayer. A retreat for caregivers. A talk at the local Catholic college on human trafficking and how the Church is helping those who are being abused. And on and on and on.

The “look into attending” is pretty easy. More challenging is deciding to …

5. Sign up and attend that event

You’ll be OK. We didn’t say “sign up, attend the event and participate.” Just being there is a big deal. And sometimes, you don’t even need to sign up for that talk, presentation or event. You just have to show up.

Once there, you don’t have to go beyond a minimum of participation. You can sit in the back, smile politely and listen to what the speaker or speakers are saying.

If, at some point, the audience has to break into small groups, be a sport about it and consider it time shaved off your stint in purgatory.

6. Wander the narthex

That is, your church’s vestibule. Take a few minutes after Mass to more seriously examine the periodicals, pamphlets, fliers, books and (sometimes) even CDs that are offered. There may be a small charge for some. (Perhaps “the best things in life are free” but some very, very good resources cost very, very little.)

7. Discover the Catechism

Get and look through a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the mother lode for learning more about Mother Church.

Don’t let the size or footnotes intimidate you. It’s very readable. Yes, it’s designed to present information in a specific order, but none of the Ten Commandments says “thou shalt not skip around when reading the Catechism.”

So skip.

If there’s a topic or area that interests you, if there’s a question about Catholicism that you (or a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor) have, zip on back to the index and then zero in on what this tremendous resource says about it.

(Bonus! Its glossary is a treasure, too.)

8. Watch TV, listen to the radio

That is, watch and listen to Catholic stations and programs. Hunt around a bit and find the programs and personalities that you find most helpful (and entertaining).

You may have noticed these suggestions make no mention of the internet, computers or electronic devices. That’s not (just) because the author is an old-school Catholic-press writer, but because some OSV readers don’t have easy access to the internet, computers or electronic devices.

Yes, those are amazing tools but, no, they aren’t necessary to learn more about your Catholicism. All that’s needed is an inquiring, sincere and open heart.

Deus providebit. God will provide.

Bill Dodds writes from Washington.


Catholic Manhood: Like a Good Pizza

New Covenant Family File columnist Bill Dodds and his wife, Monica, are the authors of The Joy of Marriage (Meadowbrook Press).
Being a Catholic man is like eating a pizza. It’s possible to list the ingredients — the crust, the sauce, the toppings and so on — but the taste is a blend. One item may dominate a bite (more pepperoni than green pepper, more mushroom than garlic), but it’s seldom a single flavor.

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