Ugly Shoes

Against You, You alone have I sinned. I have done what is evil in your eyes. –Psalm 51: 6

Second Shift of Kid put these things on my feet one morning shortly before we were heading out to a music class.


Oooh!  Minty fresh!

I was so busy that I forgot to put on more sensible less hideous shoes. I really only use these while gardening, because I can hose them off. So when we showed up at class and I looked down at my feet… I cringed, then I offered up my embarrassment. Jesus was stripped of his garments in front of a blood-thirsty audience. Wearing ridiculous shoes in order not to hurt my toddler’s feelings is nothing.

Today many bishops are calling for a day of fast and abstinence for religious freedom. I want to participate, but I’m already doing a modified fast all Lent-long (2 small meals, one moderate meal, no snacking) and abstaining from flesh meats (because it’s Friday). I’m hypoglycemic, so an outright fast while flying solo with children would be unwise. So what should I do? Am I already doing enough? Do I even need to add anything?

So I decided to wear ugly shoes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love capitalism. There are worse ways to fund a culture. The problem with captialism is that it can poison our idea of what is right versus what is wrong. In our quid pro quo culture, we have lost the idea that we could possibly sin and only hurt God by doing it. The cry among even Catholics is, “But it’s not hurting anybody! What’s the big deal?”

Now even when we try to do penance, it has to have some sort of benefit for me: “If I fast, I’ll lose weight. If I stop buying meats, I’ll have more money to give to the poor and won’t have to give up movies or whatever. If I give away my extra clothes, I’ll be more organized.” This may be why we’re having a hard time expressing why we as Catholics think that poisoning a body into malfunctioning is wrong. Life without children seems easier, less risky, and less expensive to our culture’s eyes. Where’s the immediately visible benefit to living in harmony with biological reality? There is none. It’s more expensive.

So I decided to wear ugly shoes.  I get no benefit from wearing these goshawful things. Well, St. Philip Neri got no benefit from shaving off an eyebrow or half of his beard in penance. He got stared at, and I bet I got some looks, too. These shoes won’t help me lose weight, I won’t make any money to give to the poor, and they won’t simplify my life. They will help me to remember that not everything has something for me in it. They will help me to remember that I’m not as selfless as I should be. And they will help me to pray that all of us, no matter what faith we profess, can live more in harmony with our bodies, ourselves, and each other–even in the ways we don’t see we are hurting.



About Erin McCole Cupp
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find out more about her novels and other projects at .

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