Monday, August 30, 2010

Why the Saints?

The question of the saints and why they are included and mentioned so often in Catholicism was recently posed to me. One of the best parts of college was the open dialogue and friendships I have had with serious Protestants who asked me real questions about Catholicism that push me to explain and thus understand my faith in different terms. I can't assume we're on the same page, even though we share Christendom. As a cradle Catholic, there are so many aspects of my faith I take for granted.

Mary, the Mother of God, for example. She is a second mother to me, who I can turn to in prayer for comfort and guidance. She is a role model and I try to emulate her emphatic use of "yes!" to God's call in her life. There are some serious misunderstandings of Mary. I have been told Catholics worship Mary. Statues and pictures of Mary have been equated to idolatry, as does praying the rosary. I have been asked why Mary matters.

All fair questions, but to lay the foundation: Catholics only worship Jesus Christ, not Mary, and we do that through the sacraments, specifically the Eucharist, where Jesus is tangibly present.

Simply put, how does one way to really get to know a guy? You get to know his mother. Ad Jesum per Mariam- to Jesus through Mary. 

DF was in D.C. again this past summer and jokingly asked me why there are so many pictures of her in the Cathedral. Well, I replied, it's the House of God, right? And Mary's His mother. He better have pictures of his Mom hanging up all over or someone is going to get a talking to! The same goes for saints. Pictures of them are considered the same as keeping pictures of family members of the mantle at home. A person doesn't worship those pictures- but they are a physical reminder. It's not enough to have a memory of them; some people need to see it to believe it, and that's not a weakness. Even Jesus allowed Thomas to touch his wounds.

Catholics don't pray to "dead people." If one believes in a Heaven, it should not be a far stretch to say those in Heaven are alive in the Body of Christ and praying for us down on Earth. (In Purgatory too, but that's a different discussion!) They pray that we turn our hearts towards God so that we may one day join them with Him in celestial splendor. They are family, like brothers and sisters, as God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, with Mary as the Mother and Queen of Heaven. For Catholics, it is considered no different to ask for their prayers and intercession any more than to ask one's family and friends to pray here on Earth.

That's why I love reading about the lives of saints. They were fallen, just like the rest of us, and yet they strove to say "yes!" to the call of Christ and do His will over their own. We read about their life just like we like reading about famous people and listening to stories about family members- because they teach us about them, about ourselves and about our purpose.

Today, for example, is the feast of St. Rose of Lima. She is the first American to become a saint and is the patron of Latin America and the Philippines. She was born in 1586 and died in 1617. My little sister Megan wants to take this beautiful saint as her Confirmation name, and for good cause. Here is a little from her bio:

Rose had many temptations from the devil, and there were also many times when she had to suffer a feeling of terrible loneliness and sadness, for God seemed far away. Yet she cheerfully offered all these troubles to Him. In fact, in her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young woman use[d] to pray: "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart."

One of Longfellow's poems ends, "Lives of great men all remind us,/ we can make our lives sublime,/ and, departing, leave behind us,/ footprints on the sands of time.

Isn't this the same for saints as it is with the secular set? When mediocrity is becoming a standard and sensationalism a virtue? Can there be no greater desire now than to counter the culture by asserting that there is more to this life than thrills and making ourselves happy? We humans are an inifinite vessel. We can either pour effort into making ourselves happy or give ourselves towards the service of others. My Dad told me that having [six] kids made him love more ways than he thought possible-- and trust me when I say his graying hair is not just a result of age.

I find I am (usually) happier when I am serving others, be it helping a sibling with homework or dinner dishes duty or the homeless man by work whom I buy a newspaper from every other week. Helping others distracts attention from one's self, both of which is innately petty and self-gratifying, of which I am guilty. I miss living with Bear, for example, because I could always find small things to help her, even if it was only providing her coffee before a long night of studying. It may not be the immediate thought, but like all things, if a person turns their mind and actions deliberately towards goodness and servitude, it will become so.

This is what the saints did too. They looked up from the mud and smiled at the stars. They kept their focus on Christ. They served His people so as to serve Him. They banished vanities because they distracted and detracted. There have been so many times when I am trolling the internet and have to stop and say, Is this really the best use of my time? The internet isn't bad and I love the amount of information at my disposal, but the amount of time spent in its service can be too much. It's amazing how time is clawed at by wants and desires.

Today St. Rose reminded me to rejoice in my little crosses of the day. To keep them to myself and relish in small accomplishments and disciplines. I've been enjoying the British Florence + the Machine's "The Dog Days are Over" recently. I especially like the first stanza: "Happiness hit her like a train on a track/ Coming towards her/ stuck still/ no turning back."

The music video is surreal and odd, but the song is poppy and infectious:

That line reminds me of something Ronald Knox wrote in "The Hidden Stream: Mysteries of the Christian Faith" (an amazing book, I cannot more highly recommend it). In the second chapter, when discussing whether we need proof of God, he ends by saying, irregardless of if we want to believe it, God is everywhere.

I think that is so beautiful. To many, it is a "duh" statement. To others, it is a Homer Simpson statement ("D'oh!"). I've heard the sentiments many times: how can God exist if children are starving/ bad people are allowed to do bad things/ etc. Flannery O'Conner said that evil is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured. How should that change a person's perspective on the world? Seeing the world not as a cage but as a creation and manifestation of God; looking at every person as a fellow soul; knowing that this too shall pass.

That's what else the saints can teach us. We are not made for this world, but another. This does not mean humanity is in a waiting room killing time, but the world is where one prepares one's mind and body. A person shouldn't go to class without prepping for the lecture, nor do a job without training. The same goes for Heaven- an eternity of worshiping the Almighty needs a life of freely-chosen devotion to God, not forced or begrudged participation, like an indentured servitude.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we are clearly apparent to God, and I hope we are also apparent to your consciousness.
-2 Corinthians 5:10-11

Today I am writing on Ohio's 'Race to the Top' money and am happy to be out of the heat (for now). I'll ponder and admire sidewalk cracks, old couples ambling and yappy dogs on my bike ride home; but for now, back to work!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I'll Drink to That!

On this, the feast of St. Augustine, I talked to my good friend Karen on the phone. Next Saturday, Karen will be entering the Sisters for Life as a postulate. Please pray for this beautiful soul and friend who is wholly devoting her life to the service of the Lord through a religious vocation. We met our first semester of college in a sociology 101 class. She is bubbly and intellectual and I am so excited to see where life takes her!

For fun, I thought I would share her favorite quotes from her FB account (which she will be deleting in a week):

"If I am tempted and afflicted with many tribulations, I will fear no evils while your grace is with me. This is my strength. This will give me counsel and help. This is more powerful than all my enemies and wiser than all the wise. This is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the consoler in anguish, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nourisher of devotion, the producer of tears. What am I without grace, but dead wood, a useless branch, fit only to be cast away?"
-St. Thomas a Kempis

"I can do anything through Christ crucified, for I know truly that he does not lay a heavier load on his creatures than they can bear."
-St. Catherine of Siena

"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, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth . . . which every man's heart desires."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

"If angels could be envious, they would envy us for two things: one, being able to receive Holy Communion, and secondly, because we can suffer."
-St. Faustina

"You know you're poor when the Missionaries of Charity novices bring you their leftover food."
-Br. Nathanael, IVE

Women were born to be taken care of by men. I do believe that's the law of the universe.
-Pat Buckley to Women’s Wear Daily, 1977

Vivian and PD stopped at my house for lunch. They are on their way from Georgia up to Michigan. V also gave me a small crock pot for my apartment. It's definitely Julie-sized! I am enjoying another nice weekend at home. I went to my little sister's high school's football game last night with her and our younger brother, had breakfast with my godmother and her family and am currently working on book reviews. I'll go back to C-bus tomorrow after mass to spend the day with Big at her family's house!

For a good read, enjoy my former dept. chair's latest article on St. Augustine and his influences on Christopher Dawson and Russell Kirk:
"For Dawson and Kirk, St. Augustine served as both the lodestar in confronting the evils of the world and as a means by which the modern traditionalist should navigate in turbulent ideological waters."

St. Augustine is the patron saint of brewers. Upon realizing he was wrong in not becoming a Christian after accepting the Truth because he did not think he could leave a pure life, he said to a friend, "Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!"

Have a blessed and relaxing Saturday!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


"The Dime-Store Parakeet" by Gary Soto

The bird didn't speak
Until the day I dropped my tortilla
And it said, "Ha-Ha."

I dropped other things,
Like my report card in blazing flames.
The parakeet repeated, "Ha-Ha."

Wind rattled the TV antenna on the roof.
Boys with green teeth appeared
At our picture window.

The bird remained silent.

I turned the parakeet upside down—
Boy or girl, I wondered,
And shook it like a salt shaker—
No salt but a dribble of bird turd.

I dropped a spoon—"Ha-Ha."
I dropped a #2 pencil—"Ha-Ha."
I dropped myself into the couch
To eat a bowl of ice cream—"Ha-Ha."

Then it snowed,
The boys with green teeth went away,
And a moose appeared at our picture window.
No comment from the bird.

The parakeet lived in its cage, silent,
Except when I counted my failures
On my fingers and let it put its beak
Like a pipe wrench around my pinkie.

"Bird," I said, "I can count the stars—
What can you do!"
The bird rang its bell with a claw,
And bit its mirror, trying to kiss the image
Of himself, the conceited little shuttlecock!

I dropped a shoe with deadly fumes
And the third orange of my juggler's act.
The bird screamed, "Ha-Ha,"
and raked its dirty beak across the bars.

Then I dropped big ideas,
Like the love for my brother,
Like the love for my country.
Like the love for the nine planets,
Like the love for God because I'm so small,
Like the love for all creatures
Dressed in feathers, fur or little hair.

The bird shed a feather,
And then, like a bat, hung upside down,
The theory that nature speaks to us,
A dumb idea.

p.s. it's been announced that Newman's feast day will October 9th!
p.p.s. Author's note: I am not sure why the spacing is off. My computer has been spacing things super-weird for a while now. So, apologies. I'll try to fix it later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You know, “We the People” has an unclear antecedent in it

Have y’all heard of a prebuttal? It’s a preemptive rebuttal. Yesterday morning, the White House Blog published a prebuttal at 6 a.m. to Rep. Boehner’s speech he was scheduled to give starting at 8 a.m. in Cleveland.

I’ll break it down, in case that’s confusing:

--DNC had a press conference about the speech
--GOP responds to the DNC’s pre-reaction of the speech-to-be-given

--3:16 a.m.: LA Times breaks prebuttal story
--5:54 a.m.: LA Times updates story
--6 a.m.: WH posts blog prebuttal to speech Boehner hadn’t gave yet
--8 a.m. Boehner gave "the" speech.
--9 a.m./ the rest of the day: everyone else gives their two cents, including a sarcastic quip from VP Biden.

My friend Mike (who works as a reporter for The Hill) thinks the fact that the WH is so rancid towards Boehner is because they see him as a real threat. This type of politics makes the whole process so silly. It's not looking at the actual issues or questions, but rather belittling, misrepresenting, dismissing or attacking them.

For example, the WH Blog said/ prebuttal'd:
Today, Ohioans will hear the Minority Leader’s support for the same old failed economic policies that steered our economy into the ditch that we’re just now beginning to climb out of. We cannot afford a return to the past. These failed economic policies haven’t changed, and they won’t bring the change American families need.

If there is one pet peeve of mine, it’s the use of “we”-- because whom exactly is this author speaking of? Here, I presume, it could be presumed to reference all Americans. But later, the author seems to be separating the WH from Boehner, while still using the preposition “we”. I think this probes the bigger question of political polarization.

The WH is currently concerned with the President’s public image. His poll numbers are down, and as The New Yorker recently acknowledged, 55 percent of Americans think he is a socialist. Well, he supports universal healthcare. He’s for wealth distribution, taxing the rich and commented on LeBron James’ move to Florida, saying he has enough money. I’m fairly sure that’s socialism. If he really believed in democracy, he would stop pushing bills through without Republican support, because each of those members represents a portion of the American people.

Take Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots organization, and one of many recent target of the President’s criticism:

So who are “we the people”? – because it’s not just those who support or protest the President, or the Tea Partiers, or the Silent Majority or the special interest groups. It’s every citizen. No matter which side of the fence a person sits, we’re all on the same land. We all want our life, our liberties and a chance to achieve happiness. It might not work out, but by God, at least a person can try.

I’m back from the fourth budget meeting (it got re-scheduled from last week). I sat next to an intern from Planned Parenthood. She loves it. The lady on my other side asked me about my computer and if I like my Mac. I said it gets the job done. I kept myself amused by seeing how long I can type without looking at the keyboard. I’m quite pleased that I am rather accurate, even though I can only go for a few lines. The key is not to think about it and just do it. That meeting went for a little under four hours. Note to self: take a snack. No lunch made my stomach rumble!

To close:

“God addresses our freedom” by Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510), laywoman and mystic

God prompts man to rise up from his sins... The more swiftly a man acknowledges his wretchedness, the more swiftly, too, he humbles himself and abandons himself to God knowing that the work of converting him belongs to God alone. He becomes aware of it by degrees through the constant inspirations God sends him and, noticing this work and the benefits he gains from it, he says to himself: “It honestly seems to me that God has nothing else to do but take care of me. How sweet and loving God's working is on our behalf!”...

Already in this life the service of God is truly to reign. When God frees man from the sin that holds him captive, he looses him from all bondage and sets him in true liberty. Otherwise man is always going from one desire to another without finding rest; the more he has the more he wants; seeking satisfaction for himself, he is never content. Indeed, whoever desires is possessed by that desire; he is sold over to the thing he loves; seeking his own liberty, offending God by following his own appetites, he endlessly becomes its slave.

Therefore consider what is the strength and power of our free will, which contains within itself two such opposed and contrary things: eternal life or eternal death. It cannot be forced by any creature if we do not want it to be; which is why, so much as in your power, you should ponder well and be careful what you do.

Happy Wednesday!

Give Me Your Eyes

Saint Basil of Seleucia (?-c.468), bishop, "Sermon for the Resurrection":

"This is the army the Lord raises; these are the children of the baptismal font, the works of grace, the fruit of the Spirit. They have followed Christ without having seen him; they sought him and believed. They recognized him with the eyes of faith not those of the body. They have not put their finger into the mark of the nails but they have bound themselves to his cross and embraced his sufferings. They have not seen the Lord's side but, by grace, they have become members of his body and have made his words their own: 'Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe!'"

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh, That Just Hit The Fan...

"O human race born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou fall." -Dante

I am a firm believer in the small things. Actions people carelessly do can be just as telling as their calculated ones. The way people use words matters, as does how a person treats another who can do them absolutely no good in terms of societal and/ or business advancement. Et cetera.

Last week, I had a brush with reality. My office mate and I both did, and it was a bitter pill to swallow. Fortunately for us, we had perspective and a clean conscious to work with, which makes the entire episode almost comical. I apologize for the vagueness with which I am writing, but here are my top three take-aways:

1. Stand by your man.
Not just a funny old country song- it's the value of a good person, and being a good person. By good person, I mean a person of character. It can be easy to make decisions under the pressure, when the iron strikes the fire, but I think it takes more gumption to avoid succumbing to the fire. Last week, gossip in the office took precedence over directly verifying facts. It was disconcerting, to say the least. Moreover, a good person may become an unlikely good friend and ally. If there is one thing my OM and I will take away from this, it is a lifelong bond and promise to be there for the other person, even when life takes us down separate roads.

2. A sense of decorum.
The standard for professionalism is losing its touch. Last week I blogged on dress codes, and this week I push the need to watch what one says. My OM and I have been witness of late to casual conversations in which personal stories about friends and family were told. We- and most norms of conversation etiquette- found it quite distasteful. Not that all personal stories can be bad; relating the story of when I cut off all my sister's hair when we were younger during a game of "The Parent Trap" isn't terribly telling to a general audience, for instance. Family drama, on the other hand, should not be brought up. Experiences in the past few weeks with individuals who lack certain values has been a big push for me to return southward.

3. Vocational Charades is coming to a halt!
Life is so short; and my time at this job?- the same. I love journalism, but it's not enough. I want to keep writing, but I want to do more. In the undisclosed future, I recently decided I'll be moving home, working for the family business and pursuing my Master's. The third decision was one I always knew I'd do eventually, but the first two are ones I've really wrestled with for the past couple years. In high school, I always saw myself leaving home for the non-discript "somewhere else." In college, I went out-of-state. After college, I came back in-state but not back home. I reason: if I'm going to do good work, I might as well give back to my family and hometown, who gave to me first.

More details later, but God is definitely pointing me through these trials. I love having more direction in my life, even if the variables are still a-plenty.

Here's an excerpt from an excellent piece I read today, which applies to many things occurring at present:

"There will always be a fringe, living in its own private madhouse, that will never accept truth regardless of how it is presented. There are three primary motivations at work in such individuals. The first part of this unholiest of trinities is blinding pride, an inability to accept anything other than ones own perception as truth no matter how flawed are the conclusions drawn from same. The second descends from this, that being a mixture of validation and ego gratification by convincing others to join in the crusade. Finally, there is the third element, which is also a result of the first: if you work it right, personal madness pays."

Also, last week I had two nerdy achievements:
1. On Tuesday, I got retweeted by The Atlantic. If you don't know why this is exciting, don't worry about it.
2. On Thursday, one of my articles got picked up by National Review Online.Yeah!

My current goal of the week: I am trying to not be idle and to do good in all things little. God tests us not in big ways, but small, and it is in our smallness that we can best be faithful to Him. It isn't easy, but I do love a good challenge! As Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. said, "Why is it the ship beats the waves when the waves are so many and the ship is one? The reason is that the ship has a purpose."
 (He was President Teddy Roosevelt's son, not the President himself.)

In other news, I am thoroughly enjoying The Chieftains station on Pandora. Blessings on your Monday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Honor of the August Heat

"Midsummer, Georgia Avenue" by Mary Jo Salter

Happiness: a high, wide porch, white columns
crowned by the crepe-paper party hats
of hibiscus; a rocking chair; iced tea; a book;
an afternoon in late July to read it,
or read the middle of it, having leisure
to mark that place and enter it tomorrow
just as you left it (knock-knock of woodpecker
keeping yesterday's time, cicada's buzz,
the turning of another page, and somewhere
a question raised and dropped, the pendulum-
swing of a wind chime). Back and forth, the rocker
and the reading eye, and isn't half

your jittery, odd joy the looking out
now and again across the road to where,
under the lush allées of long-lived trees
conferring shade and breeze on those who feel
none of it, a hundred stories stand confined,
each to their single page of stone? Not far,
the distance between you and them: a breath,
a heartbeat dropped, a word in your two-faced
book that invites you to its party only
to sadden you when it's over. And so you stay
on your teetering perch, you move and go nowhere,
gazing past the heat-struck street that's split

down the middle—not to put too fine
a point on it—by a double yellow line.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday, Monday

"All is vanity; and time and matter, and motion, and force, and the will of man, how vain are they all, except as instruments of the grace of God, blessing them and working with them! How vain are all our pains, our thought, our care, unless God uses them, unless God has inspired them! how worse than fruitless are they, unless directed to His glory, and given back to the Giver!"
--from John Henry Newman's last sermon he gave as an Anglican

Here's a great video featuring Fr. Robert Barron on Anne Rice leaving Christianity:

"Here's my fear: that Anne Rice is moving towards an abstract Jesus... Otherwise you're not dealing with the reality, but an abstraction."

Father Barron's other videos are excellent as well. I like the Christopher Hitchens and Anti-Catholicism ones especially. Today Laura and I collaborated on a really neat short video; it'll be posted tomorrow. I have the fourth (and maybe final?) budget meeting tomorrow too, as well as an interview. I need to read and prepare for tomorrow's busyness, but I'm off for a night run instead! (Don't worry, I stay in busier areas of the neighborhood.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This One is for Rachel

[This post is dedicated to my sister-friend whom I lived with last summer in Old Town. She is classy and sweet, and quite stylish. I always loved seeing what she wore to work every day, a combination of feminine and practical pieces.]

I am currently in Washington, D.C. for a conference. The dress code is business casual and I admit I spent about 10 minutes packing. It's not that I don't care about what I wear, per se, it's more that my work attire falls into predictable and classic patterns.

Today, for example, I am wearing an oxford, a salmon-colored cardigan with a knee-length black pencil skirt and flats. Basic, yes, but outfits can always be spruced up by shoes, jewelry and hairstyle. I know this still sounds like a boring topic to blog on, but patience grasshopper. With business attire, I think it is much better to be understated than too loud and edgy. This post is a result of me recently witnessing the latter. The hotel is currently hosting three conferences: the journalism one (mine), a government security one and a leadership one.

The journalism one is filled 2/3 with men in oxfords or polos and 1/3 of the attendants are women in nice skirt or pants outfits. The government one is filled with people in their official uniforms, which I find really cool. The leadership one is more of a range. The men were all dressed vaguely the same, but the women went from practical and comfortable to shorter dresses and very high heels.

I suppose I should caveat that I've never thought of myself as a stickler for dress attire. I think one should dress appropriately and for the occasion, but outside those two mandates, I think people should be able to dress themselves. I’m partial to and think a person can't go wrong with the classics (clothes, books, languages, etc.), but different people can pull off different styles and fashions.

My beloved uniform!
In high school, for example, I wore a uniform. I always love when people argue that uniformity squelches individuality. True, every girl's daily outfit on the base level consisted of the school's name embroidered on a white or forest green polo and the beloved wool plaid skirt. (Truly, I miss my uniform!)

Outside that, there were rules about what one could and could not wear, but those kinds of rules were made to be broken. For example, the rest of my outfit usually broke at least one rule. I wore shorts underneath my skirt, but they were usually soccer shorts and they showed. That, technically, wasn't allowed. My entire junior year, I wore my Birkenstocks every day to school. Why? Why not is the better question; they are comfortable and no-back shoes weren't allowed. I only got called out once by the sports director and I talked my way out of a demerit.

The same went for Kappa in college. During recruitment, we were supposed to wear very specific things and I mostly followed the rules, but the Devil is in the details. For example, we were required to wear black shoes. Traditionally, everyone wore black pointy heels. I wore my black loafers. I don’t think the comfort level is even comparable and my loafers are darn cute. Nevertheless, future generations of Kappas can thank me for the specific rule and requirement now in place that every Kappa has to wear black pointy heels during recruitment events.

The examples abound!

I like military uniforms because it is the same level of professionalism. Journalists are usually dressed well in a nonchalant way so we’re presentable when we show up at the Statehouse or a business. But business people have a different standard. I used to be okay with leniency, but I have been so surprised by people’s selection in professional clothing of late that I am now converted to the idea of the necessity of a suit for low and high brand professionals. Here’s a few reasons why I now believe this:

First of all, modesty. Women wonder why men don’t take them seriously in the workplace, but if they’re dressed in lower tops and shorter skirts, they’re not projecting a serious person. Double-standards? Discrimination? I don’t think so. I haven’t seen men wearing open shirts and shorts in business settings and certainly do not want to. The same goes for women. Work is for work and clothing is part of the working environment.

Secondly, selection. Some pieces of clothing are just not appropriate for work. Examples: anything with rhinestones or sparkles, anything overly flashy or metallic, and strappy high heels. I am mentioning actual clothing selections I have seen in the past two days. All offices I’ve worked for has never had these types of problems.

Thirdly, practicality. This does not mean frumpy. A person can dress well and comfortably. They are not disparate.

Thanks to my sister for my introduction to this great video, an ode to suits:

Washington, D.C. is great, by the way. Really great, actually; I didn’t realize how much I miss it until I got here and I helped an older couple buy their metro passes. I don’t regret turning down my other post-college offer which would have put me in the District, but I do want to move to a bigger city in the next few years. There’s an energy I love with hundreds and thousands of people constantly around and doing something.

The current speaker said at the beginning of his talk, "I'll be here all week. If you need me, I'll be at the bar." Gee whiz I love journalists!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunshine Kisses and Bookish Glances

Perhaps the greatest picture ever- and from J.Crew, of course. Betsy sent it to me. She says it reminds her of me.

Back from a weekend at my cousins' lake house with my mom's side! I am half sun-tanned, half-lobstah (thanks parents). I am also physically exhausted from sunshine, tubing and generally having a grand old time-- I am very, very happy. D.C. tomorrow for the week for work. Back to packing and un-packing and laundry, et al.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Man Who Was Thursday's Poem

Today's poem is dedicated to the man who said, "The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has rather been found difficult and left untried." Oh yes, GKC himself!

"To St. Michael, in Time of Peace" by G.K. Chesterton

Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fullness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword.

When the world cracked because of a sneer in heaven,
Leaving out for all time a scar upon the sky,
Thou didst rise up against the Horror in the highest,
Dragging down the highest that looked down on the Most High:
Rending from the seventh heaven the hell of exaltation
Down the seven heavens till the dark seas burn:
Thou that in thunder threwest down the Dragon
Knowest in what silence the Serpent can return.

Down through the universe the vast night falling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Morning!)
Far down the universe the deep calms calling
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Sword!)
Bid us not forget in the baths of all forgetfulness,
In the sigh long drawn from the frenzy and the fretfulness
In the huge holy sempiternal silence
In the beginning was the Word.

When from the deeps of dying God astounded
Angels and devils who do all but die
Seeing Him fallen where thou couldst not follow,
Seeing Him mounted where thou couldst not fly,
Hand on the hilt, thou hast halted all thy legions
Waiting the Tetelestai and the acclaim,
Swords that salute Him dead and everlasting
God beyond God and greater than His Name.

Round us and over us the cold thoughts creeping
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the battle-cry!)
Round us and under us the thronged world sleeping
(Michael, Michael: Michael of the Charge!)
Guard us the Word; the trysting and the trusting
Edge upon the honour and the blade unrusting
Fine as the hair and tauter than the harpstring
Ready as when it rang upon the targe.

He that giveth peace unto us; not as the world giveth:
He that giveth law unto us; not as the scribes:
Shall he be softened for the softening of the cities
Patient in usury; delicate in bribes?
They that come to quiet us, saying the sword is broken,
Break man with famine, fetter them with gold,
Sell them as sheep; and He shall know the selling
For He was more than murdered. He was sold.

Michael, Michael: Michael of the Mustering,
Michael of the marching on the mountains of the Lord,
Marshal the world and purge of rot and riot
Rule through the world till all the world be quiet:
Only establish when the world is broken
What is unbroken is the word.

The Time Has Come, the Walrus said, to Talk of Many Things

At this point, I have nothing to say on the overruling of Proposition 8 in California. Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, has been upheld by voters in 2000 and 2008. Vaughn R. Walker, a U.S. District federal judge in California- one man- reversed it with one ruling. It is one victory and it only serves to show how important marriage truly is and the need to protect and strengthen it. Why else do people fight so hard?

I got into a horrible discussion with a lady who supports same-sex marriage two days ago. MB later told me my first problem is that I always want to talk to people. This lady certainly wasn't interested in civil dialogue. She asked me if I hated gays and lesbians because I support traditional and heterosexual marriage. I attempted to not be offended by the question and said certainly not; I asked her how she defined marriage. She recited Loving v. Virginia at me, which is a 1967 case striking down interracial marriages as illegal and which quotes a case from the 19th century which says marriage is a fundamental right. I said marriage between different races is different than marriages between those of the same gender. 

Marriage is fundamental, I said, because its two-fold purpose includes the procreation of children for the continuation of society; same-sex couples can't naturally have children. A third of gay couples have kids, she replied. Would you discriminate against children of homosexuals? Absolutely not, I said; equal protection under the law. Then why do you punish the kids by denying their parents the stability of marriage?, she raged at me. I'm talking about parental choices, I said; children are a different matter.

I left the conversation trembling. The above is an abridged and re-created conversation. I left out many of the back-and-forths and derogatory comments she said to me, including saying I obviously wish harm against the children of gays and lesbians. I had to pull myself out in a respectful way and it is one of the few times in my life I felt utterly dejected and miserable. I feel I have failed to witness for truth, but I don't know how else I could have properly conveyed it to her. It was like we were speaking two different languages. O'Connor said it is often the absence of grace which helps us see its true nature.

Here's a selection from Alexis de Tocqueville's 'Democracy in America':

"America is the most democratic country in the world, and it is at the same time (according to reports worthy of belief) the country in which the Roman Catholic religion makes most progress. At first sight this is surprising. Two things must here be accurately distinguished: equality inclines men to wish to form their own opinions; but, on the other hand, it imbues them with the taste and the idea of unity, simplicity, and impartiality in the power which' governs society. Men living in democratic ages are therefore very prone to shake off all religious authority; but if they consent to subject themselves to any authority of this kind, they choose at least that it should be single and uniform.

Religious powers not radiating from a common centre are naturally repugnant to their minds; and they almost as readily conceive that there should be no religion as that there should be several. At the present time, more than in any preceding one, Roman Catholics are seen to lapse into infidelity, and Protestants to be converted to Roman Catholicism. If the Roman Catholic faith be considered within the pale of the Church, it would seem to be losing ground; without that pale, to be gaining it. Nor is this circumstance difficult of explanation. The men of our days are naturally little disposed to believe; but, as soon as they have any religion, they immediately find in themselves a latent propensity which urges them unconsciously toward Catholicism. Many of the doctrines and the practices of the Romish Church astonish them; but they feel a secret admiration for its discipline, and its great unity attracts them.

If Catholicism could at length withdraw itself from the political animosities to which it has given rise, I have hardly any doubt but that the same spirit of the age, which appears to be so opposed to it, would become so favourable as to admit of its great and sudden advancement. One of the most ordinary weaknesses of the human intellect is to seek to reconcile contrary principles, and to purchase peace at the expense of logic.

Thus there have ever been, and will ever be, men who, after having submitted some portion of their religious belief to the principle of authority, will seek to exempt several other parts of their faith from its influence, and to keep their minds floating at random between liberty and obedience. But I am inclined to believe that the number of these thinkers will be less in democratic than in other ages; and that our posterity will tend more and more to a single division into two parts —some relinquishing Christianity entirely, and others returning to the bosom of the Church of Rome."

I broke it up to make it easier to read, but that is all one paragraph from Chapter 23, "The Influence of Democracy Upon Religion", which opens with, "I have laid it down in a preceding chapter that men can not do without dogmatical belief; and even that it is very much to be desired that such belief should exist among them. I now add that of all the kinds of dogmatical belief the most desirable appears to me to be dogmatical belief in matters of religion; and this is a very clear inference, even from no higher consideration than the interests of this world." It is worth reading as a whole.

3/5 of the founding members of Founding Fridays.
In other Julie news, I'm attempting to resist my jealousy that Dakota is in Boston visiting Matty right now. Lovers of truth, good beer and American Studies are we three!

God bless y'all and this country. You're in my prayers as I bike to work, close my eyes during typing and find holy in the human.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What rhymes with Balloon Flake?

Family vacations are true acts of love. Firstly, my parents take their six kids together in one car. Secondly, since adopting Heidi four years ago, we take her with us.  Heidi likes to lie across a row, specifically if she knows you are trying to read or write.

Exhibit A- Heidi on my reading materials while driving up to Maine (summer 2008):

So that's 2 parents + 6 kids + 1 dog = 1 car. Yes, you read that right. One large vehicle which never seems to have enough space. My Uncle Mark came with us this year, though, so we had to take two cars. Fortunately, whenever we get to a destination, we usually forget about how we got there and relax. Here are a few highlights from the marvelous trip up north:

 Makin' s'mores, our vacation food of choice.
All the siblings and Heidi.
Best picture of Heidi EVER.
Me playing soccer with John and Megan.

My favorite picture from vacation.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trick as a Treat!

Trick is the nickname* I have for a good friend I made junior year of college at KKG Leadership Academy. We were both chosen to represent our respective chapters and both put into the orange group. At the time, she was dating one of my Hillsdale classmates, so I kept looking at her like a familiar face. We soon found the connection and, more importantly, formed one of our own. She lives on the West Coast and has a kind and generous heart. 

The exciting part is that we will have time together this week! She got a job with Kappa as a Leadership Consultant and, since HQ and I are in the same city, Trick is flying here today for the week for work! Ahh! We've already been texting, which prompts this quick post. Perfect timing too, because I'll be in Washington, D.C. the entire following week for work.

This is the sign on the fence we scaled to hang out by the pool and talk on our last night of L.A. Notice "Use Poo At [Own] Risk"-- there's more than a copy-editing problem here!

A few lovely quotes from Flannery O'Connor's essay "The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South" from 'Mystery and Manners':

"To be great storytellers, we need something to measure ourselves against, and this is what we conspicuously lack in this age. Men judge themselves now by what they find themselves doing. The Catholic has the natural law and the teachings of the Church to guide him, but for the writing of fiction, something more is necessary."

"Nothing will insure the future of Catholic fiction so much as the biblical revival that we see signs of now in Catholic life. The Bible is held sacred in the Church, we hear it read at Mass, bits and pieces of it are exposed to us in the liturgy, but because we are not totally dependent on it, it has not penetrated very far into our consciousness not conditioned our reactions to experience. Unfortunately, where you find Catholics reading the Bible, you find that it is usually a pursuit of the educated, but in the South the Bible is known by the ignorant as well, and it is always that mythos which the poor held in common that is most valuable to the fiction writer. When the poor hold sacred history in common, they have ties to the universal and the holy, which allows the meaning of their action to be heightened and seen under the aspect of eternity."

"It is what writer, character, and reader share that makes it possible to write fiction at all."

"I think that Catholic novelists in the future will be able to reinforce the vital strength of Southern literature, for they will know that what has given the South her identity are those beliefs and qualities which she has absorbed from the Scriptures and from her own history of defeat and violation: a distrust of the abstract, a sense of human dependence on the grace of God, and a knowledge that evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured."

"Certainly in a secular world, he is in a particular position to appreciate and cherish the Protestant South, to remind us of what we have and what we must keep."

Today is a sunny Sunday-- I love it! I hope y'all have a blessed Sunday, on this the feast of St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori! Happy August!

*I just realized I might have post something eventually about nicknames because I give a fair amount of them out to people, but I also get them in return. Fun fact: one of my nicknames is Kevin. Anyone want to guess why?