Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

January 30, 2010

Something I Shared With My Students

An article indicating we have arrived at a Brave New World...

January 29, 2010

My Favorite St. Thomas Aquinas Story

As my sister shared her favorite story for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas yesterday, I will share mine. It is not a story of his life, per se - not his earthly life. It is a conversion story of a man who saw St. Thomas in a dream. It is powerful. I will post the majority of this story here, because you need to read the whole thing to feel its affect!

Stojan Adasevic will never forget the day he was organizing the filing cabinet in the doctors' room. He was a medical student at the time. A number of gynecologists entered the room. Paying no attention to the student crouched over a pile of papers in the corner, they began swapping stories about their medical practice.

Before long he had surpassed his master in the profession — Dr. Ignatovic, to whose incompetence he owed his life. "The secret lies in training the hand through frequent procedures" he would say, citing the German proverb: Übung macht Meister (practice makes perfect). Faithful to this maxim, he would perform from twenty to thirty abortions a day. His record was thirty-five abortions in one day. Today he has difficulty reckoning up the abortions he performed in his twenty-six years of practice. He estimates anywhere between 48,000 and 62,000.

For years he remained convinced that abortion, as taught in the medical faculties and textbooks, was a surgical procedure not unlike that of removing an appendix. The only difference was in the organ removed: a piece of intestine in the one case, and embryonic tissue in the other. Doubts began to arise during the 1980s when ultrasound technology came to Yugoslavian hospitals. It was then that Adasevic first saw on the USG monitor what had until then been invisible to him — the inside of a woman's womb, a live child, sucking its thumb, moving its arms and legs. As often as not, fragments of that child would soon be lying on the table beside him. "I saw without seeing — he recalls today. — Everything changed after I started having the dreams"…

Dr. Adasevic's dreams

Actually, it was the same recurring dream. It haunted him every night, day after day, week after week, month after month. He dreamed he was walking in a sunlit meadow. Beautiful flowers grew all around. The air was thick with colored butterflies. It was warm and pleasant, yet, despite this, some anxious feeling oppressed him. Suddenly the meadow was filled with laughing and running children. They were playing ball. In age, they ranged from three or four to about twenty years. All were strikingly beautiful. One boy in particular, and two of the girls, seemed strangely familiar, but he could not recall where he had seen them. When he tried to speak to them, they ran off in terror, screaming. The entire scene was presided over by a man in a black habit who watched intently in silence.

Every night Adasevic would wake in terror and stay awake till morning. Herbal remedies and pills were useless. One night, he became distraught in his dream and began chasing the fleeing children. He caught one of them, but the child cried out in terror: "Help! Murderer! Save me from the murderer!" At that moment the man dressed in black, turned into an eagle, swept down, and pulled the child away. The doctor woke up, his heart thumping like a hammer in his ribs. The room was cold, yet he was hot, drenched in sweat. In the morning he decided to see a psychiatrist. Since there were no immediate openings, he booked an appointment. That night he decided he would ask the man in his dreams to identify himself. This he did. The stranger said: "Even if I told you, my name would mean nothing to you". When the doctor persisted, the man finally replied: "I am called Thomas Aquinas". Indeed, the name meant nothing to Adasevic. It was the first time he had heard it. The man in black continued: "Why don't you ask who the children are. Don't you recognize them?" When the doctor said he didn't, he replied: "Not true. You know them very well. These are the children you killed while performing abortions". "How is that possible?" countered Adasevic. "These are grown children. I have never killed born children". Thomas replied: "Do you not know that here, on this side of the eschaton, children continue to grow?" The Doctor refused to yield: "But I have never killed a twenty-year-old boy". "You killed him twenty years ago" replied the monk, "when he was three months old".

It was then that Adasevic recognized the faces of the twenty-year-old boy and the two girls. They resembled people he knew well, for whom he had performed abortions over the years. The boy looked like a close friend of Adasevic's. Stojan had performed the abortion on his wife twenty years ago. In the two girls the doctor recognized their mothers, one of whom happened to be Stojan's cousin. Upon awaking, he decided he would never perform another abortion in his life.

I held a beating heart in my hand

Waiting for him upon his arrival at the hospital that morning was a cousin along with his girlfriend. They had booked an abortion with him. Four months pregnant, the woman was about to do away with her ninth consecutive child. Adasevic refused, but his cousin was so importunate that he gave in: OK, but this was the very last time. On the USG monitor he clearly saw the child with its thumb in its mouth. Stretching the uterus, he inserted the forceps, took hold of something, and pulled. In the jaws of the forceps was a little arm. He placed it on the table, but in such a way that one of the limbs' nerve endings touched a drop of spilled iodine. Suddenly, the arm began to twitch. The nurse standing beside him almost screamed out. Just like frogs' legs in a physiology lab! Adasevic shuddered, but went on with the abortion. Again he inserted the forceps, gripped, and pulled. This time it was a leg. Just as he was thinking: "Better not let it touch that drop of alcohol", a nurse standing behind him dropped a tray of surgical instruments. Startled by the crash, the doctor released the forceps, and the leg landed right beside the arm. It too began to move.

The staff had never seen anything like it: human limbs twitching on the table. Adasevic decided to mash up what was left in the womb, and pull it out in a formless mass. He began mashing, squashing, crushing. Upon withdrawing the forceps, now certain that he had reduced everything to a pulp, he produced a human heart! The organ was still beating. Weaker and weaker it beat, until it stopped altogether. It was then that he realized he had killed a human being. The world turned dark around him. He cannot recall how long this lasted. Suddenly he felt a tug on his arm. A nurse's terrified voice called out: Doctor Adasevic! Doctor Adasevic! The patient was bleeding. For the first time in years, the doctor began praying earnestly: "Lord! Save not me, but this woman". Normally it could take up to ten minutes to clean the womb of all remaining embryonic matter. This time two insertions of the instrument through the vagina were enough to complete the task. When Adasevic removed his gloves, he knew this was the last abortion he would ever perform.

The pail: instrument of abortion

When Stojan informed the head of the hospital of his decision, there was a considerable stir. Never before in a Belgrade hospital had a gynecologist refused to perform abortions. Pressure was brought to bear on him. They cut his salary in half. His daughter was fired from her job. His son "failed" his university entrance examinations. He was attacked in the press and on television. The Socialist State — they said — had provided him with an education so that he could perform abortions, and now he was carrying out sabotage against the State. Two years of persecution brought him to the brink of nervous exhaustion. He was on the point of asking the hospital administrator to reassign him to abortion duty, when Thomas Aquinas appeared to him in a dream. Patting him on his shoulder, Thomas said: "You are my good friend. Continue your struggle". Adasevic did not go to the administrator. He decided to fight on.

He got involved in the pro-life movement. He traveled throughout Serbia, lecturing and giving talks on abortion. Twice he succeeded in airing on Yugoslav state television Bernard Nathanson's The Silent Scream, a USG recording of an actual abortion. In the early 1990s, thanks largely to Adasevic's activism, the Yugoslav parliament passed a decree protecting the rights of the unborn.

January 28, 2010

Getting Lost

I've written about movies and my love for tv shows like The Office. But I haven't yet written about my love for Lost. I am completely in awe of the thought that has gone into the writing of the series, the exploration of the mystery of the human being, the ultimate set up of faith vs. reason...and the complementarity between them, and the triumph of the human spirit. There were also about three seasons that really delved into two Catholic characters, and their spirituality was portrayed very positively; moreover, they both demonstrated incredible self-sacrifice.

I am counting the hours until the final season begins. Until then, for those fellow fans out there and those who will catch up when it's all said and done, here's an article about Lost and its religious (and arguably very Catholic) under-and-overtones.

Photo, The Lost Supper, found here.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Today is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, and I am very glad! This day could not have come at a better time. So I am going to share with you one of my favorite Thomas Aquinas stories:
Some time between 1240 and August, 1243, he received the habit of the Order of St. Dominic, being attracted and directed by John of St. Julian, a noted preacher of the convent of Naples. The city wondered that such a noble young man should don the garb of poor friar. His mother, with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow, hastened to Naples to see her son. The Dominicans, fearing she would take him away, sent him to Rome, his ultimate destination being Paris or Cologne.

At the instance of Theodora, Thomas's brothers, who were soldiers under the Emperor Frederick, captured the novice near the town of Aquapendente and confined him in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. Here he was detained nearly two years, his parents, brothers, and sisters endeavouring by various means to destroy his vocation. The brothers even laid snares for his virtue, but the pure-minded novice drove the temptress from his room with a brand which he snatched from the fire.

Towards the end of his life, St. Thomas confided to his faithful friend and companion, Reginald of Piperno, the secret of a remarkable favour received at this time. When the temptress had been driven from his chamber, he knelt and most earnestly implored God to grant him integrity of mind and body. He fell into a gentle sleep, and, as he slept, two angels appeared to assure him that his prayer had been heard. They then girded him about with a white girdle, saying: "We gird thee with the girdle of perpetual virginity." And from that day forward he never experienced the slightest motions of concupiscence.

One final note: Please keep a special intention of mine in your prayers tomorrow!
(Painting: The Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez. Not really sure why it's called "temptation" since this is obviously post-temptation. But...I do like it.)

January 26, 2010

Abortion Postscript

Here is a great article I came across on the abortion debate and the need to understand where women are coming from on all sides and what we can really do to free ourselves and other women illusions about sex and babies.

The Truth of the March

Agatha forwarded me a blog post from Newsweek on the March for Life entitled, "Who’s Missing at the 'Roe v. Wade' Anniversary Demonstrations? Young Women." The author fabricates the entire report of the March for Life:

Today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, and droves of women are prepared to face rainy weather to support their positions during the annual Washington, D.C., demonstrations. But there will be one major difference with the demonstration route this year—it’s shorter.

“The organizers are getting older, and it’s more difficult for them to walk a long distance,” says Stanley Radzilowski, an officer in the planning unit for the Washington, D.C., police department. A majority of the participants are in their 60s and were the original pioneers either for or against the case, he says.

So this raises the question: where are the young, vibrant women supporting their pro-life or pro-choice positions? Likely, they’re at home. “Young women are still concerned about these issues, but they’re not trained to go out and protest,” says Kristy Maddux, assistant professor at the University of Maryland, who specializes in historical feminism.

If you note the comments on the bottom, the notion that the March was shorter is patently false. And from someone who walks it nearly every year, it was the same as usual. Even Robert McCartney, a pro-choice op-ed columnist from The Washington Post reveals a different sentiment:

I went to the March for Life rally Friday on the Mall expecting to write about its irrelevance. Isn't it quaint, I thought, that these abortion protesters show up each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, even though the decision still stands after 37 years. What's more, with a Democrat in the White House likely to appoint justices who support abortion rights, surely the Supreme Court isn't going to overturn Roe in the foreseeable future. How wrong I was. The antiabortion movement feels it's gaining strength, even if it's not yet ready to predict ultimate triumph, and Roe supporters (including me) are justifiably nervous. "We are the pro-life generation," said signs carried by the crowd, about half its members appearing to be younger than 30. There were numerous large groups of teenagers, many bused in by Roman Catholic schools and youth groups. They and their adult leaders said the youths were taught from an early age to oppose abortion. "People our age are going to be the ones to change, to be the future leaders," said Lauren Powers, 16, who came with a group from an all-girls Catholic school in Milwaukee."
All I can say is that a significant number of the 400,000 people who marched on Friday in support of women, children, and men who have suffered from the legalization of abortion were young, vibrant, well-educated, and spirited. No matter how people spin it, the truth will set us free.

January 25, 2010

Conversion of Paul

Ah! Today is the feast of the Conversion of of my favorite of the year. Mostly just because of this painting. Oh yeah.

This morning I am struck by the juxtaposition of yesterday's amazing reading from 1 Corinthians, and today's story of Paul's vision on the road.

Here's the Corinthians:
But God has so constructed the body
as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
so that there may be no division in the body,
but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.
Some people God has designated in the church
to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers;
then, mighty deeds;
then gifts of healing, assistance, administration,
and varieties of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing?
Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

And Paul's conversion:
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, Ananias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

Sometimes when this day comes along, I wish that I too could be converted so fully and powerfully as Saul was. But then, as my pastor reminded us last night, every day is a calling forth, and everyday I have the chance to live out my vocation as fully as Paul did.

St. Paul, strong and courageous and steadfast in duty and love for the Lord, pray for us as we work and live and laugh and love, that we might do all these things for Christ's sake.

January 22, 2010

March for Life 2010

Today I'll be with my young, female students on the March for Life. I find it such a privilege to stand with young women who are convinced of the value of life, the meaning of their femininity, and of the importance of civil protest on behalf of the most vulnerable. I wanted to share with you this prayer that I found to our Blessed Mother:

O Mary, Mother of the Life Within,
all life we entrust to you;
The life of every expectant mother
and the child within her womb:
The life of every human body,
the life of every human soul;
The life of every newborn child
and the life of all grown old.
You held the Lord to your own heart
and drew Him so close in.
So draw us now in all our needs,
O Mother of the Life Within.

And here is the most beautiful song for the deceased that my favorite order, the Dominicans, sing at the steps of the Supreme Court:

January 21, 2010

Some Things to Anticipate!

The Pope's second volume of Jesus of Nazareth is set to go to press, according to this CNA news story.

And some more good news! Tomorrow is the March for Life and this year, thousands are expected to participate directly coast to coast and over 50,000 more will be participating virtually through the Virtual March for Life website.

Lots of great news!!! Lots to look forward to!!

Carrie Bradshaw and the Feminists

I didn’t really tune into Sex in the City until it was in syndication on TBS. I’m glad too, because I can’t stomach the vulgarity of the full HBO series. TBS’s edits made the show much more palatable to me.

All the same, I followed news of the show while it was running. It fascinated me because a) it had captivated several generations of female viewers and therefore seemed to have its finger on something we yearn for; b) as a TV series it had the time to dive into the characters and show whether these four very different women really could have it all; and c) well…I did love the clothes.

When I started watching the show, I was intrigued. It was daring, carefree, and women centered in a way no other show had been before—and no show has really been since. And it did try to broach significant issues for women—affairs of the heart as well as of modern culture, connectedness, etc. But time and again Carrie picks the selfish route, the writers used Sex as shorthand for a genuine relationship, and I got tired of all those crop tops SJP wore. And while in the final episodes we see four women who are coming to terms with their lives (3 of whom living selflessly—for their families, their children, or in Samantha’s case, learning to depend on another—the movie took that all away and turned what little power there was in the series into commercialism and shoe porn.

Because pop-culture often breeds strange bed fellows, I was fascinated to learn that many feminists are also rejecting the ideal Carrie Bradshaw has to offer. Via First Things, I learn that: “even the feminists who paved the route on which Carrie Brandshaw treads in her Manolo Blahniks are growing disturbed by the consequences of the sexual revolution. A veritable cottage industry of books and articles is now being produced by Friedanesque, first wave feminists, wringing their hands over what their movement has devolved into.”

One such writer is Cassandra Jardine of UK’s Daily Telegraph, who says:
Walter, for those not up to speed on the feminist canon – and who is, these days? – wrote The New Feminism, published in 1998, which delighted in the progress that had been made towards an equal society. ''Here's feminism as phoenix, as blazing torch lighting the way to a new century,'' wrote Michele Roberts in a breathlessly enthusiastic review. Now all that optimism has turned to dust. Living Dolls analyses the increasing sexualisation of feminity and the extent to which young women are led to believe that their bodies are their only passport to success.

Far from relations between the sexes flourishing emotionally and physically, against a backdrop of mutual respect, understanding and equality, a generation of young girls is interpreting liberation as the right to behave like top-shelf models. These women, interviewed by Walter, are also committed to no-strings sex, celebrating one-night stands as notches on their designer handbags. For them, STDs are almost a badge of honour, eating disorders commonplace and men who talk of love and commitment are sneered at for "going soppy"

What eventually turned me off Sex and the City was the fact that ultimately the lives these women lead are selfserving and unfulfilling, because they are centered on personal pleasure and desire--especially Carrie, who tried to be introspective and ended up being whiny.

It is fascinating to me that feminists are disappointed in the same way. Do you get the same feeling? Have you read anything similar? Discuss!

January 20, 2010

A Lifelong Response to "Gluten-Free Living"

Edith, I am so pumped that you are starting to try a gluten-free diet, especially since your mother has been diagnosed with celiac disease. I was diagnosed with it back in 2004 as a junior in college, and it was devastating news. I had only heard of it once, as a friend's dad had suffered terribly from it. When the doctor called and told me what I had, I cried! Was it absolutely treatable with a diet? Yes. Was I going to die? Not if I changed my lifestyle. "But I'm Italian!" I remember crying out. "How am I going to live without bread?"

Since my diagnosis, my quality of life has improved 100%. I no longer suffer from severe gastrointestinal pain (which was actually debilitating and took a significant toll on my self-esteem and social comfort), tingling in my nerves, or fatigue. At the time of my diagnosis, doctors were just beginning to test for it on a more regular basis (in my opinion, they still do not test for it enough). I had a blood test and a biopsy of my small intestine. About a year ago, my brother was diagnosed with intestinal damage and his blood test came back positive, too. [Edith, if you want to be tested for it, keep gluten in your system until you get the test. Otherwise, the antibodies won't show up -- it is an auto-immune disorder, after all!] I stopped taking the host at Mass for about a year and only took from the cup, but I find that I am able to tolerate it right now -- some people can't have it at all, and if transubstantiation is right, then the gluten still remains after consecration!!!

I consider my celiac disease a real gift from God. I know that sounds really funny, but the diagnosis came at a point when I was just starting to make strides in getting over a four-year-long eating disorder. At first my disordered thinking had me excited that I was only going to be able to eat fruit and vegetables (or so I thought), but God's grace got a hold of me and made me fall in love with food again. God made me take interest in real nutrition and nourishing the body He gave me with whatever restrictions that entailed for me. Honestly, I LOVE cooking, even authentic Italian recipes from my grandmother, with real and whole foods. There are SO many gluten-free options in regular and speciality grocery stores -- and even Italian speciality stores (as many Italians have celiac disease -- and people of Irish descent, too).

I'm so excited that you posted this, because I am passionate about people learning about this disease. You've inspired me to continue to post on it, and I will be linking to some of my absolutely favorite cookbooks, restaurant chains, and recipe suggestions in the near future. As I prepare to begin our "recipe series" and we meditate on what it means to practice authentic femininity in the kitchen, I will meditate on cooking with allergies and living the good, Godly, gluten-free life. :)

January 19, 2010

Gluten Free Living

Well, today I am going to write a short post, and ask for you suggestions! It deviates from the norm a bit, but today I want to talk about food. I have decided that I am going to start a gluten free diet - well, I have been now for about a month - since going home for Christmas. My mother has Celiac disease, to the point where she suffered cancer in her thyroid. She is doing great, but keep her in your prayers for no more cancer!

Anyway, I started to notice some of the above linked symptoms in myself, and decided to experiment with gluten free living. What a difference it has made! I noticed almost instantaneous changes in my moods, energy, and comfort. Before, I felt almost a textbook case of gluten intolerance. But now that I've made the change, I need some help! Do any of you know of gluten free recipes or have any tips or suggestions? I found Gluten Free Girl - an awesome blog with all kinds of links. I love it! I have a bread maker and have been making my own breads - a great comfort to me who is crazy for bread! But still, I'd like to learn more and get some tips on making this my new lifestyle - or diet style!! Thanks, my sisters!

January 18, 2010

Radically Open

I was at a wedding over Christmas break. The bride, a friend from highschool, and the groom (who I did not meet until after the vows were said), were set up by a young Jesuit deacon. The celebrant gave a homily which detailed the long list of connections and coincidences that brought these two people together (over 40 years worth). It was a wonderful witness (to all present--some of whom weren't believers) to the way God works through our lives.

But one phrase of the homily really struck me. This Jesuit deacon said: "They will have a blessed life and a happy marriage. Why can I say this with such assurance? Because they were both radically open to the religious life." That openness, and willingness to dedicate their entire lives to Christ, to put their desires second to Christ's, will help them, in marriage, to live for each other, and seek out the others good above all else.

His words struck me. I'm often asked if I have ever considered the religious life. My standard line is "Well, I've never felt the call, so I don't think about it much." And that is true: I never have looked and nuns and desired the life they life. I admire them so much; I am overjoyed for every friend who enters the religious life, and marvel at their courage and fortitude. But I don't ever feel the slightest inclination towards that life.

But the single life is characterized by an openness to Christ. We don't have the sacramental bonds of marriage or the priesthood; but we do have the bonds of the Spirit, though Confirmation. We ought to always put our needs aside and Christ's first. Does that mean we should all drop everything and try to join a convent?

I think not. Our desires are from God, and God uses them. This bride and groom are a perfect example of the fact that lives radically open to Christ will take very different paths, and ultimately find peace in the One we seek.

January 15, 2010

Re-Thinking TOB

In reply to Julian's recent post, I'd like to say a little something. Back a couple months ago, when I was taking my marriage prep classes, I wrote that I was so sick of hearing about the Theology of the Body. And I was. But I'm really not. I got sick of hearing those catch words like 'Self-donation,' and 'complementarity' without any serious reflection of what they mean for us in our lives. They sounded so flowery in our prep classes. And I'm sure the fault was my own. After all, who expects to have a step by step outline of how to implement this very complex and beautiful theology in life? That would be a bit reductionary, I think.

BUT YET - aren't we supposed to do this very thing?? Isn't that what our lives are all about - in any vocation? Everyone automatically thinks of marriage with the Theology of the Body, but the beauty of John Paul II's work is that it is not meant to apply only to married people and sexuality, but it is meant to apply to all people in every vocation. It is that - a theology of our bodies - as male and female. What does it mean that God created us as male and female in His image? What is the theology behind our physicality? Since we are all human - created as male and female, this applies to all. That is what I love about it. And I think my flaw here is that I began to think of it in a very cerebral way, forgetting the complex simplicity of John Paul II's work here to be lived in each and every human life. And Julian so eloquently reminds us of that:
JPII wrote it between 1979 and 1984, when some of the repercussions of the sexual revolution were really beginning to rear their ugly heads. But what kind of meditation do we need now in 2010? We are a few generations past this historical context, and are in need of an address about our sexuality that pertains to a hyper-sexualization of nearly every human activity in culture and daily life as well as an idealizing of human sexuality within the Church itself (or how some of the readers of the TOB are leading us to believe). My fear is that young Catholics are going to be again left disappointed in the theological but also practical use of their sexuality both before and within marriage. I don't really have the answer, other than to say that we could use some young theologians, alongside the "wisdom of our fathers" to seek the Truth today.
I think the answer for Julian is that we need not only a serious study of the TOB, but also a dedication of people living in a culture imbued by this ancient and new wisdom. And with respect to the Fathers of the Church - I could not help but think of our St. Augustine when he writes in the Confessions:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
I believe Augustine's witness touches on the ever perennial questions that John Paul II seeks to refresh in his Theology of the Body. So let's plunge into it with them!

January 14, 2010

Sickness and the Single Girl

I am sick. It's just a cold, but it is a bad one, and the longer I sit up (rather than cuddled in bed with piles of blankets) the worse I feel. But then, work must be done, and I can't really afford the time off. And besides, I don't have my mom to take care of me.

I hate being sick. I don't like sleeping all day (never did). I don't like being forced to be lazy. And I don't like getting the chills. Worst of all, I don't like being beholden on others. But the truth is, there is no way I can get through the day without the help of others when I am really sick, because I am utterly incapable of making decisions.

I remember the first time I was really really sick (and was old enough to recall it). I had chills and fever, and Dad was home from work with the same thing. He made me jello and I got to drink cherry 7-up. I think he even managed to stir up enough energy to draw me some horses. Then there was the time I was sick in 5th grade. I had delirious dreams in the break room, till our babysitter could come pick me up (a matter of minutes, no doubt, but it seemed like ages). I had never been so cold in my life. She just picked me up and carried me to the car, and I was quite limp. I made no decisions, I had no will. Later, feeling a little better, Mom watched movies with me, as I lay on the couch, and Dad brought me back a pink rose from the vendor outside his office.

The truth is, being sick when you're not home is no fun. I know I shouldn't complain: after all, Dad was sick that first time, and he still had to take care of me! But, every time I get sick, even though I know exactly what to take and how much and that I should drink plenty of water, I still call mom, recite the litany of symptoms, wait for her response ("Drink lots of water. Sleep.") (With Moms like that who needs doctors?!).

I don't suppose I'll ever grow out of that. And even if I have someone someday to keep me company during the sickness (no matter how minor), I'll still wish I was a kid, being taken care of, and not really worrying about anything, and, most of all, not needing to make any decisions!

St. Mary Magdalene, Pray for Us...

Continued prayers for all in Haiti.

January 13, 2010

The Opposite Sex and the City

I know, I know. I promised a more positive outlook on dating. And I still have it...I'm just frustrated about a few things. In the weeks since New Year's Eve, I've met a handful of really interesting men that have I found attractive in both looks and personality. "Alright," I said to myself, "a good streak to start off the new year." Two of these men asked for my phone numbers but have yet to use them. Well, if texting counts, they've used them. But other than that, they have resorted to today's means of communication with the opposite sex-- Facebook.

I don't like Facebook for this very reason, and now I'm thinking of taking myself off of it. "Friending" a woman on Facebook who you've expressed interest in (and already took the opportunity to ask for her phone number), seems to be cowardly to me. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but as the lady who offered her phone number, it does feel like a cop out. Facebook takes away the opportunity to hear another person's voice, to actually connect face to face, and to be vulnerable in front of another person. One can easily hide behind only the most attractive pictures that one posts and a profile that skims the surface of who one really is. I think the use of Facebook between the sexes is only adding to this idea that people should wait for their ideals -- for people who fit all of the criteria that they desire.

A few years ago, Time Magazine named "You" the Person of the Year. We are the "me" generation, the generation who waits until they get what they want. Maybe that is what I am doing...waiting until I get that phone call. Or maybe it's just the decent thing for a gentleman to do when he asks a lady for her phone number.

January 12, 2010

Confessions of an Almost Wife

With my wedding now one month to the day away, I am suddenly struck with...anxiety! I've been all excitement, but the cost of the wedding, the enormity, the not hearing back from people we've invited, the constant meetings, large chunks of money going 'bye-bye' from my dwindling checking account have got me all a fret! I know, I know, I am trying to enjoy it all. And I have been. Tomorrow is my first gown fitting and that will be fun! Picking out the colors of my flowers was also great fun!

But lately, some other fears have gripped me. Nothing about Peter - he is the most wonderful man I have ever known. But the future. In my heart, I just know that I'll be pregnant very soon. I've always known it. You know that line from the film My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding (which you should see if you have not) when Toula says: "Ian and I got married, a minute later I was pregnant..." Well, that's gonna be me. Mark my words, sisters - I have always known that I would be one of those girls who got pregnant instantaneously after marriage. But then I wonder - am I ready for that? Will I be a responsible parent? Should I be a mother so soon? Would a baby right away be imprudent of us? Don't I need time to become a good wife first? And what about our finances? My degree? My job? What about all our student debts? Where will we end up? How can I be a better steward of finances? Will I even be a good wife? With my apartment currently in shambles as we try to move most of Peter's things in now, I feel like the worst of homemakers. I don't even know where to put things! You see where my brain is! And one thing I read in a magazine about marriage that really got me thinking: "In marriage you face the ultimate challenge of living with a sinner but having your own concupiscence exposed." And trust me, that happens even before you are married - I imagine it only becomes more challenging once you share your living space!

But reading through Agatha's last post, and I realized that my worries are sort of silly, probably normal, but silly. Here she tells us of a family who is having more difficulty than ever having children, yet they still trust God. Where is my trust? I guess I just need to chew on the words of my dear namesake, Edith Stein: "Whoever lives in the strong faith that nothing happens without the knowledge and will of God is not easily disconcerted by astonishing occurrences or upset by the hardest of blows." Say a prayer for me! Or better yet -- any suggestions on prayers or reflections for me?

Let's Talk About its Historical Context

This past week, Dawn Eden, author of The Thrill of the Chaste, wrote an article for Headline Bistro in which she defends John Paul II's Theology of the Body as something that is not "new" or "radical," but rather exactly what the pontiff said himself -- a meditation on Humane Vitae and 2000 years of the deposit of faith. In my opinion, this is a really critical insight by Miss Eden, one that no doubt other theologians share:

Truth be told, there is something “new” about John Paul II’s teachings on marriage and sexuality, but it is not the newness of radicalism, revolution, drama, or daring. To borrow the words of G.K. Chesterton, the theology of the body is new because it is part of a Catholic faith whose “very antiquity preserves an attitude of novelty.” Its newness is that of ancient truths shining ever bright in the face of a world that is “passing away” (1 John 2:17). And it is very much needed in this age—because we have forgotten the wisdom of our fathers.

As Eden reminds us, if our view of human sexuality weren't there from the beginning, then it is merely something that was recently "discovered," and is therefore up for question as legitimate a claim of faith. Perhaps this is one of JPII's hidden gifts to us -- while we go back to Genesis to find the roots of our sexuality, we can tap into a more recent 2000 year-old meditation in Christ's Church on the use of the gift of sexual intercourse.

Eden's article got me thinking on the importance of examining the TOB not only in light of documents and catechesis on human sexuality prior to JPII's audiences, but the context in which he was writing it. JPII wrote it between 1979 and 1984, when some of the repercussions of the sexual revolution were really beginning to rear their ugly heads. But what kind of meditation do we need now in 2010? We are a few generations past this historical context, and are in need of an address about our sexuality that pertains to a hyper-sexualization of nearly every human activity in culture and daily life as well as an idealizing of human sexuality within the Church itself (or how some of the readers of the TOB are leading us to believe). My fear is that young Catholics are going to be again left disappointed in the theological but also practical use of their sexuality both before and within marriage. I don't really have the answer, other than to say that we could use some young theologians, alongside the "wisdom of our fathers" to seek the Truth today.

January 11, 2010

One Last Christmas Post

I have a couple dear friends who have recently lost their chance at adopting a baby (the mother decided to keep it). As a result, I have been having the hardest time writing them their Christmas card (I am soooo late, I know).

I know they've taken comfort in the coming of Christ, and the joy of the season, but I cannot exactly write to them saying: HURRAH! It's Christmas! The BEST time of the year. Nor can I offer condolences--it is not as if they baby had died.

As I was sitting down to finally write this card, I kept thinking about O Henry's beautiful short story The Gift of the Magi. It tells of Della and Jim, a newly married couple who are so poor that they sell their own most treasured possessions to buy something beautiful for the other. Della cuts off all her hair so that she can purchase a little chain for Jim's pocket watch. And Jim sells his pocket watch to buy tortoise shell combs for Della's hair.

O. Henry finishes the story saying this:
The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

I'll be honest--I am not sure I can draw out exact parallels between my friend's loss, and Jim and Della's. And yet, I feel they share something in common. Jim and Della give all that they have and all that they are to each other--and therefore are "foolish children" and considered "unwise". But, in the logic and language of love (God's specifically, and ours, imperfectly) they are the wisest of all men.

So too my friends work and sacrifice and love, trying to build a family together. They were denied this chance (and have been before), and yet they continue to turn to each other and to Christ--ever devoted, ever foolish. They, too, are the magi.

Read the whole story here. Illustration found here.

January 9, 2010

What I've Been Doing This New Year

Well, the year has already proved to be a crazy and busy one! I guess I should have figured that since my wedding is getting so close. Aside from lots of family time, many stresses from UPS about my wedding gifts (I recommend you DO NOT use them if you have a choice), I've been trying to help Iraqi Christian refugee families who have relocated to my city get settled and start to feel at home. My sisters, you have no idea of the depth of suffering that they have been through and are going through.

Although I'm certainly no expert on Iraq, but I do know a little bit about the Arab world and its culture. These people are a beautiful and proud people. Not proud in a bad way. But proud of who they are as a people. And they should be! Do you know that Iraqi Christian community is one of the oldest in the world? Do you know that the Magi, the priests of Zoroaster, are said to have come from Iraq? And now, well now, they've been so persecuted, attacked, and de-humanized by their compatriots because they are not Muslim. One young woman told me that an American Muslim woman told her that when she came to the US, she should convert and where the hijab. Probably not the best thing you want to tell someone who just got ran out of her country because she would not become Muslim. With a look of utter sadness, another young woman said to me, "There really is no freedom for us [Christians]. They will kill you. They will kill you."

I just cannot describe to you the sorrow that took hold of me yesterday as Peter and I went to visit the families. One family is a mother and father and three young sons. The father is struggling to find work, and the rest of them are struggling to learn English. The other family is three siblings - two sisters, one brother. They are well educated and rich in their own land, but here, they have nothing and finding jobs seems almost impossible. Their parents and another brother are stuck in Syria, unable to join them here in the US. No one quite knows why their case is getting rejected. I know too well the pain they feel in being in such a strange land, without even the comfort of their own language being spoken in the streets. But I cannot imagine how horrible it must be, to be so persecuted by your own neighbors for your faith. I believe they are God's holy ones. Oh pray for them!

January 8, 2010

Nine Times out of...Nine

I think my favorite type of prayer is the novena. I remember my grandmother speaking about them when I was a child, swearing by their power. As Italians and Italian-Americans can often blend Catholic traditions and superstitious practices, I never really knew to which camp the novena belonged until I grew older. The practice of praying novenas and the faith that they inspire are gifts that has been given to me by my mother. There were rarely months where she wasn't praying to one saint or another for a special favor for one of us or someone she loved. This book was always by her beside, and when I went off to college, she gave me her copy, which I still treasure today. I highly recommend getting a copy, as it provides a summary of each saint's life, their feast day, their particular novena, and an absolutely beautiful illustration or print of an icon of each figure.

I find that some novenas I have prayed so often, like the one to the Archangel Raphael, that I have memorized them and can use the picture to aid in my prayer and meditation. (As a sidenote, it is Raphael that I credit with saving my father which he was on vacation and experienced temporary paralysis after a swimming accident in the ocean. I had been praying to the patron of travelers for my parents' protection on their trip, and boy did he pull through. I guess I can forgive him for being slow on the husband front!) I find the repetition really peaceful and the particular words given to me as truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Right now, I am undertaking a novena to St. Maria Goretti, my Confirmation saint, for a deeper understanding of purity before marriage and to make this a fruitful time of preparation.

I hope you, too, find a "full-proof" novena for your life!

January 7, 2010

Friends and Lovers

This Christmas I got to meet the new significant others of four dear friends. I got to meet my best friend's boyfriend/almost fiance, my oldest (as in longest friendship, not age of friend) guy friend's new girlfriend, and another high school friend's boyfriend/almost fiance. Plus, I got to meet (at their wedding) a college friend's husband.

It was a strange experience, to say the least. Each encounter was so different, and I hardly knew what to expect. The groom, needless to say, was cheerful, happy to meet any friend of his wife's, and grateful for the small part I played in getting them together (really really small part). He was mostly just glowing in pride and joy at being married to the most graceful (in both senses of the word) woman he knows.

I got to spend the most time with the guy friend's girlfriend--a charming, lively woman who instantly fit in with our rather dynamic and outspoken crowd. In two meetings I can see already why he is crazy for her, and would be so glad to see their young relationship develop into a life-long one.

The other two meetings were odd. Circumstances prevented the opportunity to really get to know these two gentlemen who have one the hearts of dear friends. One was rather overwhelmed by the intensity of all of us and our families (we can be a...vibrant crowd when we haven't seen each other in a while). I felt like I hardly met him at all.

Meeting my best friend's boyfriend was perhaps the oddest encounter, since 4 hours spent with him and his family is not enough time to really get to know someone, especially someone who's future is responsible for the happiness of a loved one. While he was charming, interesting, obviously cared for her, he also shielded himself with his family, and was pretty reserved about personal things. I have no real complaints--I think he is very well suited to her, and I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and the company of his family--but I do wish I had the chance to see him more than once, and to really get to know him, and I assume he wishes the same about me.

All through these meetings, I realized again and again how providential God is. The wedding would not have taken place were it not for over 40 years of coincidences involving friends and family of the couple. Friends who had, for several years, struggled with their singleness, living with their families, trying to find a carrier and place in the world, now find new hope and joy in their ever deepening relationships, that will, with God's grace, lead them to the altar.

I have a feeling that 2010 will be a year for weddings...and I can't wait. But I do hope I get to spend more time with these guys before everything changes (for the better, of course!)

January 5, 2010

Julian's Dating Forecast for 2010

The Magdalene Sisters are no strangers to the world of dating. We've written about the art form, discussed potential mates, recounted one of our successful stories that will soon end in marriage, explored the male/female relationship, and kept a log of many mishaps (mostly me!).

I think part of the task of intentionally living a new year to it's fullest potential includes thinking back about the previous year(s) and crafting an attitude for approaching the new one. My attitude towards dating in 2010 has very much changed as I enter the second half of my twenties. I am no longer operating under the Dr. Suess Syndrome (as I previously described). While I think the natural tendency in dating should be to consider each person as a potential mate, sometimes dating is just dating -- going out to an event, learning the art of conversation, enjoying being treated like a lady, and interacting with a variety of men from all different backgrounds and with all different goals. I don't think it has to be stressful or filled with drama. While it would be nice to meet a good match, I am grateful for my sisters' push for me in my singleness to be very open to the will of God in every moment, which includes every set up, every date, and every encounter with the opposite sex. It's actually a very liberating time for me, no doubt because of grace.

One thing I do think is critical for me is stimulation in conversation. When conversation is forced, I get really frustrated. Does anyone else find that in Catholic dating circles very often conversation stays on theological or political issues? While these things are of course critical and important, and do tend to form someone's identity, I really appreciate someone who can move me beyond those topics, or at least move in and out of them during conversation. Even though I am Catholic, I also have a wide variety of interests -- music, sports, humor, pop culture, etc. I really appreciate when a man wants to explore those things with me. It's so easy (and sometimes tempting I think), in the Catholic dating circle to stick to the "go-to" topics, but I think it's also very limiting. I want to be challenged to grow in ALL facets of my life, and to be introduced to new things as well.

I am sure that 2010 will be filled with many more musings on the topic, no doubt humorous. But this year, I intend to live this maxim of St. Gianna:

The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.

January 4, 2010

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Patroness of Teachers

Today is the feast of the first American born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. A loving mother and wife, as well as teacher, and foundress of a religious order, the convert Elizabeth Ann Seton was a remarkable woman, dedicated to serving Christ and his Church, no matter what adversity hit her. She is patroness of the Navy (two of her sons were Naval officers), and of teachers. Since I am the only non-teaching Magdalene Sister, I offer up this prayer for Julian and Edith as they prepare to go back to school for a new semester:

Lord God, you blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to your people.

Through her example and prayers, may we, learn to express our love for you in our love for all your children.

We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.


(If you are ever within a stones throw of Emmitsburg MD, I highly recommend visiting her shrine. It is lovely, and fascinating.)

January 1, 2010


I've never been one for yearly resolutions. I tend to do my resolutions during lent and advent well. And I often give myself little projects and seem to rise to the challenge of completeing them. But I have never been able to sustain a new years resolution throughout an entire year. Rather, I try to find something concrete that I can and ought to do anyway, and make it part of my routine.

This year, I only have one: to write a letter once a week. I have 2 friends in a cloistered convent, another 2 in Europe, family and friends all over the US. And there are few things as cathartic as writing a letter, or as happy as getting one in the mail. Perhaps my own notes will inspire others to write to me (yay). Either way, I do love writing letters. So, check your mailbox!

Happy New Year, sisters!

I Hereby Resolve... post my resolutions! No, only kidding. I think it's important to put our resolutions out here on "paper" so that we can remind ourselves of their importance and the significance of sticking to things that we commit to. Maybe that in itself will be a resolution!

1. To more punctual. I'm not really someone to arrive late to places I'm invited, or work for that matter, but I do cut it pretty darn close on a regular basis; in fact, I cut it close way too often. Too many mornings I'm downing my coffee at the vanity while I blow dry my hair. Not only does this look ridiculous, but it's not safe! Part of this punctuality business is going to involve waking up when my alarm goes off and budgeting my time during the day more efficiently.

2. To add a Holy Hour to my week. My best friend has inspired me by her own example. She drives a good distance every week to spend one hour with the Lord. There is a perpetual adoration chapel less than 2 miles from my house. There is absolutely no excuse not to respond to the Lord when He asks, "Would you not spend an hour with me?"

3. To be more cheerful. I wrote earlier this week that Mother Teresa has inspired me to work at this virtue. The people in my life do not need negativity, cynicism, or sarcasm in their lives. They need love, and they need me to have a goodhearted spirit. I need to work on this right along with patience.

Have a blessed New Year. May Our Lady protect us and teach us what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern women!

I Am Resolved....

It's New Year's Eve as I write this, and I've been so busy this past year that I've hardly had time to even consider my resolutions. In fact, I almost never make resolutions. I think in years past, my resolution was not to make any resolutions. I typically make my resolutions around religious feasts and holidays. But this year, I do have some - although a couple are bit cliche.

1. Lose weight and get healthy. Yes, cliche, but I am now at a point in my life and in my health where this is critical resolution. And living a healthy lifestyle is so important to me as I enter in my marriage.

2. Have a more structured prayer life. This has been important to me for sometime, as I feel the call in my heart to pray the rosary at least weekly - rather than sporadically as I've done this past year. My prayer life this year - especially in these last few months I feel has gone to something like this: "Dear God, please help me with....... Thanks. Your friend, Edith." And even though this is not bad, I can do better.

3.Get very close to finishing (if not indeed finish) my PhD - meaning write my dissertation! Very important to me - I want to be done with school!!

4.Be better about my correspondence. Life is busy. Period, end of story. But a phone call or a line every now and then can make someone's month.

5. Cook more often and get better at it. Currently, Peter takes the reins there. And it drives me crazy :-) Plus I just watched watched Julie and Julia and it totally made me want to master the art of French cooking!!

6. Read every Jane Austen novel and her letters and good biography of her. I have never gotten more than half way through Emma - I am so frustrated at myself for that. I am currently half way through Mansfield, and it's taken me that long to get invested. I have Northanger, Emma (obviously), Persuasion and Lady Susan to finish up. Can't wait! So far I've resolved on this biography too. Austen aficionados - any suggestions on that?

7. Learn more Arabic!!! My in-laws (well, VERY near future ones!) just bought me Rosetta Stone!! Yay!

I'd say that's pretty darn good for a girl who usually resolves not to make resolutions! Looks like 2010 will be a wonderful and busy year.

Happy New Year!! May the New Year bring joy, peace, and love to all of you!
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