Friday, January 30, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 97)

1. I’ve set dates for all my thesis deadlines, which is making this whole process a lot more real. This semester is going by far too fast.

2. I’m really enjoying research though. I wish I could just have the time to randomly root through archive boxes forever instead of focus on actually writing a paper.

3. While I’m super busy, I’m finding that I’m not as stressed as I normally am. Maybe that will change as deadlines get closer, but I think I just function better when I am working on one thing at a time instead of three or four classes all at once.

4. Focusing on one thing means less blog and personal writing though. The worst part is I’m getting lots of good ideas but instead of actually writing, I jot the idea on a post-it list of future endeavors.

5. On the domestic front, I did choose to sleep in this morning, and then I made my first attempt at making cheddar biscuits. Success!

6. Apparently the Super Bowl is still a thing and is this weekend. That means Puppy Bowl!

7. I’ve never been to Australia, but this might be the best ad campaign to make me want to visit there.

Monday, January 26, 2015

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort

Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort was born in 1673 in France. He was ordained in 1700. He also became a third order Dominican that year. He had a particular devotion to Mary and is one of the early writers in the area of Mariology and on Marian devotion. He received the title of Missionary Apostolic from Pope Clement XI which allowed him to focus his work on preaching a particular subject, Mary. 

In 1715, he founded the missionary group the Company of Mary. He also founded the Congregation of the Daughters of Divine Wisdom who cared for the poor. His preaching on Mary included the Total Consecration to the Blessed Virgin as outlined in his book True Devotion to Mary. Louis believed that the souls consecrated to Mary would be the instrument in which the new Eve (Mary) crushes the serpent (the Devil/Antichrist). His writings inspired many to Marian consecration, including several popes.

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Monfort died of natural causes in 1716. He was canonized in 1947, and his case to be made a Doctor of the Church is being investigated. His feast day is April 28.

I often have trouble with those that have such great devotions to Mary, for while I can agree with the theology behind it, the practice seems to lack tying Mary back to Christ. It is something I am emotionally foreign to, despite any intellectual agreement. I can understand where the cries of Mary worship come from when they look at consecrations to Mary, because I think some people get so caught up in the saint, they forget that the saint only wants to point to Christ. However, Louis always brought it back to its proper place; “God Alone” was his motto which he included to the ends of almost all his letters and hymns. A consecration to Mary is meant to enhance an already existing worship of God.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I started something about the attacks in Paris sometime last week, but I found that I had too many thoughts that I needed to sort out first. Between the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office and the hostage situation at a Jewish market, 17 people were killed. The global response was overwhelming. The French started the hashtag #jesuischarlie to show solidarity with the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo. The cartoonists were targeted, by name, for publishing pictures of Mohammad. It highlighted the importance of freedom of speech. No one should have their lives threatened for drawing a cartoon, no matter how disrespectful or obscene. Violence was used to limit words and pictures. Offensive material does not maim or kill. The gunmen only showed that they could not handle something as fundamental as tolerance and freedom of expression. They could not express themselves in an articulate, nonviolent matter; they had to resort to brutality.

But there is one problem with #jesuischarlie. It is an offensive magazine that mocks religion. The Church and Notre Dame in particular offered its support, and magazine responded that it rejected anything offered by the Catholic Church.  I support Charlie, but I am not Charlie. I support freedom of speech, but this issue isn’t really about freedom of speech; it’s about militant extremism. The gunmen also shot a Muslim cop who was already on the ground, posing no threat. Presumably, he died for not being the “right” kind of Muslim or for representing the West via his uniform. That wasn’t about avenging Mohammad from an offensive picture; that about extremism turned into pure hate. One tweet reported on the BBC said, “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JeSuisAhmed”

I think France should be counted as a victim too in this event. The shock and fear on people’s faces showed that they truly could not imagine such a thing happening in France. The country is known for its tolerance in many ways, especially the cosmopolitan Paris. Yet it has also been known for have trouble with its rising immigrant-Muslim population. There have been protests. There is the ban on wearing religious items (including head coverings) in public places. There is an underlying tension already there. And I think this event will force the French to address that tension in new or more forceful ways. They will have to weigh freedom of speech against security. There will be ripples, and the attack will continue to leave its mark.

The scariest thing about extremism is that extremists plan on the ripples. They want the West to blame all Muslims for terrorism. Islamic extremists want moderate Muslims to feel persecuted and misunderstood so they will not Westernize and will be easier to convert to more conservative, extreme sects of Islam. They want the discussion to be “us Muslims against those Westerners” instead of “us terrorists against those peaceful people.” Is it not just Islam. Militias of Christian extremists have been known to shoot people and bomb abortion clinics. And they prepare for this “coming” battle between Christians and the rest. They want to divide moderate Christians into “us real Christians” or “those working against us.” Extremists spread their beliefs not through discourse or reason but through coercion and fear. They cannot win in a peaceful society, so they must create chaos in order to gain any power.

On a less violent front, Christian extremists perpetuate the “culture wars” of Christmas, literature, and D&D. They want everyday decisions to become part of a cosmic battle. And while our everyday lives do matter spiritually, this life is not one of black and white. There are gray areas where a temptation for one person is not tempting for another, where the killing of the unborn is not fixed by killing doctors, where Christians and Muslims and atheists and whatever else all live and work together, where a cartoonist can be utterly offensive and completely free to be so. But extremists don’t like a world of blending grays. They don’t want to get along. Peace is not as profitable as persecution.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Just Another Sunday

I've been in a dark place the past few days. Nothing in particular triggered it, just a looming weight that makes everything hit a little harder and hurt a little longer. I know the feeling will pass in a few days, but it's difficult trying wait, even if there is hope. I went to church today knowing I really needed. I was that sick person in need of a hospital, that weary traveler in need of rest. I knew the looming wasn't going to go away in that single hour, but I didn't need an instant cure. I didn't get one. I just needed a lessening of the burden, enough to keep going, to keep hoping. And I got that. Enough to know that I'm not alone, that the darkness will lessen, that the words will return.

I got comforts and challenges and agape and hope and the prayers of saints and the Body and Blood of Christ. You know, typical Mass.

Friday, January 9, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 96)

1. Back to work. I’m sort of excited about setting my own schedule school-wise this semester. At the same time, I’m afraid of all I have to get done and worried I won’t use my time properly. Especially when it's cold out and I'd rather spend my Friday morning in bed instead of the library (like now).

2. It’s January 9, so I should probably take down my Christmas decorations. Bah. It went so fast.

3. I didn’t realize that my Advent reflection booklet also had daily reflections for Christmastide. So I need to sit down and cram 12 days of Christmas into an afternoon before I pack it all away.

4. There was an Arctic snap this week, which meant on Thursday I had to get out of bed when it was 1 degree outside. One really is the loneliest number. For comparison, it was 65 Monday.

5. At least I don’t live further north, where it was pointed out that it was colder than Mars. Yikes.

6. Imitation Game is finally playing locally. I was disappointed when I wanted to see it the week after Christmas and it was nowhere to be found.

7.So Boston is bidding for the 2024 Olympics. I hope that means they’ll fix their roads by then.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dark Epiphany

I woke up this morning in the dark. I tried my bedside lamp: nothing, the overhead light: nothing, my laptop: holding on at 30%. The sun wasn’t up yet, and I live in a basement, so there was no natural light. I stumbled over to my emergency lamp. It was dull, but it gave enough light for me to get dressed and brush my teeth. I ran a brush through my hair, but it was too dark to tell if it was effective. I prided myself in having a clean apartment; it was the only way I was finding anything in the dark.

As I left for church, I noticed the entire street was dark. A couple of blocks ahead had lights, but as I pulled into the church parking lot, I realized I was back in the dark. Several people held up their phones and flashlights in the church hallway leading into the nave. The nave was dark. It was still early, and what little sun might have shown through was blocked by gray clouds. 

Everyone went routinely to their pews; again, organization really helped in the dark. Although, for a Catholic church, we were really lacking in the candle department. A few lit up the ambo and altar, but I was hoping we could have lit the whole place with flickering glow. With a few awkward giggles, we began the service. Oh, there will be plenty light jokes this morning, I figured. Christianity is always mentioning darkness and light. It’s the first and most prominent metaphor for our journey toward God: "Let there be light," coming out of darkness, being a light to the world, etc. As expected, the priest made some comment about the light, we prayed, and we started the Gloria.

About a third of the way through the Gloria, the lights returned. It seemed too bright, too powerful, too artificial. I winced as my eyes adjusted; I just wanted candles and Christmas lights. As with any creature coming of out of darkness, light is good but also overwhelming. Then the readings began:

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the Lord shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.

Oh yeah, it’s Epiphany, I realized. Although it falls on the 6th, we celebrate it this Sunday. Because of date difference, I had completely forgotten. This is day all about light: the guiding star, the light coming into the world, epiphany. How ironic. We concluded service with “We Three Kings,” overhead lights, Christmas lights, candles, and sunshine. Sometimes life just beats me over the head with metaphor.