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.
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