September 30, 2010
September 28, 2010
September 27, 2010
Yesterday's Gospel really hit me at Mass yesterday - it is from Luke 16:19-31, the story of Lazarus and the rich man. The first thing our priest told us is that in this parable, Jesus gives Lazarus a name which he typically does not do for any other parable. The name Lazarus means "God is my help," and it is because Lazarus relied upon God for all things that he rests in bosom of Father Abraham. His physical poverty also reveals his spiritual poverty and his reliance upon the Lord, whereas the rich man, relying only upon himself to the point of not even seeing Lazarus as a fellow man, suffers the pain of fire.
That made me realize that I need to more like Lazarus, how much I need to humble my own spirit and see God in those around me. How easy it has been for me to say to myself: "Poor, poor pitiful me. Jobless, a disastrous love life, practically penniless if not for my family, uninspired, etc, etc. We could go on and on feeling sorry for ourselves, especially in this economy and especially me after my horrific "phantom wedding" and wasted affection on someone who did not really love me. Yes, how many months have I wasted my talents in this way?
But in the Papal homily yesterday, Benedict interprets the Gospel in this way:
Our eternal destiny is conditioned by our attitude; it is up to us to follow the road to life that God has shown us, and this is the road of love, not understood as sentiment but as service to others in the charity of Christ.The road of love that God has shown unto me. See, I thought it was marriage. And perhaps it still is, but not to Peter. My life has changed and I am learning to accept it. So I need to ask myself: who is the Lazarus in my own life? Perhaps it is someone in my own house. How can I make my spiritual disposition more like Lazarus? Why do I waste my talents with sentiments such as worry, doubt, fear, anger? When is the time to act if it is not now? Today is the feast of St. Vincent De Paul. He knew what it meant to serve others in the charity of Christ - so let us ask him to intercede of us, that we too will respond daily to the call of love that we might become God's little flowers that make the world more beautiful by reflecting His goodness and beauty.
September 25, 2010
September 24, 2010
Now that I have finally gotten through Pope Benedict's speeches and homilies from his trip to the UK last week, I am again reminded of the fact that I simply love our German Pontiff. One of the more interesting themes that came up repeatedly was the need for the secular space in society to be preserved. This might seem strange at first glace, given that Catholicism has not always had the most friendly views toward a growing secularization - think French Revolution and German's Kultur Kampf.
But Benedict's desire to the secular space of society preserved is not for rampant secularism to dominate political ideologies - it is in fact rather, as Professor Zachary Calo calls it, "an invitation to resacralize the political life of modernity." (Quote taken from an article for the Journal of Catholic Social Thought 7:2, 2010 p. 236). Benedict XVI calls for a secular space in the public square so that a religious voice can be clearly heard and taken seriously. Consider, for example, what he says in his recent address to British dignitaries, political representatives, and academics on September 17th. This passage is worth quoting at length:
The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.While Benedict XVI is an academic and this long quotation might seem at first glance a little bit involved, what he is saying to us is that Catholic ethics in the public sphere are first and foremost available to all through common sense. You don't have to be a Christian to understand that you should always do the right thing and be nice to people. Religious beliefs should not necessarily dictate political laws and policies, but it should help to guide the public in key ways - and also be tempered by it so as not to give way to fundamentalism or sectarianism.
Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.
Pope Benedict's proposal is a reminder to us of what we continually strive to achieve as Catholics - a steady relationship between faith and reason - with each guiding one another and bringing out the best in each other as all good relationships should. How grateful I am for our Pope who has the courage to speak out in defense of Christianity's place in Europe and in the West more generally. Just imagine, readers, what we could achieve by heeding this advice and not being afraid to speak as our minds as followers of Christ.
September 23, 2010
In fact, on Tuesday afternoon, I came home late from work. I was so hungry that rather than taking a moment to begin making a real dinner, which I had been looking forward to all evening, I grabbed a leftover piece of cake from the fridge, and sat on the couch devouring it. Meanwhile, this was running through my head:
What should I do first? I know, I'll cut the onions, and put them on to simmer. Then I'll go check my email, and see if the neighbors have responded, so that I can run over and get the muffin tin. If they haven't responded, then I can make dinner, but if they have I can go over there, and have a little chat, and pick up the tin, and come back and finish my dinner. But I shouldn't leave the stove on, because we had the fire the on Friday. (Goodness, I need to clean the stove top too!) So I should really just check my email first, except that I know that if I do there will be 15 other things I find I need to do online. And, speaking of which, I really need to buy my plane ticket and pay my credit card bill, so I better do that first before I forget. Then I can sort my laundry, re-arrange the DVDs, hang the bulletin board, make coffee for breakfast tomorrow--oh wait--I don't have coffee. Maybe I should go to the store. Then I can pick up L's birthday present...if they have it at Barnes and Noble, which I doubt. And I need to mail those packages. And thank yous. And write those other thank you notes... Well, I'll just put some pasta on to boil and forget about the onions. But I had pasta every night last week...Man, I have to go to the bathroom. I wonder if the neighbors got my message...then I can bake...
I finally had to stop and laugh at myself. Here I sat, eating cake, and there was a litany of things going through my head, possible scenarios, to do lists that I never get done, all these things weighing on my mind, and they were all, ultimately meaningless. I thought about my best friend, who I haven't gotten to talk to for nearly a month, because of the demands of work, her family, her daughter, and our crazy schedules. She must have a million more important things to do--if only because the things she needs to do serve others. All my demands were my own making, and had little to do with anyone else. But they were SO URGENT in my mind that I sat there unable to act, worrying about what I was going to do...when I finally finished my piece of cake.Don't worry. I am fully aware of my ridiculousness. But, the fact is, as single women it is very easy to get wrapped up in yourself. And, if you are naturally gregarious, it is easy to wrapped up in the demands of others, too. But what you really need is balance. Your working hours, no matter how onerous the demands they place on you, must be for work. Your evenings need to balance your other interests with true and refreshing leisure. Plus, because you have the freedom to do as you like, you also have to combat selfishness, and try to live for others: your friends, you family, your community.
It's exhausting. And I don't have that balance. I don't suppose I ever will.
A professor of mine once told me that she found balance being single by consciously putting all her attention into the task at hand. If she was walking to class, then she was walking to class. She would drown out the constant stream of thoughts that said "What are you going to do when you get there, and what about Mr. X, what if he skipped class again. I hope Miss Y has her presentation ready. I really don't want to fail her..." and concentrate on walking, one foot in front of the other. Being fully present in that moment did more to focus her attention as she stepped into the classroom than the thousands of thoughts that wanted to push their way into her mind--which ultimately serve as a distraction.
Put this into practice. I tried it, when she first told me, and it really did help. I found myself prepared for whatever came up: if you are fully present at every step along the way, you will be more prepared. If you put your complete attention in, say, making dinner, then you will be able to devote the time after dinner to all the other tasks before you. But if you try to sort your laundry, and visit with the neighbors, and cook your onions, you're going end up with charred onions.
September 22, 2010
-- Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
(via Pope Benedict XVI's homily at the Beatification Mass)
September 21, 2010
There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God.Thank God for the Holy Father to remind of us that....because the world is weary indeed.
I also appreciated this Op-Ed from (shocker!) that bastion of left-wing liberalism, the New York Times. Columnist Ross Douthat had this today regarding protests to the Papal visit:
And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.... This, above all, is why the crowds cheered for the pope, in Edinburgh and London and Birmingham — because almost five centuries after the Catholic faith was apparently strangled in Britain, their church is still alive.Bravissimo, NYT. Now I know why, despite your manifold faults, I continue to read you.
September 20, 2010
On the occasion of the beatification of John Henry Newman, the Pope reminded me, through Newman's own words, of why I teach theology:
And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it" (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390).
September 17, 2010
Saint Ninian, whose feast we celebrate today, was himself unafraid to be a lone voice. In the footsteps of the disciples whom our Lord sent forth before him, Ninian was one of the very first Catholic missionaries to bring his fellow Britons the good news of Jesus Christ. His mission church in Galloway became a centre for the first evangelization of this country. That work was later taken up by Saint Mungo, Glasgow’s own patron, and by other saints, the greatest of whom must include Saint Columba and Saint Margaret. Inspired by them, many men and women have laboured over many centuries to hand down the faith to you. Strive to be worthy of this great tradition! Let the exhortation of Saint Paul in the first reading be your constant inspiration: “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and persevere in prayer” (cf. Rom 12:11-12).
Last night I flipped through all the Spring 2011 RTW fashion shows (NYMag has slideshows of everything), and I was glad to note that skirts are getting longer. Not really surprising, they couldn't get much shorter, but it has me hopeful for the coming year, fashion wise. Then this am, flipping through my blog feeds, I see this gorgeous picture from fashion photographer Garance Doré. Love it!
September 15, 2010
Yes, you did indeed hear that correctly. I found this video via Susie's Big Adventure Blog and I busted up laughing!! Since Islam is still on my brain and I have been thinking about how to answer my own query put to you about the difference between the motivation of the provocatively dressed woman and the excessively veiled (Islamic) woman. I think this little video illuminates some of my own thoughts, as does this 2002 Op-Ed by Maureen Dowd (I know, I know, she is mostly awful, but this is fascinating). She writes of her experience in Saudi Arabia that she has with their morality police about not being properly veiled in public at a mall in Riyadh with one of her (male and native) friends:
The three-story mall was so chockablock with designer stilettos, bondage boots, transparent blouses and glittering gowns with plunging necklines that it would have made Las Vegas blush.This is precisely what does not make sense to me about the whole Islamic veiling phenomenon: women are demanded to veil to cover their bodies which are viewed as sexual objects. However, it seems that even the women themselves see their bodies that way!! And, what's more - as long as it is within the bounds of marriage, they revel in it!! (Never mind the whole polygamy issue that is legal in many Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia). This seems to me to the paradox that is well...ridiculous. No one wants to see women dressed in shorts or a skirt that has her backside hanging out and tops that show more than anyone cares to see. But the other extreme, burqas and niqabs - simply seems to me to encourage it. As far as I can see, it is simply the same kind of sexual enslavement that we are constantly bombarded with through other means such as pornography, trashy clothes, and people like...Lady Gaga. And it is stuff like this that brings out that angry feminist in me. So I am done.
I felt drab, dressed in black to suit Saudi standards with a scarf over my hair, a long skirt, a sweater over a T-shirt and flats. An earlier outing with a pink skirt had caused my Ministry of Information minder to bark: ''Get your abaya! They'll kill you!''. . . . Suddenly, four men bore down on us, two in white robes, one in a brown policeman's uniform and one in a floor-length brown A-line skirt (not a good look). They pointed to my neck and hips, and the embarrassed diplomat explained that I had been busted by the vice squad.
''They say they can see the outline of your body,'' he translated. ''They say they welcome you to the mall, which is a sign of our modernity, but that we are also proud of our tradition and faith, and you must respect that.'' The police took my passport and began making notes about the crime, oblivious to the irony of detaining me in front of the window of another lingerie shop displaying a short lacy red slip.
September 14, 2010
1) A mother gives a frank assessment of "who's to blame" when it comes to body image problems.
2) Interesting look at what young adult Catholics are looking for when it comes to community.
Few young adults make such a swift and seamless switch to a new, vital faith community--which means many feel pangs of panic and loss. It's hard to replicate the built-in, tight-knit community of on-campus Catholics, says Elizabeth Moriarty, 32, who has worked as a pastoral associate and now serves as assistant director of the Gender Relations Center at the University of Notre Dame. "That structure is in place, and when it's not there and they have to do a little more work to get it, people don't know what to do."Via OSV.
That aimlessness is sharpened by a sense of isolation, says Paul Jarzembowski, director of young adult ministry for the diocese of Joliet, Illinois. "Can I find my peers? I don't see them in the office. I don't see them on the train, and they're out there somewhere."
3) Joe Carter at First Things shares a Big Think article on sexual promiscuity and happiness here.
4) Noelle Daly writes for The American Interest on the Pill and fertility:
But even as the Pill alleviated fear of the unwanted pregnancy that would confine a woman to the home, it also dramatically heightened anxiety about the ticking biological clock. Thus the Pill sparked one revolution that led in turn to another: Infertility born of long-postponed pregnancy found a solution in assisted reproduction technology. The first revolution sped the disconnection of sex and marriage, the second the disconnection of marriage and childrearing. The Pill gave us first the joy of sex without babies, and then, in effect, the freedom and convenience of creating babies without sex.Read it all here.
5) The Knights of Columbus have a semi-regular series profiling Catholic fathers, called Fathers for Good. I love this. Let us commend the great men we know who live well and serve as a witness to the Christian life for themselves, their colleagues, and most importantly, their families.
6) Pope Benedict XVI discussed the "special contribution" women make to the work of Theology on the feast of the Birth of Mary. via EWTN.
7) Skirts v. Pants. Referee: Simcha Fisher.
* I read once that to-do lists should never have more than seven items. I don't know why exactly, except that seven is an easily graspable number, and gives one a sense of doing something without being insurmountable. So, seven it is.
September 13, 2010
September 9, 2010
This article, written by Rebecca Walker, the daughter of feminist writier and author of The Color Purple, Alice Walker, is a real eye-opener.
"How my mother's fanatical feminist views tore us apart" tells of Rebecca Walkers joy in having a son, her mothers hateful dismissal of her grandson, and the backwards childhood of the daughter of a feminist icon. It is fascinating, hard, sad, and revealing:
But the truth was I was very lonely and, with my mother's knowledge, started having sex at 13. I guess it was a relief for my mother as it meant I was less demanding. And she felt that being sexually active was empowering for me because it meant I was in control of my body.
Now I simply cannot understand how she could have been so permissive. I barely want my son to leave the house on a play-date, let alone start sleeping around while barely out of junior school.
A good mother is attentive, sets boundaries and makes the world safe for her child. But my mother did none of those things.
Although I was on the Pill - something I had arranged at 13, visiting the doctor with my best friend - I fell pregnant at 14. I organised an abortion myself. Now I shudder at the memory. I was only a little girl. I don't remember my mother being shocked or upset.
...I know many women are shocked by my views. They expect the daughter of Alice Walker to deliver a very different message. Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It's helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it's caused for my contemporaries?
...The ease with which people can get divorced these days doesn't take into account the toll on children. That's all part of the unfinished business of feminism.
Wow. Read it all here. (HT: TMS reader Paul)
September 8, 2010
September 7, 2010
Today is our beloved Agatha's birthday, and both Edith and I wish her happy days ahead this year filled with many blessings. May your heart stay open to God's will in your life for your job, your vocation(s), and all that awaits you. No one could ask for a more loyal friend or sister than you!
September 6, 2010
J: I mean, that's all right, right?
A: It's not like you're going to marry him tomorrow. But, if you do want to marry him, please give me a call, I'll put on my red dress and come meet you at the courthouse.