Tag Archives: Christianity

The Gradual Road to Hell (Review: “The Screwtape Letters”)

This church looks about right for those saints. (photo by mamasuco)

I have finally found some paranormal romance that I like! Well, that’s not entirely true. This week’s book is about the paranormal and does contain romance, though. I will concede only one thing to Twilight and its successors in the paranormal romance genre, and I will admit to two: they’re getting girls to read, and they can lead to them reading actual classics like Pride and Prejudice because apparently Bella likes them. Ultimately, I hope that books like Twilight will lead to more substantial reading. Indeed, as Goodreads reviews suggest, at least one reader was duped into reading The Screwtape Letters by its premise (she thought it would be “sexy in a dark fun kind of way”), but found herself edified by the experience. Great literature always has the power to transform.

So, dear readers, are you intrigued by the premise of The Screwtape Letters? Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.

A Spiritual Educational Philosophy

The Holy Father gave an address to a convention of the Diocese of Rome. (Why is it not an archdiocese?) Seeing ZENIT‘s title for it (“There Is Talk of a Great ‘Educational Emergency'”) immediately drew me in.

This is an inevitable emergency: in a society, in a culture, which all too often make relativism its creed—relativism has become a sort of dogma–in such a society the light of truth is missing….

So how would it be possible to suggest to children and to pass on from generation to generation something sound and dependable, rules of life, an authentic meaning and convincing objectives for human existence both as an individual and as a community?

For this reason, education tends to be broadly reduced to the transmission of specific abilities or capacities for doing, while people endeavour to satisfy the desire for happiness of the new generations by showering them with consumer goods and transitory gratification. Thus, both parents and teachers are easily tempted to abdicate their educational duties and even no longer to understand what their role, or rather, the mission entrusted to them, is.

Yet, in this way we are not offering to young people, to the young generations, what it is our duty to pass on to them. Moreover, we owe them the true values which give life a foundation.

However, this situation obviously fails to satisfy; it cannot satisfy because it ignores the essential aim of education which is the formation of a person to enable him or her to live to the full and to make his or her own contribution to the common good.

As a teacher, a godmother, a Confirmation sponsor, and a Catholic, I find this fascinating. My classmates last semester who graduated in May had to interview for admission to the master’s degree program. Vanessa mentioned that, during the interview, she was asked what her (English) teaching philosophy is. (Mine is that all people love reading once they find the right book.) Thursday on Life on the Rock, a former Notre Dame football coach insisted that football prepared his players for life. After Remember the Titans, I can understand that. My task as a teacher isn’t just to get my students passing test scores, but to help them understand literature and language, why they matter, and their significance in their lives (and not get fired in the process). All the popular movies about great teachers (Stand and Deliver, Music of the Heart, and more recently, Freedom Writers) have little to do with test scores. Those teachers changed their students on a personal, relational, spiritual level. The Holy Father is talking about an educational philosophy.

An essential priority of our pastoral work [is] to bring close to Christ and to the Father the new generation that lives in a world largely distant from God.

In practice, this guidance must make tangible the fact that our faith is not something of the past, that it can be lived today and that in living it we really find our good. Thus, boys and girls and young people may be helped to free themselves from common prejudices and will realize that the Christian way of life is possible and reasonable, indeed, is by far the most reasonable.

I experience this every time I encounter Catholic youth. Our task as Christians is to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). The youth are part of those nations. I even experience it when I talk about faith with fallen-away or non-Catholics. I love Christ so much, with every part of my being, that I am bursting to share him with everyone I can find.

This is what makes me want to try teaching Catholic school. Is it possible to be too Catholic for public school?

Knowing that B16 and JPII were both teachers explains their grace at relating faith to education. It also gives me hope that my teacher’s mind will help me as I make up for a good decade of lost catechesis in my own life.

Learning to Love The Book

I doubt I’ll ever manage to catch up with my Bible-in-a-year plan. Working 40 hours a week doesn’t leave me much time. I’ve been getting in one reading per day, though. I promised, as per the instructions in my plan, not to give up even if I fell behind, and I’m sticking to it. I will read the whole Bible eventually, all 73 books. So far, I’ve finished Genesis, Exodus, a third of the Psalms, and the Gospel of Matthew. I’m almost done with Leviticus, which will be a relief.

I’ve been reading the Bible daily for two years now. Somehow, it is still a joyful surprise when I learn new things. Reading a Gospel straight through is enlightening. As Alex wrote today, I can see the “big picture.” I studied the Gospel of Luke with Tim and Ali sophomore year, and I read the Gospel of Mark in two days last summer (the first chunk during adoration). It’s a completely different experience than hearing the pericopes at Mass or knowing them as individual vignettes. From the beginning of each Gospel account, you know where it’s headed, and you can see it going there. Jesus tells all his parables in one long string, and you understand why the apostles were puzzled (and probably tired of hearing all those stories!) The Passion unfolds continuously from Palm Sunday right on through to Good Friday, then Easter. My mental outline was filled in with the details.

I’ve also noticed that Biblical typology is not as hard as one might think. For example, I studied salvation history with FOCUS Liz last year. Exodus 24 describes Moses and the chief men of the people engaging in a sort of proto-Mass: splashing blood upon the altar, reading the books of the law aloud to the people, eating and drinking together. As soon as we read that chapter, I immediately saw the relationship to the Mass,and I’m pretty dense about symbolism. Leviticus 12:1-8 reinforced my understanding of the Presentation (Luke 2:22-24) as Mary and Joseph’s following Jewish law. Even today, as a bonus, reading Stephen’s speech to the council (Acts 7), I realized early on that I was getting a recap of everything we discussed about salvation history. I glanced down at the cross-references, and sure enough, they started with Genesis 11 and ran straight through to Exodus.

I have been a book lover since before I knew how to read. One of my biggest regrets is not reading the Bible sooner. (There’s that whole lapse in/lack of faith, too.) The Bible is The Book. And now I can honestly say that it’s one I treasure above all others.

A Little Into It

I just finished watching over two hours of free streaming concert footage of “Rock the Boat,” the Evan Almighty/Habitat for Humanity promo concert featuring DecembeRadio, Relient K, Jeremy Camp, and Switchfoot. It was so awesome. I had to wait forever to get the link to watch it because Hollywood Jesus was inundated by the traffic, and the video ran 1-3 seconds behind the audio, but I loved it anyway.

I think I’d heard of DecembeRadio before, but I’d never heard their music. They were cool, though definitely more on the hard rock end of the Christian rock music spectrum. Relient K came next. I hadn’t realized Matt, the lead singer, played keyboard for so many of their songs. It reminds me of when MuteMath opened for the Switchfoot concert I went to. Their lead singer plays only keyboard, so they had him on an extension from the stage, and he was much harder to see than any of the other guys. But they had a keytar, so it evened out. I’ve been listening to Pandora Radio at work, and one of my stations is seeded by Relient K and Switchfoot. “Sadie Hawkins Dance” is such a fun song. I hoped they’d play it, but I got “Life After Death and Taxes” instead. Fair trade. They’re a bit like the much cleaner, more Christian version of Fallout Boy in that sense. Plus, one of the guitarists also played bells and banjo.

I don’t think I’d ever actually seen Jeremy Camp before. He was much more like a rock star than I’d expected. When I hear his songs on my Wow Hits CDs or WGTS on the radio, he sounds much more CCM/adult contemporary than he did in concert. I liked it. I also liked how he made his plug for Jesus and the beauty of the gospel in his life without sounding too preachy. It fit well. He led a sing-along for “Right Here”: “I’m going to lead the guys to sing the first line, and then Randy will lead the girls for the second. So guys, be nice and manly, and girls…Randy.” (I don’t think he knows that’s already an adjective.) So then Randy broke out a hilarious falsetto to lead the girls. It was great.

Finally, Switchfoot came on. They started with “Stars,” which is always gold. At the end of “This Is Your Life,” I think Jon was playing his guitar with his tongue. “Got a little into that one,” he said. “Just a little bit,” I replied to my computer screen. He introduced the guys, including “Jerome Fontamillas, on keyboard, on guitar, on tambourine, and singing. He’s like Prince, except he doesn’t have a purple guitar. I’m trying to convince him, though.”

Switchfoot’s performance was amazing, even in its cut-down, streamed form. Jon still does the “Cowboy Song,” which for the occasion went like this:

I’m not a comedian because I’m not funny
Every time I try to make a joke, it won’t sell
That’s why they didn’t cast me as Evan Almighty,
And instead they chose my buddy Steve Carrell.

Then he played the harmonica. I was so excited, it was like I was there. I chose not to yell the words, though, because I’m at home this weekend, and I don’t think my family would have liked that very much.

I love how much energy they put into all their songs. Jon spent about a third of their set playing and singing at his mike, and the other two-thirds leaping onto Chad’s drums or running around the stage and jumping on amps. You can tell they do it because they love it, and we get all the benefits, and get to join in for audience singing where everyone knows all the words.

God in Your Living Room

Melinda Selmys writes in the National Catholic Register this week about the folly of expecting God to prove his existence. Even if he appeared to skeptics and answered every question they raised, they would still find a way to rationalize him away.

I agree that that’s a silly expectation. As I’ve come to learn more about Catholicism and Scripture, I’ve discovered something wonderful. There is so much logic and exegesis that can be applied to everything the Church teaches before you have to “take it on faith.” Why do I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Not just because the Church says so. He said so, in the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), and he wasn’t joking. If he was joking, he wouldn’t have let so many of his disciples leave him that day.

I believe that faith is something that you must claim for yourself. In Protestant rhetoric, you have to “have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It has to be your decision; not your mom’s, not your wife’s, not even just the desire of Jesus himself. I’m not saying that you need to be blinded and knocked off your horse (Acts 22:6-16) before you can reasonably be expected to believe the truth. And I’m not saying that God will accept your bargain (“do this miraculous thing and I’ll believe”) or give you the right “feeling.” I’m saying that God wants us all for himself, and he will give us every opportunity and every grace we need to embrace him. Choose God. The rewards are literally endless.

A Booster Seat to Holiness

I was thinking a few weeks ago while I got dressed. I had slept soundly, in the manner my mom described as “sleeping like a rock.” Rocks have it good. I had asked my guardian angel to help me sleep, and he/she/it had come through. I started asking my guardian angel to help me sleep a few months ago on Spring Retreat. Pat Y. was escorting me back to Grady House after Compline on Saturday night. (He was staying in the “scandalous” coed house, too.) I mentioned that I’d slept terribly on Friday night, so he suggested praying to my guardian angel that no matter how little sleep I got, it would be substantial, and I’d feel rested. I did; it worked.

So, since my train of thought was on retreats, I thought about Fall Retreat. That was when I finally understood the meaning of grace. God’s grace gives us the help we need to fulfill His plans for us. Grace is like a booster seat to holiness.

It’s an odd image; I thought the same thing when it popped into my head. Then I envisioned a long banquet table, filled with the most scrumptious food, including fruit–the fruits of the Spirit. We in our fallen sinfulness are like children seated at the table. We reach and reach toward the food, but we can’t quite get it. Grace is the booster seat that lifts us up to the table, so we can enjoy the meal. Only God, at the head of the table, can lift us up to it.

Catching a Man

Last spring, I had my first crush since breaking up with Greg over a year before. I can’t say who it was because I never know who’s going to pass by my little corner of the web world. Suffice it to say that my world was thrown completely off-kilter. I hadn’t had feelings like that in a long time, since before Greg. Having become a devout Catholic since that breakup, though, I had a different perspective on things. I knew God was in charge and I had to trust in Him. I just wished that His plans would look a little more like mine. I did what I could to subtly let this guy know that I was interested. Hana noticed that I wore my hair down for church one morning when I knew I’d see him. “I am not using my hair to catch a man!” I insisted. I kind of was, but only because I was determined to get him to ask me out, and not the other way around. Men react strongest to visual stimulation, so I wanted to make sure the best parts of me—in a completely chaste way—were visible to him. It didn’t work out, and after some nasty moments of anger at and mistrust in God (and his starting to date someone else!), I moved on.

Now, though, I’m in a similar position. Maybe I’m just a victim of spring fever; though, considering yesterday’s sleet and chill, I have no idea what season it is. This guy is equally unavailable, however, because he already has a girlfriend. I wish I had gotten there first. I am now stuck with the task of realigning my heart to respect that relationship. It’s a tricky situation. If he or I were married or engaged, there would be no question: he’d be automatically off-limits. Father Bill suggested I act as though we were; neither married people nor consecrated celibates stop feeling romantic attraction, so it’s good training for my future. On the other hand, dating is not the same as married or celibate. Dating relationships end. If his did end with her, I’d still be interested. How willing am I to harden my heart against him romantically if that is a possibility? Not very.

All of these thoughts remind me of my inconclusive period of discernment. I have gotten closer to God since I decided to make that effort, but I’m no closer to hearing the call. I caught up on my Boundless articles recently, including two particularly good ones on marriage and dating. Carolyn McCulley writes about developing “Humility That Attracts and Encourages” men in the process of marital discernment. Dating is hard, so she has good advice on how to make it easier for Christian men to take the lead. Scott Croft tells his friend, “Brother, You’re Like a Six,” so we should all redefine our expectations for spouses in light of the Bible and our everyday lives. If I do eventually figure out that I’m called to marriage, I have to prepare myself to be a good wife and mother. Boundless has some suggestions on that as well, in Candice Watters’ old blog, Why Family.

Love is complicated. So is God, but He is infinite. Therefore, godly love is infinitely complicated. (Quite the depressing syllogism there.)

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