The panic around COVID-19 has increased dramatically over the last few weeks as it suddenly got a lot closer to home. I think most people never expected the coronavirus to be more than a news story, never expected it to have much of an effect on their personal lives. It’s safe to say that at this point, nearly everyone in the world has been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the pandemic.
Last Friday, March 13, we were notified that our diocese had canceled all public Masses until further notice. I was absolutely stunned. I was prepared for the closing of schools but not for this. The following Sunday, we watched a live-streamed Mass. While I’m very grateful for the modern technology that allowed us to watch the Mass that day, I missed being present in church, missed worshiping in community, and most of all, I desperately missed receiving the Eucharist.
There are so many things to love about Jane Austen: razor-sharp wit, penetrating satire, and intricate storylines among them, but perhaps what really keeps readers coming back again and again are Austen’s complex, endearing, and realistic characters. Many a devoted Janeite has self-identified with the independent Lizzy Bennet, the practical Elinor Dashwood, the self-assured Emma Woodhouse, the imaginative Catherine Morland, or the humble Fanny Price.
Just as we tend to gravitate toward one of Austen’s heroines, we also tend to have a favorite leading man. In this post, I will be attempting to make an unbiased evaluation of three of Austen’s heroes: Mr. Darcy, Mr. Tilney, and Mr. Knightley. I’m pretty sure that’s impossible though, so if you disagree with my conclusions, or I’ve left your personal favorite off my list, feel free to make your case (civilly, of course!) in the comments. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
I’m reading Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son this Lent (following along with the Abiding Together Podcast’s book study) and it is SO BEAUTIFUL. The book describes Nouwen’s deeply spiritual encounter with Rembrandt’s depiction of the homecoming scene from the parable. This experience taught him not only to see God in a new way, but also served as a window into his own soul. I really appreciate Nouwen’s insights into the workings of the human heart and his willingness to be incredibly vulnerable and honest about the struggles and sufferings he experienced on his own spiritual journey. Because in the end, we’re all really prodigal sons and daughters trying to find our way back to our true home.
A voice, weak as it seemed, whispered that no human being would ever be able to give me the love I craved, that no friendship, no intimate relationship, no community would ever be able to satisfy the deepest needs of my wayward heart. That soft but persistent voice spoke to me about my vocation, my early commitments, the many gifts I had received in my father’s house. That voice called me “son.”
I wrote this piece for school, and since it’s Lent I thought it would be the perfect time to share it here. Suffering is an oft-avoided topic, but I think we do ourselves a disservice when we skirt around the issue. I would love to hear your take on the value of suffering in the comments!
Shall I despise you that your colorless tears
Made rainbows in your lashes, and you forgot to weep?
Would we were half so wise, that eke a grief out
By sitting in the dark until we fall asleep.
I only fear lest, being by nature sunny,
By and by you will weep no more at all,
And fall asleep in the light, having lost with the tears
The color in the lashes that comes as tears fall.
I would not have you darken your lids with weeping
Beautiful eyes, but I would have you weep enough
To wet the fingers of the hand held over the eye-lids
And stain a little the white frock's delicate stuff.
For there came to mind, as I watched you winking the tears down,
Laughing faces, blown from the west and the east,
Faces lovely and proud that I have prized and cherished,
Nor were the loveliest among them those that had wept the least.
"To a Young Girl," by Edna St. Vincent Millay
It’s rather a radical idea in our culture that suffering can be good, that it can transform us for the better. Most people are willing to use any means necessary to escape fear, pain, and sorrow—even accepting the shackles of addiction in order to avoid emotional vulnerability, whether with themselves or with others. The culture tells us that anything which causes us even the slightest emotional discomfort should be cut out of our lives, that it’s “toxic” and is keeping us from being the best version of ourselves.