Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Chivalry, Romance, and the Occasional Date

Last weekend I went on a date for the first time in over two years.  Not an "ooo la la!" date with romantic potential, but a young gentleman friend needed an escort to a particular event, so I accompanied him.  I expected nothing other than the natural high of dancing the night away.

Keep in mind that I have (and have always had) many guy friends.  I have become quite accustomed to one-on-one hangouts that are fun but very boundary-conscious.  Safe chivalry, if you will.

On the other side of the coin go my many experiences of being hit on, mediated somewhat by salsa dancing.  Though my distrust of strange men is imediate and my reaction one of caution, I have learned that some unknown men really don't want to use me for their own twisted pleasures, but want simply to have the pleasure of my company for a dance, much like the occasional stranger who walks up to me, tells me I'm beautiful, smiles, and wishes me a pleasant day.

Back to the evening at hand.  Desensitized by four years at Steubenville, I had nearly forgotten:  Chivalry is inherently romantic (which should be obvious, considering its origins)!  Though I was accustomed to walking through open doors and was pleased by his constant presence by my side, I had to stop myself from telling him it was really too much as he went out of his way to bring me drinks and pulled out my chair before each time I sat down.  I had to fight a learned response of physically tensing up when, upon the first slow song, he pulled me closer than I'd expected.  Boundaries! You're not dating! screamed a voice in my head.  But a more reasonable voice reminded me that, though this was unexpectedly close, it was not inappropriately close.  I was, after all, his date for the evening, and there are romantic connotations to that.

The understanding between us was absolute; he was not trying to pull a move on me.  So why did I have to fight myself to remain calm and enjoy his taking the lead and guiding things, as he did consistently (and excellently) all evening?  Why am I always so overly concerned about maintaining proper boundaries between friends?

I don't have a nice tying-things-together paragraph to end things.  I'm still trying to figure this one out myself.  Thoughts?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Horbgorbles

I just played Balderdash with my family.  Our new favorite word is horbgorble.  Any commenter who guesses its meaning correctly (or, perhaps more fun, comes up with an awesome enough definition) without the aid of the internet (on your honor) can have some sort of privileged commenter status or something.  Or at least bragging rights and permission to mock the other commenters mercilessly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thank You

According to Google Reader's Trends, the comments on my blog are the 18th most updated feed of the 121 to which I subscribe, ranking just above William Abroad (sorry, love), The Recovering Choir Director, and all the feeds that update automatically once a day, seven days a week (like the syndicated comic strips.  That means you're averaging more than one comment per day.

Thank you so much!  :D

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On Things that Just Don't Happen in Steubenville

I know, I opened a big can of worms there. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to fill the comments with other things that just don't happen in Steubenville (many of you would have done that unbidden).

Three times in the past week and a half, I've had three random encounters with strange men.

The first (in this set) was when I was walking across the street to my car after salsa dancing. I saw two gangstas crossing in the other direction and suspected... Sure enough, a few seconds later, I heard "Hey, how you doin, I'm 23 years old, I have my own apartment, I'm ready for you!"* I laughed as I got into my car and bid him and his buddies a "Good night!"

Several days later, I walked across the street from my bank to the parking lot in which my car was parked (to discover that I had indeed left my keys inside the car), but before I had a chance to call AAA, a man in an SUV pulled into the parking lot, told me he'd been struck by how beautiful I was, and what was my name, and did I have a boyfriend, and would I want to go to lunch with him sometime. I thanked him but declined, then sat on the trunk of my car as I waited for AAA to come and let me in.

So when the heavily-tattooed man in the pizzeria today remarked, "Looney Tunes, eh? But it doesn't have my favorite!" in response to the graphic on the chest of my tshirt, I was understandably a bit ill at ease. But he turned out to be just a sweet loner who likes conversation and sees nothing wrong with just striking up a conversation and talking to a willing audience for fifteen minutes until her food is ready and she can take it home to her family.

Perhaps it's nothing more than the bias of my experiences, but it seems to me that random conversations like this are at once more likely and more uncommon in more urban areas. More likely because the sheer number of strangers with which one comes in contact is increased astronomically, and that of necessity breeds comfortability with strangers. But also more uncommon because the average response to such stimuli seems often to be simply pulling back into oneself and one's established friends and not venturing out to meet whatever weirdo might be lurking around the corner.

Just some thoughts. I'm sure the deep philosophical stuff will come back. :)

PS - You'd better comment quickly. This message will self-destruct in thirty seconds.

*Punctuation is used here to denote his tone of voice and length of pauses, with no attempt at grammatical accuracy.

Monday, May 18, 2009

On Teen Mass Music

As a liturgist-in-training with traditional leanings, I have strong opinions on liturgical music.  However, when I attend Mass away from my home parish (especially at youth ministry events), I try to leave my thoughts behind and pray the Mass with an open mind an a joyful heart, despite my personal intellectual (and, often, aesthetic) distaste for the music.  Last night was one such case.

The vocalists were wonderful: their voices carried, they blended well in their four-part harmonies, and they were fairly easy to follow for a congregation who didn't know the melody.  The keyboardist was fine; I didn't notice much about her one way or the other.  The bassist was right on target, and his volume might even have been perfect had the guitars been audible at all (instead, he was much too loud, and the music was empty, missing the core that kept it all together).

But what really ruined it was the percussion.  First off, they had two girls ringing tambourines.  Few things alienate musically-inclined high schoolers like tambourines thrown into a band.  Then, the drummer.  He was a good drummer (though heavy on the bass drum for my taste), but he _really liked his cymbals!_  And that, too, seemed to turn the kids off.

I don't know.  Maybe it's just me.  Perhaps the high schoolers really do like bad-karaoke-background-music style music for worship.  Maybe the swaying some girls did to the beat of the drum was because they were really praising the Lord.  But it seemed very easy for everyone to lean over and talk to their neighbor during Mass (even I am guilty there, though I tried to remind myself this was the Sacred Liturgy).

And for a style of liturgy in which the music is rockin' and the words are just kind of said because you can't do anything to jazz them up: the "rock" was really missing something.

I miss the chanting at home.  :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On Roller Coasters

Today was the New Jersey Catholic Youth Rally at Six Flags: Great Adventure.  Read: Today was Take Your Youth Group to the Amusement Park Day.  So we went.  My local theme park in particular has nine excellent, large/long coasters.  We went on every one that was open (and with the lines for coasters, that’s about all we had time to do).

There’s something about a roller coaster.  Okay, leave aside for a moment those people whose bodies object to the unnatural manipulation of gravity; I think it’s safe to say that they don’t like coasters predominantly (if not entirely) because they cause them physical discomfort.  But for the rest of us:  they carry a magnificent allure.

But why?  What is it about flying through the air at high speeds that is so irresistible?  Is it simply the natural joy of an activity that resembles flying?  Is it nothing more than the adrenaline that pumps through your body because of the crazy G-forces?

Maybe it is solely biological.  And maybe it’s just a turkey shoot whether our bodies like such crazy things or not.  But there’s something so exciting and freeing about flying through the air like that...

I like roller coasters.  I’m glad today came with a free admission ticket for next time.  :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Quotations

Today at work, Travis was complaining about how it seems like musical artists all just rip off each other's music anymore, and no one puts creative talent into things.  The following conversation ensued:

Jonathan:  Travis, you know there's nothing new under the sun.

Travis ponders this for a few seconds.

Travis:  Well, there are /some/ new things...

Jonathan:  No, dude, you know who first said that?  Nas!

Me: (laughing) That's in the Bible!

* * *

I love my co-workers.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What are Religion, Sex, and Politics?

The answer is: Things you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company.

Politics never held any interest for me anyway.  In fact, I excuse myself and get far away from political conversation whenever possible.

Sex...  Well, I really have little interest in hearing about other people’s sex lives.  Especially at family gatherings.

Religion.  It’s usually a subject that’s left alone (at least, in my family gatherings, where nearly everyone there outside of my immediate family and the grandparents is a lapsed Catholic), and every now and again I’m reminded why.

Maybe it’s just because I’m innately a people pleaser, but I’ve found that I don’t really mind the conversations wherein I tell someone that my career goal (outside of raising children, of course) is to offer to your average Sunday Catholics the treasures of the Church that tend to lay just beyond their reach in this day and age, and they say that sounds worthwhile, and so long as I’m passionate about it, ‘cuz that’s all that really matters.

The more troublesome conversations come when people (i.e., relatives and family friends of my parents’ generation) know that I’m religious and that I want to work in the Church, and they talk to me about religious things, expecting there to be common ground.  Things like how great it was when the Mass was English, and they could have guitar Mass (I chant in the schola for Latin Mass).  Things like the exciting possibility of women priests (I would sooner die than “become” one, despite my fervor for the Liturgy).  Things like how personable it is when the priest’s personality shows through in the way he celebrates Mass (I try to block that out because it distracts me from the sacrifice at hand).  Things like the little doilies the girls had to wear on their heads, and how they shrunk in size until they weren’t required anymore (I’ve been wearing the veil for nine months).  Not that they know any of this, because I don’t tell them (well, my immediate family knows some, but not much).

Yesterday I received a letter stating that I’ve been accepted to the Liturgical Institute, where I will study *surprise!* the Sacred Liturgy.  Naturally, this leads most people to question whether I intend to become a priest.  My two stock answers are “I like all the Church’s teachings just the way they are” and “Jesus had the perfect woman right in front of Him and didn’t ordain her, so who are we to ordain women?”  Uncle B’s response tonight was, “Well, how do we know He didn’t?” after which he began to ramble about the gnostic gospels.

I studied Biblical theology, inerrancy, all that.  I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and the books in the canon were accurately written, and the canon itself was chosen via the influence of the Holy Spirit, just as Mother Church teaches.  I studied all that once, and I know that it is more reasonable to believe in the historicity of the Gospels than to disbelieve in them.  But I don’t remember all the arguments!  That has never been the part of faith that has interested me.  I’ve recalled what I need in order to move on with my life.  And yet I find myself unable to do anything but smile so as to give some (but not full) assent, and feel awkward.

At the end of the day, it’s days like this that remind me of the irrational aspect of our faith.  Sure, fides is built up by ratio, but our belief in “Christ crucified [is] a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23 ).  It wouldn’t be called faith if were entirely knowable by reason only.  There is something laudatory about placing our trust in the God of our fathers and just leaving it there, even when we can’t remember enough to explain it to others.

I’ve studied our faith so thoroughly for so long that it’s very easy to forget about the irrational side of things.  But uncomfortable-for-me conversations like tonight’s remind me that I’m not in control, no matter how much knowledge is at my fingertips, and I never will be.  Faith is a virtue, one upon which I should place greater value.

After all the great works he had written (keep in mind that it was once said of him by a pope that no miracles were needed through his intercession for his sainthood, because every article he wrote of the Summa was a miracle), St. Thomas Aquinas had a vision of heaven and stopped writing, because “All this is so much straw!”

I should pay less attention to the straw and more attention to Him Who created said straw, beautiful though it may be.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On God Showing Off

'Cuz really, that's exactly what it is: unnecessary yet awesome.  I read the following this morning, in today's selection for the Proper of Saints from Dr. Pius Parsch's Year of Grace:

"The Breviary relates the following incident from [St. Stanislaus'] life.  King Boleslaus of Poland summoned the bishop before a solemn gathering of the nation's rulers and falsely accused him of illegally holding certain property that had, in fact, been purchased and paid for by him in the name of the Church.  But when he could not prove the transaction by documents and the witnesses were afraid to speak the truth, Stanislaus promised to bring before the court within three days the person from whom he had bought the ground, a certain Peter who had died three years previously.  His proposal was accepted with derisive laughter.

"Then the man of God spent three days in fasting and prayer; and after he had offered the Sacrifice of holy Mass on the third day, the day he was to re-appear in court, Stanislaus commanded Peter to rise from his grave.  Upon hearing the bishop's command, Peter immediately came to life, abandoned his tomb, and accompanied the bishop to the royal tribunal.  There to the consternation and utter amazement of the king and all his attendants, Peter gave testimony to the sale of the land in question and to the full and lawful payment made by the bishop.  Then he again fell asleep in the Lord."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On the Mantilla

I've been veiling my head at Mass and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament for nine months.  And it is easily my favorite of the many devotional practices I've picked up throughout the years.

I don't know when I first heard of veiling for Mass.  When I first noticed it happening was in Steubenville, early in college.  I never thought to ask those friends why they wore such a lovely lace veil over their heads; I just knew it was a tradition and it looked pretty.

When I first began to attend the traditional Latin Mass on and off, I would wear one of the proffered veils, because it was a nice tradition, and because it was customary in those circles.  Eventually I switched to the mantilla I'd bought in Spain from the creepy prayer shawl ladies (that's a story for another day!), but it's very long and ornate, and would never do for regular use.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  As I don't believe I've discussed on this blog before, my passion for the Liturgy has grown according to how much I've learned and how much I've prayed the Liturgy.  During my last two years of college, I served on our Liturgy Committee - a group of about fifteen people who planned every campus Liturgy, made sure the various ministries were well-staffed, and generally guided the liturgical spirituality of the campus (in addition, of course, to the priest).  So basically we were a strange cross-breed of sacristan + student liturgist.

They were a wonderful two years,  but Steubenville is a very strong place spiritually, and returning to the rest of the world, I was struck with two stumbling blocks upon returning to daily Mass at "normal" parishes:  1) the lack of easily-felt reverence or fervor upon the part of the priests, ministers, and congregants, and 2) the fact that I wasn't in control anymore and could do absolutely nothing to correct what I knew were liturgical abuses (albeit mild ones) happening right in front of me.

Towards the end of my tenure out there, as my heart was being drawn more and more to the traditions Mother Church has to offer, I'd had a feeling that I would probably be one of those veil-wearing women one day, but not yet - something that was underscored as a very dear friend shared with me her own "I think I need to wear a veil to Mass" process.

So, as I struggled to find a spiritual home away from the hill, I fought self-righteousness, pride, and distraction.  Lies that no one else cared about the Mass as much as I did ate away at me as I tried to keep them at bay...  Finally, a solution presented itself:  Cover my head.

But why?  Well, the theological answers were obvious and beautiful enough.  I am the bride of Christ (and, as woman, am an excellent symbol for the whole Church), and the Eucharistic Liturgy is my wedding feast and the consummation of my marriage with Christ - so I wear my wedding veil in His presence.  We Catholics (like our Jewish forefathers) have a tendency to veil what is sacred, and the Church is reminding me of my own innate sacredness here.  And besides, this is a tradition that reaches back to Pauline times!

But was that enough to justify branding myself as a traditionalist all the time?  At my home parish, where no one knew of my traditional leanings?  At the social justice parish whose youth group I'd somehow been roped into helping with?  At the charismatic-ish young adult community I belong to?  At places where no one knew me?

Obviously, the answer was yes.  The first couple months, I felt like I was walking into every church with a target on my head; it was like I was no longer just a wonderful religious young woman to these people but someone who wanted to undo all the changes to the Mass that had bolstered their spirits so.  But after smiles, compliments, new friends, and only one bad word (which was later changed to understanding and a compliment), those feelings faded and I wear my veil as a badge of honor - the great honor of being a daughter of God and a bride of Christ.

My favorite things about the veil are things I never would have imagined at first.  It's a wonderful conversation starter with people who have no background in Christianity (who are usually the only clueless ones to ask).  I am always dressed in finery for an encounter with my Lord, even if I'm just wearing jeans and a tshirt.  And I am always surrounded by beauty when I'm in His presence, no matter how awful the chapel might be.

So if you're thinking about wearing the veil:  Go for it.  If you know someone who wears the veil and you haven't talked with her about it:  Ask her (well, if she's the extroverted type who would like to tell you about it); it'll probably make her day.

And if you have any veiling stories for me, please share them.  This is a devotion I hope never to give up, and I thank all those women who have served as models for me in this.  You are daily in my prayers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On Vapid, Catchy, Popular Love Songs

I awoke in the middle of last night (thank you, hormones) and remained awake, despite my best efforts, for nearly an hour.  This in and of itself should be frustrating enough, but the kicker is the song lyrics that were running through my head the entire time:

Background: Taylor Swift's Romeo approaches, after having blown her off recently, with no obvious sign of an impending apology.  She's debating whether to blow up at him for being a jerk when
He knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring and said:
Marry me, Juliet, you'll never have to be alone.

I love you and that's all I really know.
I talked to your dad, go pick out a white dress.
It's a love story, baby, just say 'Yes!'"

Emphasis mine.  As this ran incessantly through my head I couldn't help but reflect upon the insight she gives to the general-societal portrayal of marriage as a remedy for loneliness (makes me almost miss the remedy for concupiscence).

I hear this song at work every single day (I exaggerate not - L can confirm the emails I send her daily when this song hits).  There are many such songs, that are on the daily playlist.  All my co-workers feel the same:  we've come to hate these songs...  and yet we can't help but sing along. Sirius/XM Radio, you are the bane of my existence!  (For which, I suppose, I should be grateful.  There are much worse things out there.)

I should adopt W's philosophy of complaining.  'Cuz it really is very funny at times...

And if you're not familiar with the song above:  1) I am most jealous, 2) You're really not missing much, 3) I'm sure your mind has jumped to similarly vapid-yet-catchy tunes.  Feel free to suggest some in the comments.

If anyone actually used my comments, this could be a really funny comment thread.  :)

On Time and Money

My younger sister and I, though very similar in many ways (none of which, however, do I feel capable of expressing in words), are very, very different in many other ways.  Two of these ways which have become very apparent to me in recent weeks are time and money.

I’ll start with money, because sometimes doing things backwards is fun.  She has always been miss moneybags; she has always had more money than I, and she’s always spent more money than I.  Even considering the eight years between us and her youth, she has always been the liberal spender, I, the cheapskate.

Time is what’s really gotten me now, though (because I don’t know how to relate to her).  Sure, I’ve always gotten a kick out of revelling nostalgically in the past and planning excitedly for the future, but I have refused to let this get in my way of living in the present for as long as I was aware that such a concept existed. 

But between personality differences and the disparity between firstborn and last-born, she takes a completely different approach to time.  Where I’ve never cared much about age when it comes to dating, she refuses to even entertain a celebrity crush on a guy more than two or three years her senior.  Where my enjoyment for the present keeps me grounded, her desire to be away from the troubles and limitations of now helps her to be a very bitter fourteen-year-old (but I repeat myself).

Anyway.  This post was rather self-indulgent.  I just don’t know how to relate to my sister anymore.  Thanx for listening, and feel free to advise away on How to Deal With Teenagers Without Actually Killing Them.  :)
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