Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

So apparently this is a thing, and it seemed like a good idea today. Except that I'm watching Arrested Development with my sister, and am consequently going to be lazy and make it a year in pictures/videos. :D

The Mundelein crowd at the Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference

5th annual 80s prom + best friend's visit!

My sister's visit led to two hours watching pandas. No regrets.

Easter with the Gilligans! 'Nuff said.

I became a godmother to a beautiful Byzantine baby boy!

Priesthood ordinations are always such a gift!

Surprise 60th birthday party for my mom!

Another ordination: this one became a college reunion!

Published: My first academic paper!

A typical Atlanta experience: the long weekend in Florida!

It was a good birthday. :D

Published! Just a small essay, but still. :)
First pumpkin I ever carved!

Not the same kind of published, but still fun.

My Atlanta friends threw me a great farewell party. Miss them already!
Perk of being home: More family!
Here's to 2013! May the craziness continue...

Friday, December 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Christmas Music Edition

This is not a proper 7 quick takes, but I haven't exactly been adhering to the schedule either. :)

1. First, my old favorite: Cantique de Noël. O Holy Night is okay, but it's so much richer in French! Also way more Catholic. Here is my old blog post explaining and translating.

2. Next, a Polish Lullaby to baby Jesus, Lulajże Jezuniu. Translation here.

3. What's that? You want a carol in English? How silly! A silly brief English madrigal, then, if you insist: Masters in This Hall.

4. Can't forget that beloved German lullaby Still, Still, Still. Translation here.

5. A two-for-one: Carol of the Bells and Gesù Bambino.

6. You'd all be concerned about me (and rightly so) without at least one Latin carol, so I present to you Tomás Luis de Victoria's setting of O Magnum Mysterium. Translation here.

7. And, mostly because I missed it so much at Midnight Mass, a second setting of the same text, this time by Morten Lauridsen, whom I only just now discovered is both American and still living! Holy crap. This man's music is classic. Freaking awesome WSJ article about him.

Merry Christmas to you all, now and throughout the season! I have so many favorites, I just might pull this trick again next Friday. :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie-Book Reviews - Spoilers Abound

Nota bene: Many spoilers below. Consider yourselves warned.

A fascinating opportunity is afforded us in this day and age: to watch a film adaptation of a book you've just read. Tonight was the third time in a month I've done this, and it's got my wheels turning...

First was Anna Karenina. Liz convinced me to read the book last winter, and while I didn't like it terribly much then, the more it's sunk into my brain, the more I've grown to like it. Brief summary: Contrasts four couples and shows the way infidelity destroys relationships from the inside out. First couple is unswervingly faithful. Husband of the second couple is a serial adulterer whose wife reluctantly forgives him the first time and turns a blind eye subsequent times. Third couple didn't marry for love (at least she didn't), and she becomes unfaithful, eventually leaving him. Fourth couple began in adultery and were never able to marry, and the fundamental insecurity this of this eats away at both of them from the inside, causing them to mistrust and hurt each other even while at the same moment they wish to be loving. All of this is most dramatically encapsulated in Anna herself, who, bearing the stresses caused by husband and lover, takes her own life, leaving each of the men who loved her alone to grieve. Anyway, excellent book. Great insights into human nature, and enjoyable to boot. (Well, except for the mini-essays on Tolstoy's political topic du livre, but that's just nineteenth-century Russian literature.)

The new film version with Kiera Knightly is almost certainly the most faithful film adaptation of a book that I have ever seen. I don't think a single line was added; certainly many things were omitted, but nothing that impacted the plot or characters in ways that the filmmakers were not able to convey visually. They did a fantastic job of portraying a whole character in a few shots of the camera (especially with Stiva!), and the stage conventions were used to great effect, I thought. I hear that it was difficult to follow if one didn't know the story coming into it, which I had suspected, but that's not necessarily a defect in the production so much as a different sort of art form, one that requires a different sort of preparation, much like Shakespeare's less obvious plays (i.e., basically everything that wasn't a comedy).

Next was The Hobbit! I didn't grow up on Tolkien like many of my friends from college and beyond, so I had a much milder review than some. Still, I read the book in high school, and reread the first third in the days before the show so as to be appropriately prepared. Since they had about as much time as the full Lord of the Rings Trilogy but only 300 pages to cover, as well as an incredibly dependable and clearly established fan base, I thought this might be an opportunity for the filmmakers to be meticulously faithful to the book. And indeed, the world of Middle Earth was fantastic as ever, and its characters wonderfully introduced.

However, important conversations were kept intact... except for an obviously missing line or two. Events were pulled out of sequence, dilemmas solved in ways that were close but markedly different (which often took no less time to tell), heroic moments created where dumb luck had originally sufficed, back story elaborated from other Tolkien source material. That last one I actually thought was a brilliant idea. Long review short: This film made me consider whether a film adaptation of a book really needed to be strictly faithful to its book.

But a conversation with a friend who grew up on Tolkien and has read The Hobbit dozens of times throughout his life reminded me: the tiny changes in the plot served to change the characters, to make them more glamorous, in a sense, more palatable to modern audiences. A treasure hunt wasn't good enough; instead an old villain was resurrected to persecute the travelers. Dumb luck wasn't sufficient to get them out of a jam; somebody needed to have the perfect solution in his pocket. I'm still feeling the tension of appealing to audiences and whatnot, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened had the filmmakers trusted the author a bit more... Still, I'll be glad to see the next two; I'll just come in with somewhat lowered expectations.

Finally, Les Misérables. Again, didn't grow up on this. Read an abridged version of the book in high school, but all I remember from that was the episode with the bishop and the candlesticks, and how impressed my classmates were by my French accent when we read aloud. And something vague about Javert chasing Valjean through Paris. Saw the musical a few years later, mere weeks before it closed on Broadway; likewise, I remember little except that the actor playing Jean Valjean has an impressively wide/high vocal range and incredible tone. I only learned this past October that a new film version was coming to theaters this month, so I bought an audiobook version from - whom I highly recommend, by the way, for their products, pricing, and customer service. Outstanding!

Am I glad I read the book! At times, the film lingered over a moment; other times, I saw chapters and chapters running through my memory during a single pan of the camera, understandably glossed over but enriching my outlook nonetheless. Some things were changed, it's true: Cosette was smarter and less oblivious; Marius was more decisive and also less oblivious; Eponine was much prettier; Javert more human; Thenardier somewhat less despicable. The ending was padded a bit, but it made for a nice closing number for the musical, and was a pleasant extension of the book's themes.

I don't know how they could have improved Gavroche; I wanted him to have more screen time, but that might just be because I enjoyed him so much. I did miss old man Gillenormand, though. He was present, but only in passing; though I knew there wouldn't be much of him, I did miss his spunk.

As I was reflecting on all this, though, I was struck by how noble every major character was (with exception of the Thenardiers), and how driven by passion of some sort or other: Marius may have rather floated along through life in some respects, but he lived driven first by reverence for his father's memory, then by his love for Cosette. Cosette was driven first by simple love for her father, then for Marius. Fantine was noble inside, despite what she had been reduced to; she did all for her little girl, she lived and died for Cosette. Jean Valjean began the story aimless, but soon lived for God, through the figure of the bishop; later, he lived for Cosette and her well-being. Javert lived for the law, and it wasn't until he saw that the law might not be the perfect arbiter of morality that he had always trusted -- until he was forced to doubt the perfection of the object of his passion -- that he wavered. Even the Thénardiers had a passion: money.

All of these reviews combined, I am left with a question: Why do I read these things, watch them? Why do I immerse myself in these stories? The point is not to judge how a movie lives up to the book that inspired it, tempting though that may at times be; the point is to lose myself for but a moment in a work of art, in a thing of beauty which reveals the transcendent, the truth of the human condition, God Himself.

Sure, there are external factors at work in every story: How might Anna and Vronsky's relationship have turned out if she could have filed for divorce without Karenin's permission? Certainly Levin and Kitty's love seemed strong, but how would it weather the years and their hardships? Perhaps Fontine could have made a wonderful little life for herself and Cosette in Montrueil sur Mer had society been set up such that having a child out of wedlock would not cost Fontine all potential friends and employers. If the government didn't imprison a man nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread, then put him on eternal parole and deny him any chance at reform -- if petty theft did not transform a man, in society's eyes, into Cain: marked indelibly for his crime and identified primarily by it forever -- then what might Jean Valjean have become, without the incredible suffering that pushed him to such greatness?

But asking these questions is like second-guessing the events of our own lives. What if I'd applied for that promotion earlier? What if I'd gone to school elsewhere? What if I'd begun to work in a different field, lived in a different city? The what if's never stop, if we indulge them; but they are at least safer to make about the lives of fictional characters than about our own lives and those of our loved ones.

In the end, why do I read? To be transported to another life, to learn from another's experiences, to be enriched by another's loves. For hope, for the reminder that adversity can be overcome, even if it leaves a mark. Because there is truth in every story, and exposure to truth -- even if the same can't always be said about facts -- is always good. And just a little bit of because I can. :)

Cor Iesu, in quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae, miserere nobis.

PS - I am particularly interested in movie reviews from those of you who grew up on the musical.

Friday, November 23, 2012

7 quick takes, Thanksgiving edition

All photos to be filled in later, when I'm not posting from my phone.

7 things I am thankful for this week:

1) My family and their love for each other. How blest we are to have no one estranged on either side!

2) Modern technology that permits the amount of travel we all do to spend holidays together.

3) Road trip sing-alongs with my sister. No one else is quite as good at blasting the volume and belting out so loud that we can still hear ourselves over the music.

4) My mother's cooking. Other relatives' cooking, too, though to a lesser degree.

5) The fact that, when asked what we want to drink at my grandmother's house, the most common response is "water-flavored water." Yes, this apparent redundancy is actually necessary.

6) Played cards with my grandma and cousins today. Usually cards for us means some variant of Rummy: this time, Liverpool and 65. I actually won Liverpool (as opposed to my usual vyIng for last)! This despite committing three boneheads over the course of the game...

7) Now that my parents have Netflix on their tv, I'd been holding off on a couple brief shows I want to rewatch, in hopes of hooking them in the process. Get home and find they've been planning to get into Firefly once I get home. Watched the pilot tonight, over ice cream and moscato. It's nice to be home. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 11

My talk on the Year of Faith was last night, and by all accounts, it was a great success. Even the handful of traddy friends who came, who can't possibly think Vatican II was all that great, spoke very highly of it even when I asked specifically for their criticisms!

Every time I give a catechetical talk, I come away from it thinking, I really need to give more talks. This, combined my recent experiences at a weekly Bible Study, may be encouraging me to rethink the way I involve myself in ministry and the kinds of positions I may look at.

Or I may just go out of my way to be in a position to give more talks. That's fun, too. :)

Speaking of last night's talk (the slides for which I will share here sometime, probly next week), I bring you my single favorite slide from the whole presentation:

I'm actually kind of surprised that it worked out so well. And rather pleased with it. :D

Speaking of Vatican II, this presentation made me realize that I haven't actually read all its documents (for shame!). I mean, I've read Sacrosanctum Concilium about three thousand times, give or take, and I've at least heavily skimmed the other 3 constitutions, but I'm not sure I've done more than spot check paragraphs in the declarations or decrees.

I guess I have a new resolution for the Year of Faith...

I love the internet. I really do. In addition to somebody scanning nearly all the images from the Baltimore Catechism (don't read the comments; they're snarkier than usual), I found some real gems while assembling this presentation. Some examples:

This was found while seeking a caption for a line from the pope's
Wednesday Audience this week: "Christianity, before being
a moral or ethical system, is the advent of love,
it is to welcome the person of Jesus.
" (emphasis mine)

For explaining the theological concept that time is a creature: a time creature.

Okay, those were my favorites. Hopefully I haven't now spoiled your entire reason for wanting to look through my coming slideshow. :)

So, earlier this week I made myself Kraft mac and cheese (don't judge my comfort food), and poured for myself the last of a bottle of wine, left over from a movie night earlier in the week. There was a bit more wine than I was expecting, so I looked in the bubbling pot of cheese sauce, thought to myself, actual cheese sauces often use wine, so what the heck? and poured some in. Surprisingly positive result. I would recommend it. Ya' know, the next time you're having a wine-and-comfort-food kind of dinner. :)

Simcha shared this video today, and I'll be honest, I kind of love it. Not to beat a dead horse, but the internet is truly a marvelous place.

And that's a wrap! Jen's got the rest. (And you really should head over, if only to look at the picture she's got listed as #3. Brilliant! I love Catholics.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 quick takes, vol. 10

I'm actually on time this week! Whoo hoo!

I believe I've mentioned before that I was shocked and impressed to find a bible study that is truly efficacious and life-giving, even after my two theology degrees. Of course, part of what keeps it awesome is the people. One gentleman in particular often comes up with questions and insights that never would have occurred to me in a million years. Usually I can see clearly how they are connected to the reading, but this week's discussion was just exceptional. Look at this Sunday's Second Reading (Heb 9:24-28):
Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,
a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary
with blood that is not his own;
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly
from the foundation of the world.
But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages
to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
After a pause, the gentleman in question piped up. "I apologize in advance for the digression this will cause... but I really want to know! What is the Church's position on cryogenic freezing? Like, having your body frozen to be thawed out later?"

This spawned easily fifteen minutes of discussion (sometimes multiple discussions at once), and covered such dense theological topics as despair, presumption, and the papacy... mostly by way of talking about death, the parousia, and gruesome legends (such as the reputed origin of the phrase "dead ringer"). I love my friends.

Speaking of the great affection I have for my friends, one gentleman has been considering giving this talk for years, and strange as it seems to be proud of someone who's your peer, I have rarely been prouder of anyone. What he says in these two videos, "A Christian Response to Homosexuality," is well-researched, balanced, charitable, and rooted in his personal experiences as a chaste gay Catholic. I highly, highly recommend every word to anyone with the slightest interest in listening. (Both videos total 1h15.)

We all know that facebook has been a tense place lately... which is why I'm especially grateful that both Sarah and Susanna gave birth this week! :D

Seriously, both babies give me a much-needed dose of adorable, but also so much more. These ladies (among others) are living the dream. My dream, at least: stay-at-home mom of a large family. I take inspiration from observing and spending time with them and their families. Someday, God will make this dream of mine a reality (or else tell me that I've been mishearing him all these years and He's got something better planned). In the meantime, I'm grateful for families like theirs who let me live vicarious through interacting with and hearing stories about their children. :)

If I hadn't gone to Steubenville for a Catechetics degree, I totally would have studied Linguistics at Boston College. Even as it was, I think I used up all my electives by taking an unnecessary language course every semester of college!

So when I discovered that Atlanta has an Alliance Française and Goethe-Zentrum (which share office space—I guess the French and Germans get along well here), I eagerly signed up for both their mailing lists. Unfortunately, most of their events cost money, so I've done almost nothing with either group. However, a friend who lived in Germany for part of her childhood came with me to a lecture about Berlin earlier this week.

The lecture was all right, but by far the highlight of the evening was when we first arrived, and walked over to the guy at the "bar." "Guten abend..." he began, asking us in comfortable German whether we wanted beer, water or wine, and which kind of wine. Since it's been seven years since I've spoken German with anyone, I was prepared to ask him to switch to English, but was delighted to discover that I didn't need to. The two minutes it took us to order our drinks and thank him left me positively glowing (for at least the next ten). Some fundamental part of me loves communicating with someone in a language other than English. There's a rush to it, an excitement, a challenge.

Well, at least I've learned something about myself: I need to push myself waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone and start going to events that are focused on German or French conversation: game nights, football (soccer) games, Christmas parties... Gah! It's scary. But maybe, now that I've told y'all about it, I might actually do it. Perhaps. Feel free to keep me accountable. :)

So, officially today's liturgical feast is called the "Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica." This is all well and good, with a bonus gloria and extra pretty orations and whatnot. However, the church itself has a much cooler name, which you will probably not hear in your homily today:

The Papal Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran

Now that is an unnecessarily long title, and full of awesome! There's a certain charm to knowing that the pope's cathedral is dedicated primarily to Our Lord Himself, and after both Sts John only secondarily (with thanks to the Lateran family). It's the little things in life, ya' know?

Earlier this week, a new client needed some notarized documents to process my payroll, and in the file in which I keep passport, social security card, birth certificate, etc., I discovered a copy of my baptism certificate (well done, Mom and Dad). Not only is today a cool feast day that I already liked, but it's my baptism day! Whoo hoo!

Totally renewing my baptismal promises before Mass this evening. Baptism day indulgence, here I come! :D

Also, the priest who baptized me wrote a book called Marian Reflections: The Angelus Messages of Pope John Paul II, of which I have two signed copies on my bookshelf. Even though I have no memory of him, that's a pretty cool legacy. :)

Due to crazy Thanksgiving travel plans, I get to see my awesome sister in a mere eleven days! According to one of her friends:

"It's crazy, how Theresa and her sister look nothing alike, and then you spend like ten minutes with them, and it's like: same person!"
Love my family! Here is a rare family portrait (we always just forget).

Probably other people talked about their families, too, over at Conversion Diary where Jen's hosting all these! I'll be back soon...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Review (sort of): Rome Sweet Home

So a bunch of friends wanted to start a book club, and the book that was chosen to launch the thing was Scott and Kimberly Hahn's Rome Sweet Home. It meets tomorrow, but since there will be close to a dozen of us there, they probably don't want to hear all my thoughts on it... Fortunately, that's why God made the internet (right??).

Book cover as it appears on Amazon...
I have three discrete reactions to the book, aside from feeling generally favorable toward it and them, and agreeing that it was a quick and pleasant read.

Growing to appreciate the Hahns as people

See, having gone to Steubenville, I noticed that most people fell into one of two categories regarding Dr Hahn (with rare exceptions): Either you were familiar with his work before college and loved him, or you regarded him as overrated and were annoyed when every third person who learned where you went to school asked with awe, "Did you ever have class with Scott Hahn!?"

(Unspoken response: No, because for every one Scripture class Dr Hahn teacheswhich is always a night classDr Bergsma teaches 7, which are at least as good. Besides, Hahn just assigns you to read his books as your homework, and it's harder to get a good grade in his class, yet it doesn't seem like his students learn anything more than or different from Bergsma's students...)

Anyway, this book humanized the Hahns and gave me something in common with them, something I never realized was sorely needed. Now, drawn in by seeing the way theology has driven their lives, I am actually inclined to take advantage of Dr Hahn's apparent theological genius and check out some of his other books (this new one looks pretty awesome)...

A surprising observation that probably shouldn't be a surprise

As the book progressed, I found myself identifying much more with Scott than with Kimberly. I account two factors for this:

1) I have not yet experienced anything that made me deeply fear seeking the truth (I've put it off for a month or three, maybe, but even then, not since high school). Kimberly's stubbornness of heart was rooted in a particular fear connected to a part of her life that she refused to give to God for a long time. This is not something that my experience connects me with. (Deo gratias!)

2) Kimberly's day-to-day life was drastically changed by having children to care for. As I am still single, I have nothing more practical, more important (except perhaps working enough to pay my bills, which is hardly the same) to distract my mind from the work of theology.

Not that I think most people reading a conversion story are concerned about spoilers, but hey! they happen.

A new conviction

I'm not usually the person who comes away from a talk, homily, book, discussion, etc., saying, "That really hit home; I need to do more (or less) of X." Yet this book convicted me: I need to read more theology.

There's an excitement, a romance to studying the things of God! Reading about Scott's journey really made that present again. It was easy to forget that when the reading was assigned, and sadly, extracurricular research is easy to neglect, despite its joy.

With caution not to overload my resolutions for the Year of Faith, I do intend to read more theology. At least weekly is feasible, right?

Cover of the book I actually own, which saved
me $4 and gave me this great 80s photo to boot!
Anyway, the book was fun, and an easy read. Having gone to college with two of their three oldest kids (still very young children by the end of the book), it was kind of fun to take this look back in time. I do recommend it. Two thumbs up!

Let us pray also for all our brothers and sisters who believe in Christ,
that our God and Lord may be pleased,
as they live the truth,
to gather them together and keep them in his one Church.
Let us pray.
Almighty ever-living God,
who gather what is scattered
and keep together what you have gathered,
look kindly on the flock of your Son,
that those whom one Baptism has consecrated
may be joined together by integrity of faith
and united in the bond of charity.
Through Christ our Lord.
Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord
Solemn Intercessions, V.: For the Unity of Christians

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Voting and Gambling

Voting has always felt somewhat like gambling to me. The possibility of actually obtaining the hoped-for outcome is slim to none, but you're supposed to give it the benefit of the doubt anyway.

I've been saying for years that my political philosophy class in college taught me primarily that democracy corrupts more functionally than other systems of government, which is useful because every system of government corrupts. Ours does still function, even with how far removed it is from the Founding Fathers' intentions.

What is the purpose of the circus we call the race for the presidency? Is anyone's mind changed by campaigns, conventions, and debates? Or is it all merely expensive entertainment for the masses, wherein each citizen gets to watch "their guy" and "the other guy(s)" make spectacles of themselves?

Even the lectures I heard this election cycle about responsible citizenship and the common good and whatnot: not one of them managed to be nonpartisan. If someone is considering abandoning their support for a particular candidate, telling them that their only acceptable option is to do so is probably not going to be helpful. Changing hearts and minds is a slow process that demands both openness on the part of the listener and thorough, balanced honesty on the part of the speaker. 

The trouble with gambling is that I pretty much always lose. The apocalypse that was so widely predicted didn't exactly happen the last time Obama won, though he did do more damage than I expected him to (considering the limitations of the executive office). It won't be a walk in the park this time, but we'll manage.

And just think! The spectacle begins again in just about two years. I'll vote next time, but count me out of the proceedings, thanks.

Ut inimicos sanctae Ecclesiae humiliare digneris: te rogamus, audi nos.
Ut regibus et principibus christianis pacem et veram concordiam donare digneris: te rogamus, audi nos.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Another Saturday Edition

So, Hurricane Sandy!

That's my cousin surveying the wreckage of the amusement
park in her hometown (photo from the local Star-Ledger newspaper)

All my family members are fine, with minimal (or no) property damage. Not all of my friends were so blessed, though. I ask your prayers for two families:

First family has 3 kids under 4. Dad posted on facebook after the storm: "Our new guest is a real stiff. He broke the shower, killed half the deck, and won't even let us into the attic! Now he's letting the rain in." And also, "We TRIED telling the tree it was too big for our shower, but it just wouldn't listen." They hope to be able to move back into their home in a month and a half.

Second family has 2 kids under 4 (both adorable, precocious little girls). Completely lost their house in the storm. I don't have many details, but I presume it was flooded, as they think it may be possible to salvage some items, maybe. Not only do they need a place to live for several months (living with grandparents now), but also basic essentials like boots for the girls and work clothes for the dad.

PLEASE keep these families in your prayers! As well as everyone living without heat until probably the middle of next week. While Jersey gets a hurricane every year or two, this was a much more devastating hurricane than probably any in living memory.

Funny story about the hurricane, though. When the storm stopped, my bachelor uncle immediately started volunteering for the Red Cross in his area, being able-bodied and with no dependents. A few days later, he learned that his part of town had power again, so the first thing he did was call my grandma, who's been staying with my folks, and invite her to come down to his place and use his heat. Next thing he did was tell his supervisor that he needed to run home to warm up the house for his mom.

Supervisor didn't want to let him go. You'd think, this is volunteering, how on earth can she compel him to stay? I don't know, but apparently they went back and forth several times, until finally my uncle looked her in the eye and said:

"Look, I'm afraid of you. But I'm more afraid of my mother."
"I'll see you in an hour."

My grandmother will be telling this story until the day she dies.

Carved a pumpkin this week for the first time in my life! It was surprisingly fun. I can understand why people might make this an annual tradition.

Michelle was kind enough to share her book of pumpkin designs to trace. It's the only reason my pumpkin looks so good!
(Note our matching pumpkin-cats!)
We have joked on Dad's side of the family that every now and again, in the right context or after the right number of drinks, we'd discover a new relative or some other such data that we thought we ought to know.

New to the whole family this week: My grandmother had a modeling career (presumably before she got married?). I mean, we knew homecoming queen, student body president, etc. But modeling?

When I delivered this to my sister, I discovered something else that was news to me: Our grandfather spent a year in Utah at some point in his pre-married life! When he told this to my sister and cousin, they were kids, and so didn't internalize a lot of the details. What does one do in Utah? Ski. Who lives in Utah? Mormons. Thus, now that my grandfather has passed away and all we have to go on is their childhood memory of this conversation: Apparently he spent a year skiing with Mormons in Utah.

My 16-year-old Nissan Sentra, which still hasn't even broken 120,000mi, is finally completely dead. I finally took it to the mechanic this week, thinking that I could perhaps afford the repairs it surely needed, based on all the new noises and vibrations it was making.

You know it's bad when your mechanic lists off at least eight problems with your car, including two disparate brake repairs that need to be done before it's even safe to drive, then calls the beast "a hot mess."

Do widzenia, Janek!
(In English: Bye, Johnny!)
Gladly accepting assistance (prayerful or otherwise) in the car shopping department, especially since I have neither time nor interest in so doing.

So, a couple months back a friend booked me to give a talk on the Year of Faith to the young adult group at her parish. I've been so slammed with work that I haven't started formally preparing the talk yet (which I knew would happen), but as questions come in from attendees and I'm making mental notes about context, it's becoming fun (again, as I knew it would). In general, I kind of find faith to be a bewilderingly vague topic, but I am finding that the additional context of this holy year is filling in the gaps. I'm becoming pretty excited about this talk, and, by extension, the Year of Faith! (Better late than never, eh?)

To close, I leave you with a chant that last night's Requiem Mass reminded me is still one of my favorites, and one of the ways Our Lord communicates His love and affection directly to my heart.

English translation here.

I'm a day late, but the rest of these are at!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lauds Hymn for the Solemnity of All Saints

O Jesus, Savior of the world,
Assist the souls you have redeemed;
And gentle Mother of our Lord,
For us poor sinners pardon win.

May all the gleaming Angel hosts
And patient Patriarchs serene,
And Prophets faithful unto death,
Make supplication for the world.

May John, fore-runner of our Light,
And he who holds the keys above,
And all Apostles of our Lord,
Absolve us from the stains of sin.

And may the Martyrs countless throng,
And Priests devoted to their Lord,
And holy virgins' merits too,
Obtain remission for our falls.

May pure monastic prayer above,
United with all Saints on high,
Accept our lowly sighs on earth,
And gain for us eternal life.

All glory, Jesus, be to you,
The Father and the Spirit, too,
Whose wondrous light is cause of joy
For all the Saints eternally. Amen.

Lauds hymn for the Solemnity of All Saints,
translation from the Mundelein Psalter.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Consecration of the Human Race to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to Thy most Sacred Heart. 

Many indeed have never known Thee; many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned Thee; grant that they may quickly return to Thy Father's house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. 

Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. 

Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to draw them into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of the race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life. 

Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: "Praise be to the divine Heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever." Amen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 8

Last week, I skipped my quick takes because I had no interest in writing them. I feel no remorse for this (though I did appreciate Bob's prodding in that direction after the fact). No sense feeling beholden to something that is not actually an obligation. But I'm back for now.

I think I've driven away all my commenters by switching to writing about whatever I feel like. Or perhaps by my 11-month hiatus. If either of these are true, refrain from commenting to confirm my theory. :)

There really is something beautiful about walking places rather than driving. It's one of the things I will miss most about my current location whenever I move to another apartment (closely followed by living right behind the grocery store and bank). Not only does it provide a helpful minimum of exercise, but it puts you into contact with people in a way that's just completely lacking otherwise. Here in Atlanta, the folks you're walking past greet you, so I put on an enormous smile and greet them in return. There's just something warm and wonderful about pleasant interactions with strangers, in the midst of this world of isolation and commuting.

Hey look! I'm famous! Sort of...

As a follow-up to my conference presentation in January, the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy asked me whether I'd be interested in cutting up that presentation into bite-sized pieces and joining the ranks of their bloggers. The twenty-first century unpaid equivalent of having my very own magazine column! Whoo hoo!

I finally got my introduction to Tim last month, and there it is: the first in what I project to be a 17-installment monthly series. That's right, I will continue to milk my master's thesis for a year and a half's worth of blog posts!

Over the next year or so, I intend to offer a guide through the millennia from creation to eternity—with a focus on the 20th century—to see in various ages what the Church has asked for regarding liturgy and what we gave to God in that respect. With that background, I will venture to offer practical applications for several more months, so as to encapsulate the relevance of this history to today’s churchgoers.

Oh, and I opened the post with a completely relevant Monty Python sketch. No idea how I'm going to match that for the second post, which will be on the Scriptural basis of our worship and the principle of sacramentality. (I'm accepting suggestions, especially either usable or absurd ones.)

Speaking of Tim and ND, I've recommended his pieces to you before, and this one on ending the liturgy wars is no different. He's wonderfully balanced and well thought out. A glimpse:

The problem with liturgical politics (and the liturgy wars) is that it gradually suffocates this spirit of prayer.  Ironically, it turns liturgical prayer (a participation, ever so brief, in the heavenly peace of the city) into an act of war.  We grow to suspect that the hymn chosen at a particular celebration of the Eucharist is intended to communicate some implicit ideological theme.   We hear chant and assume that the music director is dialing back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.  We “use” the liturgy to institute our own ideas of what reform should look like, rather than celebrating liturgical prayer as an authentic encounter with the living God.

Seriously, it's worth reading. If you have opinions about liturgy, that is.

I just heard a loud scream from elsewhere in my apartment complex. Was about to be concerned... and then  remembered this weekend is Halloween, observed. Never mind!

Went to a Georgia Tech football game this past weekend! It was a ton of fun. First, an entertaining photo from among the madness outside the stadium:

I snapped this during one of the very rare  moments when they
weren't posing with fans. Doesn't this just scream Atlanta!?
From where we sat in back of the student section (by choice), you could see some of the Atlanta skyline, which was pretty sweet.
Those buildings are all within half a mile of the
stadium, so it makes sense they're so visible,
but it was still darn cool to have that backdrop!
I also learned about a certain George P. Burdell, who's been a "student" at Georgia Tech since the 1920s.
The administration were glad to finally get him out of the system when they switched to digital student records in the 60s, only to have an enterprising student promptly hack into their systems and restore his records. He was recognized for something or other during the game; I didn't catch what. Anyway, students have been signing into classes and events as George P. Burdell for nearly a century, so legend has it that he's earned every degree Tech has to offer, among many other distinctions. Seriously, wander over to his Wikipedia page. It's entirely worth the five minutes it will take you to read it. :D

(Full disclosure: I couldn't get the Seton Hall Pirates' fight song out of my head the whole game...)

After the parish group photo (apparently "promptly at 2:00pm" means somewhere around 3) at the (annual?) parish picnic this past weekend...

I think if you click on this, it'll show you the full size photo.
I'm on the far left in front, close by the very pregnant lady.
A couple of the guys started cajoling me into playing soccer in the parish-wide kids vs adults game. Now, I go to a traddy parish. While I do own pants, I wasn't sure admitting that in front of the entire parish was a good idea. But the trouble was, I actually wanted to play. Of course, I was wearing a cute little skirt and blouse combo that wouldn't mix well with diving to save the ball, so their cajoling was all in vain...

Until one of the guys volunteered that I could borrow the pajama pants he keeps in his trunk (which fit me so well that other friends presumed they were mine). Done! Enter: Soccer game!

Aaaaaaand repetitions of this might explain some of those scrapes and
bruises that are still healing from 5 days ago...

In retrospect, I was the only woman on the adults team. But it was enormously fun, and I haven't lost as much of my goalkeeper skills as I'd feared. Turns out, my high school coaches trained me pretty well!

(More photos of the picnic/game here, in case you were wondering. There are some fun ones of Father playing soccer in his cassock. It's nice to have a parishioner who moonlights as a professional photographer!)

Anyway, joining Jen and the gang, better late than never. Until next week, or something like that!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Saturday Edition

What? Friday is really just a terribly inconvenient day for me to blog, and I never remember to pre-write one so I can just hit "post" come Friday...

An Atlanta legend of sorts named Brother Sean passed away on Monday. He might've even been a saint, who knows?

Once a successful lawyer, Sean decided one year that he wanted to celebrate his birthday by giving pizza to the homeless people who lived around his favorite pizzeria. Long story short, he ended up literally selling all his possessions to live with the poor (he was barely better off than the homeless). He became known as "Brother" Sean not because he joined an order but because he performed works of mercy, and the homeless can be quick with nicknames. He spent all his money feeding the poor, and spent all his time just being with them. People would give him money to care for himself, and he would spend it on Atlanta's poor. He would often take groups (usually church or school-related) around to feed the homeless, always including that most uncomfortable--and most important--linchpin of spending time with the homeless, of just talking with them.

The poor have human dignity, too, which is often forgotten, especially by those who can't or won't give money to panhandlers. Just saying hello, smiling, chatting, or promising a prayer is often at least as helpful as money or food. Encountering Brother Sean turned the location of my apartment from convenient enough, even if there are beggars nearby, to a blessedly constant opportunity buy food for our wonderful homeless people and sometimes chat with them a bit. Seeing them now genuinely bring joy to my heart, and for this I have Brother Sean to thank. Requiescat in pace.

So I was commissioned to write a piece about how Sacrosanctum Concilium impacted my life, for the 2014 edition of this fairly useful-looking product. Took me a while to pull my thoughts together, but ended up writing about how I grew up with what I termed "ethnic envy," that is, feeling boring because I was white and thus didn't have a cool cultural history like most of my friends did... until I discovered in college that Catholicism is a culture, and I'm perfectly entitled to it. This changed rather a lot, in my experience of the world. (I'm rather pleased with the piece, and am somewhat impatient for it to come out!)

On a theoretically unrelated note, I've been reading the Torah lately... It's turned out not to be unrelated it all. Just as the centuries of Catholicism are my culture, so too are the Hebrews' years of wandering in the desert! I could have sworn I'd read these books before, but now I'm suddenly understanding minutiae that never struck me before - the arrangement of the twelve tribes, the year of jubilees, the practical usefulness of a lot of the strange-sounding laws, including those of ritual purity. All of this, too, is my heritage, and it's exciting and fascinating. I always knew I loved our Jewish roots, but wow! :D

New favorite saint alert! St St Stanisław Szczepanowski, or (if you're less comfortable in Polish) Stanislaus of Cracow, or Stanislaus the Martyr. As bishop of Kraków (one of the first Polish-born bishops in Poland), he excommunicated the king for brutalizing his subjects, so the king ordered him killed. The soldiers were hesitant in the face of Stan's holiness, so the king slew the bishop himself - while he was celebrating Mass.


At my new freelance client's office, the guy who sits at a desk across the room heard the following twice this week:

*clap* "Yes!"

That's right: The glorious combination of sounds that means I successfully killed that bug (in this case, gnats) on the first try. I'd be lying if I said I weren't proud of myself. :D

So, Year of Faith, whoo! Totally didn't even realize until about last week that it was in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II (oops). I've been thinking I ought to, like, care about this whole year of faith thing, but really lacking the motivation to do so. Then a friend booked me to give a talk to a group at her parish about the Year of Faith. Enter: Excellent motivation. Whoo hoo!

Another vaguely work-related take. For one of my clients, the proofreading projects frequently require me to look up one-verse Scripture passages. It makes me very grateful for that song I learned as a child about books of the Bible, and for the shoutouts I added to include the Deutero-Canonical books (it was on some cassette about bees, for the two of you who are wondering)...

Well. Every time a passage is cited from either letter to the Thessalonians (or sometimes just when I flip past Thessalonians), I pull a Larry the Cucumber. I can't help it. Just wanted to confess that publicly on the internet.

Either skip to 48 seconds, or click this link. I can link to the middle of the video, but I don't have the skillz to embed from the middle of a video. Sorry for its poor quality, but really, the audio is all you need there. Yeah.

If you had asked me 7yrs ago, when I was singing them at least weekly, whether I'd ever forget the words to such Ann Arbor classics as the Te Deum and Born Into a Battle, I'd've laughed. My memory for all the verses of a hymn is definitely above average... and yet, after having tried to sing these and others in my car last night, I actually had to look up their lyrics. Wow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Modern-Day Tax Collectors ?

It occurs to me that, in order to put into perspective what people meant when they scorned Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners, we might want to consider the modern-day equivalents: lawyers (and/or maybe politicians).

No offense intended to lawyers and politicians; there are some genuinely good people in the batch, at least a few of whom I would positively enjoy spending time with. But consider the stereotype, the reputation: corrupt quasi-government officials, taking advantage of their positions of influence to fleece innocent people out of their money...

Think about it. Wouldn't it seem at least a bit weird for Jesus to go eat dinner with a bunch of lawyers, when so much of his ministry was to the poorer classes, and so much of his remaining time spent with priests and religious leaders?

St Matthew the Apostle, pray for us.
St. Thomas More, pray for us.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

14 Quick Takes (Vol 6)

What? I'm making up for lost time! I'm relatively confident these will actually be somewhat quick, as opposed to my usual Friday fare... Okay, at least some of them will be.


So today is Plaidurday, invented last year by some guy "to celebrate plaid. To bring together all the wonderful plaid-wearing people of the world." Too hilarious a holiday for me not to celebrate!

...Except I was rather surprised to discover that I own almost no plaid. I mean, I know, I wore it day in and day out for eleven of my twelve years at Catholic school (preschool required no uniform), but I like to think I've gotten over that. However, my entire stock of plaid consists of a gingham shirt, two hats, and some underwear. I might have to go shopping before next Plaidurday.

My sister's been telling me for weeks that her school is ranked by the Princeton Review (or somebody equally impressive, give me a break, I'm no guidance counselor) for being one of the Prettiest College Campuses in the USA. It's not so much that I doubted her as that I wasn't sure what to expect.

It's pretty. This particular photo (which, of course, doesn't do justice to the real view) shows part of a section of campus known as The Colonnades. Unsurprisingly, this impressive colonnade is whence these dorms get their common name.

Speaking of my sister's school, one of their eateries makes these fantastic muffins--which are really just the socially acceptable form of eating Chocolate Cake for Breakfast...

Anyway, as part of their meal plan, they get a certain number of free food items from the non-cafeteria eateries on campus, called "swipes" because the food costs one swipe of the card.

...which resulted in my sister offering all weekend to swipe me a muffin. Totally legit. Did not get old!

On second thought, that might've been a "you had to be there" moment, but at least it gave me a reason to link you to one of Bill Cosby's most memorable comedy sketches...

While I've mentally returned to my sister's campus, I can't help but recall how wonderful it was to see my family this weekend. Not only was it delightful to be in their company again all together, with no one else to distract us, something possibly more important: it felt so profoundly normal!

Probably it felt this way because the routine of a college visit became familiar to me during undergrad, when they visited close to every semester, but there's something wonderful about an adult visit with your family wherein it's just good old-fashioned family time, no distractions; wherein your adulthood is neither negated nor ignored, yet the stresses and changes of adult life are not present. It was fantastic. I miss them already. :)

But it's back to reality! My newest freelance client, in metro Atlanta, wants me to come into the office for about 30 hours each week. It's great to have the structure and the social element of an office environment (not to mention the consistent work), but wow does transitioning to a normal work schedule take a toll on you! I'd forgotten quite how tired those first few weeks are.

However, there are other fun perks to this job. I don't want to give away too much detail, but suffice it to say that I've been organizing a sort of inventory of saints for them. The inventory was put together piecemeal over several years and by various people, and as a result, it's an impossible-to-navigate mess. A simple example: St. Matteo and St. Matthew have separate categories, as do St. Cecilia and St. Cecila. Don't even get me started on the collection of Saints Catherine!

Because of this project, I've gotten to dabble in translations of names. Some are simpler: The Latin Jacobus produced both Jacob and James. Emmerich (or Emeric) = Imre* = Henry. Eduvigis = Hedwig! (Believe it or not, I backed into Hedwig via Spanish and Polish, two languages in which I have very limited competence.)

*I swear, the name Imre came up in some fiction I've consumed within the past several months. Or perhaps something that sounds very similar? My sincerest gratitude to anyone who can figure it out...

Most entertaining website that I came across in the aforementioned search to confirm saint names in various languages? This one.
Seriously tempted to buy one of these for my gambler uncle for Christmas, just because...

So, between my trip out to see my sister and my return to a commuting lifestyle, I have found a way to solve my aforementioned literary dilemma: Les Mis from! It's actually been pretty fantastic (notwithstanding nearly two hours about the Battle of Waterloo, most of which I lacked the military jargon to understand, and whose entire purpose, I think, was one five-minute scene that helped to firm up the despicable character of Old Man Thenardier). I'm about 18 hours in, and it's a 60 hour book, so I have some hope of finishing it by mid-December...

I forget this whenever I'm not reading very much: My life is always better with fiction. Movies and TV aren't the same at all. I suspect part of this comes from the fact that most of the fiction I'm reading is at least a generation or two old, so it's of some quality, having stood the test of time. But I think it's largely just that encountering the world and its truths in that particular medium takes me out of myself and causes some reflection.

Speaking of reflection, I realized quite suddenly this week (and with some surprise) that I positively disbelieve in the Hegelian dialectic. For those of you who did not take that class with me (or, perhaps, at all), it is from Hegel that we derive the notion that society is always improving, that "progress" is inherently good. Hegel posited that the new ideas popular in society form into a sort of "thesis," which is followed by a backlash, by people trying to turn back the clock--the "antithesis"--and the two slowly meld and become the "synthesis," which essentially means progress. (I'm no philosopher, but that's how I understand it, anyway.)

I looked with ambivalence on the idea when I first learned of it, but it wasn't until this past week that I realized that I completely disagree. Shaped as my worldview is by a desire for virtue and the belief that original sin has dogged humanity since the beginning of time and will until the Parousia--albeit perhaps in different forms--the idea that life in previous centuries was so bad, and things are getting better and better... it just took me by surprise how patently ridiculous is the whole idea.

After all, that's what blogs are for, right? Making the internet read whatever you feel like sharing with it?

If any of y'all are still reading, you're quite the troopers. While I'm still talking about surprising moments while reading Les Mis... *~*SPOILER ALERT!!*~*

Okay, I'm only a few books in; Jean Valjean and Cosette have just moved to Paris at present. So I've really only encountered Javert in Montreuil-sur-Mer. I've also gotten the full dose of the Thenardiers. I remembered coming into things that both are pretty terrible characters, but that was all I remembered.

Well. The Thenardiers actually didn't make me all that angry, as book characters go. But Javert! During the scene where he arrests M. Madeleine at Fantine's bedside, I actually dropped at least one F-bomb on him--out loud! I was SO furious at him!

With a bit of reflection, I've concluded two possible reasons for the intensity of my reaction: 1) The Thenardiers barely pretend to be "good people," whereas Javert thinks he's being righteous in his utter lack of mercy (or human courtesy). 2) Or perhaps the crux of the matter is that the Thenardiers treat everyone more or less equally (the difference only being the best method to bleed a man dry), whereas Javert has a very strict code wherein some people are sub-human.

The more I think about it, the more I vote for explanation number two. Bonus points for Jennifer Fulwiler's latest article, conveniently timed for my musings. I must be influenced by Hugo's views on society creating its criminals (which I want to say Dickens also spread?), because I have no sympathy for people treating them any differently. Or maybe by Catholic social teaching, which explicitly abhors anything that denigrates any person's human dignity. But let's cut off this rant before it begins...


I believe I promised last week to report on my marshmallow brownie experiment. When I put it in the oven, I was entirely certain that I had messed up by putting WAAAAAAAAAY too many marshmallows in the brownie. Instead, what I pulled out of the oven was actually boiling on the top. The marshmallows had all melted and risen to the top, and taken a lot (though not all) of the chocolate chips with them. The result was that the top layer of brownie was almost caramelized (sticky but not hard), while the bottom 2/3 was much cakier than usual. It made a good brownie (I love me some foolproof desserts!), but it wasn't at all what anyone expected.

Another update: The bunch of us who built the St Francis Scarecrow went to visit him at the Atlanta Botanical Garden last night! It was an enormous amount of fun (and they waived the $18 ticket price for all of us, whoo hoo!). St Francis was nestled down below the path, but near the front of the maze of scarecrows. (I use the word scarecrow loosely. Most of the "scarecrows" submitted bore little to no resemblance to the traditional scarecrow; they were just sort of themed statues cobbled together out of stuff...)

Note the button on his lapel that says "Ask me a question, I'm Catholic."
Don't note the three of our gang who are (presumably illegally) behind the gate...

But he looked great in the Garden, and whenever one of our gang dawdled inconspicuously near St Francis to eavesdrop, they noticed that people were stopping to take a closer look at him, which we found encouraging. One pair of ladies nodded approvingly, one saying to the other, "And on his feast day, no less!" while they clinked their classes and drank to St Francis. What a perfect Catholic moment!

Like all good things, this must come to an end, despite the fun I've had writing it. At the Botanical Garden last night, I kind of checked something off my bucket list:

Meeting a carnivorous plant! It would have been way cooler if we'd actually seen any of the pitcher plants eat anything, of course, but it was still cool (especially since the quail in the other exhibit eluded our sight, though they were quite vocal).

Anyway! That's more than enough of me for two weeks. The rest of these Quick Takes (which are still probably quicker than mine) are at Jen's home page. Until next time!
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