Friday, December 19, 2014
Good Web Reads
Mormon Mommy Blogs and the Quest for Peace
I recently had one of those weeks. You know what type of week I’m talking about—with too much on the to-do list and every other task seeming to go not quite right. Deadlines were looming and inspiration was lacking. I’d been working long hours nearly every day for at least the past eight days. In short, I was tired and crabby. Somewhere in between projects and meetings, I found myself with ten minutes of free time. With not enough time to start a new task and the desire to save whatever “thinking power” I had left in my tired brain, I aimlessly wandered to one of my favorite blogs.
I’ve been reading this lovely New York City mother for months and have found her blog to be a delightful combination of humor, grace, and spontaneity. And it had been weeks since I’d checked in on her happenings.

As I started reading her post on Memorial Day, I laughed out loud at her self-deprecating humor. “The cool thing to do in the city for Memorial Day is not be in the city for Memorial Day weekend. You know?” she writes. “But who needs to be cool to have a good time? Luckily, not us. ;)”

I swooned at the pictures of her and her husband reenacting that fateful moment from You’ve Got Mail when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meet in the park—you know the scene, at the place where the path bends. Yes, their darling toddler son played the part of the dog, Brinkley, and seemingly perfectly, I might add. And I gazed in awe at the fashionista’s fabulous clothes and awesomely decorated apartment—where does she get this sense of style and how can I get some?

As I read, something very distinct happened to me. For those brief moments, I almost completely forgot about the tediousness of work. But, more than that, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. What had been stressing me 20 minutes ago still wasn’t solved, but it seemed much smaller, and somehow less important. My energy was boosted. And most important, I remembered that my work, which is in the service of life, love, and faith, will have the greatest impact if I’m actually living life, love, and faith to the fullest.

But something nagged at me as I came to this realization, and it’s this: I found this blog, NattheFatRat.com through some friends of mine who have a mild addiction to what are commonly called, “Mormon Mommy Blogs.” These friends are highly educated, devout Catholics. Some are married, some have children, and some are single. Most of them read a lot of various sites every day, everything from political and national news, to Catholic news and blogs, to cultural commentary. But they’re quick to tell me that these Mormon women’s blogs are often the first places on the web that inspire them, help them keep perspective, and, strangely, motivate them to live their own Catholic faith more authentically.

“They don’t have anything good that our faith doesn’t,” one friend explained to me, which of course parallels our Church’s long tradition of ecumenism, of drawing from other faiths for further motivation in our own. And while I know relatively little of the doctrines of Mormon faith, and I can only imagine we have our differences, my friend has a point.

In our often cynical and stifling world, these Mormon women seem to have kept the joy alive. So much so that even modern atheist women are captivated. Why, you ask? “Well,” explained Salon writer Emily Matchar, as she confessed that her and many of her secular friends with Ph.D.s read at least a dozen Mormon Mommy Blogs a day, “to use a word that makes me cringe, these blogs are weirdly ‘uplifting.’”

“It’s important to acknowledge the hard parts [of life],” Nat the Fat Rat told Matchar in 2011, “but why not focus more on the lovely and the beautiful? That positive attitude is a very common theme throughout all aspects of the Mormon faith.” And so through lovely photos, hilarious stories, and short, often pithy blog posts, these women show their readers how to live joyfully.

Alright, I know as Catholics we have that same appreciation for joy and beauty. “Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are an Easter people, and hallelujah is our song,” Blessed John Paul II reminds us. “Joy is the net of love by which we catch souls,” adds Mother Teresa. Or, turn to the model of Christ Himself, who suffered greatly on the Cross, only to gloriously rise on Easter morning; therefore we have 40 days of Lent but 50 days of Easter -- more joyful days than sacrificial days! Yes, we have the emphasis of joy lived out in our faith.

So then, why aren’t Catholic blogs gaining traction like Mormon blogs? Why in my moment of, albeit petty, despair, was I not compelled to turn to a blogger of my own faith for inspiration and peace? I have a couple of theories.

Catholics are culture movers. Look at all the major social movements and you see Catholics, most prominently, leading the masses, which often include other faiths. That’s something to be proud of. While we have some pretty great, funny, sometimes random, and inspirational bloggers (Simcha Fischer, Jennifer Fulwiler, Emily Stimpson, I’m looking at you), we’re by and large theoretical in our approach to blogging; picking apart news and culture as a means of evangelization and inspiration.

For Mormons, their blogs are instead a place to keep a record of their lives, which is a part of their faith tradition. But don’t Catholics also know the best form of evangelization to be the witness of our lives? And have we not been long inspired by the diaries and letters of our saints, the records of their lives?

As Pope Benedict XVI writes in Deus Caritas Est, “A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love, and that God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love.”

In other words, we can talk till we’re blue in the face about how much we love life, how grateful we are for the gift of life, and how we wished the culture would embrace life, authentic relationships, marriage, family, and faith. But real conversion will only come when we show the world the freedom and joy that’s wrapped up in a life of authentic relationships and faith.

So, whether it be through a stream of captivating pictures -- candid, still, or otherwise (yes, iPhone pictures work) -- or short anecdotes of the hilarious or precious moments of life, love, and family, perhaps as Catholics we should do a little less dissecting and a little more showing what it really means to cherish life and faith. I would guess we will not only feel a little freer, we more likely than not will find others turning to us for distraction and freedom from the often stifling culture. And, oh, how people of the world need an escape from time to time.

Meg T. McDonnell is a Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. She’ll soon be joining the Chiaroscuro Foundation as their Communications Associate. She’s working on developing her own “Catholic-not-a-mommy-yet blog.” Stay tuned.

Photograph courtesy of iammikeb on Flickr.

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