Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ash Wednesday Scriptural Scribblings

Joel 2:12-18 ... New American Bible

Even now, says the LORD,
˙˙return to me with your whole heart,
˙˙with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
˙˙and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
˙˙slow to anger, rich in kindness,
˙˙and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
˙˙and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
˙˙for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
˙˙proclaim a fast,
˙˙call an assembly;
Gather the people,
˙˙notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
˙˙gather the children
˙˙and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
˙˙and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
˙˙let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people,
˙˙and make not your heritage a reproach,
˙˙with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
˙˙'Where is their God?' "

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
˙˙and took pity on his people.
As odd as it might seem, given that this is a nun's blog, I don't often put too much direct churchy kind of stuff on here. I suppose that probably has something to do with the fact that doing direct churchy kind of stuff is one of my big areas for improvement. Ellipsis had me pegged pretty good when she dubbed me the "Reluctant Nun"! But, I figured it's Ash Wednesday, which, at least for us Catholics, is a pretty major day kicking off a pretty major season of trying to get more into the churchy kinds of things. Thus, I thought I'd at least post one of the readings for tomorrow's liturgy. Not that I necessarily even have anything overly profound to say about them, but .... at least I'm trying, right?

I love that "perhaps" — what a great word! All about hope (although when I use it, it's generally more of wishful thinking, like "Maybe if we're lucky, he'll give us another chance."). And the "leave behind" ... like God has his arms full of blessings and we're hoping that he'll drop one? Forget to pick it up? Or is it more that "We know we don't really deserve to have him actually give us a blessing, but if he could just leave it on the kitchen table ...."?

OK, like I said, not always the most serious. Did I ever mention dispelling nun-myths?

I was really struck, though, by the whole first half of that second section: "Blow the trumpet, gather the people, assemble the elders, notify the congregation." This is not just me & God — it's a communal thing. So come on now, folks, get out there. We need all of you. Yes, you old people .... and don't forget the kids, either. It's your wedding night? There'll be time for that later. Right now, we need to show God that we mean business.

But the lectionary only gives a hint at what follows. The LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people. What it continues with God saying to his people: See, I will send you grain, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them; No more will I make you a reproach among the nations ...... You shall eat and be filled, and shall praise the name of the LORD, your God, Because he has dealt wondrously with you; my people shall nevermore be put to shame. And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the LORD, your God, and there is no other; my people shall nevermore be put to shame.

Whoo-hoo — it all pays off!!! For a while, anyway .... until we start slacking once more.

But that's why we've then got Paul telling us in 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 .... actually, he's imploring us, begging us "on behalf of Christ" to be reconciled to God. But it's great, because right after Paul implores us to be reconciled, he uses the phrase "working together" — yup, it's that whole community thing all over again. Unfortunately, that "working together" thing is something we don't always do so well with (even when living in a religious community!), particularly when we're all too busy deciding that my God can beat up your God with one arm tied behind his back. But, we gotta try to work together.

And something I hadn't noticed before (although it might just be a translational thing) — I've known the line as "Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation." But reading the NAB I notice that it's "Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." A very subtle shift, from the to a ... but what a difference it makes. It's not like it's a one-shot deal and .... oops, we missed it. There'll be plenty of opportunities .... oh look, here's one now — let's take advantage of it!

The Gospel for today comes from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (leaving out the interruption of the Our Father), where Jesus tells the disciples to pray, give alms, and fast in secret — don't make a big show of it, because then you're just doing it to get credit with the folks around you. Which, at least to me, seemed kinda contradictory to all the community stuff I saw in the first two readings. But then I realized .... it's about the general versus the specifics. We can come together as a church community to support one another in our Lenten practices, but that doesn't mean I have to know exactly what it is that each person is doing. Besides, how horrible would that be? "Hey, Athanasius, do you want to grab some dinner together? You do? Oh, that's great! Thanks a lot! See, for my Lenten practice I decided that I'd make a point to do something with someone that I really can't stand. Dinner with you will really help get my Lent up and running!" It's kinda like praying for people and their intentions. Sometimes (most times) we don't know the full story. But does that mean that we can't put in a good word with God on their behalf? No. God's smart enough to fill in the gaps that our lack of knowledge provides.

So .... my summary? Come together with other folks in community to help support one another through Lent (and life), but don't make a big deal over your own stuff (in terms of bragging rights, anyway). There's a difference between reaching out to others and going in .... and reaching in to yourself and forcing it on others.

Not that I'm saying you shouldn't share your stuff with others, but if you're not leaving room for others to share with you ..... well, then, what's the likelihood that you're leaving room for God to sneak in?

So those are the Random Midnight Ramblings from the Stephster ... take 'em for what they're worth.

Happy Lent, folks. Play nice!

No commentaries were harmed {or even opened} in the filming writing of this entry.

Monday, February 27, 2006


I'm not sure why, but it almost feels like I'm more nervous about Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences than I was in November .... which is odd, because that was my first time with them here at this school. Although, in November, the parents had just received the first quarter report cards, and so they had a pretty decent sense of where their daughter stood in my class. Now, we're still a good three weeks or so out from report cards, and since many of these kids I'm having for the first time .... the parents are pretty clueless. And I haven't updated the grades online like I've intended, and I have a pile of tests that are mid-grading-progress, and .... So these parents might show up and want to know what their daughter's grade is at this point and I will be thoroughly unprepared to give them an answer.

I guess maybe that's why I'm more nervous. Sigh.

Oh well, I'm off to put on grown-up clothes. If this blog is never updated, you'll know that I went down in the wrath of a vengeful parent.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Continuing the Plug ...

Courtesy of WaywardCatholic ....

12 Ways to Remake Your Boring Old Self — New York Magazine
If you’re willing to take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, your prayers may be answered in a convent. Some sisters live full time at a convent like the Corpus Christi Monastery in the Bronx, where the eighteen cloistered nuns spend all day praying in “perpetual adoration of the most blessed sacrament.” Brooklyn’s Sisters of Mercy get out more, if only to work in schools, hospitals, women’s shelters, and soup kitchens. Still more adventurous are the Sisters of Saint Francis in Syracuse, who get to go all the way to Hawaii, East Africa, and Peru. You have to be Catholic (though there are Buddhist and Orthodox Christian nuns) and neither married nor divorced (God frowns upon that, though being widowed is okay by Him). Go to religiousministries.com to find the right order for you.
[The other eleven ways are: run for office, teach yoga, grow organic tomatoes, go RV-ing, learn to fly, go on reality TV, work with hedges, sue people, go to Indian spiritual retreat, teach, and disappear.]

Of course, the "facts" listed were disputed by a commenter (apparently the info on these communities are all way off), and I pointed out that there are at least some Anglican nuns out there; in fact, two Benedictine women's communities are ecumenical (Madison, WI, and Martin, KY).

Shameless Plug -- Two for the Price of One

Check out the first two Shameless Plugs for the full scoop:
Are You Jealous?
Where Do You Fit in God's Journey?

And, for some very cool picture links, visit my Shameless Plug, Part II

Not only that, we were featured in today's Louisville Courier-Journal's Travel section (unfortunately, they didn't upload the pics they had in the paper).

Why do I bring this up? Because I am offering you not one but two, count 'em, two opportunities to visit our monastery and explore a vocation to the Benedictine way of life (anyone, of course, is welcome for a visit at any time ... these are just a couple vocation specific opportunities!):

March 4 Lenten Day of Reflection (for some reason we don't have this one posted, so the link is for the Advent one. But don't worry, it's the same drill ... just a different season!)

March 24-26 Benedictine Life Weekend ~ The Monastic Horarium: Daily Life (see the two aforementioned Shameless Plugs for the specific details on this)

And if you're a plan-ahead-er ...
June 30-July 6 Benedictine Life Week ~ Monastic Profession: Stability, Conversatio, Obedience

Also .... the Archdiocese of Louisville is holding a "gathering for single Catholic women who are examining the purpose and direction of their lives" on March 5 ... the hope is that perhaps this can lead to the formation of a Women's Discernment Group or other kinds of programming. E-mail me if you're interested and I can pass along specifics.

And, while I'm at it, I might as well hype two other events, possibly for you parental-types ....

April 21-22 Discover the Treasure of the Hill ~ an overnight experience for 9th & 10th grade girls (of course, my students keep asking about "The Slumber Party"). There will be one in the fall for juniors and seniors
June 13-15 Camp Marian ~ for girls currently in grades 6, 7, 8, with all sorts of camp-y kinds of fun, including swimming, tents, games, archery, campfire, etc. High school and college women are also welcome to join us as counselors for the time.

So, if you have an interest in any or all of these, let me know and I can give you more info. Or, if you have any ideas of what might be helpful and/or if you can't make it to these but still want more info, let me know and I'll help you out with that, too.

Or, if you're not on the Vocation Market, but still want to come by and check our place out, we've got a pretty involved retreat center. And heck, we're Benedictines, and what are Benedictines known for if not their hospitality .... so even if you want to come take a hide-out day and check out some way-cool architecture, check out our tourism info or, better yet, talk to me ... I'll set ya up!

So what are you waiting for? Come on and register already!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Benedictine Blogging

*Christopher at Bending the Rule has created a webring for "those who in various ways practice in the way of Ss. Benedict and Scholastica." I think it's a great idea, because I know I occasionally happen upon Benedictines or Oblates or others who follow Benedictine spirituality, and so it will be nice to have it not be such a random chance of fate to come upon them. So, thanks, *Christopher, for making it happen! And if you're one of those aforementioned Benedictine types ... let him know!

Weekend Wonderings -- The Æxasperating Aggravation ænd Annoyance Ædition

I thought I'd take a moment here to share one of my major pet peeves, something that really bugs me and drives me batty .... something that I find so incredibly irreparably rude and inconsiderate. And you know what that is? Certain bloggers. Actually, it's just this one blogger that I'm really taking issue with these days. It's awful, what this person does. All these people come to aforeunmentioned blog and leave all sorts of wonderfully supportive and brillantly insightful comments, and how does this person respond? She/he/it doesn't! {One of the token male teachers in my all-girls high school would get a little annoyed at the turbo-militant feminist campus minister; one day he shared with us the best way to abbreviate the whole She/He/IT situation. He also wanted to ask her, one day after we had just prayed the "Our Parent, who art in heaven," if at the Easter renewal of baptismal promises, she rejected Satan and all her evil ways. But, while he was smart not to actually ask the questions, we in his third period history class derived great entertainment from it. But, as I have a tendency to do, I digress.} Anyway, not only does this blogger not respond to aforementioned comments, oftentimes there's the potential for the commenter to feel as though the commenter's thoughts were completely disregarded. How rude!

Ok, so maybe once in a great while the comments would be acknowledged and accoladed {is that even a word?}, but more often folks are just left hangin' in the wind. Not even a "Thanks for stopping by." I should teach him/her/it a little bit about Benedictine Hospitality!

And to make matters worse, as if they couldn't get any worse, this blogger actually has the gall to request, nay, demand Audience Participation every weekend for exactly the last five months .... which is pretty bold considering the blog has only been in existence for seven months and three days {although, technically, it's been around longer, but I'm thinking in terms of it's being a real blog}.

Can you believe it? I can't imagine anyone feeling the desire to leave comments when they will receive so little respect and attention!

And yet, if you've followed of the links, you've discovered the reality of the blog in question, and that this post should more rightfully be titled Weekend Wonderings -- The Apologetic Ædition.

Which leads to this week's very simplistic and almost rhetorical question:
Can you ever forgive me? :-)
Peace out, folks, and have an awesome weekend!

I Found My Voice .... And It's a Mechanized Man!

Courtesy of Susan Rose .... her cousin has just started feed2podcast.com that gives voice to your blog. It seemed pretty cool when I listened to her post (right now it's a man's voice but they're adding a woman's voice soon), so I went ahead and signed up too. I haven't had much exposure to the text-to-voice technology lately -- it's pretty impressive stuff. And I have to add that, as I listened to my recent rant about the death penalty, my smart-aleck tendencies really shone through in the hearing of it!

I gotta say, it's one thing to write and read my posts .... it's a totally different experience to hear them read out loud. Thanks, Susan, for the heads-up.

So, on the sidebar there's a Blog2PodcastListenNow button -- feel free to check it out.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Did Anyone Else Catch This?

From the transcript of the President's Media Availability yesterday (Whatever happened to "Press Conference"? Or is this just saying that he's "available" but may or may not give answers that are on-track with the questions?) :
And so people don't need to worry about security. This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America.
Is this the same guy who gets obsessively paranoid about the idea of Homeland Security, and reminds us of our need for fear every three minutes?

The other line I thought was great was from Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, in defending the fact that they didn't give the 45-day examination and investigation period as set down by a 1992 law:
"We didn't ignore the law," Kimmitt again maintained. "We might interpret it differently."


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bits of Bloggling Revisited

Since just jumping on board the "Random Bullets o' Crap" bandwagon is just way too normal for me, I decided to return to the old classic. And thus you find yourself with another edition of ....

A Veritable Hodgepodgeanamy of Bite-Sized Bits of Bloggable Brain Burps
»»» Tomorrow night I have to get the magnificent privilege of chaperoning the Freshman/Sophomore Dance. Last week, one of my kids asked me before class if I was going to the dance – and then she asked me what I was going to wear!?!?! Quite frankly, I hadn't even thought about it. Then the thought flashed briefly through my mind (or perhaps one of the kids suggested it) about wearing a habit, since we have some that we rent out for Sound of Music perfomances. But, as much as I was tempted by the idea (especially for how it would mess with the freshmen, who don't know me) .... I decided that it would be best to leave that habit at home. Which, of course, still leaves me with the dilemma of what to wear. It's just kinda crazy to me, this whole idea of chaperoning a dance. With all my teaching, youth ministry, and even boarding school work, I've never done that. It feels like an incredibly grown-up teacherly thing to be doing. Which begs the question .... me?!?!? That's crazy-talk! Any of you grown-up teacherly-types have some wardrobe advice for the Dance Chaperoning Nun?

»»» South Dakota apparently is setting the stage for a potential overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Now, to be personally honest, I would have to admit that I don't jump too excessively on the abortion bandwagon one way or another. But that's primarily because I see the larger picture of the Catholic Church's teaching on "Culture of Life" — and notice how limited that "culture" often is perceived and addressed. I love how our current president is so pro-life that he personally signed off on 150 executions while governor of Texas. Like I said when I first started blogging, "There's More to 'Life' Than Abortion." So South Dakota is determining that life begins at fertilization, which will not only potentially affect abortions but also some forms of birth control. We've already got that idea from the cases where the murder of a pregnant woman can result in charges of a double homicide. But, once again, my engineering-mind requires me to take the logical viewpoint, and therefore ask the question: Do we really, in all honesty, think and believe that simply making abortion illegal is the solution? If we were really that obedient and law-abiding of a nation, then we wouldn't have any murders, drunk driving, rapes, armed robberies, underage drinking, lying, cheating, stealing, or anything else like that. Heck, we'd all drive at or even below the speed limit – none of that "You won't get a ticket if you don't go more than 10 over" stuff. I suppose it would make too much sense for us to look at the reasons why so many people are choosing abortions, and address some of those root causes, rather than just use it as another way to fill up our already way-too-crowded prisons.

»»» Speaking of prisons, California executions are in a holding pattern while they work out the ethical details of physicians who are sworn to uphold life and their involvement in the killing of a person. On my way home today, Talk of the Nation on NPR was discussing this issue, and I was struck by a great disconnect (which I've addressed more than once on here). It's like I said in my post about Tookie Williams – this whole concept of wanting to kill people humanely ... how exactly does that work? We don't want it to be cruel, that's why we don't electrocute any more (unless the injection is deemed impractical or unconstitutional). We don't want the person to feel any pain, so we want to be sure that they're fully unconscious when we kill them. Hello!?!?! We're killing them. Doesn't just the very fact of being killed/executed/murdered cause pain? I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I think the whole concept of losing everything, including my own life, could be a pretty significant source of pain and trauma. But, no ... we'll make sure they're fully doped up before they die. After all, we're not like those cruel and evil Roman emperors, who threw people into a pit of starving lions. We're far more civilized today. Today we have drugs! One of the guests on TOTN addressed this very issue, asking the question: Who exactly are we wanting to protect from pain? Is it really about the condemned, or are we just trying to make the idea more palatable to us?

»»» Since those two posts seem rather Social Justice-y, I guess I'll go ahead and rant about mention my kids. At my school, the kids switch at the semester; I went from a Social Justice class of twelve to a class of twenty-nine, with none count 'em none of my kids from last semester. We also had to have some turbo-long-extended Don't-Have-Sex presentation, so I haven't really gotten to work with this group a whole lot (and it's March?!? And conferences are Monday?!?). Now, as you may recall, my previous juniors had a few misconceptions when they arrived in my classroom. But it was a small group, and a good group (including someone who could first-hand counter all the "poor people downtown stereotypes"), and by the end of the term I think I succeeded in my mission of raising their awareness level a bit. Twelve people, you can do that. You can discuss and counter and debate. Eventually one kid'll see the light, and now she'll join me in the debate, and it snowballs from there. A class of thirty, though? It's a lot harder to engage everyone in the discussion – especially if, at any given time, at least one-third of them are involved in their own conversations and/or note-passing. Before the Don't-Have-Sex speakers, we were looking at women's issues (glass ceiling, feminization of poverty, etc.); today we did an activity based around this picture. Their responses consistantly revolve around the ideas of "That's just how it is ... we can't change the world ... that's just life ... besides, people who look like that are a threat. You're saying that if I see a creepy guy on the street that I shouldn't be nervous?" No, I'm simply asking what makes him a "creepy guy," and asking you to consider the possibility that perhaps there's more to him than your initial reaction. I don't know how many times today I repeated that "I'm not saying to get rid of stereotypes; we all have them. It's that we need to be aware of them and look beyond them." But their response was that the whole activity was pointless, because Santa's not a real person, and people in turbans are real people and blow up buildings. Even the stereotypes about teenagers – they all acknowledged them, but "We can't change what they think." I just don't know if I can do it. Letters of intent came out and, as much as I love the idea of teaching Social Justice, I'm not sure if I can handle the continual brick wall of these, in many cases, sheltered upper-middle-class white girls. It might be one of those things where I just feel a little too strongly and passionately about the subject matter. But then I wonder ... since I've got the sophomores this year and thus would most likely have already had many of the same kids and therefore trained them in in my methods of "You Must Use Your Brain" ... maybe it would be different. I just don't know ....

»»» And speaking of closed-mindedness, Tuesday we had an inservice for all the Catholic high schools in the diocese. When we got split up into discussion groups for lunch, apparently one of our teachers ended up in a room where the entire discussion was revolving around how we shouldn't have non-Catholics teaching in the schools, or something along those lines. Fortunately, this teacher was the only one of "ours" in that group but, unfortunately, she also happens to be Southern Baptist. When she pointed this out, she added that she's learned a lot about Catholicism and has a deep respect for it; however, she was told that "Catholic" and "Christian" are two separate things, and so her "teaching Christian values" apparently runs thoroughly counter to Catholic values. Funny, last time I checked, Jesus is Jesus ... for all of us. Of course, that's the loving, forgiving, hanging-out-with-sinners Jesus – the one that so many "happen" to forget about. Apparently, too, two other of our non-Catholic teachers went up at communion time to receive a blessing (standard procedure these days, a way of involving even those who cannot participate in the Eucharist) ... except they were told (truthfully speaking, they were actually refused) by the Eucharistic minister that if they wanted a blessing, they had to get in Father's line (not standard procedure – any Eucharistic minister can do it, and is instructed thusly during training). Fortunately, again, they know from their experience at our school that we're not all like that, but I still was furious – both on their accounts, for how they were treated, and on my account that, as a nun, I am even more obviously and deliberately associated with "The Church," and so even when it's individuals within "The Church" who act so inhospitably I feel almost a guilt by association type of thing. So, for all you folks out there who have received similar treatment at the hands of "The Church" ... please don't assume we're all that not-nice.

And, on that note, it's (well past) time for bed. Sorry about the ranting – that wasn't my initial intent, but .... well, at least I'm posting, right? :-)

Peace out to all ya'll ..... happy Fridays to you!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

E-mail that made its way around school today. True, it's another one of those famous urban legends, but with all the other teacher-folk out there, and Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences looming large on my Monday night agenda, I thought I'd go ahead and share anyway.

"Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting the right staff member, please listen to all your options before making a selection:
»»» To lie about why your child is absent, press 1
»»» To make excuses for why your child did not do his work, press 2
»»» To complain about what we do, press 3
»»» To swear at staff members, press 4
»»» To ask why you didn't get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you, press 5
»»» If you want us to raise your child, press 6
»»» If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit someone, press 7
»»» To request another teacher for the third time this year, press 8
»»» To complain about bus transportation, press 9
»»» To complain about school lunches, press 0

If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, homework, and that it's not the teachers' fault for your children's lack of effort . . . hang up and have a nice day!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I've Never Claimed Normalcy ....

At Least Indiana Can Agree to Spring Forward

Can anyone explain ....

.... why I've been getting a huge overabundance of Viagra spam in my e-mail-box?

Does it not matter that the address in question is for a Catholic women's monastery?

Even if I wanted to "enlarge [some non-existant body part] to please the ladies in my life" .... I don't know, I just think they're wasting their marketing money on us.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Weekend Wonderings -- Penitential Ponderings

The Rule of Benedict
Chapter 49 ~ The Observance of Lent

The life of a monastic ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of our own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 1:6). In other words, let each one deny themselves some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing.

All should, however, make known to the prioress or abbot what they intend to do, since it ought to be done with their prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the prioress or abbot will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving a reward. Therefore, everything must be done with their approval.
Once again, Benedict acknowledges the weaknesses of human nature. All throughout the Rule, he includes himself in the the slackers of humanity — "We read, after all, that our holy Fathers, energetic as they were, did all this in a single day. Let us hope that we, lukewam as we are, can achieve it in a whole week" [RB 18:25]; at the end of the Rule he discusses all the books that can guide us — "For observant and obedient monks, all these are nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtues; but as for us, they make us blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent" [RB 73:7]. That's why he calls this a "little rule for beginners." It's so reassuring that Benedict doesn't talk down to us, like he's the one with all the answers and we're all just pathetic pond scum. And I think that recognition of our humanness plays a significant part in the enduring appeal of Benedict's Rule, not just for monastics, but with applications to all levels and styles of life.

But, I digress. I mainly, with that rambling, wanted to point out his line of how we should always be living the "good" life of Lent, but since a huge majority of us aren't that strong-willed, we should at least make the most of these forty days before us. And the fact that, in Benedict's eyes, the lack of a "continual Lent" is perfectly OK, understandable, and acceptable. Like my quote from Kathleen Norris last week, it's the me-bashing because I'm not perfect that's the real issue to be addressed.

And if I may digress a tiny bit further to clear up any potential misconceptions ... the element of getting the abbot's approval is not so they can check up on us, or to pass judgmenton what we feel to be an appropriate Lenten practice. It's more for the element of support and blessing. And, as I mentioned before in the context of Benedict's Steps of Humility, there's something to be said for sharing your heart with someone or, in this case, sharing your intention. For me, it's partially the external accountability -- not that the prioress will come to me on Easter morning and ask if I maintained my Lenten practice, but having told her that "This is what I intend to do" makes me feel more responsible to follow-through with it.

A couple year ago, I was reading one of Thomas Keating's books (I'm pretty sure it was him, anyway --- apologies if I'm remembering wrong), and he told of the Lenten practices in his Trappist monastery "back in the day." At that time, it was almost a competition among the monks about who could make it through the Lenten fast; thus the "sacrifice" turned into more of a battle for pride. Anyway, Keating (or whoever) had some health issues that caused him to have to give up the fast partway through Lent. Nonetheless, the one year he felt his health was up to it, and he requested permission from the abbot to fast as his Lenten practice -- he wasn't gonna faint this year. Much to his dismay, not only did the abbot not grant him permission to fast, but actually assigned him the practice of going to the refectory every afternoon at 3:00 to eat a Hershey bar and drink a full glass of milk. Needless to say, Father Keating was horrified. At this time, he was the Novice Master. How could he sit there and eat chocolate while he was trying to instruct these new members in the way of monastic life? He initially tried to hide this practice, but then realized that this "penance" was in fact a far greater sacrifice for him than fasting. To submit to the wisdom of the abbot, who knew that what was truly needed here was gaining the weight, strength, and health ... to go against what all the cool monks were doing ... to do something that ran so contrary to his desires and inclinations ... that was what made the Lenten sacrifice for him. And he then used it as a teachable moment for his novices.

As Keating (or whoever) learned .... it's not about doing the "right" thing. It's about doing the right thing for you. And sometimes it might look like the "wrong" thing to someone else, but it's not about "what others will think," either. I think it was my postulant year, where one of my three things was that I would do something for me every day. Sounds selfish and horrendously non-sacrificial, but the truth of the matter was that I was so focused on my classes and jobs and all the things that I "should" be doing that I was completely ignoring and neglecting myself. So whether it was reading a fun book, or doing photography stuff, or playing piano, or wandering the grounds ... each and every one of those forty days I had to do something fun and non-necessary. While it may appear to be totally lazy and slackerish, the reality was that it forced me to consider myself worthy of my own time rather than dismiss my own value, desires, and interests. Me spending intentional time for me doesn't happen because there's all that "more important" stuff out there ... so me needing to actively indulge my interests was in fact the bigger sacrifice than doing extra work would have been.

The "traditional" Lenten observances of the Church revolve around the concepts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (our prioress presents it this year as a balance between "giving up" and "giving to", of shaping both our relationships with God and others). I've tended to broaden my understanding of these ideas, though. After all, fasting isn't limited to food -- is giving up candy so I can lose a few pounds more sacrificial than fasting from complaining about people and gossiping? (My favorite attempts growing up always included giving up homework and lima beans ... not quite the spirit of the thing, though!) And almsgiving is more than just throwing a few extra pennies in the pot on Sundays ... what about taking the time to go up and visit the folks in the monastery infirmary, or to intentionally sit at the same dinner table as the sister who annoys me?

It's tough, because I've always struggled with the idea of choosing something I should be doing anyway as a Lenten practice. It's like at school -- sometimes, if a kid asks me for something and I'm feeling feisty, I'll ask "What's in it for me?" When they say they'll behave in class or do their homework or their love and respect or anything like that, I point out that they should be doing that anyway. Same thing here. If I give up candy because I want to lose weight, or decide to eat more fruit because I don't get enough of them in my system ... then, in my mind, I'm thinking about a diet, not Lent. Which makes it hard, then, because there's so much that I "should" already be doing, and don't. I guess that's why I tend to think broader than the obvious automatics. That, and the fact that I've gotta be odd, freakish, and different.

And that's not to say that giving up foods are bad. The year before I entered community, I gave up ice cream, and it was not a fun Lent -- especially since I had spent the winter perfecting my milkshake making skills. Plus, I didn't manage to finish my ice cream before Ash Wednesday, so I got to see it looking at me every time I opened my freezer to get out some ice cubes. Sigh. But I was giving it up because I love ice cream ... and, believe me, I went back to the ice cream after Easter. I guess for me it's more the idea of "Am I doing this to better myself and strengthen myself, or is this just convenient timing?"

But the time has come once again to fill out my Bona Opera (that's Latin for "Good Work," not a bunch of singing rawhide chewies in Viking hats), the sheet on which we share our Lenten practice with the prioress, and request her permission. It's kinda cool — the prioress receives them all, signs each one with a blessing; they all get blessed during the Ash Wednesday Mass, and then they get returned to us. Our current prioress has added to the Bona Opera an element out of Chapter 48 of the Rule (which, incidentally enough, is titled "The Daily Manual Labor" ... and yet it talks mostly about reading!): "During this time of Lent each one is to receive a book from the library, and is to read the whole of it straight through. These books are to be distributed at the beginning of Lent."

And so ... I'm thinkin' of getting a little outside inspiration. Of course, that assumes that I've got anyone still reading after all this rambling ....

And so may I present ..... the Wonderings of the Weekend:
What are your thoughts Lenten practices?
What about reading a book for Lent?
Any suggestions for me on either one? :-)

Thanks, and Happy Lenting!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Long Weekend?

Driving to school at 7:30 this morning, I noticed that gas was $2.04.

Driving past the same station on my way home at 3:00, I noticed it was $2.27.

Nah. I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And now, a word from the "Awwwww" files

WESTON, Fla. - If any female juniors at Cypress Bay High School weren’t aware of classmate Paul Kim — they know him now. The 17-year-old junior ordered 500 red roses and had them delivered to nearly all his female classmates on Valentine’s Day. A card attached to the roses said, “To all the lovely ladies of 2007, here’s wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Affectionately, Paul Kim.” He said he used money he had been saving since his birthday in December to pay for the roses, which cost about $900. “To me, Valentine’s is a special day,” Kim said. “I realized that not many girls would get anything and it would be an ordinary day. I figured I’d take the initiative and put a smile on their face.


Looking for some activity to do with my Church History kids tomorrow and I come across this.

And it has left me speechless, with nothing to say except .... ya gotta check it out!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Ya Wanted to Know ... Part I

Picking up a few of the {easier} questions from my Open Forum ....

Imagine the world is ending in fire and chaos. Whether its an alien invasion or nuclear war or a super-virus or armegedon or whatever. Some people are dying, some are just running scared, some are taking advantage, some are trying to help the wounded, some are trying to fight back. Assuming your personal obligations do not force you into one position or another, where do you see yourself?
Hmmmmm .... Anonymous (who are you, anyway?) really threw me off on this one. I had actually just been talking to my kids about martyrs, and how they were willing to die for their faith; one of them asked me: "Would you be?" Tough call. I mean, it's one thing to respond to a situation; it's another to put yourself in a place of crisis. And, even still, I really couldn't answer her. Same thing here. I honestly don't know. I'd like to think that I'd be all about helping the other people, but .... I can be a real weenie sometimes. Quite possibly I'd be hiding under a table in a corner somewhere – that's often a common place for folks to find me. Or is that too much of a cop-out answer?

What would you do if you were banned from chocolate for the rest of your life and were only allowed to eat celery and pork?
Well, MertonFan, you've got two different thoughts there. If I were only allowed to eat celery and pork, well then I suppose I'd eat celery and pork. If I were merely banned from chocolate ... well, I suppose I'd have to deal with the non-chocolate ice cream varities. But I'm sure I'd manage.

Anything? Ok...Since I'm going to hell and all anyway I might as well ask, and I don't want to assume anything becuase I really don't know but...Do Benedictine nuns get to have sex and if not, don't cha wanna?
Ahhh, Elizabeth cuts right to the chase. The question everybody wants to ask, but they're too nervous about the whole "nun-pedestal" to actually say the words. In a nutshell, no. As monastics, we are called to live a celibate lifestyle. And, once I figure out what that means, I'll tell you! No, seriously, though .... if you consider that the Catholic teaching is that sex belongs within the context of the marriage commitment, then it's no big leap to the fact that I, as an unmarried individual, should not be having sex.

But there's also the community aspect. Celibacy is about more than just "having sex" – especially when viewed in the context of community living. Am I living in a manner conducive to my being a vital part of the community? Am I bringing life to the community as a whole, or am I too invested in one relationship (or thing, for that matter) that I'm turned more inward than outward? Part of the idea, at least as I see it, is that I'm not committed to any one person, which enables me to be available to all people I encounter. Which sounds nice in theory, but the living-out of my "availiability to all" in a manner that includes even those folks who annoy me ... shall I mention that I'm still a new kid at all this?

In terms of "do I wanna" .... one nun-friend (of a different community) from several years ago used the line: "Just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean I've lost my appetite." For me .... it hasn't been necessarily TOO huge, in terms of the "having sex" piece ... but there are times where the idea of a more deeply personal one-on-one relationship could seem kinda appealing. But, unlike what our society so often proclaims, there's more to intimacy than just sex. [See my recent quote from Kathleen Norris] In fact, what we sometimes refer to as "physical intimacy" often isn't really true intimacy at all. So I'm learning how to build the deep connections and the intimate friendships that can sustain me throughout this life.

So, in a nutshell ... no, no sex for Steph. But it's OK.

And of course I'm probably way not-thinking when I decide to try to answer this question when I'm half-asleep ... I'm not sure if this is translating well to those not-too-familiar with the nunly life. So, by all means ... feel free to jump in and add your own thoughts on this matter — particularly those other nunly-types out there! Maybe sometime when my brain is functioning better, I'll do this topic justice with a post of its own, complete with real thoughts and everything!

Two News Tidbits ...

Cheek Wins Gold, Then Pays It Forward ~ It's so nice to see that it's not just about the money for everyone.

Virtual Reality Prepares Soldiers for Real War ~ "It felt like I was in a big video game. It didn't even faze me, shooting back. It was just natural instinct. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!" And we insist that the violence of video games doesn't desensitize us?

Gimme That Ol' Time Religion

courtesy of Lorem ...

I remember when Jesus Christ was about religion. That goes back to when he was caring and compassionate all the time, not just during the political campaign season. He used to bring people together and give them hope. He wouldn't have his people get in your face and tell you to fight gay rights or you'll burn in hell. That's not what he was about. That's not the Jesus who made folks such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson rich and famous. He was a different guy from the 21st-century American Jesus Christ.
Check out the article .... says it perfectly!

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Good Old-Fashioned Barn Raising

Or something like it ...

You may have already seen this, given how our blog circles overlap. In case you haven't, I've lifted the basic info from Andrea's blog, as she and Phantom Scribbler seem to be taking the lead in this situation.

The author of falling down is also a gift has two young daughters. The eldest, who is five, was born with a congenital liver disease and has had two transplants so far. Her health has been poor since November, and she has been in the hospital more than out, having complicated surgeries and procedures to try to track down the source of her internal bleeding. Recently, they believe they found it, only it is a portion of her anatomy that they cannot operate on. The only solution at this point, that they know of, is to have a third transplant; but after several months of hospital stays she is not strong enough to have one. She needs about six months of relatively good health before they could attempt it.

Unfortunately, they ran out of insurance coverage. For the year. As of Monday. This year's one million dollars is gone.

If that insurance company doesn't come to its senses in mighty short order, and there are a few avenues the family has yet to try, a few of us are banding together to host the Internet Fundraiser to End All Internet Fundraisers. Because on top of everything else they're going through, for the love of fucking god, they shouldn't have to worry about how to come up with a million dollars.
Andrea's set up Annika's Internet Insurance Policy, which includes the link to donate funds to the Children's Organ Transplant Association (adds legitimacy and also, if the funds raised exceed Annika's need, they will be used for another child in a similar situation). Additionally, various people are contributing artwork, craft items, etc., to be raffled off (I'm not sure of logistics, check Annika's Internet Insurance Policy page for specifics). Then, peripateticpolarbear has suggested the Virtual Casserole Campaign.

If you have any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or offers, please check in with either Phantom or Andrea. Or leave them here and I'll pass them along.

And, more so than anything else, keep checking Moreena's blog for updates, send her comments of well-wishes and support, and storm heaven.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Weekend Wonderings -- Choose-Your-Own Edition

Well, it's back to the monastery again, folks. This time it's a community formation weekend .... Father Joseph Nassal, CPPS, a Precious Blood priest from the Kansas City diocese is going to be speaking to us about Peace through Reconciliation. Should be interesting ....

However, since I haven't yet answered the questions from last week, I figure I'll give you a couple options:
Add to the list of questions for me to answer
Ignore my slacker self until I finish my work from last week
Contribute your thoughts on Peace and/or Reconciliation

I'd say more than one ....

courtesy of BrightStar(B*) ...
If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

"I asked you, and you would not listen. So I asked my Lord ...."

Aside from the Rule which he wrote, what little we have about the life of Saint Benedict comes from Book II of the Dialogues (traditionally said to be written by Pope Gregory the Great, in the late 500s), a rather brief text. What we know of his twin sister, Scholastica, is even less, comprising merely two chapters of the Dialogues. Yet, it is an impressive story, and she serves us well as the patron saint of Benedictine women. For us, her celebration on February 10 is a Solemnity, the highest level of liturgical feast.

This stained-glass window is in our monastery church. This icon of the story was written by Sister Mary Charles McGough, OSB; it hangs on my wall as a gift to me from the Formation Team on the occasion of my first monastic profession.

In looking online for her story, I came across this article about Scholastica and discovered that it included a translation done by none other than Fr. Harry Hagan of Saint Meinrad Archabbey – one of our brother monks and, in fact, the one that taught me Latin for Benedictine Novices. (He also taught my Psalms and Prayer class, made forever famous with The Lament of the Lonely Cornflake – need I say he's a good guy? But then again, they're all pretty cool over there ...).

But, without further ado, I present to you .... Chapters 33 & 34 of Dialogues, Book II.

Book II, Ch. XXXIII:
1. Gregory [said to Peter the Deacon]:Tell me, Peter, who in this life was lifted higher than Paul? Still he asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn in his flesh, but he was not able to get what he wanted. Likewise, I must tell you about what the venerable Father Benedict wanted to do but could not.

2. Now Benedict had a sister named Scholastica, who had been consecrated to the Almighty Lord from the time of her childhood. She had the custom of visiting him once a year, and the man of God would come down to meet her at a place belonging to the monastery not far beyond the gate. One day she came, as was her custom, and her venerable brother came down to meet her with his disciples. They spent the whole day in the praise of God and in holy conversation. The darkness of night was already falling when they took their meal together. The hour grew later and later as they sat there at table carrying on their holy conversation. His sister, a holy monastic woman, then made a request: "I beg you. Do not leave me this night so that we may talk until morning more about the joys of heavenly life. But he responded, "What are you talking about, my sister? Under no circumstances can I stay outside my cell."

3. Now the heavens were so calm that no cloud appeared in the sky. When this holy monastic woman heard her brother's refusal, she folded her hands and put them upon the table. Leaning down, she put her head on her hands to make a prayer to God. When she raised her head from the table, there broke forth such powerful lightning and thunder and such a flood of rain that neither the venerable Benedict nor the brothers with him could set foot outside the door of the place where they were sitting. Indeed, while resting her head on her hands, this holy monastic woman had poured out a flood of tears on the table, and in this way she had attracted the rain to the calm skies. The flood followed her prayer in an instant. The connection between the prayer and the storm was such that her head rose from the table together with the thunder as if both the raising of her head and the falling of the rain were one and the same action.

4. When the man of God saw that he could not get back to the monastery because of the lightning and thunder and the great flood of rain, he was irritated and began to complain: "May God have mercy on you, my sister. Why have you done this?" And she replied to him: "See, I asked you, and you would not listen to me. So I asked my Lord, and he has listened to me. Now then, go, if you can. Leave me, and go back to the monastery." But unable to go outside, he stayed against his will in a place where he had been unwilling to stay on his own. So it happened that they spent the whole night in vigil, and during their holy conversation about the spiritual life they found fulfillment for themselves in their relationship with one another.

5. I have told this story about what the venerable man wanted but was unable to have. And when we examine his mind, there can be no doubt that he had wanted the sky to remain calm, as it had been when he had come down. But contrary to what he wanted, he found a miracle worked by a woman's heart with the power of the omnipotent God. It is no wonder that the woman who had desired to see her brother that day proved at the same time that she was more powerful than he was. For as John says: "God is love," and according to that most just precept, she proved more powerful because she loved more.

Peter: I confess that your story gives me great pleasure.

Book II, Ch. XXXIV:
1. Gregory: The next day the venerable woman went back to her own cell, and the man of God to his monastery. Three days later while in his cell, he looked up at the sky and saw the soul of his sister after it had gone forth from her body. It was in the form of a dove, and he saw it penetrate the hidden mysteries of heaven. Rejoicing because such glory was hers, he gave thanks to the omnipotent God with hymns and praises, and he announced her death to his brothers.

2. Moreover, he sent people at once to bring her body back to the monastery and to put it in a tomb which he had prepared for himself. And so it happened that even the tomb could not separate the bodies of these two who were always of one mind in God.

Kathleen Norris on the Real Sins of Sex

Kathleen Norris is a poet, writer, and Benedictine oblate (author of The Cloister Walk, Amazing Grace, Dakota, etc.). I've just reached a point in reading The Virgin of Bennington where she's speaking about being at Bennington college in the 1960s, as the very sheltered rural girl now thrown into the city in New York, and how she ended up being the one to hear about all the various sexual exploits of her dormmates:

Although I could not have imagined this then, my years at Bennington did constitute a sort of priestly training. I had to learn to listen carefully, without rushing to judgement. The primary education, or formation, if you will, that I received in college had little to do with books and everything to do with mercy. I learned that sexual preferences and practices, no matter how depraved they might appear on the surface, were significant only insofar as they affected who a person became. Controlling and manipulative sex would replicate itself in controlling and manipulative behavior in the classroom or with one's friends. Watonness might be sheer desperation, masking a suicidal self-debasement, but it might also represent a joyful, lusty sexuality that indicated, at heart, a vast generosity of spirit. Sexual abstinence might be wise and thoughtful, or an embittering rage that fed on belittling others for their perceived sexual weakness. Even as my own sexual experience remained extremely limited, I gained a broad perspective on the range of human sexuality that has served me well.

I now recognize that having friends who indulged in sexual behavior that I found incomprehensible was a test of my spirit that would have been familiar to fourth-century Christian monks. They were uncannily wise about the strength of human sexual desires and blasé when fellow monks would succomb to temptation. The real scandal, to them, was in assuming that such behavior would cut a person off from God. Despair, loathing, and presuming to judge were far worse than any sexual misconduct: if the erring monk were to indulge in self-hatred to such a degree that he began to feel that his prayers for forgiveness were useless, or if other monks condemned and rejected him for his licentious behavior. The literature of early monasticism sometimes shocks with its absolute refusal to judge other people. It insists on the supreme value of being steadfast in loving others.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Priorities .... continued ....

This has been migrated and/or adapted at Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Faith or Fiction (twice!), eb the blog .... and perhaps other places that I have yet to discover. So, as we add voices to the conversations -- let's hear them all.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

You Pick Your Battles ... or, What's Really Important?

[cross-posted to Sollicitudo Rei Socialis]

Since I haven't been to the movies in a while, I thought I'd do a little posting on what kind of immoral trash they're circulating these days under the guise of "entertainment." So, two days later, here's what I recall being exposed to:

»»» Two non-extensive episodes of pre-marital sex
»»» Two shots of a woman's bare breasts
»»» A couple shots of a guy's backside
»»» Occasional use of the f-word as an expletive (as opposed to a common adjective)
»»» Some drinking and smoking, neither to great excess
»»» An extra-marital affair, occuring every couple years or so
»»» Perhaps two minor fist-fights
»»» A disemboweled sheep

I tell you, the garbage they're putting out these days in the movie theaters, it just makes me sick. Can you believe it? Can you believe that they were actually able to produce this movie, and make money on it? I mean, really! And they managed to do it with an R-rating. Incredible!

Because, if you think about it, there are PG movies out there "worse" than this. Whole heck of a lot more sex, drugs, violence, and language. As movies go today, this was a pretty clean film. And yet it was R?

Oh, that's right, I forgot to mention .... the "affair" involved two men.

Ah, what a difference gender makes.

Explain to me, please, why the "morality" of this film warrants more uproar than the "morality" of a film like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

I'm totally serious here. How many movies today (as well as TV shows and video games) glorify violence, and relay the message of "Shoot whoever gets in your way"? How many promote the idea that sex is for pleasure and if your spouse isn't cuttin' it, then feel free to look elsewhere? How many encourage the objectification of women (or men) as something to merely be used for one's own pleasure? How many support the attitude of "Money is Everything" and that it's completely OK to do whatever is necessary to get it?

And yet this film, with its minimal nudity, minimal violence, and minimal language, is the biggest threat to our society today?

OK, fine. You don't like homosexual activity being presented in such a fashion. You're entitled to your opinion. But please answer me this one question:

Is it the worst?

I remember when I worked at a boarding school; the motto of the principal I worked with was "You pick your battles." You can't fight everything, so you decide which is most important and/or most fixable, and focus on those issues.

And so I ask again:

That listing of "offensive content" with which I began this post .... does this listing demonstrate the most depraved content of American entertainment today?

I don't think so. Heck, if it was between a guy and a girl, it'd get a PG rating and no one would want to go see it because it's so clean-cut.

But putting the affair between two guys, all of the sudden it becomes worse than all the shoot-em-ups in the world.


I have a problem with this, because I have a problem with the priorities that it shows.

If you're choosing your battles, people, then how can this movie be the biggest battle? At least this movie doesn't encourage killing anyone. At least this movie doesn't glorify illegal substances. At least this movie doesn't turn people into things. But ... it does show an unattainable love.

Here's the deal, folks. There are gay people out there, whether you like it or not. You can argue nature versus nurture, you can debate if it's changable or not, but the fact of the matter remains. There are gay people out there.

And again I ask: Is this the worst problem facing our world today?

Then tell that to the parents of the 7-year-old girl who was shot at her daycare center in an upper-middle-class suburb of Washington, DC, last week. She was shot by an 8-year-old classmate whose father, a convicted felon, had shown him just the day before how to cock and release the hammer before pulling the trigger.

Tell that to the Southern Baptists of Bibb County, Alabama, who had no church to attend this morning, since someone had decided that torching five area churches would be fun.

And all the world-wide violence erupting over the Danish cartoon of Muhammad?

But no. Apparently, the biggest issue facing our world today is who is allowed to love whom.

Which, in and of itself, is thoroughly absurd. It's not like the world is overflowing with this massive surplus of love and we need to cut back or else we'll drown in a flood of kindness.

I'd put good money on even the most adament advocates against this movie knowing someone to whom this movie has spoken. They might not be aware of it, but I bet they know gay people. You know why? Cuz they're just like you and me. Oh, sure, some of them really buy into the "gay culture" and make a big deal out of it, but you know what? There are a lot more who are just normal people, living with the one they love. Heck, I've got some different friends where I'm not even sure. Are they just good friends and roommates, or are they "good friends" {wink wink nudge nudge}?

Does it even matter? In the grand scheme of the world, does it even matter?

What I've found rather interesting in the last week or so of blog-surfing is discovering people's shifting understanding of gays and lesbians. Faggots on the Third Floor have been detailing the major health issues of their son, The Chuzzle, and the illegalities of the donor bank with whom they worked. Here is a brief snippet of an e-mail Estelle recieved from an unknown lurker:

I'm guessing you & I could not be more different, I am a married, conservative, Christian, rebublican wallflower. I honestly always dissaproved of children being raised by same sex couples & I never considered the woman who did not bear the child a mom. Until you. I read your blog to learn about Charlie's rash & I found myself desperate to take the pain away from your son. .... As I continued to read, my sympathy grew for you as well. I could also feel your pain in your words and it hit me: this is a mommy desperate to help her child, who cares that their family is different then mine? This woman is fighting so hard to help her family, just as I would. ... Wishing you all health, happiness, and the joy that only mommy's and their sons can share.
ham & cheese on wry has also been posting an episodic presentation of a friendship that, much to her surprise, became much more than "just" a friendship; one of the comments on Part V said:

Very, very nice piece of writing Curly. I've never had those feelings, and honestly, couldn't see how two females could fall in love. I feel ashamed to think that I was so naive to think that love didn't "happen" the way it did with straight people. You've opened my eyes and changed my perception and I am grateful for that.
Heck, even Focus on the Family editor Gary Schneeberger has a bit of a conversion of heart. Granted, he's ultimately promoting the "We Can Change Them" program, but he still brings up an excellent point:

It's only been in the last couple of days that I've realized where this kind of thinking had illogically led me: to the conclusion that I have all the moral high ground. And it's only been in the last several hours, as I've wrestled with getting these thoughts out of my head and onto the computer screen, that I've realized how dangerous — and shameful — such thinking is.
In the cultural and policy battles we fight every day, particularly on issues like the normalization of homosexuality and the availability of abortion, it's easy to take on airs of superiority like those I've been wearing. Maybe it's because we have the truth of Scripture on our side; maybe it's because we're fallen human beings prone to arrogance and pride and every other sin under the sun — just like those on the other side of the ideological aisle. Most likely, it's a combination of the two.
Whatever causes it, though, there is no disputing it cripples our witness for Christ — no matter how we wind up faring on the Culture War scorecard. A victory won gracelessly or gloatingly is no victory at all; even if we eventually succeed in making abortion no longer legal, what have we really accomplished for the Kingdom if our tactics and attitudes drive the people who most need God further away from him?
To watch a film like "Brokeback Mountain" and react the way I did does not please the Lord. He loves those who laughed at that tragic scene I described earlier precisely as much as He loves me. He longs to heal their hearts. If I hope to be a tool He uses to do so, and that ought to be my goal as someone who has felt called to work at a Christian ministry, I've got to do more than sniff at the insensitivity and immaturity of those gay men and women I watched the movie with. I've got to do more than be disgusted at the subject matter of the film. I've got to consider why they laughed — and, in the larger context, why they view this film as such a watershed moment for themselves and their movement.
And so again I ask .... is this truly the biggest issue facing our world today? Are these people like Estelle and Curly single-handly contributing to the downfall of Western Society as we know it?

One of the couples who got married when the whole thing first exploded in either San Francisco or Boston was these two women who had been together for 54 years.

Explain to me how their committed relationship does more damage to the idea of "marriage" than Britney Spears' 55-hour marriage -- brief enough that the headline includes both the wedding and annulment.

I have one student who, in her introductory paper for me, explained that her parents and stepparents have all been divorced, her uncles are all divorced, one brother is divorced and the other is in the process of getting divorced. During Vocations Awareness Week, one of our sisters was asking her kids about the four vocations (priest/deacon, religious brother/sister, married, single) ... except the four they remembered were "priest/deacon, religious brother/sister, married, and divorced." Hmmm. And the 54-year commitment of those two women caused this?

I'm all about making marriage mean something. But shouldn't we start with the pre-nup? The "I'll say I'm doing this for life, but when we split up, I'll get this and you can have that." The quickie Vegas chapels? The overabundance of divorce attorneys? The media messages that say, "If it's broke, don't fix it. Just throw it out and buy a new model"?

An yet, even with all that, I find it hard to see "the sanctity of marriage" as the biggest issue facing our world today. I'm curious about the amount of time, energy, and money that is being spent on the idea to "change the constitution" so that its definition of marriage matches mine, or to say what movies can and can't be shown.

And is that really the best use of that time, energy, and expense?

There's no bigger need?

What about the troops who don't have the right armor? What about the folks in Missippi, also destroyed by Katrina but in the shadow of New Orleans? What about those on Medicaid who can't get their prescriptions right now because the kinks in the new system haven't been worked out yet? What about all the people living on the streets of our Nation's Capital -- supposedly the richest nation in the world? What about the rural kids getting way too involved in meth? What about the miners who have to risk their lives to put food on the table?

We're so worried about who can share a house that we don't consider those who don't have a house. We're so worried about who can share medical benefits that we don't consider those who don't have medical benefits. We're so worried about who can raise a child that we don't consider those kids who don't have someone to raise them. We're so worried about who can visit the hospital that we don't consider those who don't have someone to visit them.

Is that really where the focus should be?

I teach my Social Justice kids that we need to be meeting people's basic needs. Once the world has been clothed, and fed, and housed, and given their rightful dignity, self-worth, and value .... then we can worry about who's allowed to like whom. Until then ....

Let's worry about what really matters.go to main page

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Blog is Blog and Real is Real, and Never the Twain Shall Meet .... maybe

Back in December Lorem threw out a "Anyone wanna go see Brokeback Mountain" request; early-ish in January she seemed to be blogging a bad day, so I e-mailed her to see if a movie might lighten her spirits; a week or two later, she returned the favor to my pitted blogishness. This being the first weekend I think since I moved in August that I haven't had to be back at the monastery for anything, it was decided that this would be a great opportunity for me to develop something that I knew, once upon a time -- this idea of a "life."

Throughout this week, e-mails of indecisiveness were flying. I'm not the best with that stuff anyway, and it's even harder when you don't know each other -- for example, you don't want to suggest a steakhouse and risk the backlash of the unknown vegetarian. I mean, I know her -- I read her blog, she reads mine -- but it's a wierd kind of "knowing" that you get with these blogs. Heck, it's very odd for me to think of her as having a name that's not Lorem.

So, what to do, what to do. Movies aren't necessarily the most socialable kind of outings, but to be stuck at some restaurant when you have no clue who this person is or what she's like or why in the world you sent some e-mail suggesting some form of an outing or ..... not that I worried about that, though. Not at all. Not in the least. No e-mails were sent from the very-outspoken-yet-also-very-shy me to a good friend asking "What was I smoking?!?!?" No thoughts ran through my head alternating between being psyched about a night out and being heebie-jeebied about a night out.

The solution? You set the movie time, and then find somewhere casual low-key near the theater to grab food beforehand. After all, if one person is coming from work, food might be a good thing, but the movie puts a definite limit on the awkward potentialities. Again, not that I was doing this extensive of plot manipulation ahead of time (Lorem is probably reading this and discovering what a true spaz that I am) .... it's just the nerves of a new situation, right? I haven't horribly offended you now, have I?

As it turns out, that was all proven rather unnecessary. And, I'm guessing, probably at least somewhat mutual (since she wasn't sure if I'd be showing up in a habit). We got our tickets, then went to a nearby Chinese place (Mmmmm, Chinese) and had quite the nice dinner. All sorts of conversation -- family, work, nun-myth-smashing, sports. She asked the question that has surfaced in my Weekend Wonderings about "Why Benedictine," so I gave her the nutshell version of the not-too-simple story (that you all will get soon enough, I promise!).

And then there was the movie, which will get a post of its own very shortly. All in all, a very nice evening. Saying goodbye (with her added "Can I blog about this?"), it seemed like "my former life" when I hung out with friends and did normal-people stuff. I should do normal-people stuff more often.

So thanks, Lorem, it was fun. We should do it again sometime.

Of course, now all the stresses of figuring out what we'd do Friday night are resurfacing .... this time in the context of worrying if our blog accounts match or if she didn't like me or if I offended her or .... Have I mentioned my obsessive tendencies? I guess I'll just have to go check out what she said. I can always edit, right?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Kinda Depressing

I was going back through my October blogging to find some posts of sympathy for Natty and realize that I had all sorts of thoughts, insights, comments and everything else back then.

And then I look at January's posts .....

What happened???

I miss my intelligence....

Weekend Wonderings -- Whaddya Wanna Know?

As swiped from LutheranChik from a while back ....

While randomly accessing blogs the other evening (and my apologies to the RevGal from whom I stole this idea), I came upon a great post: "Ask me anything." Sort of like The Carol Burnett Show, when she'd take questions from the audience.
So in lieu of another meme, I'm going to open the floor to questions. Yes; all five of you. Ask away. Ask me anything about anything -- myself, my dog, the Maternal Unit, the fair city of Outer Podunk, my little white clapboard church next to a hayfield...anything. Go for it.
So, for lack of a better question to ask, and the need to head out shortly for a BloggerBuddy Meet-Up revolving around Food & Filmage, I thusly put the question to you. While my last Wonderings were Audience Participatory, they were of the more Imponderable Variety. But, today, I'm feeling rather Egotistical and Self-Centered. And no, I have absolutely no idea why I am feeling the need to Capitalize Letters. But it's kinda Fun! But, I digress ....

Plus, maybe it'll help with the Bloggers Block ... save you all from the predigested cat food, made-up words, and other such silliness that I've been giving you lately ....

Whaddya Wanna Know?
Ask me anything.
I'll either tell you the answer, make up an answer, or deftly dodge the question.
Serious, silly, whatever. This is your time.
Have fun!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bits of Bloggling (that's short for Babbling Blogging)

A Veritable Hodgepodgeanamy of Bite-Sized Bits of Bloggable Brain Burps
Yes, folks, the day you dreaded has arrived. Either the funk has lifted, or Steph has completely lost it. I'm leaning towards the latter, particularly considering the compelling combination of creatively composed words with alluring alliteration. But hey, at least I'm not discussing pre-digested cat food anymore, right? {And, as a good friend of mine from college would always add: And if you have butt hay, you should mow it and bale it, cuz that's pretty gross.}

But(t) ... on with the randomness!

»»» Does anyone else get annoyed at the line in Romans where it says that "the wages of sin is death"? That was the reading for Evening Prayer last night, and it always bugs me. {Particularly because there were signs all around the university where I took a couple education courses while I was working at a boarding school, using that passage to explain why AIDS is around.} It's wages. That's the word being verbed. {I loved Calvin & Hobbes: Verbing wierds words.} Sin merely modifies the subjected word that is to be verbated {as in, have a verb attached to}. Wages is plural; thus, it should receive the pluralized form of the verbation {did I mention the making-up of words?}. Sin is, but wages are. And even if you flip it around — "Death is the wages of sin" — it still doesn't make sense because you're equating a singular with a plural. And besides, who talks like that anyway?!?!?

»»» Then, we have Psalm 137, which we also had at Evening Prayer last night {not that I get distracted during prayer or anything}. Verse 6 always reminds me of a very good friend of mine, who happens to be the Program Director for the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry {at least, I think she is ... not like I've heard from her ... who knows, maybe she's been abducted by aliens. After all, that's what's happened to me, can't you tell? Anyhoo ...}. One time I was visiting her, and she had me doing slave labor I was helping her with this mailing. Needless to say, we got a bit high on the envelope paste (the "wet-washcloth" methodology of mass mailings must not have dawned on either of us), and we began to wonder what would happen if our tongues got too overloaded with the glue from the stamps – would they stick to the roof of our mouth? Then what? So, of course, in the interest of science, we began to experiment what that would be like. Thus, we began speaking without removing the tip of our tongue from the roof of our mouth {I say this like the two of us share a single tongue and mouth-roof, like we're joined at the tongue or something like that. But that sounds really bad. But you know what I'm talking about, right?}. Our speech was thoroughly indecipherable at the beginning (but quite laugh-inducing); however, I would like to inform everyone that this is a skill that, with just an afternoon of practice, can be rather quickly developed, at least for the two of us. The problem last night, though, stems from the fact that I can never read that part of the psalm without thinking of that afternoon and my friend Katie {sorry for "outing" your connection with me, but I figured you wouldn't mind a little FVM publicity -- hope I don't scare them off, though!}. What's worse is that it takes great effort not to recite this psalm precisely in that manner. At the monastery, it's not that noticable, but alternating sides in a house of only five people .... it's just so hard!!!

»»» And, speaking of sticking palates, I saw a commercial for SuperPoliGrip, where they use someone's finger to demonstrate how this stuff is 16-hours-strong. Being denturely clueless, what they show on TV makes it look like it's this whole thing that gets glued to the roof of your mouth, which leads me to wonder .... if this stuff is as strong as they say it is, and you haven't waited the 16 hours for it to loosen up .... how do you detatch your teeth without ripping the roof of your mouth out along with them? Wouldn't that hurt???

And, while I'm sure it brings tears of anguish to your eyes to hear read me say type this and you wail in agony, "Please, whatever you do, don't stop!" {or is it "Please, whatever you do, make it stop!"?}, and while my brain is still brimming with other blatherings to broadcast, I have lesson plans to prep. Thus, I will sign off, and we can all hope that the silliness starts to subside.

In the meantime ..... peace out & sleep good!
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