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Wednesday, 20 February, 2013 The Immodest Post

This article on the well-worn classic, Catholic modesty,* has made awildviolets cycle through my facebook feed. While I am rather surprised (based on some other comments from the author) by her highly reasonable take, I don’t think the author adds anything earth-shaking ** (or offensive) to the continual modesty-in-dress discussion in the Catho-sphere.

I read this here response to the original article, and I must say I’m not entirely clear how the responder manages to interpret “In terms of modesty, that might mean dressing in a way that is appropriate to one’s culture and circumstances, not drawing undue attention to oneself either in one’s dress or undress, remaining circumspect about one’s own choices, and not denouncing the reasonable choices of others” as “true modesty is following the crowd, because you can’t be modest if you stand out.”

It seems to me that the choice the responding blogger presents – that one can either choose to “stand out” in appearances (both of the person and of the home) or one can hang with the hoi polloi (who are made “uncomfortable” by your Church-art-y home and whatever it is you wear) – is a false one. And I wonder if what gives this endless debate about women’s clothes such pervasive life (kind of like the awful wild violets in my backyard; occasionally tolerable and definitely harmless-looking, but hugely insidious and practically impossible to remove) isn’t these sorts of false dichotomies. (This is certainly not the only false dichotomy or uncharitable premise I’ve come across in this debate.)

I get the sense (and this may partly be because I’m still trying to be all Carmelite-y with Fire Within***) that if one is truly following Christ, one will stand out whether one wants to or not. (Which is part of the reason I feel so unprepared for the coming persecution in this country; afraid I won’t be brave enough for the times.) One could try in every outward way to blend in with the world (even cover one’s wall with movie posters and take down all the crucifixes, I bet!), but one’s words, actions, and beliefs would shine out anyway.

It’s hard for me to accept that the “standing out” that comes of being a real follower of Christ, is something that hinges so much on clothing. Clothes are just clothes; everyone’s got to wear them. They shouldn’t be used to advertize one’s “bits,” but beyond that I really can’t see how they are relevant. (With the caveat that if wearing certain clothes matters to a person, then it matters to that person and they should act accordingly. I certainly don’t care. How someone else dresses is equally irrelevant.)

I really like Simcha Fisher’s wise application of “keep your eyes on your own work” to the spiritual life. That those who really follow Christ will be misfits in the world is probably the only point at which I can agree with the responding blogger. To truly follow Christ, I am sure, is harder than obtaining a PhD in neuroscience (insert hardest degree of choice here) or than qualifying for the Olympics. I’m certainly a remedial student in being a Christian and heaven knows my attention and effort waxes and wanes enough already – I am wary of expending extra thought or effort on what I consider to be silly externals****.


*Decoder ring for non-Catholics: on the Catholic internets “modesty” means “what kind of clothes women should wear” or, if a proud “Traditionalist” and/or a man who wants in on this fight, “what kind of clothes (right down to individual garments and fabrics) should women be allowed to wear/can they wear without risking HELL.”

**This is not meant as a criticism; merely an assessment.

*** Totally unrelated: apparently Fr. Dubay lived to the end of his life (he died just a few years ago) at the home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor which is quite close to me. I wish I had known at the time, but I am sure I would not have been brave enough to send a note.

****Responding blogger mentions visual arts and literature as well. I do not consider art or literature to be “silly externals.” (Clothing I do; fun, but silly.) I consider art and literature to be in a different category (in the Aristotelian sense.)


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Friday, 15 February, 2013 Quick Takes Lent I


It’s Friday…

1. …the first one in Lent. I got ready for Lent in time … barely.

2. …after the Pope’s stunner. How odd that the only two papal elections I have ever witnessed have been so tied in with Lent and Easter. Although John Paul II had been so ill for so long, still I remember feeling thrown off-balance when he died. He had been Pope for my entire life, having been elected before I was born. I love Pope Benedict, I trust his judgement absolutely, I am sure that what he is doing he is doing for clear and good reasons, I am not afraid – the Church will endure.

3. But that off-kilter feeling is back- particularly because Benedict is so old. There will be no more Popes who are a living link back to the middle of the twentieth century, or back to the Second Vatican Council. I’m less concerned about liturgical history than secular history; I don’t feel we are much distant from the evils of totalitarianism.

4. …before a Monday off. Thank goodness. I’ve been swamped at work and could use the break. I think the whole world should be on the academic schedule (work at work 9 mos of the year and then 3 mos “flex-time.”)

5. …so no meat! Lent in going to be a challenge in the food department for me. I just got into a decent rhythm cooking-wise and abstaining Fridays are a disruption.

6. …in mid-February. Winter has been so off-and-on here. We’ve had no snow to speak of and it’s really driven home how dry the winter is (still don’t like that and have not adapted.) We’ve had rain a handful of times. Now that the early darkness is receding the garden calls to me, but a) I’m afraid to look and b) tonight is one of those possible snow nights.

7. … and I’m out of things to say.

More Takes at Conversion Diary.

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Wednesday, 6 February, 2013 Snippets

What do you call someone who is moved to write and post “Quick Takes” 2 hours after the cut off time on a Monday? And doesn’t actually get them up for two additional days? If no new post happens before  Friday, I’m just going to shameless link this one up.


1. Every since I read the news, I have been (quietly) praying for our linkup hostess who’s suffering from multiple pulmonary embolisms. While pregnant. Please add your prayers, if you feel moved to do so.

2. Because of the digits that comprised my age last year, I was hopeful that 2012 would be a sort of “landmark” year, in which I would either experience deep, meaningful, and significant change in my life or in which my circumstances would change in some important way. Or something. Anyhow, none of the aforementioned changes materialized; 2012 for me was largely hectic and not always in the happily so. (N.B. It is probably dumb to assume that the particular integers that make up your age mean anything at all.) So, here I am in 2013, it’s only February and shezzam!! progress abounds. It seems that I may be able to pull off a long-planned change in my field of employment, I may go on my first actual vacation* in 10 years and a few other small but welcome developments have arisen. I hope things continue on this trajectory!

3. My eating home-cooked food drive now continues aided and abetted by French Kids Eat Everything, which I picked up out of curiosity after from having read Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong. I got a bit impatient with the author’s careful presentation of the research that validates much of the French attitude towards food, but found the exploration of French food “pedagogy” fascinating. I’m not in a position to put the author’s suggestions into practice, but having been brought up an omnivore and fairly adventurous eater (ok, I am NOT anxious to try brains or various pickled “delicacies” from other cultures) in a culture** that encourages such eating, I’m interested in the topic.

(By contrast, I have an adult acquaintance whose list of food dislikes extends into what is, for me, normal eating. I mean, the man does not like garlic. What??!)

4. New ingredients: I have recently cooked quinoa and beets for the first time. I took no pictures because I was too busy cooking. I really like quinoa, but probably won’t make a habit of it because since it’s become a popular export the Peruvians and Bolivians aren’t able to eat it themselves. The beets were interesting – in that fresh(ly boiled) beets don’t taste too different from the canned variety. I like them; I do not like how much they bleed.

5. In my eternal search to find something different to do with chicken, I learned (internet recipe search) after several decades that the dish that my mother used to make with chicken and red wine is not, as I had long believed, “coco van.” (I don’t know. It’s just how I always spelled it in my head.) It’s “coq au vin” and it is darn tasty in all its variations. I’m guessing that the other celebratory dish she sometimes cooked was not “turkey divine.” (Don’t ask me why chicken got the more phonetic spelling.)

6. If I were to be a crafty blogger I would have to overcome my resistance to taking “before” pictures. Thing is I find the “before” so bothersome/hard to look at that I do not want to record it for posterity. I just want to fix it, stat.  Projects I have not taken pictures of over the past couple months: I did an update to the terrible laundry space in our house. And I sewed trendy elbow patches on my favorite sweater. (Not to be trendy, but because one elbow had tragically developed a hole!)

7. So there is, as I write (I’m guessing it’ll last two more days), another of these huge meta-discussions raging in the Catho-blogo-sphere about Beyonce’s Super.Bowl Halftime show and for once I’m not even mildly tempted to join in.  I think people are focused on the wrooooong thing here. I mean the 49ers lost (moment of silence, please.) But at least it wasn’t a slaughter. And Colin Kaepernick, woah!

For more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary.


*family visits just don’t count.

**California, baby