Monday Miscellany: At Summer’s End

Welcome to this week’s edition of Monday Miscellany! It’s been a busy few months for me and, as a result, this blog has been sadly neglected. I feel like I’m just getting into a good summer routine and now SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER! Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to posting semi-regularly soon. In the meantime, I’ve been collecting some interesting tidbits to share with you.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Last Friday, July 31st was the feast day of this powerhouse saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. the Jesuits, who is most well known for his Spiritual Exercises and Examen (a wonderful bedtime prayer habit!). I discovered two exquisite prayers penned by St. Ignatius and immediately fell in love with them. Perhaps they will be as helpful and inspiring to you as they’ve been to me.

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What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been quite some time since I posted a good old-fashioned book review. Our public library shut down back in March and is only just beginning to reopen, so a shortage of new reading material has been a bit of a problem. I mean, I know it’s insignificant compared to the hardships that so many others are facing right now, but I can’t deny that it’s annoying. Especially since we’re spending a lot of time cooped up inside at the moment. All I can say is, thank goodness for free ebooks, fast Amazon shipping, and our amazing local indie bookstore. I think I would have gone crazy without them.

Who Does He Say You Are?

This was one of my Lenten reads and it did not disappoint. I highly, highly recommend this one for every woman (teen and up) who desires to enrich her faith life. This book contains so many beautiful insights and will give you so much food for prayer. It’s challenging in the very best way, and as comforting as a hug from your best friend. I can see myself coming back to it again and again when I just want a good Scriptural reflection to direct my prayer.

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An Argument for Murder Mysteries

I have a confession to make: I love murder mysteries. Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are among my favorite authors. And not only do I enjoy reading their works, but I find the TV and movie adaptations delightful. You might call me a murder mystery junkie.

Now, it wouldn’t be unfair at all to assume that murder mysteries, with their grisly plot lines and often unsettling glimpses of humanity’s fallen nature, would be anathema to the Christian sensibility. Why on earth would anyone want to read a book or watch a movie about people killing other people? Don’t murder mysteries desensitize people to the gravity of sin and death?

Despite all these perfectly valid objections, I believe that murder mysteries are not only morally acceptable, but are actually one of the best literary (and TV/movie) genres available today. This is because, in our culture, where the line between good and evil is getting progressively more blurry–especially in modern books, shows, and films–murder mysteries are in general very clear about right and wrong.

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Seeking Objective Truth

I wrote this piece for school, and decided it would be a good one to share here. Please keep in mind that this was written with limited time and the ideas haven’t been fully fleshed out. I think it’s a really important and compelling issue to explore further.

The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable–what then?

George Orwell, 1984

In this passage from Orwell’s 1984, the protagonist wrestles with the discrepancies between his own personal experience of truth—things he sees with his own eyes, hears with his own ears, and knows within his heart—and the “truth” as determined by the Party. This raises an interesting and important question: what is truth? The dictionary defines the word as “the body of real things, events, and facts,” or “a judgement, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true.” Opinion, on the other hand, is defined as “a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter,” or “belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge.” In the modern worldview there is quite often significant confusion between truth and opinion. Truth is objective; opinion is subjective.

When we lose sight of this fact, everything descends into chaos. People believe that there is more than one “truth,” or try to force others to accept their personal opinions as truth. Our chronic unwillingness to offend only serves to exacerbate the problem, resulting in intellectual paralysis. Being respectful of the views of others is always important, but insisting that there is more than one “truth” and that everyone is right only leads to confusion. As a culture, we have lost sight of the idea of objective truth.

The solution to the problem is deceptively simple: critical thinking. How do we distinguish between objective truth and personal opinion? By using our minds to actively seek the truth. If we want to really know what is true and what is not, we must be truth-seekers. This requires not only an inquiring mind and a firm grasp of basic logic but also a healthy sense of self-esteem. We are told again and again that we should trust the experts, the scholars, and the scientists. While their insight can be very valuable as we search for the truth, overemphasizing its importance leads us to believe that we—lowly, stupid mortals as we are—cannot come to the truth on our own. This is the greatest obstacle we face on the quest for objective truth, and a great injustice to our abilities.

Monday Miscellany: Unexpected Graces

HE IS RISEN!!! ALLELUIA!!!!! Easter is 50 DAYS LONG and I’m so happy to have a reason to celebrate. As we experience the joy of His Resurrection all over again, I’ve been reflecting on how many unexpected blessings have come out of this pandemic. Catholics everywhere are experiencing a renewed love and appreciation for the Sacraments. We’ve all been given a much-needed break from the busy-ness of our everyday lives. The Christian community as a whole has drawn closer together. Divisions have melted away, and people of all races, faiths, and political viewpoints are standing together in solidarity and lifting each other up instead of tearing one another down. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened during the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter. Things may be hard right now, but God is bringing new life to so many barren places.

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Which Jane Austen Hero is the Ideal Man?

Photo by Elaine Howlin on Unsplash

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!

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From My Commonplace: The Voice of Love

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Return of the Prodigal Son, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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.”

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

Reflections on Suffering

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.

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