Monday, August 29, 2011

Auf Wiedersehen!

Tomorrow, my dear sister Kato and I are off to Germany! Munich for three days, Berlin for three days; then, I fly home and she meets up with classmates for another three weeks of fun!

My sister Kato, one of our little cousins, and me!

In other news, I found this amazing video footage of Timmy Curran performing "Horses on the Range"-- enjoy!

I'll be back soon! But first, two questions:

1. My dad and I are discussing second job possibilities and I am interested in knowing what people suggest. We are leaning towards waitressing, because I can use my charismatic personality to get more tips! Writing and editing really does not pay the bills... enough.

2. How does one make a solid budget when so many prices seem to vary? The next year and a half will be major money saving and scrimping years, and the years to come will be frugal as well. I've always been comfortable, but I need to start saving more than the extra moolah since my money earning ways is going to affect other people now too.

Ideas, dear readers?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Serving With Mustard

I have a tennis ball shaped bruise on the side of my thigh. In grotesque literary fashion, I see the bruise as God’s grace literally leaving its imprint on me.

This was not the first time I have been hit with a ball: earlier in the set, I had been nailed in the stomach. I used to play lacrosse and soccer. I play kickball and SPUD with my family. I’m tough, but it still hurts.

Then there’s the metaphorical ball: the ball and chain effect of our fallen nature, giving us whip-lash as we attempt to control life’s adventures.

I can only imagine how fervently the saints are praying for us to let go and let God. “The world promises you comfort,” says Papa B., “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Yet, how many people shy away from the prospect of being made for more? How many of us remain stagnant? Does life happen to us, or do we make our own life happen?

Pope Benedict XVI: walking wisdom

Read more at Virtuous Planet >>>>>>

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earth's the right place for love

This is one of my favoritest poems; I especially love the last line. Enjoy!

Just so you can get the image in your head before you read it...

"Birches" by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.

So was I once myself a swinger of birches;
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Rejoice in This Divine Romance!

Less than a week till I leave for Germany, but here are a few more pictures from my last international trip...

Isn't South Korea so lush and green?
Embracing the Eastern Sea
Overlooking the Eastern Sea (also known as the Sea of Japan)
Then I found a dead starfish. Sad.
This is April's favorite picture from the trip. One night, I went home early because I was tired and I knew the gang was going to be out for another couple hours. There are no open container laws in South Korea, so I took my beer home with me, put tin foil on top and went to bed. April came home to this:

She laughs every time she sees this picture.
Oh well. It seemed the practical solution at the time. This is, of course, another reason why I am VERY EXCITED to be going to Germany with my sister. Real and delicious beer awaits me! I am not a fan of Asian beer, so I will be spoiled-rotten in Europe.

I've been listening to this song of late:

Working from home today, so I've got my darling Heidi sleeping at my feet on the couch. Feeling blessed to have such true and loyal love from our family dog.

Oh, and next week's Bright Maidens topic is going to be "Feminine Genius: The Interior." What does Blessed JPII's explanation mean to you?

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity

Blessed John Paul II in a synagogue in Rome, 1986
Dabru Emet (Hebrew for "Speak in Truth") was published in September 2000 by the National Jewish Scholars Project. For those interested in Jewish-Christian relations, this is a phenomenal document. Moreover, from the Catholic perspective, Judaism is not just another religion-- it is the religion from which Christianity sprung from; God's covenant with Arbraham is irrevocable, for the Jews and for the Christians. We both abide by the same Ten Commandments and we worship the same God. Judaism gave Catholicism the basis for its dogma, and from whose many traditions we have adapted and continue.

May we all seek truth first! I have added emphasis on certain sections:

In recent years, there has been a dramatic and unprecedented shift in Jewish and Christian relations. Throughout the nearly two millennia of Jewish exile, Christians have tended to characterize Judaism as a failed religion or, at best, a religion that prepared the way for, and is completed in, Christianity. In the decades since the Holocaust, however, Christianity has changed dramatically. An increasing number of official Church bodies, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, have made public statements of their remorse about Christian mistreatment of Jews and Judaism. These statements have declared, furthermore, that Christian teaching and preaching can and must be reformed so that they acknowledge God's enduring covenant with the Jewish people and celebrate the contribution of Judaism to world civilization and to Christian faith itself.

We believe these changes merit a thoughtful Jewish response. Speaking only for ourselves -- an interdenominational group of Jewish scholars -- we believe it is time for Jews to learn about the efforts of Christians to honor Judaism. We believe it is time for Jews to reflect on what Judaism may now say about Christianity. As a first step, we offer eight brief statements about how Jews and Christians may relate to one another.

Jews and Christians worship the same God. Before the rise of Christianity, Jews were the only worshippers of the God of Israel. But Christians also worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; creator of heaven and earth. While Christian worship is not a viable religious choice for Jews, as Jewish theologians we rejoice that, through Christianity, hundreds of millions of people have entered into relationship with the God of Israel.

Jews and Christians seek authority from the same book -- the Bible (what Jews call "Tanakh" and Christians call the "Old Testament"). Turning to it for religious orientation, spiritual enrichment, and communal education, we each take away similar lessons: God created and sustains the universe; God established a covenant with the people Israel, God's revealed word guides Israel to a life of righteousness; and God will ultimately redeem Israel and the whole world. Yet, Jews and Christians interpret the Bible differently on many points. Such differences must always be respected.

Christians can respect the claim of the Jewish people upon the land of Israel. The most important event for Jews since the Holocaust has been the reestablishment of a Jewish state in the Promised Land. As members of a biblically based religion, Christians appreciate that Israel was promised -- and given -- to Jews as the physical center of the covenant between them and God. Many Christians support the State of Israel for reasons far more profound than mere politics. As Jews, we applaud this support. We also recognize that Jewish tradition mandates justice for all non-Jews who reside in a Jewish state.

Jews and Christians accept the moral principles of Torah. Central to the moral principles of Torah is the inalienable sanctity and dignity of every human being. All of us were created in the image of God. This shared moral emphasis can be the basis of an improved relationship between our two communities. It can also be the basis of a powerful witness to all humanity for improving the lives of our fellow human beings and for standing against the immoralities and idolatries that harm and degrade us. Such witness is especially needed after the unprecedented horrors of the past century.

Nazism was not a Christian phenomenon. Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity. If the Nazi extermination of the Jews had been fully successful, it would have turned its murderous rage more directly to Christians. We recognize with gratitude those Christians who risked or sacrificed their lives to save Jews during the Nazi regime. With that in mind, we encourage the continuation of recent efforts in Christian theology to repudiate unequivocally contempt of Judaism and the Jewish people. We applaud those Christians who reject this teaching of contempt, and we do not blame them for the sins committed by their ancestors.

The humanly irreconcilable difference between Jews and Christians will not be settled until God redeems the entire world as promised in Scripture. Christians know and serve God through Jesus Christ and the Christian tradition. Jews know and serve God through Torah and the Jewish tradition. That difference will not be settled by one community insisting that it has interpreted Scripture more accurately than the other; nor by exercising political power over the other. Jews can respect Christians' faithfulness to their revelation just as we expect Christians to respect our faithfulness to our revelation. Neither Jew nor Christian should be pressed into affirming the teaching of the other community.

Blessed John Paul II and Rabbi Elio Toaff
A new relationship between Jews and Christians will not weaken Jewish practice. An improved relationship will not accelerate the cultural and religious assimilation that Jews rightly fear. It will not change traditional Jewish forms of worship, nor increase intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews, nor persuade more Jews to convert to Christianity, nor create a false blending of Judaism and Christianity. We respect Christianity as a faith that originated within Judaism and that still has significant contacts with it. We do not see it as an extension of Judaism. Only if we cherish our own traditions can we pursue this relationship with integrity.

Further reading: Joint Declaration of the 21st International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee Meeting (March 2011)
The Holy See's Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Be Catholic?

"Let me make an honest confession. In the course of a half century, I have seen more Catholic corruption than you have read of. I have tasted it. I have been reasonably corrupt myself. And yet I joy in this church—this living, pulsing, sinning, People of God. I love it with a crucifying passion.


For all the Catholic hate, I experience here a community of love.
For all the institutional idiocy, I find here a tradition of reason.
For all the individual repressions, I breathe here an air of freedom.
For all the fear of sex, I discover here redemption of my body.
In an age so inhuman, I touch here the tears of compassion.
In world so grim and humorless, I share rich joy and earthy laughter.
In the midst of death, I hear an incomparable stress on life.
For all the apparent absence of God, I sense here the real presence of Christ."

-- Fr.Walter Burghardt, SJ

H/T to my good friend Jeff, who sent this along to me.

More of Fr. Barron's AWESOME upcoming Catholicism movie:

Marc is excited for it too!

Here is one more good and short read: Alexandr Solzhenitsyn and the Energy of Existence

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

There is some blue sky! Let us chase it!

“Speak about Christ only when you are asked. But live so that people ask about Christ!” exclaimed Paul Claudel. Claudel, a 20th Century French poet, dramatist and diplomat, was a revert to his Roman Catholic faith. When he was 18 years old, he was an agnostic; then, during Christmas day Mass, he had a mystical vision. He reported that he heard voice say, “There is a God.”

Paul Claudel in 1927
Continue reading post at Virtuous Planet>>>>>

Thursday, August 18, 2011

L is for the Way You Look at Me

"Love" by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

Also, B.'s grandfather died yesterday, peacefully and surrounded by family. Please pray for his soul, and for the whole B. family. He was a very wonderful, kind and funny man; he will be greatly missed down here, and greatly embraced above!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dresses Rule, Pants Drool and Other Facts of Life

TBM Topic 15: The Feminine Genius - The Dress

"Dresses Rule, Pants Drool and Other Facts of Life" by Julie Robison
"Dresses & the Apostolate of Beauty" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"Month of the Dress" 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!

I'll never forget standing in line for dinner at college. First of all, I'm in line for food I pre-paid for but did not want at present, minus the cereal bar (which I could have eaten in my dorm room).

Secondly, I was standing behind a girl and her boyfriend. The girl had been on the hall I was an RA for; the boyfriend was Trad-Catholic. She said hi and introduced us. I was wearing jeans. He told me girls shouldn't wear pants. I asked him where Jesus forbade women from wearing pants; was it before or after he gave us the Golden Rule to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Our relationship, as you can guess, did not blossom.

Females hate being told what to do. That is our job, to boss the rest of the world around!

Another reason that particular male upset me is because I actually prefer dresses and skirts, but I also like that I have the opportunity to wear pants (especially in college, while trudging through feet of snow), just as I like that I have the opportunity to vote, hold a job and make my own life decisions.

Females have not only the ability to wear pants, but to look nice in pants, especially if the pair fits well; if the pair also happens comes in a fabulous color, more power to pants!

Would I look cuter wearing pants in this picture? Dubious.

These opportunities, sadly, are few and far between. As Fall approacheth, women ask the big question: where have all the good pants gone? With a decline in tailored clothes, pants now fit awkwardly in order to appease the masses. My sisters and I lament: The butt is too big. The legs are too skinny. These hips don't lie.

Hence, I love wearing dresses and skirts. There is true genius in this for-female-use-only attire, and here are my top TEN reasons why I think so:

10. Wearing a dress makes girls feel put together and confidant! No matter a girl's size, few people look dumpy in a dress. Dresses have the ability to make you feel pretty.

So many beautiful girls in beautiful dresses!
9. God made us women to be the most beautiful creatures on earth, inside and out. If we want to show our inner beauty, why not show off our outer beauty too by wearing dresses? Heels are optional; I prefer kitten heels or ballet flats myself.

8. To look (and want to look!) pretty is not vain, unless you only care about your outer appearance. Remember in Jane Eyre? When Jane's friend had her beautiful curls cut off to keep her from becoming vain? Unnecessary, according to Roman Catholic theology. Beauty is a reflection of God's goodness in the world.

7. Dresses and skirts help draw attention to the waist, not the hips, unlike pants. More proof that pants are not your friend.

6. Dresses flatter the body much better than pants ever could. Also, you are fully clothed if you are wearing a dress. If you only wore pants, that would be indecent!

5. Dresses are versatile! They can be dressed up and down, based on accessories, fabric and style. You could wear the same dress for a week and look different every day. If boys can wear the same pants every day, why can't girls wear the same dress? They can also be worn year-round and in any weather, unlike pants and shorts.

Isn't Bear gorgeous? And her dress? Divine!

4. The colors, Duke, the colors! Not to mention, the patterns, the fabrics, the styles and the occasions that all help make a dress great. Pants can have all of the above too, but the effect would not be the same. Dressing up is like becoming a work of art, and more fully shows your womanly beauty in a wholesome way.

3. Dresses require more effort to be modest. If one is wearing a dress, a lady must cross her legs or ankles. If one's dress has no sleeves or dips a bit, then a lady must wear extra clothing to cover her shoulders and/ or chest area. A lady loves sundresses, but not short dresses.

2. Dresses are not just for girly-girls. Dresses are for all girls! Dresses are a distinct style that no person can imitate. No girl wears the same dress the exact same way. As Lilly Dache said, "Glamour is what makes a man ask for your telephone number. But it also is what makes a woman ask for the name of your dressmaker."

1. Dresses are classy. Catholics are classy. Ergo, Catholic girls wear dresses!

Grace Kelly: Catholic, classy and fellow dress wearer

There are, of course, perks to wearing pants too. This is the only one I am willing to concede:

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye: New Super Awesome Young Catholic Adult Website Launched

A brand spankin' new website for young (and the young-at-heart), joyful, orthodox Catholic adults launched today. It's called Virtuous Planet. Catchy, eh?

Bam. The bomb-diggity of logos.

The list of contributors is pretty rockin'-- for example, all three Bright Maidens are full-time writers! As if you could ever get enough of us.

At this time in VP history, I shall be posting on Fridays. Please feel free to e-mail me if you're interested in reading an article on something. I've already gotten a request for scapulars and for me to get my act together and publish my Catholic Sexuality series. But mostly for me to get my act together and stop leaving the state every other weekend for a college friend's wedding and other nonsense like that.

Here is THE website, THE Facebook page and THE Twitter handle.

Read. Like. Retweet. Repeat!

Also, check out my darling Anna's first published column in USA Today on the eve of WYD 2011: "For these millennials, faith trumps relativism"!

Today, I went to Mass on purpose and accidentally attended the Mass of Simple Profession of the 16 Dominican novices at St. Gertrude's on accident. Amazing to watch and partake in, blessed to have such men serving the Church, especially on this, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven - my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

(Will write on that later too...)

Happy Monday! Happy Assumption! Oh, happy day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Part 2: The Sword That Pierces My Soul Too

Part 1: How to Survive Spiritual Attacks by the Devil Relatively Unscathed
Part 2: The Sword That Pierces My Soul Too
Part 3: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

Driving on the highway earlier this week, I inched along a 10-20 miles stretch (approximately) for an hour. Patience not being a ready virtue of mine; I saw this traffic as an insurmountable burden and began wallowing.


Then a little voice: why not pray the rosary while you wait?

When I was in D.C., I used to pray the rosary on my metro ride. When I was at college, I would say it in fellowship at 10 o'clock every night in the chapel. In Columbus, I would say it on my walk to work. Back home, I would say it on my drive to work. All those times, whenever I would say my prayers, even when I didn't want to, peace would abide in my heart.

I wanted inner peace. I'm working on patience. So I prayed. I appealed to Our Father and greeted blessed Mary, the Mother of God, full of grace. What power the Hail, Holy Queen! seemed to hold over me now: "To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve!" The plead to St. Michael to defend us in battle, to be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil burned feverishly on my mind and lips.

Then, barely 20 minutes later, it was over. It was the first time I had started and finished a rosary in months, and I had a traffic jam to thank for it. Sometimes, it's what we dislike most which bring about our true happiness.

Lucinda Williams has a new song called "Blessed." She sings, "We were blessed by the minister/ Who practiced what he preached./ We were blessed by the poor man/ Who said heaven is within reach. We were blessed by the girl selling roses/ Showed us how to live./ We were blessed by the neglected child/ Who knew how to forgive./ We were blessed by the battered woman/ Who didn't seek revenge./ We were blessed by the warrior/ Who didn't need to win./ ... We were blessed."

(Her new album is the same name as the above song, for those who want to scope her out.)

I began counting my own blessings: because the traffic was going slow, I could admire the green grass between the highways and the cornflower blue sky and the different shaped clouds. I work a stable job with flexible hours, and I was driving down to spend time with B. and his family because he had a day off from the hospital. I own the car I drive and can easily afford gas. I have air conditioning in my car; I am not a construction worker in the hot and humid weather outside, working with machinery and on asphalt. My ipod can be re-charged. I am not sick or dying or outside the realm of God's mercy. The Avett Brothers are so awesome and I am listening to them. And so on, and on.

The Devil is a jealous fiend; if you are happy, if you are grateful to God, he tries to weaken the connection between the two. If you are unhappy, then God is an easy target. The Devil draws the lines, and plants the thoughts. He wants you to hate God, and thus be your master. He wants your soul. Perhaps this sounds extreme: a little Devil Went Down To Georgia, even. But do not be fooled. It is the Devil's greatest victory to have people not believe in him; it makes his work so much easier.

By counting my blessings, I did three things:
1. acknowledged God's goodness
2. accepted God's goodness
3. thanked God for his goodness

Happiness is not circumstantial; joy is not found without trial and error. When nothing seems to be going your way, and the world is conspiring against you (yes you, personally and deliberately), it is imperative to look at the bigger picture. For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son-- and would send his Son again, if you (singular) were the only person in it. That is how much he loves you.

On Sunday, the Pope spoke in the courtyard:

"[Jesus] is waiting for us to completely trust in him," said Pope Benedict XVI. "Jesus wants to educate the disciples to bear with courage the adversities of life, placing their trust in God." He implored us to call on the Virgin Mary, who is the model of complete trust in God.

We can see this in Luke 2: 25-35, in the story of Simeon: Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

"And a sword will pierce through your own soul also" -- for Mary did not just have the joy of being the Mother of God, but watch her Son die cruelly on the cross. Moreover, she had to bear the undue ostracism of other people: she bore a child out-of-wedlock, who is both publicly adored and despised. And she, the mother! I get upset when things happen to my siblings or the ducklings I babysat in college; I cannot imagine the feelings mothers experience.

As Mary says to the Devil, "Oh no you di'ent!"
Mary is one of our greatest assets against the Devil. In St. Louis de Montfort's "Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin," he writes that it is actually Mary whom the Devil fears the most.

"This does not mean that the anger, hatred and power of God are not infinitely greater than the Blessed Virgin's, since her attributes are limited," wrote the saint. "It simply means that Satan, being so proud, suffers infinitely more in being vanquished and punished by a lowly and humble servant of God, for her humility humiliates him more than the power of God."

For what "Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility. What Eve ruined and lost by disobedience Mary saved by obedience. By obeying the serpent, Eve ruined her children as well as herself and delivered them up to him. Mary by her perfect fidelity to God saved her children with herself and consecrated them to his divine majesty."

When spiritual dryness is unbearable; when God seems far away; when the Devil whispers lies -- cry to Mary, as you would cry to your own mother. Ask for her help, on behalf of you, and ask for her intercession to her son, our savior.

Mary is here to help us poor souls. The feast of her assumption into Heaven is in three days. Be humble enough to ask for help, and she will lovingly scoop you up, and banish these nightmares and delusions away. She knows and understands the pain in our souls. The Devil may be sneaky, but the story has already been told: Jesus conquered death. The Holy Spirit moves our hearts. God wins. Glory awaits us!

(Part 1 is here. Part 3 is coming. Stay tuned! Pax Christi.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet

"Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet" by Tony Hoagland

At this height, Kansas
is just a concept,
a checkerboard design of wheat and corn

no larger than the foldout section
of my neighbor's travel magazine.
At this stage of the journey

I would estimate the distance
between myself and my own feelings
is roughly the same as the mileage

from Seattle to New York,
so I can lean back into the upholstered interval
between Muzak and lunch,

a little bored, a little old and strange.
I remember, as a dreamy
backyard kind of kid,

tilting up my head to watch
those planes engrave the sky
in lines so steady and so straight

they implied the enormous concentration
of good men,
but now my eyes flicker

from the in-flight movie
to the stewardess's pantyline,
then back into my book,

where men throw harpoons at something
much bigger and probably
better than themselves,

wanting to kill it,
wanting to see great clouds of blood erupt
to prove that they exist.

Imagine being born and growing up,
rushing through the world for sixty years
at unimaginable speeds.

Imagine a century like a room so large,
a corridor so long
you could travel for a lifetime

and never find the door,
until you had forgotten
that such a thing as doors exist.

Better to be on board the Pequod,
with a mad one-legged captain
living for revenge.

Better to feel the salt wind
spitting in your face,
to hold your sharpened weapon high,

to see the glisten
of the beast beneath the waves.
What a relief it would be

to hear someone in the crew
cry out like a gull,
Oh Captain, Captain!
Where are we going now?

Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World
Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Part 1: How to Survive Spiritual Attacks by the Devil Relatively Unscathed

Part 1: How to Survive Spiritual Attacks by the Devil Relatively Unscathed
Part 2: The Sword That Pierces My Soul Too
Part 3: Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi

Call them spiritual dry spells, fervently plead before the Blessed Sacrament or sing along to R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," but either way, I am a true believer that the world is a battlefield for souls, and the Devil is no passive player.

I'm currently in a funk. I am sure it started when I stopped attending daily Mass a while back. My work schedule makes it challenging to attend most morning times, except the extra early ones. I almost went to 7 a.m. Mass yesterday. I was unnaturally awake by 6:30 a.m.; then sloth overtook me and I rolled back into my pillow. I love you Jesus; sorry for sleeping.

The act of being spiritually attacked by the devil is subtle. You hardly notice it at first. For me, I start to forget reading my morning and evening prayers. Then I never seem to have the time to meditate upon the daily Scripture readings. I make excuses; I justify my oh-so-important busyness. The Devil's beloved vice, pride, was seeping into my thoughts and actions.

When I get into this desert, I talk to everyone, from the cleaning lady to my parents, more than God. It's like I'm in a foreign country, and I am asking for directions to the closest water fountain to everyone except the tour guide. When I do pray, they are short and sporadic, like throwing a baseball back and forth in the backyard. It's nice practice, but isn't serious. I struggle to center myself and concentrate. The whole day will fly by before I realize I haven't read Scripture; but now it is nighttime and I am barely away. I fling myself into bed and pray as I fall asleep, simultaneously running a to-do list of things I still have to do.

As if anything is more important than my God.

C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, an epistolary correspondence from Screwtape, the uncle and elder devil, to Wormtail, his nephew and a younger devil. At the beginning of the book, Screwtape is berating his nephew Wormtail because his "patient" has become a Christian. Still, Screwtape has hope that the man can still be turned. He gives suggestions of how to distract the man, whether it be from concentrating at church or when "The Enemy" is working nearby, and the importance of twisting reason. "Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from Church," says Screwtape.

The line that always gives me chills comes soon after that. Screwtape writes, "Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords."

The Great Wave by Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai

Spiritual dryness is frustrating because, oftentimes, I don't want to pray.

Sure, there are days I don't want to do a lot of things. I don't want to get out of bed. I don't want to go to work. I don't want to go for a run. I don't want to write or read or be a productive member of society. But I usually do the above activities anyways. When I am feeling spiritually dry and I don't want to pray, I also begin to repel prayer, like a windshield wiper to rain.

This past weekend, for example, I got a round robin e-mail, and one of the girls suggested we pray for Blah Blah Blah. Since I was behind on my e-mails, I read a couple e-mails in a string: first enthusiastically agreeing to pray, and then people began sharing prayers. I immediately balked, and complained to B. that I was feeling "prayer pressure" (a variation of "peer pressure," perhaps?).

What exactly is prayer pressure, he asked.

Such a basic, logical question. My grumblings did not qualify as an equally good answer. At another point, he asked me if I was still going to daily Mass. I admitted I wasn't. The puzzle pieces began to fall into place. I guiltily wondered if I should put aside my editing and go read my Magnificat. God, so merciful, pulled me back during Saturday evening Mass.

The first reading, from 1 Kings 19, told of Elijah. God said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;/ the LORD will be passing by.” Then there was wind, an earthquake and a fire, but the Lord was not in any of those. "After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound./ When he heard this,/ Elijah hid his face in his cloak/ and went and stood at the entrance of the cave."

The Pslams' responsorial: "Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation."

The second reading was from Romans 9: "my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness/ that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart." B. was not pressuring me. The round robin e-mails were not pressuring me. My negligence was my own unraveling. I stood at the entrance of eternity and was hiding my face. I was feeling detachment, but not truly seeking to engage my heart.

At the proclamation of The Gospel, from Matthew 14, came the crescendo, and then God's kindly whisper:

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins - William Blake
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the Ten Virgins: five of whom wise and five were foolish, and brought no extra oil for their lamps. The Bridegroom was late and they all fell asleep. When he approached, the wise ones trimmed their lamps and were prepared and the foolish ones left to buy more oil and were subsequently locked out of the wedding feast.

When they knocked on the door, they shouted, "Lord, Lord, open the door for us!"

To which he replied, "Amen, I say to you, I do not know you."

"Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matthew 25:13).

More chills.

Since I was a sophomore in college, after the semester I really had the fire of the Holy Spirit infused into my heart, I began being routinely spiritually attacked. It was always in small ways; a bad day, a bad witness, a discouragement. It was my roommate who introduced me to the very idea that the Devil found me worthy to attack. You see, I was waking up, and the Devil was not pleased. He had being holding me in a haze since I was 13 years old.

I was very spiritual as a child, enjoying frequent prayer and conversation with God, reading about the saints and learning about my Catholic faith. At the age of 13, I was on vacation with my cousins and I saw a man jump off a balcony and smash into the ground below. A month later, the attacks on the World Trade Centers in NYC happened and I watched in horror as people jumped out of buildings to their death. I got flashbacks. I excused myself to the bathroom and sobbed. From hence, I was confused. Nothing seemed stable any more.

This was published yesterday in the Mirror, from the London Riots. Please pray!
In high school, I always wanted more from my Catholicism. I wanted meaning and to have a noble purpose. After watching The Mission, I decided to become a missionary. I wanted to understand and be supported in my faith. I found my community of all-girls to be supportive, subjective, petty and ambitious. I entered college determined to prepare myself for a practical career in journalism.

I could not have imagined the impact my roommate, my academic adviser and his family, my department head and his family, and the dozens of friends I made on both sides of the Christendom stream would have had on my life, my mind and my writing ambitions. An openness to express my faith, the earnest pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty, and a widening of my mind and love for the Lord manifested in me as it did in my smallish college community. I was healing, and flourishing, despite some of the more painful times.

The summer before my senior year of college, I was fresh back from my TWT internship in Washington, D.C. My best friend Julia was visiting and, before she left, we went to Mass together at St. Gertrude's with my two little siblings. On the way home, we were driving along and the brakes snapped in the car I was driving. There was a red light, I was pushing my foot against the brake, and the car was not slowing down. I was panicking, and I was praying.

As a moment of clarity, I swerved, and only hit the corner right bumper of the car in the front of me. I was driving the family Excursion, I should add-- if I hadn't swerved, I would have plowed into her and given her car and her neck a lot more damage. Nonetheless, the woman got out in the middle of the intersection and started screaming obscenities at me.

Like I did it on purpose, I thought.

We pulled over (the car was barely behaving!) and called the police. The woman was in hysterics: it was a new car. It's my fault, I said; my brakes weren't braking and, besides, the damage isn't bad.

She shot me a dirty look. AND, she announced, she has not been feeling well these past few days and this was just too much. It literally was; while the police officer was there, the lady vomited once and, as she was walking back to her car, fainted. I ran and was able to catch her before she hit the ground.

The damage to her car aside, I more fully saw purpose in our meeting that day: I could have saved her life. I could have saved the life of my best friend and two younger siblings by not being on a more steeper hill, as we would have encountered before arriving back home. I had no control over that man's death seven years before (Biblical number, eh? Just realized that.) but now, I felt saved. I felt sanctified in all the emotional and spiritual pain I had been feeling over the years, and never knowing why. I felt prepared to do God's will. From that day on, I feel as though God had given me another chance at life.

Our life is our choices: even when bad things happen, we choose how to respond. There is purpose in everything.

There is even purpose in dry spells; in famine, the fruit tastes better. One appreciates the water. Another reason spiritual dryness is hard on me is that I know better. I know I need to be on my guard. I know I'm susceptible to temptation to skip prayer or daily Mass or have a lazy moment of self instead of ordering my mind upwards, where my patience exists, and my kindness.

I am less apt to be harsh, and more able to love fully, as Christ intends all of us to do, when I pray and offer my burdens up. His suffering redeemed pain; he knows the crosses I carry, and helps lighten my load. The sacramental life encompasses every facet, and it is the purpose of our lives that Christ is known, and it is through Christ that our lives are given meaning.

look at those waves by Vincent van Gogh!
The best part is knowing having the Holy Spirit's fire is possible; my heart will be kindled again. God and I will return to our everyday conversations; the initial bashfulness of returning will pass. He will smile at me and hug me. I will barely contain my smile and words as I rejoice in God my savior. As St. Thomas More said, one does not get to Heaven on a feather bed. Especially as Catholics, we should aspire every day to be a saint. This is not easy, but it is achievable; in this same vein, salvation is not promised, but it is possible. I relish in such a hope and desire.

For the next two weeks (at least), I am going to pray "An Act of Spiritual Communion" every day. I hope, in Christ, through this prayer meditation, that I will once again banish the Devil from my elbow, where he lurks and brings forth my worries and fears, trying to hold me captive under their weight. But the real Enemy forgets that I am under His mercy, and it is in God I trust:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

How does spiritual dryness affect you? How do you combat it? Will you join me in praying "An Act of Spiritual Communion" these next two weeks? Will you pray for me so that I too, as Pope Benedict XVI prayed at his inaugural Mass, "do not flee from the wolves"? Please feel free to leave your own intentions in the combox or my e-mail. Heaven knows there is never a lack of things to pray for!

My God! How great is our Lord, that all can work within his greater plan, and that we may glorify him through sun and storm. This is the first of three posts this week on spiritual dryness. Please stay tuned.

Blessings on your Tuesday, folks!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Every New Morning

My goodly friend Vivian's post yesterday was so wonderful, I had to share it (including having the same title, just to stay consistent):

“We are not alarmed because Satan hinders us, for it is proof that we are on the Lord’s side, and are doing the Lord’s work, and in His strength we shall win the victory and triumph over our adversary.”
-- Charles Spurgeon

This morning, instead of talking about school, I wanted to share with you a piece from Elisabeth Elliot’s “Keep a Quiet Heart”. It’s a passage that I enjoyed a lot from “New Every Morning”, a collection of her father’s short writing, published in 1969.

“Blessing taken for granted are often forgotten. Yet our Heavenly Father ‘daily loadeth us with benefits’ ( Psalm 68:19). Think of some of the common things which are nevertheless wonderful:

“– the intricate, delicate mechanism of the lungs steadily and silently taking in fresh air eighteen to twenty times a minute;

“– the untiring heart , pumping great quantities of clean blood through the labyrinth of blood vessels;

“– the constant body temperature, normally varying less than one degree;

“– the atmospheric temperature, varying widely it is true, but never so much as to destroy human and animal life;

“– the orderly succession of day and night, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, so that, with a few exceptions, man can make his plans accordingly;

“– the great variety of foods, from the farm, the field, the forest, and the sea, to suit our differing desires and physical needs;

“– the beauties of each day- the morning star and growing light of sunrise, the white clouds of afternoon, the soft tints of a peaceful sunset, and the glory of the starry heavens;

“– the symphony of early morning bird songs, ranging from the unmusical trill of the chipping swallow to the lilting ecstasy of the goldfinch and the calm, rich, bell;-like tones of the wood and hermit thrushes;

“– the refreshment that sleep brings;

“– the simple joys of home- the children’s laughter and whimsical remarks, happy times around the table, the love and understanding of husband and wife, and the harmony of voices raised together in praise to God.

“All these things and many others come from the bountiful hand of Him ‘who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowned thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s’ (Psalm 103:4,5).

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22,23).

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High’ (Psalm 92:1)”

Vivian et moi at FOC's farm
YOU can follow more of Vivian's good thoughts on her blog, Adventures of a Young Chef. As you might have guessed, Vivian is in culinary school. She is also the bomb-diggity.

Happy Monday!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Mass, take 3!

Life Teen put together an AWESOME video on the new translation of the Mass:

Word for Word [Parents] from Life Teen on Vimeo.

H/T Creative Minority Report

Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Here becomes there without ceasing to be

"Passerby, These are Words" by Yves Bonnefoy (translated by Hoyt Rogers)

Passerby, these are words. But instead of reading
I want you to listen: to this frail
Voice like that of letters eaten by grass.

Lend an ear, hear first of all the happy bee
Foraging in our almost rubbed-out names.
It flits between two sprays of leaves,
Carrying the sound of branches that are real
To those that filigree the unseen gold.

Then know an even fainter sound, and let it be
The endless murmuring of all our shades.
Their whisper rises from beneath the stones
To fuse into a single heat with that blind
Light you are as yet, who can still gaze.

Listen simply, if you will. Silence is a threshold
Where, unfelt, a twig breaks in your hand
As you try to disengage
A name upon a stone:

And so our absent names untangle your alarms.
And for you who move away, pensively,
Here becomes there without ceasing to be.

On Flannery O'Connor's porch with Vivy
Happy Thursday! Prayers for my bestie/ four-year college roommate Bear-Bear, who has her first day of her second year of teaching school today!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dating with Distance

Last night, B. told me he now has to work six days a week.

As the child of two workaholics, working six days a week is not unusual. Growing up, Dad would take us to the office with him on Saturday so that we could help out or do our homework without too many distractions.

But now, I see such a schedule differently. B., for those unawares, is my boyfriend. We live two hours apart, and until I went to Asia a little over two months ago, the distance did not bother me. This summer, however, has been a busy one for both of us, especially as he is now in his rotations, which are less flexible than class and studying, since he has to actually be at the hospital. His work schedule, combined with the need to sleep and the time it takes to travel, is going to sharply cut any time we wish to spend with each other. I am, how you say? nicht sehr amusiert. (That is, "not very amused" - I'm practicing German for my upcoming trip! My accent is horrible.)

Aww, shucks
I've always considered the distance between us as a buffer; a no man's land, where one of us would cross every weekend. I'm an independent person, see. The distance provided that lovely balance of work-home-relationship. I think having distance between us has helped us advance and pace the relationship, and allows for more creative modes of communication, like sending letters, writing poems, and sharing articles.

It was B. who saw deeper into Max Lindenman's piece "On Dating Nice Catholic Girls" than any of the Bright Maidens. After reading the original article and the three responses, B. told me we had missed the subtle point.

"His problem," said B., "was not with the girls he dated; it was that he didn't feel special in the relationships."

I took the bait; I re-read the article. By golly, B. was right! Mr. Lindenman had written (and how had I missed it?):
Like the husband who suspects his wife of cheating, I began hunting for clues to confirm my fear, not trusting myself wholly to acknowledge them. Nevertheless, it became clear, a case for an emotional trade deficit could be made. Whereas I had a handful of friends and two hands full of enemies, Melissa was all chatty charity with everyone she met, from me to the cashier at Souper Salad. The same thoughts she murmured to me as we lay entwined of an evening would turn up the next morning on her LiveJournal page, edited for tense agreement. 
If Melissa made any distinction between public and private, friendship and love, my eyes were not tuned finely enough to see it.
As a writer, this passage spoke especially close to home: I'm chatty with the grocery store clerk and most people who cross my path. I talk through my thoughts with B., but also with my family, Elizabeth and Trista, and a handful of friends whose minds engage my own more broadly. This is how I was before I started dating B., and how I continue to be. Is that so wrong? Does my outreach to people and need for interaction of ideas with others lessen my attachment to my boyfriend?

I do not think so, and neither does B. (I asked.) Not feeling special is a symptom to a bigger problem, me thinks: communication. The above author and his girlfriend spent ample amount of time together, but, in the end, went separate paths because she was not ready for "the epic plunge of love" and he, from what I gathered from the re-reads, grew jealous of her indiscriminate openness. He wanted more to be sacred between them. As he wrote, almost sadly, "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."

I'll go 360 in a minute; back to formulating my thesis. Dating with distance: it's manageable.

Sure, I miss him, hug the family dog Heidi more, play tennis because he can't (being in rotations and all), keep busy with my family, writing and reading, talk to him when possible (his bed time is now hours before mine) and [try to remember to] write letters. He's currently taunting me with another idea for a poem (he's incredibly witty).

As my Dad advised me, as in any relationship, it's all about priorities. I've found, though, it is more about patience.

(Watch it, if just for the scenery!)
I struggle with patience, but I'm starting to find the distance sanctifying, and I'm beginning to gain amazing insights into it. The distance could be worse even, and not geographically.

The tagline of The Painted Veil (one of my favorite movies) is "Sometimes the greatest distance is between two people." These two people, however, were married and lived together. B. and I are not married and do not live together. Yet, without forgetting that I am comparing my relationship to a fictional one, we have much better communication. More importantly, we have honest communication.

B.'s honesty is one of his best traits, and, combined with unfailing upfrontness, we's like peas and carrots. I read recently that "honesty is very rare". So many relationships could avoid the awkward or feeling like a waiting room by a want to be honest. You have to desire honesty first, and there are plenty of ways to be tactful and polite without keeping another person wondering, especially when you're already dating that person.

Girls enjoy over-analyzing everything. I'm of the opinion that analyzing a person is not the same as getting to know them. Moreover, over-analyzation shows mistrust. It says, there is more there, and I want to know. But if you're not asking the questions to the person directly, you're not going to get the answers you so desire. I trust B., because he's honest with me when we disagree. If we had been more interested in impressing each other when we first met, we might have kept our, ahem, stronger opinions to ourselves.

Honesty isn't just bluntness; it's a desire to share the real you. This is the kind of connection distance cannot lessen. When you have a real connection with a person, three things happen:
A) You seek their thoughts, and to honestly share your own
B) You want to be a better person
C) You see opportunity in difficulty (to paraphrase Churchill)

I remember my friend Andrew, another medical student, telling me about an alcoholic who hurt his foot. He did not personally care what happened to him, but he cared about his dog, and thus sought medical care. The take-away-point was, can disease be a blessing? Andrew saw how it was a blessing for that man. It changed his whole perspective on life and the choices he was making.

B. and me!
Distance can be, and is, a blessing in my relationship with B. This does not mean the time between us is any easier or more joy-filled, but rather, the blessing B. is to me provides a pathway to offer up my current frustrations to God.

Jacob had to wrestle God till dawn before he extracted a blessing from him, and I expect these coming months will provide ample opportunity to test such enduring faithfulness. My initial unhappiness at the knowledge that I am going to see him at most one day a week (and, most likely, less some weeks) is being overcome by praying and practicing patience. If God's will be done, then these next months apart will be blips on my soul's sonar.

More on this later, but if you have any thoughts or ideas, please share them with me. On a completely unrelated note, my Catholic Sexuality series posts that were supposed to start going up today are delayed one week. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Summer Readin', Having A Blast!

TBM Topic 14: Summer Reading

"Summer Readin', Having A Blast!" by Julie Robison
"Bright Maidens: Summer Reading" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"In Which I Pretend Perfect Weather Exists" 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!

I wish I could tell you more about my summer nights than the sad fact that I got home from work around 9:30 p.m. last night and was so tired/ too frazzled to write (I write for work; too much typing and thinking yesterday). Alas, my summer days are driftin' away and oh! Oh, those summer nights... reading late before bed. I recorded a video of me briefly discussing the six books I am into right now. I'm technically juggling more than six books right now, but such are the reading habits of a chronic multi-tasker!

Julie's book list
Second Friends: C.S. Lewis and Ronald Knox in Conversation by Milton Walsh
Thy Will Be Done by St. Francis de Sales
Departed Angels: The Lost Paintings -by Jack Kerouac, text by Ed Adler
Surprised by Canon Law by Pete Vere & Michael Trueman
Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Cardinal Ratzinger/ Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera
The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

What are you reading right now? Tell me more, tell me more!

Bonus: Fr. Schall on why it's better to read a few authors than to stray through many.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Stuck Inside Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Here's why Tennessee is awesome:

Reading with Heidi
Playing SPUD with the siblings
Hanging out with our favorite dog-person, Heidi
Late night jumping into the lake contests
(I think my little brother won)
My younger-but-taller brother turned 19!
Quality family time in the hot, humid, green mountains of TN!
Now, I need a sleeping vacation...