Monday, June 21, 2010

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591)

I am a crooked piece of iron, and am come into religion to be made straight by the hammer of mortification and penance.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness

I just finished Anne Rice's Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. Let me tell you, I liked it. Of course, I like Anne Rice's writing. It's not all perfect, but some of it is brilliant. This is a good book. She was raised uber-Catholic (daily Mass, Tuesday night novenas, etc.) and yet left the Catholic Church and Christ to become an atheist for nearly forty years. And then she was gently called home by Christ. It's a great little autobiography.

She says some interesting things at the conclusion of her book. One of the things she brings up is the idea of gender and sexuality in the Catholic Church. She is at odds with the teaching of the Church here, and yet she's very quiet about it and, it seems to me, very humble about it. She doesn't demand the Church change anything, but suggests that perhaps our view of gender and sexuality needs to be informed by science much like our views of evolution or heliocentrism have been. Now to understand Anne, gender plays a huge role in who she is as a person and how she sees herself throughout the book (throughout her life). For years she never thought of herself as a girl, but simply as a person. Anne also has a son who is gay. So these ideas of gender and sexuality are important to her personally. But she's honest with it and she sincerely communicates, in spite of where she wishes the Church would change, her love for both Christ and Church. It's an altogether interesting little mix.

(On a related note, Avery was talking to me yesterday and said she was going to be a priest when she grew up. I explained to her that it wasn't possible, and her eyes fell and she told me it wasn't fair.)

This view of Anne's might be something offensive for some of you, but I don't think it ought to be. There are issues I have with Church teachings: I think after a half dozen children or so an occasional *ahem* condom shouldn't be considered grave sin in a financially challenged home. Yet I still do my best to be obedient and submit myself to the teaching of the Church. I may never completely understand why the Church teaches some things. My view of hell leans toward Orthodoxy, but I don't make an issue of it. And I like my Nicene Creed without the filioque, but I still happily pray the Creed with it when I worship with my brothers and sisters. These are areas of tension for me with our Church. But she is the Church. And I love her. And I want nothing but her. This is the same feeling I get from Anne Rice in her book with her "objections." It's worth the read.


And Happy Father's Day to you dads out there. To my dad especially (I love you so much). And to all our priests. And, of course, to our Father, God.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Weekly News, v. ?

Avery has tubes in her ears. I can't see the little blighters, but my eyes aren't what they used to be and I haven't really bothered looking. The surgery went smoothly and so far all seems well. She's complaining of all the loud noises. That seems to me good news. It does get terribly noisy with seven children in a small house now and again. Especially when it's too hot to play outside. Summers, sometimes, here are like a month of rainy days without rain slickers. Stuck inside the house, like firecrackers in clenched fists.

About one week left now until Everyday Is Saturday begins. I'm stoked. If teachers got paid well, teaching would totally rock. Or at least summers would. This summer I'm going to try to re-establish a couple of good disciplines I've gotten away from: daily writing, daily walking. I also want to finally teach Will how to ride a bike (if it's not too hot, otherwise he's on his own). And tie his shoes. And get Jack Henry potty trained. And read a few dozen books. I would like to get up to Michigan to see my family. It's been a while. I have two children now that half of my family has never even met. It would be nice to remedy the situation.

Colbert, On Religions

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Freedom and Discipline

In rejoinder to my depressing post on being tired and fat, here's a clip from Tom Howard's excellent book On Being Catholic:

It is the paradox in which obedience to rules, renunciation of various pleasures, and discipline turn out to be the very tactics by which freedom is gained. And further, it is the paradox in which this hard-won freedom turns out to be synonymous with joy and magnificence and perfection and beauty.

We may see these paradoxes at work at a thousand points. The ballet, for example: How has that ballerina achieved this supple and glorious mastery? Oh, would that my body looked like that and that I had the freedom to execute those breathtaking movements. How do they do it?

By obedience and renunciation and discipline. There is no other way. Thousands of hours, year after year, giving up this pleasure and that food, exercising in utter obscurity, placing oneself wholly under the rigorous direction of the master.

And the fruit of all that? Mastery. Control. Beauty. Perfection. And not only for the dancers themselves. The rest of us are the beneficiaries. Their prowess brings us joy. It hails us with truth in one of its modes, namely, the truth that attaches to man as body. In some sense, the form exhibited by Adam, new-made from clay, is a true form. We feel that the bodies of dancers are reminiscent of that form. The rest of us, full of potato chips and sour cream dips and nachos grande, must make shift to hobble about, wheezing and grunting, hauling our tremulous torsos and abdomens in and out of cars and up and down the stairs. Ah, would that I could move like that dancer, we mourn.


The paradox, of course, could be chased all through the fabric of human life. The freedom to do something is not easily won. The greater the perfection sought, the greater must be the remorselessness of our own self-abandon to the discipline that constitutes the steps up to the summit where freedom reigns in great bliss.

... Concupiscence has undone us.

Now Howard is moving into asceticism and love in this chapter titled, "Catholics and Freedom" - being schooled in Charity and the work involved, but his analogy is precise and apt for me today, especially in light of my recent foray into self-pity.

Since I am speaking of the book, I would highly recommend it. It is perhaps the best modern book written by a convert that I have so far read ("modern" so as not to compare it to such great works as St. Augustine's Confessions, or even to Chesterton's Orthodoxy) about what it means to be Catholic. There are issues that I have with parts of it, but overall it is well-written and beautiful and non-confrontational and certainly worth your time.

Friday, June 04, 2010


I am tired. I have been tired for some time. In the past two weeks, Catie, whose nighttime awakenings are strictly under my governorship, has slept through the night exactly twice. Which is terrific progress. Coincidentally, I awoke each of those perfect nights with a migraine around 3:00 a.m. and was unable to go back to sleep. (Blessings from the Lord.) Last night was the second of the two nights. And I laid in bed and sat on the couch with my hand pressed against my left temple numbly muttering, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." Unfortunately, no hammer appeared mystically with which I could club myself into sweet slumber. I still have the headache and I am itching to wade out into the waist-high grass of my yard and yell, "Tired!" to my neighborhood and the universe. But it seems like such an enormous waste of energy.


Today is my son Will's sixth birthday. He has one week left of Kindergarten. I love him to death.

Tonight is Avery's final practice for her first Communion and tomorrow morning she'll be dressed in white. Her bejeweled shoes arrived in the mail today.


Let's be frank, I'm a fat man. And worse, somewhat hopelessly so. I wear my sin on my sleeve (and around my waist, chest, neck, buttocks and thighs). I've considered hibernating like a bear for the next three months, but then I get depressed thinking it would only be a good start. (And what if I woke up with nursing cubs?) To boot, I just saw Avatar for the first time this week and thought how wonderful it would be to be able to be that active (not to mention tall, blue and phosphorescent with a braided USB port growing out of my head). When you're fat you can't fly dragon-like creatures, you can't ride hummingbird horses, you can't walk around without a shirt, and getting the mail leaves you sweaty and breathless. Though I'm pretty good at hissing at people. I'm tired of being fat.