Thursday, June 30, 2011

Save the Last Dance

from "The Bacchae" by Euripides (translated by William Arrowsmith)


When shall I dance once more
with bare feet the all-night dances,
tossing my head for joy
in the damp air, in the dew,
as a running fawn might frisk
for the green joy of the wide fields,
from from fear of the hunt,
free from the circling beaters
and the nets of woven mesh
and the hunters hallooing on
their yelping packs? And then, hard pressed,
she sprints with the quickness of wind,
bounding over the marsh, leaping
to frisk, leaping for joy,
gay with the green of the leaves,
to dance for joy in the forest,
to dance where the darkness is deepest, where no man is.

What is wisdom? What gift of the gods
is held in honor like this:
to hold you hand victorious over those you hate?
Honor is precious forever.

Slow but unmistakable
the might of the gods moves on.
It punishes that man,
infatuate of soul
and hardened in his pride,
who disregards the gods.
The gods are crafty:
they lie in ambush
a long step of time
to hunt the unholy.
Beyond the old beliefs,
no thought, no act shall go.
Small, small is the cost
to believe in this:
whatever is god is strong:
whatever long time has sanctioned,
that is law forever;
the law tradition makes
is the law of nature.

What is wisdom? What gift on the gods
is held in honor like this:
to hold your hand victorious
over the heads of those you hate?
Honor is precious forever.

Blessed is he who escapes a storm at sea, who comes home to his harbor.
Blessed is he who emerges from under affliction.
In various ways one man outraces another in the race for wealth and power.
Ten thousand men possess ten thousand hopes.
A few bear fruit in happiness; the others go awry.
But he who garners day by day the good of life, he is the happiest.
Blessed is he.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Catholic Sexuality: Not So Taboo

During the month of August, I'm going to tackle five major Catholic sexuality topics, because I am intrigued that the Catholic Church is accused of being both repressive and obsessed with sex. We sure are a hard crowd to please, aren't we? This will not be a Bright Maidens post series, but if you'd like to join in, let me know.

A few more things: these posts will be every Wednesday of August. Whenever I say Church, I mean the Roman Catholic Church, but certainly am not excluding the whole of Christendom. All Christians are called to a higher standard of living, and I do not think a Catholic perspective ostracizes other faith traditions and their beliefs on such subjects.

Topic 1, August 3
Why the Church does not (really) have a sexuality "Do" and "Don't" list

Topic 2, August 10
Separation of Church and Sex?

Topic 3, August 17
Why and How NFP is not contraception

Topic 4, August 24
Theology of the Body: 129 lectures in Sexual Realities 101

Topic 5, August 31 
What I've learned about sex by not having it

I've had a lot of conversations with people on this (cough, E and T), but I'd like to specifically credit a TBM contributor, Ciska, for piquing my interest. A recent convert to Catholicism, Ciska's TBM post on modesty brought up some good points:
Another red herring in the Catholic church (and just as common in the evangelical church) is sex. Every sexual sin seems to be ten times worse than other sins. There’s so much emphasis on it that it’s ridiculous. People feel much guiltier about masturbation than about lying to their boss. Just stop and think about it for a second. That’s crazy. Dressing modestly, or rather, immodestly, is tightly interwoven with this. The only reason it’s this important is because everything sexual is still very much a taboo in the Catholic world. Why do you think the only aspects of sex that are actually discussed are NFP or sexual sins? It’s clear that there’s much more than those two extremes, but no one talks about that. It’s taboo.
Taboo you say? Sexual sins seem to be 10 times worse than other sins? I think there's an opposing case to be made. As my sister and Barney Stinson would say, Challenge accepted. Stay tuned, y'all!

This exciting series announcement aside, today is fantastic because it is my parents' wedding anniversary! 26 years and 6 kids later, they're still lookin' good:

At Muff's play last weekend
Today is also the feast of Saints Peter and Paul:

"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)

"The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it." (2 Timothy 4:17)

Paul and Peter, before they formed the singing folk trio with Mary
Saint Peter, Saint Paul - pray for us!

Happy Wednesday folks!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Goin' to the Zoo-Zoo-Zoo, How About You-You-You?

On Saturday, my mom took five of us six kids (one of my brothers has mono) and B. to the zoo and we had a fabulous time, even though it was packed with people.

Can you spot me?

The real gorillas were easily 5x bigger.

This bird kept crawling closer to my sister's face and weirdly trying to lick/ eat her arm

The three little kids - the zoo brings family together!
The gang! (minus Mom)
My good friend from college Bess noted last week how, in NYC, there is a call by PETA to retire horses from their jobs in traffic, be it police or carriages. I think this is silly- as long as the horses are treated well and with respect, they do not need to be "put to pasture." Shouldn't they have some sort of purpose in their animal lives too? 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those whom he created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals is a morally acceptable practice if it remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives (2416-2417).
Happy Tuesday! Here are a few more good reads:
NRO -- "Adele vs. Taxes"
NYT -- "Exemptions Were Key to Vote on Gay Marriage"
Mises Institute -- "The Lovely and Productive World of Thomas"
San Jose Examiner -- "Porn Stars Are Abused and are Human Trafficking Victims"
Why I'm Catholic Conversion Stories -- "Mormon Convert: Thomas Smith"
First Things -- "Illusions of Equality"

Also, the Bright Maidens topic for next Tuesday is TATTOOS. I hope y'all participate! Be sure to post it on our FB wall and on Twitter (hashtag - #BrightMaidens).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

This Time, No Fire

"The Fall of Rome" by W. H. Auden

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Man and Mystery

What saved me from moral and emotional paralysis in this pseudo-philosophy was, I think, a deep-seated interested in humanity. I could not reason myself into believing that men are only machines; I could not smother in logic the sense of mystery that broods upon the world, not find any place in the network of blind chance and fate for the human will. What is the nature of this thing we call life, this irrational power which by its own initiative expands into endless activities, and finally creates for itself a conscious soul of suffering and joy? 

-- from Paul Elmer More's Pages from an Oxford Diary

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Gucci Awakening

TBM Topic 11: Catholic Modesty

"The Gucci Awakening" by Julie Robison
"Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"Be decent to each other" 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!

Joshua also said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will perform wonders among you." (Joshua 3:5)

“People in my grade look so much more mature than me,” said my 15 going on 16 year old sister. We peered into the computer screen, and looked at a girl we’ve all known since she was a wee tot, not yet 16, wearing a tight fitting tank top and shorter skirt. I felt a twinge of simultaneously feeling young and old at age 23, wearing a green blouse and blue jumper dress, and then felt sorry for her, so grown up in looks and  not realizing her whole worth, and the need to protect her body, not just show it off.

Two Sundays ago, the head pastor at my grandparents’ parish wrote in the bulletin about proper Mass attire during the summer months. Father wrote,
Once again the summer months are here and we have to remind ourselves of proper Mass clothing. It is hot, and sometimes we don’t give it a second thought, but we should be conscious of what we wear to Mass. Remember our church is air-conditioned. Men and teenage boys should wear trousers and a dress shirt. Women should wear modest dresses that fall below the knee, and modest blouses and slacks. Flip flops, shorts, tee shirts, and any type of immodest clothing should not be worn to Holy Mass. Remember the rule: I am conscious of what I wear to Mass and it is modest for the Holy Congregation. We owe this respect to Jesus and Our Lady, and to each other. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
While I am in complete agreement—perturbed, even, at how people are so casually dressed at Mass—my grandmother, aunt and I said the same thing: good luck getting women to wear dresses that fall below the knee.

Sorry it's above the knee Father, but I love this skirt.
Today’s retail stores simply do not offer many (if any) dresses or skirts that long at the wide-scale level. Most of my dresses and skirts go to my knee, or slightly above. Pencil skirts notwithstanding, dress and skirt lengths today do not typically go past the knee unless they are going all the way to the ankle. Moreover, length is not the only litmus test for modesty.

In South Korea, women do not show their shoulders. They may wear very short skirts and high heels, but their chest area is completely covered. A lot of summer dresses in the States have skinny straps and lower fronts (and sometimes lower backs as well). I wear cardigans to work almost every day, especially if my dress has no sleeves. But what of the dress’s fit? I tried on a dress last week for an upcoming wedding. It wasn’t tight, but it was fitted, and made me self-conscious of my figure. I asked the sales ladies for their opinion.

“If you’ve got the figure, wear it!” was the consensus. I did not buy it. Besides the color being too muted for my Irish skin’s liking, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that this dress would fit me so well. Clothes should fit, but there is a line between fitting and fitted. I do not like being stared at, or wearing something that I know will prompt stares. I was stared at a lot in Asia because I was usually the only Caucasian walking around, but that was different than prompting men to give you the once-over.

Totally normal, every day activity
Ephesians 5:1-4, 15-16 says, “So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. … Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Since we are now under a Democrat president again, there has been a lot of Bible thumpin’ across America, calling for a revival, religious and political. Take back America! But what are we exactly taking back? We do not live in the Founding days of the country. Since the major wars, women's fashion has used considerably less fabric. The sexual revolution during the 1960s helped confuse the meaning and understanding of the word “decent.” Sex has become less sacred and more socially acceptable to talk about in common venues. Sex, as a symbol, has become an esoteric subject more related to fashion and less to the family, where, when sex happened, so did kids.

Jennifer Moses, in her May 19 WSJ op-ed “Why Do We Let Them Dress Like That?”, asked the tough questions: “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”

She writes,
We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn't have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that's certainly the norm among my peers.
If you have a problem with the way I dress, says the Modern Woman, you’re an old fart.

No, no, says the Modern Man- you keep wearing the short skirt and showing me your cleavage. More power to you!

Fine J-Lo, you can be a Mom AND wear Gucci

R.R. Reno, the new Editor in Chief of First Things, wrote in the June/ July issue about “The Preferential Option for the Poor.” His answer to our poverty problem is not only that there is not enough money going around. He writes about today's "Gucci bohemians":
A Christian who hopes to follow the teachings of Jesus needs to reckon with a singular fact about American poverty: Its deepest and most debilitating deficits are moral, not financial; the most serious deprivations are cultural, not economic. Many people living at the bottom of American society have cell phones, flat-screen TVs, and some of the other goodies of consumer culture. But their lives are a mess. 
And why? It’s a complicated question that I can’t convincingly answer here. But I want to end with a suggestion, if not an argument. 
On the question of social justice, Pope John Paul II once wrote, “The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich.” For most of my life (I was born in 1959), the rich and well-educated in America have desired nothing more than the personal freedoms of bohemian liberation. The rich, we must be clear, include the secure and successful academic and professional upper middle classes. I am not talking only about people who live in penthouses, but about people like us and those we know. 
This bohemian liberation has involved the sexual revolution, of course, with the consequent weakening of the constraining and disciplining norms of a healthy culture of marriage. But the ways in which the rich have embraced their freedoms hasn’t involved only sex and marriage. It also includes the verbal antinomianism typified by George Carlin’s campaigns to normalize obscenity, suburban librarians insisting on the right to view pornography, tech billionaires who dress like dockworkers, a feminism that mocks the social mores that make women ladies and men gentleman, and many other attacks on older notions of bourgeois respectability.
"Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society," wrote St. Francis of Assisi. The return of modesty comes with singular witnesses dressing appropriately and stylishly. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, for instance, was beautiful as it was modest, and millions of people saw that, and loved it. I couldn't walk through a grocery store without seeing magazine covers oozing over her and her dress, right next to a picture of an actress falling out of her own respective garments.

Classy, beautiful, simple and modest. So fetch.
Reno went on to say,
The bohemian fantasy works against this clear imperative, because it promises us that we can attend to the poor without paying any attention to our own manner of living. Appeals to aid the less fortunate, however urgent, make few demands on our day-to-day lives. ... Want to help the poor? By all means pay your taxes and give to agencies that provide social services. By all means volunteer in a soup kitchen or help build houses for those who can’t afford them. But you can do much more for the poor by getting married and remaining faithful to your spouse. Have the courage to use old-fashioned words such as chaste and honorable. Put on a tie. Turn off the trashy reality TV shows. Sit down to dinner every night with your family. Stop using expletives as exclamation marks. Go to church or synagogue.
I quote him at length not only because he says it well, but to show that this problem is not generational for the Catholic Young Thangs. But it's our cross to carry, and our creative outlet. We are blessed to uphold beauty and goodness and truth for the Church, and we get to show it through our dress as well as our actions and words. Modesty is not only about covering up - it is about acting, speaking and thinking in a way that is considerate of others, as well as one's one being. Otherwise, the immodesty of one creeps into the others, inwardly and, soon enough, outwardly.

Modesty reminds me of when “Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

It's time to awaken our inner beauty, and seek virtue through the presentations of our bodies. It is written in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, "Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body."

Modesty: the best policy! 
Glorify does not mean hide away in a brown sack; rather, the body can be used as a means of praise. By not using the body as a temptation, it is an opportunity for we Christians to preach the Gospel without words, helping attract people to God through our sanctified bodies and souls, and to show the goodness that is the Lord. Modesty is a person's expression of this, and is a gift to all who come into its sight.

Guest Post: Individual Modesty

TBM Topic 11: Catholic Modesty

Join the discussion!
Guest post by B.

Please note that this is in particular regard to clothing. On the subject of Catholic modesty, it is written in the Catechism that:
2521. Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
I couldn't agree more. As a 20-something male exploding with youth, sex crosses my mind a bajillion times a day. When I see a young women dressed immodestly, it is much, much harder to recognize the "intimate center of the person," and rather focus on what I see in front of me: a piece of meat. I think if people want to be considered for who they really are, and not just their body, modesty is essential.

The problem, however, is identifying what exactly is modesty. The Catechism says that it means "refusing to unveil what should remain hidden." That's all good and wonderful, but it also very vague. What, exactly, should remain hidden? Staggeringly different opinions on this matter are observed through the world and history. Throughout all of our time on this planet, we've nailed it down to somewhere between this and this.

So where exactly does Catholic modesty lie? At what point does one begin taking excessive measures to preserve modesty? Can a Catholic show her shoulders? Can a Catholic man take off his shirt on the tennis court when it's 90 degrees? How about a woman? How about a woman if she's wearing a sports bra? Can a Catholic wear a bikini? These questions are impossible to answer, because it doesn't seem like there is an objective standard for quantitative modesty at all.

If an explicit objective standard besides 'be modest' doesn't exist, what is a Catholic to do? A simple test is to ask yourself why you're wearing what you're wearing. Are you wearing a particular item to inspire lust in someone else, or are you wearing it because it's hot outside, or because you need more flexibility? Since no one can definitively say what body parts are okay to display, and how much, then it would seem that everything is fair game in the proper context.

That certainly isn't a license to wear whatever you want wherever you want, but it gives a person freedom to wear what items that best handle particular situations. There doesn't seem much reason to wear a skin-tight leotard on the streets except to show off your body, but on the gymnasium floor every ounce of flexibility is needed. The former is immodest, the latter isn't.

I think it's important to note as well that while a person should be modest to avoid stirring temptation in others, it's also very fair to expect maturity from your fellow man. If this wasn't the case, everyone would be obligated to wear burqas in order to minimize lustful impulses. If you see a person with clothes you deem immodest, think about why they're wearing what they're wearing. If I do that and I still think that they could wear items more conservative while still being comfortable and not impeding their actions, I feel I have room to criticize.

It's interesting to imagine if we grew up in an environment where what scandalizes us today were commonplace, those things might not be as likely to inspire the same kind of lustful thinking as they do now. I think Victorians were prudish; they would likely think me highly immodest, at the least.

Modesty is important to protect personhood. Clothing and actions should be conservative to the point of compromising practical comfort/need. This means modest dress can cover a wide range of dress depending on a person's situation. In the situations where less clothing is required, it should be expected of your fellow man to repress his lust the best he can and deal, and eventually society will get used to it. Be aware that if you're concerned whether or not your crossing the line from modest to immodest, erring on the side of more than less is the best way to preserve your personhood in the eyes of others.

Throw some shorts over those bikini bottoms.

Monday, June 20, 2011

John Paul II on Evolution and Truth

Magisterium Is Concerned with Question of Evolution for It Involves Conception of Man

Message delivered to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences 22 October 1996

To the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, in plenary assembly:

It is with great pleasure that I send my cordial greetings to you, Mr. President, and to all of you who constitute the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of your plenary assembly. I send my particular best wishes to the new members of the Academy, who come to take part in your work for the first time. I also wish to recall the members who have died in the course of the past year; I entrust them to the Maker of all life.

1. In celebrating the 60th anniversary of the re-foundation of the Academy, it gives me pleasure to recall the intentions of my predecessor, Pius XI, who wished to bring together around him a chosen group of scholars who could, working with complete freedom, inform the Holy See about the developments in scientific research and thus provide aid for reflections.

To those whom he enjoyed calling the Scientific Senate of the Church, he asked simply this: that they serve the truth. That is the same invitation which I renew today, with the certainty that we can all draw profit from "the fruitfulness of frank dialogue between the Church and science." (Discourse to the Academy of Sciences, October 28, 1986, #1)

2. I am delighted with the first theme which you have chosen: the origin of life and evolution—an essential theme of lively interest to the Church, since Revelation contains some of its own teachings concerning the nature and origins of man. How should the conclusions reached by the diverse scientific disciplines be brought together with those contained in the message of Revelation? And if at first glance these views seem to clash with each other, where should we look for a solution? We know that the truth cannot contradict the truth. (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus) However, in order better to understand historical reality, your research into the relationships between the Church and the scientific community between the 16th and 18th centuries will have a great deal of importance.

In the course of this plenary session, you will be undertaking a "reflection on science in the shadow of the third millennium," and beginning to determine the principal problems which the sciences face, which have an influence on the future of humanity. By your efforts, you will mark out the path toward solutions which will benefit all of the human community. In the domain of nature, both living and inanimate, the evolution of science and its applications gives rise to new inquiries. The Church will be better able to expand her work insofar as we understand the essential aspects of these new developments. Thus, following her specific mission, the Church will be able to offer the criteria by which we may discern the moral behavior to which all men are called, in view of their integral salvation.

3. Before offering a few more specific reflections on the theme of the origin of life and evolution, I would remind you that the magisterium of the Church has already made some pronouncements on these matters, within her own proper sphere of competence. I will cite two such interventions here.

In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.

For my part, when I received the participants in the plenary assembly of your Academy on October 31, 1992, I used the occasion—and the example of Gallileo—to draw attention to the necessity of using a rigorous hermeneutical approach in seeking a concrete interpretation of the inspired texts. It is important to set proper limits to the understanding of Scripture, excluding any unseasonable interpretations which would make it mean something which it is not intended to mean. In order to mark out the limits of their own proper fields, theologians and those working on the exegesis of the Scripture need to be well informed regarding the results of the latest scientific research.

4. Taking into account the scientific research of the era, and also the proper requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis treated the doctrine of "evolutionism" as a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and serious study, alongside the opposite hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions for this study: one could not adopt this opinion as if it were a certain and demonstrable doctrine, and one could not totally set aside the teaching Revelation on the relevant questions. He also set out the conditions on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith—a point to which I shall return.

Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis.* In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.

What is the significance of a theory such as this one? To open this question is to enter into the field of epistemology. A theory is a meta-scientific elaboration, which is distinct from, but in harmony with, the results of observation. With the help of such a theory a group of data and independent facts can be related to one another and interpreted in one comprehensive explanation. The theory proves its validity by the measure to which it can be verified. It is constantly being tested against the facts; when it can no longer explain these facts, it shows its limits and its lack of usefulness, and it must be revised.

Moreover, the elaboration of a theory such as that of evolution, while obedient to the need for consistency with the observed data, must also involve importing some ideas from the philosophy of nature.

And to tell the truth, rather than speaking about the theory of evolution, it is more accurate to speak of the theories of evolution. The use of the plural is required here—in part because of the diversity of explanations regarding the mechanism of evolution, and in part because of the diversity of philosophies involved. There are materialist and reductionist theories, as well as spiritualist theories. Here the final judgment is within the competence of philosophy and, beyond that, of theology.

5. The magisterium of the Church takes a direct interest in the question of evolution, because it touches on the conception of man, whom Revelation tells us is created in the image and likeness of God. The conciliar constitution Gaudium et Spes has given us a magnificent exposition of this doctrine, which is one of the essential elements of Christian thought. The Council recalled that "man is the only creature on earth that God wanted for its own sake." In other words, the human person cannot be subordinated as a means to an end, or as an instrument of either the species or the society; he has a value of his own. He is a person. By this intelligence and his will, he is capable of entering into relationship, of communion, of solidarity, of the gift of himself to others like himself.

St. Thomas observed that man's resemblance to God resides especially in his speculative intellect, because his relationship with the object of his knowledge is like God's relationship with his creation. (Summa Theologica I-II, q 3, a 5, ad 1) But even beyond that, man is called to enter into a loving relationship with God himself, a relationship which will find its full expression at the end of time, in eternity. Within the mystery of the risen Christ the full grandeur of this vocation is revealed to us. (Gaudium et Spes, 22) It is by virtue of his eternal soul that the whole person, including his body, possesses such great dignity. Pius XII underlined the essential point: if the origin of the human body comes through living matter which existed previously, the spiritual soul is created directly by God ("animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides non retimere iubet"). (Humani Generis)

As a result, the theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. They are therefore unable to serve as the basis for the dignity of the human person.

6. With man, we find ourselves facing a different ontological order—an ontological leap, we could say. But in posing such a great ontological discontinuity, are we not breaking up the physical continuity which seems to be the main line of research about evolution in the fields of physics and chemistry? An appreciation for the different methods used in different fields of scholarship allows us to bring together two points of view which at first might seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure, with ever greater precision, the many manifestations of life, and write them down along the time-line. The moment of passage into the spiritual realm is not something that can be observed in this way—although we can nevertheless discern, through experimental research, a series of very valuable signs of what is specifically human life. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-consciousness and self-awareness, of moral conscience, of liberty, or of aesthetic and religious experience—these must be analyzed through philosophical reflection, while theology seeks to clarify the ultimate meaning of the Creator's designs.

7. In closing, I would like to call to mind the Gospel truth which can shed a greater light on your researches into the origins and the development of living matter. The Bible, in fact, bears an extraordinary message about life. It shows us life, as it characterizes the highest forms of existence, with a vision of wisdom. That vision guided me in writing the encyclical which I have consecrated to the respect for human life and which I have entitled precisely The Gospel of Life.

It is significant that in the Gospel of St. John, life refers to that divine light which Christ brings to us. We are called to enter into eternal life, which is to say the eternity of divine beatitude.

To set us on guard against the grave temptations which face us, our Lord cites the great words of Deuteronomy: "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Deut 8:3; Mt 4:4)

Even more, life is one of the most beautiful titles which the Bible gives to God; he is the living God.

With a full heart, I invoke upon all of you, and all to whom you are close, an abundance of divine blessings.

-- From the Vatican, October 22, 1996, John Paul II (all emphasis mine)

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Are You Reading?

I'm back, after a loooong time. Can't promise consistency, but at least content. Volume 21, baby!


This week, I bought more books than my New Years' Resolutions allowed*. I said 3? Well, I meant 8! It's summer, does that count for anything?

I also renewed two subscriptions (First Things and The New Criterion) and took out a third (Touchstone, because its price was blessedly and severely reduced). I sadly am letting one of my newspapers go, though, and am happy to still have my Wall Street Journal, National Catholic Register, Financial Times, and The Magnificat.

Have you bought any good reads lately? Are you supporting excellent writing and the advancement of intellect?


Elizabeth is always marveled by how much I read. I thought I'd share the five books I am currently reading (yes, at the same time; I like multitasking):

I got this one for Christmas and am loving it:

Edith Stein and Companions On The Way to Auschwitz by Father Paul Hamans

This thick one will be finished before the summer is out - fantastic and meticulously written and researched:

From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun

This one is really interesting and insightful:

Philosophy 101 By Socrates by Peter Kreeft

B. lent me this one, and it is hil-arious:

A Practical Guide to Racism by C. H. Dalton

I am listening to this one in the car, and it is, of course, just wonderful:

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

In July, I'm going to start Brighton Rock by Graham Greene for my long-distance book club with Tessa and Brenna! Excited to read more Graham Greene - I love The Heart of the Matter and The Power and the Glory. Highly recommend both as well, if people are looking for summer reading recommendations.

Up next: Christopher Dawson, Zora Neale Hurston, Pope Benedict XVI and some Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Here is my blog referral of the week: Born After Reagan

My friend Logan started it a few months ago, and now I am excited for the 2012 election just so I can read what he has to say about it!

Why yes, we did meet Ron Paul together three years ago:

CPAC 2008

The topic for next week's Bright Maidens' post is picked! Next Tuesday, please join us in discussing "Catholic Modesty."

If you're a first time participator, all you have to do is write on the same subject and post your response to the topic on our FB wall. Wa-la! If you're not on FB but still want to participate, e-mail it and we will post it for you to share with the group. If you're on Twitter, our hashtag is #brightmaidens (with an 's' on the end!) to share posts and tweets.

Also, Bright Maidens refers to we three girls, but we have both males and females participating. The male hashtag on Twitter is #cathdudes if you want to read some some cool Catholic dudes.

A re-cap of last week's topic, a response to Max Lindenman's article on "Dating Nice Catholic Girls":
Elizabeth: On Reading Confused Catholic Writers
Trista: Please Don't Call Me A Prude
Julie: Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!

Elizabeth makes a list of all the contributions too, so please check our FB page later for that!


I've been home for a week, and am still actively learning to adjust to a new sleep schedule, being back at work, and hearing people talk to me in English. As happy as I am to be home, South Korea was an amazing experience. I'll give you a sneak peek from my weekend in Busan:

This is a kimbab, and the best thing I ate in South Korea (stay tuned!)
Best bathroom sign EVER.
The Eastern Sea, a.k.a. The Sea of Japan. But they don't like the Japanese, so don't call it that, please.
The Busan fish market. I'm going to have a whole post on food.


I'm also going to have a whole post on drinking in South Korea. Here's me trying authentic Korean beer for the first time:

So innocent.
There are so many patron saints of beer; they obviously did not invoke any of them!


I bought Adele's latest album, 21. I seriously do not know why I waited so long. It is wonderful, soul-filled and beautiful.

Here's "Someone Like You" with Adele talking about why she wrote the song. Warning: I teared up a bit.

She's a two months younger than me, too. Gives a girl perspective!

Okay, one more, this one upbeat: "Set Fire To The Rain"

SHE IS SO AMAZING. Buy her music. Make her famous and wealthy, she deserves it. I want her singing forever and ever.

Happy Friday, friends! See Conversion Diary for more. Also, say a prayer for Jen! She's having her baby on Wednesday!!

*I've been miserably failing to follow most of my New Years' resolutions, actually, which is why I take the book buying limit one so seriously!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stop and Stare

"Leisure" by W.H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

In the Imperial Garden - Tokyo, Japan

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sister Maria Regina Immaculata

My dear college friend Karen finished her postulancy with the Sisters of Life in the Bronx, and received her veil and the name Sister Maria Regina Immaculata this past weekend! This next year is her novice year, where she will be discerning, studying and praying more deeply.

Karen!! I mean, Sister Maria Regina Immaculata
A beautiful family and witness for Christ's love!
I wrote about Karen late last year at TIC in a post called "They're Not Going to Catch Us. We're on a Mission from God."

Please pray for her, the Sisters of Life, the Dominican priests and novitiates at St. Gertrude's, the Franciscan Desert Nuns, all those discerning the religious life, and all those who serve God and his people in it. Pray for the holy Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, all the leaders in the Church, all the lay people in the Church, Christendom, for a continued healing of the Schism, and for those who do not believe, so that all may be one in our Lord Christ Jesus.

This morning's psalm is Psalm 8:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! 
Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted 
by the mouth of babes and infants, 
thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, 
to still the enemy and the avenger. 
When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, 
the moon and the stars which thou hast established; 
what is man that thou art mindful of him, 
and the son of man that thou dost care for him? 
Yet thou hast made him little less than God, 
and dost crown him with glory and honor. 
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; 
thou hast put all things under his feet, 
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, 
whatever passes along the paths of the sea. 
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

Let us all pray for the same purpose and have an equal discernment to those who serve the Church as consecrated religious, so that we might help sanctify the world through the work of our hands, a mere leaf on God's vine.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!

The Bright Maidens, Topic 10: "On Dating Nice Catholic Girls" by Max Lindenman: a (delayed) response

"Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!" by Julie Robison
"On Reading Confused Catholic Writers" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
"Please Don't Call Me A Prude" by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite

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!

Is it wrong that every time I tried to write this response post, the Beastie Boys' lyrics kept playing in my head? "Her pants were tight/ and that's okay!" they chorus, and I know Mr. Max Lindenman agrees, even though he scathingly used the adjective "tight" three times in his Patheos article "On Dating Nice Catholic Girls" in reference to three different girls' bottom apparel.

The Beastie Boys, on girls: “I like the way that they walk/ And it's chill to hear them talk/ And I can always make them smile/ From White Castle to the Nile.”

Later in the song, however, they lamented what happened during a walk down to the bay: “I hope she'll say, "Hey me and you should hit the hay!"/ I asked her out, she said, "No way!"/ … So I broke North with no delay.”

Mr. Lindenman, I'm afraid dear readers, also broke North with no delay. His sub-byline is misleading, a backhanded compliment of “No hook-ups but no long-term ego-busts; nice Catholic girls teach tenderness and the valuable security of the everyday.”

Within the article, he confused readers by first he accusing the JPII generation of women of being “godawful” teases like Sexy Puritans (a.k.a. attractive Christians), then admiring his ex-girlfriends' sunny dispositions and adherence to Catholic sexual morals before sharply criticizing those very virtues within the same page, and, the worst of offenses, did not properly fact check. Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae as our dating guide? Please. That encyclical is for married folk. Nice Catholic Girls read the Theology of the Body lectures first!

Mr. Lindenman does address an excellent topic though: how can girls only cuddle? How can they not succumb to their desires for more intimacy than handholding and playing footsie? If kissing is okay, why not taking a few tips from the Kama Sutra?

In the 2007 film Juno, after the 16 year old main character Juno MacGruff tells her father and step-mother that she’s pregnant, her father says, “I thought you were the kind of girl who knew when to say when.”

Juno replies, “I don't know what kind of girl I am.”

I found this part of the movie incredibly honest, and a good reflection of how sexual education is addressed in America. My own began at home: by the time I had my first sexual education class in the fifth grade, my parents had given me four siblings, with one more to come. My parochial grade school education was all scientific explanation of sexual intercourse, with a dose of religious reverence. My parents were extremely upfront about sex not happening before marriage, and God’s plan for sex within marriage. It was easy to see why saints had died for their virginity, and why they offered it up to God.

But there the formalities stopped. We spent one week in Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI) lectures my freshman year of high school, and barely skimmed the touchy subject in Ethics my junior year. I made friends with many boys, took boys to dances, and occasionally went on dates, but avoided more intimate relationships. When I did go to college, I was completely unprepared for the advances of some boys and, all I can say at most is that I am glad the teachings of the Catholic Church were so firmly pressed upon me and my conscience, because my emotions would have dictated me astray.
Catholicism's response to the sexual revolution

I didn’t learn or start reading about Theology of the Body until after my junior year of college and into my senior year, giving me now more of a foundation for what was only a protest before. As Juno later and quite aptly said, there were times when I was “just out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level.”

Through all of it, I valued honesty, whether the guy bravely breached the gap or I had to step up and address the awkward silence of unsaid triflings. My heart, therefore, sank a bit deeper into my chest as I read Mr. Lindenman's belittlement of such an effort.

He wrote, “My nice Catholic girls were completely different animals. Straightforward and unaffected, they sent no mixed signals, crowned their bedposts with no negative notches. In their orgies of chaste snuggle-wuggles I see evidence for a startling truth: where sexuality decreases, tenderness and sensuality increase.”

I, in turn, see evidence of confusion. Chaste snuggle-wuggles (hereafter known as “cuddling”), for starters, are the antithesis of orgies, which are unrestrained and excessive sexual activities. I submit as my thesis that in a pre-marital, non-sexual relationship, sexuality does not decrease, but remains consistent, in check, and in anticipation, as well as increasing tenderness and sensuality, not to mention creativity for fun and romance.

One topic not addressed by the author is the difficulty for a Nice Catholic Girl to find a Nice Catholic Boy.

Nice, of course, means more than pleasant to be around and no less than respectful in words, actions and thoughts; it is a vague word that indicates the virtues of men and women are being honed and prepared for delivery when called upon or needed.

Well, says the dear readers, maybe you two shouldn’t have gotten that far in the first place.

But would two people sitting feet apart, refraining from most contact, cultivate anything but sexual frustrations and tension? Holding hands would perhaps alleviate that, without overdoing it. To avoid temptation, one must avoid the near occasion of sin. But if two are both committed to not sinning, does proximity of one’s bodies determine the occasion?

I am not prepared to address every specific situation a couple may face together, but I think every situation can be correctly handled according to the Church’s teachings and without the tease of a Puritan courtship. This is where I quarrel with Mr. Lindenman.

Say what?!
He tells a tragic tale of woe: of Melissa, his former girlfriend, the nursing student. She was beautiful, but either didn’t know or didn’t care. She could draw parallels between saints and X-Men characters, participated in Eucharistic Adoration, and was courageous enough to ask Mr. Lindenman via e-mail postscript if they were dating since, apparently, he failed to properly ask her out.

He said his security was Melissa, and that he inadvertently told her he loved her during a hike. They talked long into the night, but the nuances of their relationship began to haunt him, like Dimmesdale’s guilt in The Scarlet Letter. Unlike Hester, however, Melissa did not keep things secret in the crevices of her heart. She was kind and open with all she met and knew, and her “buoyancy, the way she revealed herself as recklessly as a patient on a couch, worked on me like a stimulant.” But in the end, instead of admiring this trait, Mr. Lindenman “cooled off pointedly.”

No reader was shocked when Melissa broke up with him. He said, “That was Melissa: scrupulous in honesty and generosity, a nice Catholic girl to the end. …There's a great deal to be said for nice Catholic girls: the up-front quality, all those depths made visible, like the ocean in a color-coded map. Even the prudery has its advantages. Getting kicked to the curb by a girl you've never slept with means never having to wonder whether you're a bad lover. That cuts the ego's recovery time exactly in half.”

I am sorry Mr. Lindenman did not take more time to “recover” from this relationship, or rather, reflect. Melissa was no prude. She was not shocked nor did she shun the topic of sex. She discussed it, and at length. She did not physically give her body, but she opened up her soul. This can be more terrifying than being physical with another person, because it requires a different kind of affection that people crave more than touch. This kind of affection has fewer lines, and allows for more creativity. To say I Love You is one thing; to show it is another.

“For God so Loved the world that he sent his only Son,” says John 3:16. Good experiences and good memories only really happen once. Nothing in this world can be repeated, even though it can be done again; the world writes its history based on the choices of individuals. Sex is a choice every person faces, and the idea of chastity is a contradiction to modern sensibilities, for which freedom is the ability to do whatever one wants to do, opposed to the freedom to do what one should do.

The bomb-diggity.
This is exactly what John Paul II persuasively argues for in his Theology of the Body lectures. The Catholic Church preaches authentic freedom through Christ, which leads to an authentic love. To love someone is to recognize their dignity. "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13: 7).

In this same thread, dating a Nice Catholic Girl or Nice Catholic Boy is about seeing the other person as a whole person: not just someone to have sex with, not just someone to pass the time with, not just a possible vocation, and not just because they’re Catholic. The intimacy two Catholics seek in a relationship is beyond a want of sex. Of course they both want it, but they're willing to acknowledge its significance, which is a true bond, but not as the pinnacle of the relationship, nor an indulgence for one's own gratification.

Mr. Lindenman sees all the accidents of Love, and none of the essence. He gets distracted by the tight pants and sees pious hypocrisy in that same girl if she wears a mantilla too. He thinks not having sex is a decrease in sexuality, and downplays the honest desire to get to know another soul before allowing the bodies to join. He relishes in the feminine touch, but rejects its liberality if it won't go beyond the cuddle.

Well, he can write his bishop about the tight shorts all he wants, but I think he's missing the Church's point. H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time." Catholics know how to have a good time, and do. Just because we're not having sex before marriage doesn't mean we're prudes or Puritans. It means we bring the party when the time is right, and give the perfect gift too.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I'm Back in the States!

I'm back from Asia! I was in Busan, Daegu, Geoje Island and Changwon, South Korea, as well as Tokyo, Japan. It was amazing two week trip, and I can't wait to write about it!

Well, erm, actually, I can. I am majorly slacking on my Bright Maidens post too, I know. I promise to post it ASAP. If you're wondering what the hold up is, wonder no longer:

Heidi makes jet lag naps better!
Thanks for understanding.