Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why I'm Excited about the New Translations

First off, I haven’t put much effort in memorizing parts of Mass until now, because I knew it was going to change so soon. So I have no attachment to the former words, and I’m not struggling to replace phrases that roll of my tongue with new, similar-but-different-enough-to-confuse-me new ones. I really do feel the pain of the older parishioners who grew up around the Latin, then had to deal with Vatican II changes, and now have to deal with this. But I believe the changes are for the better.

One reason is just one word: “consubstantial” It’s a big word, not easy for a congregation to say in union, but I like it. It replaces the “one in Being” in the Nicene Creed. While theologically, I don’t think it makes much difference, I just really like that word. I also like saying “visible and invisible” instead of “seen and unseen.” It’s a personal preference, sure, but I think it makes the creed cooler. (And yes, I think creeds are cool.)

Another reason is the whole reason there are changes in the first place: to get the wording as close to the Latin as possible, so it's more in syncopation with the universal church. If we’re not going to use Latin (and sadly, we aren’t), we have to take great care in vernacular translations, so the meaning cannot be misunderstood.

There are so many English translations of the Bible, that come from older English translations, that come from Latin translations, that come from Greek and Hebrew. Even translators trying to be faithful to the language and without a personal agenda have to make some judgment calls when translating. Each step further away from the original makes room for error and misunderstanding and missed nuance.

I think it’s a good thing people can approach the Bible or a church service in a language they understand. But to do that, the Church has to be extra-careful with translations. The new changes were made because they were needed to make sure English-speaking Mass was as close to a Latin Mass as possible.

I’m going to appreciate anything closer to the original and closer in line with what churches everywhere in all languages say. From what I can tell, the changes have even more beauty. I don’t mind that they are longer, or have four-syllable words, or make me beat my chest three times. In fact, I love it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 9) Thanksgiving edition

Because it is the day after Thanksgiving, I'm going to list seven things I'm thankful for. Not very original, but still, it's important to note these things sometimes.

1. I'm thankful for my parents, who have raised me a loving home, given me an enormous amount of support when I'm hard on my luck, and have shown me a great example of marriage. And I'm grateful that they are supportive/at least tolerant of my decisions.

2. I'm thankful for two of my friends (one even a Presbyterian minister), who when I told them I was becoming Catholic answered in some form of "That makes sense." That was seriously the most affirming response I could get from someone, as if they understand that I belonged in the Church and my seeking would lead me there for honest reasons.

3. I'm thankful to live in a country where I can practice my faith openly and where is doesn't make a difference that I'm Catholic, Protestant, or a Christian at all. I feel marginalized and misunderstood for being something-other-than-evangelical here in the Bible Belt, but I am well aware it's not real persecution.

4. I'm thankful that my family and I don't live with any debt. Our house and cars are paid for, and credit cards are paid in full each month. I graduated without any college loans, and I have enough money to pay for most of my second degree. When I think about buying something, it's always something I don't need, and the choice I have to make isn't "Can I afford this?" but "Do I want to spend that much for this?"

5. I'm thankful I'm unfamiliar with death. People in my family tend to live long and live healthy, so I haven't experienced a lot of deaths in the family. I don't experience hunger or war or gang/domestic violence or pandemics. I wake up with every expectation of being alive and safe at the end of the day.

6. I'm thankful for the opportunity of education and the education I've received. I can't imagine not being able to read or write. Knowledge is everything.

7. And mostly, I'm thankful for the amazing awakening I've experienced this year that has led me to the Catholic Church. I don't feel like I'm converting/changing, but that my faith is deepening and expanding. My mind is open to so much more understanding, and my heart is open to so many spiritual experiences. I didn't even know I was seeking, but God brought me to where the answers were anyway.

Friday, November 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 8)

1. I’m having a horrible time finding a good Advent calendar to keep at my desk. When I was kid, I had about three different calendars: One of a Santa which I got to add a cotton ball to his beard each day, one 3D cardboard one with various doors and windows to open, and one from a children’s book that revealed different animals behind the flaps. The book was my favorite, and I’m sure it’s still down in the basement somewhere, but I’d really like one that can sit at my desk at work and actually has a religious theme.

2. It’s amazing how many Advent calendars aren’t religious. You can even get a Lego’s Advent calendar. And even though it looks fun, it makes me think more about preparing for a Lego’s pirate ship for Christmas than preparing for the birth of our Lord. Just a tip: If the 24th or 25th box/door on your Advent calendar isn’t of the Nativity, it’s not an Advent calendar; it’s a December calendar.

3. I lost my jumpdrive. This is devastating to me, because all my writing (college essay, NaNoWriMo novel [at 18,000 words], all my detailed notes for my stories, and all my in-process blog articles/pictures) were on it. I’ve lost more sleep over this than I care to admit. First world problems. But I’m getting closer to St. Anthony because of it.

4. I did successfully find about the first 9,000 words of my novel saved in the recycle bin of my work computer. But I still miss all my notes and blog articles the most.

5. Despite this major setback, since I knew how many words I lost, I’m continuing on with NaNoWriMo and am determined to meet the goal this year. Then, in December, I will go back and rewrite the parts that are missing and flush out parts that I needed my notes for. I’m at about 26,000 words, which is a bit behind, but much better than I actually expected from myself.

6. The worse part of losing my jumpdrive is imaging someone actually reading my work. I would rather have rolled over it with my car, crushing it into dozens of pieces and knowing it was gone forever than to have it out there, still working, in someone else’s hands. I'm very protective about my writing.

7. I almost, almost have everything in order to go to school next semester. Praying registration goes well on Monday. Two of the classes I need still have openings, so I'm optimistic, even after the week I've had.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I want to be pregnant during Advent

No, not this Advent, clearly.

But should I in my life find myself married and pregnant, I’d like it if part of the few months of the pregnancy to overlap with the holidays. Because it just makes sense, doesn’t it? You get to prepare for your baby and Baby Jesus at the same time. I’m someone who likes my metaphors to hit me over the head with their obviousness, and being pregnant during Advent would definitely fit that category. I find myself thinking that in church every Sunday of Advent, and I’m happy for the glowing mothers-to-be I see there during that time. My CP church is having a baby shower on the first Sunday of Advent. Is there really any more perfect date for that?

Advent is my favorite time of year. It’s just so warm and cozy. On my favorite show, How I Met Your Mother, Ted meets a girl named Victoria at a wedding. Instead of kissing, they just lean in close for a long time, almost-kissing, because Victoria believes the drum roll leading up the kiss is the most romantic part. Advent is like an awesome drum roll. Taking the time to relish in the waiting and preparation just makes Christmas that much more amazing.

Disregarding the tacky, secularized commercialization , it’s that time of year when more is more. More decorations, more prayer, more lights, more songs, more gatherings. It doesn’t become cluttered, but builds to a magnificent crescendo-ing drumroll, reaching its peak Christmas Eve and grandly concluding with trumpets and choirs of angels on Christmas Day. What better way to start the Church year than with an abundance of everything that makes the Church beautiful?

Friday, November 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 7)

1. It’s 11-11-11! So at 11:11, I’ll be sure to make an extra special wish. November 11 also means it’s Veterans/Armistice Day. The cease-fire was declared "on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918, marking the end of World War I, though Germany didn't finish paying reparations until October 4, 2010. I've always been interested in reading about WWI. I think many just look at it as a precursor to WW2 and overlook its independant significance. It's considered the first modern war and is a strong divider between the Victorian and Modern eras. Armistice Day always brings out my interest in that time period.

Also, it reminds me to say a special prayer for those throughout history who honorably served their countries, especially those who died in battle.

2. This evening, I’m heading up to Camp John Speear to help with a senior high retreat. I just can’t seem to stay away from my Cumberland Presbyterian roots, not that there is anything wrong with that. The topic of the retreat is peace.

So I'm super churching it this weekend: CP youth retreat Friday through Sunday, Catholic Mass on Sunday morning, then Youth Sunday at the CP church later that morning. I think that earns me a stiff drink Sunday afternoon, which fortunately to both faiths is totally ok.

3. I’m about 16,000 words into my novel for NaNoWriMo. And I don’t feel like I’m very far into the story, which means either: 1. I have a long story to tell or 2. I just have lots of boring scenes and need to learn how to pace stories better. I think it’s really a mix of both.

4. I would have been further along writing, but I spent most of Wednesday morning figuring out my student account and email account for school. Yep, I’m officially going back to school now! I’m not sure how much I will like this school or how good I will be at Accounting, but I’m happy to feel like I’m doing something again.

5. When I was seventeen and looking at colleges, everyone wanted to court me, and I got lots of packets and lots of information about what I needed to fill out and turn in by what date. Not so this time around. I miss being wanted. Now I have to call a bazillion offices just to figure out what I need to do. As much as I appreciate bureaucracy when I’m familiar with the particular process, I’ve certainly witnessed its dark side while dealing with registering at a new school. Rules make sense to me, and I like organization, but when you don’t know where to go, when to do what, or whom to call on for help, it’s easy to just get frustrated at “the system.” And speaking of systems, if my alma mater and new school are in the same state university system, why can’t the former forward the latter all transcripts and immunization records?

6. Another reason I'm not getting much writing done this week: my boyfriend and I broke up yesterday. On good terms and for the right reasons, but I'm still pretty sad about it.

7. I’ve actually found it easier to not get mad at the people who start the Christmas season on November 1. Maybe it’s because I’m not living with two of those people pushing their Christmas trees in my face and blasting Christmas music through the house like I was last year, but I also think it’s because I can think to myself, “Aw, it’s just those poor low-church Protestants who don’t understand the beauty and significance of the liturgical calendar.”

On that note, Advent (along with the New Mass) is just three weeks away! I can’t wait! (except I really can, because waiting/preparing is sort of the whole deal of Advent)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Independent Voter

The presidential election is a year away, and I’m already tired of it. The candidates might dwindle down to two, but the talking points aren’t likely to change in the coming months. Wouldn’t it be great if something disrupted the ad nauseum campaign cycle? I can’t help but think, why don’t Catholics form a third political party?

No political party as a monopoly on being God’s party. I like that Catholicism isn’t wedded to an American political party. I don’t want to hear politics from the pulpit. It’s gotten to the point that I think some churches are based on political beliefs instead of the other way around. But what if Catholics actually formed their own political party?

First off, I think the two-party system turns democracy into an “us-versus-them” fight where winning is more important than taking care of a country. George Washington warned against it, so I can’t be that un-American in this belief. That said, I’m always on the lookout for a viable third party that could reshape the political landscape, whether they tout my personal beliefs or not. I just want more options. The Tea Party was almost it, but then it just merged with the Republican Party and formed a more conservative Republican Party, making the landscape more extreme instead of more diverse.

Catholics tend to believe in things on both sides of the political spectrum. Depending on what they deem as most important, they fall into two voting groups: pro-life Republicans or social justice Democrats. Helping the unborn and helping the poor shouldn’t be oppositions. By being representatively unsatisfied by both the big parties, Catholics are perfectly positioned to take the issues into their hands and form a third party.

As I see it, this third party would be against both abortion and the death penalty. It would support taking care of the environment. It would be against gay marriage. It would promote capitalism but also support programs that would help the needy and unemployed. Even if it just attracted Catholics, it would create a large third party-voting block in the U.S. But I think lots of non-Catholic moderates would be attracted to it as well. As the left/right debates grow more and more extreme, those stuck in the middle with a mix of Republican and Democrat values need a place for their voices to be heard. I don’t know if it would offer any solutions to the problems government faces, but it would at least shake up the us-versus-them campaigns.

Sadly, I know it won’t happen. Next year at this time, I’ll cast my vote for whoever I think is the lesser of two evils. But I will vote, because that is my duty. I just wish I could enjoy it more.

Friday, November 4, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 6)

1. After three days of NaNoWriMo, I’m 6,000 words into my novel. I’m resisting the urge to research, because that always winds up with me wasting the time online learning about the Vendeans or looking up a new ziti recipe. Neither of which pertain to my story. I’m just trying to push words onto screen and not overanalyze. That’s the point of NaNoWriMo.

2. Because I’m trying to write this story, I’m not sure how much blogging I’ll get done this month. But I’m sure it will pick up once Advent begins.

3. One of the youth at my Presbyterian church recently learned that I’m in the process of joining the Catholic Church. He asked why, and of course the subject of transubstantiation came up. He said, “I don’t want you to become a cannibal!” Yes, it was completely misinformed hyperbole (and yes, I tried to clarify the foreign concept to him), but I also found his reaction funny.

4. I’m still surprised that he didn’t even know the term. Even when I didn’t believe in transubstantiation, I knew what it was. I guess I take my interest in learning about other faiths for granted and assume everyone knows the basics of the major faiths. I think to be confident your faith, you have to know what the other options are.

5. I’m super excited to see my college friends this weekend at Homecoming. None of us are really into football, but it’s a good excuse to get together. It’s hard to keep that close connection when you go from living across the hall to living 500 miles apart.

6. I had my mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese last night. And I’m looking forward to the leftovers for lunch. It’s my very favorite dish of hers.

7. I can’t really think of a seventh thing, so here’s a picture of the passenger seat of my car. It's become my de facto Catholic bookshelf. (Includes U.S. Catholic Catachism for Adults, St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, Oscar Lukefahr's We Worship, and my RCIA notebook.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So, Why Catholic? part 7

This is the conclusion of the reasons I've accepted the Catholic faith.
Part 1 here.
Parts 2 and 3 here.
Part 4 here.
Part 5 here.
Part 6 here.

7. Beauty. The churches. The art. The literature. The music. The vast amount of beauty inspired from the Church isn’t something to be ignored. There is the first, obvious way beauty attracted me, and the second, subtle, more important way. The first, I admit, is shallow. I like being in pretty places. One of my favorite things about my college was its campus of matching buildings in a quad. The uniformed, colonial style said, “This is a place of learning.” In contrast, I would get a mild depression when visiting schools whose buildings were scattered about a city and had no architectural similarities to one another. The collegiate feel was gone along with inspiration. I should have the fortitude to be able to study or pray or find inspiration despite the setting. But I like being in pretty places. Churches with narthexes and calices and an altar make it easier for me to focus. Add stained glass, statues, and candles, and I’m seduced even more. The higher and more beautiful the liturgy, the more positive reaction I have. It grounds me and points me in the right direction.

The second reason is the higher beauty that is the source of the more obvious kind. Mystics like Julian of Norwich and John of the Cross had powerful, personal experiences with God. I want what they had. I want the overwhelming joy and peace that come from a strong prayer life. The Church knows people are weak and often stupid. The religion is in place to help us lift ourselves up to be the best we can, to hold us accountable for our sins and cleanse us, to strengthen our praying, to always point toward God. And the saints serve as positive role models. I’m not afraid to admit that I need all the help I can get.

The Church (while remaining one) is big enough and wide enough to meet each of us wherever we are in our faith journey. She is rigid enough to provide structure for someone just learning about the faith and unrestrained enough to allow mystics room to search and meditate and constantly deepen their relationship. That’s Love. That’s Beauty. It’s that beauty that inspired the architecture and art and literature and music, as well as the missions, the charities, and the martyrs. And it inspires me.