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.
For this week’s Monday Miscellany, I thought it would be fun to share what I’ve been reading recently, and what I’m planning on reading in the near future. School (and life in general) have been super busy these past few months, so pleasure reading has kind of been pushed to the back burner, but a looming library due date forced me to get back on track. I finished my first book of the year (woot woot!!) and just picked up a few new ones from the library, plus a few Lenten reads (because I’m nothing if not ambitious when it comes to reading). But I know you’re really just interested in the books, and not my overly-optimistic reading list, so here you go!
How Green Was My Valley
I just finished this one, and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s something magical about diving into a historical work and being transported to a different time and place, to experience life vicariously through the protagonist. This one is a coming of age story that vividly illustrates the effects of the Industrial Revolution on a small Welsh mining town. Llewellyn’s simple prose, written in dialect, not only accurately depicts the way in which the characters would have spoken but also evokes the lyricism of the Welsh language. It was a beautiful book and one I can see myself rereading.
The Lenten season is fast approaching! And yes, Lent is a time of penitence and fasting, but it can also be a time of spiritual growth and renewal. When we let go of the worldly things we’ve been holding onto a little too tightly, we allow space for God to enter in and transform us. Lent is a wonderful opportunity to grow in patience, perseverance, and holiness, and a much-needed reminder that a little suffering can be good for us. Below are some suggestions for ways to make your Lent more fruitful.
Nothing is so intimidating to the modern reader as the classics. Why read Aristotle, Brontë, Descartes, and Lavoisier when plenty of more trendy, exciting books have been published within the last ten years? The Great Books are intimidating, lengthy, and give your brain a workout. All of this is true, but leaving them off your reading list means missing out on a conversation with the greatest philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, and inventors the world has ever known. In his introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, Lewis not only makes a strong argument for reading the Great Books, but also offers encouragement for reluctant readers. This collection of great literary works has shaped the society we live in and changed the way we view the world, and they deserve a place on the desk of every student, the nightstand of every adult, and the bookshelf of every bibliophile.
Happy Monday, everyone! I know starting a new week can be hard, so whether you’re back to work or school today, I wish you all the best! I thought I would share some things I’ve been enjoying in the hopes of making your Monday a little better.
Tips for Choosing a College
Emily Wilson is a major role model for me. She is just THE BEST. And this video is practical, encouraging, and full of good advice. Finding a college that’s right for you can be nerve-racking, and Emily’s tips will help you think more intentionally about what you’re looking for in a school. If you’re starting to think about where you want to go to college (or if you’re avoiding thinking about it), you should definitely watch this!
Speaking of Emily Wilson…
Her book, Go Bravely, which she wrote for teen girls/young women, has been on my TBR list for a while now. I got some Barnes & Noble gift cards for Christmas (books are the best gift, am I right?), and I think Emily’s book and also this one recommended by Meg are going to make the cut.
CathLit2020: A Catholic Reading Challenge
This reading challenge was created by Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas. While I’ve never officially participated in the challenge, she has some great suggestions for Catholic literature (some of my favorites are on her list!) and I love that she included some more unusual categories like “Poetry by a Catholic” and “A Book About Beauty.” You can find Haley’s blog post with the full list of categories and suggested books here.
Sisters of Life
I was blessed enough to attend a retreat given by the Sisters last weekend and it was amazing. I’ve been fans of theirs for a while, and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to meet them in person. Their mission to uphold the dignity of ALL life is so, so needed right now. You can learn more about the Sisters and their unique mission here. The Litany of Trust, written by Sr. Faustina Maria Pia, SV, is one of my very favorite prayers.
Let us do three things, my dearest daughter, and we will have peace: let us have the very pure intention of will to do all things for the honor and glory of God; let us do the little that we can toward that end, according to the advice of our spiritual director; and let us leave it to God to take care of all the rest.
St. Francis de Sales
Intention. God can perform amazing works through us when we offer him our sincere desire and intention to do His will. Just this simple act of wanting to please God can help us to discern what steps we should take to achieve that goal, and furthermore, we can trust that He will give us the graces we need to accomplish it. In this instance, it really is the thought that counts. Our Heavenly Father knows that we will need His help in order to carry out His will, but He desires that, like obedient children, we be willing to say “yes” to His plan.