Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Trails!

Tomorrow I am driving south to hang out with B. before going to bed early, waking up early, driving to the airport, flying to Detroit, flying to Tokyo, and landing in Busan, South Korea.

Oh yes, did I mention I am leaving the country for two weeks?

I will mostly be off the grid, visiting this girl:

Which means I will not be blogging and will not be in contact with most people. I'll be home in time for my little sister's first Shakespeare performance and my grandmother's birthday party in early-to-mid June.

Here are my Top 10 Things I have learned pre-Asian Adventure

10. There is no possible logic I can use to convince some people that South Korea is an awesome place to visit.

9. Then again, plenty of people think it's going to be a wonderful experience! Mostly Starcraft fans have voiced their approval, because South Korea is apparently the Starcraft Mecca. I've promised to take tons of pictures if I see any of this happening:

8. This adventure has been actively discussed since last summer, when the aforementioned lady started applying to teach ESL in South Korea. A little voice said, Why don't you go over there and visit her? I'm prone to over-thinking decisions, so the actual acts of buying this ticket and making the trip happen have already been such an adrenalin rush! Also, we semi-impulsively decided to go to Japan for a weekend to see our friend Scott, who has been cycling for charity for the past month. I find I like being impulsive! Sometimes.

7. This is my first trip overseas and I'm more worried about the exchange rate than traveling.

6. Contrary to popular belief, going to South Korea does not mean I will be anywhere near North Korea. For those concerned:

5. Applying for a passport when the President threatened to shut down the government was not ideal, but it did make the process more exciting.

4. Now that I have a passport, I find myself scanning cheap ticket sites. For example: my sister is going to Germany in September, and I could potentially go with her in the beginning of the trip...!

3. Every toiletry need can be bought smaller and in 3 oz. bottles or less! Unfortunately, less [product] does not equal more [savings]. I am only bringing a backpack with minimal clothes and items. If it doesn't fit, c'es la vie! Too bad, so sad.

2. You have to plan ahead for everything! Working ahead for job stuff, traveling needs, things you want to bring along to work on/ read, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. My "To-Do-Now-or-You-Will-Be-Overseas-and-Banging-Your-Head-Against-Bamboo" list is EXPLODING.

1. I'm so happy. I've wanted to travel overseas since high school, wasn't able to during college, and am now working and self-sufficient enough to do so. The bonus blessing is being able to take the time to do so, and having a number of friends from college over there to see and spend time with, as well as seeing the sights and experiencing another culture.

I'm finally reading (and finishing!!!) Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence on this venture. As a bonus goodbye gift, my post on "The Logic of Personhood" is featured on National Catholic Register and The Pulp.It today!

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.
-- J.R.R. Tolkien

Tourist Julie!
Happy Trails, friends! See y'all in two-ish weeks!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Alpha and the Omega

Emeth, the Calormene, describing his encounter with Aslan:

"The creatures came rushing on, their eyes brighter and brighter as they drew nearer and nearer to the standing Stars. But as they came right up to Aslan one or the other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face, I don't think they had any choice about that. 

And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly -- it was fear and hatred: except that, on the faces of Talking Beasts, the fear and hatred lasted only for a fraction of a second. You could see that they suddenly ceased to be Talking Beasts. They were just ordinary animals. And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow which (as you have heard) streamed away to the left of the doorway. The children never saw them again. I don't know what became of them. 

But the other looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan's right. There were some queer specimens among them. Eustace even recognized one of those very Dwarfs who had helped to shoot the Horses. But he had not time to wonder about that sort of thing (and anyway it was no business of his) for a great joy put everything else out of his head.

Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, 'Son, thou art welcome.' 

But I said, 'Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.' 

He answered, 'Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.' 

Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, 'Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?' The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, 'It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites -- I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. 

Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?' 

I said, 'Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.' But I said also (for truth constrained me), 'Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.' 

'Beloved,' said the Glorious One, 'unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.'"

--from The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Logic of Personhood

Saturday is my Dad's birthday. He'll be 51 years old and he has demanded cherry pie at every meal because it is both his birthday AND the Rapture (supposedly, although Catholics don't believe in that). Cherry pie, the Robison family ambrosia, is divine. Since my cherry pie conversion during childhood, I am wholly convinced pie is the best way to eat fruit.

Dad, about 18 years ago, and one of my younger brothers
My Dad was born 3 months early in 1960, which apparently was not the time to be a preemie. They didn't know if he would live past infancy, but I suppose I just blew the punch line. Dad is still around, and for that, all who know him have richer lives.

But what if they had let him die, because he came too early? What if my grandmother hadn't wanted him? What if Dad had grown up to be a horrible person? What if I despised my father? Could I wish he had never been born, and thus render my own life non-existent? What if my father was a vegetable right now, or had to be changed like a baby every day? He might be that way one day. Would that render him any less of a person? Would he be a lebensunwerten Lebens - a life unworthy of life?

I read a book review this morning by Shelia Liaugminas (from the wonderful MercatorNet) of The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God by Michael Pakaluk. The title of the review is "Pro-choice atheist to pro-life activist" and has been endorsed by both Michael Novak and Peter Kreeft, who knew the couple personally. Besides the gorgeous use of Graham Greene in the title of the book, I was immediately sucked into the "clarity of logic and reason, and the beauty of truth" of Ruth Pakaluk's story, the now deceased wife of Michael. He wrote,
The core of Ruth’s argument about abortion and human rights may be summarized in this way: Human rights are rights that pertain to us simply in virtue of the fact that we are human, not for any reason above and beyond that; the fundamental human right is the right to life, and so, if that right is denied, then all human rights are in effect denied; the thing growing in the mother’s womb is surely alive (otherwise it would not need to be killed by an abortion), and it is human; thus, to deny that the thing growing in the mother’s womb has the right to life is to deny that anyone has any human rights whatsoever. 
Once, an interviewer of a student newspaper at a university where she was debating asked her, “So, it’s not a legal argument you are making but a humanistic argument?” Ruth replied, “It comes from this idea: either you think all human beings are equal, and you don’t kill each other, or you don’t. I have always seen abortion as an issue where you should not need to believe in God in order to be against it. If anyone wants to say human rights exist or that all human beings are equal, those statements are tautologous with ‘Abortion is wrong.’”
The book has been compared to both C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed and Sheldon Vanauken's A Severe Mercy, and I am beyond interested in reading this book. (For those who remember my New Years' Resolution of purchasing no more than THREE [sob] books a month, I've already decided to buy Christopher Dawson's the Formation and Division of Christendom books, and will add this incredible looking read alongside the pair!)

Earlier this week, I was struck by a comment left on Stacy Trasancos (of Accepting Abundance)'s blog. Stacy holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry and is a convert to Catholicism. I enjoy her blog immensely because of how much she continues to engage science, theology, logic and reason. She has a series called "Defending Personhood." Her latest one is titled "Defending Personhood: The Dangerous Womb."

One of her commenters wrote, "Now, you know that I struggle a bit with whether or not the embryo is a person. I will say that it is a human being, but I am still not entirely sure that it is in fact a person. However, the pro-choice viewpoint seems to be: don't question whether or not it is a person--if you don't want it, make sure you kill it before it definitely is. And that is a viewpoint that I have a really hard time with."

Fabulous sign in Ireland (the Motherland)
I had a hard time with this thought process. What is the difference between an embryo [an unborn human baby, specifically in its first 8 weeks] being human being and a person? Are they not the same thing? And why would that difference matter enough to distinguish?

I'm continually baffled at people's refusal to recognize the sacredness of every life and/ or not take medical facts at face value-- except, of course, with the idea that something could be gained by not admitting personhood. Considering how many babies are miscarried, for example, it seems a miracle in itself that fetuses reach full development and life outside the womb.

I was recently introduced to one of my new favorite pro-life defenses. "The Abortion Debate: A Reasonable, Scientific Pro-Life Argument" by blogger The Humble Libertarian, who states the obvious: nothing is created at birth. He writes,
Thus, it is an error to claim, "It's not a human, it's a fetus." That would be like saying, "It's not a human, it's an infant," or, "It's not a human, it's an adolescent." These are category fallacies. The proper answer to these assertions would be, "Sure it's a fetus, sure it's an infant, and sure it's an adolescent. It's a human fetus, a human infant, and a human adolescent." These are simply stages of development in the human life cycle. 
A human starts as an embryo, becomes a fetus, is born an infant, develops into a child, grows into an adolescent, matures into adulthood, and eventually dies. Scientifically and philosophically, there is no good reason to believe a human being is created at birth, because nothing is created at birth. At birth, a fetus simply changes location and changes its mode of acquiring food and dispensing waste, but at no point does it become something entirely new or different. Life begins at conception and proceeds through its stages until death. From the moment of conception, the unborn are human beings.
When President Obama says defining a person is above his pay grade or shows his support of abortion as a valid option, or when people demand better healthcare, but squirm under the pressure of saying who is a human person worthy of life and then attach a price tag to the care of the young, the sick and the elderly like cattle at the market, I am reminded of the opening of Wendell Berry's essay "Life Is a Miracle," in which he says,
It is clearly bad for the sciences and the arts to divided into "two cultures..." It is bad for both of these cultures to be operating strictly according to "professional standards," without local affection or community responsibility, much less any vision of an eternal order to which we all are subordinate and under obligation. It is even worse that we are actually confronting, not just "two cultures," but a whole ragbag of disciplines and professions, each with its own jargon more or less unintelligible to the others, and all saying of the rest of the world, "That is not my field."
Do we the people no longer have the credentials of existing? Can we no longer claim the higher grounds of humanity? Are we not all encapsulated by the Emily Dickinson poem "I dwell in possibility"? When did we relinquish our dignity as human beings and persons, and what are we left with? How can we want for a better world, or fight for any kind of rights, if humans are disposable goods, with some worth nurturing, some worth not... No! We were made by a merciful and generous God who created us out of Love and for love, who said, "It is necessary that you exist." To say otherwise is hateful, and we humans are better than hate, because we are capable of true love and we have the intellect to not only recognize another's inherent dignity and worth, but respond and appreciate such a gift that is life.

In book XXII of Homer's The Odyssey, it says, ‎"Rejoice in your heart...No cries of triumph now./ It's unholy to glory over the bodies of the dead./ These men the doom of the gods has brought low,/ and their own indecent acts."

I was reminded of this bit when I wrote my TIC piece on 'Of Gods and Men' and Osama bin Laden's death: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

Here is the trailer for 'Of Gods and Men' -- I know it's had limited showings here in the States, but if you have the chance to see it, do:

Have a blessed weekend! I'm glad y'all exist.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giotta has it wrong.

"In the Kitchen" by Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel... (Luke 1:26)

"The Annunciation" by Giotto di Bondone
Giotto has it wrong.
I was not kneeling
on my satin cushion
in a ray of light
head slightly bent.

Painters always
skew the scene,
as though my life
were wrapped in silks,
in temple smells.

I had just come back
from the well, placing
the pitcher on the table
I bumped against the edge,
spilling water.

As I bent to wipe
it up, there was light
against the kitchen wall,
as though someone had opened
the door to the sun.

Rag in hand,
hair across my face,
I turned to see
who was entering
unannounced, unasked.

All I saw was light,
white against the timbers.
I heard a voice
never heard before
greeting me. I was elected,

the Lord was with me.
I would bear a son
who would reign forever.
I pushed back my hair,
stood afraid.

Someone closed the door
And I dropped the rag.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ecce Nostra Feminia

The Bright Maidens' Topic 9: Mary, Our Guide

"Ecce Nostra Feminia" by Julie Robison
"Simple Things" by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
"Mary's vapor rub" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Last night, Dad and I went to the grocery store after work, to pick up vegetables, bread, cheese and a few more gallons of milk. We were in the bakery section, and Dad was looking at the bread called "Ecce Panis."

"Do you know what 'ecce' means in Latin, Dad?" I asked.

"What is that," he replied, humoring me.

"'Ecce' means 'look' in Latin, so 'ecce panis' is 'look, bread!' The word for bread looks like it is in the nominative case, but really it's the vocative, which is supported by 'ecce,'" I rambled on to him.

"I think it also can be translated as 'behold,'" said Dad. "As in, 'behold- bread!'"

I liked that translation, but more because I began thinking about Mary, the Theokokos, the Mother of God.

Behold, Our Lady! Loving and sanguine, I always imagine Mary half-smiling at Jesus at the wedding in Cana, when he told her his time has not yet come, and she, gentle mother, flicking her wrist and saying to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Just as Jesus is our Savior, wholly part of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, who will come back to earth to judge the living and the dead, Mary is our mother, and de facto, our liaison to God. Her earthly comings are always with the purpose and intent to bear messages from Jesus. She is a reminder of our need for the spiritual, through her vibrancy and consistent persuasion for us to follow her Son, who is the way, the truth and the life. Mary always points towards Jesus, which makes her our own guide in this life, if we are to play the role of Dante.

Marina Warner wrote, in her 1976 book Alone of All Her Sex, "Whether we regard the Virgin Mary as the most sublime and beautiful image in man's struggle towards the good and the pure, or the most pitiable production of ignorance and superstition, she represents a central theme in the history of Western attitudes to women. She is one of the few females to have attained the status of myth-- a myth that for nearly two thousand years has coursed through our culture, as spirited and often as imperceptible as an underground stream."

So good!
I have been reading Judith Dupre's Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life and give it cannot be more highly recommended. Dupre offers 59 meditations, equal to the number of beads on a rosary. She writes, "This text is a three-part invention: narrative, visual narrative, and marginalia. In the main text, I offer short essays, sometimes personal, sometimes theological or historical, on Mary's place in our everyday lives. The imagery and captions form a 'book within a book' that traces Mary's influence on Western art. The selections from history, poetry, and prose in the margins offer additional insights into Mary and are formatted after the midrash commentary on the text of the Hebrew Bible, which is used also but to a lesser extent in the New Testament and the Qur'an."

One of the most beautiful elements this book has truly brought to light for myself is Mary's ability to penetrate the hearts of many religious traditions. Charlene Spretnak says in Missing Mary that, "Mary saves us from denying the kinship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: All three live in her spiritual presence."

Though I wrote in my last Mary post that many Protestants reject Mary so as to reject the temptation to idolatry, the very idea that one would idolize such a woman is apt evidence of her power. Dupre writes,
In a 1952 essay, Archbishop Fulton Sheen opined that Mary chose to appear in the sleepy backwater of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 as a "pledge and sign of hope to the Moslem people." Despite the evangelical nature of Sheen's opinion at the time is was made, the idea of reconciliation through Mary is worth considering anew. Muhammad, who has tirelessly warned Muslims not to deify him, embodied his faith, virtue, and surrender to God so wholeheartedly that he forged in his own person a living link between heaven and earth. Like Mary, his will was only to do God's will. At a time when the need to reconcile differing culture traditions has never been more urgent, there has probably been no symbol or concept in Christendom that can mediate and build bridges with more success and amplitude than Mary.
It should not be surprising then that Catholics so whole-heartedly take on a devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother in Heaven. I've always been amused by the viewpoint taken in True Devotion to Mary, when St. Louis De Montfort states that the Devil fears Mary more than all angels and men, and in a sense more than God Himself, because it is mortifying to be overcome by such a small woman.

Mary cannot forgive sins, but she teaches us how to live without them, as she did. She guides souls to God by teaching them how to love, and anyone who loves God cannot be taken by the Devil, even if they will be tempted by him. Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil, so, in many ways, our trials are compliments. And Mary is there to help.

Behold, Mary! Full of grace, help us also to be filled with grace, to say "yes" to God, and to accept our trials. Let us never forget that Mary was not spared from the worst kind of suffering, be it scorn from neighbors or watching her son unjustly put to death. Still she stands benevolent, the Queen of Heaven, with her hand outstretched. As the Rev. Patrick Ward said in a 2008 homily, "When Mary says, 'Let is be with me according to your word,' what she is really saying is, 'Lead me on, Lord. You have more in store for me than I can possibly imagine.'" Behold Mary, joyfully and lovingly guiding us souls to God.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgins of virgins, my Mother! To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me.
--The Memorare prayer, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Blogger Back?

Blogger deleted my last post and I've been pouting about it. I'll re-post the poem soon, and tomorrow is another Bright Maidens post day: "Mary, Our Guide." Please join us!

Here's a TIC post I wrote a while back: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"

Here's a bit of my weekend; while my college was sending off the new graduates, I was enjoying the scenery:

Sick today, but I expect a full recovery by tomorrow. If not, then I can't babysit my baby cousins, Thing 1 and Thing 2! Please pray for another cousin, who badly broke his collarbone this past weekend.

Loving on this song -- "Rumour Has It" by Adele:

She, she ain't real. She ain't gonna be able to love you like I will. She is a stranger - you and I got history, or don't you remember? Oh Adele. So much soul.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Papa B and the Gift of the Tomb

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical celebration of the Easter Vigil makes use of two eloquent signs. First there is the fire that becomes light. As the procession makes its way through the church, shrouded in the darkness of the night, the light of the Paschal Candle becomes a wave of lights, and it speaks to us of Christ as the true morning star that never sets—the Risen Lord in whom light has conquered darkness. The second sign is water. On the one hand, it recalls the waters of the Red Sea, decline and death, the mystery of the Cross. But now it is presented to us as spring water, a life-giving element amid the dryness. Thus it becomes the image of the sacrament of baptism, through which we become sharers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Yet these great signs of creation, light and water, are not the only constituent elements of the liturgy of the Easter Vigil. Another essential feature is the ample encounter with the words of sacred Scripture that it provides. Before the liturgical reform there were twelve Old Testament readings and two from the New Testament. The New Testament readings have been retained. The number of Old Testament readings has been fixed at seven, but depending upon the local situation, they may be reduced to three. The Church wishes to offer us a panoramic view of whole trajectory of salvation history, starting with creation, passing through the election and the liberation of Israel to the testimony of the prophets by which this entire history is directed ever more clearly towards Jesus Christ.

In the liturgical tradition all these readings were called prophecies. Even when they are not directly foretelling future events, they have a prophetic character, they show us the inner foundation and orientation of history. They cause creation and history to become transparent to what is essential. In this way they take us by the hand and lead us towards Christ, they show us the true Light.

At the Easter Vigil, the journey along the paths of sacred Scripture begins with the account of creation. This is the liturgy's way of telling us that the creation story is itself a prophecy. It is not information about the external processes by which the cosmos and man himself came into being. The Fathers of the Church were well aware of this. They did not interpret the story as an account of the process of the origins of things, but rather as a pointer towards the essential, towards the true beginning and end of our being. Now, one might ask: is it really important to speak also of creation during the Easter Vigil? Could we not begin with the events in which God calls man, forms a people for himself and creates his history with men upon the earth? The answer has to be: no. To omit the creation would be to misunderstand the very history of God with men, to diminish it, to lose sight of its true order of greatness.

The sweep of history established by God reaches back to the origins, back to creation. Our profession of faith begins with the words: "We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth". If we omit the beginning of the Credo, the whole history of salvation becomes too limited and too small. The Church is not some kind of association that concerns itself with man's religious needs but is limited to that objective. No, she brings man into contact with God and thus with the source of all things. Therefore we relate to God as Creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation. Our responsibility extends as far as creation because it comes from the Creator. Only because God created everything can he give us life and direct our lives. Life in the Church's faith involves more than a set of feelings and sentiments and perhaps moral obligations. It embraces man in his entirety, from his origins to his eternal destiny. Only because creation belongs to God can we place ourselves completely in his hands. And only because he is the Creator can he give us life for ever. Joy over creation, thanksgiving for creation and responsibility for it all belong together.

The central message of the creation account can be defined more precisely still. In the opening words of his Gospel, Saint John sums up the essential meaning of that account in this single statement: "In the beginning was the Word". In effect, the creation account that we listened to earlier is characterized by the regularly recurring phrase: "And God said ..." The world is a product of the Word, of the Logos, as Saint John expresses it, using a key term from the Greek language.

"Logos" means "reason", "sense", "word". It is not reason pure and simple, but creative Reason, that speaks and communicates itself. It is Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason. Hence it tells us that, far from there being an absence of reason and freedom at the origin of all things, the source of everything is creative Reason, love, and freedom. Here we are faced with the ultimate alternative that is at stake in the dispute between faith and unbelief: are irrationality, lack of freedom and pure chance the origin of everything, or are reason, freedom and love at the origin of being? Does the primacy belong to unreason or to reason? This is what everything hinges upon in the final analysis.

As believers we answer, with the creation account and with John, that in the beginning is reason. In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person. It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason.

And because it is Reason, it also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation. Hence a thick black line, so to speak, has been drawn across the structure of the universe and across the nature of man. But despite this contradiction, creation itself remains good, life remains good, because at the beginning is good Reason, God's creative love. Hence the world can be saved. Hence we can and must place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom and love—on the side of God who loves us so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new, definitive and healed life.

The Old Testament account of creation that we listened to clearly indicates this order of realities. But it leads us a further step forward. It has structured the process of creation within the framework of a week leading up to the Sabbath, in which it finds its completion. For Israel, the Sabbath was the day on which all could participate in God's rest, in which man and animal, master and slave, great and small were united in God's freedom. Thus the Sabbath was an expression of the Covenant between God and man and creation.

In this way, communion between God and man does not appear as something extra, something added later to a world already fully created. The Covenant, communion between God and man, is inbuilt at the deepest level of creation. Yes, the Covenant is the inner ground of creation, just as creation is the external presupposition of the Covenant. God made the world so that there could be a space where he might communicate his love, and from which the response of love might come back to him. From God's perspective, the heart of the man who responds to him is greater and more important than the whole immense material cosmos, for all that the latter allows us to glimpse something of God's grandeur.

Easter and the paschal experience of Christians, however, now require us to take a further step. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week. After six days in which man in some sense participates in God's work of creation, the Sabbath is the day of rest. But something quite unprecedented happened in the nascent Church: the place of the Sabbath, the seventh day, was taken by the first day. As the day of the liturgical assembly, it is the day for encounter with God through Jesus Christ who as the Risen Lord encountered his followers on the first day, Sunday, after they had found the tomb empty.

The structure of the week is overturned. No longer does it point towards the seventh day, as the time to participate in God's rest. It sets out from the first day as the day of encounter with the Risen Lord. This encounter happens afresh at every celebration of the Eucharist, when the Lord enters anew into the midst of his disciples and gives himself to them, allows himself, so to speak, to be touched by them, sits down at table with them. This change is utterly extraordinary, considering that the Sabbath, the seventh day seen as the day of encounter with God, is so profoundly rooted in the Old Testament.

If we also bear in mind how much the movement from work towards the rest-day corresponds to a natural rhythm, the dramatic nature of this change is even more striking. This revolutionary development that occurred at the very the beginning of the Church's history can be explained only by the fact that something utterly new happened that day. The first day of the week was the third day after Jesus' death. It was the day when he showed himself to his disciples as the Risen Lord. In truth, this encounter had something unsettling about it. The world had changed. This man who had died was now living with a life that was no longer threatened by any death. A new form of life had been inaugurated, a new dimension of creation. The first day, according to the Genesis account, is the day on which creation begins. Now it was the day of creation in a new way, it had become the day of the new creation. We celebrate the first day. And in so doing we celebrate God the Creator and his creation.

Yes, we believe in God, the Creator of heaven and earth. And we celebrate the God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again. We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. We celebrate this day as the origin and the goal of our existence. We celebrate it because now, thanks to the risen Lord, it is definitively established that reason is stronger than unreason, truth stronger than lies, love stronger than death. We celebrate the first day because we know that the black line drawn across creation does not last for ever. We celebrate it because we know that those words from the end of the creation account have now been definitively fulfilled: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31). Amen.

-- the homily of Pope Benedict XVI on Holy Saturday, April 23, 2011 at St. Peter's Basilica

Monday, May 9, 2011

O! She doth teach the torches to burn bright

Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar.

Book store in Mecosta, Michigan

They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. 

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. 

And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores [Studies pass into and influence manners]. Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like. 

So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again. If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores [splitters of hairs]. If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.

-- "Of Studies" by Sir Francis Bacon

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hail, Mary!

Topic 8: "Why Mary?"

"Hail, Mary!" by Julie Robison
"Take Her Into Your Home" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
"A Life Spent Loving and Looking to God" by Trista at Not a Minx

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

This past February, I visited a good Protestant friend in Georgia, and attended their service with her family on Sunday. I enjoyed myself, but I was struck by one part of the pastor’s sermon that I have not yet been able to shake. The pastor was discussing Jesus realizing he was the Son of God and his awesome responsibility on this Earth-- "How did that happen?" he mused aloud, before declaring it a mystery of God.

Uh, no, I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe that this pastor missed a perfect opportunity to strengthen the importance of the family. God the Father had his beloved son born into a family for a specific reason – to show God’s love through a specific community of individuals, and to be properly formed by faithful Jews, so that he would come into fullness and fulfill the law. Jesus was raised in a family, supported by a family, and shaped by a family. He was given divine wisdom and knowledge by God the Father, of course, but his human nature had many, many people on earth too to help him-- St. Anne and St. Joachim, his mother’s parents; St. John the Baptist, his cousin; St. Joseph, his surrogate father; and lastly, his mother Mary.

As Mother’s Day is this Sunday, I think it apt to remind Christendom that the fourth commandment – to honor one’s parents – does not only apply to one's birth parents, but those parent-like figures who have helped shape and raise you, and perhaps continue to do so.

Mary, the mother of God, is such a figure. When Jesus was dying on the cross, he turned to John, his beloved disciple, and said, “Here is your mother.” From then on, John took Mary into his home and took care of her.

Are we not too called to have Mary in our home? To venerate her as we extol our own mothers, giving her praise for raising us and caring for us? Should we not keep pictures and statues of her around, as a tangible reminder to strive towards her chosen holiness? Should we not ask Mary to pray for us, as we ask our own mothers on earth to do? And more so, since she is bodily in Heaven with her Son Jesus Christ, is it not fitting to have her intercede on our behalf?

It is true—we can go directly to Jesus. We Catholics should, and we do. But Per Jesum ad Mariam: to Jesus through Mary. When you want to get to know a guy better, you go and meet his mother. Is it so different with Christ our Lord? He made his mother the Queen of Heaven – surely he wishes for us to show her due respect and reverence!

I have been told by my goodly Protestant friends that they avoid Mary because they do not wish to turn her into an idol and make her more god-like. I agree—Mary should never be idolized, nor would she want that. Mary says in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant.” At the wedding in Cana, she tells the servers ( and all of us too!) to “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

Saint Maximilian Kolbe instructs us to “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.” This Mother’s Day, I will be giving thanks for my mother, who gave me life, and thanks to Mary the mother of God, whose resounding “yes” to the angel continues to echo throughout salvation history, and who gave life to Christ Jesus, the Word incarnate and Savior of the world.

As the angel said to Mary in Luke 1:30, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” I earnestly desire more Christians to be open to the graces Mary gives us, to joyfully learn about and from her, so that we all can learn more about and from her Son. After all, if God favors her, shouldn't we?

And so, we pray: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.