Monthly Archives: March, 2008

Why I Am an English Major

As a graduating senior (woo-hoo!), I had to fill out an online survey for the Department of English. I tend to forget things, so I did it now to get it out of the way. One of the questions was “Describe what you see as the social significance of literature.” I answered:

Literature teaches us what it means to be human. We can’t live every part of the human experience. We can’t all know individually what it’s like to fall passionately in love, to exact revenge, to be shipwrecked, to travel abroad, and to be the opposite sex. We have literature so that we can try to understand how other people live or might live.

And that’s just the short answer.

Catholic Carnival 164

Finally, I have managed to get to Carnival 164–on publication day. Okay, so I knew it came out today because I got a direct email thanking me for participating, but small victories are victories nonetheless. The posts that stood out in this Holy Week Carnival are about sin and our relationships with God.

I always enjoy Soccer Mom Christine’s posts. This time, she writes about her first confession in a while. Christine’s description of her confession is spot-on. From her lovely pre- and post-confession prayers to keeping her daughters occupied, she had all her bases covered. If she can make it to confession, anyone can.

I have an odd relationship with confession. I make it a point to never go more than six weeks between confessions, aiming for once a month. I’ve never had a regular confessor, but I have an inkling that doing so would help me grow spiritually. Despite all my issues, however, I am contrite, I seek out the sacrament, and I am that much better at cooperating with God’s grace.

Cathy at From the Field of Blue Children comments there on issues I’d examined before–some right here in my own blog, but with new perspectives. She reminds me why community exists. We need the voices of others to keep us alert. Concerning the Spitzer prostitution scandal, she and her commenters point out that the media is rightly recognizing the impact of Spitzer’s crime on society. It’s a sin. Sin is not private, no matter how many doors you close. Concerning the “new sin list,” she hones in on Bishop Girotti’s explanation of this principle. Sin affects us all.

As for Jen’s post at Daughter of the King, I have to echo what I’ve seen others say: I will never look at the Creation of Adam the same way again.

I have much to keep in mind for my next confession.

Catholic Carnival 163

I’m playing catch-up, as usual. I can’t quite hit all the installments I missed, but something is better than nothing.

In Carnival 163, Jen at Daughter of the King shares her experience praying with youth. I can relate. God gave me the same sort of revelation, that praying *for* the people that annoy you is more fruitful for you *and* them than asking God to change them. So when I hear a baby making noises during Mass, see a girl wearing too little clothing, or get blindsided by blaring profanity from a driver’s loud music, I offer them up to God in prayer. Red Neck Woman posted about this in Carnival 156, relating the practice to St. Catherine of Siena. There’s nothing quite like picking up the habits of a saint.

In the same carnival, Kate Wicker offers “Perfect, Schmerfect.” I, your obsessive-compulsively inclined blogger, relate completely. I won’t deny that having my closet organized by color brings me silent joy, but I also readily admit that there’s nothing like confession to make you fully aware of just how broken you are.

Advertising the Church

I’m intrigued by CatholicsComeHome.org. It’s beautifully designed, and it has a lot of information. They even recommend the RSV, which gets a big thumbs-up from me.

I visited the “I’m Catholic” section, but I also watched the “Epic” video. It, too, is high-quality and compelling. I’m just wary of advertisements for the Catholic Church. The Light Is On for You is a great program, but promoting an underused sacrament is different than selling the whole Church. Who doesn’t scoff at LDS ads? I don’t want my church to solicit that kind of response, even though I believe in evangelization and apologetics.

This reminds me of my Morning Prayer intercessions, in which I pray for people who’ve fallen away from the Church. What am I doing to help them come back, besides praying? Not a whole lot. Jesus doesn’t want excuses; he wants to save us.

Since I Missed Christmas

I know that “I just need to get these out of my Downloads folder” is a lame excuse to post, but it’s all I have. Like most college students, I am a facebook aficionado. Back in December, an application called My Christmas Tree got ridiculously popular. I caved, adding a cute tree to my profile with “Christmas Eve Sarajevo,” by Trans Siberian Orchestra, as my song.

My Christmas Tree became Festive Events, and then Gifts Gallery, since you can send a gift for numerous holidays or wannabe holidays, or for no reason. (Also for free, unlike the original facebook gifts.) I hid the application after Epiphany, but I also took screenshots of the gifts I received. (Last names are blurred to protect privacy.)

facebook Christmas 1

I also snapped the gifts I sent.

facebook Christmas 2

To be honest, I sent Kaitlyn two, because I forgot to add a message with the hula beanie bear. It was an unorthodox gift exchange, but quite nice for those of us on tight budgets.

You Are God; I Am Not

It’s spring break at UMD, so the CSC is short-handed. This is traditional. It’s also Holy Week. This does not usually happen during spring break. I managed to schedule one lector for each Mass, including myself at 7 p.m. I only go to the 7 when I have to, so I started out the evening with some bias.

That was my first mistake. God decided to humble me. (That’s what I get for asking for it.)

When I arrived at about 6:45, the chapel was mostly empty. Julie is away, so Hark came to cantor while Matt played piano. I caught Fr. Kyle between confessions and candle-lighting, and we agreed to go for the long form of Matthew’s Passion narrative for the Gospel. I was worried about my knee, but I knew the Holy Spirit and I would work it out like we usually do.

Moment of Humility #1: The whole neighborhood showed up for Mass. There were less than twenty students (maybe ten) in the entire congregation. My worry came back.

Moment of Humility #2: I read from Isaiah and the Letter to the Philippians with no trouble. I reminded the congregation to follow along in their hymnals to speak the crowd’s parts, and then I plunged into the Gospel. Without another lector, I had to read both the narrator and voice parts, which was tricky, but doable. (Contrast this with last Palm Sunday.) Around the halfway point, my knee got tired, but I asked God to help me not fall over, thereby making a scene. He humored me by strengthening my knee after I knelt on it during the pause for Christ’s death.

Moment of Humility #3: Father Kyle gave a nice, concise homily. It was only when he gave the introduction for the general intercessions that I remembered I was supposed to go back up to read them.

Moment of Humility #4: After the fraction and “Agnus Dei,” Father Kyle asked for an Extraordinary Minister to help distribute communion. No one moved. I’m not an EM, so I couldn’t help, and Maura got sick, so she had stayed home. After a tense moment, a guy I’ve never seen before came forward. He stood in the wrong position, so the progression of the lines was awkward, but we managed to get Jesus to everyone who wanted him.

Moment of Humility #5: After Mass, Fr. Kyle and I chatted while he straightened up, and then he walked me to the door. Only after I’d crossed the street did I realize I was still holding my hymnal.

It’s times like these when I pray, “Lord, thank you for reminding me that you are God, and I am not.”

The “Meat on Fridays” Fight

It’s Lent (she says to the three people in the world who missed the last five weeks). That means that all Catholics ages fourteen and up have been obliged to abstain from meat every Friday. I stopped eating meat on all Fridays about two years ago. In the wealth of Catholic resources online, I discovered that, although the USCCB gave us permission to eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent, we were supposed to choose an alternate act of penance. I chose to just not eat meat, and have stuck by that decision ever since (excluding solemnities and the occasional major feast).

However, with every Lent come the traditional fights. How many days are there? Do Sundays “count”? And, is it really so bad to eat meat on Fridays of Lent?

Well, yes. Not because eating meat ought to be a crime (thanks, PETA), but because Christ gave the Church the authority to decide things like this. As with all sin, though, the situation isn’t cut-and-dry. Marcel at Aggie Catholics submitted a post to Catholic Carnival 162 about the objective and subjective natures of this issue.

If you have nothing to eat but meat on a Friday of Lent, you can eat it and not be in sin. Fr. Gurnee (former GWU chaplain) was building a Habitat house in North Carolina when a man offered his group home-barbecued spare ribs. You don’t reject a Southerner’s gift of free food. I once ate half a beef taco before I realized what I was doing. I kept eating it. My friend Joey accidentally got a chicken wrap for lunch last Friday. I advised him that wasting the food and money was worse than just eating it and taking up another penance (like the Stations of the Cross). Fr. Kyle gave the same advice just minutes later.

The penance is the point. At Real Life Rosary, James discussed fasting way back on the first Friday of Lent. Fasting is hard. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. But when we take on hardship and give forth charity and kindness despite our suffering, we give such glory to God. When we give up, we walk right into Satan’s outstretched arms. You can’t win the race unless you run so as to win.

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