Saturday, June 30, 2012

Unburdened


A quick note:

I hated doing the examination of conscience. I got anxious right before going. But actually going through Reconciliation felt SO GOOD. Suddenly for the rest of the day I’m walking around with a goofy smile on my face and a new energy. 

Grace feels amazing. What else is there to say?

I just wanted to post this for future reference the next time I feel like I need to go but try to put it off, Jonah-style.

Friday, June 29, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 35)



For my Quick Takes this week, I want to look at the martyrs whose feast days fall during this Fortnight for Freedom, as well as a couple of my favorite stories of martyrs, including some bad-ass last words, because if you’re serious enough about your faith to die for it, it helps to have a sense of humor about death.

1. First Martyrs of Rome- In 64, Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the large fire that damaged half of the city of Rome, leading to mass persecution. These were the first martyrs to suffer as communities; they were burned, crucified, or fed to animals.

2. St. Peter -Do I really need to do a bio on Peter? I mean, it’s all over the New Testament. The head of the disciples and chosen by Jesus as the foundation of the Church, Peter became the leader after Jesus’ death and resurrection. One of my favorite things about Peter is that he walked with Jesus for three years; he was probably as close and as loyal to Him as anyone, yet he still messed up and denied Him. Even the most shining examples have smudges. That’s why we need Jesus in the first place. Peter preached all over the Middle East, eventually settling in Rome, making Rome the seat of the Pope. Peter was crucified under the persecution of Emperor Nero. It is said that Peter requested that his cross be upside down because he viewed himself unworthy of dying the same way Jesus did.

3. St. Paul-Probably the most famous missionary, Paul started off as Saul, a Jew who persecuted early Christians. He had a vision of Christ on the road to Damascus and converted on the spot. After that, he traveled and established a number of churches, preaching to anyone who would listen, Jew and Gentile. He was arrested by Jews who didn’t believe in preaching to Gentiles. Later, he was arrested in Rome. During his second imprisonment in Rome, he was beheaded.

4. St. Thomas Becket-He was made Lord Chancellor by Henry II. They were close friends, and Henry believed that as archbishop, Thomas would aid in large reforms that the kings wanted. In 1162, Thomas was ordained a priest, and ordained a bishop just one day later. As archbishop, he became more religious; he fasted, wore hair shirts, and walked around barefoot. He and the king disagreed on a series of issues involving who had authority, the state or the Church. In 1170, a band of knights killed him during Vespers. It is not clear how strong a role Henry II played in the murder, but he did perform public penance at Becket’s tomb in 1174.

5. St. Thomas More- He was made Lord Chancellor in 1529 by Henry VIII. As the king began breaking away from the Church, More resigned his post. He spent the rest of his life writing in defense of the Church. (Earlier, he had also written defenses of the Church in reply to Martin Luther’s writings). Disagreeing with the king led to his conviction of treason and execution in 1535. He was one of the many people (on both sides) to die during the Catholic-Protestant battles in England. He chose his Church over his career. On the scaffold, he said that he was dying “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

6. Catherine of Alexandria- She lived and studied in Alexandria in the late third century and was known for her intelligence in science and philosophy. After a vision, she converted to Christianity. She tried to convince the emperor that Christianity was superior to Roman gods. He sent a group of pagans to debate with her, but she converted them all. The emperor was angry, but also impressed. He offered Catherine her life if she would deny her faith and marry him. She refused. He tried to have her torn apart on a rack and then a breaking wheel, but the wheel broke, and Catherine remained in one piece. She was ultimately beheaded.

7. Lawrence of Rome- He served as a deacon in Rome during the time of Emperor Valerian in the third century. Legend says that he was in charge of the material goods of the Church. Rome demanded that Lawrence give the Church’s treasures over to Rome. Lawrence presented the man with a group of lepers, widows, orphans, and poor and announced, “These are the treasures of the Church.” The Roman sentenced Lawrence to death for this display. Lawrence was placed on a large gridiron with burning coals beneath it. After a long, painful time, he famously said, “This side is done. Turn me over!”

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Government?


It’s just the law.

Yes, we should work to make sure our laws are just and moral. But making something legal or illegal does not change the justness or morality of it. 

I’m not saying people don’t have the right to complain about the Supreme Court ruling on healthcare. Personally, I support many parts of the healthcare bill. I don’t support the mandate. The discussion about how to provide healthcare for all while still giving people the freedom to make their own bad choices is something we should be having. Instead, we just have two sides bickering, blaming, and hating one another. The facebook outcrys can be amusing, though mostly sad. We let the people who aim for power and money dictate our feelings. It’s a shame we make quick, uneducated, aggressive statements instead of taking the time to actually find solutions.

I don’t have much to say on this specific case, but it makes me think of a larger picture. We should question laws, pit them against our morals. We must follow the path of morality even when it contradicts the laws under which we live. Even when doing so is cumbersome, or expensive, or dangerous. We have 2,000 years’ worth of martyrs to stand as examples. It may be a harder path, but at least it’s not a lonely one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wise Men



When I was in fifth grade, I had a great science teacher. We covered photosynthesis, the scientific method, and the parts of the atom. On Fridays we watched Bill Nye the Science Guy. I don’t remember covering evolution, but I guess we did, because I still remember how the teacher led into it. It was something along the lines of, “There are different beliefs about whether God created the world or not, but for those of you who believe in God, this could be an explanation of how He did it.” There was no protest (that I was aware of), and to me, it seemed a really odd thing for her to say. 

Keep in mind that I live in East Tennessee, not really the most secular-progressive place in the world, yet all through school, it never occurred to me that people didn’t believe in evolution, or that it might clash with religious beliefs. I’m sure there were church groups that had discussions about it, but all my friends were Presbyterian or Lutheran or Episcopalian, not really the kind to refute academia. I didn’t know what creationism was until about 10th  grade. And today, it still baffles me. I just don’t understand a faith that has to pick a fight with science. 

Science is just our way of exploring the universe. We base theories off our observations and put names on all the different things we find, be they elements, animals, or galaxies. We learn all the stuff (and anti-stuff) that is in this universe with us and how all that stuff interacts. 

Is there human fallacy in scientific method? Sure, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t search and discover and ask questions. A faith that doesn’t allow scientific questions is probably a faith that doesn’t allow questions about faith either, that stifles searching and doubting and progressing and all the wonderful experiences of a healthy spiritual journey. 

In turn, there are those who worship science, who won’t believe in anything outside the limits of that which can be tested and classified. They dismiss the miracles, the revelations, the mysteries. How can one look at the universe and not see God? The two seem so interconnected to me, I can’t fathom those who just see magic nor those who just see logical happenstance.

  • There are the building blocks of the universe, and there’s a Builder.
  • There are multiple universes, and there is that which exists before and after all those universes.
  • There is statistically life on other planets, and there is a God who loves them.
Where is the conflict?

As far as evolution, maybe we weren’t always homo sapien, but at some point, we became wise men. God chose to make Himself known to us. We became aware and curious of our universe. Are not our aspirations of salvation a reach to become something more evolved than mere man? The history of man is one of motion, a curious exploration into the unknown. That’s science. That’s faith.

Plus, nerd jokes make the best jokes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 34)


1. The Fortnight for Freedom kicked off yesterday. It's important to be informed and to use these two weeks for extra prayer for our country. Yet instead of thinking about injustice, or martyrs, or fractious bickering this morning, I want to use my Quick Takes for something more optimistic. Because some days, you just need to feel awesome about humanity.

2. I've always liked Jon Stewart because of his honest, funny way of parodying news. This is the autotuned version of his really awesome speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity a few years ago.

3. I am convinced that waking up to this song every morning would make every day just a bit better.

4. Go, Pixar! Brave opens today, and I saw the trailer for Monsters University earlier this week.

5. I hope if aliens ever arrive on Earth, we all look as happy as this video of dancing all over the world makes us look.

6. Speaking of aliens and space, this is an oldie but a goodie. Science is understanding creation, and creation is beautiful.

7. Whovian that I am, I've watched this video maybe five times this week alone. It's a great summery of the 50-year-old franchise.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quick Thoughts on Freedom


I’ve been trying for a long time to figure out what to say about all the tension between the government and the Church.  The truth is, it’s a nuanced problem, and I don’t have a nuanced response. One of the fundamental problems I see though is something I bring up with other problems in America, and that is the lack of a unifying culture. America is not the melting pot it once claimed to be; it is a hodgepodge of different ideas and cultures. Sometimes, that is a good thing, a country that allows everyone to retain their own culture. But other times, it just creates thousands of tiny, competing fractions coming from such different viewpoints that there is no solution that makes everyone happy. Too big, too diverse, too eager for quick fixes to long problems. 

So, some thoughts: Do I believe in separation of church and state? Yes. I don’t want the state in my Church. She is too beautiful, too everlasting, and too worthy to become subject to political goals, majority votes, and sways of opinion. 

Do I believe in the freedom of religion? Yes. Freedom of religion is freedom to practice religion. Practice is beyond worship. Freedom to worship means I can go to whatever meeting I want. Freedom to practice means I can live out my beliefs in the public. I can say I want something changed in government based on my religious beliefs. I don’t have to check my faith at the church door. And my beliefs will be listened to, and I will listen to others’ beliefs, and we will find common ground and base our society on that. 

Do I believe the Church is being persecuted in the U.S.? Yes and no. I do think some people see the Church as an enemy to be battled. I think a great more see her as a nuisance, a blockade to their personal goals. I don’t think those that push birth control or secular agendas are evil; I think they have compassionate reasons for supporting what they do. I just think they are wrong. The friction is that they come from a different culture, and they can’t understand that others have a different culture, with a completely different understanding of value of life and morals. Both sides think they are on the defensive, that they are the persecuted. 

And should the Church act any different when she is persecuted than say, when she is in power? No. She should always be true, always be humble, always be vigilant, always be loving. 

Pray that Church can stand unified.
Pray that the state will continue to grant religious freedom.
Pray that those in power make their decisions based on morals and not on profits.
Pray that the marketplace of ideas becomes a place of conversation and understanding instead of a place of yelling and fighting.
Pray that people see the value of all life, from conception to natural death, from the starving to the addicted, from those who beg for help to those who don’t believe they need it.
Pray for guidance on what individual actions to take.

Friday, June 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 33)



1. I slept in until 9:15 today. And I didn’t get out of bed until after 10. That hasn’t happened in ages. Then again, I didn’t go to bed until 3:30, so maybe it’s not so surprising.

2. This staying up late is a sign of how I can’t manage time when I have nothing to do. Classes don’t start until July, so I could be spending time doing hobbies or working on my writing. Instead, I live out a series of naps and TV marathons. However, I do have a growing stack of books I want to get read this summer:

3. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis: I read this ages ago when I was first obsessed with C. S. Lewis, about 2005. It wasn’t my favorite of his at the time. I’d like to see what I think about it now.

4. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens: I always like the Dickens I do read, but I haven’t read that much. Mainly because every book is sooo long. I can’t blame him for that; he was getting paid by the word. According to the slip of paper sticking out of the book, I previously got 29 pages into this one.  So just 520 to go.

5. The Once and Future King by T. H. White: I’ve always wanted to read this, but for some reason never got my hands on a copy until a few weeks ago.

6. From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg: This is another on the reread list. I loved it as a kid, mainly because I wanted to live in museum.

7. The World Set Free by H. G. Wells: I’m slowly reading this one right now. Slowly, because Wells is describing scientific stuff at a higher level than I’m used to (that’s why I watch sci-fi shows but don’t read sci-fi), and because every few paragraphs I have to go back and check that this was in fact published in 1914. I think he really had a time machine and just tweaked a few details so we wouldn’t catch on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

While Travelling

The following is from the journal I kept while in Scotland. It's an except from the day we went to the Isle of Iona. It is a tiny island off the coast of Mull in western Scotland. St. Columba, coming from Ireland, founded a community there in 563. Iona became the religious and scholastic center of Scotland. It is thought that the Book of Kells was written there. A nunnery began in the early 1200s. The Reformation ended the religious communities there. Today, the Iona Community is an ecumenical group that hosts retreats on the island. 


 May 25

...I was looking forward to Iona. As the birthplace of British Christianity and burial ground of Scottish kings, I expected an air of spiritually and significance.  But something about it felt empty. The nunnery was a pile of ruins turned garden; the abbey felt as ecumenical as it claimed (i.e. stripped down to bare essentials that most can agree upon); St. Columba was not as represented as I expected, given that he was the founder. The Catholicism of this place was gone. There was a brief moment—to the left of the main door into the abbey was a door just a half inch taller than me. Inside was a small room, a shrine to St. Columba, a red ray of light for my faith. I said a quick prayer, but now I wish I’d stayed longer. I always want to hold on to moments like that.

I suppose the moral is that I can’t force moments of profoundness. They come unexpectedly, without motivations to taint them. They come in Catholicism instead of the faith of my upbringing; they come at Haworth instead of a church I know; they come in corner shrines instead of abbey sanctuaries.

I will not mourn for the emptiness I experienced. My religion is not dying; it is alive and moving. That the cradle of British Christianity is no longer Catholic means nothing. The birthplace of the faith for the entire world isn’t either. The faith goes on.