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Friday, 22 March, 2013 Brief Quick Takes


1. Doing these QT’s in a state of mild shock, so they’re going to be short. My garden is being mulched & pruned. The snowdrops and crocuses have come and are on the way out; the daffodils are beginning. (Pictures added a little later.)

2.  I went to Florida (Ft. Lauderdale-ish)  in Feb. It was warm and lovely. Can’t get over that turquoise water.


tree orchids

Orchids growing in the trees! At the Miami Zoo.

3. I do and will miss Pope Benedict very much.


4. Holy Week next week. Not ready. I am still “a long way off.” Lent this year was not my finest.

5. Pope Francis! My reactions are all a jumble, so it is too early to have much to say. I don’t know, really, if there is much benefit to opining on the Pope anyway.


6. But I love, love, love St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis, the straightforward. St. Francis, the literal. St. Francis, the sincere. St. Francis, filled with holy zeal. St. Francis, the undetered. St. Francis, the wonder-worker.

7. Way back when I made myself accountable to get back to teaching. Yesterday I was offered a fellowship spot.

That’s it. I hope everyone has profoundly blessed Holy Week.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.


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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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Friday, 27 July 7, 2012 7 Questions About Spiritual Direction

1. I’m still hoping, one of these Quick Takes, to do a big back yard/garden reveal, but in the meantime, the end stages are dragging on and I’m still not ready to do so. (Teaser: right now I am working on moss, wine bottle tiki torches, and a rain barrel.) Meanwhile, I have a bunch of questions for the internet that I am a little to shy to ask in real life about spiritual direction. I’m feeling it’s something I ought to look into, but I have no clue where to begin!

2. If you have a spiritual director, where and how did you first look for him/her?

3. Did you look specifically for priests or religious?

4. Was your spiritual director known to you in another capacity or did you just make an appointment?

5. Would you recommend choosing a spiritual director of your same sex?

6. Does one need to reveal all the details of one’s life in spiritual direction?

(Explanation: Huuuge introvert over here, slow to open up to people, etc. Obviously, I’m prepared to discuss anything that I feel is an obstacle to my spiritual progress, but am always leery about deep discussions of myself with relative strangers.)

7. Have you found spiritual direction to be fruitful?


More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

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Tuesday, 1 February, 2012 Thinking Too Much

**Be warned: herein lies amateur (and probably uninformed) philosophy/theology. Use of long and/or technical words does guarantee knowledge or even a clue. I am writing this largely to work out my own thinking. Read at your own risk.**

I think I’ve said this before, but I have many opportunities, both because of where I live and my particular place of work, to rub shoulders with students and alumni of the JP II Institute at Catholic University.

My own education (college-wise) was at the hands of a Great Books program; my philosophical preferences are rooted in Plato and the ancients; my religious preferences are Catholic and  Benedictine in outlook; my cultural preferences are traditional and Anglophile.

Today, I listened to a couple of JP II Institute/CUA types hold forth on “sexual difference.” The very term sets my teeth on edge and I would like to know where it originates. It does not, as far as I know, originate in Catholic teaching nor do I recall it from any philosophy I have read.

Anyway, the topic of “sexual difference” was under discussion in the context of the broader need for catechesis (of Catholics, primarily) on the Church’s teaching on marriage, and both of the two speaker spoke of “sexual difference” as something that modern day Catholics (and society in general) need to be persuaded of or argued into acknowledging.

This seems to me to undermine Catholic teaching on human beings, male and female and their relationship to God. It seems to me that “sexual difference” is axiomatic, both in Catholic teaching but also in reality. It simply is. To try to argue its truth is to undermine that fundamental point and to veer (as did both the people I listened to today) into the realm of defining sexual difference by conglomeration of biology and gender roles. By way of illustration: the way I understand Church teaching (and reality) is this:  even if the male speaker in today’s conversation altered his way of dressing, his name, his role within his family, and underwent “gender reassignment” surgery, he would not be female. He would still be a (badly-mangled) man. No surgery, clothing, activity, or role can change a man into a woman.

It strikes me as a very poor method of catechesis to begin by trying to argue axioms.  And it seems to me that trying to argue the existence of men and women as different ways of being human is to almost certainly stray into dualism (whereby human beings are not considered to be ensouled bodies, but some sort of uneasy hybrid of the material and spiritual.)

Much more disturbing to me (here take note: potential heresy alert as I venture into theological waters) is the implication I often hear from JPII types that being male or female makes a difference in how one relates to God. I cannot point out any specific danger in this implication, but it riles me on two fronts.

One, I think it fails to account for the vast, vast, vast gap between human beings and God. Sexual difference seems like a big deal to us because we can see the shared human nature of men and women very clearly- the similarities illuminate sexual difference. But we cannot see God clearly and we often (per Scripture) have difficulty acknowledging the vast gap between ourselves and God. Whatever difference being a man or being a woman might make in relationship with God must be infinitesimally small compared to the greater issue of being human in relation to the Divine.

Two, this assertion that men and women do or should relate differently to God because of their sex flies very much in the face of my own lived experience. I relate to God first and foremost as follower of St. Benedict. He, a man, relates to God in the way that most makes sense and comes most naturally to me. I cannot relate to God easily as a follower of St. Francis, nor St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, nor St. Therese of Liseaux, nor Theresa of Avila, etc, etc, etc.  It seems clear to me that my “spiritual personality,” anyway, is not related to my sex.

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Friday, 16 December, 2011 To Do

Advent/Christmas Preparation To Do list

1. Is it against the spirit of Quick Takes to make them a “To Do” list? I am going to do it anyway, realizing, of course that this is not going to be the most fascinating blog post evah!

There’s only one week left in Advent, and I am still unprepared for the coming Christmas season. I am wondering if I am trying to do too much or if it’s just that I’ve been under the weather and slightly out of commission for about 2 weeks of the last month. I’ve been trying to keep up with life, with preparations, but have been failing pretty badly. Oh well, such is life. It is difficult to keep with obligations when you are a single person and not well; there’s just no one to back you up or take some of the load off.

So, things I have not yet accomplished that really should be accomplished before the end of Advent:

2.  Christmas shopping. I am missing things for:

My family KK (Praise the Lord we decided to do KKs this year!)

My work KK

My parents & youngest brother

My housemates

That is actually not a terrible list and I should be able to get to it this weekend, I hope.

3. Baking. Last year I got in a time crunch, too, and decided to skip baking.  I am considering skipping this year as well. Ordinarily, I bake on the third or fourth Sunday of Advent. I didn’t bake last Sunday and there’s a party happening at my house this Sunday, so I’m guessing I may just need to skip it again this year.

4. Must, must, must call people. Especially friends who are students and coming back to the area for Christmas!

5. Confession. (Now that will get done.) Must take myself off and just do it over the weekend. It would be nice if I had time for a side of Adoration as well, but that’s less likely.

6. Need to actually determine where/in which state of this here country I will be for Christmas. The lack of planning is not my own doing.

7. I promised, independent of all this Christmas preparation, that I would crochet some head-warmers (I did not know these were an item to have!) for my youngest sister, who is going to school in upstate NY. Luckily, they don’t take long to actually make and I sat down and did a pattern for myself last night.

I’m participating in the Christmas Novena – my intention being to keep my sanity and get everything I need to get done, done.

Here’s hoping that reading this list makes some of you feel accomplished in comparison to me! May the rest of your Advent be blessed!

More Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary.