Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Advent from Albacete

"The Christian life begins with a fact, not an idea. It begins with something that happens at a particular place and moment...Mary was the first to experience the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel, the promises of Advent. Through her freedom, preserved from the wound of sin, the Salvation of the world became a child in her womb... what happened on the day of the Annunciation is meant to occur every day of our lives. This is Christianity's fundamental claim. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Mary's freedom, the salvation of the world- Jesus Christ- enters into the very structure of our human world. It is good to begin every day reciting the 'Angelus,' praying that what happened then will happen to us."
~Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, reflection on Lk 1:26-38

That's My Girl!

My roommate Amy has been publish-ed. Read Anna's Song at the new literary e-zine, Dappled Things.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Stop it, Self.

Part of being human is the desire to infinitize the instant. To hold on to some good thing and make it eternal. We had a retreat last weekend given by a wonderful priest involved in CL. He pointed this out, along with a number of other awesome soundbites that I could chew on for a long time. If you're lucky I'll include them at the end of this post.

One of the biggest temptations I face is wanting everything to stay the same. I'm so content with most everything, that when things change I take a while to adjust. Usually I don't like the change. I almost always dislike a new job or position or school or semester for at least 2 weeks. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I always identified with Anne of Green Gables as a girl, and how I still do; "Why do people have to change? Why can't things just stay the way they've always been?" Of course, it is part of being human that all things change- the earth is passing away! And God is always asking us to trust and live our dependence on Him by following, and gives us new ways of finding Him.

Last year after finals, a big group of us JPII students took over a little restaurant to celebrate together. We had the entire place to ourselves, set up 4 or 5 tables and wandered from one to another. People brought their spouses and/or children. One of our professors joined the party. The class ahead of us was great at promoting "communio" and we were eager to be a part of it.

So naturally, I wanted the same thing to happen this year. I wanted us all to celebrate together. Of course, many factors have changed. 4 of our classmates have babies they didn't have a year ago. The last exams for us were on Thursday instead of Friday, so some students or spouses had work the next day, and the phD students weren't yet finished with their papers. All very good reasons not to be surprised at the lack of enthusiasm for a get-together at the pub. But it still made me sad. A big part of it is that the 2 people most in my life here were already gone for home (my roommates) and another has a boyfriend and spent it with him instead.

Don't get me wrong, I had a great time last night, talking and dancing and seeing people. I was disappointed because of something as simple as "It's not like last year." No, self, it never will be like last year! These are different people, lives have changed, and I have to learn to love the real and not the image in my head. I wish that weren't so difficult.

Other great soundbites for reflection:
  • We always run from God. We fear He is the enemy, and He has to keep reminding us (prophets) that we're running and that He has done nothing to warrant it. He's always kept His promises. Why are we running?
  • There's nothing worse to the human being than the uninvited unforeseen.
  • God hates abstraction. (I love that one.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

One down, one to go!

Exams, that is. Trinity was this morning, in which I was supposed to
1.) explain Aquinas' concept of "person" (in Q.43) and how it contributes to our understanding of the Trinity as communio personarum.
2.) explain and critique Richard of St. Victor's analysis of God as "summa caritas"
3.) Use Balthasar and Lumen Gentium to talk about the Marian dimension of the Church and its relation to the ministerial and "sub-ministerial" (lay) levels.
4.) Use Henri de Lubac and Luigi Giussani to explain the Church's mission.

Now I have Patristics on Thursday- and if you could just pray for that, that'd be great :)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Favorite Class

My head has been spinning since class on Tuesday. There's just too much. I can't do any of it justice, but I'll put down some of my notes, and hopefully they will spark some thought in others! Some of this is from Ratzinger's God is Near Us, but not sure which parts.

The human body does two things: It enables us to encounter others. It expresses me, the reality of the person, and allows us to communicate. But it also prevents us from knowing each other fully. It is like a border between states- it gives form to the state, but also separates it from all others. So the human being always has a decision to make: to allow oneself to be known, to give oneself, or to cave in. Because of original sin, we tend to cave in on ourselves. But in the Resurrection, the body becomes just communication. That is why Jesus can be fully present, His body can be in the Eucharist, in the Church, in US, everywhere, and does not separate us from Him. The Church is where the communication of God takes place. God wants man to participate in His life- this is much more than not sinning, but is being someone with whom He can talk... Dialogue! God seeks a return of His love.

We are called to have the soul of the Church; Our souls should be enlarged and welcome the other... which requires us to change. The center of our self should be no longer the self but the other... In St. Paul, just as it is Christ who lives in him, he also carries the community of believers in him as well. God places the destiny of others in human hands. Look at the saints. Their lives were defined by Christ, and they knew the urgency of communicating Him to others. We are all called to participate inChrist's mission- He lives in us. Some missions reach further than others (that is why we only canonize some) but we all participate in it. The whole Church is in me. If you are baptized, you are a part of me... not in a sentimental wishy-washy sense, but in a reality of having been made one by the sacrifice of Christ. The entire Church is in me. I carry you- and you carry me- for He carries us all.

Awww. haha

From Philothea Rose (Check out her cute baby!!!)

innocent kiss
innocent kiss - you're cute and sweet and like it
that way

What Sign of Affection Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Got nothin'

Not that there's nothing going on, but I just don't feel I have anything to "publish" for the world at large these past days/weeks/whatevers. Work is still slow, but I have had a bit more to do than usual, and have kept up with reading other blogs and news stories, so it hasn't been too painful.

I performed for the first time in front of people on Saturday (sang/played guitar). Well, let me be more specific. Put me on stage in front of 500 strangers, and I'm like a fish in water. Put me on one side of a living room full of people I know and I feel paralyzed. It's always been that way, so I usually avoid that kind of performing, but now that I've done it perhaps next time it will be easier. I got to talk with some really cool people, hear Dan's discernment story and a couple's engagement story (on the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross... awesome!)so it was a nice night. Good people, good tea, and great music.

Well, hopefully I'll have something of substance sometime in the future, but no promises.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cool Music

One of the greatest parts of my friendship with Srs. Water and Grass is that we share an intense love for music. Specifically for cool, lesser known artists. So here are a couple I highly recommend, just to throw it out there for any music lovers like Annee or Anj.

Ray LaMontagne, who we call "Ray Lemonade" because we aren't sure how to say his name. I'm telling you, it never fails that when his song "Trouble" comes on in my car, I say "Sing it, Ray!" It doesn't matter if I've had a good day or a bad day, and it doesn't matter what mood I'm in. It's appropriate for all. Sing it, Ray!!

Amos Lee I would place him in the same kind of genre as our pal Ray. They call it a fusion of funk and soul... and that sounds about right. It's soul-ful music alright! Love it.

Hem Sr. Grass heard this band playing in a store when we were in CA, and asked the person working who they were. Apparently, she was the millionth person to do so. It's very nice- some fiddle in there, and fun to sing along to.

These three are all under the general mood of "chill"... Ooooh Ben Harper too. This is just the current mood, there are others.

Wow work is reaaaaal slow today.

SO close!

You Are 22 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Party Time

Halloween = parties. One tomorrow, one Saturday. I am thus compelled to contemplate proper party conversation and participation. (How do you like those c's and p's?)

It is always helpful to remember that almost everyone in the world doesn't think they are very good at the whole "social thing." It almost never fails that people I think are so calm and cool at making conversation and seem not nervous at all in party settings will later confess their anxiety over that very thing. We all say to each other, "Are you kidding? You're so great! I'm the one who's socially awkward." Just realizing that changes your perspective. We're all just human. In a setting surrounded by people you only slightly know, you are probably going to be a little awkward. You're probably going to have to endure some silences, and lags in conversation, and say some dumb things. You'll tell a story and not know where it's going and it will never get there. You'll be in people's way, a lot if its crowded. That's all a part of it. Part of the human thing. Most people choose to ease this a bit with alcohol. At parties I go to, no one is getting trashed, and they're responsible. I usually don't for the simple reason that I don't particularly like the way most of it tastes. And having been that way forever, I'm used to this awkwardness that is me, and can deal with it fairly well. (Not to say that's the only reason to drink- but if you don't like beer, then it is the reason... meaning, when my roommate makes me a yummy fun drink I don't complain :)

The last time I went to a party at this person's place, I was very struck by how much is going on at one time. Especially in these kinds of circles- you're going to a party with people who examine their consciences. So you know that words are not just coming and going, they will be remembered. Everyone is trying to figure out how to "be good"- even a saint- yet be themselves too. There are crushes, there are disappointments, there are former relationships or budding ones, mixed feelings, hidden ones... the list goes on. And it's all part of the night. God wills somehow that you're standing in this room with this particular group of people. You have the choice of whether you're going to live for others and go outside of yourself (to that person standing alone) or remain comfortably with people you know well. You will have to rack your brain for real questions to ask strangers which don't allow one-word answers, and you'll have to actually care about their response and be open to being surprised. All this while getting over your own self-consciousness, background music that can be distracting, or feelings about this or that person. And since most of these people are in the state of grace, the Holy Spirit is totally present even if we're not having "prayer time." How cool is that?

So my prayer for tomorrow is the strength to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. Follow Him wherever He leads, and if it's to a person who rambles on without stopping for breath in the corner away from all my friends, so be it. For the grace to love them and not make it evident that I would like out of this conversation. (not that I've ever done that... I mean.... shoot I'm a wretch) To be ungrasping of anyone's attention. For humility and the willingness to be set aside. For freedom in my heart, and for it to be protected by Mary in all its vulnerability.

I'm so glad it will be St. Jude's feast day! I'm a hopeless cause :)


So little do most of us know, there's an intense debate going on over this procedure, designed to give us stem cells without giving us embryos. Here's what one of my professors has to say about it:

ANT-OAR (Warning: Evil PDF format!)

I wish I understood this stuff, but I really don't. I just really trust this guy. It's a Brave New World indeed................

Friday, October 07, 2005

Trinity study time

I realized very strongly on Tuesday that I need to be studying a bit harder. The question, "Well, what does Athanasius say?" was directed toward the class and I found myself thinking, "I have no idea. I know I read it, but I have no idea."

oops. So today at work, I'm going through my notes, and this post will really be just for the purpose of "writing down" a few things, especially any cool points Fr. made.

The problem with Rahner's "On the Trinity" is that he said that the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa. It's the vice versa that causes problems, because the first part is fine- yes, the God in history is the God that exists. But did God express His whole Being in history? Is there nothing left to say? What happens now then? God's being is not welded to the cosmos, He is not totally caught up in history so that He is lost. There is a connection, of course (Romans 1:20), but God is always-greater. ever-greater.

So what does Jesus Christ disclose?
"I am the sent one." He is always in relation to the Father. His mission defines Him, it coincides with Who He is.

*here's where Fr. went off a bit and said some great stuff: human beings always want to be somewhere else- to plan the future. Christ shows His divinity by not anticipating the will of the Father (only the Father knows the hour) Human beings always have the suspicion that the Father is the enemy, and that's why we have to plan things out. Remember, we're always and only in the PRESENT! That's it! Nothing before or behind. And the most evident thing about the present is that we're not making ourselves-- we're being made-- and we resist. We want to break out of time. You can't just pull yourself out of this way of thinking, but Christ shows that the meaning of being a human being is to receive.*

Aquinas: Christ's having a mission coincides with receiving His being in eternal generation. He is defined by receiving Himself. The mission of the Son is the divine procession in history.

Christ talks of God as 3 and as unity. Circumincession, perichoresis...

How do we understand the paradox of one God who is Father, Son, and Spirit?

Look at the 2 philosophical positions that are a background for these questions.
  1. Plotinus teaches that the more perfect a being is, the more it generates. Generation is a perfection of being. The perfect One is a unity overflowing with life. What is generated cannot be itself; it must be something else, something less. That which is generated is less than and extrinsic to the one who generates. The one generates outside itself.
  2. Aristotle posits the Unmoved mover, the principle which remains ignorant of all other things. The universe is co-eternal, so the One doesn't mettle in it.

Now within Christianity:

Arius posits that a distinction in God cannot multiply essences. (There are not 3 Gods) He's trying to correct a couple theories going around:

  • Adoptionism: Jesus is a normal human being and at Baptism He is granted divinity by the Holy Spirit.
  • Modalism: We seem to be dealing with one God who presents Himself in history in 3 different ways. They aren't 3 different persons, just modes or ways of being the same. God's face with 3 expressions... ways God is present to our awareness. Like Sabellianism. Consequence: The Father suffers on the Cross.

Arius is trying to remain faithful to Scripture, defend God's unity, and also affirm the reality of Jesus' suffering and death. Against modalism, he says that the generation of the Son is real- He has a true substantial existence, is not an emanation. The Son is not the Father. When he starts getting in trouble, Arius tries to get out of it through using Scripture to hold that God is one, and that while the Father is ungenerated, all else comes from something else. (Jesus is not equal to the Father)

shoot I didn't get far at all. Lots of work to do!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stand in Reality

We had a professor last year who was young, energetic, handsome, and didn't wear a ring. Then we found out that he was a consecrated celibate in a community. We're talking vows not promises. And suddenly, how you looked at him was changed.

I remember the way my friend explained it. If your vocation is your stand in reality, then this total chang of perception makes perfect sense. When you find out someone's vocation, suddenly you see them in light of this fact, this calling which determines the rest of their being. If you see a man in plain clothes, who then introduces himself as a priest, the same thing happens.

One of the guys who plays soccer never wears a ring when he plays, so I never knew he was married. Then I saw him at a different function the other day, with his wife. And it just clicked- it made him make sense! Now I can see him much more in reality; his stand in it is named. I don't know how to explain it. But there is something in how he plays, in how he affirms everyone on the field, and how fatherly he is that I just couldn't seem to reconcile with a single man and it kind of confused me. And now I see why! How cool!! His marriage defines him in a fundamental way, and it is communicated just in the way he is. He didn't even have to have his ring on, or mention his wife every day for me to know there was definitely something to him, that he was not a normal single guy. I'm wondering if there's a way to tell him that, but I think if people don't know where I'm coming from, the JPII vision, they might think it's... well... strange. "You only made sense to me when I saw you with your wife!"

We're such animals

Me, B, Katie, and Kathleen (Water)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Contemporary Exegesis

I have a final exam tomorrow in one of my classes. That's right, a final! We'll be done with this class on Weds, have a week off, and start another one the week after. Strange schedule.

First, I'll write about an article entitled, "Christ in Contemporary Exegesis: Where We Are and Where We Are Going" by Klemens Stock. He begins by outlining a few trends in exegesis:
  1. The gap between the "historical pre-paschal Jesus" and the "Post-Paschal Christ" is getting smaller. Exegetes are recognizing the problem with both extreme positions. Bultmann, at one extreme, thought the Jesus of history had nothing to give to us. All that matters is the saving act of Christ. On the other hand, we have Jeremais, who thinks that the only important thing is finding details about Jesus according to the historical-critical method and focusing on them. Bridges are starting to be built which recognize the "implicit Christology" present all through the Gospels. You cannot separate Jesus from Christ!
  2. The search for the "historical Jesus" continues.
  3. There is growing discontentment with the historical-critical method. Why? a few reasons. Let me list them... First, the method only offers hypotheses, it does not give people the bread of life. It does not help anyone make a decision about how to live their life in the footsteps of Christ. Secondly, the method is divorced from praxis, and turns the study of Christ into a cold, academic one. Third, the attempt to interpret Scripture from the point of view of depth psychology has not been very fruitful. [don't ask me what that means]
  4. There is a desire to reclaim the "Jewishness" of Jesus. These interpretations tend to dismiss other aspects of Christ as inventions of Paul.
  5. New approaches affect how we see Christ. Ex: Historical Impact (history of exegesis), Rhetorical analysis (text as a whole), Methodological Reflection (H-C method is critique, analogy, correlation- look at the problems with them).

Next, Stock gives us some guidelines for exegesis, assuming that we want to find Jesus, whole and entire and in Himself.

  1. Do less violence to the text. Just as we can see the effects in nature when we approach it with our own purpose and make it bend to our wills, Scripture needs to be approached in such a way as it is allowed to speak.
  2. Respect the Gospels as unique sources. Realize that you cannot separate Jesus of Nazareth from His followers. Christ preached a new way of life, a community. He did not display concern that His words and actions be written down as they went along; rather He was concerned about building a community. The Gospels are testimonies of faith, and this does not make them any less true. They are an inseparable weaving of what Jesus said and did and the effect that He had.
  3. Continue the historical work. We must respect the age of the text and the tools needed to understand it. This includes looking at literary form, language, intellectual background, context, authors & intentions, addressees & situations, and past interpretation of the text.
  4. Use the whole as a reference point. To illustrate this point, Stock presents the case of the Gospels of John and Mark. Do they point to the same person, even though one presents us a "High Christology" and one is less clear? (yes- look at the whole of Mark's Gospel and you will find implicit affirmations of the things John explicitly teaches us)

Basically, to find the real Jesus Christ, you must trust that God wants to speak through Sacred Scripture, that He can do that, and that He will help.

NT Passages on Marriage

(Part II of tomorrow's test)

Matthew 19:3-9
Perhaps the most important of all NT passages on marriage since here we have Jesus' own words addressing it. So what does He say when the Pharisees ask Him about divorce?

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?"

Note here that the Pharisees presuppose the lawfulness of divorce. They see marriage as a contract that is subject to the husband's will. The question, in their minds, is whether Jesus has a strict or loose interpretation of the law (for any cause).

He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?

Here, Jesus puts together the two key texts from the two accounts of Creation- Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. The first highlights the equal dignity of man and woman, and in the passage it highlights fecundity (be fertile and multiply). The equal dignity excludes dominion by man. The second account highlights the love between man and woman, and explains the existential change that occurs when the two are joined together.

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."

This causal link between passages is original with Jesus. He also reveals the biggest refute to the Pharisees: it is not man's fickle will which joins two persons in marriage, but God Himself. The marriage relationship thus affects man's relationship with God as well. Therefore, all divorce is illicit. All!

They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"

Jesus has answered the Pharisees with texts that they had not anticipated. They did not link Genesis to marriage, especially since they had other texts to use to justify their current practice of divorce. What they refer to here is probably Dt. 24:1. When read in its context, however, Dt. 24:1 does not really sanction divorce the way the Pharisees have read it.

He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Jesus directs the Pharisees to the beginning, suggesting that it is possible to live in faithful love. Hardness of heart, sklerokardia, signifies a lack of love, a lack of faithfulness to the covenant. It is the breaking off of it, or the false performance of it. Hesed is the word for mercy & faithfulness. It is lacking in anyone willing to divorce his wife.

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia, and marries another, commits adultery."

Here we go. What some people call "the exception clause" Now it gets interesting! What is Jesus saying here? Many translations are "unchastity" but that isn't very illuminating. It's best to leave it in Greek and deal with it that way. Let's write it this way-- I say to you: whoever divorces his wife (except for porneia), and marries another, commits adultery. Porneia literally means prostitution. In this case, it seems to mean an illicit sexual relationship which cannot be a true marriage- an impediment, if you will. Fr. Sanchez explains it like this, "Whoever divorces his wife, and I'm not talking here about porneia, in which a true marriage doesn't even exist..." Hm! Some translations make the word "adultery." There are 3 good reasons that porneia cannot mean adultery. 1.) The Greek word for adultery, which Matthew uses in other places, is moikheia. If he wanted to say adultery, he would have written adultery. Duh. 2.) In the context, it would not make sense. The disciples' shock at this, and statement: "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry" shows that they get it. 3.) If Jesus did mean unchastity or adultery, it would basically mean that He agreed with the Shammai school of strict interpretation-- which would not be all that surprising and the Pharisees would have been satisfied that they got what they wanted to hear- which never happens of course.

Wow! I have two more passages to go over still. There is just so muchhhhhh!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bruderhof Communities


Saturday was our annual JPII Institute fall gathering at Dr. Schindler's home. In the past, it was held at his home in West Virginia, which was gorgeous, so it was a bit sad to be in DC.

At 12pm we began to set up, and a couple from a Bruderhof community in NY came to help as well. They have been sent out of the community to... well I don't know what exactly they're supposed to be doing... I guess just telling others about their community. They showed up at the offices a while back, so Dr. Schindler arranged for them to give a talk. I missed it, but had heard much so I looked forward to meeting them. They are precious. They taught us one of the songs they sing in a round, and sang another one for us as well. They had offered to come help set up because they "know community." I think they were pleasantly surprised to see that we Catholics "know community" too... in fact, can you fully know the meaning of community without the Eucharist? I don't know... I don't think so. And I hope they saw the beauty of family life and the value we place on it. I think the woman especially misses her 3 daughters- the youngest of whom is only 18 months. Isn't it strange that a Christian community would send you and your husband away from your children for an undetermined amount of time?! There's something wrong with that. I hope they could see it.

They have invited any of us interested up to visit. I would looooove to. It would be stepping into a different world, but one that I think human beings are meant to live in. One where you would not spend hours a day staring at a computer screen. Where you would actually use your body to do useful work, and spend your days in community. I guess I'm torn between this desire to escape and just form your own "perfect" community and the fact of living in this world and being called to transform it from within. But I can daydream about an ideal Catholic community, can't I? A place to gather all my friends and loved ones into one place and not have to say goodbye so much.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Thursday, September 08, 2005

See how they love one another

I was a senior taking Shakespeare, because I wanted to, so most of the class was composed of younger English majors. I agreed to join a little study group, knowing full well that I probably would not get much out of it (I was never a study group person until coming to JPII, where I need them because you don't get to practice articulating things except with each other). Somehow, the issue of friendships came up- guys' friendships vs. girls'. The guys expressed the opinion that girls are just terrible to their friends; they talk about each other, ignore each other, and are generally [insert bad word here]. The only other girl in the group said that she agreed.

I was completely baffled. Not that I haven't seen these kinds of friends before, or girls treating each other that way. But I thought, surely, this is not still present to such a degree that people have never seen true friendship among women.

How blessed am I. About 18 wretches, and many others, came to my house on Monday for a picnic. It was great fun all around but I want to focus on the fact that there are over 18 young women in my life that I can trust not to talk "trash" about me, not to make fun of me, and more than that, who affirm me and love me even though I am wretched. Some of them met for the first time that day, and in the way of true Christian friendship, you would think they had been friends for years. Sr. Lightning, for example, may be our newest member but she certainly belongs. We stood outside the campus apts coordinating rides just laughing and hugging and greeting each other. We sat in my living room and sang some praise and worship. Rarely will you hear a more beautiful sound. We are seeking holiness and encouraging each other on the way. We do not become saints alone.

There is potential to start a "fraternal order" in one of our brothers in Christ. It's kind of tempting. But I think there is something special to our sisterhood because of the aforementioned conversation and others like it. We really are witnessing to the truth and beauty of living in Christ by not succumbing to so-called "typical" female friendship patterns. I think there are about 26 of us in total so far... 26 young, normal, wretched women who will support each other on the way to Heaven. I hope to post a picture from the picnic soon.

Happy Birthday, Mary! What is it, 2018? :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


"God intended man to have all good, but in his, God's, time; and therefore all disobedience, all sin, consists essentially in breaking out of time. Hence the restoration of order by the Son of God had to be the annulment of that premature snatching at knowledge, the beating down of the hand outstretched toward eternity, the repentent return from a false, swift transfer into eternity to a true, slow, confinement in time. Hence the importance of patience in the New Testament, which becomes the basic constituent of Christianity, more central even than humility: the power to wait, to persevere, to hold out, to endure to the end, not to transcend one's own limitations, not to force issues by playing the hero or the titan, but to practice the virtue that lies beyond heroism, the meekness of the lamb which is led."
~Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fun with Patristics

I have my first class on Marriage and Family in Patristic Theology later today, so I thought I'd do a bit of the reading...

Origen: "Our inner man consists of spirit and soul. The spirit is said to be male; the soul can be called female. If these have concord and agreement among themselves, they increase and multiply by the very accord among themselves and they produce sons, good inclinations and understandings or useful thoughts, by which they fill the earth and have dominion over it... But now if the soul, which has been united with the spirit and, so to speak, joined in wedlock, turn aside at some time to bodily pleasures... She will be punished, therefore, like a harlot and her sons will be ordered to be prepared for slaughter."

No word on what happens to a man, spirit, if he strays.

St. Ambrose: "Accordingly, the Lord declared that it was not good for man to be alone, because the human race could not have been propagated from man alone... For the sake, therefore, of the successive generations of men it followed that woman had to be joined to man... God said, 'Let us make him a helper like himself.' We understand that to mean a helper in the generation of the human family-- a really good helper... even though in an inferior position. We find examples of this in our own experience. We see how men in high and important offices often enlist the help of men who are below them in rank and esteem."

Wow. This class is going to be interesting. When you read these things, it's easier to see where some people are coming from when they think that certain doctrines should change. It's amazing how much we know now, even just in exegesis, like the word used for "helper" and all it entails... If only we were better at communicating things...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Communio Personarum: Trinity and Church

The title of my class today. I'm so glad to be back in class!! I was never meant to work full-time ;) and while my mind will take a few weeks to adjust (it always does), it's very happy to be working again.

So, the Trinity. What an ambitious topic. Our readings today were from Henri de Lubac, John Paul II, and Cardinal Ratzinger. Father began with "Man is desire to know" from Metaphysics. The human being is a web of relations. We are always being created, being generated... I cannot account for myself from within myself; my self comes from an Other. Who we are is formed by how we are generated and brought forth.

There is a similar dynamic in knowledge. Knowledge is a mysterious process, by which the self leaves itself, appropriates what is known, and returns to itself enriched and changed. In a way, after you view the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon dwells in you. The more you know something, the more you are one with it. The more you know a person, the more you are one with him. Love is leaving room in yourself so that the other may come in.

Unity and difference. We tend to deny one and affirm the other. The revelation of the mystery of the Trinity in Jesus Christ is the only hypothesis that puts the two together without destroying them. In Christ, we see that the nature of Being itself is communion-- loving friendship. Where there is greater communion, there is greater unity. In God is the recognition of Otherness. When we call something a Mystery, we do not simply mean it is something beyond our grasp. We mean that it is Otherness. Mystery is a noun; a subject.

Knowledge of God comes only through conversion. Understanding God requires purification. Arius was reluctant to let go of a Greek mind. Since God had to be ungenerated in the Greek conception, Arius had to see Christ, the Generated One; as not being God. The only way to approach studying the Trinity is to humble yourself in front of the mystery of God, and be drawn into it.

That about summarizes my first class on the Trinity. Any questions? I don't quite follow my notes myself, but Fr. Antonio never fails to say something striking. Like this: "Saying 'I love you' contains a lie, is not true, if it doesn't praise God." and this: "When mystery is taken out of reality, reality itself becomes opaque [incomprehensible]."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

As promised...

A couple pictures from the Nash. Top is Sr. Anna and Miriam; Middle is me and Sr. Moon, who entered there a few days after this picture; Bottom is Sr. Alexandra and the baby.

From Sunset re:Dating sites

I'm just gonna put some of her entry here- her blog is private, so you can't go read it yourself- but I don't think she'll mind and if she does it'll come off! You'll notice she's a really great writer:

That said, I'm not joining a Catholic dating site. My rationale for doing so is not passivity, but is something far different, which I will now discuss.

Imagine I joined Catholic Singles (or whatever). In putting up a lovely picture of myself, listing all my data, I would be saying, "This is my body, given up for you." Hey--that's a knock--but that's not a female "way of knocking!" In marriage, the culmination of courtship, it is the man who says, "this is my body given up for you" and the woman says "be it done to me according to your Word."

Men and women are different. We have different roles in relationships--and we have different ways of knocking when we want something! Women are different. Complicated. Confusing. Maddeningly so! We therefore have a different way of knocking when we like someone! We play hard to get.

There is no way a woman can join a Catholic dating site that could be read as saying "be it done to me according to your Word." It can only be "This is my body." How can a woman put herself out there on a website AND play hard to get? It says: "Here I am." Game over. Where is the batting of eyelashes? Where is the mystery? Where is the playfulness? If both a man and a woman say "Here is my body, given up for you," who will receive, when both are so busy giving?

Women get embarrassed. We're mysterious and we get mysteriously embarrassed when we like someone. We don't put ourselves out there. We don't ask men out on dates. We don't propose marriage. We don't serenade them. Putting ourselves out there makes us embarrassed. Guys have no problem putting themselves on a spreadsheets, while women are unspreadsheetable and that is our eternal allure!!

In my interpretation (which could be wrong), putting oneself on a Catholic dating website only makes sense for men. And by refraining from posting my stats on a Singles website--doesn't mean I'm passive, it means I'm a woman and even thinking about it makes me embarrassed.

If I like Mr. X, I'll play hard to get, won't look at him, get embarrassed and let him ask me out if he wants to. These are verbs. I'm not being passive. I'm knocking. This is woman's knock. I'm communicating to God that I want Mr. X in my own, womanly way (i.e., being mysterious and confusing). It's not woman's role to "kill the cow" and grab a husband. What then would the man's role be?

Woohoo! I want to clarify one thing before it gets misunderstood. Sista Sunset doesn't mean all women play hard to get as a game-- we all know that some women do that and that's not what she's talking about-- she means that for many of us, when we like someone, we get embarrassed and suddenly can't talk to them and can hardly look at them. This isn't playing games, because it is not intentional, but it is part of the dance. And I don't think she's saying that it's easy for men to put themselves out there- I'm sure it's not- but that's part of being a man. In our society, women have been told to take all these things into our own hands and to believe that that is only natural. Ask a guy to homecoming if you want (ahem, 1998), ask a guy to dance if you want to dance; God knows you can't count on them to do it. Don't sit around waiting for them! But it's interesting what has happened since this has become our mantra. Now men know that they don't have to make the effort. In the "old days" if they didn't make the extra effort, they would spend every Saturday night alone at home. Now, chances are quite good that they will have a date before they even thought much about the girl they're taking out. (Of course there are exceptions) And another result is that I think the fear of rejection, which must have always been present, has been hightened for men because they put themselves out there less often. They only want to ask someone out if they're positive they will say yes. But if it's someone like me or Sunset, there's pretty much no way they'll know this unless they know us really well. I repeat, this is not intentional! It's just that we suddenly feel like we're back in 7th grade, and the cute boy across the room glances in our direction and we turn red and focus hard on the graffiti on our desks until he stops. Not that we don't like it. And not that we don't want him to do it again. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be if you're the cute boy in question, but, that's the way it is sometimes. St. Joseph, help these guys out! Mary, help us to know how to encourage them in the right way.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Catholic Match, Huh?

One of the topics of conversation in Nashville: CatholicMatch, Ave Maria, etc. So I throw it to you:

What do you think about Catholics looking online for their future spouse? I would love to see a discussion develop on this... if one starts I will put in my two cents on thursday. If you were one of my early readers (ha!) you might be able to guess.

Go to it!!
Haha, ok, well since there are only a few of us... (Sunset, I wish you'd left it in the combox to make it look better!) I'll just say a couple things, and refer you to my January 25th entry which goes into technology more.

Annee pointed out that we're really lucky to even have this option- or the option to marry for love in the first place. Bayou has said before that it just creates an opportunity that may not exist otherwise for good people to meet each other. The general consensus goes like this: An online dating site itself is neutral, it's how you use it that matters. That's something I would like to challenge, I think. So what might online dating say?

  1. Take matters into your own hands. You can't wait around for people to drop into your life. Ok, this is somewhat valid. No, you can't sit in the highest room of the tallest tower for years and expect Prince Charming to come rescue you. But I don't think you can go to the other extreme of "God only helps those who help themselves," meaning you should do everything you possibly can think of to find someone. God does more than you could ever do by yourself. He's working on it right now if that is His plan for you. God doesn't need you to "exhaust all avenues," especially if they would contradict something about you.
  2. You can get to know me by a profile. This could be partly a pride issue, I concede that, but it's at least partly objectively true that you can't put me in a box. You can't possibly understand who I am by reading a bunch of "facts" about me. You can't know anyone by that. Sure, you could find out my favorite book, music, or quote and that will give you some clues, but it's nowhere near explaining me. I know, I know, this is just the initial stage and it would go on to phone or in person, but the beginning matters.
  3. You just need to find someone who fits the criteria. Catholic and orthodox? Believes the Church's teachings? Wants a big family and to raise them for heaven? Great, let's get married! Um.... huh??? I don't think so! What about a sense of humor? What about attraction? What about the Holy Spirit? On paper, let me tell you, I'm quite a catch. But if someone just sees that and creates this person in their head of who I am, they will be quite disappointed. There will be a measure of disillusionment in any relationship, I'm sure. You always start out seeing just the good and have to learn to see that still when you finally see the bad too. But in this online "system" of finding a spouse, you are practically encouraged to create the person in your mind, because you have no other options. You can't even help it, really. All you have to go on is the fact sheet. I have met great Catholic men who have everything to recommend them. They are fun, cool, and solid. But for one reason or another, something in our personalities doesn't mesh. (This happens with girls too, you meet a friend of a friend that you *should* love, but you just don't click) On the other hand, I have had good friends who are nothing like me on paper. One guy I was very close to was an agnostic, couldn't care less about God, but we got along incredibly well. We could spend hours and hours talking even if we could never agree on a single point. Would I have ever met him on a dating site? No way! I would see "agnostic" and run in the other direction. But his friendship was huge in my life and taught me so much more than those seemingly "perfect" Catholic guys. Getting married isn't about shopping around with a list of qualities you want. It's about an encounter with another who is for you. You find yourself in them. You see how the Holy Spirit has acted in both of your lives to bring you together in an unexpected way. I guess I feel like a gift isn't so much fun if you went to the store to read all the descriptions and picked it out yourself.
  4. Women should be as active as men in the process. I accept that the days are gone when a young man would "come calling." I don't expect to be pursued in the same way that women were in days past, but I do want to be pursued. If I joined an online site, I would not be able to resist that part of me who is still "liberated" and thinks it's ok for me to ask a guy out. (sophomore homecoming, will never forget it) Maintaining my Fiat would be increasingly difficult. "Grasp not" is my motto and I could see it easily slipping away if I searched for eligible young men in the area. Once again the questions would come, how much does it matter? Does it really matter if I'm the first to contact him? Does it really matter if I call first? If I suggest a date? If I take over completely and become one of those mothers who is the head of the house? Baby steps. Overly dramatic? Perhaps. But I'm not prepared to take that risk. The Fiat is too beautiful and fruitful in my soul to let go of.

That's enough for now. John Paul II, pray for us all as we seek our vocations in life. Mama Mary, hold us and guide us!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

N.I.C.U. Babies

about N.I.C.U.s.....
"Before birth, the baby and the mother are locked in an intricate dance. Each affects the hormonal behavior of the other. They move together, they share the same food and they may even share some of the same feelings. Little is understood about this complicated relationship, but even as more is learned, it is very unlikely that N.I.C.U. doctors will ever perfectly recreate conditions in the uterus. They would need not only a mechanical womb but also a mechanical mother with mechanical hormones and mechanical hopes and fears."
Since a couple of our wretches have been nurses at NICUs, I wonder what they think about it.
Imagine, a mother's body is perfectly designed to take care of the baby and technology just can't seem to reproduce that! What a shocker. As Dr. Schindler says, pregnancy is both a forming and a being formed... if one or the other is lacking, it causes a problem. Mama forms baby and at the same time is being formed by him/her.
I swear I'll be finishing the nashville post soon... and posting pictures too...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Points us onward

That's what religious life and marriage both do... religious life in a more obvious and in-your-face manner. What an awesome few days I had in Nashville! And I was certainly redirected toward the Lord and toward heaven.

Sitting around the table at the reception, we all just looked at each other. We sat there and... looked. Looked and smiled. Smiled and laughed. Laughed and looked some more. There were very few words exchanged the whole time, compared to most other social situations. As Storm put it, "There's too much to put into 20 minutes, so instead, it's better to just look at each other." We hadn't seen each other, many of us, in a year. So much had happened in the mean time: there was a whole new human being sitting with us that did not exist a year ago! And we had not one, but two friends from college who were now married to Christ in this community (simple vows) and another who entered on Sunday.

(B.N. Sr. Moon is the first to leave the wretches: she's in Nashville now!)

Much to be thought, prayed, and sorted through. But it made me feel more than ever the beauty of both states of life before me. They are so awesome! And while I still feel that religious life is not "mine", it does not cause the least bit of fear in me. I know that I would be happy anywhere. Wherever God calls me, it will be uniquely me and a (close to) perfect fit. Terry was made for that habit. She is more herself now than ever before. Likewise, Erika (Duck) and Todd (Toad) are uniquely for each other, and Miriam is a reflection of their love. After some recent discussion, hearing Duck-- one of the wisest women I know-- say that Toad is her "soulmate" and she can't imagine getting through without that was really good to hear.

I'll continue this later!!! And post pictures!

Thursday, August 04, 2005


My pet deadly sin. I've got pride covered. It's just so clever, subtle, and hide-able. But of course, as we all know, a proud person can spot another proud person a mile away. It's like we have a secret handshake, except that it is rarely acknowledged. We never know for sure whether the other person realizes that we see theirs, and we never know for certain if the other person sees ours. I think mine displays itself quite readily though. Like the other night,

Roommate: How was theology on tap?
Self: It was alright.
R: What did they talk about?
S: Pride, but the talk wasn't very good. I'm the proudest person in the world and I didn't find it helpful at all.

Hahaha. Typical! It's just amazing. How does it go away? Unfortunately, as my confessor reminds me, the only way you get humility is by being humiliated. I've gotten to the point that falling up the escalator, as I did yesterday, doesn't bother me that much at all. My toe really did hurt more than my pride. And I generally laugh about other clumsy or stupid things that I do. It's the intellectual stuff that gets me. I have to be right, I have to know it all, I have to have all the answers.

I was struck by this quote of Dr. Schindler's about Benedict XVI:

"He is never defensive because he has no ego to protect. What he defends is not himself but the faith he has received and the Church he is meant to serve."
That's it, right there. I get defensive not because I want so badly to defend the truth- what I tell myself- but because I want to be understood. I want to be thought well of, respected, and capable.

Yesterday, someone from another faith was asking questions and talking about inclusive language and all sorts of things, and I was getting so agitated. Why? It was unnecessary to get defensive there, he was not trying to be difficult... even if he was, it would have been much better to ask him questions and try to understand his point of view. Let him make his case.

I think it's just frustrating for me when things seem to make perfect sense until I'm asked to articulate them and I can't. After a year of studying for my masters, it seems I'm still far from eloquent about difficult matters. Such as the story going around the blogs regarding the statement on Benedict's desk about same-sex attraction and ordination to the priesthood. I know that it matters. Of course it matters. And I know we've talked about this in class before, but can I articulate why a homosexual is probably unfit for the priesthood? Not very well. The only question I remember is this: "If a man is not able to be a father in the sense of begetting a child through a marriage, is he fit to be a spiritual father to a parish?" I think that is a question. The answer is not as clear, which is why I think it's a delicate matter requiring close personal attention and knowledge of the individual man in question. This is just one example of an important matter that can seem clear in my head but it turns out a real understanding of the issue is lacking. And as long as that is missing, and I'm not able to talk about things with people without getting all fired up, not only will I not be a very good teacher, but I'll be a poor witness for Christ in general. I have to learn to be like Benedict-- to have no ego to protect, but only a love for the truth, the church, and everyone I come in contact with.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Adventures in Darkness

We had quite a night on Tuesday.

11:15pm Annie and I head to our attic rooms in our not-ACed house.

12:15am I pack up a sheet, pillows, my cell phone (alarm), and head down to the living room for the 5 degree difference.
12:16am return upstairs to unplug little fan and bring it with me.
12:17am return upstairs to retrieve big fan and bring it with me.
12:18am settle on the floor of the living room in between the 2 fans.

12:20 am, yelp at the sudden presence of another. Annie laughs and says she didn't know I was down here too. We both attempt to fall asleep.

2:45am I wake up to, "Omigosh I'm gonna die!"
What happened?
The power went off!
Aha. So that's why there's an eerie silence, betraying that our fans, our only source of comfort and solace, and evaporation, are indeed off. Okaaaay...
2:48am Relocate once again to the entryway downstairs. Home to 2 bikes, a keg that still hasn't been returned from the JPII Ball (see May 2005!), and our mail.
2:50am Joined by Bayou, "It's so dang hot!" She sits near the top of the stairs. I'm near the bottom. Annie rolls out a sleeping bag and lays on the floor. We review our options:
We could go outside on the porch.
There's a guy out there waiting for the bus, and we're not wearing much.
We could go sit in my car and turn on the AC, but I don't have much gas.
I don't really trust the neighborhood to do that.
What's open 24 hours?
But we'd have to just stand around.
Isn't there a diner in college park?
We could wake Theresa and ask to sleep on her floor (w/AC).
We could go to A's sister's or my friend's.
3:30am Let's pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
3:34am Yep, the power is back on.
Thanks Jesus! Thanks Sr. Faustina! Why didn't we think of that sooner?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You too? I thought I was the only one!

Isn't that how C.S. Lewis describes friendship being born? That moment when you realize that you are not alone in some love, fear, or quirk.

So much happens in one day, and you have a million thoughts running through your mind. And you want to share them with someone. You want them to matter to someone, and not only that, but you want to see what someone else thinks about them. They build up as the day goes by, then as the week goes by, then as a month goes by. Then maybe you get together with a friend you haven't seen for a while. And they say, "so, what's been going on?" and you have nothing. Because where on earth could you start? And looking back, all those thoughts don't seem to add up to anything significant. And suddenly, you think you're a boring person because you just can't think of anything to talk about.

I didn't realize that other people feel that way! Maybe even everyone! But it makes sense. I think that's one of the things that makes marriage so attractive... someone will care about all those little things! They want to know them, they want you to share them... and because you would be together so much, you will actually be able to do that.

At WorkCamp, Steve would call his wife every 5 minutes. We thought it was strange, but cute. Now I totally get it. He and his wife realize that especially when he's out of town, they have to be in frequent contact somehow. Because otherwise, he'd come home, and too much would have happened, and suddenly there's a whole week that they don't share. It's not all earth-shattering news. In fact, none of it really is. When we told him that Ben & Jerry's gives money to Planned Parenthood, he stopped and said, "I'll be right back, I have to tell that to my wife!" and ran out of the deli to have a 2 minute conversation about ice cream and what kind they'll get from now on. And I loved that! Because that affirms to her that he's always thinking about her, and that he wants her to know everything he's doing even if they can't be together. If that wasn't their habitus, there's no way he'd remember after a week at WorkCamp to tell her about Ben & Jerry's.

The longer you go without talking to someone, the harder it is to "catch up" and yet with true friends, you still pick up as if you'd never left off. Maybe the key is to just continue knowing them, not being concerned to know everything else.

That's probably one of the reasons I've been thinking more about an old friend. It always goes in cycles, when you realize a friendship should end... But I miss the way that we would call each other over something stupid, and we know it's insignificant but we still want the other person to know it. Since I've never dated, this friend was the closest thing to it, and that's why it was so confused in my heart. That's the way I would be with someone I was getting that close to. And if I was seeing someone (as he was, frequently), I would be calling them, not him, to tell them these things. Hm. Ok as usual I started with one train of thought and jumped a bit. But that's all from me!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

For the record

I live with 3 of the coolest girls in the world.

Yesterday, we were all in the same room (for more than 2 minutes) for the first time all summer! Splendid, splendid I tell you. Good conversation, even on such frightening topics as marital infidelity and the story of Alive! or cutting off your own arm. Riiiiight. Then three of us went off to Adams Morgan, to Tryst and caught up even more. I'm such an old lady that waking up this morning was quite difficult after being up til 1!

  • The guy who stopped, reached down, and touched my flip-flop for no apparent reason.
  • Amy asking for Splenda and getting a strange look only to realize later that it was sitting right on the table next to her.
  • Annie breaking out the Bible while trying to conceal what it is.
  • Annie proceeding to read, loudly, about Sodom & Gomorrah when the guy who just sat down behind her probably has strong reactions to that, while Amy and I are laughing because she has no idea.
  • Barbara, and the gals showing how awesome they are.


  • Does it posit a sort of arbitrariness into the Divine plan to say that with regards to marriage, there may not be this "soulmate" you were created to marry, except when you think about it from the end? Meaning, in light of the fact that Amy marries Duston, it makes sense to say that this union was in the mind of God from the beginning. But does that mean that He willed it from the beginning, or just that it was from the beginning? I'm still not explaining this well. Let's see... basically the question is, can one choose the "wrong" vocation or the "wrong" person to marry? I guess we have to say yes, but how does that work in terms of the divine will?
  • Why would God allow something to happen to you that seems to confirm all of your fears, which you know are not of Him?

Part answer:

The poverty of finitude... that's what all of these kinds of questions seem to come down to. If we were all infinite we could be united to everyone else and not have to choose in this way. And there's no way we can understand everything that's happening from the eternal perspective because it's just so far beyond us- although we have to try. And you can't look at it from the outside, but from the inside, the lived experience where Christ is continually being made present.

Ok I feel like this post is all jumbled and just a bunch of thoughts thrown together, but it is what it is. Perhaps theology on tap tonight will give me even more food for thought!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Three vs. Four

Last Sunday, my roommate Amy and I volunteered to help our other roommate Annie take her four nieces to mass. She has been mom to the four girls for the last week and a half while their parents are away.

Three women over 22 against four girls ranging from 8 to 2.
We lost.
I always had sympathy for parents with misbehaving children in church. I could feel their anxiety and concern about the distraction, and usually gave them a nice smile. In fact, whenever there are kids doing something that might bother someone, and the parent tries to apologize to me, I always laugh and say that I love it. I always come close to saying "I understand" before I realize that I, single gal that I am, do not fully understand at all. But I get it. Empathy is one of those traits that has been forced on me by my mother, I think, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
After Sunday though, I have a whole new appreciation for parents with small children. I watched other well-behaved children in the church and wondered what the parents did to get them that way. Bribes? Punishments? Food? Books? We would have tried anything. I'm sure that much has to do with personality but there must be something you can do.
The 2 y/o has a favorite word: No. Whenever you tried to get her to be quiet or do anything, out it came. NOoooOOO! NO AMY NO! Meanwhile she would squeal or chatter or make noise in some other way. The 4 y/o wanted to be held, so Annie was occupied, and we were afraid of the terror the child might experience if one of us picked her up and hauled her outside when she doesn't know us. (terror for the child, deafness for the rest of us) The 8 y/o was sulky, with hurt feelings from something or other, and did not want to sit with us. So we were quite the spectacle in the back of the church. I didn't hear a word of the mass- except to catch the part of the Gospel where Jesus said "I praise you Father, for what you have hidden from the wise, you have revealed to the childlike" which made me smile a lot, and wonder what in the world He revealed to these little monsters.
Lots of thoughts.
1.) Get your concentrated praying in while you can! Silence is hard to come by later.
2.) You are providing the people around you with the chance to grow in patience, understanding, and charity. But at a certain point it is perhaps better to head outside with the disobedient one so as to not push the people in front of you past the breaking point.
3.) Being on time would probably have helped a lot... maybe even sitting closer to the front?
4.) Parents have to have sooo much energy.
5.) It's just so tempting to pop in a movie or let them do whatever they want. So tempting. How do you consistently maintain control? Are you ever in control? What is this discipline thing? How does it work? How do you do it?
That was only 4 girls. God bless all parents, especially those with more than 2 kids!
"If they outnumber you, it's bad news." ~my dad

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Part 4: The poor

I thought much of Mother Teresa last week, for obvious reasons. The kids were going out to do service, to make the residents' homes more comfortable and functional and safe. They were seeing a way of life quite different from their upper middle class world where the hardwood floors glisten and ice comes from a lever on the fridge. They saw hard-working people who are struggling to make ends meet and care for their families. Even though they may have done a ton for the residents, it is the young people themselves who benefit the most.

Mother Teresa talked of how much we can learn from the poor. In one crew, the resident offered them a bunch of fruit, and one of the kids talked about how much that meant. "She doesn't even have that for herself, and she's giving it to us." I stopped by one crew just as their resident was preparing lunch for them- meat, peppers, zucchini, rice- the works. She fed those 10 people as her own family. Some residents tried to get in and help with the work; Some spent the whole day with the crew just talking with them. One kid said, "What our resident doesn't have is time, and she gave us so much of that talking with us." These are those giving the widow's mite. We are the rich, giving but a week of our time. They are the poor, giving all that they have. I might add to this post later, as I came home with a lot to chew on about poverty. How are you called to live poverty if you are in the world, or have a family? Do not give out of your excess, Mother Teresa said, give out of your need. What does that look like for me? Much to ponder.

Part 3: Music

Say what you will about praise and worship. It can be cheesy. It can be quite Protestant. It can be theologically suspect. It can be just bad music. But man, can it be powerful.

The music was a big part of my experience as a kid at WorkCamp. I had sung in the junior choir at my parish and had always loved to sing, so this praise & worship thing was novel and exciting to me. You mean, you can sing to God, and dance and clap at the same time? HUH? You can close your eyes and sing softly something that has lyrics you never knew you needed to say? There's more to church music than "eagles' wings" and "here I am, Lord"? Whoa. Say no more, I was hooked. Now that I'm "more mature" I think that Latin, chant, and old standards like "Come Holy Ghost" are awesome, but that was a long time coming. As a teen, they were just plain boring. There was nothing inspiring to me in them, I didn't know Latin (still don't really), and the words didn't seem to come from the heart. The God in that music seemed far away.

When we sang, "Lord, draw me nearer than before... take the blindness from my eyes, all my arrogance and pride..." Jesus was suddenly right there, seeing me, hearing me. These words expressed something I was not mature enough to know-- I was full of pride and selfishness. At the time, I don't think I could even connect it. I don't think I went to confession and said "pride"- but it was there in the way that song and others spoke to me. "Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord," we sang. "Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Your Face" "You are the only one I need and I bow all of me at Your feet." Simple words, simple melodies, easy to make harmonies, what more could you ask for?

Steve kept doing the songs "Yes, Lord" and "Awesome God" complete with hand motions. I was so sick of them by the end of the week- I am totally over the hand motion stage. But I watched the crowd and on Saturday there were only a few kids who didn't participate in it. So while I might be unimpressed with those songs, the fact that it got these kids fired up makes me happy. The way one of the girls said that she had sung out loud for the first time, and one of the guys said that he felt God's presence there during adoration with music, and he thinks he knows what God wants him to do with his life. Chills! I got chills! So that's my two cents about praise and worship. I think it being paired with adoration is a beautiful and powerful thing. I'm so thankful for it in its ability to touch hearts and bring them deeper. My friend's fiance is studying classical guitar. What he's really interested in is liturgical music. If chant is the music of the liturgy, how can we make it work. How can we incorporate music more into the liturgy, almost like a film score. It makes such a difference. My friend had been to an Easter Vigil where the (8) readings were complimented by a single flute in the background. She said it helped you so much to picture what was going on and enter into it. I'm sure a lot of people think that sounds terrible but I love it. I think there's so much to that.

"Faith becoming music is part of the process of the word becoming flesh…When the word becomes music, there is involved on the one hand perceptible illustration, incarnation or taking on flesh, attraction of pre-rational powers, a drawing upon the hidden resonance of creation, a discovery of the song which lies at the basis of all things. And so this becoming music is itself the very turning point in the movement: it involves not only the word becoming flesh, but simultaneously the flesh becoming spirit."
-Pope Benedict XVI

Part 2: Behind the Scenes

The great part about being 16 at workcamp is that you can and do take many things for granted.

There are 100 water coolers outside so that you can pick up 2 for your worksite.
There is coffee and hot water ready when you wake up at 6:30am.
There are people serving you breakfast and dinner.
You pick up a bag with your crew number on it, filled with the correct number of lunches, including the special cheese sandwiches.
The classrooms are emptied of their desks when you arrive, so that you can set up sleeping space.
The program space is all set up, complete with professional lighting and sound, a little bar for coffee, bleacher seats with carpet squares, and little tables that roll in and out with game boards on them. (wait a minute, we didn't have any of that when I was 16!!)

You get the idea. Now, having been on the other side, I can see what a huge undertaking this week was. We had lots of adults there the whole time to help out, and lots more that came for a day or two, helping with set-up, take-down, or security.

The program space was crazy and cool. The stage was only a foot high, then there was a corner of bleachers, made using scaffolding and stage boards. The real bleachers of the gym housed the "crows nest" where all the technology hung out (and some of the adult men slept up there). The lights and sound came from a professional company, and we had 2 people who do this in college to run them. There was high scaffolding to put up all around it so that we could make it half the size of the gym, and hang up 16-foot curtains. There was a large screen to put words or videos up, a huge cross to hang in the center, and banners of workcamp. Putting the space together left me sore for the next 2 or 3 days. I could hardly get out of my bed (on the floor) I don't know if it's just because I'm out of shape- quite possible- or if it was the heavy lifting, climbing, and constant running around which did not stop in the next couple days.

Boy scouts came to take out all the desks in the school- careful to write down how many were in each room. One man made the bar out of wood and in the process got a splinter which required an orthopaedic surgeon to remove. Two guys got up every morning before wake up to fill the water and drive to the store to get 100 bags of ice. I set up the coffee the night before so that the overnight security guy could plug it in around 5am. Another couple people got up before everyone so that they could pick out a song or something witty to say to wake up the workcampers and give announcements. We sorted the lunches at night or in the afternoon while the crews were out at site. Some of us went out every day to different worksites in the attempt to get every single person's face up on the big screen. We had meetings to discuss how each night should go-- bring them up, take them down, give a talk, get them back up and energetic, give them something to think and pray about before they go to their rooms. Figure out where to do confessions and how to make the space sacred when it's a hallway of a public high school. Start the slurpee machine at 10:30 am so it's ready at 6:30pm. Put together the videos, slide shows, and clips that will be used in talks. Be attentive to kids or adults who seem overwhelmed (I stunk at that, but we had some awesome adults who served the other adults constrantly) Do all this with a positive attitude and smile, and remember Who it's for.

Thank you, Lord, for all the people who did these things for me 7 years ago! For those who did not get any recognition for their service, and were taken for granted. Bless them now, to show the gratitude I did not know to have then!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Hannah Coulter

I just finished this book by Wendell Berry. It was beautiful, and somehow mysterious. He's such a special writer. Some of the things he writes, I wonder, "Can this possibly be how you see life?" It's incredible, the way he finds great depth in a look, or the intricacies of work. I read his Jayber Crow last year, and enjoyed that as well. There are certainly some commonalities, as Berry is trying to impress upon us "modernists" how much we have lost in losing small farming communities. What struck me this time is that even though he clearly yearns for those times and lives that way as much as possible, he does not pass judgement on the world. It is implicit... he points out the loss without making you defensive. Instead, you want to tell him,

"Yes! I agree! I want to be so tired at the end of the day that I know I have been working hard for my family. I want to use my body in my work, not just my fingers at a keyboard. I want to embrace a life of putting up with a small group of people and all their faults, and be a community that knows they can always count on each other. I want it! I do!" I just don't know how. Oh how I wonder...
Wendell Berry may not be Catholic, but man is he... more than many who receive the Eucharist every week, he knows what it means to be a communion of persons, members of one another. He knows what it is to love God and others and nature. Here are some nice quotes:

You can't give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering. (p171)

Sometimes too I could see that love is a great room with a lot of doors, where we are invited to knock and come in. Though it contains all the world, the sun, the moon, and stars, it is so small as to be also in our hearts. It is in the hearts of those who choose to come in. Some do not come in. Some may stay out forever. Some come in together and leave separately. Some come in and stay, until they die, and after. (p54)

But grief is not a force and has no power to hold. you only bear it. Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in apiece of embroidery.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Why Harry Potter is Catholic

Haha, talk about changing topics.

I've been arguing back and forth with someone about what we think is going to happen in the 6th book. (July 16th baby!!) She's convinced herself that Dumbledore is really evil. But I do not think this is possible. Much of this may be a stretch, but here we go...
Dumbledore/God Voldemort/Satan

The real contest in the novels is between Harry and Voldemort. Dumbledore, universally acknowledged as the most powerful wizard of the time, can take care of Voldemort any time. Voldemort knows he can't "win" against him, just as Satan knows he cannot "win" against God. The Death Eaters have no choice but to come when they're called, and to do V's bidding, because otherwise they will suffer grave consequences. Those enslaved by sin know this as well. They must keep up these habits, because otherwise they think they won't know who they are. And the further they are in the service of sin (and V) the more they are stuck in it and the more twisted they are because they enjoy it. Bellatrix Lestrange is one of the most frightening characters in the novel because she is the most faithful of V's followers. She is completely gone into his service. But even she feels fear of her "master". Oh, and of course, Voldemort is a serpent. 'Nuff said.

Dumbledore on the other hand seems to know all, is all-powerful, and all-good and protecting. He also doesn't always tell everyone what he's up to, he's rather mysterious if you will. ha. There is freedom in Dumbledore's service. There is protection from harm (Only loyalty to Dumbledore could call Fawkes to Harry when he faced the serpent) and patience (He does not force Harry to tell him what's on his mind even when he knows there's something: "Is there anything you wish to tell me?"). Before Dumbledore, there is awe and trembling, but not fear in the same way as Bellatrix would fear Vold.

In the 5th book, Dumbledore reminds Vold. that there is something worse than death, and that his not understanding that is his greatest weakness. Voldemort scoffs at this of course, but when
he enters Harry and tries to get Dum. to kill him, he is forced out of Harry by Harry's love for Sirius. Harry thinks he'd rather die than go through this pain that Voldemort's possession is causing, and he has a feeling of joy in dying if he'll see his godfather again. V couldn't stand this love and had to leave him.

I'm sure in the end it will be Harry's willingness to die for his friends that will destroy Voldemort. Now who does THAT remind us of??? ;)

Other little details
It is quite clear which family we like the most: the Weasleys! And they may be a bit poor, but they are happy, and they are a large family. No birth control here! 6 boys and 1 girl, all with flaming red hair. Mrs. Weasley is often pictured cooking and bustling around taking care of everyone. She is very motherly. Mr. Weasley obviously loves his family and is not concerned with "moving up" in his career as long as he can provide for what they need.
Family is so important in the books. Blood relations especially. There's the twisted version of this in the pureblood crazy families, but that does not lead to a devaluing of blood ties in the rest of the book. We learn that the reason Harry has to stay at Privet Drive is because his mother's blood, in his aunt, resides there. Who the person's parents are determines much of a kid's identity. In school, there is talk of whose parents- one or both- are Muggles. There are terrible insults for those who are Muggle-born. Even though he/she is away at school, these kids are not separate from their parents... they carry them with them.
Mundungus, who is part of the Order, is a crook, plain and simple. He even left guarding Harry to conduct a "business deal"- but he's included in the Order. He's a theif, yet has a good heart and is forgiven...even multiple times.
It is pointed out that how you treat those "inferior" to you determines your fate. Umbridge hates any part-humans, and is carried away by centaurs. Harry treated Dobby with respect, and Dobby has not ceased trying to help him, and at key moments he plays a part. Sirius hated and finally yelled "GET OUT!" at Kreacher, and that basically led to his death along the line. Dumbledore agreed with Hermione that they should treat Kreacher well. What you did for the least of these....
The most dangerous characteristic anyone can have in the book is pride- the first sin. We see it in Harry and want to yell at him. We see it in Fudge, in Umbridge, in Sirius and Snape. And we see it personified in Voldemort.
The power of the word is all over the place. The spells require words, said in a precise way. There's even a little warning about society and language. As my professor says, "Verbal engineering always precedes social engineering." We can abort a fetus because it's not a baby. If you lost the fight over the language, you lose period. Hermione points out that in their new textbook, the author argues that the counterjinx is improperly named, and is really just a way of making an excuse for a jinx. She disagrees. The Ministry is trying to control what the kids learn and what they call things. These subtle things are how bigger things start.
Ok this is getting ridiculous! Yes, I've thought too much about it and could even write more if I thought some more. I'm at work and bored as usual.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Latin Wedding

Congratulations, Lydia and Will!

On Saturday, I attended a wedding that was done in the "old school" Tridentine Latin mass style. This was my first time going to one. The actual wedding took place before the mass began, with a nice, rich preface all about Christ and the Church and the couple and all. After the mass began, the altar rail was closed and the bride and groom were on the inside... a very cool detail. In fact, the ceremony was full of cool details, such as a concluding blessing on the bride, calling her a handmaiden (love that term) and praying for her to have qualities of our Jewish mothers Rachel, Rebecca, and Sarah.

I must say, I'm glad we changed the mass. I like knowing what's going on, and participating somewhat in what's transpiring. I like responding and praying with everyone else, and knowing when I'm standing and kneeling and what for. A lot of it was guessing and they did not do a great job explaining or handing out booklets to help us out. It definitely felt like you were not needed there-- which strictly speaking is true, but not absolute I think. I also love singing during the mass, and while I tried to sing with the scola the parts I recognized (Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) I was one of the only ones trying and you know what it's like being the only person in the congregation singing, especially when you're not 100% sure of the notes.

That being said, we have certainly lost something too... The mass had a mystery and a gravity to it that was beautiful and reminded you that God was really becoming Incarnate right there. He was definitely present, and it was like you were at a Holy Hour-- you had to concentrate on Him on your own, with the (great) help of the music.

The homily was excellent. The priest talked about how this day reached into the past and the future. God had known these two persons before they were even conceived, and He knew this day then. He kept emphasizing Trust God. No matter what happens, trust God. And his "practical" advice to them was to have patience with one another. They're human, after all. They will not become perfect in a day! Patience patience patience. The married couples at the reception agreed very much with his advice. (Who says priests can't counsel marriages?)

The small dinner was also nice, but I missed the dancing and goofy traditions that usually come with weddings. The cake was cut without ceremony, "Oh! Shoot, they're cutting it already!!", there was no dancing or music and there was no throwing of the bouquet. It was so different from what mine will be like. (Or I should say would probably be like, provided... you know what I mean...) My big Italian family alone would be more than the number of people there on Saturday. No, I don't know them all, but yes, they must allllll be invited. They're family! That's how it works. I'm so thankful for a family like that, I must say. I wish we were closer, I wish I knew them better, but I'm so glad that I know that I still have to invite distant third cousins twice removed [I'm exaggerating a bit] to my wedding if I have one. Because it's the only time we really see each other.
Weddings and funerals.
Beginnings and endings.
The front and the back.
(Oops- slipped into an Eddie from Ohio song there)
But really, the last time I saw many of my relatives was at my grandmother's funeral over a year ago. It was actually very nice... looking at old pictures, sharing stories, remembering her and her sisters who have all passed away now... women who kept the family together. We are a family of strong women. My (great-) aunts Betty and Therese never married (the war had a lot to do with this) but they were entirely focused on their family. Every 4th of July was a reunion at their house, and they spent days cooking for it. My mother says she doesn't know how Betty did it... but I have an inkling. She loved her family. She loved them enough to spend hours by the hot stove in the summer without air conditioning. She loved them as Mary must have loved hers, as she still loves us now. There were always so many people there. I never knew very many of them and my parents would sit around asking, "Ok, now who's that little one belong to??" and Therese would be like, "you know, Donna married Rocko, whose daughter Gina married Anthony..." and she would know all the connections. Likewise, on my father's side, we would spend part of Christmas at my great-grandfather's tiny little townhouse in Swissvale, PA where he lived and baked until the age of 89. Again, you could hardly move because of all the people and he and his daughter cooked for days. We always stopped before eating and the youngest great-grandchild (who could) would say grace. Oh it was wonderful. Sigh. It's so sad to me how these traditions have disappeared with that generation. I want them back! Can we get them back? Or is that a hopeless dream, now that the youngers have all moved to different parts of the country? I miss the chaos, getting lost in a sea of people but never afraid. That's probably why I think I want a bigger family. I'm sure there will be days where I will want quiet, but in the end, it's all about noise and chaos all the way, with God right there at the center. And lots of cooking :)
Last year at graduation, Kathleen's aunt hosted a party for the family. It wasn't even near all of them, but she has a huge family, and it was so much fun. (Mom is one of 6, dad one of 9, I think? K, correct me if that's wrong!) It reminded me of the days when I was little. My parents came with me, and they had a really wonderful time too. My dad admitted, "You know, when you're older, that's when it's nice to have had a big family." Of course it's much harder when they're younger and more demanding, but those sacrifices bear much fruit. I can tell already how much my mom wants grandchildren. But here we are, just me and my brother, and neither of us seem anywhere near that point.
Family is more important than we ever realize, unless we pay attention, because it's so obvious. So taken-for-granted. Deep thought of the day, right? And at the funeral, our (Idontknowhowwe'rerelatedbutmymomusedtobabysittheirchildren) said, "Well, when's the next time we'll see you? Maybe your wedding!" God willing... I sure hope the Lord fixes me up before all these lovely relatives get too sick or old to travel. They're getting there! Hurry! :)
John Paul the Great, pray for us!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Grad Ball 2005- Done!

Praise God, the graduation ball was last night, we survived, the band was incredible, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Funniest, most ridiculous, most AMAZING display of stupidity or the fall:

I ordered the cake on Saturday. I wrote for the decorations to write, "Congratulations JPII Grads!" and said, (you can shorten to congrats if necessary). Picked it up at Costco yesterday morning, and there it is, a nice cake, that says "Congratulations JPII Grads! (You can shorter to congrats if necessary!)"

Are you kidding me?

I went up to one of the ladies in the bakery, in kind of a daze and on the verge of tears. "Excuse me? Um... Look. I obviously didn't want that written on the cake." She was not very nice, and said "There ain't nothin I can do 'bout that! Whatever you wrote on the sheet, that's what she wrote on the cake, and she ain't here now."

Cue the tears.

Ok, this is one thing that always annoyed me about my mom, and of course it has passed on to me. We cry. We can't help it, ok? I know it's not a big deal. I know it's HILARIOUS. And I was laughing really hard, but I was also crying. Because I wanted it to be nice for the 2nd years (last year, they MADE a wedding cake. 3 tiers, absolutely gorgeous. We went to costco, and this is what we ended up with??)

So there I am, standing in the bakery section of Costco, holding a cake and crying. Poor Drew (classmate and new daddy!) was there telling me it was fine, complaining about the work ethic of DC, how this would never happen in Colorado, etc. Then the other planner/shoppers there came over too, and just started laughing. Lots and lots of laughing. When the last girl arrived, she couldn't even breathe because she was laughing so hard. They showed the customer service lady, who also started laughing, and said she'd never seen anything like it, but there was really nothing they could do. It was just unbelievable. We decided to leave it that way, and joked about putting a sign that said, "Proof positive that Adam Smith was wrong."

So that's how the day began. It continued in very much the same way.

First, I broke one of my mother's bowls that she really likes.

Then, I was bringing one of the nice cakes over to the dessert table, tripped, and sent the cake sliding in the box, so that instead of a beautiful design of 4 white dollups with chocolate crumbs, they got a cake with a layer of whipped cream mixed with chocolate on top.

Hey humility! Where've you been all my life? I'm just thankful that it was our bowl, not anyone else's, and I didn't hurt anyone, and nothing was completely ruined. Humiliation without damage. That's fine with me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papem!


Oh I love it! The smoke, the bells, the eager anticipation... then the name Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Oh that man is so precious! And, did I mention brilliant?!?!? Praise Jesus, He gave us a new Shepherd in a very short period of time, one that we know was close to JPII and is absolutely faithful to Christ's word.

In case you watched CNN with a terrible translator (even I could pick out some words she missed) here's what he said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: After the great Pope, John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord's vineyard. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord is able to work and act with insufficient instruments and, above all, I rely on your prayers. In the joy of the risen Lord, confident of his permanent help, let us go forward. The Lord will help us. Mary, his Most Holy Mother, is on our side. Thank you. * * * [Translation by ZENIT]


Viva il Papa!

You don't become a saint...

on your own.

Very simple statement, right? Very "duh"... and yet, it was so important that I was reminded of that. It can be easy to just get caught up in your own life, especially when you're young, single, and in school. You have to study- alone- and you're not really accountable to anyone as far as the rest of your time goes. At JPII, we have awesome students but it seems sometimes that our minds are so tired from studying God that we don't take the time out to talk about Him personally with each other.

Last monday, I sat with two CUA wretches for a long while and just talked. It brought such life back into my heart, and gave me profound peace and joy. We need each other! There was not a word said about how long any of us spend in prayer with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, but I left convicted to spend more. Not a word about people we struggle to love, yet I left knowing I wanted to love them better. An hour or 2 with a couple holy girls, and they reminded me that I want to be a saint! Do not settle for mediocrity!!!! Our HF always said that. That's a real choice, right there. Do you want to go to church, pray, attempt to love and serve, or do you want to be fully present at mass, pray without ceasing and without counting minutes, love and serve your neighbor next to you and your brother on the street equally? I fail at this every single day. I will probably fail every day of my life. But Jesus wants us to be saints, and He will not leave us on our own. We can choose to shut Him out, but He will always be calling us to "become what you are."

We all need a community... If religious, it has to be an order that you can entrust your soul to! If married, the man you marry has to be able to guide your soul to heaven! These are not small details. While the wretches are waiting, we should be establishing these criteria. Be careful with your heart! Keep your eyes on the future- the eschatological future- and see all things as they are in eternity. Our lives go by in the blink of an eye, and in the end, what matters? Were you faithful? Did you love? To be granted the grace to gaze forever at the face of God, to be at the wedding feast of the Lamb and united in love to all who came before or after you who loved... what else could possibly matter? (except bringing as many souls with you as possible!)

I don't know if anyone reads this, but if anyone out there has any advice for the wretches, in terms of waiting, discernment, patience, or qualities to look for before marriage, please post it!