Saturday, February 25, 2012

I love you because I know no other way

"Sonnet XVII" by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Death & Love

"Death & Love" by Rita A. Simmonds

Is it possible to love to the point of death,
Willingly, I say willingly?

No healthy balance.
No give and take.
But death --
One's final breath?

I do not talk of suicide,
an act of hate
that sees nothing
and cannot wait.
Nor Romeo
who couldn't see
that death was not love's enemy.
I talk of death
love's secret lover,
who reveals the essence of the other.
A grain of wheat,
small, separated, fallen, alone,
that hits the ground without a sound
can remain consoled
knowing what it carries,
why it fell,
and when it's buried
what it still carries --
(and years from now
the field's glory
that sways the story
will want to know and tell).

But if we see no resurrection,
no golden field above the ground,
how do we die now?
And how can we say we will it so
when death is no true lover's goal?
Yet have we seen a heart let go
if love is what it holds?

From Magnificat's 2011 Lenten companion book 

Happy Ash Wednesday, friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Am That I Am

TBM Topic 26: Instruct the Ignorant

"I Am That I Am" by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
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 on Facebook and Twitter!

During Lent, we will be discussing the Spiritual Works of Mercy every week.

Ignorant is not a word I particularly care for, yet most people are culpable. It comes from the Latin words in (not) and gnarus (knowing).

New Advent defines ignorance as "lack of knowledge about a thing in a being capable of knowing. Fundamentally speaking and with regard to a given object ignorance is the outcome of the limitations of our intellect or of the obscurity of the matter itself."

Today, we Catholics (and fellow orthodox Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters) face bigotry based on ignorance of our faith, religion and history. The greater good would be served, society is led to believe, if God was kept in the pews and within the walls of our homes. God is good as long as God is contained.

But our God is an awesome God - awesome in the "awe-inspiring" way. God is not our bro. God is not our homeboy. God is the Almighty one - the Alpha (first) and the Omega (last) - the one who is, the one who was, the one who will be (Revelation 1:8).

And he will not be contained. We cannot limit his power, his mercy, his goodness or his Kingdom Come. Our reasons are not his reasons, and this is the first step to instructing ignorance: discernment of our own vocation.

Flannery O'Connor wrote that "Ignorance is excusable when it is borne like a cross, but when it is wielded like an ax, and with moral indignation, then it becomes something else indeed."

For many, the best reason to be a Christian is the joy and fellowship of other Christians. For others, Christians are the best reason not to be a Christian - their small-mindedness, their inability to compromise, their, well, ignorance.

And so, who has the high ground here? The miserable Christians who pray, "I believe - help my disbelief!" Or the one who discuss God's take on a few things, would certainly invite him over for a drink, and then be done with the old chap. He's not really our kind of man, if you know what we mean.

We certainly do. Which is ignorance on their part. I truly this many people intentionally stay ignorant of God - learn things about him, sure, and learn about things that surround him. But not him. After all, it is hard to look at God on the cross and really know that he knows our hearts. He can touch and change our lives, if we only get to know him. Our God is the God of all; our path towards God will never be repeated for another.

While discussing a struggle with my sister last night, she told me I had to believe the consequences would be bad if I continued. She did not mean in the short term, or even in human terms: she meant, if I really wanted a change of heart, I'd have to care more about offending God. The kind of caring that shows considerations for another feelings. In short, I need to know God on a much more personal level, the kind that changes my actions and words in the long-term as well as the short.

We Catholics have a prayer for that: the Act of Contrition. We say it after the sacrament of Reconciliation. It goes, O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.

This prayer is not said or meant lightly. Humanity is like a heat-seeking missile: it seeks Truth. It is not pretentious to claim to know Truth, as the Catholic Church does, for example. 2,000 years of bad press and still the truths found in the dogmas and sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, resonate across every color and creed.

No one has it easy. No one knows (or can know) "everything." Ignorance infects the best and most brilliant among us. It is the humility to ask God, to knock on his door, to seek his guidance, that really begins the journey. Some times, people need other people to help them get there, be it in books, blog posts, or conversations.

Perhaps more importantly though, a person needs to be self-aware where they are ignorant. One can always instruct where they know and understand, but they must also be willing to learn. That way, knowledge leads to wisdom, and not a higher level of ignorance.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Theology on Tap

In college, the Dogwood Society (my major's academic honorary) was a little platoon of love and laughs. The handful of us would send encouraging notes during our regular all-night writing sessions, pass around humorous takes on American history and politics, and would periodically get together for "Founding Fridays" to share in fellowship over a few brews.

Though partial to wheat beers and amber ales, it is well known that I love Guinness beer. Therefore, when a dear fellow Dogwoodian suggested I read The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield, I knew my friend had excellent taste in both beverages and books.

This book is delightful. If you, dear reader, have any interest in beer, religion, family businesses, history, marketing, science, politics, or culture, you may enjoy this good read. Written with precision, The Search for God and Guinness reads like a methodical conversation or college lecture. Mansfield immersed himself into the wide topic of "Guinness" while remaining an excellent third-party observer. It seems he, as his reader, had a lot to learn about the Guinness family and their barley business.

Continue reading at The Imaginative Conservative >>>>>>>

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is Cultural Conflict Inevitable?

The Editors of The New Republic published "The Increasingly Disturbing War Against Women’s Rights" last Friday, where they lamented, "It’s hard to pinpoint where the current upsurge in dismissive rhetoric about women’s rights began. Anti-abortion sentiment has long been a staple of right-wing politics, of course."

Well, at least since 1973.

Further down the page, they said,
We would all prefer to live in a world without deep conflicts over cultural issues. But that is not the world in which we live. Over the past generation, women have gone from being second-class citizens to being full and equal partners in American life. The ability of women to make their own reproductive decisions—on both birth control and abortion—has been a central part of this revolution. Defending and expanding on these gains should not be a side-issue for liberals: It is a core component of our political philosophy. If conservatives are going to pursue a rollback of women’s rights, then there must be no doubt that liberals are prepared to make a strong and unambiguous stand.
I, too, would prefer to live in a world without deep conflicts over cultural issues. I cannot think of many people who find glee in polarizing themselves from other human beings over belief systems, much preferring the common ground.

But perhaps our table manners end there. Citizen rights in this country revolve around three declarations of the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue happiness. No one has the right not to be accountable for their actions, be it financial or social or moral. Accountability is a trust that one person is not going to harm another person, be it emotionally or physically.

In this case, artificial birth control and abortions are naturally violations of the right to life clause. Furthermore, I am disturbed that abstinence is so poo-poo'd as an acceptable possibility, or that the many types of natural birth control (e.g.Natural Family Planning) which help women both achieve and avoid pregnancy using the natural rhythms and ovulation cycles of their body, are not widely discussed as viable alternatives.

While it is true that sex is not only for reproduction, but it can never exclude it. To suppress a woman's reproductive abilities is to deny a woman the only leverage she has over a man: her body can nurture the baby created within, and her body can give birth to the child. A man can only give so much, while the woman becomes the embodiment of love and creation for that little being.

If women wish to suppress their reproductive abilities, that is their private business. But expect a public backlash. Expect people not wanting to pay for medicine for others, especially if the drug conflicts with consciences and is for an otherwise healthy patient. Expect people, who see the life within the womb as something precious and with dignity, to not stand by as the mother expresses willingness or want to kill her child.

As Thomas Becket says in T.S. Eliot's 'Murder at the Cathedral,' "You argue by results, as this world does,/ To settle if an act be good or bad./ You defer to the fact. For every life and every act/ Consequence of good and evil can be shown."

I, too, am tired of the cultural divide. My fingers grow weary as I type this. I am currently reading The Hunger Games, and it makes me wonder if anyone today would say it is okay for the government to force people to fight to their death for the sake of entertainment. One person's life may seem expendable, but what of your own? How can you argue against another person's life while valuing your own? How unjust? How heartless! How illogical!

March for Life Mass at the Verizon Center
I weary of the abortion debate and I weary of my government and its HHS mandate, claiming the higher moral ground of "women's rights" and like. Only fools use brute force to convince the masses. Because I will never be convinced that abortion is right, or a right. What are those mothers-to-be so afraid of? How can such a small babe bring so much terror that they must first be eliminated? How the unknown is unnerving.

Women, join the cause! Speak out! Offense will be made. It simply is no longer personal. It's not condemning women; it's redeeming the sacredness of the body, and it is pro-women if we save the life of more women by allowing them to be born. At center stage, it does not matter how many sexually-active Catholic women have used birth control. Life is not a numbers game. We owe our loyalty to God's law and should not pledge allegiance to misguided words. We follow a higher law and over 2,000 years of wisdom.

Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University is looking for women in the personal and professional spheres to send her your name, city, state to add to her open letter to Congress, in defense of our first amendment Constitutional rights. This issue is not only about Catholicism's stand against any degradation of life-- it is about protecting and upholding our country's Constitution.

Please see the letter below:

We are women who support the competing voice offered by Catholic institutions on matters of sex, marriage and family life. Most of us are Catholic, but some are not. We are Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Many, at some point in their career, have worked for a Catholic institution. We are proud to have been part of the religious mission of that school, or hospital, or social service organization. We are proud to have been associated not only with the work Catholic institutions perform in the community – particularly for the most vulnerable -- but also with the shared sense of purpose found among colleagues who chose their job because, in a religious institution, a job is always also a vocation. 
Those currently invoking “women’s health” in an attempt to shout down anyone who disagrees with forcing religious institutions to violate deeply held beliefs are more than a little mistaken, and more than a little dishonest. Even setting aside their simplistic equation of “costless” birth control with “equality,” note that they have never responded to the large body of scholarly research indicating that many forms of contraception have serious side effects, or that some forms act at some times to destroy embryos, or that government contraceptive programs inevitably change the sex, dating and marriage markets in ways that lead to more empty sex, more nonmarital births and more abortions. It is women who suffer disproportionately when these things happen.
No one speaks for all women on these issues. Those who purport to do so are only attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake. 
Each of us, Catholic or not, is proud to stand with the Catholic Church and its rich, life-affirming teachings on sex, marriage and family life. We implore President Obama and our Representatives in Congress to allow religious institutions to continue to witness to their faith in all its fullness. 
Helen M. Alvaré
Associate Professor of Law
The culture divide is great. Let us pray and persist!

In addendum: As the cultural divide is great, so is the range of writing. A reminder to keep conversation civilized and truth-seeking.

‎"Nothing is more certain than that our manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners, and with civilization, have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion." --Edmund Burke, as quoted by Russell Kirk

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Nanny Diaries

Four months ago, I started a new job as a Jack-of-all-Trades. I create and acquire art, and open galleries. I'm into urban planning, total destruction and crisis control. I have daily culinary adventures. I read dozens of books and answer even more questions.

Yes, I'm a babysitter.

There is little glamour in telling people about the 30 hours I spend each week caring for a 1 and 4 year old. I drink 3 cups of coffee in the morning. I go home physically and emotionally drained, only to tell my family how much fun the day was; or if it was not fun, how tomorrow will be better. St. Philip Neri's prayer is often on my mind: "Get me through today Lord, and I will not fear tomorrow."

For no matter how much I've grown to love these kids, some days are horrible. Tantrums. Crying. Unrepentant disobedience. The outsider may ask, "Why continue at this job? Why babysit? How can such menial labor be worth the headaches?"

Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>>>>>>

CMR. Now with extra Julie.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

OK... Go!

OK Go and Chevy team up for "Needing/ Getting" -- beyond awesome, dudes.

Yes, they set up two miles of instruments for this song. Legit.


2012 reunion

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm Sorrey, Anne!

TBM Topic 25: Literary Crushes

"I'm Sorrey, Anne!" by Julie Robison
Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
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 on Facebook and Twitter!

Top 5 Reasons Why Gilbert Blythe (from the Anne of Green Gables series) Is (and will forever be) My Literary Crush:

5. He was great at nicknames.

Gilbert called Anne "Carrots" for her red hair.

This is before Anne breaks a slate over his head.
"Gilbert Blythe was trying to make Anne Shirley look at him and failing utterly....she should look at him, that redhaired Shirley girl with the pointed chin and the big eyes that weren't like the eyes of any other girl in Avonlea school." (Anne of Green Gables)

4. He gave Anne a challenge (they were fiercely competitive in school, he critiqued her writing style for the better) and always looked out for her (gave up his teaching post for her so she would not have to leave Marilla or Green Gables).

3. He apologized when he was in the wrong... and pronounced "sorry" as "sorrey"!

2. Gilbert loved Anne for who she was, not who he wanted her to be, and more importantly, accept her wholly (temper and all!).
"There is a book of Revelation in every one's life... Anne read hers that bitter night, as she kept her agonized vigil through the hours of storm and darkness. She loved Gilbert--had always loved him! She knew that now. She knew that she could no more cast him out of her life without agony than she could have cut off her right hand and cast it from her. And the knowledge had come too late--too late even for the bitter solace of being with him at the last. If she had not been so blind--so foolish--she would have had the right to go to him now.... If Gilbert went away from her, without one word or sign or message, she could not live. Nothing was of any value without him. She belonged to him and he to her. In her hour of supreme agony she had no doubt of that." (Anne of the Island)
Gilbert Blythe: It'll be three years before I finish medical school. Even then there won't be any diamond sunbursts or marble halls.
Anne Shirley: I don't want diamond sunbursts, or marble halls. I just want you.
(Anne of Avonlea mini-series)

1. Gilbert wanted Anne to be happy, even if it meant it was not with him.

Except that it was.

"I've loved you ever since the day you broke your slate over my head." (Anne of Green Gables)

This last point is what really clinches it for me: throughout the THREE books leading up to their engagement, they became the best of friends and never specifically dated each other. All the while, however, Gilbert was courting and wooing her, because he loved her enough to let her freely choose him. And let me tell you: there were a lot of proposals in the third book.

There are "Anne and Gilbert" moments online. Do yourself a favor and indulge:
Chapter One - School Days
Chapter Two - College Days
Chapter Three - Teaching Days
Chapter Four - Things Change

Honorable mentions: Captain Wentworth from Persuasion and Char from Ella Enchanted.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Don't Buy Me Love

The little girl I babysit likes to give me her art. As it is now February, she is currently making Valentines. She asks me how to spell my name, writes the letters backwards and proudly presents it to me. I praise it, praise her and show it off. She makes sure I take it home with me, alongside the ones I made. I hang them up on my family’s fridge and in my room.

Isn't she talented?
I do not like the Valentine’s Day holiday season. I do not think the feast day of Sts. Chocolate Hearts, Red Roses and Hallmark Cards should be so elaborately celebrated. I do not like the idea of packaging Love; I do not like the commercialization of emotions. I do not like the supposed pressure couples feel to do something “special” or the unnecessary outrage of single people.

Continue Reading at  IGNITUM TODAY >>>>>>>

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Psalm 51

The Misere: Prayer of Repentance

For the leader. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after his affair
with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness;
in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.
Wash away all my guilt;
from my sin cleanse me.
For I know my offense;
my sin is always before me.
Against you alone have I sinned;
I have done such evil in your sight
That you are just in your sentence,
blameless when you condemn.
True, I was born guilty,
a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.

Still, you insist on sincerity of heart;
in my inmost being teach me wisdom.
Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Turn away your face from my sins;
blot out all my guilt.
A clean heart create for me, God;
renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Do not drive me from your presence,
nor take from me your holy spirit.
Restore my joy in your salvation;
sustain in me a willing spirit.
I will teach the wicked your ways,
that sinners may return to you.
Rescue me from death, God, my saving God,
that my tongue may praise your healing power.
Lord, open my lips;
my mouth will proclaim your praise.
For you do not desire sacrifice;
a burnt offering you would not accept.
My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit;
God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.

Make Zion prosper in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with proper sacrifice,
burnt offerings and holocausts;
then bullocks will be offered on your altar.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Still, Small Voice

"Schumacher’s greatest achievement was the fusion of ancient wisdom and modern economics in a language that encapsulated contemporary doubts and fears about the industrialized world. His words resonated with echoes of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount or the teachings of Buddha but always in terms that emphasized their enduring relevance. The wisdom of the ages, the perennial truth that has guided humanity throughout its history, serves as a constant reminder to each new generation of the dangers of self-gratification. The lessons of the past, if heeded, should always empower the present. But if wisdom was a warning, it was also a battle cry and a call to action. It pointed to the problem and pinpointed the solution.

As both philosopher and economist Schumacher was uniquely placed to bring the two disciplines into harmonious unity. The wide range of professional experience he had gained in the world of economics and industry was combined with his studies in philosophy so that spiritual truths and practical facts were welded into a more critical economic vision. This led him to question many of the conventions of modern economics. For example, was big always best? Most economists, shackled to the dogmatic idolization of economies of scale, believed that the question was already answered. Even if big wasn’t always best it was usually so. Mergers were considered good until or unless they led to monopoly.

Schumacher counteracted the idolatry of giantism with the beauty of smallness. People, he argued, could only feel at home in human-scale environments. If structures—economic, political or social—became too large they became impersonal and unresponsive to human needs and aspirations. Under these conditions individuals felt functionally futile, dispossessed, voiceless, powerless, excluded, alienated. Structures that have a genuinely human scale reveal a healthy culture, to use Wendell Berry’s language, that is part of an order of “memory, insight, value, work, conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities and the human limits. It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth and to each other. Appropriately, Schumacher’s book was subtitled A Study of Economics as if People Mattered."

-- from "A Still, Small Voice" by Joseph Pearce (The Distributist Review)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Please Sir, I Want Some More!

"Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence." -- Charles Dickens, who was born exactly 200 years ago at the stroke of midnight.

h/t Cincinnati Public Library tweet

Monday, February 6, 2012

Guardini and the Christian Encounter with the Modern World

"Totally technical events and unleashed forces can be mastered only by a new human attitude that is a match for them. We must put mind, spirit, and freedom to work afresh.

... We must take our place, each at the right point. We must not oppose what is new and try to preserve a beautiful world that is inevitably perishing. Nor should we try to build a new world of the creative imagination that will show none of the damage of what is actually evolving. Rather, we must transform what is coming to be. We can do this only if we honestly say yes to it and yet with incorruptible hearts remain aware of all that is destructive and nonhuman in it. Our age has been given to us as the soil on which to stand and the task to master. At bottom we would not wish it otherwise. Our age is our own blood, our own soil. We relate to it as ourselves. We love it and hate it at one and the same time. As we are, so we relate to it. If we are thoughtless, we relate to it thoughtlessly. If we say yes to it in the form of a decision, then it is because we have had to come to a decision vis-à-vis ourselves.

We love the tremendous power of the age and its readiness for responsibility. We love the resoluteness with which it hazards itself and pushes things to extremes. Our soul is touched by something great that might well emerge. We love it, and our soul is touched, even though we see clearly its questionability relative to the value of the past age. We must be able to see very plainly what is at issue if with fixed heart we are ready to sacrifice the inexpressible nobility of the past."

-- Monseigneur Romano Guardini

Continue reading at Hillsdale Catholic Inquiry >>>>>>>

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Psalm 56: Trust in God

For the director. According to Yonath elem rehoqim.* A miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him at Gath.

Have mercy on me, God,
for I am treated harshly;
attackers press me all the day.
My foes treat me harshly all the day;
yes, many are my attackers.
O Most High,
when I am afraid,
in you I place my trust.
I praise the word of God;
I trust in God, I do not fear.
What can mere flesh do to me?

All the day they foil my plans;
their every thought is of evil against me.
They hide together in ambush;
they watch my every step;
they lie in wait for my life.
They are evil; watch them, God!
Cast the nations down in your anger!
My wanderings you have noted;
are my tears not stored in your flask,
recorded in your book?
My foes turn back when I call on you.
This I know: God is on my side.
I praise the word of God,
I praise the word of the Lord.
In God I trust, I do not fear.
What can man do to me?

I have made vows to you, God;
with offerings I will fulfill them,
For you have snatched me from death,
kept my feet from stumbling,
That I may walk before God
in the light of the living.

* [Psalm 56] Beset physically (Ps 56:2–3) and psychologically (Ps 56:6–7), the psalmist maintains a firm confidence in God (Ps 56:5, 9–10). Nothing will prevent the psalmist from keeping the vow to give thanks for God’s gift of life (Ps 56:13). A refrain (Ps 56:5, 11–12) divides the Psalm in two equal parts.