Friday, October 25, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 78)

I’m approaching a quarter century, and I’m still figuring out what I want to do when I grow up. So my quick takes this week are a list of all the possibilities I’ve considered in just this past week:

1.College professor. Get to be around academia all the time and smallest chance of helicopter parents.

2. Librarian. But not the new “media specialist” kind. The kind that shelves books and shhs people all day.

3. Graphic designer. Making things organized and visually appealing. This option was alluring for a few minutes after kicking ass on a Photoshop task.

4. Dominican. Not really a career choice so much as a vocation. I’ve just been reading a lot about Dominican orders (including 3rd order!) lately.

5. Writer. This one is always there. I love writing, even when it’s frustrating or I have nothing to say. It’s finding my niche that’s holding me back from fully embracing it.

6. Hermit. If anyone knows how to be a hermit on salary, let me know.

7. I couldn’t think of a seventh. Honestly, those six are mostly the same thing: I want to be around books and ideas more than people. I’m working on being more social and more connected to others, but I’m also embracing the fact that I’m a major introvert. Maybe I’ll find a good balance once I grow up.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does Being Catholic Make Me Sexist?

I come from a denomination that ordained women early in its history, and I’ve always been around really great ministers, both male and female. In laity, same thing: male and female leaders, some good, some bad, and I never really gave much thought to whether gender mattered in church.

I’ve written before that I fasted and prayed about going to seminary, and God told me to become Catholic instead. The instead part was implicit, but also inherent, because becoming Catholic obviously meant ordination would never be in my future. And maybe I’m ok with that because I never felt a calling to ordination even when I wanted to. Most of the time, the all-male priesthood doesn’t bother me. Other times, it bothers me only in that I think I’m supposed to be bothered by it. It seems sexist, so shouldn’t I be bothered? Am I sexist because I’m ok with the status quo?

Gender is very binary in the Church; I grant that. God is masculine; the Church is feminine. There are religious vocations for both men and women. Both can be leaders and teachers. On the ground level, there is equality (societal inequality notwithstanding). The exception is in the apostolic succession, which is exclusively male. But that goes back to the binary thinking. A priest (or deacon or bishop) serves several roles in persona Christi, that is, as Christ. Christ is male, therefore, the vessel must be as well.

To really get a handle on Catholicism, one has to understand the importance of symbols being more than symbolic. (This should be a whole separate post.) Basically, to administer sacraments, you have to have very specific things, or the ritual isn’t valid. Baptism must include water. Eucharist must include wheat and wine. Consecration of the Eucharist or granting of absolution in Reconciliation must include an ordained male in persona Christi.

Richard Beck posted an interesting article contrasting the patriarchy of evangelical churches and the Catholic Church. While I don’t think celibacy is the issue he’s making it (look at Eastern Rites and Orthodox), I think he makes some good points. The Church doesn’t make sweeping statements that men are better at leadership than women. But some men are called to a particular vocation that is not an option for women.

No discussion on sexism and the Church is complete without mentioning Mary. The fact is Mary is a woman held in very high regard. She’s first among all saints, including Peter. She’s the standard of which all people, women and men, fall short. Christ came into this world through a woman. But Mary isn’t honored just for being Jesus’ mother. She is honored for fiat, her love and devotion to the Lord. She is the new Ark of the Covenant and Mother of God. The Church recognizes her greatness. But because Mary is such an exception, I really don’t like her as an example of women in the Church. I think more suitable role models would be St. Helena, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Joan of Arc, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and Dorothy Day (whose cause for canonization is underway).

So am I sexist for accepting a Church that excludes women from its highest legislative ranks and from ordination? Am I sexist for seeing my priests as parts of specifically prescribed tools for administration of my religion’s rituals? Maybe. But I don’t like being told I’m in a disenfranchised group when I don’t feel disenfranchised. My opinions are heard. I have opportunities for leadership. I have choices of vocation, and freedom within those vocations for personal expression.

I believe all people should have options in how they express themselves vocationally, because not all women are called to be silent and not all men are called to be leaders. And I support the ordination of women in religions and denominations that have different understandings of ministerial or priestly roles. But I also support my Church’s all-male priesthood based on her interpretation of apostolic succession and administration of sacraments. My Church is complex and beautiful and feminine and vibrant. If she’s also sexist, well, I still stand with her.

Friday, October 18, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 77)

1. My writing here has been sporadic lately, and will only continue to diminish through November. (So much schoolwork due in November!) I’m super busy with school, but I’m not too stressed, because I’m actually enjoying it. I like my classes. I like the topics I’m reading about and discussing. I had forgotten what it meant to get excited about schoolwork. Now while I still have no idea what I’ll do with my education in the future, I’m really happy in the present.

2. I also really like my GA position. Getting paid to do something I like rather than paid in order to do what I like? I’m actually started to buy into that “do what you love” crap.

3. The problem is actually identifying a passion I can turn into a career. Still working on that. Unfortunately, what I love doesn’t pay as well as what I don’t love. There’s always a catch.

4. I had a great fall break. I celebrated my dad’s birthday, went to a friend’s wedding, and went camping with friends. Although the camping trip was much more rain-soaked than expected, it was a nice weekend.

5. Because of fall break, I was only supposed to have class on Wednesday, but then it got cancelled, so my fall break has been a whole week long! But now that I’m on the other side of break, I have to start looking at all the things due at the end of the semester. It’s amazing how much work there is. I’m still getting used to grad school workloads.

6. The best part about being so busy from now until December is that Advent is anon!

7. My fridge is stocked with cider, beer, wine, margarita mix, and Cokes. I’m ready to tackle the second half of the semester!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Research and Tradition

I love word origins and roots. Maybe that explains my love of Latin. If there is one word that I’m sure to encounter daily as a grad school student, it’s “research.” While it’s actually defined as “extensive investigation,” I can’t help but note that it literally means “search again.” So much research is studying what others have said, read, or written. It’s seeking out knowledge where others have already gone. It’s laying a firm foundation before trying to discover anything new on your own.

As usual, Chesterton has said it before and said it better, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” It’s foolish to ignore generations’ worth of study and thought. It’s arrogant to assume my 24 years of limited experience surpasses the collected knowledge of the past. I cannot build a tower without a foundation. That’s why it’s so wonderful to have Tradition. I have a foundation built by Apostles and Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church and other saints and theologians. I have 1,980 years’ worth of doctrines and practices and visions to reference when my personal faith is wavering. When I have a question, there is the assurance that it has been asked before by other seekers and that there is usually an answer provided.

But research does not just accept someone else’s answers. There is scrutiny and application. I don’t accept Tradition blindly; I accept it trustfully. I find it logical and credible and wise, and therefore, I accept it as my foundation. From there I reach higher than I ever could alone.

The most exciting thing about Tradition is that it’s alive. It’s not just origins and routine. It's still developing and building. It permeates every corner of faith. It shapes our understanding of God, our language, our interactions. There is always more to study and discover. I could spend a lifetime devoted to it and still not know it all. Because what is one woman’s century compared to billions’ millennia? Tradition is the sum that is greater than all our parts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

St. Brendan

St. Brendan was an Irish monk born around 484. He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, a student of St. Finnian. Brendan was ordained in 512. He traveled to Scotland, Wales, Brittany, and small islands surrounding Ireland preaching and founding monasteries. 

Brendan is most known for his voyage to the “Isle of the Blessed.” Legend says that he set out on the Atlantic searching for the Garden of Eden. Along the way, he has several adventures with strange islands, sea monsters, and even Judas. Because of this story, Brendan is often called “the Navigator” or “the Voyager.” His story is a traditional Irish sea story called an immram. Some people have interpreted the islands in Brendan’s story as actual islands in North America, giving Ireland a claim as the first Europeans to find the New World. 

Brendan died in 577. He is the patron of sailors and travelers. His feast day is May 16.

Friday, October 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 76)

Government shutdown edition! Also known as the I'm-too-lazy-to-write-so-I'll-just-use-memes edition.