Friday, January 31, 2014

Seven Quick Takes - Vocation Fever

If you've spent time in certain Catholic spheres, you'll be familiar with vocation fever.  It tends to spread quickly through any group of faithful and enthusiastic Catholic young people who haven't yet taken one of the big vocational steps towards marriage, the priesthood or religious life.  Symptoms include intense all-night conversations about discernment, love triangles, crushes on seminarians, and regularly scheduled meltdowns involving some variation on the following: "I THINK I'm called to married life but Joe said he didn't like me and Tom is discerning a call to the priesthood but he asked me out for coffee and what does that MEAN and maybe I'm just called to be a Dominican but I REALLY WANT TO HAVE BABIES!"

I lived it myself, and am now seeing it among my younger siblings and their friends in the late high school and early college years.  On one hand, it's beautiful and moving to see Christ working in their lives and hearts, and to see how deeply they want to discern and follow his will for them.  On the other hand, the environments of some of the Catholic greenhouses where all this discerning tends to take place can lead to some angst, heartache, and unhelpful thinking.

Having recently celebrated my second wedding anniversary, I'm only just getting started along my vocational path myself.  However, maybe the fact that I'm only a few years out from all of this vocation freakout means I'm in a good position to share some thoughts.  So here are seven things to remember to survive vocation fever: 

1) There’s not one single right path and lots of wrong paths.  
This was a big one for me. I was convinced that if I jumped through enough discernment hoops I would discover that one correct road to follow, with brightly lit guideposts directing me towards my one true calling.  This idea ended up making me me feel paralyzed, because if I accidentally headed off down the wrong path I would have ignored God’s will and be condemned to a life of misery.  When, at various points, I did think I understood what God wanted of me and then found roadblocks in the way, this felt like a betrayal.  Really, our lives are a lot more complex than that, and God works through our many, many daily choices to mold us into the people he created us to be. 

2) God speaks to us through our emotions and desires. 
God’s call is not just an intellectual one.  Of course our minds have to be engaged, but it’s equally important that our hearts be, because God speaks through both.  There can be a tendency to fall into patterns of thought that go something like this:
"This guy is in my life.  He’s a good Catholic guy and is available and seems to like me.  Not much of a spark there, but I have the duty to explore this option and see if this is God's will."
"I have the right temperament for a religious vocation and the Church desperately needs more priests and consecrated men and women.  Guess I have a duty to go that way."
Your vocation, no matter what it is, is falling in love.  That involves your entire person - mind, soul, body, emotions.  If your arrival at a vocational decision could just as easily been accomplished by plugging numbers into a spreadsheet, you're closing yourself to some of God's best communication channels. 

3) God wants us to be happy. 
Suffering, as we know, can be meaningful and redemptive when united with Christ's suffering on the Cross.  But suffering is not a good in and of itself, and just because we're suffering doesn't mean we're doing what God wants.  If dating someone seems like a burden, if your first year in seminary was hell on earth, that doesn't necessarily mean you should just grit your teeth, offer it up, and wait for heaven.  Our vocations, though they will involve challenges and sometimes suffering, should primarily be sources of joy for us and those around us.  And this principle doesn't just apply in the big vocational choices you make - it applies in daily life.  We as Catholics understand that there's a hierarchy of goods, but that doesn't make the good things that are less important any less good or necessary for a full and flourishing life.  Eating a great meal, having fun at work, being with people who make us laugh - God wants all of this for us, now, in this life.  Read Psalm 27 - "I believe I shall see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living."  Life shouldn't permanently feel like a bleak and endless slog.  If it does, you can and should make a change. 

4) It's about the person. 
That person might be your future spouse, or it might be Christ himself drawing you into a relationship with him as a priest or religious.  Regardless, though you are called more generally to a "state in life," you can only experience that call through a particular person.  You won't know that you're called to marriage until you and that particular person decide that you want to get married.  Starting by deciding that you're called to marriage and then figuring you better get started with whoever is available is backwards.  If you're not looking at your beloved and thinking "I cannot imagine my life without you because of who you are," start over.  You are selling yourself, and especially that other person, short. 

5) Getting your heart broken is okay. 
We should be reponsible with our bodies, minds, and gifts.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t be gung-ho about something, really give it a try, then discover it isn’t working and stop.  That includes the major or dream job you always thought was your destiny.  It also includes dating relationships.  Yes, we should live chastely and not act as though we’re married before we are.  But figuring out if someone is the right person for you to marry requires getting to know that person in a way that entails some intimacy and vulnerability.  Reaching that level of vulnerability with someone and then realizing marrying them would not be the right choice can be extraordinarily difficult, but can also be necessary.  Absent actual toxic elements within the relationship or legitimate mental health issues, this does not mean that your future ability to be intimate and vulnerable is weakened or destroyed. 

6) Needing and accepting forgiveness is okay. 
Because of who our God is, it is not possible for you to put yourself out of reach of his mercy.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t act with prudence, avoid occasions of sin and temptation, and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.  But we also need to be ready when we make a wrong choice to accept God’s healing.  This is especially important in dating relationships.  Marriage is the only non-negotiable, and even if you do make some wrong choices in your dating relationships that does not mean that you have to make a bad relationship work because you need to atone or have ruined yourself for future marital happiness.  Our God is endlessly and extravagantly merciful, and refusing to accept his offered forgiveness and see ourselves as forgiven and purified is not humility.  It's pride and presumption. 

7) You don’t have to be thinking about your primary vocation all. the. freaking. time. 
In fact, doing so can be counter-productive.  God doesn’t need us to do the heaving lifting.  Spend your time pursuing people and activities that you love and that form you as a whole and holy person. Everything else follows from that.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Let's talk about this

Just popping in.  I hope to get some more substantive posts going soon.  In the meantime, I'd like to share this essay by Matt Jones of "A Joyful Stammering."  I've spent a lot of time thinking, reading and praying about what he's writing about, and may at some point actually try to dig into it further.  For now, I'd love to hear your response to what Matt has to say.  Let's get some conversation going.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Our New Friend Acca

This year we used Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint Generator to choose a patron saint for the year.  We ended up with the unpronounceably-named but fascinating St. Acca of Hexham, an abbot, musician and scholar from 7th century Northumbria. He is credited with bringing Roman chants to England - neat.  His only extant writing is a single letter, so I guess we'll have to read St. Bede, who dedicated several of his theological works to Acca.

 Seems a weirdly appropriate choice for us.  St. Acca, pray for us!

St. Acca is second from the left.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Update: Ugh

Weird.  I did not know that the idea of Christ's homelessness at his birth was in some way controversial or political.  Sigh.

So anyway, I'm going to have to disagree that the Holy Family finding no room at the inn is theologically equivalent to "if you found all the hotels booked on your next vacation." 

Fr. Denis Lemieux has posted a lovely poem by G.K. Chesterton, that bastion of the liberal agenda, along with a reflection that says the rest.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Even after the ten minute walk from a cozy coffee shop to my warm and comfortable office this morning, I was panting with the cold.  Whenever the temperatures reach these extremes, I find myself thinking a lot about people without protection from the cold, who spent last night sleeping on top of heating vents or curled up in the back pews at my church downtown.

About 60% to 70% of Milwaukee's homeless population lives in my neighborhood, and part of the reason I choose to live in the city is that it makes it just a little bit more difficult to forget them.  Of course I can spend all kinds of time being "aware" without doing the slightest good to anyone, which is why "awareness" campaigns of various kinds always strike me as a bit pointless.  Thinking has to lead to action - for me, the thinking part comes easily, and the action is a little more difficult.  But I'm going to keep trying, and I thank God for the voices in the Church speaking out against complacency.

We are challenged to see Christ in the poor, in the prisoner, in the sick, in the desperate.  An artist recently created a powerful image of Christ as a homeless man.  Of course, every time we pass a nativity scene, we're seeing a depiction of a homeless Christ.  Maybe at this very moment on the day before his birth, Mary and Joseph were walking the streets of Bethlehem exhausted and without resources, with nowhere to sleep and with night approaching. Mary's contractions were getting closer together and Joseph was close to panic.  Maybe one of the innkeepers told them that they should have thought ahead, and that their poor planning was hardly his problem.  Another inkeeper could have seen the market potential of the sudden influx of visitors for the census, and taken the opportunity for a little price gouging that put the cost of a room outside of the Family's limited budget.

The scene at the manger is one of sublime beauty and grace, of course, but it's worth remembering that this feast is a celebration of the Emmanuel: the God-with-us.  Christ isn't just spiritually or symbolically united with our neediness and want and cold and hunger and desperation.  He came to us in the weakness of a human body precisely so that he could live all of these things with us, as one of us.  If we are to be his continued presence in the world, as he calls us to be, it can be in that way and no other.

Friday, December 20, 2013


"It is a scandal that God came to be one of us. It is a scandal that he died on a cross. It is a scandal: the scandal of the Cross. The Cross continues to provoke scandal. But it is the one sure path, the path of the Cross, the path of Jesus, the path of the Incarnation of Jesus. Please, do not water down your faith in Jesus Christ. We dilute fruit drinks – orange, apple, or banana juice, but please do not drink a diluted form of faith. Faith is whole and entire, not something that you water down. It is faith in Jesus. It is faith in the Son of God made man, who loved me and who died for me."

-- Pope Francis

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Catholic Thing

"What is the Catholic thing? What makes Catholicism, among all of the competing philosophies, ideologies, and religions of the world, distinctive? I stand with John Henry Newman who said that the great principle of Catholicism is the Incarnation, the enfleshment of God. What do I mean by this? I mean, the Word of God—the mind by which the whole universe came to be—did not remain sequestered in heaven but rather entered into this ordinary world of bodies, this grubby arena of history, this compromised and tear-stained human condition of ours...

...And the incarnation tells us the most important truth about ourselves: we are destined for divinization. The church fathers never tired of repeating this phrase as a sort of summary of Christian belief: Deus fit homo ut homo fieret Deus (God became human so that humans might become God). God condescended to enter into flesh so that our flesh might partake of the divine life, that we might participate in the love that holds the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in communion. And this is why Christianity is the greatest humanism that has ever appeared, indeed that could ever appear. No philosophical or political or religious program in history—neither Greek or Renaissance or Marxist humanism—has ever made a claim about human destiny as extravagant as Christianity’s. We are called, not simply to moral perfection or artistic self-expression, or economic liberation, but rather to what the eastern fathers called theiosis, transformation into God...

...Essential to the Catholic mind is what I would characterize as a keen sense of the prolongation of the Incarnation throughout space and time, an extension of it precisely through the mystery of the church. Catholics see God’s continued enfleshment in the oil, water, bread, imposed hands, wine, and salt of the sacraments; they appreciate it in the gestures, movements, incensations, and songs of the liturgy; they savor it in texts, arguments, and debates of the theologians; they sense it in the graced governance of Popes and bishops, they love it in the struggles and missions of the saints; they know it in the writings of Catholic poets and in the cathedrals crafted by Catholic architects. In short, all of this discloses to the Catholic eye and mind the ongoing presence of the Word made flesh, namely Christ."

--Fr. Robert Barron

More here.  

Friday, December 13, 2013


An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man builds a snowman on Friday in Jerusalem. 
There's a huge snowstorm hitting parts of the Middle East right now - obviously highly unusual for the area.  Apparently it snows on average about once every 7 years in Jerusalem.

The picture above fills me with a weird joy.  It makes me think about how we are called have the hearts of children: playing at our Father's feet, filled with pure delight at this strange and beautiful world He has created out of His extravagant love for us.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Global Wave of Prayer to End Hunger

O God, you entrusted to us the fruits of all creation so that we might care for the earth and be nourished with its bounty.
You sent us your Son to share our very flesh and blood and to teach us your Law of Love.  
Through His death and resurrection, we have been formed into one human family.  
Jesus showed great concern for those who had no food – even transforming five loaves and two fish into a banquet that served five thousand and many more.  
We come before you, O God, conscious of our faults and failures, but full of hope, to share food with all members in this global family.  
Through your wisdom, inspire leaders of government and of business, as well as all the world’s citizens, to find just, and charitable solutions to end hunger by assuring that all people enjoy the right to food.  
Thus we pray, O God, that when we present ourselves for Divine Judgment, we can proclaim ourselves as “One Human Family” with “Food for All." Amen.
More here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

An Explanation

There were a few different reasons I stopped blogging for a while.  A lot of it had to do with life and moving and new jobs and such.  However, there was another reason as well.  It's been hard for me to write about it, but I think I'm going to try.

When Pope Benedict announced his resignation back in February, I felt it very personally.  At the time, I wrote:

"I would never say that I experienced the fatherhood of Pope Benedict more deeply than the fatherhood of Blessed JPII - his death affected me like few things have, and I specifically had the experience of losing a father. But he was certainly the father-hero: when he spoke you felt united with the universal Church, like you were suddenly swept up into the grandeur of salvation history, with banners and trumpets. With Pope Benedict, it is as though he just quietly sits down next to you, almost without you noticing, and starts talking to you one-on-one, and you suddenly become of aware of God's love and challenge for you not just as part of the Church but as an individual. That's why he is Papa Benedict. Both have shown us different aspects of God's fatherhood, I think. Those of us who lived during both papacies sure have been incredibly, undeservedly blessed."

So there was a very strong sense of loss for me, the loss of a spiritual father.  However, as the next few weeks unfolded, I began to have a strong sense that, for a man as holy and in touch with God's will as my Papa to have taken such an unexpected and dramatic step, there must be a reason.  If the Lord had decided to take away such a dear and wise shepherd, he must have something specific in mind.

I don't tend to trust myself when it comes to an awareness of God's will or actions in my life.  My struggles with my faith in college and after arose from the perception that what I had experienced as God moving and speaking in my life was a sham or self-deception.  But this wasn't just my life - this was the life of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, and the movement of the Spirit seemed unmistakable to me.

On the second day of the Conclave when the white smoke went up, I was at work.  I've never been happier to work for a Catholic organization - I ran to the multi-purpose room and put the coverage up on the big screen, then had the front desk make an announcement over the PA to invite residents to come down and meet our new Pope.  The room was soon crowded and I sat towards the back.  My husband and I texted back and forth, alternating between excitement and a bit of eye-rolling at some of the coverage.

Finally Cardinal Tauran came out on the balcony, and made the announcement.  I didn't understand what he'd said, but a banner immediately appeared at the bottom of the screen with a name: "Bergoglio."  The announcers had some details: a Jesuit from Latin America, two firsts.  I remembered a little bit about him from John Allen's profile - he was the one who rode a bus to work.

When our new Holy Father stepped into view, my tears were flowing freely.  He stood for a long time, looking out at the crowd.  Then he greeted us, and asked for our blessing, and led the whole Church in prayer to Our Lady.

I felt like I could almost see the pieces falling into place, and felt such a serene joy in the loving actions of the Lord to bring hope and strength to a hurting Church.  It seemed to me so clear that He had sent this man to us to guide His Church towards healing, to bridge the ever widening gaps between north and south, left and right.

As the next few weeks unfolded, I continued to be excited by how I saw the Lord acting through him.  I knew that in some circles that overlap slightly with mine there was some grumbling, mostly surrounding his lack of emphasis on certain liturgical preferences.  But that in my mind was part of the healing process.  It seemed clear to me that, on both so-called ends of the so-called spectrum, we'd lost our focus, and that Pope Francis was the one to remind us about what - or rather Who - is the source and summit of every teaching and tradition.

Then came that one interview.  You remember the one, right?  The Holy Father said things like this:
The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up. The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.
I'm not going to be able to describe very well what this interview meant to me.  I read the whole thing straight through, at work, cried at my desk, emailed my husband, read it some more.

Healing.  It's something I've begged God for throughout my adult life, for myself and for the Church.  The interview felt like Christ personally reaching out to me through the words on my screen, offering me that healing.  I was so grateful.

Then the backlash came.  I'm sure you remember that, too.  And again, I'm not going to be able to describe very well how it affected me, except to say that each time someone attacked the Pope, questioned his orthodoxy, doubted his prudence, undermined his authority, spoke of him with condescension, it was like a physical blow.

The fact that many of these comments came from those who, despite my disagreement with some of their methods or emphases, I had always understood to represent fidelity to Holy Church made me feel betrayed and alienated.  I had to fight against a feeling of shame - for what?  For seeing the Holy Father as a teacher and myself as a student?  For thinking the Vicar of Christ, elected by the College of Cardinals after a life of service to the Church, probably had more prudence in his little finger than the entire Catholic blogosphere?  For drawing inspiration and joy from his words, for feeling re-invigorated in my faith and in my striving towards a life of virtue?

I never wanted to be part of the vitriol and mud-slinging and vicious divisiveness that seems to characterize so much of Catholic new media, and I still don't.

But my hurt on the Holy Father's behalf, my feelings of betrayal, were too strong to allow for any calm and reasoned arguments.  Either I could jump into the ugliness, or I could step away.

So I stepped away.

Why am I coming back now?  I'm not sure exactly.  I like writing, for one thing.  I like writing about the Church, which I love more than my life.  I like writing about other, related things too, like books and music and art.

It's not like things have changed.  We've now reached a place where someone who considers himself a faithful Catholic thinks he is living according to that description when he says that our Holy Father will "prove a disaster for the Catholic Church," "shows a terrifying naivety," that he "panders to enemies" and "swipes at practicing Catholics," that "Francis thinks by talking vacuously about the poor, he will be respected," that he has "insulted, and severely damaged the work of, pro-life and pro-marriage groups," that we "elected the wrong guy."

We've reached a place where a priest who preaches "hard identity Catholicism," rather than praising the decision of a Catholic media organization to take immediate action to end this person's employment, questions it.

I'm still angry, and I'm still not sure what to do about it.  But I still want this blog to be a place to talk about what's good and beautiful in the world, not a place to spit and hiss and build higher walls.  I think I've calmed my emotional response enough now to be able to continue with that effort.

P.S.  I thought I'd like to end with a quote from the Pope, so I went back to my RSS feed intending to look through some of his old homilies.  Instead I found this, right at the top of my feed, from today:
The announcement [of the Gospel] requires authentic human relationships and leads along the path to a personal encounter with the Lord...Therefore, the internet is not enough; technology is not enough...This, however, does not mean that the Church’s presence online is useless; on the contrary, it is essential to be present, always in an evangelical way, in what, for many, especially young people, has become a sort of living environment; to awaken the irrepressible questions of the heart about the meaning of existence; and to show the way that leads to Him who is the answer, the Divine Mercy made flesh, the Lord Jesus.

-- Pope Francis

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


So apparently I stepped away from the blog for a while.  It wasn't really planned, but there were some other things that needed my attention (like moving).  I think the summer finally caught up to me as well, leaving me profoundly drained, both physically and creatively.

I think I'll be back to posting with some regularity fairly soon.  In the meanwhile, it's Advent, and that means thinking about waiting.  It's hard to wait for God's timing in your life - I've always been just absolutely terrible at it, and right now is no exception.  So I appreciated what Simcha Fisher had to say in an interview with Jennifer Fulwiler:
"There is an awful lot of outside pressure to get things right the first time. From the secular world, 'getting things right' may look like having a super duper body, and fireworks in the bedroom every night, and maybe having one or two perfectly timed children who nicely complement your career. From the religious world, 'getting things right' may look like being visibly joyful all the time, and having a respectful, decorous flock of children who just lurve to pray and volunteer and do their chores. Either way, you’re supposed to be a catalogue-ready example of that lifestyle within six weeks, and hold that pose indefinitely. And this is nuts. Dangerously nuts.

Whenever people write to me for advice, the one thing I always include is a reminder to be patient — with themselves, and with each other. Human nature changes so slowly, cell by cell by cell. We may have epiphanies and breakthroughs, but thing that really matters most is making those slow, slow improvements. My husband reminds me of this all the time: Let’s just take care of what we can take care of today. This is true when you’re getting to know each other, or building a life together, or raising kids, or nurturing a sexual relationship, or building a relationship with God. Be patient!"

Friday, October 25, 2013


I'm reading Rex Stout's detective stories for the first time, and they're all kinds of fun.  Great stories, great characters, and a style that rivals Graham Greene's in its subtlety and skill.  I'll often laugh out loud while reading, sometimes because it's funny but mostly because of some stylistic gem.  I'll read a line and for a minute it will seem like any other sentence in any noir-style hackery ever written, and then I'll get struck with the sly poetry of Stout's word-craft.

There's not much of a premium placed on style these days - there's some good storytelling going on, but style and craftsmanship in writing seems to be considered archaic or pretentious or not worth the effort for readers whose artistic sensibilities were formed by more visual media.

Recently my family had a conversation about the craft of making movies.  I mentioned that I thought most of the geniuses of style, the Wodehouses of today, are making movies or TV shows rather than writing books.

My favorite example is Wes Anderson.  He uses the cinematic medium the way Wodehouse crafts the written word - shot after shot of playful and exquisite beauty, heartbreaking whimsy heavy with the "weight of glory."  My top three favorite movies include his so-far masterpiece The Darjeeling Limited, and my next twenty would probably include the rest of his work.

He has a new movie coming out next year, and I just watched the trailer.  The cast is a who's who of Wes Anderson's favorites - Owen Wilson, Jason Bateman, Bill Murray - with some fabulous additions like Ralph Fiennes.  I squealed in fangirl delight throughout the trailer, and then felt happy because, even if they aren't novelists, there are artists making art today that makes me just as excited as I would have been in 1938 waiting for the next installment of Nero Wolfe or Bertie Wooster.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Walking Together

Mother Aparecida, 
today I feel like you once did
before your God and mine,
who proposes for our lives a mission
whose contours and limits we ignore,
whose demands we only glimpse.
Yet in your faith that "nothing is impossible with God,"
O Mother,
you did not hesitate,
and so I cannot hesitate.

"Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be done unto me according to your word!"

In this way, O Mother, like you,
I embrace my mission.
Into your hands I put my life
and we will
– you-mother and me-son –
we will walk together,
believe together,
fight together,
win together as your Son and you always walked together.

(Pope Francis' consecration to Our Lady of Aparecida, WYD 2013) 

From Rocco, who has some beautiful and strong words about the Pope, Our Lady, and the vital role of popular piety in the life of the Church.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Review in Five Bullets: In A World...

This weekend we saw a really enjoyable indie comedy about a female voice actor trying to find her place in the competitive, male-dominated world of professional voiceover acting.  Quite the premise, hm?

Five bullets, in no particular order:

1) I like movies that allow you to get inside an obscure community or esoteric field of knowledge - to immerse yourself in some little pocket of humanity that you didn't even know existed.   In this case, it's the voiceover acting industry.  No idea, obviously, if it's true to life or if such a community even exists as distinctively as it's shown in the film.  And I would hope that it doesn't consist entirely of self-absorbed narcissists, as also shown.  But it's fun to consider nonetheless. 

2) Demetri Martin as Louis was the stand-out performance.  I loved him in Flight of the Conchords, but have been very bored by both his stand-up and his short-lived sketch show, which somehow managed to be both bland and off-puttingly bizarre.  However, he's fantastic in this role, which requires high-level comedic skills but also has some depth.  The scenes between him and Lake Bell are charming and hilarious.  He should do more indie comedies.  Lake Bell's character, Carol, has some of the qualities of what's usually called the Manic Pixie Dream Girl - socially incompetent in a way that is improbably attractive, has a tendency to mumble/ramble, etc.  This bugged a little but not as much as usual.  Bell has great timing and her character is much more developed than the typical Zooey Deschanel or Greta Gerwig creation.  

3) This movie is rife with absolutely loathsome characters, as well as more sympathetic ones who make some terrible choices.  One thing that was nice to see was that bad moral choices are portrayed as bad moral choices: characters are accountable for their actions.  One character is unfaithful to her husband - in a lot of movies, this might be shrugged off or at least softened somewhat with "everybody makes mistakes" language or a shifting of blame onto her husband or her circumstances.  Not here - the hurt she causes her husband is not glossed over, and when she apologizes it is with a complete acceptance of responsibility for her choice and its consequences.  Her husband's forgiveness and their effort to begin repairing their marriage are acts of love, but are not presented as an implicit excusing of her actions.

4) Also unusual is the way the romance develops between Louis and Carol.  The series of miscommunications and missed connections that comprises the first two thirds of the film is pretty standard rom-com stuff, but better written and executed than most.  When they finally do connect and admit they "like" each other, they spend an evening out doing fun get-to-know-you activities.  It ends with a kiss at the door but not the normally requisite bed scene solidifying their Status As A Couple.  Not that it's implied that this is off the table for them later, but it was still refreshing to see a romantic relationship take shape around shared interests and clear enjoyment of each other's company instead of just physical attraction.

5) I love, love, loved the scene at the end where Carol has started a workshop for women to "find their voice."  Throughout the movie, she encounters several women with the sort of infantile, pouty vocal inflections a lot of women seem to think make them feminine or attractive or influential with men.  At the end she's shown with a number of them gathered in a recording studio, ready to learn to use their voices in a way that reflects their dignity and allows them to communicate powerfully and effectively.  The right kind of feminist message.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Still digesting the Holy Father's beautiful interview.  My whistle-into-the-wind from yesterday was a small attempt to counteract some of the knee-jerk negativity I observed from people who read a couple of headlines and reacted to those without reading the interview itself.

 I don't have anything more to add at the moment, other than to direct you back to my post from before the interview hit about the need to be grateful for the gifts being given to the Church at this point in history.

If you've reached saturation point on interview talk, turn off your tablet and go say a quick prayer for a lovely and very sick young man, L., a friend of my husband's who's reached the end of his strength in dealing with his mental illness and needs some supernatural aid.

If you haven't reached that point yet, please pray for L. anyway, but enjoy this handful of links from some sensible and articulate people about our beloved Holy Father and what he has to say:

1) Aggie Catholic
"I challenge you to see Francis as an earthly spiritual father. Sometimes he is going to ask us to grow in ways we don't want to. But, it may be good for us anyway."
2)  JoAnna Wahlund
 "So please, fellow Catholics, the proper response when reading a MSM headline about the Pope changing a long-held doctrine of Catholicism is not panic or rage or despair. Rather, it’s a yawn, an eye-roll, and a resigned sigh – as well as a realization that we’re once again called upon to engage in the new evangelization for the sake of the Kingdom in the realm of social media and among our friends and family."
3) Stephen White
"Being a Christian is not, first and foremost, about ideas and rules. That is not to say our faith does not engage our minds or demand obedience (it obviously does both); it is simply to observe—and this is fundamental—that faith does not begin there. Everything Pope Francis says in his interview should be understood in this light."
 4) Mark Shea (I promise he doesn't call anyone a bedwetter in this one)
"When you focus too much on fighting the world you start to think like the world, trying to run the Church by rules and laws and slogans and power and fear and punishment and not by putting first things first: which is Jesus Christ and our personal encounter with him. The press can’t be expected to get that. But we Catholics *must* get that.”
5) Simcha Fisher
"The one thing that everybody knows is that the Church is against abortion.  What the world doesn't know is why the Church is against abortion.  What the world doesn't know is what the Church can offer instead of abortion.  The world doesn't know why life is worth living. This is the message that every pope in recent memory has been preaching -- that life is good!"
6) Cardinal Dolan
"It is becoming more evident every day that we are blessed with a Pope who is a good shepherd after the heart of Christ. "

7) And for my last quick take, I'm going to link back to the interview again, because really...just read it yourself.

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