Monthly Archives: December, 2011

Trusting in the Truth (Review: “How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul”

I spent the day today after-Christmas shopping with my mom and sister. I don’t see my family very often since they almost all still live in Maryland, so I try to make myself available to them as much as I can when we’re together. It seems appropriate for a season like the Christmas season, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus into his human family and the Holy Family as a group (this year, on Dec. 30). Being around family and friends makes me acutely aware of my in-between state in life, though. I’m not married or even dating anyone, and my youngest sibling is 15, so it’s extra awkward when my mom gets excited by evidence of Santa’s arrival on Christmas morning. She’ll have a great time when grandchildren come, but I don’t know when that will be.

photo courtesy of Grand Velas Riviera Maya

If you’re anything like me, a Catholic 20-something struggling to navigate the gap between your childhood family and the family you may one day build, you can appreciate the lonely, out-of-place feeling that often surfaces this time of year. As Catholics, we are called to practice chastity, grow in holiness, and seek godly spouses, but the specifics can be difficult to understand. How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul: 21 Secrets for Women is the latest offering from Jason and Crystalina Evert, noted chastity speakers associated with Catholic Answers. Jason’s first book, If You Really Loved Me, changed my life when I read it in college. I’ve reread it since then, but that book is aimed toward a younger audience. Thankfully, as Jason has grown in age and wisdom with his wife (whom he met because they were both chastity advocates!) and four young children, his writing has grown as well. He is now reaching out toward people like me, those who know that there must be something better than the hook-up culture. There is, and this book begins to unpack the alternative.

Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.

This “Mass Confusion” Is Part of Learning

I hear time and time again how the new translation of the Mass “seems awkward to me,” “doesn’t make sense to the people in the pews [commentators assume, because every person thinks alike],” or “is too much like Latin, which people don’t speak.” This egocentrism is astounding. Yes, the Mass is the Church’s highest form of prayer, so it should be accessible to most ordinary people. That does not mean that something that seems uncomfortable to you should be changed to suit your demands.

Learning is not always easy. I remember that fateful day in my seventh-grade pre-algebra class when I found out my teachers had been lying to me all along: you could subtract 3 from 2. Welcome to negative numbers. I maintain that there is a difference between “you’ll learn that (how to subtract 3 from 2) when you’re older” and “you can’t do that.” It took some time to wrap my head around an entirely new way to see numbers, but I managed to do it. Even though I never liked math, I was always fairly good at it because I learned how to do what I was taught. When something didn’t make sense, I knew it was just part of my learning process and that I should keep working at it until it felt comfortable.

Learning the new Mass translation is going to be like learning to do math with negative numbers. Most Catholics don’t remember the process of learning the old responses, but it was just that: a process. They spent a few weeks stumbling through unfamiliar words and phrases until they got it right. I did just that when I went back to church in college. Many more Catholics are familiar with learning new musical settings of the Mass. (Although everyone seems to know the (old) Mass of Creation, no one was born knowing it.) This will take time. The language has been widely available on the Internet for a year for any “person in the pew” to practice. The new prayers of the priest are also available: online for those who like to prep at home and in a free multi-platform app for people who use their smartphones in church.

One of my pet peeves in criticism about the new translation is the ubiquitous focus on certain aspects to the complete omission of others. For example, everyone seems to be up in arms about the phrase “consubstantial with the Father” replacing “one in being with the Father.” What does “consubstantial” mean? There are two ways to look at it. One is arguably more “person in the pew”-friendly: it means “one in being with” because that’s what it replaced. The other is the way I first looked at it. I like language and have two English degrees, so I readily concede that most people don’t approach words the way I do. However, I have taught many a high school student to break down unfamiliar words. “Con-” means “with,” as in “chili con carne” or “connect.” “Substantial” means “of the same substance,” the same basic stuff. Therefore, “consubstantial” means “made of the same stuff.” In essence, “consubstantial” is a more precise word because the Son is “made of the same stuff” as the Father in the same way that I am made of the same “stuff” as my dad. We just share an affinity for Star Trek and a temper trigger instead of sharing the power to forgive sin. “Consubstantial” is a huge issue, but “apostolic” still isn’t? I’m not buying it. It’s just a weak backlash against having to do something new. People don’t like change, so they’re going to complain until it becomes second nature and they wonder why we were content with what was adequate for so long when we could have had the best.

Individual words aside, it seems as though almost no one has noticed or minded that the memorial acclamation “Christ has died” was eliminated from the new translation. Perhaps they didn’t know where it came from, but they don’t seem to mind where it’s gone. That seems like it ought to be a less comfortable shift than single words here or there.

For what it’s worth, I find that some people are clearly stunned by the change (which is their own fault; the news has been heavy on this for months), but most are rolling with it. Having to pay attention is not a bad thing. I was floored when, listening closely as I have for the last month, I realized that the collect from the Fourth Sunday of Advent is the same as the concluding prayer of the Angelus. How did that get mistranslated for so long? That’s the best connection to me, a person in the pews, that I’ve had between my personal devotions and the Mass in a long time.

Learning takes time. Sometimes it is difficult. Without change and learning, we might as well be dead. This awkwardness, too, shall pass.

More Movie Reviews (Vol. 3.5?)

Here are the reviews I promised last time. They’re more recent, which is a nice change in my general viewing habits.

The King’s Speech: I like period pieces. Something about looking into the past and comparing it to the present is comforting, because some things really do never change. I had never heard about George V’s stutter before, but I found that comfort I mentioned in knowing that famous people had perfectly ordinary problems back in the day. That’s a whole lot better than 72-day marriages and TV teen moms. All of the actors were brilliant, of course, and the pacing was just right to keep it realistic and in motion at the same time. All the accolades were well deserved. That is what historical films should be like.

The Rite: I had been hesitant about seeing this. When you are a Catholic and work for the Catholic Church, you’re automatically more sensitive about the depictions of Catholicism in popular media. I am no exception. Any movie that says it’s “inspired by true events” is probably about 50% fiction and 50% fact, and the facts will only be the boring parts. That said, I liked The Rite. I liked the uncertainty over whether the priest on which the movie was based would actually be ordained. (Most of that suspense was because I just plain forgot the storyteller was a priest, so he’d necessarily have to make it to ordination.) I liked that he started as a skeptic and was met by a skeptic who showed him that truth is often tougher to believe than fiction. The particular means by which the priest triumphed over the devil was perfect. I was rooting for him, and I loved that he didn’t get the girl in the end. I’d recommend taking it with a grain of salt, but it’s a more modern take on exorcism than The Exorcist. (It even references it! So meta.)

Serenity: I discovered Firefly in college, when my friend Andrew insisted we watch the first few episodes. I saw a few more in grad school, but I finally finished them after I got my iPhone because I could rent each episode for 99 cents and kill time on planes quite handily. On my most recent flight, I rented and watched Serenity, the conclusion movie clamored for and won by rabid fans. It was fantastic! I loved how it clearly picked up missing threads from the series but also built out new storylines. The inside jokes still made me laugh. Firefly was definitely one of the most under-appreciated series on television. If you haven’t seen it, please do! I know “sci-fi Western” sounds too strange to even be passable, but give the pilot a chance, and prepare to be delighted.

There’s a nice batch of recent releases to help fill your time off from work. You’re welcome.

Booking Through Thursday: Gifts

Any books you’re hoping to get for the holidays this year?

How about giving? Are you giving any good ones?

As a matter of fact, I am! I hope to get a box set of the Hunger Games trilogy so I can finally finish reading them. I accidentally found out part of how the second book begins and ends, but I’m excited to read it anyway. Knowing that Jamie and Landon would get married at the end of A Walk to Remember didn’t stop me from reading, seeing, and loving that; neither will this. I bought How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul as a gift to myself, but I already started that, so it doesn’t quite count.

I’m giving my mom an Emeril cookbook, but only because she specifically asked for it. My sister is getting a Kindle, so I got her a Kindle giftcard. It’s like buying her the books she wants without having to actually give her a book. Books make kind of of boring gifts, unfortunately. Their contents are priceless. The package, not so much.

Movies Recently Seen, Vol. 3

A friend of mine hosted a movie night, AT&T U-verse offered premium movie channels for free over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve had unusual amounts of downtime recently. All of this has added up to my watching a ton of movies recently. I will attempt to review them all very briefly here. Nothing is very recent, so if you’re looking for much that was playing in theaters even this year, you will be largely disappointed.

Mona Lisa Smile: I saw this one at a girls’ night at my friend Sabrina’s apartment. We watched it on VHS because one of the other guests had scored a bunch of tapes from the recently closed Blockbuster near campus. I had heard of the movie in passing but never seen it. I liked the theme of Wellesley‘s East Coast socialites versus Julia Roberts’s character’s West Coast liberalism. The time period lent itself to that kind of story. After we finished watching, the other girls watching noted that the story seems to suggest Julia Stiles’s character committed a huge sin by choosing to get married instead of going to law school. If feminism is really about letting women make their own choices, why does it always seem that being a wife and mother is not an acceptable choice?

photo by Digital Nomad

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Thanks for the free movie, AT&T! I even managed to catch the beginning, so I didn’t have to DVR it. I enjoy pushing the boundaries of suspension of disbelief. This movie definitely did that. Laying such a ridiculous foundation seemed to give the story more heart, though. I wanted to see Scott defeat Ramona’s seven evil exes not just for their video game-style actions and their explosions into showers of gold coins. I appreciated the subtle humor as well as the all-out hilarity. I can’t say I came away with any deep thoughts about life, but it was definitely fun and worth my time to watch.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: I inherited an Audrey Hepburn collection a few years ago when a relative died, so I decided it was time to finally start watching them. I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, unfortunately. I understood that George Peppard’s character was a kept man, but I didn’t get that Holly was supposed to be a call girl, too. I suppose the early morning taxi drop-off should have been an indicator, but that came too early in the movie for me to get it. Despite playing a call girl, Audrey was still beautiful, graceful, and charming. Maybe some of the other Audrey films I have will have better stories.

WALL-E: I love Disney/Pixar films. (I haven’t seen Cars 2, though; not sure if I will.) I’d managed to miss WALL-E, though, despite seeing the WALL-E short “BURN-E” on ABC Family a couple of times. I’m so sad my life lacked WALL-E for so long! Lacking human speech for most of the movie was a really great storytelling technique. (It worked for Cast Away.) I felt emotion from robots that didn’t really have faces! That’s skill. I also enjoyed the storyline of the humans, John and Mary. I can, unfortunately, imagine a world where people are so plugged in that they don’t even touch another person for years. How they manage to make babies in that scenario is a bit too scary to imagine. I also loved the drawings and music over the end credits (spoiler alert, obviously). Pixar never leaves me wanting.

More reviews will be coming tomorrow.

Booking Through Thursday: Character or Plot?

There’s no F5 posted this week, so this will catch me up on memes. I have a whole slew of regular posts waiting in the wings, though.

What’s more important to you: real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters or an amazing, page-turning plot?

(Yes, I know, they are both important, but if you had to pick one as being more important than the other.)

That grammar and punctuation is not admirable. I had to clean it up again.

I think I would rather have great characters in a pathetic story. It’s kind of how I feel about Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve been watching for years, so now I’m committed. I know the plot gets ridiculous; there’s no way all those outrageous things could happen to the same group of surgeons at the same hospital. What keeps me going is the characters. When they do out-of-character things, I notice. When Meredith got whiny and irritating, I struggled to find another good character to focus on. When Alex goes from being a jerk to being a good guy and back to being a jerk, I don’t know who to believe, but I’m still into it.

I realize that Grey’s is not a book, but it’s the best example I have for my point so far. Clearly, my favorite is a great plot with incredible characters, like in Harry Potter or The Hunger Games. I plan to finish The Hunger Games soon. Christmas is a great time for new books!

Friday Five: Dreams

I guess it’s time for me to think up some good questions for the F5 again.

  1. Do you remember your dreams? Not usually. If I wake up during one or it turns into a lucid dream, then I can remember.
  2. Do you dream in color or black and white? I usually can’t tell, but sometimes there are distinct colors I remember. Those are usually details like skin color or hair color of people I recognize.
  3. What is the scariest dream you have had? I dreamt of spiders once and woke up screaming. It was more like shouting, but “woke up shouting” isn’t a thing.
  4. What is the weirdest dream you have had? I’ve had some really weird ones that I am unwilling to share here.
  5. Have you ever had a dream come true? No. I once tried to predict the sex of my friend’s Kat’s youngest sibling. I saw a blond boy. She’s a brunette girl, just like her big sister Kat.

The Friday Five

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