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What St. Blog’s Is Doing for the Family

BY ERIC SCHESKE

April 8-14, 2007 Issue | Posted 4/3/07 at 10:00 AM

 

 Asecularist philosopher-historian summed things up as well as any pope. “The family,” said Will Durant, “is the nucleus of civilization.”

Durant knew the importance of family. Wars make history, but families build it.

Today, everyone knows about the West’s family problems: abortion, inadequate reproduction rates, divorce, out-of-wedlock births, fatherless homes. I don’t need to go into the details any more than I need to itemize the shortcomings of Adolf Hitler. Chances are, you or someone close to you is affected, in very particular ways, by the civilization-wide breakdown of the family.

Mother Teresa wasn’t idly opining when she said the biggest job in North America is to re-build the family.

But there might — might — be a familial regeneration under way. I know that’s the case in my home, where six unplanned pregnancies helped produce seven children in 12 years. If I have my way, I’ll have at least 35 grandchildren in 30 years and, in 75 years, my and my wife’s NFP incompetence will have spawned its own voting demographic. (“Exit polls show that foreign policy is important to the Scheske Swing Vote this election year.”)

And it’s not just us. I see more large Catholic families than I did 15 years ago. My family is still unusual, but there are at least four other families of similar proportion in my small parish.

I also see parents taking more interest in their children’s moral and religious upbringing. Then, too, they have little choice. Gone are the days when parents could expect schools to play a key role in kids’ moral formation. Today the public schools can’t be trusted not to warp their students’ minds, much less to impart traditional virtues and shape Christian consciences. Even many parochial schools are hit or miss on these scores.

This family revival has rippled through the Internet, with pro-family sites proliferating faster than the progeny of NFP incompetents.

The Pastoral Solutions Institute probably has the best family-matters site, exceptionalmarriages.com. Its founder, Gregory Popcak, is a well-known Catholic author and defender of the family. My wife’s Regnum Christi Familia group is currently reading Popcak’s Parenting With Grace and says it’s excellent. That’s a significant endorsement from a woman who goes through parenting books and magazines like teenage girls go through Harlequin romances.

The institute’s Heart, Mind & Strength blog, exceptionalmarriages.com/weblog, is one of the most active and insightful of its kind in all the blogosphere.

I also highly recommend the Family Scholars Blog, familyscholars.org. It features a half-dozen articulate bloggers, including Elizabeth Marquardt, whose book Between Two Worlds received high praise for spelling out the heart-splitting experience every child of divorce undergoes. The blog is spearheaded by David Blankenhorn, an eloquent and tireless defender of the family.

If you want “the largest collection of family-related blogs on the Internet,” see Families.com at blogs.families.com. It has a lot of material, too much for me to vet. So I can’t vouch for all of it, but the links I followed were good.

Other pro-family blogs worthy of your attention: The Marriage Debate (marriagedebate.com/mdblog), Flying Stars (mrsnancybrown.blogspot.com) and the Gruntled Center (gruntledcenter.blogspot.com).

Also worth a surf is The Carioni’s Adopt (thecarionisadopt.blogspot.com), a blog maintained by a couple who couldn’t have children and are using the blogosphere to recount their path to parenthood through adoption. It just started in February.

Finally, a new Catholic Exchange blog, “On Time” at catholicexchange.com/en/ce_on_time, is primarily about time management — but it’s as much for parents as for corporate types. Lots of family-friendly advice.

The Sift Is On

Okay. Second subject. I occasionally refer to blogging as “electronic graffiti.” On the whole, blog writing tends to be shallow, unpolished, unedited and less thought-through than published prose.

But that doesn’t mean all blogs resemble spray paint on a concrete wall. Many Catholic bloggers see their blogging as apostolate work — and some have the time and talent to turn out some genuinely important work. Lots spend quality time at their craft and produce graceful prose on all manner of subjects related to the faith. A small number do a bit of reporting, giving established journalism enterprises a little competition.

And a select few blog writers produce outstanding analysis, exegesis or commentary that, in a few cases, qualifies as legitimate literature.

Of course, it’s often not easy to find these writings. For one thing, the best writers don’t always bring their “A” game to their blogs; sometimes they too are just goofing off. Plus it’s easy for stuff to get lost amid the great dustbowl of hackers’ hackings. How to find the good stuff?

I usually look for links and references at the smartest blogs. For example, Amy Welborn’s Open Book (amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook) offers links to sites the popular author considers “Holy Blogs of Obligation” and “Other Great Blogs.” That’s in addition to the blogs she links inside her daily postings. The acerbic and insightful Mark Shea (markshea.blogspot.com) has similar listings.

Probably the single best finder of the best blog writing in the Catholic blogosphere is the Catholic Blog Awards page at catholicblogawards.com. The 2007 winners were recently announced in more than a dozen categories, such as Best Group Blog, Best Blog by Clergy, Best Individual Blog and Best Political/Social Commentary Blog. There are dozens of high-quality blogs under each category. I think it’s one of the best tools for Catholic evangelization and catechesis on the ’Net.

The site has become a bit cumbersome, though. In past years the CBA accepted nominations, then pared down the list to five finalists in each category. This year, the ballot listed anyone who received a nomination. This is a more democratic approach, and it had the entertaining effect of many blogs receiving only one vote, but it also makes the results seem softer. Scroll down and the list of blogs goes on and on, begging the question: Is the wheat really being separated from the chaff?

But that shouldn’t deter you. The site is still user-friendly. Go to the top of each category and click on the four or five biggest vote-getters. You’ll quickly find a treasure trove of graceful and thoughtful prose that reflects well on Catholic culture, doctrine and tradition.

In other words, the best of St. Blog’s.

Eric Scheske blogs

at The Daily Eudemon

(ericscheske.com).