7 Quick Takes Friday (4/4/14)





My students are finishing up Julius Caesar and preparing for their speech recitations on Monday. That’s right – they have to memorize a speech from the play and deliver it to the class. The minimum requirement (for a C grade on that particular section of the rubric) is 10 lines. But a few of them are tackling Mark Antony’s entire speech, or Brutus’, or Cassius’ manipulative tirade back in Act 1.

Here’s one of the best speeches ever, performed by one of the best actors ever – Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in Act 3, Scene 2:


Here’s another version we looked at in class that shows a much more emotional Mark Antony. This Mark Antony seems genuinely upset that Caesar has been murdered. He is a lot more sympathetic and seems a lot less sneaky than Marlon Brando’s version:



Funny story.

So when I first showed the second video by the Royal Shakespeare Company (above) to my classes, my 6th hour class started whispering and laughing.

It didn’t take more than 2 seconds to figure out what was amusing them so much.

I rolled my eyes and said to them – “Okay, the cast is black. Get over it, people.”

“Ms. Shea, are you showing us this version because we’re your ‘black’ class?” one of my black students asked. Everyone laughed, including me.

“No, I’ve been showing this version to all my classes today.”

It’s strange to me. The school I teach at now is very diverse, and so race is an issue that people laugh about more than anything else. I had to correct a student a few weeks ago for pretending to be a slave and bowing before her white master (she was black, her friend was white). But the issue seems so distant to many of my students here. They don’t know why I take it so seriously. “Come on, Ms. Shea. We’re just kidding.”

It’s like they think racism doesn’t exist anymore.


In Louisiana, my students were not laughing when we were discussing racism in Huckleberry Finn, and whether or not they thought it was okay for Mark Twain to repeatedly employ the “N” word. They were very divided about the issue. And some of them got angry. And it was uncomfortable because it’s something that continually brims beneath the surface but no one ever wants to talk about.

source: wikipedia A less-than-favorable portrayal of Jim.


Back in liberal, middle class Boston I was taught that race doesn’t–or shouldn’t–matter.

But then I became a teacher and have realized that it does matter, whether we like it or not.

This may be controversial of me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway:

In my experience I have found that students who don’t know how to “speak white” and “talk white” are at a huge disadvantage. English is, like it or not, a white man’s language. It has evolved and changed over time, certainly, and will continue to do so. But as of right now, my Mexican students, black students, foreign students from Korea and Poland and Argentina and various other parts of the world will always struggle in school if they do not learn how to “speak white” and “talk white.” As an English teacher, it’s not just my job to teach all my students correct grammar and good writing habits. I also have to teach them the rules of the game, whether or not we really like the rules.

Some of my non-white students (both here and in Louisiana) know how to negotiate these boundaries and play the game from both sides. But the ones that don’t know how, or refuse to accommodate, tend to really struggle in school. They don’t speak “white English” at home or with their friends, and therefore they have difficulty using it at school.

I mean, I guess I do believe there is such a thing as “proper English,” but I am well-aware it is far more fluid and arbitrary than a lot of people think it is.


Awesome video on English and it’s development:



A really fascinating talk by Pope Francis on authentic prayer: “Real prayer is courageous, frank dialogue with God” via Catholic News Agency.

The Pope went on to express how when Moses prayed, he did so freely, courageously and with insistence, stating that prayer ought to be a “negotiation with God” to which we bring our “arguments.”


Drawing attention to how the scripture passaged describes Moses as speaking to God “face to face, like a friend,” the pontiff observed “This is how prayer should be: free, insistent, with debate, and should also scold “the Lord a little: ‘But, you promised me this, and you haven’t done it…’”

“Open the heart to this prayer,” he implored of those in attendance, stating that after his encounter with God “Moses came down from the mountain invigorated: ‘I have known the Lord more.’” (Catholic News Agency)

Wow. Some theologians and experts on spirituality might be rather uncomfortable with “scolding” the Lord and “arguing” or even “negotiating” with Him.

And yet I think Francis is right. Prayer must be honest. Too often I think we (Catholics in particular) dress up our prayers with pieties that aren’t really true. I would venture to say it is better to pray “Lord, I don’t feel like doing your Will right now. Help me to want to. But I don’t feel like it” than to pray “Lord, thy will be done” inauthentically.

On the other hand, one of the reasons we pray “The Our Father” is so that our desires can be formed and shaped by Jesus’ words. We want to be able to say “Thy will be done” with all of our hearts.


Via Leah Libresco at Unequally Yoked: “every story Jesus tells and enacts is really a story about the Mass:”

The Healing of the Deaf-Mute Man. I love this story, because it summarizes the entire Gospel. Jesus heals us, and says Ephphatha, be open. Be open! Be open to grace. Be open to the Gospel. (By the way, the grace of God opens us, but then it’s up to us to cooperate with that grace. #CatholicPitches) What else happens? Jesus puts his saliva on the man’s lips and tongue. What an incredible gesture! I can’t ever shake that image. Jesus and the deaf-mute man, face to face. Jesus licking his fingers and putting his saliva on him. Imagine Jesus Christ, the Lord, touching your lips so tenderly. It’s a kiss. In some ways, it’s even more intimate than a kiss. He’s the Word of God! He doesn’t need to mess around with saliva to heal a deaf-mute man. But he wants to! It’s communion. Jesus puts His body on the man’s tongue. That’s what opens him. He receives the Body of Christ.

The Emmaus Pilgrims. This is the most striking one. The story of the Emmaus Pilgrims is one of my favorite from the entire Bible. Are we not all the Emmaus Pilgrims, wandering around, totally clueless, with Jesus walking on our side, and us not noticing Him? That’s the superficial (and true) meaning of that story. The other superficial (and true) meaning of that story is that, yes, Jesus of Nazareth really did bodily rise from the dead–people saw it. But what is the story of the Emmaus Pilgrims? What is its structure, its nature? It’s a Mass! It follows the Order of the Mass. First the Pilgrims hear Scripture, and expository preaching on Scripture. Then they come to a table, for what? The Eucharist! Jesus blesses the bread and the wine, and that’s when their eyes are opened. What just happened? Christ the High Priest performed the sacrament of the Eucharist! You just got ephphatha’d, bro. (“Everything in the Gospels is About the Mass”)


Also via Leah Libresco, but I really couldn’t resist posting this one:

“A Teaching Philosophy I am Not Ashamed Of” at Math and Bad Drawings

I’ve always dreaded being asked for my “teaching philosophy.”


For years, I gave nonsense or scattershot answers. “Logic and critical thinking are paramount.” “I care more about conceptual understanding than computational skill.” “A balanced, student-centered approach is always best.” “We buzzword to buzzword, not for the buzzword, but for the buzzword.” At best, each of my disjointed half-theories captured only a piece of the puzzle.


Worse still, none of my replies explained why I devote so much class time to plain old practice. If I was such an enlightened liberal educator, why did I assign repetitive computations for homework? On the other hand, if I was a traditionalist at heart, why did I fall head-over-heels for high-minded progressive rhetoric? Was I an old-school wolf, a new-school lamb, or some strange chimera? (Math With Bad Drawings)


I wonder what I would say my “teaching philosophy” is…


7 Quick Takes Friday (3/14/14)



My friend Maria just emailed me these beautiful words from Blessed John Paul II:

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. – JP2

I was thinking about these words a lot yesterday, especially in their relation to Lent. During Lent we try to give up good things— Lent isn’t about dieting or eliminating bad habits, but about giving up activities, objects and experiences that are not in themselves bad. When we miss them, we miss something good — but hopefully we remember that what we really miss is Jesus.

For example, I’m giving up wine because I really love wine. But if all I do on a Friday evening is complain, “ugh, I wish Lent were over so I could go have a glass of wine,” I’m totally missing the point. Giving up wine means nothing if I am not thereby trying to embrace Jesus, and remember that he is the “True Vine” and the true source of our joy.


Speaking of joy –

Here is a fascinating article on all the “Church Teachings that Pope Francis Has Changed” in the last year.

source: theprogressivecatholicvoice.blogspot.com
(I love that blog title…)


Apparently House Speaker John Boehner has just invited Pope Francis to speak to a joint session of Congress.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, also a Catholic, joined the speaker in his invitation.

“Whether inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, who cared for all of God’s creation, or by St. Joseph, protector of the church,” Pelosi said, “Pope Francis has lived his values and upheld his promise to be a moral force, to protect the poor and the needy, to serve as a champion of the less fortunate, and to promote love and understanding among faiths and nations.” (ABC News)

Do you ever get the feeling some people don’t know what they’re asking for?

… “Whether inspired by Moses, who cared for God’s Law, or by David, protector of the Chosen People,” Head of the Pharisees said, “Jesus has lived his values and upheld his promise to be a moral force, to protect the Temple, to serve as the champion of his oppressed people, and to overthrow the Romans…”


Speaking of Romans –

Tomorrow is the Ides of March!

Sadly, it’s a Saturday, and so my sophomores and I will have to assassinate the dictator on Monday.


“Et tu, Brute?”


A great reflection to read during lent by Leah Libresco over at Patheos: “What Do We Choose Instead of Light? [Pope Francis Bookclub]”

A taste:

When I choose against the light, it usually doesn’t feel like I’m picking darkness, but security or simplicity.  There’s an attraction in having everything settled, even if it’s being settled for the worse (“I can’t count on anyone” “People just don’t like me” “I’ll never get along with her” etc).  I sometimes prefer to circumscribe my relationships and my options, even if I might accidentally be throwing out a positive outcome.

And this has me written all over it:

But, in order to be a better person, I have to be a little comfortable being unsettled and in progress.

I hate being uncomfortable. I don’t know if this has always been true about me, but it is becoming increasingly true. It’s not so much that I go out of my way to sin or do bad things, it’s more that I can’t be bothered to change my habits or (God forbid) go out of my comfort zone to do the right thing.

Maybe this longing for comfort comes with age?

I appreciate little things more now. I LOVE sleep. And good food. And good drinks. And conversations, and sitting on the couch and reading, and sleeping in, and talking-on-the-phone-only-with-people-I-talk-to-all-the-time-so-it’s-not-awkward.

But this longing for comfort is a big occasion of sin for me, because I allow it to eclipse any desire to change, to reach out, to push myself.

Lent is a good time to consider these things.


Ms. Libresco’s words remind me of one of my favorite prayers, by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin:

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

– See more at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/8078/prayer-of-theilhard-de-chardin/#sthash.5N5ZO8CE.dpuf

“Accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”

So difficult – especially, I think, for young adults as we try to figure out “who we are supposed to be,” what our “vocation” is, et cetera.


Lastly, a shout out to two of my friends and fellow graduates of the University of Dallas: Molly O’Connor and Kaitlyn Willy who just started a wonderful project called Spiritual Uprising:

Spiritual Uprising aims to inspire and renew your creative and spiritual sides by providing a monthly retreat in the form of an e-magazine, blog, and weekly newsletter. (via tumblr site)

Check it out!

source: spiritualuprising.tumblr.com


7 Quick Takes Friday (2/7/14)



Last Friday I mentioned the Pope’s powerful words to the University of Notre Dame, and how I hoped the university would really take them to heart.

In particular, I said:

I mean, I don’t want to foist my own personal biased political agenda (albeit backed up by Church teaching) on Pope Francis’ words, but that sounds a lot to me like: Don’t back down on the HHS mandate. Don’t give in. Don’t be like everybody else. (See last Friday’s post)

However, my dad brought an article to my attention by Richard W. Garnett, a current law professor at ND, entitled “Solidarity, Not a Scolding.” He argues that interpretations (like mine) that discern a critical tone in the Pope’s message are off the mark:

Surfing around the more “conservative” sectors of the Catholic blogosphere, though, one might get the impression that Pope Francis had called the university on the carpet for a Petrine scolding, or for a finger-wagging session dedicated to chastising Notre Dame for its various failings, or for marching orders regarding the handling of the university’s lawsuit challenging the HHS contraception-coverage mandate. (Garnett via National Review)

And, quite honestly, Garnett does a good job of explaining his view. Perhaps I was too hasty in detecting a critical tone in Pope Francis’ words. I thought about this for a while and reread the message, as well as Garnett’s article.


But then I remembered that I am a teacher. And though it sounds absurd to compare myself to Pope Francis, I feel like I recognize what he is up to as the primary teacher of Catholics and Catholic institutions.

He is teaching, and he is using the method my karate instructor used to call “praise, correct, praise.”

Yes, Pope Francis is very laudatory about Notre Dame’s “outstanding contribution to the Church” over the years and its “commitment to the religious education of the young and to serious scholarship inspired by confidence in the harmony of faith and reason and in the pursuit of truth and virtue.” He praises the university for what she has done well.

But I think the critique remains. He then uses the subjunctive mood–“shoulds” and “oughts”–and speaks of what the ideal Catholic university ought to do in more general terms.

Finally, he ends his message with an uplifting, encouraging tone.

Praise. Correct. Praise.

I do the same thing when some of my kids are misbehaving or, at least, thinking about it:

“Good job staying focused, Andrew and Emily. All of you should be writing silently and answering the question on the board to the best of your ability. The best answers will not only be in complete sentences, they should also carefully explain the evidence they provide, Peter. Nicely done – keep up the hard work, everyone.”

You see?

I am correcting and critiquing certain behaviors without drawing undue attention to them. I am focusing instead on what the kids ought to be doing in order to remind them.

I think Pope Francis was doing something very similar.

But Garnett argues:

To the extent [Pope Francis] was being critical, the object of his criticism is not the university for its alleged half-stepping but those “quarter[s]” — such as the United States Department of Health and Human Services — that are trying to undermine and dilute Catholic universities’ and institutions’ “uncompromising witness” and commitment to “missionary discipleship.” (Garnett, Ibid)

But Pope Francis was not speaking to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. He was speaking to the administrators of Notre Dame–the ones who are actually in control of the university’s “uncompromising witness” and “missionary discipleship.” While I agree his critique of entities that are seeking to undermine the Catholic identities of American schools is evident, I also think it’s clear that he is addressing these remarks to the people who have the responsibility to resist such forces.

What do you think?


Speaking of Pope Francis’ praise-correct-praise style of teaching–

My friend Molly recommended the Pope’s Message for World Youth Day: “Resist ‘low cost’ offers of happiness and embrace the revolutionary Beatitudes.”

You should really read this address. It is beautiful and motivating.

It also demonstrates the pope’s awareness of one of the primary weaknesses of young people: the tendency to embrace easy happiness rather than lasting happiness.

To be blessed means to be happy. Tell me: Do you really want to be happy? In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and “thinking small” when it come to the meaning of life. Think big instead! Open your hearts! As Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati once said, “To live without faith, to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth: this is not living. It is scraping by. We should never just scrape by, but really live” (Letter to I. Bonini, 27 February 1925).

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/02/06/pope%E2%80%99s_message_for_wyd:_resist_%E2%80%9Clow_cost%E2%80%9D_offers_of_happiness_and/en1-770756
of the Vatican Radio website

Notice that the Pope is pointing out an error — the error of “scraping by,” the error of “settling”– that so many of us (young and old alike) struggle with. But he sandwiches this critique (for lack of a better verb) between encouraging images.

The young people don’t end up feeling criticized or judged, even though they have been given the opportunity to examine their own consciences.

As a teacher of young people myself, I know how important this is. Yes, sometimes I need to be harsh with them and be more explicit in my criticism–but these occasions are rare. Most of the time my students respond best to encouragement and challenge.


Speaking of encouragement and challenge–

I finally shuffled my way through a mountain of essays. I was a little disappointed in a lot of the essays, and thus my comments on the papers were copious and critical. My kids repeatedly forget their audience. They assume their readers can read their minds, and they don’t see the need to thoroughly explain evidence.

Most distressing of all was that errors we had discussed and learned how to fix many times before– unclear pronoun references, pronoun / antecedent disagreement, lack of parallelism, etc. — kept occurring.

Even worse, it was obvious that some of the kids had not really put any effort into proofreading.

source: scifi.stackexchange.com

So, really, I was frustrated.

But telling them I was disappointed wouldn’t do anyone good, except perhaps to relieve my own feelings.

So I did my best to find the things they DID do well – like the thesis sentences (granted I gave them a formula for this) and the much-improved conclusion paragraphs. I made sure to tell my classes what they had done well first, and then I explained to them that I was going to give them a more structured way to explain evidence and be sensitive to the audience:

Quote Sandwiches.

They look like this at their most basic level:

source: ereadingworksheets.blogspot.com

But you wouldn’t believe how challenging they can actually be for many of these kids.

The top piece of bread is Context – and I broke this down further and told the kids they had to tell me two things: 1) Where in the poem the quote is from and 2) what they plan to do with it / their topic sentence.

The nutella in the middle (I always call it nutella) is the quote itself, incorporated using one of the four methods I taught them last semester.

The bottom piece of bread is the analysis. Again, I explained this more simply: 1) Paraphrase what the quote means in your own words and 2) Explain how this quote proves your topic sentence.

I hope this helps them.


My friend Mary, who teaches 3rd graders, suggested that I watch this video.

If you are a teacher, you will love this.

Even though this video is about addition, the struggle it reveals is something I encounter on a daily basis with high school kids. How do you help students do their own thinking when sometimes it seems like… they can’t… think…?



I guess I’m sounding pretty darn critical about my students. But actually I am also impressed with them many times!

For instance, I replayed my evidence-experiment-scenario I first explored my first year of teaching with my honors students this week, and then had them discuss the meaning of seeking the truth in a poem, and how using evidence factors into that.

I did it more gently, of course, and with a lot more thought and preparation than I had when I tore about poor Abbey’s argument about Emily Dickinson.

My honors kids did really well, and even gave me a lot of suggestions about how I could do a better job of encouraging truth-seeking in my classroom.


I mean, this is my dream job.

So I look like this most of the time:

source: hecticparents.com
Hectic parents? How about hectic teachers?

7 Quick Takes Friday (1/10/14)



Right before Christmas break, my apartment complex sent out an email warning us about the dangers of frozen pipes. Since I’m a Boston native, this news came as no surprise to me. Here’s a wonderful reflection about frozen pipes… well, really, frozen hearts that you are worried will never change by Simcha Fisher: “How to Thaw a Frozen Heart.”

You think you are probably heating it up, and making that little gob of ice smaller and smaller, but what if you’re not?  What if the real trouble spot is icing itself up more and more as you speak, and you’re sitting there like a moron, concentrating all your time and effort on a bit of pipe that is fine?


Since our school began doing the Poetry Out Loud program last year, and will be doing it again this year, I began teaching my kids a poetry unit. Here’s an interesting fact you may not know:

There are always THREE people involved in every poem you read. Yes, three. And no, they’re not the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (as many of my students guessed). They are 1) the reader / you, 2) the author/poet, and 3) the speaker / narrator. Everyone always forgets #3, or assumes that the speaker IS the author. This is largely due, I believe, to the confessional poetry of the last century a’la Sylvia Plath in which the speaker usually WAS the poet, or at least expressed the poet’s feelings. But it’s a BIG mistake to assume that this is always the case. The poet has the freedom to create a fictional speaker–and, in some sense, ALL speakers are fictional. They are perpetually feeling and expressing the content of the poem, whereas the poet is a historical person who moves on with her life even if she intended to express herself through the speaker.


Whenever I teach poetry, I also teach mood and tone.

Lots of people get these two things confused. The distinction between them is simple, but also very important.

Mood = the way the reader is SUPPOSED to feel / i.e. the way the author WANTS his reader to feel.

Eg: Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories usually have a suspenseful or creepy mood, because the reader is meant to feel in suspense or frightened.

Tone = the way the speaker feels toward the text / the speaker’s attitude

Eg: The speaker’s sarcastic tone alerts the reader to the fact that he is being mocked.

The nice thing about teaching mood and tone is that the kids usually accept the fact that these are useful things to know. Recognizing the tone of voice of someone with whom you are conversing is obviously important, since meaning depends so much upon how we say things, not just what we say. Sarcasm in particular can make all the difference in statements like this: “Great job today!”

Mood, on the other hand, is the feeling somebody is trying to get you to feel. Thus, tone influences mood. If someone says “Great job today!” kindly, you are supposed to feel encouraged or happy as a result. If someone says “Great job today!” sarcastically, you are supposed to feel ashamed or embarrassed as a result.

Poetry habituates us to tone and mood and can help increase emotional intelligence.


I know you’ve always wondered why our Solar System is Flat. So here is MinutePhysics to the rescue, to tell you why:


One of the things that really troubles “conservative” Catholics (for lack of a better word) is Pope Francis’ relative silence on abortion (although he has, actually not been utterly silent on the issue).

Francis Rocca at Catholic News Service just came out with an interesting article on the topic:

“Some people think that the Holy Father should talk more about abortion,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston said in a speech to the Knights of Columbus in August. But the cardinal added: “I think he speaks of love and mercy to give people the context for the church’s teaching on abortion.”

In a widely quoted interview published the following month, Pope Francis acknowledged that he had “not spoken much” about “issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” and that he had been “reprimanded for that.”

“But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context,” the pope said. “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.” (Rocca)

The whole article is here: “With Few Words on Abortion, Pope Francis Shows a New Way to Be Pro-Life.”

What do you think? Does it bother you that Pope Francis doesn’t say very much about abortion? Pope Pius XII was also criticized for being too reticent about the Nazis–although Rabbi David Dalin and others argue that the pope’s approach to the great evil of his time was actually quite appropriate.


Throwback to my first year of teaching. This is what I was writing about in January of my first year:

At a few faculty meetings, my principal has mentioned “rigor and relevance.” I feel that though I have been pretty successful with the “rigor” part, I still have a lot to do in trying to help my students connect more personally with these classical texts. I didn’t use to like the idea of “selling” literature as if I were a salesperson trying to manipulate an audience—but I’ve begun to realize that some “selling” is necessary. This quest to make English “relevant” to my students does not have to be superficial or dishonest (as I used to perceive such efforts). The truth is, we do not live in an ideal world and education of any kind can’t simply speak for itself—educators are responsible for revealing the true worth of their subject as much as they can. Ultimately “relevance” is about taking my students seriously where they are and being sensitive to their opinions and interests in order to bring them into a relationship with literature, and more particularly, into conversation with the authors and ideas that have shaped our culture whether we realize it at first or not.


A dear friend of mine from ACE just invited me to join her in starting a blog that is going to be “a collection of female thought.” I think you’ll be hearing a lot of great perspectives here, so I’ll be keeping you updated and will send you a link when things get going!

Memory and Faith Part IV

source: byronytaylor.com

Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope…It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope. (Pope Benedict)

Read the other posts in this series on “Memory and Faith” here:

Part I

Part II

Part III

The believer is one who remembers.

As a teacher, I really like this idea.

Maybe it’s because I know how important memory is to being a good student — remembering to study, remembering to do your homework, remembering where you’re supposed to turn it in, remembering your teacher actually loves you and doesn’t want to make your life miserable, remembering the directions given two minutes ago…

But can you really fault somebody if he has a bad memory?

Well, yes, I think you can.

Setting aside the instances where some people through disease or injury lose their ability to remember (something I would like to reflect upon in a later post), memory is integral to human life. And we are responsible for our ability to remember and for our memories.

Not that we all have the same capacity for memory. And for many of us, it’s a big struggle. I know it always has been for me. I forget to do things all the the time. Sometimes I even hurt people when I forget. I forget to call, to text back, to do that chore that really needed doing but for some reason I did not think was important enough to try to remember…

Memory is something like courage. Maybe you weren’t given a big dose of it at birth, but you can cultivate it if you try. Being a good student requires cultivating your memory – and not just your ability to remember certain tasks, either. It’s an ability to remember why you are doing all this work at all. It’s an ability to remember who you really are.

Memory can be a tricky thing, though. Sometimes we think we remember certain people or events more accurately than we actually do. Sometimes we allow our present emotions to invade our memories, to taint what was good and pure with our present cynicism.

Or other times, we let the memories themselves flood us and take over our present peace:

[…] we conjure from the ether of our past a solitary-but-sharply-outlined idea, and then suddenly, one after another, memories begin to fall upon us, like bright orbs called from galaxies far beyond, and much better kept in the distance. Our disappointing families and imperfect parents, our closely held secrets and sins and sorrows and regrets, given too much free reign, begin to dominate us. They wreak havoc on our emotions and then begin to drain our spirits until we are depleted and depressed — all trust, all hope diminished. (Elizabeth Scalia at The Anchoress )

We allow the past to control our present. We refuse the present good because we hold onto our disappointments. But this, too, is a kind of forgetfulness. Holding onto certain memories to the exclusion of others is not real remembering — it’s selective myopia.

Pope Francis (whom I insist really seems to be emphasizing this inseparability between memory and faith) says in his new Apostolic Exhortation:

There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26). (EG 6)

Or other times, our forgetfulness can take a more subtle (and I believe more sinister shape):

We settle into mediocrity–into bland contentment with our books and our friends, our jobs, our homes, even our families–whatever it is that we value. We forget ourselves in the present moment. You see this in obvious ways when people become intoxicated–but there are many things besides alcohol that can intoxicate us and make us forget and live only for the present moment: ideologies, objects, even people.

I suppose that’s a rather controversial thing to say in this carpe diem, live-in-the-present-moment culture. But I would argue that living in the present, to the exclusion of the past and the future, is also myopic and demeans us.

Even Pope Francis, famous for his freshness, his newness, his emphasis on evangelization by prophetic deeds, insists:

Nor should we see the newness of this mission as entailing a kind of displacement or forgetfulness of the living history which surrounds us and carries us forward. Memory is a dimension of our faith which we might call “deuteronomic”, not unlike the memory of Israel itself. Jesus leaves us the Eucharist as the Church’s daily remembrance of, and deeper sharing in, the event of his Passover (cf. Lk 22:19). The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace which we constantly need to implore. The apostles never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: “It was about four o’clock in the afternoon” (Jn 1:39).

How beautiful, and how very curious, that the Gospel writer makes note of the time of day he met Jesus.

There are little details like this sprinkled throughout the gospels, showing some origin in human memory. So much of what was seen and heard about Jesus was passed down by word of mouth, as people recounted what they remembered from days, weeks, and eventually years before.

Before there was the New Testament, there was human memory.

Advent itself is very much a time of remembering.

I feel like Advent, in particular, is a very Jewish time for Christians. From my uninformed and outside perspective, Judaism to me seems to be very much a religion of memory–remembering God’s great deeds throughout history, and imploring God Himself to remember His Chosen Israel. And when Christianity is true to itself, it does the same thing.

In Advent in particular we are steeped in the prophets, especially Isaiah. The Christians remembered different things Jesus said and did, and recognized in those actions the hopes of Israel.

Jesus himself, on the cross, remembered Psalm 22 — perhaps at the sight of his Mother, who taught it to him when he was a little boy.

John the Baptist, this Second Sunday of Advent, reminds the people of his own time, and us, of the Prophet Isaiah: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Isaiah 40:3).

Perhaps these “paths” he speaks of are the paths of our own minds. If our memories are crooked and blocked, than whatever it is we are meant to hear will not be able to get through. God wants to come to us, but we have to clear the way.

How easily we forget who we are. How easily we forget the hole in our hearts, and fill it with other things–sometimes very good things–but things nevertheless which aren’t big enough for our longing. We forget this longing, because it is painful. It is easier to be content than to be in love.

But it is better to be in love.

Advent, I think, is supposed to reawaken in us this longing for God. True waiting means waiting with hope and longing and expectation. Patience does not exclude this desire for–for perhaps we don’t even know what. But remembering our own hearts in this way is an essential part of being Christian–and, I would even say, of being human:

Together with Jesus, this remembrance makes present to us “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), some of whom, as believers, we recall with great joy: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God” (Heb 13:7). Some of them were ordinary people who were close to us and introduced us to the life of faith: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Tim 1:5). The believer is essentially “one who remembers”. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 13)

Sometimes music can help us remember. I think this is one of the most beautiful renditions of my favorite Advent/Christmas song I have ever heard.

It helps me remember.

“The Joy of the Gospel” Our top picks of quotable quotes

You should read the whole thing – but if you don’t, at LEAST read this!

CNS Blog

coverVATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ just-released apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) will be a must-read for all Catholics.

But at more than 220 pages, you’ll have to DVR Masterchef Junior and Downton Abbey for the next few nights.

To give you a sense of what’s inside, we’ve compiled some of the most striking quotes on a variety of themes from the text. (The numbers in parentheses refer to the document’s numbered sections where the quote can be found.)


Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us.

Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the…

View original post 2,738 more words

Memory and Faith Part III

source: bbc.co.uk

See Part I here. This was inspired by the Disciples at Emmaus story, and our tendency to be afraid to really remember.

See Part II here. This was inspired by thinking about sin – and sin itself as forgetfulness, a lack of remembering.

Today, October 3rd, the Pope’s homily was all about the relationship between memory and faith – an idea that seems very important to his papacy, as he introduced it in his encyclical Lumen Fidei.

He says:

When the memory [of faith] is distant, when we don’t have the closeness of memory, it enters into a process of transformation, and the memory becomes a mere recollection. (via Romereports.com)

The Mass itself, he goes on to say, is very much an act of remembering. It is not a mere “social event.” Rather, it is an act of remembering and re-presenting Christ. “Do this in memory of Me.” Therefore the Mass should not be subject to our own personal tastes and whims, but to the living memory of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit.

source: cartoonstock.com

Interestingly, my classes and I have begun reading Edith Hamilton’s version of Homer’s Iliad, and one of the things we have been talking about a lot recently is Homer’s memory. How is it possible that 500 years after the Trojan War took place, Homer is able to recount in such incredible detail the battles and heroes? What kind of oral tradition could possibly transmit history in such a way?

One explanation, of course, is that he (or others before him) are making it all up.

Similarly, it’s popular in theological circles to assume that the Gospels make a lot of stuff up too (even though they were written MUCH more recently after the death of Christ than Homer was “writing” after the death of Hector and Achilles). The earliest most scholars are willing to admit Mark was written is around AD 65-70.

One of my professors at UD, who is also on the Pontifical Biblical Council, Denis Farkasfalvy, wrote a book on how the Gospels were created within the cradle of the Eucharst, in the context of oral traditions at the earliest Eucharistic gatherings. (Check it out if you are at all interested in early Church history!)

Opening lines of The Iliad
source: tikalon.com

As researchers have shown, the human ability to remember is far vaster and more wonderful than we think. In 1930s Serbia, for instance, Albert Lord discovered that Serbian oral poets had been passing on remarkably accurate poetic accounts of battles fought hundreds of years before (see this wikipedia article too). The Iliad is far older than Greek writing itself, and was passed down for hundreds of years before it was ever written down. In our fast-paced culture, which suffers from a severe lack of attention, it’s difficult to imagine anyone being able to memorize a 16,000 line poem. But it is possible.

The Iliad does record a profound memory etched into the Greek consciousness, and taken for granted by the ancient world as history. But modern man has difficulty believing that such a thing could have happened. Personally, I think we moderns suffer from short-term memory loss.

The Pope  emphasizes the sacred character of human memory – and its fragility:

This is important not only in the great moments in history, but also in the moments of our life: we all have the memory of salvation, everyone. I wonder, though: is this memory close to us, or is it a memory a bit far away, spread a little thin, a bit archaic, a little like a museum [piece]… it can get far away [from us]… and when the memory is not close, when we do not experience the closeness of memory, it enters into a process of transformation, and the memory becomes a mere recollection. (Romereports.com)

“A mere recollection,” he says.

But even just remembering God briefly during the day is a feat in itself!

I was going to say more, but I’ve realized that the Pope already said everything:

This joy is our strength. The joy of the nearness of memory. Domesticated memory, on the other hand, which moves away and becomes a mere recollection, does not warm the heart. It gives us neither joy nor strength. This encounter with memory is an event of salvation, it is an encounter with the love of God that has made history with us and saved us. It is a meeting of salvation – and it is so wonderful to be saved, that we need to make feast.

When God is near, there is feasting. And sometimes, us cristians, are afraid of that feast: that simple and fraternal feast that is a gift from God’s closeness. Life makes us push that vicinity from God away, to keep the reminder of salvation but not a live memory of it. The Church has a memory: the memory of Our Lords Passion. Sometimes we push that memory away and we transform it into a reminder, just a frequent event.”

Every week we go to church, or rather when someone dies, we go to the funeral … and this memory often times bores us, because it is not near. It is sad, but the Mass is often turned into a social event and we are not close to the memory of the Church, which is the presence of the Lord before us. Imagine this beautiful scene in the Book of Nehemiah: Ezra who carries the Book of Israel’s memory and the people once again grow near to their memory and weep, the heart is warmed, is joyful, it feels that the joy of the Lord is its strength – and the people makes a feast, without fear, simply. (Romereports.com)

The text, including a video excerpt:



One more thing.

In trying to describe oral tradition to my kids, I gave them the example of the game “telephone.” You know, when somebody says something, who whispers it to someone else, who whispers it to the next person, and on and on until you reach the last person, who says the word or phrase out loud, and everyone realizes a LOT of mishearing or mistranslating was going on. It’s usually pretty funny.

Anyway – I was trying to explain that oral tradition is NOT like the game telephone. Especially if we’re talking the oral tradition of Homer, which is pretty darn accurate .

Unlike the modern news, which is not:

(Click here)


Will the Real Pope Francis Please Stand Up?

*This is probably going to be a longer post than usual, partially because I need to quote a lot of people in it. But I’d really appreciate your thoughts if you can spare them.*

source: thesestonewalls.com

Hopefully you read this already – Pope Francis’ interview in America Magazine.

If you haven’t, then go do it now. Pray before you read it and then pray after you read it.

If you have been reading media soundbites from “the left” or “the right” on what the pope said and what he must have meant, but you haven’t read the actual interview in its entirety, then drop everything and go read it.

Okay? Okay.

Both the Catholic and the non-Catholic blogospheres are erupting over this interview (and other things Pope Francis has said and done). People from all sides love him, and people from all sides are starting to really really dislike him, too.

Which, for me, generally speaking, is always a good sign. As Chesterton says:

And then in a quiet hour a strange thought struck me like a still thunderbolt. There had suddenly come into my mind another explanation. Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. (G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

I really do understand the general discomfort, though. Mostly because I am feeling the discomfort myself. To be honest, I personally prefer Pope Benedict’s reserve and style. But my personal preferences have nothing to do with it.

Just glancing at the Huffington Post’s article on Pope Francis excommunicating an Australian priest who had started his own church, advocated for same-sex relationships and women priests (I mean… what did you expect the pope would do? This man had already excommunicated himself) will tell you a LOT about how a lot of people are being duped (as usual) by the media. Looking the plethora of horribly misinformed comments, I can  sympathize with Father Dwight Longenecker’s concern (although not with his rather strange use of the term “homosexualists”):

Rod Dreher in the NY Times suggests that the effect of Pope Francis’ America interview is that American Catholics (and the rest of the liberal gang) now assume that Catholic bishops need to simply shut up about abortion, same sex marriage and contraception because the Pope has told them to. Read the article here.

I fear he is correct. I’ve already read articles by homosexualists Catholics who have said (in effect) “I’m so glad Pope Francis has finally said that he accepts me as I am.” Which means “he condones my lifestyle.”

Yes, yes I know that’s not what the Pope said, but that is how it is being misinterpreted.

I can even sympathize a little with SOME of the things George Neumayr says in his troubling assessment, “When Paul Corrected Peter” … although, as I will explain below, I believe he is fundamentally mistaken about his main argument:

Some future Edward Gibbon should devote a chapter or two to this grimly comic episode: a Jesuit pope chatting about the appeal of diluted orthodoxy and “pastoral” effectiveness with the least pastorally effective and most heterodox order in the Church. We can’t “obsess” over abortion, contraception, and gay marriage “all the time,” he said, telling his fellow Jesuits exactly what they wanted to hear. They don’t even talk about those issues some ofthe time. (Neumayr)

But this is what Pope Francis actually said about his own order, the Jesuits:

The Society must always have before itself the Deus semper maior, the always-greater God, and the pursuit of the ever greater glory of God, the church as true bride of Christ our Lord, Christ the king who conquers us and to whom we offer our whole person and all our hard work, even if we are clay pots, inadequate. This tension takes us out of ourselves continuously. The tool that makes the Society of Jesus not centered in itself, really strong, is, then, the account of conscience, which is at the same time paternal and fraternal, because it helps the Society to fulfill its mission better. (“A Big Heart Open to God,” America Magazine)

And also:

So now, more than ever, the Society of Jesus must be contemplative in action, must live a profound closeness to the whole church as both the ‘people of God’ and ‘holy mother the hierarchical church.’ This requires much humility, sacrifice and courage, especially when you are misunderstood or you are the subject of misunderstandings and slanders, but that is the most fruitful attitude. (Ibid, my emphasis)

Maybe certain Jesuits (and others) choose to hear only what they want to hear from the pope’s words. But so did the Pharisees and many others in Jesus’ time when He was preaching. “Those who have hears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9, Matthew 11:15, Revelation 3:22).

As for the big controversy over the pope’s ‘minimizing’ the moral issues that have characterized much of the culture wars, pause for a moment and think. Pope Francis was actually saying that Jesus Christ is the most important part of the Christian message, and we cannot let other (albeit important) parts overshadow Him.

In his own words:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, ‘This is not a sin’ or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds. (Ibid)

During the return flight from Rio de Janeiro I said that if a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge. By saying this, I said what the catechism says. (Ibid)

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow. (Ibid)

One point that is repeatedly being made by even orthodox Catholics is that the Pope needs to be more careful, that because the media (and others) are twisting his words, he needs to take that more into account when he speaks. Some Catholics, while they do not disagree with the content of the Pope’s message, are very unhappy about his tone. They are afraid the pope is (inadvertently) misleading people, and giving them the wrong idea about what the Church actually stands for. There is definitely some merit to this concern.

source: iowakofc.org

But I cannot help but think of John 6, where everybody LOVES Jesus because He just has multiplied the loaves and the fishes. Wow, what a great guy! We were hungry and he fed us! (Think of Pope Francis when he was first elected, and how even the media were impressed by his humility and his nearness to the poor).

But of course it does not last. Jesus shortly there afterward totally scandalizes everybody when He announces He is going to give them his flesh and blood to eat and drink. When people start being horrified (cannibalism?), and even when the majority of them misunderstand Him and walk away … He does not change his message. He does not say, “Oh… wait… I was just using this weird metaphor for believing in me. Come back. You misunderstood.” In fact, He makes His message more extreme and more emphatic:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (John 6: 53-57)

source: nunspeak.wordpress.com

And — perhaps hitting more closely to home when we think of Christ’s Vicar on earth, Pope Francis — remember all those people who were scandalized that Jesus spent all his time with tax collectors and sinners? (cf. Matthew 9:1, Luke 5:30, Mark 2:16) I mean, sharing a meal with other people is a sign of intimacy, of solidarity, of closeness. Can’t you imagine the Pharisees saying, “But Jesus, really. Now all the other prostitutes and tax collectors are going to think that what they’re doing is okay! They’re going to think your new version of Judaism approves of betraying our people to Rome! They’re going to think that one should not be punished for adultery! You’re going to be misunderstood!”

And… they were right. He was misunderstood. All the time. At almost every turn, every interaction, Jesus is confronting people who misinterpret what He says or simply refuse to listen.

Think about His trial, and all the ridiculous and inconsistent testimonies they leveled at him. A blasphemer, a rebel, an insurrectionist, etc.

And, even more perplexingly, Jesus does not defend Himself at his trial. He does not say, “Wait, you guys, you’re totally misunderstanding me. In fact, you didn’t even quote me right. You quoted me out of context with that whole ‘destroy the Temple’ thing.”

Jesus did NOT say that. Instead:

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.56Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.5715 Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging,58″We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.'”59Even so their testimony did not agree.60The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?”6116 But he was silent and answered nothing. (Mark 14:55-61)

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “You have said it.”

Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?”But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. (Mark 15:2-5)

Here’s my point:

I’m not saying Pope Francis is Jesus. I am not saying he is perfect.

But I am saying that all of the things people are saying ABOUT him are reminding me a lot of what people said about Our Lord. He’s too liberal, He’s too conservative, He says one thing and does another, He does one thing and says another, blah blah blah.

When, if you examine the Pope’s own words, you discover how much they are centered on Jesus Christ and not upon himself.

If you want to read a really amazing article that expresses what I’m trying to say, please read this amazing reflection by Dr. Gregory Popcak: Papa Francis, the Prodigal, and the “Good Son”.

A taste:

I have, as long as I can remember, had a strong appreciation for the office of the pope.


Which is why my reactions to Pope Francis have bothered me so much.  On the one hand, I find much to admire.  His simplicity.  His heart.  His genuine love for people.  His obvious love for Christ.  On the other hand, I have been genuinely put off–sometimes even angered–by a lot of things he has said that, frankly, have made my job harder.

In the last several weeks alone, I have had people challenge me in ways I haven’t encountered before.  It used to be that when I made some statement about the Church’s positions on marriage, love and sex, people would accept it.  They wouldn’t always like it, but they knew it was true.   They knew it was true, because even if they didn’t exactly get it, they knew what I was saying at least sounded like what they heard Pope JPII or Pope Benedict say.    But now, all of a sudden, I’m getting a kind-of push back I haven’t experienced before.  “Well, the POPE, said…”  Or,  ”That’s not what Pope FRANCISsaid the other day….”  As if I haven’t read the same interviews.  (from Faith on the Couch)

Now go read it.


Also I have another homework assignment for you. (Remember, I am a teacher… I can’t get away from it). Go read this wonderful (and far more eloquent) synopsis of the situation by Michael Gerson over at the Washington Post (of all places!)

Pope Francis the Troublemaker

The “Developing Theology” of Women

One of my best friends from college, Molly O’Connor, has begun a series of posts at Catholic News Agency on the Church’s theology of women. She is responding to Pope Francis’ call: “We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.”

Check it out here: A Developing Theology by Molly O’Connor – CNA

source: kirkepiscatoid.blogspot.com

Since investigating Edith Stein’s spirituality of women recently, I too have been thinking about Pope Francis’ emphatic call. I remember reading John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem several years ago in Rome. I stayed up for hours one night in a chapel during the silent retreat for women, because I could not put this beautiful text down. In particular I was struck by the pope’s emphasis on the “special sensitivity” of women to Christ, as reported by the Gospels. And I thought to myself – yes, this is what I am called to be as well – I have seen it in the other young women I am blessed to call my friends – I am called to be especially attentive to Christ – as His Mother was, as Mary Magdalene was, as Veronica was, as the weeping women of Jerusalem were, and the women who came with spices on Easter morning, little knowing what they would find.

And yet for all of the encyclical’s beauty, several other girlfriends of mine have expressed dissatisfaction with it. From what I understand, part of this dissatisfaction comes from a sense that “we have heard this before” – and that “yes, Mary is certainly honored in the Catholic Church — but to what cost? To the cost of more ‘practical’ and visible roles for women?”

I have three specific thoughts to share:

1) Although I am overjoyed at Pope Francis’ call for a deepening theology of women in particular, there is part of me that wants to caution everybody. This deepening of a theology of women must not be separated – in any way – from our theology of the human person. To be honest, I think this is where “feminism” (even in its more Christian manifestations) is ultimately lacking. In an effort to honor woman by devoting more study, research and attention to her, we may end up impoverishing our view further if we consider her separately from man. We can see this in certain distortions of Marian devotion that are separated from Christology. As Orthodox priest Father James Rooney puts it, “Mariology is Christology.” You separate Christ from Mary, you get certain versions of Protestantism – if you separate Mary from Christ, you get idolatry (which is ultimately a disservice to her as well). I think that as long as we continuously pursue a “developing theology of women” while contemplating the dignity of the human person “male and female He created them,” created in God’s image and likeness, we will not so easily go astray.

2) As such, it may be also appropriate to call for a deepening theology of men. This may sound strange at first, but  we cannot fully understand our “feminine genius” apart from our relationship with the other sex; likewise, men cannot fully understand their own roles without a deeper understanding of us. Jesus Christ is the source of all of our theologizing – because He shows us how to be human, whether we are men or women.

3) We must also be careful not to pursue a deepening theology of women as if we were trying to “make up for” the Church’s emphatic “no” to women priests. A “deepening theology of women” does not mean throwing the proverbial bone at disgruntled modern egalitarians who wish the Church were a democracy. Our task here is not to help all of us women feel better even though we cannot have certain “leadership roles.” If we approach it in such a way, as a sort of “well yes, we’ve been ignoring women too long, so let’s at least devote more books on theology just for them!” – then I think we will be making a false albeit unconscious concession – that theology (and everything else) is really about power after all, just as feminist critics of the Church claim. And ultimately, that would be a great disservice to those very people within the Church and outside of her who feel so deeply about women’s roles. They deserve better than just another theology of power, even if it’s dressed up in more “orthodox” garments.

A last thought, from our Mother herself – indeed, the last words she speaks in the Gospel:

“Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5).

source: marianews.net

“Endeavor[ing] to Balance Myself”

Source: blacktagdiaries.blogspot.com

Happy September. A poem for you – and perhaps an especially poignant one, especially in light of ongoing events in Syria:

September, 1918
by Amy Lowell
This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world
On Sunday at the cathedral in Denver, the vicar of the Archbishop gave a beautiful homily on humility. And in a gesture of humility, he read to us the entire text of Pope Francis’ Sunday Angelus – which you should also read, in full. Here is a taste:
With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.
I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace. May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.
To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.
(Pope Francis, Angelus of Sept 1, 2013)
After reading us the full text, the vicar noted that, in honor of our Pope’s request, there will be Eucharistic Adoration and Prayer for Peace at the downtown Cathedral in Denver. Likewise, many other diocese are doing the same. Please go, even for a little while. Even if you aren’t Catholic. Go anyway and pray.
And on a different note:
I have begun teaching my favorite thing to teach ever – essays! I’ve revised the essay unit I have taught over the past two years, and I’m really excited to share it with my kids. Today, we learned about the differences between opinions, facts, “universal truths” and cliches.
I’m trying to find ways to additionally challenge and stretch my honors students. However, since I want to do this with ALL my students, sometimes I have a hard time differentiating and offering different assignments. I think all of them are important! To be honest with you, I don’t 100% believe in “Honors” classes, as much as I benefited from these in my own high school career, and as much as I benefit from them now as a teacher (totally makes it easier to teach).
A good friend of mine suggested this interesting blog post to me, and I thought I would share it with you. I am requiring my Honors class to read it for Thursday and to thoroughly annotate it.
A taste (don’t you love tastes? They really make you want to click those links, don’t they?):
Yes, words are wonderful things, a kind of shorthand. But words can also get in the way, especially when we think that because we have named something, we have fully described or comprehended it. Not so, reality is always richer than the words or thoughts that we “reduce” it to. It is perhaps necessary for us to do this sort of reduction in order to manage, and not be overwhelmed,  but, again reality is always richer than the thoughts or words we reduce it to. (Msgr. Charles Pope)
Okay, yes. But then he goes on to say:

There’s yet another old saying, likely from the far East, which says, “Those who know do not say, those who say do not know.” That is, words for fall short of the reality of what is known, and the wise person grasps this.

One of the Eastern fathers, when asked to explain this saying to his disciples said, “How many know the smell of a rose?” And all of his disciples raised their hands. But when he said to them, “Put it into words” everyone remained silent. (Ibid.)

I guess I’m causing my kids some “cognitive dissonance” with this one, because I just spent today introducing them to Flannery O’Connor’s intriguing description of her own creative process: “I write to discover what I know.”
In other words, despite my student’s common protest, “I know what it is, Ms. Shea, I just can’t put it into words”– Flannery would probably reply,
“Nope. Until you can put it into words, you don’t really know it.”
I want to side with Flannery here, although I agree that there are some things (most especially in the realm of grace) that human language cannot grasp or even remotely gesture toward. Nonetheless, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1) and there is something of that fundamental desire (and ability!) to articulate in all of us, and in all of our languages. One of the first things Adam did, after all, was to name all of the creatures of the Earth (Genesis 2:20). God gave him that dignity, and that gift.
 And it’s that same ability to speak that lets me teach – that allows me to communicate with my students.
And it’s that same ability that allows political leaders to wage war, and seek peace, and kill thousands, and save millions.  The word indeed, in many ways, is “mightier than the sword,” though perhaps not in the way that Edward Bulwer-Lytton meant it.