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."