Now in paperback!
Swimming with Scapulars: True Confessions of a Young Catholic
by Matthew Lickona
For a wine connoisseur and fan of Nine Inch Nails, thirtysomething Matthew Lickona lives an unusual inner life. He is a Catholic of a decidedly traditional bent ("I believe the same things as my pious old grandmother"). He wears a scapular, a medieval talisman believed to secure God's protection. He fasts during Lent. He and his wife shun modern birth control—they waited four nights after their wedding to consummate their marriage. But he is also a writer of prodigious talent, which is on full display in Swimming with Scapulars, a story of a premodern faith lived with a postmodern sensibility. Lickona's "true confessions" are his painfully honest chronicles of his fitful starts and ongoing efforts to live the faith he is so proud of. ("I believe my faith to be a gift, though the gift may sometimes feel like a cross to be borne.") Yet his life as a Catholic is one of great joy, particularly his joy in being intimately connected with God through the sacrament of the Eucharist.
About the author: Matthew Lickona is a staff writer and sometime cartoonist for the San Diego Reader, a weekly newspaper. Born and raised in upstate New York, he attended Thomas Aquinas College in California. He lives in La Mesa, California, with his wife Deirdre and their four children.
Part I: Formation
Tha Janitor Prophet
Are You Still Having Sex?
Too Much Kissing with Father Dave
The Poisonous Tentacles of Anti-Abortion Zealots
My Dad and The Plague
Begging the Sun to Dance
Et in Arcadia Ego
Triddywackers, Tinkerers, and the Roar of the Crowd
Lent and Its Discontents
Swimming with Scapulars
Part II: At Home
Do You Need to Be a Paterfamilias?
Sex and the Outrageous Principle
Why So Many?
The Roach and the Woman
Not Home Until We Die
Boy Meets God
Part III: Wise As Serpents
Alms for a Drink
Pop Goes the Hymnal
In Which We Go Parish Hopping
Hand Holding and Other Distractions
…the Flesh, and the Devil
Dredging My Soul for Sin
The Moviegoer (Plus a Trip to the Theater)
Flannery O'Connor and the Two-by-Four
The Light Under the Bushel
The Best Thing in the World
From the Preface:
Christmas Eve of 1992 found me just off the coast of Florida, getting pounded silly by the early morning waves. I was nineteen, and I enjoyed throwing myself against the six-footers as they broke. I enjoyed the roaring violence of it: the way my body's motion was suddenly halted and reversed; the way I was thrown down by the surrounding water, spun around, and held under so that I lost my sense of direction; the way I had to fight my way back above water, sometimes against a sucking riptide. But after one particularly disorienting collision, and a riptide that gripped me long enough to engender that moment of thrilling terror – will I make it up? – I gained the surface and found that I had lost my scapular.
"Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire." Tradition holds this to be the promise given by the Blessed Virgin Mary upon the garment's presentation to the Carmelite Prior St. Simon Stock in 1251. Though I had been enrolled in the scapular – two small squares of brown wool connected by strings and worn around the neck – for the better part of a year, I didn't understand how it "worked." Surely an article of clothing could not guarantee salvation? The promise sounded almost dangerous, a temptation to presume upon God's mercy.