Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Fulfillment of All Desire

It's a little hard to review a Study Guide, when you haven't got that to which it is a guide. Here, however, is my attempt.

Ralph Martin wrote The Fulfillment of All Desire as a guide to the spiritual life. He bases his outline on "the Wisdom of the Saints," as the subtitle says, using the roadmaps to holiness of seven of the Church's doctors. St. Therese, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Augustine, and St. John of the Cross all lend their wisdom to the earnest seeker. Different forms of prayer and meditation, as well as stages in the soul's journey into God, are discussed and presented as worthy and possible goals for every Christian.

The study guide is well-constructed and would be ideal for a parish or private Bible study or discussion group. A short synopsis of each chapter is followed by key terms, questions for comprehension and personal reflection, suggestions for concrete applications of the ideas, and references to Scripture and the documents of Church councils and the Catechism.

I'm going to try to talk some of my friends into this one.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company, and the reviewer received a free copy of the text in exchange for her opinion. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Fulfillment of All Desire, both the whole book and the study guide. The Catholic Compnay is a great place for serenity prayer items and baptismal gifts, too!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Becoming free...

...stretching my philosophical limbs a little bit.

A friend wrote: I've been talking with someone about what freedom is. What's freedom?


This is one of my favorites.

In nature, freedom just means "free from constraint." As in, the water is free to flow downriver when there is no dam obstructing its path."

At the level of human nature, though, freedom also includes a lack of interior (or psychological) obstruction, as well. Our freedom to choose is constrained by our passions: fear of pain or desire for some pleasure/good.

Because human freedom is part of who we are, though, it cannot be divorced from who we are as humans. Sounds simplistic: But it makes all the difference, especially in our "truth is relative, I make my own truth" culture. There is no freedom apart from truth, the truth about who we are and what we were made to be.

So, a person is perfectly free to act irresponsibly or wrongly. But in doing so, he is actually submitting to his own compulsions. And, because we are creatures of habit, a choice to submit to baser desires means that the next time we are confronted with that choice, we will be more inclined to act basely again. At a physical and psychological level, this is how addictions work: sexual pleasure, over-eating, nicotine, soap operas, etc... Freedom is easily lost, when we choose to need things lesser than ourselves.

On the other hand, when a person chooses freely to act well or rightly, he is actually becoming more free of his passions/desires/fears. Freedom expands as it is exercised well (and this is what it means that there is no freedom apart from truth). Curiously, submitting to an objective law higher than ourselves increases our freedom to choose what is good and true next time. And the world of good things to choose from is much broader, wider, vaster, and more beautiful than the world of bad things. This is why men and women exercise: physically, spiritually, and emotionally, we can expand our freedom from physical and psychological limitations.

In the Christian tradition: "For freedom Christ has set you free..." We're not just free to do what we like (although we are); Christ's law is not, "Whatever makes you feel schweet." Rather, we're free in order to become more free. And "more free" looks exactly like Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

As morning dawns...

Your light will come, Jerusalem. The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.
~Responsory, Morning Prayer, December 19th

I just love the Divine Office for the last days of Advent (the beloved O Antiphons): It's as if the whole Church had that child's squeal of anticipation, "He's coming, he's coming, he's coming!"

Have a blessed last week of preparation.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On speaking about Islam: UPDATED

It's time for a little penitential apology, followed by a little Christian rejoicing with the help of Athanasius (see icon to right).

About 18 months ago, I posted a YouTube video illustrating the demographic surge of Islamic communities in the West. The video also highlighted the decline of non-Islamic communities and made a bald-faced call for non-Muslims to, darnnit!, reproduce. The tone of the clip was regrettable, as I noted in my blurb, but I posted it as a quick reference for busy moms: (a) the Western world is in the middle of a demographic crisis; (b) in general, practicing Muslims are, however, reproducing.

UPDATE: So, yes. My two points (a and b) hold (even though there has been an increase in the birthrate, it is still below replacement levels), but here is a Much Better Breakdown of what's going on in the numbers. Read Kacie!

As a student of philosophy, my question is: Why?

The clip, however, should not have been posted. There were other ways for me to pose the question, and other ways to communicate the information. It's not that the facts aren't true or that we shouldn't think about what they mean for us; the point is that, unless we speak the truth in love, we are "resounding gongs." I may resound, but I'd rather not be a gong.

This morning, I received an email (this is only one of several over the past year) from Anonymous, which I'll quote here in its entirety. Then I'll post my response and a few more thoughts on thinking about Islam as a Catholic/Christian.

Here is the comment:

Dear Philosopher mom,

I have only just been introduced to your blog and my first visit was to the page where you quoted the brilliant T.S.Eliot, whom I greatly admire.
But slowly, I came to this page on Islam and shortly after, had the distinctly unexplainable experience of viewing this video that brought to mind some of the war propaganda employed in the early 20th century.
My point of contention here is a simple one for I am a humble student, building my path in the world of academia and in life.
I believe, and find support in a particular scholar, that being of the Islamic faith, or Muslim, does not necessitate an abrogation of the culture of where that individual may find himself. It's not as if being Muslim means that you are no longer a Swiss or a Spanish, that you can no longer speak their language or love that country and locality. The rich history of that place is not put under the mercy of the delete button as soon as the person behind the keyboard accepts Islam.
I personally don't appreciate the manner of speech of those who, while pretending to speak for all of Islam, as ridiculous as that sounds, purport the idea that the faith will silently vanquish its foes.
From the 8th to the 13th centuries, Islam contributed to every thing under the sun; from literature and philosophy to industry and technology. Muslims worked side by side with Jewish and Christian intellectuals, and freedom of speech and religion fostered these relations. This wasn't called the Golden Age for nothing.
And you probably know this better but most of Aristotle's work, if not all of it, survived primarily because of its translation from Greek to Arabic. I'm not suggesting that I'm particularly fond of philosophy, a simple student as I said I am I can hardly make that suggestion but nonetheless, that is history that gets easily overlooked despite its apparent nature.
I myself found the video to be a bit embarassing, especially since I believe strongly in the preservation of cultures and languages. And on that note, of the 7000 languages spoken in the world at this very moment that I'm writing to you, only half of them will survive and make it to the next generation. How come people do not lament that loss or the loss of all of the great indigenous traditions.
In the end, I had really wished to tie my view with what I had read at the very outset of my introduction to your blog, quoted Eliot as you had. If considered through that lens, Islam can be seen as the one constancy that ties together all the streams of intellect and consciousness. This shared value system can address the want for harmony and repair the fragmented ethos of wisdom of modern man.

thank you for giving me this space and I hope I have not offended you in any way.

This is a well-considered comment, and deserves a response. So here I went:

Dear Anonymous,

Yes, this post really got me into trouble! Thanks for sharing your perspective on it as a practicing Muslim, and I am truly sorry for any embarrassment it caused you. I do regret posting it, not because I think the demographic information is erroneous, but because of the tone. I keep it up as a reminder to me that I make significant lapses in judgment from time to time.

I am grateful that so much culture has been preserved over the centuries: I believe God has at times used men and women of Islam to preserve what is good and true in human accomplishment. Some of the most beautiful names of God are in the Koran.

Of course, as a Catholic, I also believe that the fullness of His revelation is in the person of Jesus Christ. God is not only Majesty, but has also chosen to be "with us" in the Emmanuel, Jesus. And so, instead of Islam, I believe that Christ is the one who unites all streams of consciousness (as Eliot says).

Thus spake I.

But there are a few more notes I'd like to make and questions that keep bugging me.

First, as I said, there are better ways to talk about the demographic changes in the West. George Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral comes to mind as a great, quick read on the subject.

In answering my question-- Why is the West in a demographic decline? --Pope Benedict's reflections, as summarized here, are a good place for the Catholic to start. I do believe that the fundamental reason for post-Christian Europe's refusal to reproduce is that post-Christian individuals have lost their own desire to live. We now question, both individually and as a society, whether it is a good thing to exist and to pass on existence to another. The answer is increasingly, "No, it is not."

This is why I am not so concerned about "the Islamic tide" or the supposed replacement of Christian Europe by Muslim Europe. It is not Islam, or any other set of ideas, that threatens the West: Even if Islam were to disappear today, the West would still be lost so long as it has lost hope in the meaning of life. The West must recover its hope in human commitment, human dignity, and the salvation of the human family in Christ. With that recovery, nothing more will be necessary.

These are the terms in which we should discuss demographics.

Second, and in more response to the comment above: I appreciate anyone who seeks to find a constant thread that ties together all human experience and consciousness. That is the fundamental philosophical question: Why? But, as I wrote in my response, the answer is only found in the Source of all that is: in English, "God."

We can argue and study the extent to which Islam saved civilization (best sources: Neuhaus and Bat Ye-Or). We can try to understand whether or not Allah and the Judeo-Christian God are the same One (you don't have to be Pat Robinson to ask this question). These are good and necessary questions.

But, as T.S. Eliot found and as all Christians have found, the tie that binds all human experience together is God. And this God is not an alien God, utterly ineffable and seated utterly apart in Majesty. We have been shown--through revelation--that the answer to the fundamental, philosophical question is this: from the beginning, God willed to be with man. Even when we rejected him, he sought to come back and be with us again.

This is the message of Advent, the message that sets Jews and Christians forever together and forever apart from Islam: God desires to walk with man, God desires that all be gathered into his people.

The most intimate and all-binding Truth is the Person of Jesus Christ: God Made Man, Emmanuel, God With Us. In Him, every human experience and thought is brought together. This is the Theosis. In the words of Athanasius, "God became man that we might become gods."

It is a big pill to swallow, and a big difference between the two faiths. Indeed, I would argue, it is all the difference.

And if the West would reclaim its creeds, its belief in the Theosis, there would be no demographic crisis.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II

Just wow. It's hard to review a book that is not only the sequel to the magnificent Witness to Hope, but also stands alone as a thriller spy novel (it's true!), a full course in Roman Catholic theology, an entire seminar in the ecumenical movements of the late 20th century, and a history text of, oh, the whole world.

Weigel's sources make this book an irreplaceable account both of the last years of the pontificate and of the decades-long struggle between Karol Wojtyla (later John Paul II) and the communist leadership of Eastern Europe. Documents released after John Paul's death in 2005 provide new insight into the role he played in the fall of communism as well as the extent into which the Soviet Union's spy network infiltrated the daily life of the Church at that time. No other book, with the exception of Whittaker Chambers' Witness, has opened my eyes quite so much to the realities of life under (or with) communism.

But the book is less about John Paul II than it is about God's action in the Roman Catholic Church in the last half-century. In this, Weigel does with John Paul II's life precisely what John Paul II himself would have wanted: He uses the pope to point us to Christ.

So, although I know you've all finished your Christmas shopping (haha!), this is a great addition to your list. I'd especially recommend it to anyone (especially guys) who wonder why the heck they should still bother or think about bothering to be Catholic.

I'll leave you with this poem, written for John Paul II by his fellow Pole (and one of my all-time favorite poets), Czeslaw Milosz:

"Ode for the Eightieth Birthday of Pope John Paul II"

We come to you, men of weak faith,
So that you may fortify us with the example of your life
And liberate us from anxiety
About tomorrow and the next year. Your twentieth century
Was made famous by the names of powerful tyrants
And by the annihilation of their rapacious states.
You knew it must happen. You taught hope:
For only Christ is the lord and master of history.

Foreigners could not guess from whence came the hidden strength
Of a novice from Wadowice. The prayers and prophecies
Of poets, whom money and progress scorned,
Even though they were the equals of kings, waited for you
So that you, not they, could announce urbi et orbi,
That the centuries are not absurd but a vast order.


You are with us and will be with us henceforth.
When the forces of chaos raise their voice
And the owners of truth lock themselves in churches
And only the doubters remain faithful,
Your portrait in our homes everyday reminds us
How much one man can accomplish and how sainthood works.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company, and the reviewer received a free copy of the text in exchange for her opinion. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The End and the Beginning. Also be sure to check out their great selection of Christmas gifts..

Just. Yes.

Thank you, Anchoress. Now I'm certain that there's no need for me to babble on today... Take it all away, Lord, take it all away. Read the whole thing here.

"But the obstacles we place before His Majesty don’t always have to be what we would consider our negatives. Other obstacles to his presence might be the pride we take in our housekeeping, or our work; our beloved “principles” and our studied “opinions.” Other obstacles might even be our families, or our love of country – any love that is so passionate that it supersedes all else, and perhaps comes before Him.

Obstacles are the things we cling to so much, out of love, that they take up the room He requires to bring the fullness of His divine, pure and unfathomable Presence into us."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Modeling Mary

"You are the highest honor of our race." ~Judith 13:18

Mary looks a little bored here, but I'm sure it's just the usual "pious expression." I wondered at Mass today what we would look like if we all walked around free from original sin. I hardly think our expressions would be this sort of "ho-hum, there are angels floating around me" or "tra-la-la, I'm having a beatific vision."

I rather think we'd look like a seven-month old's alert expression: "WOW! This is GREAT! There's my DAD AGAIN! Blagoooh!" or the 2-year-old's: "I love you, too much, my Mommy." And we'd be laughing. Then there's the 5-year-old's: "Do you see that sunset, Mommy? It's the most beautiful sunset I've seen since yesterday!"

Yes, I think the Immaculate Conception would be closer to these children than the dyspeptic lady in the pictures...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent 2010.

Advent has just sort of happened this year. My mom and I went to the little parish church in Podunk, NH, on Saturday morning; I fed the baby and coped with severe back pain while she hung up her astonishingly beautiful banners. Then it was suddenly Sunday evening, and we were lighting our first candle on the wreath. I blinked, and it was Wednesday. So, the girls and I started on our Jesse Tree ("In the beginning...").

Now it is Friday, and the first week is almost over. Time to reflect for a moment while the baby sleeps, Miriam gathers firewood, and Bella sits on her potty.

Dear Little Six-Pound, Seven-Ounce Baby Jesus,


What I want for Christmas This Year and How to Get It

1. The self-pity party must stop. It's been quite a busy 18 months here in the Philosophical Family. And still, crises keep piling on. As the days grow shorter and colder, I find my little introvert soul turning in on itself and looking behind: "So, cold, so sad, poor little stay-at-home mom." We've been listening to the ingenius Pooh Audio Books (you must get a hold of these), and I realized with a laugh that I sound exactly like Eyeore: "Well, why not? We can't all have houses now, can we?" I want all the crises to stop. But they're only crises insofar as I sit and moan about them. St. Paul tells me, "Look not behind, but only ahead to the prize which is to come." Or something like that. Advent calls me to look forward, to be free from all that came last year or last Spring or even last night. Looking ahead, not behind.

2. Get back to the Scripture. Speaking of St. Paul, I've been totally lax on praying the Divine Office. Advent resolution: Start each day with one psalm, and rest each afternoon with one Psalm. Waiting for the Christ child to arrive should mean praying with our Jewish brothers and sisters, going back to be with them in their waiting. I want so much to get back to the Psalms, which cry out for the Savior to come.

3. Go to Confession. 'Nuff said. At a time of life when my brain can hardly engage in meditation, I need the Sacraments so much. I don't often feel contrition or consolation or rejoicing, whether due to sleep deprivation or just a long day with Little People. But "there's an app for that." It's called objective absolution, and it's available in the Sacrament of Penance.

4. Say: It's okay to play Christmas Music during Advent. Miriam and Bella said this.

5. Use that Bread Machine with Pride! A lot of people will be getting bread for Christmas from us. There's no need to add to the list of to-do's by insisting on "handmade." "Home-made-in-a-bread-machine" tastes just as good. What does this have to do with Advent? Well, I'm hoping it will leave more time for quiet-ness, reflection, and play with the kids. At the very least, it will smell like Christmas.

Onward! Behold, He comes...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not my will...

~ From Chapter 9: "Imitate Mary's Trust in the Father's Will" ~

Here concludes my month for Caryll. All the excerpts have been from her Little Way, but I just was given (thanks, Mom!) another rocking book: Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings. More Caryll to come!

"Christ in his infancy asks no gift but self from those who love Him. But God does not ask love from His creatures greater than the love He gives to them. On the Cross, Christ Himself was stripped of everything but Himself. In the sacrifice of Himself, He gave Himself to God and to man.

"Just as the mother who is wise knows that if Christ waxes strong in her child, he will go out to meet suffering halfway (and will meet it, but his suffering will redeem and comfort and heal), so those who foster the infant Christ inwardly in the life of their soul know that the same applies to them.

"Christ, wherever He is, in whomever He is, must be about His Father's business."

~from Caryll Houselander's The Little Way of the Infant Jesus

Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday

In the bleak mid-winter...

Is it really Advent already? What happened to November?

I am so grateful to begin the "quiet season" this year. May it be quiet for you as well... more on quiet thoughts later. Now, for some rest and recovery.

Go in peace. Behold, He comes.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The infant king.

~ from Chapter 4: Fix your gaze on Christ ~

I can't tell you how beautiful this chapter is. Her description here of the way an infant changes us articulates perfectly the radical change that motherhood (and fatherhood) bring: and all this from a woman who never married! Sometimes those outside can best see. The description is meant to show us how our openness to the gift of life and willingness to serve our children brings us a real experience of Christ, who came as the Infant King.

"The first giving of this [Christ] love to a newly born child is the reshaping of our whole life, in its large essentials and in its every detail, in our environment, our habits, ourselves. The infant demands everything and, trivial though everything may seem when set out and tabulated, the demand is all the more searching because it seizes upon our daily lives and every detail of which they are built up.

"The sound of our voice must be modulated -- the words that we use considered, our movements restrained, slowed down, and trained to be both decisive and gentle.

"Our rooms must be rearranged; everything that is superfluous and of no use to the infant must be thrown out; only what is simple and necessary to him must remain, and what remains must be placed in the best position, not for us, but for him...

"There must be a new timing of our lives, a more holy ordering of our time, which is no longer to be ruled by our impulses and caprice, but by the rhythm of the little child.

"We must learn to sleep lightly, aware of the moonlight and the stars, conscious even in our deepest sleep of a whimper from the infant and ready to respond to it. We must learn the saving habit of rising with, or a little before, dawn. The rhythm of our bodies must be brought into harmony with his. They must become part of the ordered procession of his day and night, his waking and feeding and sleeping. Our lives, because of his and life his, must include periods of silence and rest. We must return with him and through him to the lost rhythm of the stars and the seed."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Long Loveliness.

Betty Beguiles wants to know: Was it love at first sight?

How did you and your significant other first meet? Was it love at first sight or did your affection develop over time? And how did you know he (or she) was The One?

I first (knowingly) set eyes on Todd in the halls of high school. I thought he was cute. He was also the best friend of a guy everyone thought I should date. I really had no interest in Dave (the friend) and, besides, I was going to become a nun.

But Dave's really tall friend, Todd, was really cute.

Todd liked classical music, studying, and arguing about death and life and meaning. He was something else. So, while it was not love at first sight, I sure liked him. But I was going to be a nun, so it really didn't matter. We started hanging out and debating the hot buttons.

We argued a lot. You see, I was the school papal nazi (a rather unflattering term coined by some other guy in high school). And Todd, well, he was a evolutionist/atheist/scientist guy. Darwin was his man, and the pope was mine. It was the best fun I'd ever had.

By the time he graduated high school, I was smitten by his intellectual integrity and passion for truth. I knew he was the one, except for Jesus. But he was dating someone else. They split up, but then he almost immediately started seeing someone at his new college (Oberlin, far far away Oberlin). We kept in touch, nevertheless, exchanging handwritten letters and still arguing about God, life, sex, religion, the Church, history, and the meaning of love.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I really think we both "knew" from about the time he left for Oberlin. We just had work out a few things. He had to fall in love with Jesus Christ. I had to work out that nun thing.

But we did. Deo Gratias Ago. And now for the hard part...

It will make a great novel one day, because it is true.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

" age of childhood."

~from Chapter 2: Rest in Christ~

"There is in fact a huge force, a tremendous power for love, being neglected, not being used, at the time when it is needed as never before, and when every sign seems to be pointing to it and challenging it as the only answer: the power of the infancy of Christ.

"The infant Christ is the whole Christ. Christ was not more God, more Christ, more man, on the Cross than He was in His Mother's womb. His first tear, His first smile, His first breath, His first pulsation in the womb of His Mother, could have redeemed the world.

"In fact, Christ chose the life of growth and work and suffering, and the death on the Cross which we know; but by His own choice all this was to depend on a human being giving herself to Him in His infancy, giving her own humanity to the actual making of an infant's humanity and giving Him her life in which to rest."

Friday, November 12, 2010

RIP-- Henryk Gorecki

I'm interrupting the month for Caryll, because Henryk Gorecki has died at the age of 76. A true artist of the postmodern world, he is best known for his Symphony No. 3, "The Sorrowful Songs," written in response to the Shoah in general and Auschwitz in particular. May choirs of angels welcome him with songs of joy.

Below is the third movement. Gorecki took the words etched by an 18-year-old girl on the wall of a Nazi holding cell. "Mother, do not weep for me..."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"In the sweat of your face..."

~from Chapter 1--Allow Christ to dwell in your soul~

"The man who grows wheat--who plows and sows and reaps, who sets his pace to the rhythm and time of cycles of light, to seasons of gestation and birth, death and resurrection, who measures by the shadows of the sun and calculates by the width of the skies--lives, even if he does not fully realize it, in harmony with the eternal law of love.

"By a beautiful paradox, he touches the intangible with his hands and sees the invisible with his eyes. He sees the wonder of life in the frailest living thing, how certain flowers and fruits, and certain crops and birds and insects, are in the keeping of some unseen power, before he learns that everything that has life is in the keeping of some infinite love, and that nothing, even when it dies, is forsaken by that love."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A month for Caryll.

I have been trying to sit down and write a review of Caryll Houselander's The Little Way of the Infant Jesus. It is simply beautiful. But October faded, and November is well underway, and I have still not been able to garner 30 minutes of idleness for her. So, I will simply start posting excerpts here for the rest of the month.

Usually, November is Dead Poets Month, and she is truly a poet. November 2010, then, will be simply Dead Poet Month. I will be silent--like the world waiting for snow--and she will speak for me.

Without further ado:

~from the Introduction~

"Some truths need to be told over and over again. Our Lord repeated certain truths about Himself and used certain images of Himself over and over again, like the rhyme in a song. Repetition not only instills an idea into our minds, but it also has the same power that rhythm has to make the idea part of us and dear to us, even when it is hard in itself -- and this gently and easily, just as a tune heard many times, sometimes quite unconsciously, becomes part of us and dear to us.

"But there is a difference between Christ's repetition and ours. He speaks creative words because He is God, and because, as a man, He is a poet whom not other poet has ever come near to: His words echo and re-echo through the human heart. We, on the other had, tend to become tedious in repetition, even when the thing that we are saying concerns God and is beautiful in itself.

"Yet everyone who writes about the Christ-life knows that unless certain things are repeated in every book he writes, much, or all of it, will be almost meaningless to many who read it."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Will the Real Christian Please Stand Up?

Back in early October, the Young Mom asked tough questions again. First and foremost: When do I stop being a "young" mom and become an "old" mom? Miriam says I'm not yet an Old Mom, "But you're not that young, either, you know." I know.

No, but seriously. Thus spake Young Mom (the condensed version) some weeks ago:

When can you know whether or not someone is a Christian? After what faults is our faith "negated"? Sexual abuse of a child? Adultery? Child beating? Does contrition or a sufficiently long "sober" period make them a Christian again? Does sin reveal who you really are deep down? Can you judge the "realness" of someone else's Christianity by the type of sin they struggle with or the amount of sins they they commit?

I may be beating the dead horse, but these questions have been around for a while and, I hazard, will still be beating that horse long after the Internet and blogging have gone out of style. So, as October beat us into a dead horse, I pondered them because these questions are worth pondering.

The first important point is, however, about answers.

If I'm going to ask "What makes a real Christian?" or "What sign do I look for in a real Christian?", then I'd better be ready to wonder. These questions are not abstract, but rather pertain to real, individual human beings. The minute I think I've determined the answer, "THAT makes a real Christian," I've also made myself a judge in some manner of real, honest-to-goodness human souls. God, however, is the only judge of souls, and His ways are not my ways. So, I need to be ready to wonder at and ponder these questions all my life, until I actually meet the author of the Answer.

After making myself a child (wonder), then I asked, "What are all these questions about "real" Christians really asking?"

I think there are two reasons we want to know (and these reasons are assuming the best about human beings).

1. Wondering about "real" Christians is really wondering about salvation. We all want to know, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The young man asked Jesus, and we all ask Jesus, "What must I do?" There is no question, as Pope John Paul II said, that there is "a close connection between eternal life and obedience to God's commands... Jesus himself definitively confirms them and proposes them to us as the way and condition of salvation (Veritatis Splendor, no. 12)." But asking for a laundry list of sins or good works that will define me as a Christian is asking the wrong question. "Following Christ is not an outward imitation.... Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (no. 21)."

Darn! I think a laundry list would be easier.

So, if John Paul II is right (and he's basically just quoting St. Paul here), being a Christian means that Christ dwells in the heart of the believer. And, in my experience, the indwelling of Christ is an ongoing process. It's not like I woke up one day and was perfectly conformed to Christ (hot diggity, that would be swell!). Salvation comes, Paul tells us, through the name of Jesus, through whom we are adopted as God's sons and daughters. It sounds like a "real" Christian, then, is anyone who has entered upon this ongoing process, who has begun to be conformed to Christ on the Cross. That could include a lot of "sinners," as Jesus himself suggested on several occasions.

2. Wondering about "real" Christians is really searching for true companions. Aristotle's idea of true friendship, in which one person desires the true good of another simply for the sake of that other person, holds every human heart captive. We all want relationships with others who desire our true good, and, after the revelation of Christ, this means we all want to be with others who want us to be with God. We somehow know that only true Christians, "other Christs," can be true friends (again, in the ideal sense of the term). We want friends who won't betray us, who won't let us down, who won't embarrass us as Christians. We know that sin and failures among Christians hurt the whole body of the Church, while good and great Christians build up the whole body. There is no such thing as an individual's sins "that don't hurt anybody else"; neither is the any isolated virtuous man whose goodness does not somehow refresh and multiply the lovers of Christ around him.

And here's where we have to be real: The only true Christians are those who have fought the good fight and finished the race. We can all betray Christ right up until the moment of death and our particular judgement. We can all fail miserably to be Christian right up until we hit that far shore of the River. That's why it's so important to build relationships with the saints in heaven.

But what about here? Who are the "real" Christians here? Where can we find the true friend in Christ here?

Here are a few more thoughts. And then we will have to just sit and ponder.

"If you love you me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14) For the professed and catechized Christian, the true way to show we are Christians is by keeping the external commandments for the right, internal reasons. Jesus is quite clear: you have to have both a heart and actions conformed to him.

But what about when we (or other professed, catechized Christians) fail? All I can say is, read Romans 8: "What shall separate us from the love of Christ?" If we are followers of Christ, we know that there is no unforgivable sin, except the refusal of God's mercy. Period. As long as that Christian has opened his heart back up to the mercy of God, guess what? He's still as Christian as the day he was baptized. If we can't believe in unconditional forgiveness of a particular sin, then that indwelling of Christ is still imperfect in us as well. We, as well as the pederast or the adulterer, have to beg mercy. We, like the "obvious sinners," are still "on the way," "strangers and sojourners."

[I'm emphasizing "catechized" here for one important reason. If this is really a question about "Who may be saved?", then we can't limit the answer to just "good Christians." There may be that "anonymous Christian" lurking out there, along with the anonymous Catholic, anonymous theist, etc... But that's another whole post, as they say.]

In the end, the whole "Who is a Christian?" question may be the wrong question. A better question may be Christ's question to Peter, "Do you love me?" The answer is always, "I do, Lord, but not enough. Help me love you more."

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints Day.

"Behold, I make all things new..." Revelation 21:5

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Breaking down my notions.

Last week, just about everything in our house that involves water and waste broke. Plus one of the cars. Strangely enough, finding today those ten minutes of blogging time, I have no inspired words (or any words at all, for that matter).

I am, however, nearly finished with Caryll Houselander's The Little Way of the Infant Jesus. The book deserves its own post, and I can't wait to share it with y'all. For now, here is an excerpt from one of her letters. Shamelessly cribbed from the inimitable Magnificat; emphases mine:

"...[B]y accepting the fact that you are infinitely loved by Infinite Love, and ... ceas[ing] to build up notions of the perfection you demand of yourself, and lay[ing] your soul open to that love, you will cease to fear, and you will cease to be exhausted as soon as you stop fighting one part of yourself with another.... You should realize that in you is the power, strength, and love of Christ, that you can carry all that darkness and not go under, if you realize that it isn't you but he who will carry it."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things That Happen...

... when Daddy is a neuroscientist.

Monday: Daddy brings home a rubber toy brain for the baby to play with.

Tuesday: Bella cries, "Mommy! Where's my BWAIN!?!?!?"

Wednesday: Miriam comments, "My goodness, Ana, what a squishy brain you have!"

Thursday: Bella cries, "Mommy! My BWAIN rolled AWOUND!"

Friday: Miriam says, "The brain is missing! Bella took my BRAIN!"

Saturday: Ana chews on her brain for a good half hour. Miriam says, "Mommy! Ana is sucking her brain!"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Teresa, Avila, and Joy.

Today, the Church celebrates the life of St. Teresa of Avila, dear to my heart. Her Autobiography ranks right up there with Augustine's Confessions, with the added bonus that, hey!, she's female. I just love this quote from Butler's Lives, because it sums up so perfectly why we love her:

"THE HUMBLE relation which St. Teresa has left us of her own life, in obedience to her confessors, is the delight of devout persons, not on account of the revelations and visions there recorded, but because in it are laid down the most perfect maxims by which a soul is conducted in the paths of obedience, humility, and self-denial, and especially of prayer and an interior life."

That's right. It's not the Teresa of Bernini (see above), but rather the Teresa of the second image (below), the only known contemporary portrait (can someone tell me who painted it, please?). The second Teresa has thick eyebrows and looks a little stern, as though she's repeated herself several times already today. But her eyes are raised, looking up, in a practical expectation that her Spouse will visit her in prayer. She is one real woman, this Teresa.

According to Butler and "Herself" (I love the English title for the Penguin translation), she repeatedly fell from great religious fervor into a sort of unreflective, lukewarm faith.

"Who ought not always to tremble for himself, and excite himself by humility and holy fear to watch continually with the utmost attention over his own heart, to apply himself with his whole strength to all his duties, and with the greatest earnestness to call in Omnipotence to his assistance, since this holy virgin, after receiving so many favours from God, fell again from her fervour and devotion? Her prudence and other amiable qualifications gained her the esteem of all who knew her. An affectionate and grateful disposition inclined her to make an obliging return to the civilities which others showed her. And, finding herself agreeable to company, she began to take delight in it, by which she lost that love of retirement which is the soul of a religious or interior life, and in which she had been accustomed to spend almost her whole time in prayer and pious reading."

Yes. I tremble.

For twenty-freakin' years, she struggled with true devotion to God:

"Yet for a long time she continued still to pursue her amusements of worldly dissipation, and receiving visits at the grate, as if she had a mind to reconcile two contraries, which are so much at enmity with one another; a spiritual life and sensual pastimes, or the spirit of God and that of the world. The use she made of prayer made her see these faults; yet she had not courage to follow God perfectly, or entirely to renounce secular company. Describing the situation of her divided soul at that time, she says that she neither enjoyed the sweetness of God, nor the satisfactions of the world; for amidst her amusements, the remembrance of what she owed to God gave her pain; and whilst she was conversing with God in prayer, worldly inclinations and attachments disturbed her."

That means this mammoth of a mother saint was almost forty when she finally said "yes" to God with her whole heart.

"After twenty years thus spent in the imperfect exercise of prayer, and, with many defects, the saint found a happy change in her soul. One day, going into the oratory, seeing a picture of our Saviour covered with wounds in his passion, she was exceedingly moved, so that she thought her very heart was ready to burst. Casting herself down near the picture, and pouring forth a flood of tears, she earnestly besought our Lord to strengthen her, that she might never more offend him."

And He heard her prayer.

May it be so for us all.

St. Teresa, pray for us.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's cold season.

Back in the day, when I was a wee little evangelical Protestant, at Bible camp one year we were supposed to decide which jewel we would be in the heavenly kingdom. Was I a jasper? A ruby? An emerald?

Now I know.

I will be a pearl.

For I am an irritant being forged in a sea of mucus.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Women, Sex, and the Church.

Erika Bachiochi has here gathered a series of essays in Women, Sex, and the Church to address the Hot Button List of "women's issues" in Catholic teaching. The Catholic understanding (and, yes, the is a Catholic understanding!) of sex, contraception, abortion, marriage, and the feminine vocation often draws fire. Surprisingly, I've experienced the bullets at what ought to be some of the safest places for young moms: the park, Friendly's restaurant (!), playgroup, and unfortunately Mom's Bible Study. This book is a great reference for Catholic (or, I would hazard, Orthodox) moms and women who know and believe their faith but want a review of the basic arguments and even some fresh approaches. If you wonder just how to articulate what you believe about, say, being open to more children in your marriage, Bachiochi and her crew of educated gals probably have something for you. They base their insights not only on official magesterial teaching, but also on arguments from nature, papal encyclicals, the witness of saints, art, and insights based on recent advances in medicine and neuroscience.

The essays are also a real morale boost: Sometimes I start to feel isolated in the practice of my faith and wonder whether I'm crazy. These women assure me that there are good, beautiful reasons for a life of obedience to God's design for our bodies. We are not lunatics bent on circling the wagons, but rather joyful women engaged in an heroic struggle for truth, goodness, and life.

That being said, I wonder whether the essays would convince anyone who had not already decided to be convinced of a new way of looking at the world. Before handing it to your yoga instructor or local Mary Kay seller, make sure that she already has some sympathy for the Good Things of life: children, God, redemption, heaven.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company, and the reviewer received a free copy of the text in exchange for her opinion. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Women, Sex, and the Church. Also be sure to check out their great selection of baptism gifts.

Monday, October 4, 2010

R.I.P., Fr. Thomas Dubay

The NC Register and EWTN broke the news that Fr. Thomas Dubay, SM, (a Marist) passed away over the September 25th-s6th weekend. (It takes us a while here to get the Catholic news...)

I can't say how many of his books have hit home for me: Finding Spiritual Direction, Fire Within, and "And You Are Christ's" are only three of the titles that come immediately to mind.

William E. May has some links to various articles and audios here. EWTN's tribute is quite extensive.

Below is Fr. Dubay on Teresa's Mansions: It was he who first introduced me to her.

May choirs of angels welcome him home. Let perpetual light shine upon him and give him peace.

Friday, October 1, 2010

St. Therese--October 1st

"For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever."

Friday, September 24, 2010

30 pounds ago, these pants looked good.

In a fit of self-confidence after a (precious) jog the other night, I threw on a pair of black stretch pants that, back in the days when I was an intellectual, had been oh-so-cute. Looking in the mirror, however, I realized that the emphasis should be firmly placed on had been. As in, the past tense.

One of the most disorienting effects of hyperemesis pregnancies has been the ridiculous fluctuation of my weight over the last three years. I have bottomed out at about 115 pounds only to shoot up to a ridiculous 175 pounds several times now. Now, almost five months postpartum, I'm still about 15 over a "happy place weight."

It's a roller-coaster ride for both the body and the psyche, as any mother of small children can tell you. And it can bring out the very worst in me.

I find myself oggling other mothers' waistlines, enviously if they are thin ("How did she do that in just six months?!!??! I'm so fat!") and with smug satisfaction if I detect a stomach roll ("Ha! There's no escaping it!"). Then the internal dialogue turns on me: "You're such a jerk! You can't even just enjoy these beautiful kids because you're so vain! Haha! You'll never wear those jeans again!" It's none too pretty: inside or out.

But I know, I know, that this is another opportunity to grow in grace. Yes, even this stomach roll. I'm not talking about self-effacement or not caring about my appearance.

First, we made a deliberate choice to be open to God's design for our family. Part of that choice (and, as we're learning, it was heroic) will involve a changing body for me. I'm not going to look like I did back in the old days (just like I'm no longer reading Kant seven hours a day, thank heavens); I'm not going to think or read or even feel like I did. This was a life-changing decision, and it requires a daily re-commitment, a daily yes to all this family requires. Including the fact that I need to wear larger pants. Lesson: Man up, momma!


Second, while I can't expect to get back my college body, I can have hope that someday I will be in a semblance of shape again. This is a short time. In ten or twelve years (which doesn't seem such a long wait anymore), I will probably be able to exercise daily again. But I won't be so able to snuggle a baby. Lesson: All things are passing.

And then, soon, I'll be standing before the Throne of God anyway (hopefully), where I can feast of the Lamb's Summer without a worry for calories. Lesson: Have a broader perspective.

Third, drop the internal dialogue. This is easier said than done when the brain is fried to a crisp by small children's incessant questions or endless sleepless nights. My conversation with my head gets out of control almost daily now. But it's not just the words coming out of my mouth that need to be charitable. The words of my mouth "and the meditations of my heart" must be "acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord." Lesson: Practice interior silence.

Finally, there are just going to be days when the body changes are frustrating, when I cry in front of the mirror, or when I just feel ... frumpy before I'm thirty. On those days, I need to close my eyes and offer it to God who gave up his body for me. "Unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit." This time, too, will bear fruit.

And those pants were so goshdarn cute...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I wish I was Polish.

I often joke that being Lithuanian just means I wish I was Polish. We are forever indebted to them for many traditions, including Tradition itself through the evangelization efforts of St. Jadwiga (who courageously married an unschooled, unchristened Lithuanian and proceeded to convert the nation). And then there's John Paul II.

But there are other, smaller traditions, that we adopted from the Poles. As Fall kicks in and I search for more Catholic practices to add to our family life, Poland provides again.

Oplatki are small wafers that the family share on Christmas Eve (or Christmas). Obviously symbolic of the Eucharist, it provides another special commemoration of the Nativity. Click on the link to learn more about the practice.

I am especially excited that they come in pink... for obvious reasons.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blessed John Henry Newman

From the homily:

"Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, “a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk 16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf. Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a “definite service”, committed uniquely to every single person: “I have my mission”, he wrote, “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling” (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2). ~Benedict XVI's homily at the beatification of John Henry Newman

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's just sex.

Once in a while, I like to watch FOX's "Lie to Me," the semi-detective show following Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth), the psychologist who can spot a lie a mile away by reading supposedly universal body cues--eye twitches, lip curls, hand jerks, etc. The series airs just when Ana is nursing down for the night, and it's brain candy at the end of a long day.

Except when it's brain crap.

Last night's "Black and White," the season finale, began with the usual murder and Cal stumbling about in his increasingly eccentric way (as the show has progressed, as it were, Roth has just played the man "curioser and curioser," perhaps to hold viewer attention?).

Anyway, he sidles into his own home, which he shares with his teenage daughter, Emily, to hears giggles and see boots and clothing strewn about. His usual reaction ensues: He calls out her name, growls and smirks at her boyfriend as the young laddie throws his shirt back on, tells him to get out, and casts a knowing glance at the shocked Emily. It's happened before. Then he orders the boyfriend into the car. Emily wails, "Daaa-aaad! It's just sex."

Come on, Dad! Tell her.

Instead, he leers at her one more time, acts like this is a shock, and orders her to accompany him in the car.

And that was it. Oh, my soul, the lost opportunity! Listen FOX: Here's the moment when Cal could have done something really strange. Something to really draw those viewers in!

Emily: (wide eyes) Daaaa-aaad! It's just sex."

Dr. Lightman: (leering, he swings back toward Emily and earnestly searches said wide eyes) "Just sex? Just sex? Listen, cupcake (or other endearing term), there's no such thing as just sex. Is it just sex when you end up with four STD's before you graduate high school? Is it just sex when you find out you're pregnant and Dick here's not going to support the baby and so you have an abortion and spend the rest of your life grieving for your lost baby and wondering if it was a boy or a girl? Is it just sex when you have to tell your fiance in ten years that you slept with every other guy in your calculus class? No way, cupcake. This isn't any game. And, if my lie-detecting eyeballs tell me anything, I can see this young man has no intention sticking to just sticking you in bed. So, I'm going to take him out back, thrash him, and then make sure you don't spend your next study hall naked with some random guy."

But no. The tough guy, Cal Lightman, didn't say any of that. He couldn't. Because, as his own behavior has shown, it's just sex to him, too. I guess it's okay, since he's over 18?

Or something like that. Now, FOX, surprise me next time. Give me a show I'd watch again with a character with real spine.

That's enough of that.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross

JESUS, if, against my will,

I have wrought Thee any ill,
And, seeking but to do Thee grace,
Have smitten Thee upon the face,
If my kiss for Thee be not
Of John, but of Iscariot,
Prithee then, good Jesus, pardon
As Thou once didst in the garden,
Call me "Friend," and with my crime
Build Thou Thy passion more sublime.

~"Rex Doloris," frontispiece from Dorothy L. Sayers' "Catholic Tales and Christian Songs"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Singing on Ephesians.

A dear friend wailed the other day, "Everything I touch turns to dust! Everything I'm doing just falls away and fails!" It was a dark day.

And then, a reading from Ephesians 2.8 for Mid-Afternoon Prayer.

"It is owing to his favor that salvation is yours through faith. This is not your own doing, it is God's gift..."

Yes, my dear. Everything we do turns to dust. But the One Thing Necessary is not our own doing. It is God's gift, and it shall not fail.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

What's the proof?

One of my favorite quirky artists is Hasidic reggae/rap star Matisyahu. After years of following Phish in some sort of hallucinogenic fog, he discovered and embraced his Orthodox Jewish roots, adopting the practices and doctrine of hasidism. And rapping about it.

Shma Y'sroel, Hashem ELokainu, Hashem Echad
(Hear, O Isreal, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One)

His songs are like a beatbox version of the Old Testament psalms of praise and lament. "Got No Water" has become a sort of background song/anthem in my head over the past year.

The world could just crumble to dust it's just us
it's not two it's just one
The middle road call truth: Torah
Yes, you sooth my brain bruise
Open up peruse with knowledge of God
And move up an arousal from below
Till the secrets start to ooze (Don't snooze)
It's pure light
The Most High wants us alive
What's the Proof?
We got life!

The last lines--"What's the proof? We got life!"--are on a Big Scale, I think, a cry for the Jewish people. Through the centuries of persecution and dispersion, they are still here.

But it's also, on a micro-scale, a one-line battle cry for each of us. The Most High wants us each alive--the proof? We got life! What more do I need? Do I need a nice minivan, new clothes, fancy foods, a perfect body in order to be sure that God wants me to exist in Him? Negatory. Do I need Him to answer every prayer I send up literally and with acuity? Nope.

The only proof we need of His grace is this: we are. He wants Miriam to be: She is. He wants Isabella and Ana to be: They are. It's a beautiful sense of the holiness and goodness of simply being.

This is sacramental, too. We believe as Catholics that marriage is a sacrament: God gives us all the grace we need to fulfill the responsibilities that this sacrament calls for. What's the proof? We are still married. He wants us to be faithful and together: We are. And therefore, He is here with us.

If he is not, we are not.

So, rap it out, Matisyahu.

You quench my thirsting soul and you fill my appetite
I give myself to you because you treat me right
Put my trust in the world and the world gets tight
Shift my trust to you, it's like a crystal clear night
Expand in all directions, get the sections to unite
Hashem's rays, fire blaze, light my way, Light of my life

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Top 5 (I mean, 6!) Guys.

I had so much fun contemplating my top 5 gals last week, that for the past few nights Ana and I have turned our thoughts to compiling another list: the top 5 men in my formation. This one was much harder, both because Ana decided to start sleeping for seven hours (less quiet time to contemplate) and because there are so many men around. It's raining men! I had to allow for one more, since... who can choose between priests and who can possibly not include the Pope? So, in no particular order, here's what I came up with:

The Top 6 Men in my Formation (minus Super-formators Jesus Christ the King of Glory, Todd, and my father)

1. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. The late, great Neuhaus was probably the first Catholic intellectual I really got to know well. I started reading his Public Square early on in high school and devoured his books and longer articles in college. His political thought in particular (for example, see American Babylon) helped me to navigate the perils of formative years spent in Washington, DC. His meditations on death--told with reverence and wit--and the irreplaceability of each human life are challenging as well as supremely hopeful and comforting. And finally, the group of people he gathered around himself so as to make their thought available and present to the Church in America has in turn provided endless riches in all things Catholic (and simply Christian). A Chestertonian, into-the-breach-men, sort of love for God and the Church. At his death, I felt I had lost my grandfather.

2. Sheldon Vanauken. This is one odd duck, but A Severe Mercy, which I read at least twice yearly through high school and college, probably formed my understanding of human love and suffering more than any other book (aside from Jane Austen's novels). It is the story of his devotion to the beloved Davy and their conversion to Christianity; it ends with her early death from cancer and his grief. Although he himself was an unfinished work at the time he wrote, his language and poetry taught me what to look for in a man's love: it is only a gateway for divine love.

3. John Paul II. Well, duh. I can't even begin. So, I'll let this piece from the opening of Veritatis Splendor speak for him:

"Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22)."

He was (and is) what he preached, and we saw the Truth in him with our very own eyes. Joyful obedience. Fervent devotion. Total gift of self. These were all the phrases he embodied. He is now a dear friend, bringing many of my petitions before the Father for me.

4. C.S. Lewis. He's always been there. From the Narnia books in my childhood, through the Abolition of Man and Surprised By Joy, Until We Have Faces and The Space Trilogy--everything I read of his clarified and articulated the truths of orthodoxy for me. I would say his writings were my first foray into logic and philosophy in high school. He, along with Neuhaus and Chesterton, set the standard for clear thinking tethered happily to reality.

5. Fr. Robert Schlageter, OFM. For twelve years, he was the chaplain at the Catholic University of America and helped transform so many young lives. I listened to his preaching--always gentle--and received his admonishment in Confession for four years. He grew more bold in proclaiming Christ as time wore on--more bold and more loving--and he always encouraged me in pro-life work (even when it was hardly the glamorous or acceptable thing). Urban legend has it that he would find porno VHS's in boys dorm rooms and make the lads smash them up then and there.

6. Fr. Dennis Billy, CSsR. A dear friend of my father's from college, and now a dear friend of the family. We were blessed to have him at our wedding, as well as for a little private Pre-Cana at Mt. St. Alphonsus. He told us, "The world puts a lot of pressure on young married couples. Put your trust in Christ, and He will be your foundation." He was right. He gave me a blessing once right in the middle of a crowded restaurant. A priest for the Lord.

Honorable Mentions (oh, so many!)
~Evelyn Waugh
~GK Chesterton
~Blaise Pascal
~Fyodor Dostoyevsky
~St. Augustine