Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Season of Modesty, Part II

I discussed back in March how I thought clothes this year seemed to be moving in a more modest direction. Amy Welborn last week had a post about the same thing. And Kate of Heart Speaks to Heart has had some interesting comments over the last several days about what exactly modesty is and finding a balance between over-sexualized women's clothing and what I call the "potato sack" approach. Here's what Kate says, and I agree with her:

Modesty is motivated by respect for the dignity of the human person. To
show this respect, we dress in a way that does not invite others to view the
body as something to be used, since that would be disrepectful to our dignity.
Immodest clothing invites a seperation of the person and the body.

But dressing in a way that obscures the form and beauty of the person is
also disrespectful of our dignity, since it suggests that there is something
wrong with the female form, and seeks to again seperate our body and our

Secondarily, modesty involves not drawing undue attention to oneself - but
a poorly or unattractively dressed woman draws attention to herself by her
dress, as much as does the immodest woman.

Ideally, a modest woman should dress well, in well-fitting, well-cut
clothes of good material but a simple pattern, which covers her body, flattering
her form without being too tight or baggy.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bloggers: 1, Radical Islamist "Journalists": 0

Maybe you've already heard about this, but I hadn't. From the Times-Picayune.

Friday, July 29, 2005

There Is No Spoon

I saw this CNS story about the newest vocations poster from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in the Archdiocese of New Orleans' newspaper, the Clarion Herald. The Clarion ran the story without a photo of the very impressive Matrix-inspired poster, so when I first read it, I thought: "Great idea. But they're 3 years too late."

But I was wrong.

I usually don't like religious-themed brand rip-off merchandise (see this post), but this is a recruitment poster, so the pop culture tie-in works well here. I must say this is much better than New Orleans' priestly vocations posters, which often feature a ClipArt boat in the background and talk about being fishers of men. Of course priests are fishers of men, but that's kind of dull compared to this Matrix poster - it definitely gets you excited, doesn't it? I'd think it'd make guys want to go out there and do some major evil butt-kicking as priests.

The priest who developed the idea for the poster, Fr. Meyers, said they were a huge hit from the moment they were displayed:

"They were going like hotcakes. Young kids wanted them to hang in their
bedrooms, high school students wanted them to hang in their lockers. That is
invaluable. If we can get kids to hang a picture of a priest in their room,
we've done something huge for vocations."

The response, though, seems to make sense to him. It appeals to peopleat a level that everyone appears to share. "People love heroes. The poster personifies the priest as a hero," he said.

And it speaks of a faith that meets people exactly where they are
in their lives. The poster itself says, in a parody of the words which any
watcher of videos knows by heart, "This faith has not been modified from its
original version. Yet it is formatted to fit your life."

The bottom of the poster reads: "Trinity Pictures present The Catholic Church: A production by The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. In cooperation with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Coming to a parish near you."

So, what do you think? A Star Wars-themed poster might be a bit more relevant this year, no? But all in all, a very big thumbs up.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Saints and Intimacy

Since I've been at my parents' house for the summer and attending daily Mass in the parish I grew up in, St. Margaret Mary, I've been very impressed by the quality of the homilies there. They've been short and to-the-point, but also thoughtful and challenging.

During his homily Tuesday for the feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim, our priest remarked on the week of feasts honoring saints who were very close to Our Lord and who knew Him personally - St. Mary Magdalen last Friday, St. James on Monday, Sts. Anne and Joachim on Tuesday, and St. Martha tomorrow (July 29). He pointed out that in our honor as Catholics of the saints (these saints in particular, but not exclusively), we once more profess our belief in the two natures of Jesus - human and divine. We accept Him in his full humanity by embracing the relationships He embraced in His life on earth.

The word our priest used for these relationships was "intimacy." In these intimate relationships, we reaffirm Christ as man - vulnerable, patient, joyful, suffering, hopeful, kind. Those who wish to diminish or dismiss the saints, and especially the Virgin Mary, in doing so also turn their shoulder on the fullness of the reality of Christ.

That embrace of God as Man is the whole reason God became Man - so that through our encounter with Jesus we might surrender ourselves to the life of the Trinity and win our heavenly reward. He chased us from divinity into humanity. Essential to any and all human experience is friendship. When we honor those who were friends of Christ - whether they knew Him personally in the 33 years He walked this earth or whether they know him in the life of the Church and the sacraments - we discover more about the person of Christ and thereby draw ever closer to Him.

From the Management

I've updated the blogroll. Check it out.

Also, if anyone is interested in helping me figure out how to redesign the site's masthead and doing some cool stuff with the sidebar, could you e-mail me (address under the "Contact Us" section of the sidebar). I know what I want to do, but I simply don't know enough about HTML to do it. Your pay would be my sincere appreciation. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

That Dangerous Little Friar

According to my watch, there's still 50 minutes of July 27 left in the central time zone, so I thought I'd point out that today is the feast day of the very awesome Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite priest, educator and journalist. His enemies called him "that dangerous little friar" - he was a very vocal critic of Hitler and National Socialism in preaching and in print. He was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was the subject of Nazi experiments and was murdered by lethal injection in 1942. Bl. Titus does not have the fame of other Nazi victims like fellow journalist St. Maximilian Kolbe or fellow Carmelite St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), but he was a holy soul, as he said: "He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it." Be sure to check out this excellent website about him.

Bruce Wayne = Batman

When I went in saw Batman Begins, I (like others) was a bit confused about the excuse Katie Holmes' character gave Bruce Wayne. She said that Bruce had discovered his true identity was that of the Batman and that maybe when he stopped embracing that, something could happen between them. First, that was just a dumb thing to say - did she mean she wanted to date a false version of someone? But what was more interesting was that she concluded, and Bruce admitted, that Batman is more the essence of who the man is than the billionaire Bruce Wayne is. Before the film, I had always though Batman was Bruce Wayne's alter ego. But after seeing the movie and reading Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, it seems that it's the other way around.

For example, on pages 25-26, as Wayne reflects on Gotham's descent into darkness and considers becoming Batman once more, he thinks to himself:

The time has come. You know it in your soul. For I am your cannot
escape me.You are puny, you are small. You are nothing - a hollow shell, a rusty
trap that cannot hold me. Smoldering, I burn you - burning you, I flare, hot and
bright and fierce and beautiful.You cannot stop me - not with wine or vows or
the weight of age. You cannot stop me but still you try - still you run...

This idea of Batman being Wayne's true identity raises a number of interesting (theoretical) questions: Was it always his destiny that his parents be killed so that their murder would spur him on toward this? What's his level of culpability for what he does as Batman if the burning need to be Batman is one he can't resist? What would his identity be if Gotham weren't the hellhole it is?

These are the questions, as we addressed in JPII's book, of memory and identity. It seems that not only has Wayne's memory shaped and informed his identity, but his memory has become his identity, which is not healthy, for the two things in his mind are the same. I think this, above any physical infliction he might bring upon others or his usurption of the justice system, is what makes Batman frightening.

The Great Snape Debate

There's lots of interesting (Catholic) blogging about HP and the Half-Blood Prince and, understandbly, it centers around Professor Severus Snape - who, love him or leave him, has always been the series' most interesting character: Is he really good or really evil? What's the story behind his murder of Dumbledore? And, as Cacciaguida asks, should we give up on him? The Anchoress addresses the Snape question here, and she directs us also to Dave Kopel here.

I think it's important to keep in perspective when considering Snape that just because we hate his personality, it does not mean that he is evil. Yes, he doesn't like Harry, but there's lots of personal history to defend that. Yes, he hates Gryffindor and loves Slytherin, but he is Slytherin's head of house. No, he doesn't get along well with most members of the Order of the Phoenix, but that's because some of them were real jerks to him at Hogwarts. None of those things make him an evil person; one we may not like, true, but not necessarily evil.

And up until the Sorcerer's Stone was released on film, I always thought Snape was a wolf in sheep's clothing. But Alan Rickman's portrayal of the potions master softened me toward him. It didn't make me like Snape, but it did make me respect him and accept Dumbledore's professions that he had changed and was good now. And that is the only film character that has influenced my perception of the character in print. The portrayals of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Draco, McGonagall - none of them changed my attitude toward the book's character. But Rickman's Snape did. That's part of the reason why I believe (and hope) that Snape will be offered a chance at redemption in Book 7. Not only that, but I think he's the only wizard next to Harry who could be a real threat to Voldemort - not a lethal threat, as the prophecy makes clear that's left to Harry, but one who can weaken the Dark Lord's defenses considerably. Sure, there's McGonagall, but she doesn't have the insider knowledge that could help contribute to Voldemort's demise. And there are the other members of the Order, but they suffer the same deficiency. Snape is the one who has the knowledge and the experience to play a critical role in helping Harry. And I think he will.

And, as I've read countless analyses of the last few chapters of HBP and Snape's role in them, there's been one Snape quote that struck me that I haven't seen anyone else refer to. As Snape and Malfoy are fleeing castle grounds to disapparate, Harry is throwing curses toward them and Snape blocks each one. The two reasons for this are that A) Harry, though he's been taught how to cast spells without speaking, does not do it on this occassion and utters all the curses outloud, so Snape can hear what he's about to send his way and B) Snape is a great leglimens, meaning he can read Harry's mind, so he knows what curses Harry is thinking of before Harry utters them. As he's running off, Snape yells back to Harry: "Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter!" We can interpret this line two ways: First, that Snape is insulting Harry for failing to use those basic defenses when fighting against Death Eaters. Or second, as I propose, is that Snape is reminding Harry that when it comes time to face Voldemort, he can't be making minor mistakes like that or he'll surely die - he's offering him constructive criticism and advice.

I think Snape will turn out to be a classic Christian character: A great man who uses his great knowledge, great power and great pride to commit great sins but who, when it comes down to it, will ultimately repent and use those talents for the greater good. He's the greatest sinner in these books. I also think he'll be the greatest saint.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Memory Schmemory

I got tagged with this Memory Meme from Mike of The Easy Distraction. So here goes.

What I was doing...

10 years ago: I was 11 and it was the summer between 5th and 6th grades. I was probably scurrying to finish my summer reading list, which I bet consisted of juvenile historical fiction like Johnny Tremain or Across Five Aprils. Other than that, I don't really remember.

5 years ago: I was 16, a fresh driver, in between sophomore and junior years of high school and had just finished my first real job as a babysitter for the childcare service of a local fitness center. I was also babysitting regularly for a family I had met through that job and was spending lots of time with my then-best friend, Laura, who would be my Confirmation sponsor come that October. (Laura, who is 2 years older than me, is now happily married and will give birth to her first baby in September!) I also went every 2 or 3 weeks to our local Carmelite convent to help them clean and set up their new bookstore as I discerned a vocation.

1 year ago: I stayed with a friend of the family up in Maryland for the summer to do a reporting internship at The (Baltimore) Sun. I think we were also getting ready to go on a vacation to North Carolina, where we visited Biltmore Estate, the largest residence in the country.

Yesterday: I slept in, had a lazy Sunday morning reading the paper in print and online, went with my dad to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then to the grocery with him to get stuff for dinner, hung around for a few hours until I went to my parish's LifeTeen Mass. When I came home, an aunt, uncle and two cousins of mine from Houston were over at the house, stopping by on their drive to Tennessee for vacation. We had dinner with them and then played games like "watch my 4-year-old cousin pretend to be Dash from The Incredibles." Lots of fun. Then off to the computer for some blogging before welcoming my sister back home from her weekend trip to Georgia for Steubenville Atlanta.

I don't really know who to pass this on to. So I won't.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Vocations, Vocations, Vocations

We had a visiting Josephite priest say Mass at my parish's LifeTeen Mass tonight and during his homily, he showed us some of his "treasures." One was a pin bearing the seal of the Josephite Order, which he said he had seen as a young kid on the lapels of the Josephite priests who ran his home parish. He told us that when he saw the pin when he was young, he just thought it was cool and that he "wanted one of those." He didn't know then what that encompassed, but now looks back on it as a gift of grace in the discovery of his priestly religious vocation.

It got me thinking about discussions of vocations that I've heard or read this summer. The first was a homily by one of our parochial vicars, Fr. Thomas Kilasara (who's "on loan" from the Diocese of Zanzibar, Tanzania), on the Gospel of the harvest and harvest laborers. He addressed his homily to parents, admonishing them to encourage and discuss vocations to the priesthood and religious life with their children and reminding them that it is their obligation as married couples to support the Church even unto the offering of their own children, if God wills it. It was a very powerful homily and there was so much truth to it. As a young woman who has considered previously a vocation to the religious life and as someone who knows other young people who are considering vocations, I know how important it is for children to feel that their parents support and are happy to have a child who would enter the seminary or convent. If children feel pressure to become a lawyer or a doctor to please their parents, how much more pressure would they be under as they considered a vocation from parents who desperately want grandchildren and who measure success by salary and worldy possessions?

The second was a discussion thread a few weeks ago over at Amy Welborn's somehow related to Washington Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Most people were beating up on the good cardinal for one reason or another, including supposed inflation of seminary numbers attributed to his zeal for encouraging vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I've never met His Eminence, but I have heard him preach and know of him, and he seems to be a very good and holy man and - yes - he loves, loves, loves talking about vocations. But I'm hardpressed to see why there's something wrong with that. One of the commentators pointed out (without a source, of course) that while Washington has some of the greatest number of men in the country to enter the seminary, many drop out and never become priests. I'm hardpressed to see why there's something wrong with that either. The seminary, as I understand it, is a time for discerning one's vocation more deeply and very often young men who feel they might have a call may never truly discover the Lord's will for their life without entering the seminary and discerning there. Better for men who don't have a vocation to leave the seminary than to be ordained, no? And, if I'm correct, those men who don't become priests have to reimburse the (arch)diocese for the cost of their education. Plus, those men get at least a year or two worth of solid study in theology and philosophy, which will serve them well in whichever vocation God calls them to.

I firmly believe that any "vocations crisis" the West is experiencing has as much - if not more - to do with the environment and attitude created by parents and clergy toward priestly and religious vocations than any aversion toward it that young people in a materialistic society might have. If parents don't discuss and encourage vocations with their children, and if priests and religious don't set a good example by talking about the joy they've found in their vocations, there will always be a vocations stalemate. Turning your life completely over to Christ and His Church is hard enough without having to put up with a lack of support and lethargic attitude from family, friends, and clergy. You can never talk about vocations too much!

Chocolates Are A Girl's Best Friend

I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory today. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, as you might suspect, make this telling of the Roald Dahl tale rather...interesting, but the film was all-in-all a very pleasant surprise. I was worried Depp's androgenous-looking Willy Wonka would throw me off to the whole film and the previews I saw seemed a bit over the top, but the complete movie shows that the excesses of the director, lead actor and Dahl himself are in place to make the story's message strikingly clear. That message, of course, is that the good will be rewarded and the not-so-good will, by their own merits (or lack thereof), receive their due as well.

This adaptation of the book (which is one of the few Dahl tales I have not read) is much darker and stranger than the first film but serves the story well. Particularly helpful is the addition of backstory into Wonka's childhood and motivation for becoming the world's most infamous chocolatier. This film, unlike the first, puts Wonka and Charlie on equal footing and gives each the opportunity to learn something from the other. The only thing I think I preferred in the first film was its vision of the Oompa Loompas. The ones in this movie are a bit too modern, a bit too polished, a bit too distant. The only other complaint I had with the movie it is sometimes difficult to hear the lyrics to the songs the Oompa Loompas sing after each child meets his fate. But a thumbs up overall.

The Awakening

A long, but very beautiful story from the WashPo on a young woman who, 20 years after an accident that left her with massive brain damage, spoke again. Family members say that Sarah's story is not connected to Terri Schiavo's. Either way, it's a great read and a powerful testimony to the dignity and beauty of all human life:
Sarah. They didn't know that as she lay in that bed, with her mouth gaping, face wretched in a silent agony, body atrophying, feet gnarling, fists clenched across her chest, tight, as if she were afraid, big, blue eyes staring out like she was trapped . . . They didn't know that as she lay there,something in her brain was mending.

People came and people went. Some grew up and some grew old. Some gave up and went away, guiltily diving into their own lives as Sarah Scantlin lay in that bed. Never believing she would do anything more than lie there and stare into oblivion, or wherever it is that brain-damaged people go, hovering between now and then, nowhere and somewhere, just out of reach.

Then six months ago, Sarah came back.

Sarah spoke.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Real Team Spirit

For those married folks who read CGT, check out the website for Teams of Our Lady, an international lay movement of married couples that focuses on strengthening families through prayer and discussion as well as strong Christian social ties. My parents have been members of a local Teams group for about 8 years now and I know have gotten a lot out of it.

Sad Story

Please keep Our Lady of the Lake Parish in your prayers as this story on their pastor's spending of parish funds is investigated both by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and by the news media. My brother became the parish's youth minister last month and my mother taught at the parish school for about a decade ending 5 years ago, so my family naturally has great interest in what is happening there at the archdiocese's largest parish. I knew of Fr. Cervantes when he was assigned at a parish in Slidell and was chaplain at my high school. He is a vibrant priest and a gifted homilist and I hope that everything works out the best both for him and for OLL parishioners.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Scream

In exactly 10 months, I will graduate from college. Posted by Picasa

A Reminder

To check out After Abortion, which is simply one of the best blogs on the Internet and a very valuable resource.

Check Out

This website for the Donnie Jarrell Foundation, which was established after the father of a little girl at my pre-school was diagnosed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Mr. Jarrell died less than a month ago, leaving a young wife and 4-year-old daughter. Please keep the family in your prayers and if you're in the New Orleans/Northshore area, check out the events listed on the site.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Dark Knight Returns

Discussion of Frank Miller's graphic novel here at CGT and over at Catholicae Testudines technically started last Friday, but since I've been busy reading both DKR and HP, I haven't had time to write on it yet. But check out this post at CT about the references to Christianity in the book.

I've never read comic books before, so reading this novel was...interesting. It took a good deal of time to get adjusted to its flow and structure and I'm still not sure I'm comfortable with the form. I had a particularly difficult time with transitions in the book. First because I thought it was lacking basic solid transitions throughout (is that usual for comics?) and second because of the layout of the pages themselves - frames that would be equivalent to separate paragraphs in a regular novel often did not have any physical distinction from those around them (does that make sense?) and it sometimes was not immediately evident that there was a shift in speaker and/or setting (especially because I thought at first that Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne looked alike).

I also think I suffered from not reading previous Batman comics/graphic novels. All I knew of the Dark Knight was what I had seen in the movies. I didn't know enough about the villains and Batman's interaction with them and the response of Gotham (both the public and the government) to his crusade. I also didn't know his relationships with other superheroes, especially Superman.

Because of those setbacks, I'm sure there were elements of the plot I did not recognize for what they were and am still a bit murky on some (large) details: Were Two Face and the Joker connected other than sharing the same pyschologist? I thought Superman died when deflecting that warhead. Why didn't he die when they shot Kryptonite at him (or was it not Kryptonite)?

But the things I'm sure I understood in the book allowed me to understand that one of the reasons for the allure of comics is that they're actually very-layered and thought-provoking. The form of media forces the author to produce vibrant, fastpaced and necessary dialogue. All in all, I give it a thumbs up.

HP Review

I finished HP and the Half-Blood Prince late last night and though there are a billion reviews and analyses out there (none of which I've read), I thought I'd still offer my own. And if you haven't read the book, you've been warned: Spoilers ahead!

The book was, overall, very strong. But I thought there were a few weak points. The problem was the book's second act: It seemed to have little direction and was very disjointed from the vibrant, well-written and engaging first and third acts. The second act was probably the slowest moving and most awkward of the second acts in all of the HPs so far. I also thought that Rowling did not give enough time to the discovery of who the Half-Blood Prince was and that that and Harry's lessons with Dumbledore on Voldemort's history competed too often for primacy in Harry's and the reader's attention. Finally, I thought there was too much kissing in the book. I thought Ron's relationship with Lavender was unnecessary and that Harry's relationship with Ginny moved too fast and was overdone.

Those deficiencies aside, Rowling did a great job in this book helping us get to know characters other than Harry, Ron and Hermione. Obviously, great attention was given to Voldermort. But I also loved the descriptions of the joke shop run by Fred and George (who have become two of the books' most beloved characters) and thought Rowling pulled off a great feat when she compelled us to have sympathy for Draco Malfoy. The scene between him and Dumbledore (with Harry immobile in the background) was probably the best in the book. You simply had to have compassion for him: Here is a 16-year-old boy whose parents have always served the evil Voldemort, his father is in jail and will surely be punished by Voldemort for his failures when he's released, his mother has no one to support her at the time but him, and if Draco doesn't do what Voldemort orders him to, Voldemort will kill his parents. But all the time, he doesn't want to be a murderer; he knows it's not right. It's either kill or be killed along with your family. Dumbledore shows Draco mercy and he doesn't know how to respond; he's never been offered it before. Great stuff.

But I think what all fans are waiting to learn more about in Book 7 is Snape. He was formerly a servant of Lord Voldemort but since his fall 15 years ago had made a supposed conversion back to the good side. Dumbledore, a great judge of character, trusted him deeply. Harry has always hated him for reasons other than his past life as a Death Eater, but always suspected him of being dubious. And then we learn in Book 6 that Dumbledore had, apparently, been wrong in his judgement: Snape was pulling the wool over his eyes all the time. But Rowling did such a great job in the previous 5 books of getting us to dislike Snape's personality but trust him at the same time that we feel betrayed by his betrayal of Dumbledore. I don't think that Rowling could write an explanation that justifies Snape's murder of Dumbledore (i.e. Dumbledore was going to die anyway and Snape didn't want to turn Draco into a killer so he did it himself). But I think she will offer him a chance at redemption.

And R.A.B.? My dad thinks that was a ploy, that the locket was really a Horcrux and that Voldemort planted the letter himself to throw off anyone who might discover it. I think that's plausible, mostly because I'm skeptical of anyone besides Dumbledore having had both the knowledge and wizarding power to get the Horcrux in the first place. But we'll see...

Good News About Roberts

Well... Mrs. John Roberts anyway. This Los Angeles Times article discusses Jane Robert's involvement with Feminists for Life. Some highlights from the article include but are not limited to:

While Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s views on abortion triggered intense debate on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, there is no mistaking where his wife stands: Jane Sullivan Roberts, a lawyer, is ardently against abortion.

A Roman Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the antiabortion movement. She provides her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington organization — Feminists for Life of America...

Jane Roberts was a volunteer member of Feminists for Life's board of directors from 1995 to 1999. She has provided legal assistance to the group and been recognized as a contributor who donated from $1,000 to $2,500."

A close friend characterized her as an "extremely, extremely devout Catholic" who had enjoyed her antiabortion advocacy.

Although if my experience with my 2 sets of parents has taught me anything (aside from make sure you understand what marriage is all about the first time around) it is that spouses do not always share the same viewpoint on all issues.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I Could Sound Smart and Post About the Supreme Court or...

...I could post about fashion!

As I was bored at work today I decided to research fashion tips because I'm a big nerd. I've always found that it's more fun to read about the mistakes people have made with fashion than what the actual rules are, and I found a great point at . They pointed out a common mistake some fashion fans can make:

"Relying too heavily on the fashion media.

You buy all the fashion magazines religiously, watch awards shows, read the paper and keep up with all the online sources. How could that be a mistake?

By relying too heavily on the media to rule your wardrobe, you run the risk of being a fashion victim.

Remember: most magazines and TV programs about fashion produce an "aspirational" effect. They present you with fabulous clothes you'll want to buy on fabulous models you'll want to look like.

The problem is that a) you probably can't afford any of the clothes they show and b) you're never going to look like a supermodel or a celebrity." (

Now I don't always agree with a lot of the so-called tips I find at a lot of these fashion websites (for example, advising a conservative dresser to "punch it up in a miniskirt, lowcut jeans or a fringed handbag"). However, I this is a good point. I have not bought a fashion magazine since middle school and probably never will again.

Another good point had that sounds cheesy but is absolutely true: "If you love it, look great in it and can afford it, buy it. Yes, it's really that simple!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Who Is My Mother?

Today's Gospel (Matt 12: 46-50) is one often quoted by Protestants and others who seek to diminish the role of Our Lord's Mother in His life and, by extension, ours. Some read this passage as Jesus dismissing Mary, when, in fact, He's holding her up as an example - He's not deflecting attention from her, He's directing it toward her. He tells us that "whoever does the will of my Heavenly Father is my brother, sister and mother" because that's the essence of who she is. Her perfect obedience and surrender to the will of the Father is why she was chosen to be His mother. She is the model Christian; Christ tells us that rather plainly in this passage.

HP and Dads

I'm about 2/3 of the way through HP and the Half-Blood Prince and, as several critics have pointed out, the role of fathers and fatherhood in the series is amplified even more in this book, as we find that Lord Voldemort's turn from the orphaned teenager Tom Riddle to the darkest wizard to ever live was influenced heavily by his lack of parenting, particularly his father's abandonment of his then-pregnant mother.

TIME published an interview this week with JK Rowling. It was a horrendously written piece that offered little insight into her or her books (aside from the fact that her name rhymes with "bowling," not "howling"). But she did have this to say on the role of fatherhood in the books:

"As I look back over the five published books, I realize that it's kind of a litany of bad fathers. That's where evil seems to flourish, in places where people don't get good fathering."

A keen observation on her fiction and on reality.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Knew It

You are Elinor Dashwood of Sense & Sensibility! You are practical, circumspect, and discreet. Though you are tremendously sensible and allow your head to rule, you have a deep, emotional side that few people often see.

Take the Quiz

Wedding Announcement

I swear this'll be the last thing I post on my big bro's wedding. But check out the announcement that appeared today in The Times-Picayune.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

RIP, Mr. Harrison

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Mr. Roy Harrison, father of a New Orleans' seminarian, Sean, a friend of mine from high school. I didn't know Mr. Harrison at all, really, but his 3 kids are all wonderful and a credit to him.

Blogs Away

Here's this week's WashPo Magazine cover story on blogging, bloggers, politics and the rest of the media.
What's blogging doing to the tone of American politics? Suppose that the heat of political rhetoric could be charted on a scale of spicy foods. What you hear and read most days in the mainstream media ranges from unseasoned oatmeal to Franco-American Spaghetti-Os in a can. Whereas the political blogs pick up somewhere around a Taco Bell burrito and range all the way to the vindaloo you might be served by a sadist chef in Bangalore.

And later...
In a sense, bloggers take us back to a time long before the birth of the mainstream media. It was a time when America was a Babel of contending political voices. Every cause and party and ambitious upstart launched a little newspaper -- there were Tory papers and revolutionary papers, Federalist papers and Democratic papers, Free Soil papers and pro-slavery papers.

The fact is, Americans have always loved to argue. For every adventurer and striver who settled the New World there was a disputant and a critic. The entire expanse of Europe was not large enough to contain the dissenting spirit of William Bradford and his band of Mayflower pilgrims. Better to crowd into a leaky wooden boat, brave the Atlantic and scratch a living from the frozen, rocky wilderness than to stifle their disagreements with the Church of England. And no sooner had they built Plymouth Plantation but they were arguing among themselves. By 1624, just four years after stepping onto its famous rock, the little colony was riven by "private meetings and whisperings" and "a spirit of great malignancy," according to Bradford's history of those years.

They might have enjoyed blogging.

As far as media themselves are concerned, blogging is obviously the biggest development to have grown out of the online world. People in the media always knew online news had to become something more than a simple electronic combination of print and broadcast. I think the answer to what that something is is found in blogging, for it offers the ultimate reader interaction and control, something print and broadcast media could offer only minimally. I think the real thing to watch out for over the next few years is to see how blogs evolve in their handling of the news and how MSM sites respond to that. As I mentioned in a post after it happened, I had breakfast a few months back with Tim Franklin, the executive editor of The (Baltimore) Sun, and a good deal of our time was spend talking on how the Sun's website could improve my modelling parts of it on blogs. The other thing, as I think is evident from the WashPo story, is to observe how politicians and government officials respond to this media development.

I'll Admit It

I like the Kelly Clarkson song Break Away, as well as the Backstreet Boys' new song, Incomplete.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Her feast is today, and she's pretty cool, so learn more about her here.
Here's some info on the brown scapular.
Here's the website of the Carmel of Mary in North Dakota which a Catholic Terp entered last fall.
Here's the website of the Covington Carmel near my parent's house.

Two More Cents on Harry Potter

Thomas of Catholicae Testudines gives his thoughts on the HP "controversy" here. I would respond in his combox, but since I have my own blog and the comment would be pretty long, I just decided to post here.

1) I think parents must decide for themselves and their children if HP is appropriate for them and I would never presume to tell a parent they were wrong for forbidding their children to read the books. As I said before, I don't think they're appropriate for kids under 11 or 12. The problem I have is with parents who refuse to let ther kids read the books even though they've not actually read the books themselves and are basing their beliefs on second or third hand knowledge. Seriously, is that what you want to teach your kids? When confronted with something that might be a challenge to your faith, to let other people do the heavy work and not investigate it yourself? And most of the sources parents who haven't-read-but-don't-like-the-books are using are really off-the-wall anyway (that the books are sexualized, blur distinctions between good and evil, etc.)

2) That said, I think the only thing that presents a possible problem for kids over 11 or 12 is the magic itself. But just a few observations: I attended an HP release party last night at which about 600 people were present, about half of them children. I'd say about 1/3 of the attendees were in costume, most of whom were children. And I saw only 2 people actually dressed as a witch or wizard. One was an older lady who worked at the store who looked like she was going for the Professor Trelawny look. The other was a 17 or 18 year old girl who wore a black witch's cap and a pink feather boa, which seemed to be an indication that she was there more for The Experience than actually anticipating the book. All of the other kids (with the exception of one girl who dressed up brilliantly as the Fat Lady, the portrait that guards Gryffindor Tower) were wearing Hogwarts robes - and there's nothing distinctly magical about them. Additionally, I saw no one with any wands or attempting to say any spells. The only magical accessory I saw was one girl with a broomstick that looked a lot like Harry's Firebolt. And if you've read the books, you know that the broomsticks are used mainly for playing Quidditch (a combination of soccer and rugby played in the air) and that the broomsticks are mechanical like cars in that someone needs to steer them, but it is not the witch or wizard's power that makes them fly or gets them to fly faster or slower (you can buy a fast broomstick like a Firebolt, a pretty good one like a Nimbus or a cheaper, slower one like the Cleansweep). Finally, I visited the "Christianity" section of the store to see if they had In the Beginning in (for our August book club) and the Christianity section is next to the New Age/occult stuff. There was no one - not one person out of the 600 who were there - who visited that section in the 30 minutes I looked at the Christianity stuff.

3) While it is true that Harry, Ron, Hermione, et al are regular humans, the world Rowling created is not as average as non-readers think. In addition to humans with magical powers (witches and wizards), there are centaurs, dragons, giants and goblins. Finally, the only two books Rowling has published aside from the yearly HP books are two short works that are supposed to be some of Harry's textbooks. And neither of them concerns itself with charms, potions, divination, transfiguration, spells, etc. The first is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which, if anything, expands upon the fact that Rowling's Britain is not so average as one might think. The second, Quidditch Through The Ages, is about, well, the history of quidditch. And again, the broomsticks are more mechanical than magical and though the balls in quidditch fly, none of the players uses magic to actually play the game (i.e. you can't use spells against someone in the course of the match, it's all pure athletic ability and luck).

Thursday, July 14, 2005

M&I: JPII the Intellectual and History

Last semester I took an intellectual history course and when it came time to submit ideas for our final paper, I developed a proposal to look at the writings of Pope John Paul II as an Eastern European intellectual and compare his work with other Polish thinkers we had studied. My professor said that JPII's writing was not yet the subject of scholarly research and so moved my paper in another direction (it ended up being about Konrad Adenauer). But I think the time will come very soon when the academic world and all who use their minds in the quest for truth will have to admit that our beloved late Holy Father was really an intellectual giant of the 20th century. Memory and Identity should be proof of that. As the boys of CT have pointed out, it gives you a crash course in theology and philosophy as well as up close look at Nazism and Communism. Crossing the Threshold of Hope is also a great aide, addressing some of humanity's greatest questions in an honest, simple Q&A format.

What sticks out to me about M&I (and Threshold) is the unity it describes between salvation history and our own personal (or national) histories, for as JPII repeatedly points out, they are utterly intangled in each other. The problem with much modern philosophy and the theories it describes for history is that it fails to appreciate the complete picture. Something always has to be severed when Enlightenment or Post-Enlightenment philosphers theorize on our human identity, history and future - there is always a gap between theory and reality because they bind themselves by placing limit on the love and mercy of God and His plans for our destiny. But as JPII ably demonstrates in M&I, our human identity and human history is wrapped up in Christ and it is only in Him that we can ever become fully ourselves:
Human history obviously unfolds in a horizontal dimension within space and time. Yet it also has a vertical dimension. It is not only we who write our history: God writes it with us. This dimension of history, which we might label "transcendent," the Enlightenment decisively rejected. The Church,
however, returns to it repeatedly.

And later:
The deepest meaning of history goes beyond history and finds its full explanation in Christ, the God-man. Christian hope projects itself beyond the limit of time. The Kingdom of God is grafted onto human history, adn there it grows, but its goal is the life to come. Humanity is called to advance beyond death, even beyond time, toward the definitive onset of eternity alongside the glorious Christ in the communion of the Trinity.

It is here that I'll note what I consider an important element of all of JPII's works that I've read, but particularly M&I: His use of the Book of Genesis. The late Holy Father uses the story of creation and the first human families as a context and lens through which to examine our own identities today and his analyses of that book woven in and out of his own works are startling in the depth they provide as insights into ourselves. This again is evidence of that unity between our own history and salvation history.

HP Mania

My family and the Houston Chronicle share a long history. My grandmother used to be a reporter for them, my brother Patrick was quoted an article on the election of a new pope and now 4 of my cousins are mentioned (and 2 quoted) in this story about an HP release party.

You Cow!

It might be more than 3 months until Halloween, but grab your cow costumes out of the bottom of your closet and dust them off because Friday, July 15 is Chick-Fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day (in addition to being the start of our discussion on The Dark Knight Returns). If you wear a cow costume to any Chick-Fil-A restaurant, you get a free meal! What a deal from the best fast food business out there. I think my sister and I might work on cow costumes tonight...

Harry Potter and the Order of the Blogosphere

Amy Welborn has several HP-related posts today, though the most insightful is this essay by Catholic author and mother Regina Doman. She refutes a number of charges against the HP books and then offers this thesis:
Perhaps the jaded and beauty-starved and morally-adrift children of the world are devouring Harry Potter because the books are full of truth, goodness, and beauty – although disguised with unfortunate terms like ‘wizard’, ‘witch,’ and ‘magic.’ If so, then Rowling has pulled the biggest literary coup in modern history, similar only to Tolkien’s success in becoming the greatest author of the twentieth century.

I do, however, disgree with her on one point: I don't believe, and have found no evidence in the books, that members of the wizarding community - witches and wizards - are a species separate from that of humans, as Ms. Doman says. They are, I think, regular human beings who happen to have magical powers. They are not like Tolkien's Elves, to whom she compares them. Proof? A witch and a wizard can marry and have children, but the children are not guaranteed to have magical powers (these people who have magical parents but are not magical themselves are called squibs). Additionally, two Muggles (people without magical powers) can marry and have children with magical powers (mudbloods). It is scientifically impossible for two members of one species to mate and produce offspring of a separate species.

Jimmy Akin also has more on HP and B16, including evidence that a secretary to the then Cardinal Ratzinger actually wrote the note that has been discussed so often the last few days.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Everyone Loves a Catholic Girl

We might not have swords and feathery hats or be inducted into our organization in secret ceremonies, but the Catholic Daughters of the Americas is every bit as fun and just as important to the worldwide Church as its big brother, the Knights of Columbus. Members of CDA:
Engage in creative and spiritual programs which provide its members with the opportunity to develop their God-given talents in meaningful ways that positively influence the welfare of the Church and all people throughout the world. Catholic Daughters of the Americas strive to embrace the principal of faith through love in the promotion of justice, equality the advancement of
human rights and human dignity for all.

Our motto is "Unity and Charity," our symbol is the Cross and Crown and (the best of all) our colors are purple and white. I was inducted into CDA as part of our UMD campus court last February, a year after our court was established by fellow Catholic Girl Talker Anne. Our court's name is Ct. St. Maria Goretti, whom we chose as our patroness because we wanted our court's focus to be on chastity-related work.

Before CDA was established at UMD in 2004, I had never heard of the organization, though I did know a good deal about its big brother, the Knights. It's truly unfortunate that CDA has not spread like the Knights, as its mission is complementary to the Knights and can only enhance their work. I also think the establishment of well-run, vibrant CDA courts in parishes would eliminate the need for the rather superfluous growth of hodgepodge women's faith, service and social groups, as CDA would cover all of that ground. Plus, you get to brush up on your parliamentary procedure! What more could you want out of one organization?!

I joined about a dozen other members of our campus court in late April to attend the Maryland State Convention of CDA, which though occassionally boring and longwinded (plus the fact that we were the youngest people there by a good 30 years), was also telling - in both a good and bad way. For the bad, it was evident (to me at least) that by some of the comments made and correspondence read at the convention that CDA at the local, state and national levels has fallen on hard times. The reason? Its members are mostly elderly and when they die, they're not being replaced by new members. Evangelization of CDA's purpose and mission seems to be nonexistent and (judging by the other conference attendees) enthusiasm among some of the older members seems to be waning.

But those who are enthusiastic (and we are still the majority) are very energetic about our mission and do great things in service of God and country. Our own UMD Ct. St. Maria Goretti is one fine example. Just a little more than a year into existence, we co-hosted the biannual state convention and our regent was elected to the state officers' board. And the national CDA has reached out to our two past regents about spreading the message of campus CDA courts on a bigger stage. In more practical expressions of our work, we have sponsored a "White Ribbons Against Porn" Week on UMD's campus, hosted haircuts for charity days, led a novena to St. Maria Goretti and in September will be putting on a daylong retreat for local high school girls focusing on chastity.

So, to all you female readers of this blog, if you've not already done so, I encourage you to look into and pray about joining your local CDA court or, if there's not one, contacting state officers to find out how to establish one. CDA is an important ministry in the Church, specifically here in the U.S. and joining CDA will help spread the message of Christ in concrete ways through following the example of His Mother, Mary.

The (George) Will to Fight for Animal Rights

I grew up in a Democratic household in a overwhelmingly Republican parish (or to you non-Louisianians, a "county") in a state that was - and in many ways still is - Southern Democrat. I'm a journalist who hates talk radio, talk TV and what I would call talk op-eds: newspaper opinion pieces that only rehash (however beautifully) the same old party line (whether Democrat or Republican) on important issues of the day because, in the end, for talk radio, TV and op-eds, everything comes down to politics and few things come down to, ya know, actually examining the issues and having a debate on them. That's why I appreciate the few print columnists (politically liberal or conservative) who get me to stop, think and critically examine issues (even if I often disagree with their conclusions). On the more liberal side, that'd be people like Leonard Pitts, Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof. On the more conservative side, it's people like David Brooks and George Will. Will had this fascinating piece on the treatment of livestock animals in this week's Newsweek. Check it out.

More on HP

I was thinking about LifeSiteNews' handling of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's private thoughts on Harry Potter on my drive home today and how they exploited it, doing the exact same thing to his quotes that the MSM did to HP-positive quotes by another Vatican official a few years ago. Jimmy Akin, while pointing out that he's not a fan of HP, goes even further in his frustration with LifeSiteNews, saying that they purposefully said the pope does not approve of HP so that the MSM would play the story that way. I'm not so willing to go that far, but it is interesting nonetheless.

As for Peter's comment in a previous post, I'm thought the last few days about the influence HP has. I love the HP books. No, they're not great literature, but they are great stories. I have not, however, since I first read the series 4 years ago, believed that children younger than 12 or so should read them. Even JK Rowling has mentioned that these are not stories for young children: They're dark, they're scary, they deal with dark and complex themes. I find it difficult to believe that the 4th HP film could be anything less than PG-13 considering that the evil Lord Voldemort, ya know, murders a 13-year-old in cold blood at the end of the book. Another person dies in book 5. And people are fairly certain that another character will die in book 6 (though I actually think 2 characters will die - Dumbledore and Hermione).

But once kids or 12 or 13, I don't honestly believe they should be kept from reading them. I've heard no anecdotal evidence that kids who've read HP have ever tried to practice wicca or black magic. All the kids I've known who've read the books realize that the magic in them is fictional. Sure, they might dress up like Harry for Halloween with a wand and all, but kids have been dressing up as witches for Halloween forever. Peter mentioned that Barrie had requests from parents that he provide a plot device in Peter Pan to let kids know that they could not, in fact, fly and that's how he came up with fairy dust. Rowling has a plot device to stop kids from thinking they can/should perform magic: Muggles (people with no magical powers). Not everyone in Harry's world is a wizard or witch.

Finally, as I think the direction taken in the film adaptation of the 3rd HP novel suggests, HP is not essentially about magic. It's about a young boy who's survived death the night his parents were murdered trying to come to grips with his past and what that means for his future. The plots deal with evil, temptation, anger, friendship, racism, the power of sacrifice and, yes, even memory and identity.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Just in time for Saturday's 12:01 a.m. release of the 6th installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Cacciaguida offers proposals for Harry Potter operas.

I'm now furiously re-reading HP and the Order of the Phoenix and (for the first time) The Dark Knight Returns to get them both done before Friday. Yeah, I'm cool like that.

In other Catholic HP news, Michelle Arnold of Jimmy Akin.Org responds to rather incomplete reports that Pope Benedict XVI thinks HP is an unhealthy influence on the young.

Check Out These NYTimes Pieces

First, as Amy Welborn points out, there is this op-ed piece advocating that federal and state governments offer tax incentives to parents who choose to send their children to Catholic schools because of the relief it gives public schools. As some of Amy's commentators point out, there might be some issues that would have to be worked out, as in what strings would be attached to these incentives, what religious schools specifically would it apply to and what about other groups (i.e. married with no children) who also pay taxes to support public schools but don't themselves burden the public school system with more pupils (though this group don't actually have any children to send to public schools, so they wouldn't be unburdening them of anything, unlike families who choose Catholic schools). And what about home-schoolers? Nonetheless, this is an interesting argument and the ability and willingness of the Times to explore off-the-radar issues like this is why I prefer their Op-Ed pages to the Post's.

Second, here's a review of "Primo," a stage adaptation of Primo Levi's Auschwitz memoir Survival in Auschwitz (though, as the review points out, the actual English translation of Levi's Italian title is If This Is A Man, which gives a totally different tone to the work than Survival in Auschwitz.) We read this memoir as part of my Holocaust class last semester and its amazing prose makes the whole work compelling. A great read. It (both the book and the play) has a strong theme of memory and identity, which Thomas over at Catholicae Testudines discussed briefly in this post on JPII's book (also check out his general impressions of the book here).

Monday, July 11, 2005

I'm So Excited/I'm So...Scared

Doesn't anyone remember the Saved By the Bell Las Vegas wedding episode in which Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski tied the knot? Apparently, the real-life Kelly, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, has married another. I think I can speak for my fellow college-aged SBTB fans when I say that it's just really sad that Tiffani Amber and Mark-Paul Goesslar didn't end up together in real life. They both have the hyphenated names and everything

And yes, the headline wasn't Kelly's trademark line; it was Jessi's.

Excuse My French

Having been published in daily newspapers (including the one in this post) in some form or another for five years now, I often forgive copy editing mistakes because I know it isn't often the reporter's fault, though s/he gets blamed for it, and it can ruin a clip of a great story. But here's a copy editing mistake from a story on the origin of sports' teams mascots and names in The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune that I found laughable. See if you can spot it:
Although the origin of the Irish nickname for the school -- whose formal name at its founding was French, the Universitè of Notre Dame du Lac -- is uncertain, almost surely the term began as an abusive expression, tauntingly directed at the athletes from the small, largely unknown, Catholic school in Indiana. Later, as it grew in football stature in the 1920s, Fightin' Irish was embraced wholeheartedly by Notre Dame as a testament to its spirit and tenacity.

The Rule of St. Benedict

St. Benedict's feast day is almost over, but I'll post this nonetheless...

I took a very interesting and thoughtful medieval history class last year from a Jewish professor. When I say it was medieval history, I really mean it was Church history, and an insightful one at that. One of her theses in the class was that while many (if not most) historians believe the Magna Carta was the most important document of the Middle Ages, she thinks the Rule of St. Benedict was. Why? There are several reasons. First, obviously, it helped preserve scholarly works. Second, it was written, arranged and presented in such a way that many men felt compelled to enter the monastery because of it (or, to put it another way, it encouraged vocations). Third, it served as the basis for most other rules to be developed. Fourth, it could - and was - easily translated and adapted for use by lay people of the day. It wasn't that they followed the Rule per se, but that the Rule deeply influenced society's thought and even had an impact on the structure of society. Her last argument is confirmed even today. At Mass tonight, our priest preached on the importance of St. Benedict's motto "work and pray" in our lives today.

The Nuptial Mass

Below are some photos from my brother's wedding at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in New Orleans. We've had at least a dozen people tell us it was the most beautiful wedding liturgy they've ever attended, and I agree. The selection of the readings was wonderful, the music was amazing (an organist, a string quartet and two sopranos), the priests were delightful and thought-provoking and I must say the prayers of the faithful my brother and sister-in-law composed were probably the best I've ever heard. The entire ceremony (which lasted almost 2 hours) both made a concrete statement about Thomas and Amanda's love for each other and the importance of marriage itself and its role in the Church.

The first reading was Tobit 8:4-8, which recounts Sarah and Tobiah's wedding night prayer to God. The second reading was Revelation 19:1, 5-9, which tells of the saints giving praise to God and the presentation of the Church the Bride to Christ her Bridegroom and the wedding feast of the Lamb. The Gospel was Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Joe Benson, pastor of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos Parish in New Orleans (where my brother was formerly the youth minister); Fr. John Capuci, director of the Center of Jesus the Lord, a Catholic Charismatic center (where my brother was formerly the music minister); Fr. Joseph Calamari, SSJ, a cousin of the bride; and Fr. Terence Henry, TOR, president of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (from where my sister-in-law graduated last year). Deacon Jesse Watley of Blessed Seelos Parish also served the Mass, reading the Gospel and presiding over the exchange of vows.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Posted by Picasa

The first kiss as a married couple. Posted by Picasa

The exchange of vows. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 10, 2005

From Russia, With Love

A good friend of this blog and fellow Catholic Terp, Joey (also known by the alias Batman at his first blog, Beneath Wayne Manor) just started a new blog, American Catholic in Russia, to chronicle the year he's spending studying abroad in - you guessed it - Russia. Check it out. He's already got some interesting stuff up there.

P.S. - Joey send some postcards while you're over there! I collect them.

Moving Day

My brother and sister-in-law picked me up at about 11 p.m. Friday and took me with them back to their apartment in New Orleans, where I spent the night and woke up at 7 a.m. Saturday to help them move to the house they just bought in rural Covington. Along with the two of them, my sister-in-law's brother and parents helped us move stuff into the U-Haul and then all of us drove over the Causeway (formerly the longest bridge in the world) to the Northshore and their new home. After unloading stuff there, we went back to my parents' and my sister-in-law's parents' and sister's houses in Slidell to pick up yet more wedding gifts and furniture others had given to them. Last night there were 14 of at their house (including a 2 year old and 2 month old) helping them unpack. It was chaos, but glorious chaos nonetheless. It's beautiful and a perfect starter house for newlyweds.

As we unloaded their 200 or so wedding gifts, I realized what would be an awesome wedding gift idea or shower theme: To have every guest give the newlyweds a book that they love but that the bride and groom have not read or do not own. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Additionally, my sister-in-law told me that she is generously giving me $1,000 to go on the CSC's pilgrimage to Rome next spring. She attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville (whose president, Fr. Terence Henry, co-celebrated their wedding Mass) and for a semester her senior year she studied abroad at their campus in Austria. During that time, she got to make pilgrimages to France (Lourdes, Paris, Lisieux) and Rome (Assisi and Rome, where she went to Mother Teresa's beatification). She said her sisters (she has 5 of them) had saved up their money and given it to her to allow her to go on those pilgrimages. She said she wanted to pass that favor along and so created a special savings account and has been putting money into every month since she graduated last year. She was waiting for the right person or group to give it to and when she learned I wanted to go to Rome, she prayed about it and decided to give it to me. She is amazing and God bless her.

I am the Bell Curve

Fellow bloggers, help out research and take this MIT Blog Survey. Many of you may have already done it, but if you haven't, it's quick, simple and interesting; it got me thinking about what I use communication tools for. Here's some more info about the survey.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Cruising the Crescent City

My fellow CGTer Sierra joined me in New Orleans two weeks ago for my brother's wedding. We only got to do touristy sutff with her for a day, but here a couple highlights are below.

Sierra munching down on a beignet at Cafe du Monde. That's my brother Patrick in the background. Posted by Picasa

Me (on the left) and fellow CGTer Sierra in front of St. Louis Cathedral on the other side of Jackson Square in New Orleans two weeks ago. Posted by Picasa

Dennis the Menace

As Hurricane Dennis plows through Cuba and into the Gulf, I first ask everyone to pray to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to protect everyone from all loss of life and property from this storm and during the rest of hurricane season.

As people around the area (SE Louisiana) have been discussing evacuation today (which is probably unnecessary since it looks now like Dennis won't head this way), I realized that a movie chronicling the evacuation of a city preceding a natural disaster would make a great study in human relationships. Being stuck in a car for 12 or 14 hours on what should be a 4 to 6 hour trip makes for high drama - and comedy. I've been through an evacuation once (with Hurricane Georges back in 1998) and heard stories of an the even bigger one from the family last year with Hurricane Ivan, and I've realized that they're quite spectacular events. While they certainly are frightening in a way, they also have a certain kind of rush that goes with things apocolyptic. That may sound harsh or cold considering the great damage these storms do and the human lives they take, but nonetheless they are very interesting.

Be Sure

To check out Peter of Catholicae Testudines posts the 3 kinds of good and 3-fold ways of holiness that Pope John Paul II discusses in Memory and Identity. And this is to remind you once more that we'll start discussing Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns next Friday, June 15. Tales from The Dork Side had a shout out to us about this and had some interesting comments from readers about our choice of the book. As I have yet to start it, I can't comment on it, but Peter did warn me of some of the book's more mature content. As he pointed out in one of the comboxes below, our reading of DKR is not a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur for the work.

Speaking of the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, when I went to Barnes and Noble today to pre-order the next Harry Potter and buy DKR, I found a copy of Wiliam May's An Introduction to Moral Theology on the sale rack and bought it. The kid who checked me out had a shaved head and one of those long, thin beards (do they have a name?)...he wasn't Goth at all but more like a hard rocker-type, artsy guy. He asked me if I like Batman. I said I'd never read the comics but was buying DKR for a book club. He said he'd read all of the Frank Miller books and thought all of them were great, but DKR was especially good and that I would enjoy it. I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Walk Down the Aisle

Below are some photos taken of the bridesmaids at the front of the church, the flower girl and ring bearers and my sister-in-law being walked down the aisle by her day.

The bride, Amanda, escorted down the aisle by her father. Posted by Picasa

In the foreground is the bride's grandmother. From l-r here: The bride's brothers-in-law, Mark and Rene, her friend and bridesmaid Merissa, me, Claire, Andrea, Adrienne, Alice. Posted by Picasa

The bridesmaids (sans one to the left of me, who was cut out of this photo) from l-r): Me, my sister Claire, the bride's 5 sisters Andrea, Adrienne, Alice, Anna and (on the altar farther back) Amy and her friend and maid of honor, Liz. Yep: 9 total.  Posted by Picasa

The flower girl at the wedding was my cousin Calista. The two ring bearers were her brother, Stephen, and the bride's nephew, Gabriel. All three were supposed to walk hand-in-hand down the aisle. As this photo shows, despite being the youngest and a woman, Calista took charge and barreled down the aisle when Stephen and Gabriel became shy. That's Calista dragging her brother down the aisle. Gabriel, in the background followed very slowly, until he saw his grandmother about 5 feet later, at which time he ran the rest of the way. Posted by Picasa

If It's July, It's Fantasy Month

OK, so I guess Batman really isn't considered fantasy...but I did go see Batman Begins with my dad Saturday night and it was excellent. I was totally engaged in the whole movie and thought it had some great themes. It will make for a good comparision with The Dark Knight Returns, a graphic novel by Frank Miller we're reading for our July book of the month here at CGT and at Catholicae Testudines. Discussion of it should start July 15. As for our June book, John Paul's Memory and Identity, I didn't do such a great job leading the discussion of it, but even though June is over, I still have some thoughts on it to post and will do so soon.

In addition, we here at the Schneidau household are gearing up for the July 16 for the release of the 6th Harry Potter book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I'm rereading The Order of the Phoenix right now and I think my dad, sister and I are going to head over to Barnes and Noble on July 15 for their midnight release party complete with wearing faux Harry Potter glasses. Come to think of it, I'm not so sure HP is technically in the "fantasy" category, either...but oh well.

Mr. Incredible?

So I was at daily Mass last week and this guy a couple of years younger than me who attends Spring Hill was wearing what looked like a Mr. Incredible T-shirt, so I told him I liked it. Only later, after getting a better look at it, did I see it actually had a big "J" on it instead of a big "I": Jesus is Mr. Incredible. First of all, I hate religious- themed clothing that tries to market Christ through some cheesy brand rip-off (I've seen ones related to 7-UP, Kit Kats, etc.). Is Christ really so unexciting and cheap that you have to draw such a poor parallel? But I thought this comparison to Mr. Incredible was particularly dumb. The biggest drawback to a Mr. Incredible parallel is that the whole reason Mr. Incredible is not content with his life as a husband and father and agrees to do these missions is because he wants glory and prestige for himself. He's self-centered, to say the least. He puts his family's welfare on the line (getting himself fired from a job and then lying to his wife about it) so he can relive the glory days. Plus, his powers are limited. He's super-strong, but he needs his wife (Elastigirl), sons (Dash, who's superfast and Jack-Jack who's some kind of shape shifter fire shooter) and daughter (Vi, who can become invisible and create force fields) to help him put an end to the wicked plans in place. Mr. Incredible is pretty incredible and the movie was awesome, but he's not some sort of Christ-like figure, and neither is Christ a Mr. Incredible-like figure.

So We Had Mormon Missionaries Come to the House Today

Being tired after a day of working with 4 to 6 year olds and having to leave in 5 minutes to pick up my sister from work, I did not choose to engage them in any sort of theological debate. But our exchange went something like this:

[Doorbell rings. Mary goes to door. She looks through the peephole. Seeing two young guys in white dress shirts and black slacks, she immediately recognizes them for what they are, thinks about not opening the door but finally decides to. She takes a deep breath before doing so.]
Mary: Hello.
Mormon 1: Hello. We're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we wanted to you if you were interested in learning about Jesus Christ?
Mary: No, thanks, but good luck with your mission and everything.
Mormon 1:[Mormon 2 remained silent the whole time] So you've already heard the message of Jesus Christ from us?
Mary: Well, we did have some other Mormon missionaries stop by a few months back...[Mary the whole time is giving kind of a smirky smile as in "I think I want to laugh in your face but I'm not that mean."]
Mormon 1: Well is there anyone else in the house who would like to hear the message of Jesus Christ?
Mary: Nope, we're covered, thanks.
[Mormon 1 here gives a kind of inquisitive look.]
Mary: We're Catholic actually.
Mormon 1: Well you give us a call if you want to learn more about the truth that will only build upon, and not detract from, the truth you already know.
Mary: Alrightty, thanks. [Mary shuts door].

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Preparation

Here, finally, are some pics from my brother's wedding a couple of two Saturdays ago. I'd love to post these as an album you can link to, but as I don't know how to do that yet, this will have to suffice. These photos are from the morning of the wedding.

8:30 a.m.: The feast - including mimosas - awaiting the bridesmaids at Hairport, a Slidell salon. Posted by Picasa

8:45 a.m.: My sister, Claire, getting her hair done. Posted by Picasa

10:30 a.m.: Me and my brother, Thomas, the groom. Posted by Picasa

12:15 p.m. Going to the chapel! The bridesmaids heading to the limo bus (it was a rainbow wedding...I'm in green). Posted by Picasa

12:15 p.m.: The bride, getting into the limo with the help of her father. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Pessimism of the Catholic Blogosphere

This is a long post, so please bear with me.

Non-journalists often complain that print and broadcast media only focus on negative news and don’t report enough positive happenings. I would say that the latter is true, though not necessarily the former. That the media should write more stories on positive news does not mean that they should write less on so-called negative news. Let’s face it: Murder, rape, abuse, terrorism, poverty, disease, ethical violations and so on are news.

That criticism of the media has been around as long as the media themselves. The advent of blogs in the past three or four years as part of the explosion of online media has led to sharper and more precise criticisms of the media’s failings. As a journalist and as a citizen, I think that’s a good thing.

But the more I read of Catholic blogs, which often bemoan the MSM’s treatment of religion-related stories in general and Catholic-related stories specifically, the more I see this as an example of the pot calling the kettle black.

With the exception of a few level-headed sites, most Catholic blogs I read are thoroughly pessimistic. The bloggers whine, complain, point fingers, call people names and seemingly refuse to give a good measure of charity and mercy to anyone but themselves.

Supreme Catholic Blogger Man (or, less frequently, Woman) Is THE Authoritative Source On Everything Related To The Catholic Church And Is More Catholic Than The Bishops And Sometimes Even The Pope. Supreme Catholic Blogger Man Knew While Still In Utero That Haugen and Haas Songs Would Lead To The Downfall of the Catholic Church in America. AND, Despite Not Having a Canon Law Degree, Knows Canon Law And Its Application Better Than Actual Canon Lawyers or the Bishops. AND He Refuses To Believe That Just Because A Bishop Has Received the Extra Graces of the Holy Spirit At His Episcopal Ordination That Bishop Knows Better Than Supreme Catholic Blogger (Lay)Man How To Run Seminaries Or Deal With His Priests Because, After All, Supreme Catholic Blogger Man Once Read The Summa in Latin, A Language Which He Taught to Himself.

I think the problem with most of these Catholic bloggers is a lack of hope and joy and, flowing from that, humor. Catholic bloggers think that it’s somehow their job to fix the Catholic Church in America (and one day the rest of the world!) because they successfully managed the very difficult task of signing up for a Blogger account (and let’s not forget that they – gasp! – also survived CCD in the 1970s – or, God forbid – actual Catholic schools).

Catholic bloggers (and their commentators, who are usually even more off the deep end) seem to forget that there’s never really been a time in the Church when it hadn’t been attacked in one form or another – the persecution of the early Church, heresies like Arianism, the Great Schism, the Avignon papacy and anti-popes, the Protestant Reformation or today’s rejection of the Church’s authority as a (the) moral leader. Because they fail to put the attacks on today’s Church in perspective, they somehow feel that if they complain enough and other people listen to their screeching enough and recognize it for the Supremely Important Private Revelation That It Is, the Divine Fingers will snap and everything will be made whole again. They flatter themselves too much and, seeing as they have the weight and fate of the world on their shoulders, they must be deadly serious and point out every fault and failing by every person other than themselves.

But here’s a newsflash for Catholic bloggers: It is not your job to be an authoritative source on the Catholic Church or a pro bono consultant to the bishops and the Holy Father. It is your job to be a witness of Christ’s love in the world, in whatever vocation you are, in whatever profession you are, in whatever place you are. As a holy priest who I know once said, God already has one St. Francis of Assisi, and He doesn’t need another one. What He needs is a thoroughly authentic you, and that means seeking through prayer God’s will for your life and through prayer trying to follow it.

Doing those two things demands humility and patience with one’s self. On the path to Heaven, one will surely fall again, and again, and again, and again, and again. And again. But that means that to reach Heaven, we must have the hope and joy which provides the confidence and strength we need to get back up and continue on. We can’t take ourselves too seriously or we’ll surely fall into despair. We need humor and we need to laugh at ourselves. We need to have an attitude of gratitude because that’s a requirement of the Eucharistic life, which is the entrance ticket into the Heavenly Banquet.

Some people seem to think religion should and does make one serious, but the embrace of the True Faith should do just the opposite – it should make one joyful and full of hope and humor. That’s why I appreciate when Amy Welborn writes about how long her baby slept last night or posts excerpts about her dad’s trip to Rome. It’s why I like when Mark Shea (please start blogging again!) puts the proverbial smack down on commentators (or other bloggers) who seem too full of and serious with themselves. It’s why I like that Thomas of Catholicae Testudines writes posts (weekly during the school year) on why he loves and appreciates being Catholic.

We Catholic bloggers play one very small part in one still very young medium in a very media-saturated society and in a Church with more than a billion members that is 2,000 years old. Let’s start appreciating that fact, both for what it is and for what it is not. And let’s have fun while we’re doing it.