Friday, March 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.27)

1. I got three other posts written this week! They are about what happens when I get something out of Lent, what happens when I don't get something out of Lent, and what happens when I watch way too much Doctor Who. Please check them out!

2. I saw the Hunger Games movie. I’ve decided the books are alright, the movie is only good if you have read the book, and that I still don’t get what the big hoopla is about. But I gave it a shot.

3. I realized this week that the dress I thought I was going to wear for Easter has disappeared. I guess it didn’t survive last summer’s closet purge. So now I have to go buy a new Easter dress. I hate shopping for clothes. I wish clothes that fit could just magically appear in my closet.

4. But I love shopping for movies and books. Most purchases are in piles or boxes because I lack the shelf space, but that doesn’t seem to stop me. I am sort of worried about which books I may have to leave behind when I move into my studio apartment.

5. I have a test next Tuesday, and after that, the only tests left are finals. It’s amazing how fast this semester has gone! Of course, I’ve had other stuff on my mind, like Confirmation. I am so excited for Holy Week!

6. I went to the Penance Service last night and went through my first Reconciliation. Hopefully, I’ll write more about it early next week.

7. And finally:

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Doctor (part 1)

I recently nagged my mother enough that she started watching Doctor Who. I’ve enjoyed re-watching the show with her (and not just because I can now sneak up on her and say, “Mummy? Are you my mummy?”). It’s always great to share a passion. And I’ve discovered that the reason I love Doctor Who so much is that it teaches me about my faith.

Now I’m not trying to make the argument that Doctor Who is overtly or even covertly Christian. As far as I’m aware, there is no religious agenda. This is more about my projections onto the show. An added benefit of conversion is that I see religious symbols everywhere.

Let’s start with the Doctor himself. His name is never spoken, just the Doctor. As a Time Lord, he is always able to see/hear what was and will be and what must not be. Those aspects make me see God the Father in him, but I think the role of Christ figure is more accurate once you see the Doctor interact with humans. He chooses to spend his life defending the weak (usually humans), and he’s always an advocate of non-violence. He even traps his own people to save creation; during the Time War, the Time Lords were willing to sacrifice time and all creation to save themselves and exist in a non-material state, but the Doctor places a time lock on the Time War, sacrificing his people to save all of existence.

When fatally injured, he is able to regenerate, which brings to mind resurrection. The Doctor has followers, friends who travel with him and fight for him, but they never really understand him. Many times, people even die to protect him, believing whatever the Doctor’s mission is to be more important than their life.

In one episode, he saves Rose by forcing her back home, but she can’t stand the thought of him dying while she’s safe. Her mother says, “But that’s way off in the future,” and Rose replies, “But it’s not. It’s happening now.” The battle of good and evil is always going, even when we can’t see it. Our protector is always fighting for us, unlimited by time or place.

The Doctor has a particular love of humans, and it’s often shown that he envies them. In one episode, he hides his Time Lord identity from himself and gets to be a human for a few months. He teaches in an early twentieth-century boarding school and falls in love. He loves his simple life. When it’s time for him to become a Time Lord again, he’s heart-broken, because the life of the Time Lord is powerful but lonely. He loves humans so much that he wants to be one. Steven Moffat, who writes for both Doctor Who and Sherlock said, "The Doctor is an angel trying to be a human.Sherlock is a human trying to be a god."

But not everyone loves the Doctor. Some fear his power, some think he’s just a myth, and some think he is the cause of disaster, the coming storm.

Clive: The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history. When disaster comes he's there. He brings a storm in his wake and he has only one constant companion.
Rose: Who's that?
Clive: Death.
(from the episode “Rose”)

The Doctor’s two main enemies are the Daleks and the Cybermen. Both are cold and calculating, unable to show love. In the case of the Daleks, they are mutations of the Kelads who have to live in machines to survive. They only care about race purity and exterminating undesirables. The Cybermen are humans who have become machines. They see any emotion as a weakness. The Doctor has battled forces known as the Darkness and the Silence. “Every culture has an irrational fear of the dark. Only it’s not irrational…it’s what’s in the dark. It’s what’s always in the dark.” -The Doctor(from the episode, “Silence in the Library”) The Doctor serves as the antithesis of these enemies; he’s passionate, he loves, and he is always willing to give people another chance. And when we look at the battle of good and evil, isn’t that it? Evil filled with nothingness against good filled with love?

In the next part, I’ll look at the TARDIS.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stopping the Spiral

It happens around the fourth week of Lent every year. I get burnt out with the season. I start Lent with such grand expectations of delving deeper and reflecting often, but after a few weeks, I run out of steam. I’d rather just watch TV while I dye some eggs and wait for Easter to get here.

And it bothers me that I get burnt out. I wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t commit to a better spiritual life for more than a month. Am I really that lazy? Do I realize prioritize God that low? And I have to face that yes, I am, and yes, I do. And that makes me feel crappy, and feeling crappy does not make me what to get back on track. It’s a spiral of spiritual sloth.

Last year, I was seeking clarity. This year, I’m joining the Catholic Church. But neither seems to make a difference in the fourth week slump, except maybe I’m more agitated because my expectations were higher. One of the things the past year has taught me is that my faith rises and falls. That leaves a lot of days that are somewhere in the middle, neutral. But I know the rises and falls will come again; I can’t get too comfortable in the middle.

So this year, I’m not succumbing to the slump; I won’t just wait it out until Maundy Thursday. I have too much going on spiritually to check out for a couple of weeks. I’m forcing myself to stay the path. And I know it will feel artificial at first, like I’m just grasping at straws or going through the motions. It probably won’t be as fulfilling as it did back in February. But it’s important to keep going, even when I don’t feel like it. I have to remain open. I don’t know if God will speak or me or not if I’m just going through the motions, but I do know that I won’t hear Him if I’ve completely checked out.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

Around this time last year, Lent was starting. I was a few months out of college without any job prospects. I spent a lot of time in bed trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. I decided to follow a strict fast for Lent to try and find some sort of clarity, some sort of direction.

Early in high school, I had considered seminary. I liked studying history and religion, so seminary seemed attractive. But I knew I wasn’t called into ministry, so I decided not to pursue seminary (or studying history or religion) unless I got the calling. Well, I didn’t, so I went off to college and studied journalism instead. But once that was over, the attraction to seminary crept up again. Seminary didn’t have to mean ordination. I could just be a religious scholar of some sort. But I still felt like I have to have God tell me go. So discerning whether to go to seminary or not became the focus of my Lenten fast.

But as I thought about a life studying religion, I started thinking about what I needed out of a faith, what beliefs were important and what practices brought me closer to God. I had always be attracted to the tradition and beauty of the Catholic faith; I crossed myself when I prayed and felt that kneeling was a good expression of humility, but I knew I wasn’t Catholic because of things like Mary and the saints and the fact that I just wasn’t. I was Protestant, period. I might jump from Presbyterian to Lutheran to Methodist in the future, but high-church Protestant was a given. So the secondary focus of my Lenten fast became to determine what specifics I needed from my faith, what practices, traditions, etc.

As the days went on, I found myself looking more and more at Catholic websites and blogs. Catholicism just made a lot of sense: the outward expressions, the Eucharist, the Tradition, the apostolic succession, the unity. The idea of seminary faded as I realized I didn’t need to go to school to delve into faith, I just needed a faith worth delving into.

It still took me a few months to take the plunge and admit out loud that I wanted to become Catholic, and I’m still trying to make sense of it all. But I do know that I went into Lent seeking clarity on two matters, and I came away with two very clear messages:
1. I was right to believe I shouldn’t pursue seminary without a calling from God.
2. I now know what a calling from God sounds/feels like, because He called me to the Catholic Church.

Friday, March 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 26)

1. I had a wonderful weekend hanging out with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen in months. It’s too bad we don’t live closer together.

2. Even though I’ve started a few, I haven’t been able to complete any posts this week. Hopefully, I can finish one or two up this weekend.

3. I have one of those weekends planned where I stay cooped up inside cleaning and watching movies. I love weekends like that. I’m such an introvert.

4. The main reason I couldn’t get anything done this week was that I was distracted by the Hunger Games. I finally got my hands on the first book, and then proceeded to read the entire trilogy in three days. I don’t think I have read that fast since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out.

5. Despite being completely addictive, I’m still not sure if I actually like the Hunger Games or not. I think it’s good, but perhaps we just aren’t a good match. While I love Peeta, I’m still undecided on the main charter Katniss; after three books of first person narrative, I should have an opinion by now.

6. Along with the Hunger Games, I recently bought two Roald Dahl and two E.L. Konigsburg books. I can’t help that children’s literature is so much better than adult literature.

7. I found an apartment I’ll be moving into in June! It’s quite smaller than I had hoped, but it will suffice while I’m in school. And it’s in a nice neighborhood instead of a large complex, which makes me happy.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 25)

1. I reached 100 posts this week! I meant to do something special for it, but it snuck up on me. Whoops. You’d think that since I only post once or twice a week, I’d be able to pay better attention.

2. I realized I hadn’t been using my New American Bible lately, nor did I even know where it was. When I finally found it, it still had an Advent pamphlet in it. Fail.

3. I used to keep a dream journal, and I really want to get back into this practice. I don’t believe in deciphering symbols in dreams or anything. I just selfishly think my dreams have such stories that it’s a loss to the literary culture for them to disappear five minutes after I wake up each morning.

4. I’m in the process of looking for an apartment. My dream place would be within walking distance of school but not surrounded by other college students. I’d love to be surrounded by quiet retirees or something. I lived next to a frat house once; I think once is enough.

5. I’m really excited to see a couple of friends from college and go to a hockey game this weekend!

6. I really need to stop saying “from college” or “when I was in school” since I’ve gone back. But I still consider 2007-2010 my true college years and now just as a “going to classes” phase. Maybe that will change when I go full-time.

7. If I look forward to dinner on Fridays, is there actually an act of penance? It’s just avocado sandwiches and Caesar salads are so healthy and delicious, I don’t miss my normal meat entrĂ©e. (I still miss chocolate though, so I guess that can make up for it.)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Material Girl

I’ve tried not to compare Catholics and Protestants in any posts. There are plenty of reasons why: Catholicism is not just another denomination to compare to another, there are too many strains of Protestantism to set up a comparison, and I’m not an anti-Protestant and don’t want it to appear that way.

I say that because I’m about to make a general comparison between Catholics and Protestants.

Catholics like things: real, tangible, malleable, physical things. And I think most of the differences between Catholics and Protestants arise from that one fact.

To the Catholic Church, the material is sacred. God created the earth and everything in it. God even became man, took on flesh in His mother’s womb, breathed through His lungs, died. The physical and spiritual are linked to one another. Separation diminishes both.

In contrast, the level of attention Protestants pay to the material varies, but for the most part I’ve found that there is a belief that creation is good and Jesus was a man, but beyond that, Protestantism is sola spiritus (because Protestants love sola.) Focus is not given on the Incarnation or the value of physical things. When you look at other differences between Catholics and Protestants, most can come back to this one outlook. A few examples:

• Eucharist: To Catholics, Christ presents Himself physically to all people, not confined in time and space. Christ can be seen, touched, tasted. To Protestants, it just looks like a wafer that can at most be a spiritual symbol. Catholics are filled with Christ by partaking elements. Protestants are filled with Christ by calling on the Holy Spirit.

• Sex and Contraception: Sex causes babies. It’s one of the most natural and miraculous facts. If you want a new, little human, something physical has to take place and a woman’s body has to adjust to sustain that new life. Catholics value that process of making life to the point that artificially interfering in that a no-no. They also believe such a physical act has an effect on the souls of the participants, so sex should be approached with a great level seriousness and commitment. Not that Protestants don’t take sex seriously, but the focus is more on “being ready,” which I’ve always found to be a uselessly vague term or “only after marriage” without an explanation for why.

I think both parties believe and use the term “your body is a temple,” but to Protestants who don’t believe in sacred places like sanctuaries or tabernacles, how much meaning does temple have?

• Worship: Catholic worship is filled with outward signs. Crossing, genuflecting, processing, kneeling, kissing the altar. Crucifixes, incense, rosaries, candles, gold calices. To Protestants, it can seem over the top and unnecessary. To Catholics, your body has to be incorporated into worship to keep your mind and soul in the right place.

Evangelicals are always lifting up their palms and swaying during the praise band music, so they should understand this. (Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten dirty looks for sitting still in my seat.)

My point? I don’t know that there is one, except that value of the physical was never taught to me. It’s just something I’ve begun to see this week.
Have you ever had moments where you notice reality? Where for a brief moment, you step outside yourself and notice, “This exists. This is all physically here. Some of this physical stuff, like me, is able to breathe, move, think, even able to acknowledge its own existence.” Reality appears to be extra-real and quite unbelievable. I was showering and I saw my hands and thought, “Christ had hands. The indefinable, omniscient God of the universe had something as insignificant as hands.” They were probably bigger and darker than mine, and the nail beds were probably dirtier. It made the Incarnation seem more real to me, instead of just a theological posit. When the physical and spiritual are linked so tightly, every physical action becomes a chance to encounter the spiritual.

Friday, March 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 24.)

1. I had a great time in Austin. We had wonderful weather for just roaming around, going to the capital, touring the LBJ ranch, etc. And I’m glad we got out of there before the South by Southwest crowds moved in.

2. My mom bought me the Great Courses: History of the Catholic Church CDs for my Rite of Election. I’m about a 1/3 of the way through, and it is so good. Even without the theology, it’s a great seminar on the history of the fall of Rome and medieval period, which my history courses failed to teach in school. Usually classes would just jump from Caesar Augustus to 1500 Italy. I now know way more about the 4th century than I ever thought I would.

3. I’m not ready for break to end. My brain is all mushy. I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten everything I had learned before break.

4. But that just makes me surer of taking summer school. If one week of break makes my brain mushy, I don’t know what four months would do.

5. I don’t want to sound heartless, because child soldiers are indeed very sad, but this Kony2012 thing isn’t working for me. It just sounds like he’s running for president.

6. Plus, while I’m glad things like this get awareness, I don’t like when something is the popular cause of the moment. People jump on the bandwagon to support something without taking the time to research it or do anything other than post about it on Facebook, and then in a few weeks it’s replaced by the next fad cause. Awareness is good, and I’m sure it has attracted people who will actually take up this cause and do something about it, but there is something that irks me about an issue having to be the “in” cause before it gets noticed.

7.Yep, it's still Lent. Don't give up.

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Friday, March 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 23)

1. Flying out to Austin in a few hours for five days with my aunt! That also means no posting until next Friday.

2. We have a four hour drive west to Nashville this afternoon for our flight. The big storm cutting across the state is heading east. I’m pretty sure we’re going to meet at some point, and I’m way more nervous about that than flying.

3. It seems to be officially spring here in Tennessee. The flowers are blooming and the trees budding. But, it is supposed to snow this weekend, so I don’t know that I will get to come home to lovely flowers.

4. I somehow not only got caught up, but ahead, on my homework. Huzzah!

5. In continuing with rereading the Harry Potter series out of order, I’m now on Order of the Phoenix. There is no way I’m carrying that big tome around in the airport, so I’ll have to leave it here unfinished. I had forgotten how completely addictive Harry Potter is.

6. Apparently, there was some planetary alignment that was supposed to make things balance better yesterday? I only know I saw lots of facebook pictures with brooms standing on their ends. I don’t think the alignment part is true; it just got lots of people to try to balance things they normally wouldn’t. Thus, my Coinhenge:

7. And that’s all I have, because I’m on Spring Break and I need to get back to Harry Potter.

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