Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Power and the Glory

"Seven Stanzas at Easter" by John Updike 

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Related reads - "How the Mass is a sacrifice, and why so many deny this doctrine" from The New Theological Movement and "The Eucharistic Theology of Early Church Fathers" at The Sacred Page.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes

"Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you" by John Donne

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

What I've been listening to you...

Mumford & Sons - The Banjolin Song / Awake my soul - A Take Away Show #105 from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

To read - "Was There a Passover Lamb at the Last Supper?" at The Sacred Page
To listen - "The Fourth Cup" by Dr. Scott Hahn

Have a blessed Holy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I will be the one/ Drenched in Proverbs 31

This is "I will wait for you" by P4CM poet Janette...IKZ at a performance poetry slam. I have not been rolled over and so impressed in a very long time. This young woman is amazing as she talks about the discernment of dating, the struggle of being single, living the Word and the wonder of following God's will.

The whole thing is incredible:

 Serious snaps to Aggie Catholics!! Wow. What a power in pentameter!

Christ, you are the greatest love story ever told!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Catholics for Choice!

Week Seven: Our Reversion Stories

"Catholics for Choice!" by Julie Robison
"Young Woman at the Well." by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
"Becoming Myself By Getting Closer to Him" by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the seventh post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." 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!

John Henry Newman says conversion is "nothing more than a deeper discovery of what we already desire."

It's easy to look at my religious upbringing and say, Julie, I'm sorry, but you've been brainwashed.

I've gone through the whole ordeal: infant baptism, First Communion in the second grade, Confirmation in the eighth grade, thirteen years of Catholic schooling and 23 years of (at the very least) weekly Mass.

Where does brainwashing start, however, and formation end? That is, after all, the purpose of religious catechesis: to teach how to carry on the faith; to introduce the child to God in Three, and thus encourage a relationship; to give proper and virtuous character formation; to give order to the soul.

I think many Catholics have been failed in this sense; they have not been introduced to the fullness of the faith in their younger years, given instead a bland version of Christianity, with vague mentions toward the more specific doctrines. No one is inspired by blah, and I am sadly not surprised so many of my friends are not really practicing this life-abundant faith anymore, as well as a few dear family members.

I wasn't always the kind of Catholic I am today. I wasn't always itching for more, or even really concerned with truth. My high school religion classes certainly didn't provide much intellectual stimulation. I went to Mass every week growing up and didn't think twice about the last time I went to Confession. I didn't know if I believed that the Eucharist was actually the Body of Christ, and the wine actually became the Blood of Christ. I just knew the faith; I struggled explaining it to people.

But the Mass is where I came back; the Mass, and more specifically the Eucharist, is what caused my reversion. Newman also said, "Catholicism is a deep matter; you cannot take it up in a teacup."

Catholicism is universal- going to Mass, you know the same Mass with the same readings and liturgy is happening around the world. One sees people of all backgrounds, ages, and both genders in the pews, waiting to go forward to receive Christ or a blessing. For those who disagree with the Church, I say this- it is easy to text-proof. It is a cop-out to Christ, in my opinion, to take one or ten lines from the Bible, and then agree or disagree. Catholics believe in context. We look at the Bible as a whole, just as we look at salvation history as a whole. The mistakes of men happened, and happened frequently; and still, the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, persists abundantly.

It was at college where I was set on fire: discussions with my roommate and friends; in preparing to defend Catholicism for my Introduction to Western Religion class (I talked at least 10-20 minutes every class period as the "token Catholic"), as well as reading the Great Books and other great Catholic and non-Catholic writers; being touched by the witness of Christians of all stripes around campus.

The witness was not always positive, which could have weakened my faith if my zeal for truth and understanding had not been awakened so fiercely. When I was younger, I always wanted to fight for a cause: now, older and praying for wisdom, I knew what it was. In true Eliot fashion, I returned to the end, and made it my beginning.

I'm purposefully avoiding discussing any specific details of my reversion, for the very reason that everyone, be it convert or cradle Catholic, comes to Christ in their own way. In the Easter season, and especially as we are in Holy Week, the holiest time of the liturgical calendar, we are re-reminded that everyone is called to conversion. Every adult Catholic in the Church must choose Christ, and their heart is called to conform to his, out of love of him. We are in his Church because we are made for love, and so we love: ourselves, our family, our friends, our enemies, our fellow humans and, above all, our Lord Jesus Christ.

As Pope Benedict XVI said, there is only way to the Father, and that is through the Son, who says, I am the way. But that way is so big, it accounts for all who will come. God does not impose himself, but he always beckons us towards him. By finding new life in Christ, a person loses the worldly restraints and gains completion of who they always were and are meant to be. Not that finding Christ makes anything easier, per se, but it changes everything. The Word becomes reality, and are not just words on a page of a sacred book.

Flannery O'Connor's 1955 short story "You Can't Be Any Poorer Than Dead" gives an excellent example of what happens when religion becomes a subjective choice and not a pursuit of objective Truth. The stranger ("his kind friend") is talking to the main character, Tarwater, as he digs his great-uncle's grave, the man who rescued and raised him:

“It should be clear to you,” his kind friend said, “how all your life you been tricked by that old man. You could have been a city slicker for the past years. Instead, you been deprived of any company but his, you been living in a two-story barn in the middle of this earth’s bald patch, following behind a mile and plow since you were seven. And how do you know the education he give you is true to the fact? Maybe he taught you a system of figures nobody else uses? How do you know that two added to two makes four? Four added to four makes eight? Maybe other people don’t use that system. How do you know if there was an Adam or if Jesus eased your situation any when He redeemed you? Or how you know if He actually done it? Nothing but that old man’s word and it ought to be obvious to you by now that he was crazy. And as for Judgment Day,” the stranger said, “every day is Judgment Day.”

They used to be smaller.
 My latter half of my sophomore year of college was a particularly difficult semester for me, and I considered not returning to campus. My roommate and I both agreed I was being spiritually attacked by the Devil as prayer was a nearly impossible task; I was taking way too many upper-level classes while minoring in overcommitments; I was dealing with difficult post-romantic relationships. My sanity was saved by the prayers, love and fellowship of my roommate and my academic advisor's family, whom I became particularly close with that year.

 That would have been a shame if I had left too, since my junior and senior years were really when I blossomed on campus. On a whim, that next fall semester, I began going to on-campus Mass on Thursdays regularly. This would set the stage for me going to Mass daily as a statehouse reporter, post-college, and the new model for how I deal with difficulties. In the past, I would just go for a run if I was upset or angry. There, studying in cold Michigan snowbank, where I was stressed out and freezing, running was not always an immediate option. So I began to re-learn how to pray. My dear friend Julia was an integral part of this, since we would make plans to take a study break around the same time nightly rosary happened.

I felt like I had turned a dark corner in my life, and there was Christ, the light. Even though I am twenty-something, as a cradle Catholic, I sometimes feel like the worker who has found his way to the vineyard at mid-day, receiving my equal wages alongside the early and later day workers. Every day is a constant surrendering of my will to God's will: I'm impatient, demanding, skeptical, and easily distracted from priorities. By choosing Christ, every day, I am focused and grounded. Choosing Christ is about having a relationship with him; being part of his Church is integral to that, and participating in the sacraments is one way to show my love for him, and to get to know him better. The pay-offs are not always immediate, but I do know they have eternal consequences.

I desire God and so, I desire his will be done in my life. I am not convinced by the argument that one cannot choose God, or that one cannot choose to believe in God. That is exactly what belief is- a choice. Part rationale and part faith, belief is the logical action towards a seemingly risky venture. When you believe a person can do something, you believe this because they have demonstrated the ability, not because they actually did it. But Jesus already proved himself to us, which takes out the risk factor in believing in him.

This is the mystery of our Christian faith: Christ came, Christ died, Christ rose again. And yes, there are still times when I must pray the words of the boy's father in Mark 9:24 - "I do believe! Help my unbelief!"

Non-Christians like to look at Blessed Mother Teresa and say, Look! She struggled with belief and had spiritual dry periods- ergo, God isn't real. But isn't the fact that she persisted in the faith and did not lose hope in God and his great mercy despite these doubts mean anything?

The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, calms all of these conflicts. There is only one Church who has stayed true to the Gospels, despite its occasional sordidness and wrong turns, with the help of God, and alongside billions of saints, angels, lay people, consecrated religious and believers of all shades - the great chain of time and space, faith and reason, intellectuals and the simple minded - all comprehending the same truth: that Christ is King, and came to save us.

And me- little me - who am I to argue? It is through the sanctifying grace and mercy of God that I am Catholic, and that I persist in my Catholicism. Pope Pius XII said, "The Catholic Church herself is an historic fact. Like a great mountain-range, she bestrides the history of the past two thousand years. Whatever may be the attitude toward her, it is impossible to escape her."

Consider me trapped, then: freely, out of love, and most joyfully. The smallest taste of truth is enough to keep me begging for me, earnestly, and to tell people where I have found such nourishment: in Christ, our Savior; in God, his Father; in the Holy Spirit; in the communion of saints; and in Christ's bridegroom, the Roman Catholic Church. I choose to believe, and thus hold these truths to be incomparable, and sufficient.

"When we have traveled all ways, we shall come to the End of all ways, who says, 'I am the Way.'" --St. Ambrose (explanation of Psalm 118)

"After losing those human consolations you have been left with a feeling of loneliness, as if you were hanging by a thin thread over the emptiness of a black abyss. And your cries, your shouts for help, seem to go unheard by anybody. The truth is you deserve to be so forlorn. Be humble; don't seek yourself; don't seek your own satisfaction. Love the cross - to bear it is little - and our Lord will hear your prayer. And in time, calm will be restored to your senses. And your heart will heal, and you will have peace."  -- St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way

"Push back again the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don't realize it how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when, of course, it is the cross." --Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being

Friday, April 15, 2011

Have You Filed Your Taxes?

I almost didn't write one this week but, nonetheless, here is my volume 20:


Today is not, I repeat, not Tax Day. Tax Day was moved to Monday, because there is a holiday of some sort happening in Washington, D.C. Or, if you work at a tax law firm like I do, then every day is Tax Day!


Something I read for class, by Catholic Moral Theologian David Bohr:

The Christian life is like this. Faith is not usually a sudden inspiration that comes out of nowhere. Faith is a habit built up over time by doing faithful actions. Faith, as it was for the ancient Israelites, is not just a feeling or interior assurance, but is constituted in the real, material world by concrete practices. Faith is skillfully and wisely dealing with strangers, loved ones, money, genitals, and pots and pans. Faith is not usually something that comes in a flash of blinding light, but is built up over time by small actions like saying a prayer for a friend, cutting vegetables at a soup kitchen, putting one's rear end in a pew every Sunday morning. If faith takes hold, these sort of actions and a thousand others become second nature.


Spring is here, finally! Still cold-ish sometimes, but at least I can walk outside with my shoes off again, feet squishing against the grass and cool mud.

More things I like about spring: driving with my windows down again, bare legs, shorts, spring skirts, playing and running outside with the family dog, weekend croquet matches, no more cold weather, birds singing, warm breezes, anything nautical, sunshine.

What are things you like about spring?


One of my best friends from college/ Kappa is at culinary school in New York and I miss her a lot. Fortunately, she keeps a blog. Even for a non-foodie like me, I enjoy it. She's also been tying in Scripture verses to the beginning of her posts lately too, which gives new perspective. Check it out!

Vivy and me running down a hill in Georgia

My best friend (Bear-Bear, to those unawares) has an incredibly talented younger sister, whom I call Old Sport. Listen to her beautiful song here:


Doesn't this song just make you happy? This website on St. Augustine makes me happy too-- many thanks to Emina at Illumination for posting it! The libertarian allegory from the Mises Institute of Rebecca Black's song "Friday" is worth a chuckle too; and, as always, are you reading WSJ's James Taranto?


We Bright Maidens had another lovely response to our post this week: saving sex for marriage. I must admit, I was rawther nervous about posting mine, but the responses, either public or private, were overall so gracious, that it made me feel very happy to share my stories and view point. Many thanks to Tito Edwards for featuring mine on National Catholic Register and The Pulp.It as well! AMDG!

In case you missed it:
"The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same" by Julie Robison
"Cut to the Chaste." by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
"Three Strikes, I'm Out!" by Trista at Not a Minx

This next week's topic is finally to be revealed.... REVERSION STORIES! How three cradle Catholics "re-discovered" the Church, and why we've stayed Catholic. Being friends with Trista and Elizabeth, I can assure the audience that y'all will be in for a treat.

After Lent, we'll take a one week break, and then resume posts every two weeks. We'd like to invite anyone interested to write alongside us, and post it on our Facebook page! Or e-mail us the link, and we'll happily post it for you.

Happy Friday, folks! See Conversion Diary for more.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Say What?

"Repeat that, repeat" by Gerard Manley Hopkins 

Repeat that, repeat,
Cuckoo, bird, and open ear wells, heart-springs, delightfully sweet,
With a ballad, with a ballad, a rebound
Off trundled timber and scoops of the hillside ground, hollow hollow hollow ground:
The whole landscape flushes on a sudden at a sound.

Visiting Andalusia, February 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What a Wonderful World

It's Wednesday and I like alliteration, so here are The Weepies:

"World Spins Madly On":

"How Will He Find Me?":

And a little Wilco:


"Jesus, Etc.":

And because there is power in words:

"Ideas lead to idols; only wonder leads to knowing." -- St. Gregory of Nyssa

Why not?
Have a wonder-filled Wednesday!

[Also: just found out my Bright Maidens saving sex for marriage piece got picked up by National Catholic Register and The Pulp.It today, so all visitors from there, howdy-do! Thanks for stopping by; feel free to stay for a spell and do say hello!]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Week Six: Saving Sex for Marriage

"The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same" by Julie Robison
"Cut to the Chaste." by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
"Three Strikes, I'm Out!" by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the sixth post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." 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!

After my sophomore year of college, I sat on a park bench with three close friends from high school, licking ice cream out of cones and giggling over the stories we told each other. I distinctly remember feeling blissfully happy; the weather was warm and windy, the ice cream was delicious, there were people all around us in the square, and I was reunited with three girls I had been close with since our freshman year of high school.

One of my friends mentioned her boyfriend making pancakes one morning and serving her breakfast in bed. I had the most sheltered college experience of us four-- at my alma mater, boys and girls live in separate dorms and there are visiting hours. Without thinking my question through, I wondered aloud how he got into her room so early. Then it dawned on me: why was he in her room that early? With trepidation, I then asked, trying not to tremble as I said the words: "Wait, have you two had sex?"

She admitted they had, in a low, sheepish voice. But the embarrassment soon wore off, as the other two girls chimed in that they had done it too with their respective boyfriends. I had just survived a semester of awkwardness between one boy because I had turned down his request for me to be his girlfriend, because I knew it would probably get too physical, and I didn't see him respecting me as he should. The rest of the evening was disappointing, as my friends eagerly discussed sex and their various experiences, and I- I could only sit on the bench, and listen.

My three friends are not the only ones; I had many more experiences of home friends coming to me in college to talk about how they did something they thought they would save for marriage. Most of these conversations were them lamenting their disappointment, but most of them also never showed a desire to stop what they had started. I was there to talk them through it, to discuss how things could have gone differently, and how the future is still for the taking. It was a distinct contrast from most of my college friends, who are mostly not sexually active before marriage. I even have friends who did not kiss before they were married, so the contrast I feel, as you can imagine, is sometimes sharp.

Yesterday, MercatorNet published a book review of Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker.

The review began, "It's complicated. More than a Facebook relationship status, “it’s complicated” sums up the ambiguity, fluidity, and contradictions experienced by “emerging adults” in America--at least when it comes to sex and relationships. What’s simple are the numbers: 84 per cent of unmarried, heterosexual, emerging adults (ages 18-23) in America have had sex—a number that cuts a wide swath across religious denominations, political leanings, family backgrounds, education levels, and geographic regions."

Yes, I can think complicated is an apt term for most modern relationships. One of the most interesting parts of the article discussed the very term "premarital sex," which usually happened before a couple got married- opposed to now, where the couple might not even know each other's name, let alone stay in a relationship. I am always intrigued when people say that sex isn't a big deal. Perhaps not to some, but doesn't an inner crevice of one's soul want it to be? Theology of the Body teaches that our bodies are modes of communication in this world and that sex is a form of communicating, from the depths of one's soul. As Catholics, we believe God gave us sex to join two people in a spiritual and bodily communion.

So, of course it is natural to want to have sex! Sex is wonderful and life-giving! Not only potentially to a child, but between the couple. Catholics are certainly not Puritans. We love sex! Which is why we value it so highly and thus, protect it from false forms. The Church says married couples are a visible sign of Christ and his love of his bride, the Church, as are consecrated religious and the chaste single. There is good reason why a Catholic bishops have started to deny communion to cohabiting couples. They are having sex outside the sacrament of marriage, which hurts the sacrament and hurts the sacredness of sex.

Catholics believe that we are masters of our own fate. We are like heat-seeking missals, always seeking truth, beauty and the good. But we have to say yes to choose good. We choose God's way, and follow the teachings of the Church, which are time-proven and guided by the Holy Spirit. People are happiest when they are inter-relational; living in just community with virtuous people, and can self-preserve these good things through the commitment of marriage, sex and children.

My family!

This is not to say sex cannot be treated otherwise. It is true- a person can have sex with whomever they please. But the freedom to do something and the choice to do something are two different commodities. I can have sex; I choose not to, until I am married. In the Old Testament, one book I especially love reading is the Book of Tobit. It is a really beautiful book and testimony to Jewish piety and morality, specifically to the sacredness of marriage and love. I remember hearing this passage at my aunt and uncle's wedding; it follows after Tobit's son Tobiah marries Sarah:

"When the girl's parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, "My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance." She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.' Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age." They said together, "Amen, amen," and went to bed for the night" (Tobit 8:4-9).

Patheos published a wonderful article yesterday, "Friendship and the Language of Sex" by Tim Muldoon. In using the story of Sarah and Tobiah, he writes,

"Today, our common cultural attitude toward sex is that it is a pleasurable activity to be enjoyed by consenting adults, with proper protection. The story of Tobiah and Sarah, however, suggest a radically different model. Their sex is a duet in a story authored by God, made possible by their free and willing response. It is embedded in a context of familial and clan relationships; it is blessed, as it were, by parents and friends. Perhaps most importantly, though, it is sex that is oriented toward a noble purpose, rooted in prayer, expressing a shared desire to do what is good.

... I want to suggest that what the story offers to us is a way of thinking about sex that is rooted in friendship. According to Aristotle, who was active only a couple of hundred years before the author of Tobit, true friendship is rooted neither in pleasure or utility, but in a shared striving for the good. Even if we grant that the reason why many people choose to have sex is because it's pleasurable, we must ask why people consider pleasure important. The psychoanalyst and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl observed in his landmark book Man's Search for Meaning that the people in concentration camps who did not survive were those that gave up on meaning, and turned to pleasures shortly before they died. Pleasure, he seems to suggest, is for those who have lost a sense of noble purpose.

What makes Tobiah and Sarah friends is their shared sense of acting in cooperation in the unfolding story of God at work in the world. At the heart of Catholic faith is a profound sense that God reaches out in friendship toward each creature, and that living in cooperation with God enables us to live in cooperation, in friendship, with each other. In the context of friendship, then, sex is to be understood as cooperation with God. It is the shared practice of an intimacy embedded within a larger web of relationships: with parents and siblings, friends, fellow pilgrims. For that reason, the Church has from its earliest days recognized that sex has a social dimension to it. It changes one's relationship to the other, and the changes the couple's relationship to the rest of the world.

It is holy ground."

Saving sex for marriage isn't the cool thing to do (in the heat of the moment), or the easy thing (when you really like a person, etc.). But as we told my baby sister last night, as she was bemoaning the "awkward talk" her teacher was giving the class on chastity, no one regrets saying no and waiting for sex. We told 11 year old Boo how she was worth waiting for, and if a guy wanted her to commit her body to him, he was going to have to step up and offer her his lifetime commitment, not just a good time. The good times will come, as will the bad, and when/ if I have sex, it will be the most self-giving thing I can do for that person; because I'll have to step outside my wants, and become a wife, and then a mother.

This sounds old-fashioned, but mankind truly does not change at the evolutionary rate we like to think we do. Aquinas said that reason should be our guide for morality. Natural law, therefore, has very much a relationship to sexual ethics. You shan't be surprised then when I, budding Thomist that I am, heartily declare that "one should act rationally." Not having sex when one is not married seems pretty rational to me since I

A) don't want to be pregnant (yet)
B) don't want to get any funky diseases (ever)
C) don't want to be overly emotionally attached to someone I may not marry
D am, in fact, not married (and have you seen the statistics on single parenthood?)

These are all graspable realities which I contend with in my decision. The wide-spread use and acceptance of birth control and legalized abortion seems to cut at each of those barriers. But they do not take them away. Dr. Janet Smith says, "Natural law depends upon such. It rests upon the claim that things have natures and essences that we can know and correspond our actions to." But I did not need to give you that vocabulary lesson. Somewhere in your mind, you already knew that. I merely put the words there, to remind you. This is the beauty of natural law! It is so natural to the dignity of our very personhood.

CCC 2353: "Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young."

Catholic young adults are biologically no different than other young adults, but as Christians, we are called towards a higher purpose in all that we do, and that includes sex.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

Hooray for Seven Quick Takes Fridays! I always feel like it's a giant game of catching up with some of my favorite people. Here's volume 19, the thick of Julie's week:


I am in love with Adele's "heartbroken soul" voice. Seriously, listening to anything else pales in comparison. She is on repeat this week.


Excited? Oh yes!
I decided that, this week, I needed to take action on a couple things, or else they might never happen. Here's part of this week's "Julie is trying to be braver" list:

1. bought my plane tickets to South Korea to visit April (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
2. applied for my passport
3. told Mr. Awkward I was seeing someone
4. didn't back down from Mr. Aggressive and kept a civil tongue
5. ignored the ticking clock and completed a ridiculous amount of editing and wrote the monthly newsletter; am currently formatting it to send out next week.

Oh, and my Dad let me drive his fabulous little convertible I've been dying to drive since he got it. He was so nonchalant about it too- we went downtown, I dropped him off at the tailor's, then swung around a couple blocks and picked him up for lunch at this fabulous little hole in the wall Italian place that has been around since 1912.

Overall, steady as she goes!


Another good week for The Bright Maidens. I really appreciate everyone who has commented on the posts and sent us/ me e-mails. Be sure to like us on Facebook too!

This past week's topic was our issue(s) with the Catholic Church.

Mine: "Going to the Mattresses: One Girl's Take on Faith and Feelings"
Elizabeth: "Half measures"
Trista: "The Church's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy"

Next week will be just as scandalous: Why we're saving sex for marriage! (And it isn't because we didn't have the chance.)

Warning: I've been reading a lot of natural law theory lately.


I read so many good articles on this site this week that I just need to plug the whole thing: if you don't read MercatorNet, you should.


With all that is happening in the world right now, I think it apt to share this excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spe Salvi:

"I will do it. Be made clean"

Like action, suffering [in all its forms] is a part of our human existence. Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today.

Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering. These are obligations both in justice and in love, and they are included among the fundamental requirements of the Christian life and every truly human life. Great progress has been made in the battle against physical pain; yet the sufferings of the innocent and mental suffering have, if anything, increased in recent decades.

Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering. Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to "take away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world's healing has emerged in history.

(Also, his birthday novena starts today! Join us in praying for Papa B!)


I discovered the Litany of Humility this week and am intrigued. I think I am going to start praying it, especially since I really struggle with pride. The litany asks for these three graces specifically (although I am sure more will come out of this spiritual exercise as well):

1. to set aside your attempts to make yourself feel “special” through the acceptance and admiration of others;
2. to overcome your repugnance to feeling emotionally hurt by others;
3. to seek the good of others in all things, setting aside all competition, even at your own expense.

The whole Litany of Humility is here.

"To be taken with love for a soul, God does not look on its greatness, but on the greatness of its humility." —St. John of the Cross, The Sayings of Light and Love


Thanks goodness it is Friday!!!!! Here are 5/6 of the Robison siblings before I had to dash off to class last night:

[Update: My not-pictured-above collegiate brother saw this picture and said he was sad he wasn't there to finish the puzzle. Mucho amor, brother! I'll post another one of all six of us when he comes home for Muffy's play next weekend.]

Happy, happy Friday! Thanks for reading; see Conversion Diary for more.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reading Ambrosia

"Translating Poetry" by Zbigniew Herbert

Like a clumsy bumblebee
he alights on a flower
bending the fragile stem
he elbows his way
through rows of petals
like pages of a dictionary
he wants in
where the fragrance and sweetness are
and though he has a cold
and can't taste anything
he pushes on
until he bumps his head
against the yellow pistil

and that's as far as he gets
it's too hard
to push through the calyx
into the root
so the bee takes off again
he emerges swaggering
loudly humming:
I was in there
and those
who don't take his word for it
can take a look at his nose
yellow with pollen

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Birthday Wishes vs. Birthday Novenas

Awesome idea that was passed on to me: 84,000 Novenas for the Pope’s 84th Birthday!

Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating his birthday on April 16th and I’m passing on the word to help to get 84,000 people to pray a novena for the Pope’s 84th birthday.

A novena is just saying one prayer a day for nine days; very simple prayer exercise. I just prayed my first one a couple weeks ago.

Starting this Friday, on April 8th, we pray for nine days leading up to and ending on the Papa B.’s birthday. The Pope prays for us everyday, so isn't this a nice gift? Of all people, the Vicar of Christ definitely needs prayers to help him persevere in leading the Church, defending Truth. He is positively an amazing man, intellectual and spiritual leader, and we Catholics are so blessed to have him as our pope.

The movement is asking for help: 84,000 Novenas is a lot! In addition to praying along with us, you can:

Sign up here!

Join the facebook event and invite your friends!

Post it on your website/ blog! (avec moi!)

Email your friends and family and get them praying too!

Recipient of your prayers:

Aww, and he's so cute too!

I know this will make Pope Benedict XVI very happy to know we are all praying for him, and to know how happily we do so. I'd love for y'all to join us and help us get the word out more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Going to the Mattresses: One Girl's Take on Faith and Feelings

Week Five: My issue(s) with the Church

"Going to the Mattresses: One Girl's Take on Faith and Feelings" by Julie Robison
"Half-Measures" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
"The Church's Self-Fulfilling Prophecy" by Trista at Not a Minx

This is the fifth post of a Lenten blog post series called "Bright Maidens." 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!

In the Gospel reading at Mass today (John 5:1-16), Jesus went to Jerusalem, where he met a man who had been ill for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying on the ground and asked him if he wanted to be well. The man  replied, that he was trying to get to the healing pool. Jesus then commanded him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Later, Jesus met the same man in the temple area and said, "Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you."

Last Friday, I heard Peter Kreeft say the great line of, "The Church is not the Magesterium."

To clarify our terms- the Catholic Church ostentatiously has a very extensive and elaborate hierarchical system. In more recent years, the priesthood has come under attack- not only because many priests violated their sacred promises and the laws of God, but because an out-pouring of acceptable anti-Catholicism is seeping into the culture.

It is easy to look at the priests and say, they're not doing their job. But that would only be looking at the Church by its skeleton, not its body. What of the lay people? Those whom, because they are not bound by Holy Orders, think they know better than the Church. Many think, for example, because a priest does not have sex, he must not know anything about it, forgetting that he lives his life in self-controlled celibacy. Or if he's a priest, he's repressing homosexual desires or molesting small children. All of these, even as thoughts, do grave injustice to the honor and dignity of the priesthood.

It is easy to say- priests are just men. But what is different is that they have set themselves apart. They have vowed to live the high road. When one priest does wrong to another person, it affects the entire foundation of the priesthood. When they do wrong, the consequences are clear.

But what about when lay people do wrong? What are the consequences there, when they do not attend Mass every week? What happens when Catholics don't know their catechism? What happens when Catholic schools don't teach the faith? What happens when parents and families do not reinforce religion in the home?

Well, fortunately for you dear reader, I can tell you.

I won't be speaking from statistics, although they're out there- like Pew finding a decent amount of Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence and support legalized abortion. I'll be speaking from experience as a cradle Catholic: Mass every Sunday with the family, Catholic schooling Kindergarten through senior in high school, and all the high holy days in between.

I've encountered a lot of feelings and poor reasoning, which is one reason I am fascinated by Aquinas and canon law. I love reason and logic, and talking about one's childhood in a high school religion class teaches one nothing of either. It is not surprising then, that I left high school with my Catholic faith not firmly planted, although still a strong aspect of my identity.

I went to a non-Catholic college, where the student population was roughly 40 percent Catholic, 60 percent Protestant. In the first few days of college, I had a great experience of sitting on the floor of my dorm room with my roommate, also Roman Catholic, talking to the girls across the hall: a Lutheran, an Evangelical Baptist, a Presbyterian (USA) and a non-denominational Christian. The conversation was fun, respectful and informative. I am still friends with all those girls, and very close with most of them. The importance of spiritual friendships in Christ is an essential part of living the Christian life.

The ability to verbalize ones beliefs is not only important for people who share the Christian faith, but those who do not. Richard Weaver said in 'Ideas Have Consequences' that, "Nothing can be done until we have decided whether we are primarily interested in truth."

The Catholic Church is in dialogue with the Jews, Muslims, and, most recently, Atheists. I recently stumbled across a wonderful non-profit resource called "Why I'm Catholic", which features really great conversion stories. Today's story is from a former neopagan witch. Yep, you read that right. She used to be a witch, and now she's a Roman Catholic. Isn't God's grace so bountiful?!

Before I launch into my Masters, I help out with RCIA, to get more personal experience. Talking with those people is so humbling and glorious; I love listening to how they found wholeness and truth in the Catholic Church. Many times, it was not an easy decision, and their friends and family do not support them. I became initially interested in helping out at RCIA because of the decent amount of friends I have who have converted/ are converting to Catholicism as well. It is not just reason and intellect which brought them into communion, but cor ad cor loquitur - heart speaking to heart, as it says on Cardinal Newman's coat of arms.

Their story of how they found their way back to the Church is not one, however, that only non-Catholics can experience. I too came back more fully into my Catholic faith in college, literally diving into its rich intellectualism, long history, Church Fathers, consistency, and promise to uphold and defend justice, mercy, love, forgiveness and the Gospels, as well as the countless witnesses and conversations with Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Furthermore, I love natural law, and I love the reasoning behind Church teachings, many of which can be supported using non-religious defense.

But I also hold very strongly to the belief that belief is a choice, and that, every day, I have to choose God, as he first chose me. To follow Christ, you also have to want to be cured, like the beggar. (Spiritually cured, of course, although physical cures are miraculously possible as well.)

Last night at RCIA, Fr. George asked me to talk about reconciliation, since one of my Lenten spiritual practices is going to Mass more than once a week and going to confession at least once a week. One of the most important reasons to frequently take communion and to go to confession is because it will heal you. Through God's grace, the sacraments endow the recipient with the grace and moral courage needed to face an unloving world and desires not in your best spiritual interest, even if it is what you think you physically want.

Libby Edwards, the lady mentioned above, who converted from neopaganism to Catholicism said it best: "Witchcraft offers incredible freedom, but oh, it's a clever lie." This is why the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel asks him to "protect us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil."

The priest said during the homily today that it is not just physical ailments which keep us down- it is spiritual ones. Things we don't want to change about ourselves. Maybe we don't want to stop swearing, or drinking a lot, or dressing a certain way, or using contraception, or doing whatever we want, whenever we want. It's our life, right? But, oh! How even some of the Catholics closest to me have forgotten that we are not our own; that we were bought at a price.

 I take issue with the namby-pambiness I have witnessed among fellow Roman Catholics: be it from parents to teachers, from the community of believers to the individual, from the rectory for the home- there is a need to call for more faithfulness among the faithful. I have encountered too many feelings, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much fear, and not enough faith. I have encountered too much ignorance, and not enough faith. It is the promise we make at Confirmation to be soldiers for Christ- but how can we fight for truth if we do not follow our own leader?

Venerable John Paul II said, be not afraid. This is why he started the New Evangelization movement at the start of the third millennium. Modernity and people want to be different and counter-cultural, but they miss the point of life when they dress alternatively, or act scandalous, or listen to hip music. To truly be counter-cultural, one takes up the cross to follow Christ. The Catholic Church was established by Christ, who gave us the sacraments, to sustain us with grace and faith; the hierarchy, to ensure apostolic succession; and the laws, to survive faulty human judgment.

The Catholic Church survives and flourishes today, even after 2,000 years human fallibleness. The Catholic Church is more than bad priests. The Catholic Church is more that wayward lay people. The Catholic Church is just one part of the communion of saints, which is filled not only with the faithful believers, but the saints and the angels, those in heaven and those in purgatory, and a living, viable Trinitarian God. My issue with the Church isn't the Church itself - it is the people within and outside the Church, wasting their earthly opportunity to find true happiness and joy.

I remember reading a book in my Intro to Western Religion class, where so many of the theologians' final question was this: they wanted to know what happened to Paul on his way to Damascus and what he saw. I don't think it matters specifically to them- I think we're all walking to Damascus. If God hasn't done it already, he just might knock you on your back if he has to get your attention. Or maybe, if you're struggling with something, then hold on to God and wrestle him like Jacob, until you extract your blessing.

We all have a role to play in this life; may we find the moral courage to answer the call! The Catholic Church is here to support us through this life, to help us reach the next life, if we only let her.

And as a final hurray for the Catholic Church, here is a Eucharistic processional through the streets of NYC. I get chills every time I watch this:

"Speak up for what you believe. Love the Church. Defend her teaching. Trust in God. Believe in the Gospel. And don’t be afraid. Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life. Changing the course of American culture seems like a huge task. But St. Paul felt exactly the same way. Redeeming and converting a civilization has been done once. It can be done again. But we need to understand that God is calling us to do it. He chose us. He calls us. He’s waiting, and now we need to answer him." 
-Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Monday, April 4, 2011

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,/ Every poem an epitaph.

The direction on the packet of flower seeds reads: "Seeds need darkness to germinate." It makes me think of myself. I want to grow. I want to become more than I am. Yet, so often my self-guided efforts leave me feeling empty, looking for Something More. The "germination," the better life that I seek, must start in darkness. Lent is that darkness. It is nothing something dreadful or depressing. Rather, Lent takes us back to what really matters in life. We return to the beginning. You are here. Why? Did you bring yourself about? Is your life a reward for some accomplishment? No. You have been brought into loving existence by Someone. Why would that Someone want to bring you into being? The answer to all the dissatisfaction and unrest we experience every day is to be found in the love that acted (and acts) to give you life. In the darkness of Lent we meet again this Someone whose love whispers to us, "It is necessary that you exist." In that desire of the divine heart we discover our truest worth. Which sets us free, We belong to this One who constantly speaks to our wounded heart... who constantly calls us in our darkness to come out of our darkness. Lent is for leaving behind our distractions, our delusions. We go into the darkness of Christ's tomb. What happens there to him will happen, too, to us.

--Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., the opening editorial from The Magnificat's Lenten companion reader

Friday, April 1, 2011

Polls Are For Strippers!



My friend Matt works for NewsBusters, which introduced me to this delightful non-profit that keeps tabs on the media. He's on the CNN beat, but here's a gem from another Matt covering MSNBC. 

A transcript of the segment, which aired on March 30 at 10:17 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

[Anchor] CHRIS JANSING: President Obama's approval rating is now at an all-time low in a new Quinnipiac poll. Libya, the economy, and the budget deficit apparently have a lot to do with it. His approval rating has dropped to 42 percent. 48 percent disapprove. By a large majority, 58 to 29 percent say the President has not clearly stated the U.S. goals in Libya.


Let me throw a couple of other numbers out there. 50 percent say the President does not deserve to be re-elected, but maybe this is the most crucial number of all – his approval among independent voters, Karen, just 39 percent. What's your take on that?

KAREN HUNTER, MSNBC contributor: Polls are for strippers, Chris.

CHRIS JANSING: Oh, my. How long did you work on that line?

HUNTER: We should not – I've been thinking about this all morning. Well we should not be governed by what people think in a slice of time, in a moment in time. I mean, we have to take collectively what this President has done over the last two years, and if people do their homework, they'll find out that Barack Obama has done more than any president since FDR to help –

JANSING: Come on, you know how we are. We're all ADD --

HUNTER: We're fair-weather.

JANSING: And we're "what have you done for me lately?"

HUNTER: Exactly! And that's why I think that this has got to be a long-term approach to looking at the President. We can't stick our finger in our mouths and check the wind to see which way he should go. And thank goodness he's not governing based on the polls. He's governing based on what's best for America, and making decisions that are right for us.

Wow. Not only is that response uncouth and, really, incongruous to the original question about the President's decreasing support among independent voters (which, I suppose, maybe strippers would align themselves thus politically), but her continued stream of consciousness from the mouth in unapologetically bad history.

Obama has done more than any President to help what? Democrats and Republicans should be insulted of all the presidents that were left out: Kennedy created the Peace Corp and managed not to get into a fight with Cuba; Johnson created most of the government programs which a large portion of the country is still trying to keep suckling, 40 years later; Reagan helped end communism in Europe. Just wanted to throw out a few more examples.

Also, since when is the mark of a good President just by what they have done in office? How is "doing something" enough? And, because I'm unhappy with the way the President is running our country, I'm fair-weathered and have ADD? No, no, no!

Here's an article by Victor Davis Hanson, "Obama's Amazing Achievements" to make everyone feel better.

Now, for someone who actually knows U.S. history. Preach it, Sen. Rand Paul!

No war in Libya! No arming the rebels! I ditto the need for more debate on this issue, and especially like the part where he mentions President Obama has had time to talk to the UN and other international councils, but not Congress. I think if you're going to get your country involved in a 3rd war in 10 years, you should discuss it with your country first. Or is that too old-fashioned of me?


Earlier this week, I was doing a little bit of research on papal infallibility when I ran across a lovely piece by Cardinal Newman, only to discover the website it was being hosted on says that evolution is false.

My first thought: Egads!

My second thought: AHHHHHHHHHH! No, no, no....

My third thought: Bleh. Le nincompoops.

Few things irk me more than Christians who deny possibility under God and put him into their own, small-minded box. I do not understand how one can believe all is possible with God, then deny evolution (not even taking the time to differentiate between micro and macro, just full-out denying), or limit the scope of God's mercy, or make ridiculous statements that contradict scientific knowledge while holding the hard-line on Scripture.

Here's a nice article from The Telegraph on how the Vatican says evolution and Christianity are compatible.

Fr. Robert Barron being awesome and talking about misreading Genesis:

"Genesis is not bad science. It's not science at all. Rather, it is exquisite theology."

On the upside, I found out that when the Pope makes an infallible statement ex cathedra when he has the entire council of Cardinals behind him, i.e. about the Assumption of Mary. He still has to make it, which is why the Chair of Peter has to be infallible, but it's a nice seeing the little system of checks and balances within the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. To date, since the dogma was put into place in at the First Vatican Council in 1870, there have been two.


This week = lots of editing/ work and class. I've gone to confession and adoration this week, but deadlines pushed my clock off, and I keep missing daily Mass, which has definitely left a little hole. On the plus side, I get to listen to (slash be in close proximity to) Peter Kreeft tonight! Oh yes. Stoked, to say the least.


My friend Scott and two other adventurers are going to Japan to collectively ride their bike 10,000 km (North to South) to help raise money for Japan. They are covering their own expenses, so 100 percent of the proceeds goes to those in need. Here's more info and a little video of Scott talking about it:

Even $10 would be a great donation! I know I'm making one today, as well as buying my plane tickets to South Korea to visit April!


Just because I bet y'all need some good stuff to read: 

"Beyond the Welfare State" by Yuval Levin, National Affairs 

"The divine will and human freedom: A Thomistic analysis" by Dr. Kevin G. Rickert, Homiletic and Pastoral Review 

"Vatican launches public dialogue with atheists" by Tom Heneghan, Reuters 

"You're not alone, doctor tells pro-life med students on national tour" by Nancy Frazier O'Brien, Catholic News Service

"Vatican Tells United Nations Human Sexuality Not an 'Identity', Defends Moral Truth" by Deacon Keith Fournier, 

"Jordan battles to regain 'priceless' Christian relics" by Robert Pigott, BBC


This week's Bright Maiden posts on patron saints gathered some great conversation. It's an interesting concept to think that saints choose us!

This week: my post, "Saint Who"
"Budding Hope" by Trista
"Less is More" by Elizabeth

My dear friend Brad was kind enough to plug me on - hello to all visitors from there!

After this Lenten season is over, we were thinking about inviting people to share their corresponding posts on our Bright Maidens Facebook page. We've already been asked if we accept guest posts; we're going to figure out protocol and then get back to y'all. Any thoughts on this and/ or interest in joining us?

Next week: Our issue(s) with the Church.

Happy April's Fool Day! Did y'all pull any awesome pranks?! Take it easy, and check out Conversion Diary for more!