Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wee Small Hours of the Morning

I have gotten up at 5am, more or less, consistently, for the past five days. I love the cool morning air, and the utter silence of the world this early in the morning. Since my husband sleeps for another hour or three, I slip quietly out of the bedroom and pad to the back bedroom, dog silently following. There I read, pray, and ponder for about an hour, while the dog stretches, scratches, and lolls about on the floor. I've realize how hard it is for me to pray now, now that my habits have suffered so much. I will sit down to pray and then think, oh I haven't checked Twitter...or sit down to pray and then find myself picking up my phone, for no reason at all. I have already checked everything. I just am not used to sitting without a (usually electronic) distraction.

Early Morning Dew by Alistair MacNeill

My attempts at being consistent in my early morning prayer have brought to light a deep-seated belief I was previously unaware of. That is, I honestly believe that if I prayed as much as I should and was as holy as I should be, that everything else in my life would fall into place. That is, that every problem that I have with myself would be solved by a right ordering of my priorities, with prayer always coming in first. I believe that my house would be neat(er), I would be healthier, I'd manage my money more wisely, my relations with others would be easier. To a degree of course this must be true: the holier we are, the closer we are to union with God, who is perfection Himself.

Old Woman at Prayer by Nicolass Meas

But of course we also know that saints have the greatest trials. Saints lives are not perfect, though they are perfectly ordered. The concept of holiness as a perfect "Martha Stewart" life must be false: holiness is often messy. Shifting my priorities would necessarily mean at some point paying more attention to a person (friend who needs a visit) than to things (areas needing cleaning). Yet holiness should not equal busy-ness either! It does not mean volunteering for every committee at your parish. Holiness consists in doing exactly what God wants of us, in each moment.

Which reminds me that I'm using this blog post to procrastinate from praying...

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Dare to Post

Recently, I went on a facebook purging fest. I deleted over 250 friends and it was very liberating! Back when facebook was a baby, I thought it was a great idea to find every person I'd ever known and friend them. Childhood kids I hadn't met in ages, people from elementary school, all my high school pals, that one person I met at that college party that one time. Now that I've been to several more schools, I realize this was maybe not the best idea...I don't really want to keep in touch with all these people. Many of them are nice, good people, but...we're not actually friends.
So those that are left fall into two categories: actual friends (from all over) and law school peeps. I kept law school friends because it is really useful for networking purposes: if anybody posts about needing something down here, or if I need something where they are; that kind of thing. Despite this...I still find that I am hesitant to share all I want to share on fb. I read an article that I think is worthwhile, but I pause and think "this might offend some people..." I have several friends who are very liberal; I kept them on my fb because I am genuinely interested in their latest triathlon, or how their daughter did on her spelling test. Despite coming from disparate ends of the spectrum, I like them!

I have a lot of friends. At my wedding especially, I made 9 of them wear the same dress and dance to Journey.

But why do I hesitate to show them who I am and what I really think? They certainly don't hesitate to post every Huffpost article or Support PP petition, but here I am, worrying that they'll unfriend me or get in a nasty comment war. Whenever I see them post something to which I am opposed, I do one of two things: ignore it, or write them a personal message asking them several pointed questions. I don't comment, because I know it's usually a pointless waste of energy, and I don't defriend, because as I said, I like them. I think I am afraid that their like of me will not be enough to overcome their dislike of my opinions...in other words, perhaps they really don't like me, and I'm just trying to stave their inevitable discovery of that fact.

But I guess in the long run, it's better to just have them know and get the unfriending over with. It's unfortunate that friendships cannot be sustained with those who disagree...but I wonder also: am I obligated to allow all my friends to see every post? I have no problem hiding future baby posts, but I have also considered hiding some of my more controversial statuses from those who I know will just disagree, usually with unnecessary vulgarity. I worry that I'll be taking away some opportunity to actually communicate with these people about important issues, but I also know that they probably aren't interested in real dialogue either. Just telling me how they disagree and enjoying their superiority.

Maybe facebook is taking up too much space in my brain.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Knitting my Vocation

Maybe you're like me. I don't think I'm particularly crafty. My closets are stuffed with fun crafty projects that I never finished but refuse to get rid of in the futile hopes that I will complete them someday: t-shirt quilts, scrapbooks, anything with ribbon. And yet, I really believe that I will learn how to knit and cross stitch and quilt. And sew. And garden. Plus eventually I want to be the most granola, homeschooling mom ever. You know, all those ambitious dreams little girls have.

"Dreamer" by Куликов И. С. (Unknown) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

These desires form the backbone of my idealized self, the woman I long to be. Sadly, when I think of that vision of myself, I think I see more what I do, than who I want to be. Before my desire to be the consummate crafter, I was the perpetual student. I used higher education like some people use drugs or casual sex:  to "find" myself. Despite being Christian, I still believed my fulfillment would come through my work mostly - my secondary vocation. And since after each degree, I couldn't find a job that really made my heart leap, I thought I needed more preparation, more school. I had forgotten the words of Blessed John Paul II that "man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of self."

Many couples naturally draw their identity from their children. The formation of children is a sanctifying work, and the more we pour ourselves out for them, the closer we draw to Christ who gave Himself totally for us. Yet because Tom and I have not yet been blessed with children on Earth, we don't have this to draw from. We are working out our salvation as a couple, learning to love one another with no third party to remind us of the sacred and sacrificial nature of that love. It is, I believe, more difficult than one would imagine. It is easy to sacrifice for one's children, or at least, I think it is easier, than to sacrifice for one's spouse. To serve a sweet sleeping baby becomes idealized in my mind, whereas my all-too human husband is constantly challenging me with his humanity and concupiscence.

My identity comes from God, who has given me a husband to form me in the school of love. Becoming a knitter, quilter, or gardener, a lawyer or theologian, will not allow me to avoid my primary vocation as a wife; it will not provide me the depth of satisfaction or joy that I get when I truly give of myself to love my husband.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pro-Life Sunday

I used to have a blog on tumblr and wrote this post on there some time ago. I thought I would repost since it seems timely...today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Abortion remains not only the most common surgical procedure in the US, but is also now the leading cause of death in the world. This is a tragedy.

I do not consider myself a prolife activist, although I am prolife. I speak about abortion and the death penalty mostly within my Christian community, where I feel I am on sure footing. In arguing with those who are not Christian or who do not believe in God, I struggle, because I get incredibly upset. 
If a person has little to no belief in God, or it does not affect their lives, their guiding light is usually science and their own feelings (which they might call their ‘heart’). All that is understandable. Some of these people are liberal and some are more conservative; the large majority of them support the concept of marriage equality, that gay persons should be allowed to marry and adopt children. They view this as an equality fight: straight people marry, gay people marry. They call it the new civil rights issue, like equality between blacks and whites back in the 1960s. I can see their logic. 

But I begin to get annoyed when they want to back off of abortion. They will not admit that the “fetus” is in fact a child. They protest that they don’t believe it is a life at that point, despite the fact that science calls it alive, just like scientists would scream about “life on Mars!” if it so much as found algae there. They claim the child not life, although if one of their friends said elatedly “I’m pregnant!” they would immediately begin talking about the baby as a live person. 

But this recognition, protection, and joy is denied to many children. The child is alive, but they do not view it as a person. It’s not a person until the mother decides to recognize it and protect it. In a way, that’s an incredible statement of the meaning of motherhood in America: We, women, decide the fate of our children; we are their only protectors. Society will not care for them, doctors will not fulfill their hippocratic oath towards them, Congressmen and women will not vote to protect them, their communities will not come together to house or feed them, and oftentimes their fathers will not support them. It is the mother alone who bears their weight in her body and in her soul: she is entirely alone. 
With this state of things, it is no wonder that a woman would choose abortion. She has no support to choose anything else. In fact,  Roe v. Wade did not merely create a constitutional right for a mother to end her child’s life; it created a society that puts the blame for illegitimate children, poor children, overburdened mothers, on the shoulders of the mother. The question can always be asked, “why did you choose to have it then?” Pro-choice America created a societal milieu where the only choice that is really acceptable is abortion and/or silence. 
These are children and I don’t believe one person out there doesn’t actually know that. I don’t believe certainly that any of the doctors, let alone nurses, volunteers, and lobbyists, are ignorant of the fact that a child in the womb is a life. But they support it because they think they are helping women. This is the touchstone of any moral code, however: you cannot justify a great ends by a horrible means. Blacks are not sub-human, they are human; homosexuals should not be subjected to cruelty or discrimination, because they are human. Abortion should be illegal because preborn children are still human, and being human matters

To the women who are pregnant, you matter because you are human. Your child matters because they are human! We are humanity. We must stand together, or else turn on one another. We can disagree on how to help one another, how to spend our money, how to structure our nation, and what is ultimately True in the world. But we have to begin by recognizing that we are all human, we are all in this together, we are brothers and sisters of this race. 
We are humanity: we are life. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Headcoverings, Latin Mass, and All that Jazz

Here's my confession: I love headcoverings. Love 'em. It's really what makes Orthodox Judaism tempting to me (and the fact that they speak another language and seem to be secluded from the world), but of course I resist because of that whole Jesus issue. A while ago, I made a friend who makes headcoverings - and I thought, yeah I like those. So I started wearing them. Then I started wearing them more. Then I started not leaving the house without them. Then my neighbors started staring.

To be fair, my neighbors do not include 1950s housewives

I liked wearing them. They're comfortable, they protect my hair from dust, dirt, and pollen - which gets all over me when I am working out in the yard and digging through my garage. I have a ton of hair, which takes a lot of time to wash and dry, so I don't like unnecessary hair washing. To Mass, though, I like to wear a chapel veil. 

Something like this, although I think mine is even smaller. 

My friends here in Naples took this all in stride. They know that I am a little peculiar anyway, so a few of them made some polite inquiries when I brought it up and then just went on. I joked about looking Amish, which seemed to break the ice, and everyone moved on. I got a couple of compliments on the snoods from some guys in my parish, including an older gentleman who said "Very granola, I like it!" His sentiments are shared by those at my grocery store. I shop at Whole Foods, so lets be honest, nobody even bats an eye - they're all crazy hippies there who wear long skirts and funky scarves. I haven't really gotten more than a few negative reactions and I know that doing this attracts attention, so I am prepared. Also, to be fair, I wear headcoverings with some rather unusual outfits: with jeans, tank tops, etc. I'm not exactly walking around looking Amish...that only happens on baking days. 

I may look something like this on baking days. 

This all doesn't bother me. And I have met other Catholic women that cover, although most of them don't do it full time. I get excited - I want to chat with them about it. Who do they like the best? A Snood for All Seasons? Liturgical Time? Garlands of Grace?? So many great stores to choose from! What always makes me laugh, though, is that as soon as they know I cover they say something along the lines of, "I've never seen you at Latin Mass!" In our area, there aren't a lot of Latin Masses, so they probably know everyone who goes to them. I smile and share that I sing at the 5pm Mass with my husband. Their brows wrinkle in confusion while they try to smile, and it's understandable: for Catholics, we connect head covering to the Latin Mass, not the Novus Ordo. 

I have no problem with the Latin Mass. I enjoyed a few in Virginia and Alabama, when I lived in those places. I'm all for freedom to worship in whatever tongue you like - Latin, Spanish, English, French! Long live variété, mes amis. Yet I do have a teeney, tiny problem: the idea that Latin Mass is better. I've met a few folks now who say they're reverts or converts, really getting into their faith, talk about going to confession every week, adoration, and...Latin Mass. Like it's a natural progression: the holier you get, the more you want to go to Latin Mass. This really bugs me. If you just prefer it, great! Have at it. But there's no value judgment to be put on it, and to say that there is, is to be borderline schismatic and also theologically incorrect. The Mass is always awe-inspiring, a miracle, the "source and summit of our faith" - always! Whether it's celebrated with guitars or chant, in English or Latin, reverently or irreverently. The Mass remains the same. 

Am I being overly sensitive? I hope not. I know in religious circles, people are especially sensitive about others being "holier than thou," even though it's usually just everyone trying to be the best servant of God they can. I don't think these people are trying to put me down so I don't take it personally. But I take it personally for Jesus, who is truly present at my 5pm praise and worship Mass just like He is at their noon Latin Mass. He would meet them in any Mass, no matter how much they disliked the music or their fellow Catholics manner of comportment and dress. As much as they are free to prefer that Mass, I hope they would also extend respect for those who prefer a different kind of worship. 

Deal? Deal.

Babies as Trophies, Oh My!

In the most interesting misreading of a post I've ever seen, my friend Cam had to defend herself yesterday against an anonymous commenter who claimed Cam wanted to be pregnant just to appear more pious. This person seemed to feel that she was in a position "from a more experienced mom to a younger one" to lecture Cam about being patient while waiting for her next child.

Although her intentions were (hopefully) good, there were in her writings several problems that I often encounter myself. There are some people who think that those of us who want, but do not yet have, big families want them for the wrong reasons. That we want them to appear pious, or that we regard them as trophies or, like sacraments!, outward signs of inward graces. What I think many people forget is that, for women like Cam and I, we genuinely enjoy children. We like them. Well, yes, they can be expensive, noisy, and rather put a damper on our daily schedule, but we like them anyway. We don't like them because the Pope told us to, or because we think that we're going to impress everybody when we have them, because they make us look good - we just like them for who they are.

I was talking to my friend Jenn the other day and we agreed that for as long as we could remember, we wanted to be a mom - preferably one to a big family. Jenn asked if Tom and I would use NFP to space our children. I replied that although we would have to make the decision anew after each blessing, that from where we're standing now, we probably wouldn't. I already know that telling people that could bring a storm of criticism: that I don't know what I'm talking about because I don't have any children yet, that it's irresponsible, that it could be really emotionally and physically exhausting, that it's not a race. But I think what people who can get pregnant very easily forget is that for those of us with special problems (like PCOS), we never know when our fertility is just going to...stop. I would be so sad if Tom and I decided to abstain, and then it was 10 months because I ovulated again! The question Tom and I face everytime we chose the possibility of getting pregnant is, "are we comfortable with the idea of never getting pregnant again?" Once we have children, the question will become "have we discerned that our most recent child should be our last?"

The plain fact is that children are blessings, and being chosen to receive such a beautiful blessing is always an honor. It's natural, and good, for people to desire such blessings. Even if you don't feel that way yourself, it shouldn't surprise you that others feel that way.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Homemaking Arts

Yesterday after getting a massage (thanks to my great friend Roz at Cleansing Springs!) I headed over to the library since it's right nearby. I had forgotten how much I love going to the library - all those books, and they're FREE. It's like Christmas! I usually get books on a theme, so this time I checked out their local Florida section (replete with gardening guides and cookbooks) and their craft section (how-to books mostly).

The Benedictine Melk Library in Austria, courtesy of Emgonzalez

I successfully navigated my way around the gardening and cooking books. But then I came to the 600s and gaped. There's a difference between knitting and crocheting? Needlepoint and embroidery? Does anybody  hand quilt? I realized in that moment how little I know about homemaking arts, and how their decline is probably the number one reason why people ask me, "what do you do all day if you don't work and don't have kids!?!" Women back in the day were probably quite busy, but now, if you buy everything, what DO you do? My mom has also pointed out that it used to be cheaper to make your own clothes, but that it's not true anymore. You can get kids dresses on clearance at target for $5, but you can't make one for that amount.  Granted, it probably balances out if you're making in bulk and of course the quality is probably better if you make it yourself, but strict financials might go to the side of buying clothes at least.

Girls used to learn these things from their mothers, I suppose. I just never did. Now, my mother was excellent at most of these things: cooking, keeping a beautiful home (decorating AND cleaning), sewing, quilting, and gardening. Kim enjoyed needlepoint, I seem to remember, and I think my mom has a framed sampler of hers. I just never learned anything but cooking and keeping house (although I seem to have really been failing at that last part lately...). And I realize now that I want to. There is little I love more than when I get things done around the house, and I get so excited for Tom to come home and see what I've done. I love having others over and opening our home to them. I don't care if it's dated or that some people think it's silly. 

Can anyone tell me where this picture came from? I found it online only after MUCH searching, since I've seen it in stores before, but couldn't find the title or artist. 

The truth is that I am proud of working in the home, more proud than anything I have ever done as a student or professionally. I receive greater peace working at home, helping others, gardening, cooking, learning to serve, than I have in my studies of history, politics or the law. I cannot express how ashamed I am that it took me 8 years, several degrees, and thousands of dollars to learn this. I wish I had known sooner! But at least I am doing his will now, and if I am called outside the home, I am sure I will follow. But for now, I want to learn more - I want to learn knitting, crocheting, quilting, needlepoint, and sewing...I want to be a woman who can do things with her hands, not just think of great -ologies and -isms. I got a book on knitting at the library, so maybe I'll start there. My neighbor can sew, and Cam can do anything, so I'm sure I can ask for help as I learn...! 

I hope you all are finding some activity that lights up your mind and heart to learn this New Year. Even if you think it's too late to acquire a skill, remember it's never too late to be what you might have been (George Eliot, aka Mary Ann Evans). And on a light-hearted note, remember we women can always find one way to make our husbands happy:

This is Tom's favorite sexist 1950s add. We spent a little bit this morning looking up some of them and dying laughing. This one he seemed to take quite seriously.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Wherein L'Orangerie Begins to Take Shape (in my mind)

I have come to the realization these days that the entire concept of gardening as a "hobby" is a total racket. Big garden stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart) hope that you'll want to do something outdoorsy when the weather turns nice and so you'll decide to do some planting. You'll come to their store and drop around $100 on soil, pretty plants, some new gloves since your old ones are lost or infested with roaches...and then you'll think about how nice it all looks. Maybe a little later you read an article on a pallet garden or a square foot garden and so you go out and buy everything you need for that (maybe another $100, more or less). But as life goes on and you get busy with the things that you have to do, you forget about your efforts except for sporadic watering and by the time winter comes around, everything is dead or overgrown and ugly. So you take it all out and bemoan your lack of gardening skills because "everything I try to grow dies!"

Pallet garden from Life on the Balcony

Maybe you even try to get MORE serious about it - you actually read the labels on the plants that say whether they grow in sun or shade, try to water more regularly, get some books on gardening. More money to major retailers and still more things wither and die. At one point, you get a red hair to self-sustain your family and grow a vegetable garden, but nothing much comes out of it- not even your raised beds! 

Here's my theory: this is a scam. The more I have gotten into gardening over the past two months, the more I have realized that: a) garden centers (even most local ones) are not your friend, and b) gardening is actually a science called horticulture. I went to my local garden center (read: non-chain!) and saw a HUGE display of beautiful hydrangeas.  I was thrilled, since I love them so much but had thought they could not grow into Zone 11. 

I asked one of their friendly knowledgeable salespeople if this was some new hybrid that could withstand the heat and thrive despite the cold snap hydrangeas usually need. "No," she said. I must've looked confused because she continued "we just sell 'em to people who want the color." My look deepened. "They won't last more than two weeks. Even in a pot." This was not the first nor the last incident that has put me on my guard! I have come to realize that garden centers do not sell what will grow in your zone or area; they don't care if you are buying plants that will die. They will mislabel and sell you plants that cannot grow where you are, but not tell you; so you'll probably blame yourself and come spend more money at their store. 

I am lucky in that my natural suspicious nature made me catch onto this fairly quickly...also I listen to my mother, who knows a lot about gardening in Florida (albeit in Zone 10, which makes a BIG difference!). So I decided I would do what any consummate academic would do and read some books on the subject before I made any big big purchases. Well...even as I'm reading the books about gardening in SW Florida, I'm finding them hard to understand. What is "pinching back" a plant? What does it mean to prune severely versus drastically? As I did more research, I realized that these terms are actually heavily-laden with a meaning and understanding that evades me, the novice gardener. Which is when it hit me: gardening is a science. No one would approach any other branch of science and expect to intuit the right answers as a side-hobby! But we assume that gardening should be something we can just figure out - nevermind soil pH, heat zone maps or those other pesky details! We should be able to shove something in the ground and make it grow! Hm. Not so much. 

A working farm by Louise Magno 

Turns out there's a reason why people used to starve to death back when we were a largely agricultural society - growing things is not necessarily easy. It takes planning and thought, and usually an outlay of money, especially if you live in Florida where the soil is more like sand. So although L'Orangerie is a ways away from where I want it to be, it's nice to be erecting the support of the garden. On Monday the tree crew comes to take down several problem trees (like the palm that is leaning on my house) and clear out some invasive potato vine. From there, I can hopefully start tilling and enriching the soil! Only then can I plant, but it'll be just in time for spring and I hope it'll start moving more quickly then. 

Happy feast day of St. Hilarious! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Staying Catholic in the Church

It is an easy insult when arguing with a religious person, to say that they are "not being very [insert religious affiliation here]" because they are disagreeing with you vigorously. Among Catholics, we'll change it up a bit and say "you're not being very charitable," which always makes my skin crawl. I agree that sometimes people are uncharitable in arguments, but bringing it up at that time rarely does much to turn it around. (besides, if you can't argue on facts and get your feelings hurt too easily, then don't get into arguments with me people!)

This week, I have witnessed three instances of outright rudeness to church personnel over what amounts to a petty disagreement. Verbal cruelty, cursing, raised voices - like an argument between my parents before they became Catholic! (just kidding, Mom, just kidding) It was something of a shock. I'm a convert; I've never worked in a parish or even belonged to one before  (just Campus Ministries). I had no idea that this sort of thing went on; it took me several months (and many awkward conversations) for me to realize that someone saying they were "Catholic" did  not actually mean we had a whole host of things in common.

I want to dwell on it; more than that, I want to talk about it. I want to talk about what horrible, nasty, rude people they are - how these are the same people who don't kneel at the consecration, won't staff the Adoration chapel, quibble over $5 extra when they own multiple homes, think that the Church is a democratic institution designed to make them happy, etc. I am furious, I am irate - and I am sad.

I love my faith. I love that my Church is big enough for everyone, and that no one has to be perfect although all are called to strive for perfection. "The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners. But for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do," said Oscar Wilde, with a wink no doubt. I don't want to be respectable in the sense of being inline with the status quo - I want to be radically in love with Christ, living a life of heroic virtue. I want to give without measure, even to people who are cruel to me or to my friends or to my Church.

This sort of love is difficult, but the Litany of Humility is making it easier. Tugging on Mary's mantle and asking her to pray for me (aka the Rosary) makes it easier too. I keep repeating to myself  "That others may become holier than I, provided I may become as holy as I should..." to keep my scrupulous tendencies in check. And I keep inviting people over. Hospitality is a wonderful way to love others, and it is a way that I particularly enjoy. Action must be the form of our love as much as prayer, if we are to take Christ as our model. I know that if I keep looking for ways to love, He will show them to me and I will forget about those other people - not in terms of not taking notice of them, but I will forget that their behavior can have any affect on me at all. I will realize that I can love them as much when they are horrid as when they are good, and I will care about their behavior only as it affects their soul and not as it affects my mood. I keep comforting myself with this thought: I will learn to love them if I keep asking Him to show me how.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Obligatory New Years Resolution Post

I'm not big on resolutions, probably because I fail so often. But this year is special for a few reasons: I have more time and money than I usually did as a student, and this year I turn 27. Uh, twenty-seven is not a significant number, Martha.   Yes, yes I hear you, but it's significant to me! When I was thirteen, my eldest sister was twenty-seven and I completely idolized her. I thought she was so beautiful, her kids so sweet, her life so perfect. Now in retrospect I realize her life was not perfect (whose is??), but my sister's sweetness and kindness was such a model for me about the kind of person and mother I wanted to be. I thought to myself, "when I'm twenty-seven, I hope I'm like Kim."

My sister and I at my undergraduate graduation. I'm so excited I'm eating my tassel.

And here it is, folks! This is the YEAR. And I'm...much less like Kim than I always wanted to be. I don't think I'm very sweet, I have no children on earth, and my sister is still way better looking than me (but I think that's just genes). So although I can't say I have a resolution like "be sweeter!", I have a general idea in my head: make this year worthy of twenty-seven.

Katherine over at "Having Left the Altar" has a great post about her new years resolutions that definitely inspired me. I recommend you read the post yourself, but she talks about choosing a word for the year, a word that sort of guides your intentions for that year and focuses you. I'm big on amorphous concepts that involve abstract thinking that one has to apply concretely, so this really appealed to me. I chose the word Humility. Ugh, really? Yes, really. I have noticed lately that I have lost some of the joy in losing myself; I have forgotten the importance of being least and last. To help me towards this goal, I have resurrected the hardest and best prayer ever: The Litany of Humility! ::cue trumpets:: Check it out:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

This prayer is INTENSE. It was introduced to me in college with the caveat, "be careful; usually when you pray this prayer, it works." But I have always had an instinctual love for this prayer, which seems to me so pure and strong. It attacks the greatest sins in my soul, and draws out situations in which I need to forget myself: when I am not chosen, not praised, honored or preferred. I want to pray this prayer every day, and hopefully it will help me to be more humble and think of ways I can put others before myself. 

Hope your resolutions are going well! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Essential Catholic Library

Last year, I resolved to start an excellent Catholic library, not only for my own edification, but for that of my future children. I want to be able to say, "ah yes, Chesterton talked about that! It's over here, on the second shelf..." So I started a list of all the books I want in my Catholic library. Then, I came across this thread on CAF. It's as if the devil on my shoulder is saying, here spend a billion dollars you don't have. I mean really! My essential Catholic library already exists - it's located within the walls of the Vatican, along with all the essential art works my home should own (kidding). 

Anyway, if you were looking for any great books to read for the new year, or have any other suggestions for great books to be read (Catholic or not), let me know. I might as well have a complete list, even if I never actually own it in its entirety. 

Catholic Sex

WARNING: I talk about sex below, but not my sex life. Just sex in general. FYI. Dad, please stop reading anyway, thanks!

I was on CAF (Catholic Answers Forum) the other day and someone legitimately asked the question: what  lubricants are permitted by the Catholic Church. I almost fell off my chair. This same person said they knew certain positions were forbidden, but they didn't know which ones, causing me to spill my tea. By the time they got to the end of their post, I think I had destroyed my entire desk area out of slap-stick amazement. I kept yelling out loud, seriously? SERIOUSLY?? 

Now, granted, I come from a liberal atheist background. My mom was very open with me about sex, and because of my love of reading, I had read every book on sex I could get my hands on by the time I was 16 (despite the fact that I wasn't having sex). So when I became Catholic, I had a lot of questions about what Catholics thought about sex and I wanted 'em answered. I found those answers so compelling, I converted and then went right on to my masters work in moral theology (focus on human sexuality) at CUA. I guess I find the academic study of sex more interesting than the average girl.

Best Thomistic introduction to moral theology, including sexual ethics, I have read so far. It's academic, but still accessible. 

I wrote that poster a response, but then I got thinking about how many misconceptions good, Catholic people have about sex and all that it entails. I have had many married Catholic friends who have asked me sex questions that have blown my mind: questions about conception, contraception, NFP, enjoying sex, hygiene, and biology - questions I thought were common knowledge. I know I'm lucky: I got to study these questions in a formal, academic setting, so we covered most all of the bases and I had to buy a ton of books with concise answers and explorations of topics.

My second favorite moral theology primer. Servais Pinckaers' writing is fabulous and several passages of this book have provided wonderful meditation material. 

But...shouldn't there be some resource that helps faithful Catholics have a good sex life? There are a few good books, but not many in terms of practical frank discussions of what being sexual entails. There's a few okay websites, but many of them are Protestant, so they don't address the full breadth of Catholic issues. So I was thinking...what if I did that? What if I started a website geared at helping faithful married Catholics answer the questions they have about sex and sexuality, faithful to the Magisterium, mindful of the teachings of John Paul II, and incorporating modern science? I could recruit other people to write articles for the website so that there's a broader scope than just my own personal, limited experience, take questions submitted via email, and have male and female geared topics. I want to address wedding night sex, sex after kids, sex after menopause, the affect of infertility on a person's sex life, and even include people's personal testimonies about why they started being faithful to the teachings of the Church in a certain sex and/or marriage related area. I of course want to have a resources section with books that are helpful and links to websites with more in-depth articles on certain subjects like NFP, infertility, or common sexual problems.

Best popular book on sex I've read so far, but it doesn't (and can't) answer everything...

So that's what I'm thinking of doing in 2012: starting a Catholic sex website. What do you think? Good idea, bad idea? Do you have any topics suggestions, or would you be interested in being a guest writer? Even better, do you have an idea for a NAME for the website? My husband has been working on this, and so far my favorite is "Hot n' Holy" but I think that sounds more like a porn site than I really want...so any non-porn site suggestions would be appreciated!!