So, last night I hit that wall all of us mothers hit, from time-to-time, and just could not think of a single thing I actually wanted to cook or to eat for supper.
My Elder Son wondered what I had in mind, and if anything I was planning could be well-served with a generous slathering of Monastery Mustard, which he was craving.
“I got nothing,” I said. “I’m out of ideas and can’t bear the idea of cooking chicken again this week. Why don’t you think of something.”
“Home-made pizzas?” he wondered.
Actually, a reader sent a great pizza recipe my way, and I do want to try it, but not just then.
“Why don’t you cook something up,” I suggested, “I’m not into it.”
Being an agreeable sort, Elder Son agreed, and then went online to hunt down something that sounded “fun” to make. “Pasta alla Carbonara,” he announced. “Do we have pancetta in the house?”
“Pancetta, you’re kidding me, right? I have peanut butter, here. And some sardines.”
“We have olive oil?”
That we had. And spaghetti. He dashed out and bought some pancetta and some ground cheese and then proceeded to cook for us this little masterpiece.
What a sweet guy! I have the coolest kids in the world!
It was beyond delish and we made pigs of ourselves. I highly recommend.
I wonder if my kids would be into this?
Last weekend I picked this CD up from church - Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea talking about how the prayers of his own mother led him out of a terrible life (he was a streetfighter and a union thug) and into the priesthood.
I have to admit, I was a little put-off at first by his accent. Fr. John Corapi, the charismatic “hard-ass” of a priest is a tremendous-but-gruff speaker, but this Fr. Relyea is a pure-D New Yawk boy, wit’ de dese, dems an’ dozes. I expected him, any minute, to start with the baddabings and the baddabooms.
(Okay, so I am an accent-snob. One of my nieces, for a while, had a tendency to talk like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky - every “hello” was a clipped “yo” - and I nagged her mercilessly until she grew out of it. Some New Yorkers never do and da tawkin’ like dis gets my dainty little nose out of joint. But I digress…)
Fr. Relyea does not baddaboom. He does say “fuggedaboudit” a few times, but by then you’re an idiot if you notice it (as I am an idiot for noticing) because his story is so stirring, and his own humility so moving that it will get you bawling as you drive through town. Got me going, anyway.
By the end of the CD, aside from marveling at the way God works in our lives and through all of us - using his creation to reach his creatures - I found myself thinking once again about what James Joyce said about the Catholic Church: “here comes everybody!” It pleases me to no end that counted among our priests are not only the elegant Joseph Ratzingers and the gregarious Timothy Dolans, but the tough-talking John Corapis and streetfighters like Isaac Relyea, too.
Rumer Godden once wrote that the lovely thing about the Catholic church is that you could “find anyone in it, ‘from a tramp to a king;’ the cliche happens to be correct.”
Then again, why shouldn’t that be true? We’re all tramps and kings, aren’t we, depending on where we are in any given hour?
A few readers had already seen the announcement in the magazine, and a few more picked up on it here, but it’s time to spell it out, as First Things editor, Joseph Bottum - touching on changes to the magazine - does here, in his broad-ranged and interesting note:
Several other friends have agreed to take on new roles and add their names to the masthead. James Nuechterlein, the editor of First Things from 1990 to 2004, assumes the new title of senior editor, for instance. And seven of the most interesting and talented authors in America have joined us as contributing writers: the biblical scholar Gary A. Anderson, the essayist Mary Eberstadt, the Orthodox theologian David B. Hart, the literary critic Alan Jacobs, the bioethicist Yuval Levin, the Catholic blogger Elizabeth Scalia, and the poet Sally Thomas.
Of course I am quite tickled to find myself in such company and only hope I don’t louse up the place. My initial piece for First Things ran online last month and seemed to get some healthy traffic, and I popped into their blog for a follow-up on it, here.
Demands of this blog, other freelance jobs, the (soon to end) commitment to In the Arena and my participation in the group blog at Inside Catholic has prevented me from throwing more of my pearls toward First Things, but I hope that will change as things settle down. I’ll have more on all of that, this Friday.
I hope Anchoress readers will make a point of heading over to First Things every day, and I aim to help you do it! The creation of the prolific and inspiring Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, (whose collected Public Square columns are here), First Things is the lively intersection of faith and politics, with thoughtful commentary from believers of all stripes. If you have not had the opportunity to check it out, please do, and the entertaining shopping and group blogs, as well.
As Bottum points out in his piece, David P. Goldman, the much-admired and mysterious internet phenom formerly known as “Spengler” is coming uncloaked and joining the staff of First Things as an Associate Editor. You’ll want to read his fascinating piece on Demographics & Economic Depression.
In fact, check out the whole masthead.
Joining First Things does mean I will be pulling back from the blog at Inside Catholic, although I do hope to write a piece for them from time-to-time, and I’ll still be showing up at Pajamas Media, and wherever else they’ll have me in the world of posts and punditry.
In the meantime…check back for more news. And I’m going to try to get my blogroll cleared up, I promise!
So, from 2006 onward, President George W. Bush tried to push a free trade agreement through Congress, and Mrs. Pelosi and her crew resisted and obstructed and vowed “no way” would it be allowed to happen. And Candidate Obama decried it. Mostly because Bush wanted it, you understand.
Thankfully, President Obama - who, since his candidacy, has reversed himself with stunning frequency - has - as in the song “Simple Gifts” ‘turned, turned to come ’round right’ on this issue, and he is now pushing the Colombian Free Trade agreement, himself. This is a good thing. Congrats to President Obama for seeing it. Now that a Democrat is in the White House, a thing that should have happened two years ago will be permitted to finally happen. A feather in his cap, and an easy one, he’d be stupid not to take. And here is another reversal he’d be smart to embrace.
Ah, progress. Now, perhaps, we can stop redacting information from material we release, in service to umm…transparency? That would be nice.
Obama’s first 100 days: analysis Jennifer Rubin. I think she is way too optimistic about the GOP being unified. I think most people are looking at the GOP and seeing the same spineless spenders they saw before.
Is the president scaring the CIA into submission? That would be weird, wouldn’t it? Come on. The president loves the country and wants it to be safe from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He’s sworn to it.
Ted Kennedy still wants socialized medicine. Kennedy seems to be doing very well under treatment for brain cancer, and I say good for him; medical science can do many wonderful things to enhance life and help us to live longer. I wonder, though…do you think, under a socialized system, an aging man with a weight problem and a liking for the drink would - upon being diagnosed with a serious brain cancer with a negative prognosis - be given the same sort of care Kennedy has enjoyed under his Congressional medical program? Or would such a patient be told he was a burden to the taxpayers and a risk to the bottom line of the National Health Care Office? Would a man in exactly Kennedy’s situation, but without his power and connections, be given the same treatment, or simply be made comfortable and told to put his affairs in fast order? It’s a fair question.
I love pictures from outer space! And these pics of Saturn are great. Look at the one six pictures down…it almost looks like a man walking on the rings. Cool! The very quiet sun, however, does portend a gloomy summer.
Eucharistic Processions: Although some would like to see one on Commencement Day (that ain’t gonna happen, and neither is Notre Dame going to rescind their invite), there will be one this week. I haven’t seen a Eucharistic procession since I was a little girl. Supposedly Notre Dame’s Fr. Jenkins was visiting the White House, yesterday. Maybe he will become Obama’s Ambassador to the Vatican?
Jesus and the straight answer
Rick at Brutally Honest opines on “the religious left”.
Socialism doesn’t work: crunching the numbers.
Finally: Appreciate my indifference to your sexuality. Yeah…that’s pretty much how I feel. I think the gay community does not really understand that most folks don’t care who they sleep with - they just resent having it all shoved in their faces, so they’re forced to react - it’s a set-up.
There…now my tab-bar is all tidy, again!
Reader misogynist - who is a libertarian sort - sends this along with the note, “this is some scary stuff, right here…”
Misdemeanor crimes such as assaults, thefts and burglaries will no longer be prosecuted in Contra Costa County because of budget cuts, the county’s top prosecutor said Tuesday.
District Attorney Robert Kochly also said that beginning May 4, his office will no longer prosecute felony drug cases involving smaller amounts of narcotics. That means anyone caught with less than a gram of methamphetamine or cocaine, less than 0.5 grams of heroin and fewer than five pills of ecstasy, OxyContin or Vicodin won’t be charged.
People who are suspected of misdemeanor drug crimes, break minor traffic laws, shoplift, trespass or commit misdemeanor vandalism will also be in the clear. Those crimes won’t be prosecuted, either.
Don’t even bother submitting the cases, Kochly said Monday in a memo to the Contra Costa County Police Chiefs Association, representing local police chiefs. “If they are submitted, they will be screened out by category by support staff and returned to your department without review by a deputy district attorney,” he wrote.
The changes are needed to help eliminate a $1.9 million budget deficit in the district attorney’s office for this fiscal year. By month’s end, six deputy district attorneys will be laid off, and another 11 will have to be let go by the end of the year, Kochly said.
I hope the report is incorrect. The press does sometimes get things wrong:
Other not-good “scary stuff”: Read down Jake Tapper’s report here. It all makes me uncomfortable, every bit of it; Robert Gibb’s nausea-inducing attempt at glibness, Obama’s “transparent,” love of the state secret (and his disdain for those secrets which effectively keep us safe and informed).
Also, his clear intention to nationalize the banks and take control of them, his strange ideas about economic recovery and his seeming inability to find much good to say about his own nation, while abroad. That’s what I want in a president, a guy who listens to America-bashing and then, if he doesn’t quite join in, doesn’t much seem to mind it, either. As long as the bashing is not blaming him, personally. Because he’s cool. And slicker than Bill Clinton ever thought to be.
Our betters in the press: are awfully particular about what they leave out of their reports. Interesting omissions. And claims.
Our betters in Congress - (the most ethical Congress evah), battle back against an ethics probe while a powerful senator insults our intelligence with seeming impunity. Shysters, one and all, the whole boiling of them need throwing out.
Our betters in the arts: Can’t be bothered to get history right but still tell us we’re stupid to take offense. Not that I wholly agree with Donohue, but the bashing does get tedious, sometimes. Our betters in all media, while disdainful of the ordinary folk who dare to exercise their right to free expression and assembly, do seem to be having difficulty with concepts on the value of the individual. You’d think people in the arts would get it.
Janet Napolitano, who seems not to know any people who aren’t exactly like her that are not also terrorists, also doesn’t know that illegal immigration is illegal. Now everyone knows I differ with the right/base on this question and favor helping immigrants become tax-paying, English speaking citizens over strenuous deportation measures. But even I concede that - for crying out loud - coming into the country illegally is…illegal.
Had enough? Me too. Someone sent this my way, and it’s worth reading as a palate cleanser - a 7 year old rant against politically correct language, by P.J. O’ Rourke. Some slightly vulgar content warning; you’re warned.
If that’s too much reading for you (it is 6 amusing pages) - Rachel Lucas says ‘O, to be in England, now that spring is here…’ and makes me hate her very much.
Ann Althouse is looking at the “Susan Boyle needs a make-over” crowd, and writes:
The idea of keeping her in her original state is sentimental and selfish. Is she supposed to bolster your self esteem? One of her attributes is that she’s never been kissed. (She’s 47.) Should she retain her virginity along with her bushy eyebrows so that TV viewers can feel warm and squishy?
Seeing the world talk about Boyle’s virginity makes me uneasy, because pop-culture seems incapable of discussing virginity maturely, thoughtfully or even respectfully; I kind of wish Boyle hadn’t brought it up, herself. I imagine her naivete allowed it, and who knows - perhaps it will spawn a long-overdue look at the value and meaning of virginity (something I’ve tried to talk about a few times, but still haven’t explored fully).
But as to the bushy eyebrows, I think Althouse is correct. Why shouldn’t Boyle be a little more stylish, if that’s what she wants? The woman has lived her whole life in the little house, in the little town, serving her parents - and all of that is lovely - but if she’d like to try a new hairstyle and find more flattering clothing, why is this a bad thing? Will people accuse her of “selling out” if she plucks her eyebrows and colors her hair? How does her going out in public looking like she’s just done the dishes and made the beds make her more admirable than if she were groomed a bit?
I agree with Stacy London when she says: “Style is only possible from a place of self-acceptance.” I have found this to be true, myself. When I hated everything about my looks, I was incapable of anything more than jeans and sweats. Now, I’m not thrilled with my looks or my weight, but I’m more accepting of them, and that has made a huge difference. While I still won’t wear one of those ghastly loud prints they insist on selling to chubby women, I’m more amenable to wearing a belted jacket, or indulging my love of scarves and shawls, even if they don’t look as well on me as I’d like. Self-acceptance does allow one to say “aw, screw it if others don’t like this, I do!”
Boyle has expressed dissatisfaction with her how she looked on tv, so she’s not at the “screw ‘em” stage just yet. Let her explore a bit! Of course, if she got botoxed unto monster-hood like some women, and got a boob job and went all hog-wild with self-indulgence, I can see where people might roll their eyes, but for goodness sake, let the lady have a hairdo!
Just not one of these. One imagines Boyle getting either them and thinking, “what fresh hell is this?”
Boyle may - as she adapts to a very different life than she is used to - find a look that doesn’t please anyone but herself. She likes showtunes, so maybe then people will hear her singing this:
Deacon Greg has found a monk who has got you beat:
70 year-old Buddhist monk Hua Chi has been praying in the same spot at his temple in Tongren, China for over 20 years. His footprints, which are up to 1.2 inches deep in some areas, are the result of performing his prayers up to 3000 times a day. Now that he is 70, he says that he has greatly reduced his quantity of prayers to 1,000 times each day.
Heck, I feel like I’m doing well when I manage Morning and/or Evening Prayer and a rosary!
I don’t claim to understand prayer except in the littlest way. I am a long way off from understanding anything substantial about prayer, but I know I would be a worse person than I am without it. So I had better keep practicing!
Whoa, I should look into this blogging gig, it sounds lucrative, doesn’t it?
I don’t know where the WSJ is getting its numbers from, or which bloggers it’s talking to, but I clearly ain’t one of them.
The best studies we can find say we are a nation of over 20 million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, and 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income. That’s almost 2 million Americans getting paid by the word, the post, or the click — whether on their site or someone else’s.
Pros who work for companies are typically paid $45,000 to $90,000 a year for their blogging. One percent make over $200,000. And they report long hours — 50 to 60 hours a week.
$45,000 - $90,000 a year?
Most of the time I don’t make $900.00 in a month!
I blog for the love of it - because I love to write - but now I’m wondering if I’m just doing it wrong! If there is big money to be made in blogging, it has managed to sneak past me.
I don’t doubt there are a few - a very few - bloggers who have managed to find their living on the blogs, but I have a fairly respectable blog on which I easily invest 50 hours a week or more, and if I told you what I made last year, you’d wonder why I don’t just take an entry-level government job for $22,000 a year, both for the increase in salary and the benefits. Frankly, the only reason I can afford to be a freelance writer is because my husband is the breadwinner and we don’t live large.
$45,000 a year would be incredible. $75,000? I’d be over the moon! I’d buy my husband a car that wasn’t 14 years old!
UPDATE: Ed and Allahpundit are calling this WSJ article straight-up stupid.
Yesterday I wrote about a conversation with a cabbie from Afghanistan who loves America but who feels “less free” here than he used to.
We were talking about small laws and the encroachment of the state into our personal lives.
In response I got an interesting email from an Aussie gent part of whose email I must redact for his own privacy:
[Several] months ago I returned home to my home in. . .Australia, from the Middle East, where I had been deployed on operations. [It] is a generally left-voting city, and I was quickly struck by how deeply the state had intruded into our private lives - I had never noted it before. In [the Middle East], there had been rules to keep us safe and to ensure mission success, but at home, there were many rules, some quite onerous, whose sole “justification” is an intent to make the citizenry “good”. For example. . .in my city, I am not allowed to have a front fence. The theory is that a lack of a front fence will encourage me to socialise more often with my next door neighbours. Without addressing the dubious prospects of this law succeding in its stated aim, it is a rank injustice to deny me the use of my front yard for anything other than ornamental purposes.
About a fortnight ago, I was having a polite chat. . .with a lady whom I did not know well. I made the observation that I felt in some ways less free in [his city] than in [the Middle East], and she mentioned that she had felt the same way after moving here from [another state in Australia]. My wife informed me afterwards that the lady is married to a senior Labor Party activist, who is likely to win a seat at the next election, and who is deeply committed to socialist policies. It interested me that a person so intimately connected with building an intrusive state should feel oppressed by it like I do; I had assumed that it was my conservative temperament which was rebelling. I wonder how common this response is on the left? Do you have any insights?
You know, I might…but not just yet. I’m still trying to plow through my email and the brain is misfiring. How about you guys, any insights?
So, I was over at the Crescat where I like to pop in every coupla days, and I saw this photo of Barack Obama:
And - as has happened every time I have ever seen that picture - my brain started nagging, “who does he look like in this picture? I know he looks like someone! This picture reminds me of someone, who is it?
For months, it’s been right at the tip of my tongue.
Finally, this morning, the name and the image jumped out at me:
Got an update on Heather, the young pregnant woman who was diagnosed with cancer after learning of her pregnancy. On April 1 we learned that Heather had experienced something of a miraculous healing:
The technicians opened her mouth to position the equipment relative to the tumor. Only…this time…there was nothing there. No tumor. No cancer. Nothing anywhere on her tongue, jaw, throat, mouth…nothing. The only evidence that she ever had that cancer was a small cancerous patch on her lymphnode which the doctors expect to respond well to radiation. What’s more…well, the unborn baby grew 1.2 pounds over the last 6 days. So, all doctors are thrilled.
Our latest update:
Heather is doing MUCH better and able to eat pureed foods again! She is still doing the radiation and will complete at least the original course for the spot that remains on the one lymph node. Our current prayer focus is that she will soon be able to swallow pills so that they can remove the IV which is being used for vitamins since her food intake is still limited. Baby is growing normally and expected to go to full-term or close to full-term now.
This is a very different state of affairs than we began with, where it looked like Heather might lose half of her jaw and the baby, with the prognosis very grim for her survival. Keep praying for Heather and her baby!
Also, please keep praying for Kim and her husband, as they mourn the death of their daughter, Joy. I mentioned Kim here:
Kim is 7 months pregnant and has been told since her 18th week that her baby (they cannot tell for sure the sex) has no kidneys and will not live long beyond delivery. Like this young mother, Kim and her husband have chosen to eschew the dubious “blessing” of abortion and to instead pray, have faith, and experience the full-life gift and grief of allowing their child to meet them, of allowing themselves to know and love their child. They’re open to walking through the fire. And they’re open to a miracle, too. Openness is the key to everything.
Today I received this email from Kim:
I wanted to update you on our situation since you have been so kind as to pray and ask for prayers for us. Joy was born on April 13th, six weeks prematurely. While she only lived two hours, she had a lot of love during her brief life. Although we did not get the miracle we prayed for, we did receive many small miracles that showed us God was with us. He has further blessed us with kind hospital staff, wonderful family and friends that are helping us through this.
Kim and her husband named their little, short-lived daughter Joy! They know the great secret - that they have assisted in Creation, worked with God in order to permit His love to enter into the world, anew, and to become part of all that is eternal, unending. They are, frankly, standing in the light.
This was undoubtedly a heart-shattering experience, joy mixed with sorry, wonder immediately followed by sadness. Joy did not have a long life, but it was the life she had, God-given and greatly loved. Her parents got to meet her, to tell her they loved her and that they would see her again. Joy was allowed to be known. Her parents were allowed to be parents, real parents who know the intense love and devastating sorrow that comes with the job.
Some see nothing good, here, only pain and loss, but clearly in this situation the value of humanity (and human dignity) were given witness, and not only by Joy and her parents but by all of the people Kim mentions, who participated in the paradox of love:
…for all the joy it brings, [love] also brings pain. Love and pain cannot exist exclusive of each other, and joy fits itself, somehow, between the two.
There is truly a Culture of Life and a Culture of Death. As we prayed in the antiphon of Vespers for this second week of Easter, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the spirit is spirit. Alleluia.”
Meanwhile, Little Faith, who we have met in this blog is two months old, now, and still a little fighter. Faith’s mom shares with us the news that little Seth lived for ten hours in the light of the love of his family.
I am absolutely astounded, instructed, edified and in all ways humbled in the face of faith this open, courageous and hearty. In a world where society encourages us to avoid the painful realities of life (and all the terrible beauty found therein) to shut ourselves off and remain comfortably anesthetized throughout our lives, these young women and their husbands - with the help of family, friends and faith - say “yes” to the difficult, “yes to the pain, “yes” to what comes their way.
What I see, over and over again in their stories is a peace the world cannot fathom, the “peace beyond all understanding.” As with the Gospels, where a rich young man was attracted to Christ but unwilling to give up his material things, we see here a peace many want, but few have the courage to pursue.
The headlines have very little to teach us, the sophisticates even less. If we are going to learn how to live the faith through challenging times (and yes, we’re set to be greatly challenged in America, as never before) we’re going to have to look away from “the world” and all of its bright little stars, to people like these, and these; largely unknown, unsung and engaged in “foolishness” to the world.
They know Christ Crucified, and have a great deal to teach those who are up for a lifelong course of study in that most challenging of schools, the School of Love.
UPDATE: Speaking of the School of Love, go here and click on “nun news” to see a young women make an ancient choice in an ancient rite, for love of Christ.
So, basically the last four days have been dedicated to family, and the weather was terrific and I paid zero attention to the news.
I highly recommend taking a few days off from news. It’s good for the heart.
However, I am a little behind on email and must do some catching up before I have anything worthwhile to post.
I will leave you this little bit, though: At one point, my husband and I were strolling through the city and realized we were going to be late for a gathering, so we hopped in a cab and had a very interesting chat with the driver, an Afghani (is that correct?) who has lived here for 30 years, raised a family and so forth. In talking about the advantages of working for oneself, he said he had not yet felt the pinch of the bad economy, but he expected he would, sooner or later. Then he complained that America was “no longer a democracy.”
I asked him what he meant by that and he said, “this country used to be about freedom. You work, you pay your taxes, and you are left alone to live your life. That was freedom. Now America is all about little laws, I am being nagged to death with the little laws. I work on cars like a hobby. I always keep my cab covered, out of regard for my neighbors. Then I am told, ‘you’re not allowed to cover your car’, I think because they wonder what is under it. So I don’t cover it, and then I get told it must come off the street because it is an eyesore, but I am not allowed to cover it.”
“Yeah, those little laws,” I teased, “Chesterton said, ‘When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom. You do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.’ ”
“But I am not breaking any laws!” he said, “I do nothing but work and work and I work very hard, and I feel like every day America is finding new laws, more laws, and no matter how much I want to just live my life and keep to myself, America is making so many laws that we all cannot just live anymore, now we have to always answer to someone. I don’t like it.”
“No, I can’t say I like it much, either,” I agreed.
My husband, who dislikes talking politics and would rather talk ‘people’ asked him about his children and whether they had visited Afghanistan. They had not but, “Afghanistan is not what you see on the news; it is not just a hellhole of warriors and opium. The news does not tell you anything real anymore, not about anything. What is happening in America I never thought I’d would see. Everything is changing.”
“But change is what people voted for,” my husband said.
The driver merely waved that sentiment on with a dismissive hand.
We tipped him well and I paused to jot a few notes about the driver and our conversation. “Why didn’t you do that in the car,” my annoyed husband asked.
“Honey, if I had taken notes while he was talking, he probably would have thought I was undercover with the FBI!”
My husband chuckled and allowed that he might have, at that. But I think our Afghan friend was on to something. All the little, nagging laws come about in inches, and small increments. But they grow larger and more numerous all the time - until we are suddenly less free.
Immigrants who have come to America for freedom are very likely the first ones to be sensitive to any erosion of that freedom. Something to think about.
You know, I’ve been unusually busy and out of touch, but I happened to be in front of a TV this evening and saw a CNN report with Blitzer on Susan Boyle. Her hair was shiny and coifed and she looked lovely and sweet. I couldn’t hear much, but from what I am seeing in my email, she’s just taking the world by storm!
I mean, heck, I am writing about her for the third time in a week! And I can’t think how many times I’ve listened to her “I Dreamed a Dream.” She needs to release that, quickly. I’m tired of trying to hear her through the screams of the audience, although it’s all of a piece, and a great story.
Why is the world so obsessed with a woman so “ordinary” - even her name seems “flat and ordinary” - in every way, except in her powerful voice?
I suspect it is because Susan Boyle has reminded us of something we’ve forgotten for too long. Hypnotised by Madison Avenue and Hollywood and the culture of youth, we’ve forgotten that the things they offer to us as “the norm” are ideals, and mostly fake ones. In embracing those fake ideals (how much money was spent last year in cosmetic surgeries and teeth-whitening?) we’ve forgotten that beyond all of those superficialities, we each have within us something of much greater value than perky breasts and unlined skin: the divine spark, the God-kiss, that lives in each and every one of us - no exceptions.
I think we look at Susan Boyle and her artistry (and she is clearly an artist) and we think, “wait a second…that’s not the narrative! Ordinary people who look ordinary, and live obscurely and who don’t run with the herd are not supposed to be great.” And then we dare to think: “what if there is greatness in all of us?”
That’s quite a thought, isn’t it - almost subversive - that there may be greatness in each of us, but that it goes unappreciated, because what is great in us is not valued by the people who “define” things and set the narratives?
I have always thought my mother-in-law was one of the greatest women on the planet, and I mean the world “great.” I remember once - even before I had married and produced the heir (which conferred upon me a royal Italian status even though I am Irish) telling a group of students that she - a mere housewife - was the most creative woman I had ever met. That sentiment was met with some rolled eyes, but I have always held it true that my husband’s mother and father - who are living saints, people who would do anything for anyone at the drop of a hat - are also people of great creativity and dynamism. They’ll never be famous, and they wouldn’t want to be, or give a fig for it, but there are literally “great” people with outsized gifts,who will never be known outside the family or their working-class neighborhood.
There was a terrific episode of All in the Family, back in the ’70’s. The Bunker family is being robbed, and Archie and Edith are in the living room with the thieves. I don’t remember all of it, but at some point Edith says “everyone is someone,” and confesses she has written a song about it. Urged on by one of the thieves, she sings it in that screechy, Queensborough voice: “Everyone is someone, if you love them…”
Yes, it’s sentimental. It’s simple. It is unsophisticated and simplistic, but it is true: Everyone is someone. Everyone has a God-kiss, a divine spark. My friend Fr. James Martin has written an appreciation of Susan Boyle that is downright catechetical, and it is marred only by his sort of apologetic, “okay now, “I know this is sentimental, but…” caveat.
The way we see Susan Boyle is very nearly the way God sees us: worthwhile, special, talented, unique, beautiful. The world generally looks askance at people like Susan Boyle, if it sees them at all. Without classic good looks, without work, without a spouse, living in a small town, people like Susan Boyle may not seem particularly “important.” But God sees the real person, and understands the value of each individual’s gifts: rich or poor, young or old, single or married, matron or movie star, lucky or unlucky in life. God knows us. And loves us…Everybody is somebody
Isn’t that wonderful? We should not have to apologize or hedge because we have dared to notice something of wonder, because we have dared to realize the very simple notion that - yes, I’m going to say it - God doesn’t make junk.
We are fascinated with Susan Boyle, because she reveals to us the world of possibilities we too often leave unexplored, within ourselves. We dare to think…has God kissed me, too?
Let us seek out what that kiss may have wrought, uncover it, celebrate it, thank God for it, even if the world finds those gifts less fascinating than the duckling/swan story of Susan Boyle. Small greatnesses add up, and they support whole worlds.
I’ve had lots of emails asking me if I had seen the Obama/Georgetown University story. I had. Actually, I’d seen it the night before and passed it on to many friends, because I knew I would not have a chance to write about it. Family events taking a great deal of time for the next few days and so blogging will be lighter than usual, and email responses sort of catch-as-catch can. Check back, though!
A few days ago I mentioned that my latest piece at Pajamas Media seemed to raise a lot of Christian hackles. My intention had never been to offend or to - as some commented over there - be a “progressive in disguise - (what silliness!). I have been, particularly through Lent, trying to develop and articulate an that we Christians are being ‘way too “earthbound” and over-worldly in the way we process and engage in politics.
I was not calling for anyone to “shut up.” I was not suggesting by any means that Christians disengage from politics. I was simply saying - as I have before - that the Holy Spirit needs room to work, and that we need to take the long-view of things; stop looking to ourselves for answers and victories because the world has its own prince. I have been meaning that we need to look a little more trustingly at our supernatural, rather than natural, connections.
Well, thank heavens, reader S (who wishes to be anonymous because he fears being called a “right wing extremist”) has managed to state my case better than I ever could, in this email, which I reprint in part, with his permission
Yesterday, I read with interest your latest column for Pajamas Media on giving the Holy Spirit room to work. It confounded me and made me realize that my mind and creativity, like those of many others, had been too earthbound when it came to battling our culture. I completely agree with your assessment…some things (occasionally evil things) have to happen before other things (occasionally wonderful things) can come to fruition. As you say, the Crucifixion had to precede the Resurrection. I do not understand those who think you were calling Catholics to passivity with your reasoning. I recognize that you were asking us to try to see the world, its problems, and potential solutions with the eyes of faith. I get it.
Last night and this morning, I thought more about Notre Dame - and that downright stupid document from DHS - and I began to wonder what supernatural tactics would look like in the battle against these two things in particular. Then on the way to work this morning, I was listening to a Scott Hahn CD. His topic was understanding the Biblical foundations of the teaching of Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant…Today, I heard Hahn retell the story of Joshua conquering Jericho, how the Israelites processed around the city once for six consecutive days - then seven times on the seventh day - led by Levites, who were carrying the original Ark of the Covenant, which contained pieces of manna, the bread from heaven given to the Israelites as food for their journey through the desert. Then after blowing their trumpets, the massive walls of Jericho fell … thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Israelites did not attack Jericho head-on in a conventional way but chose instead the mystical path and gave the Holy Spirit room to do His work. Hearing Hahn retell that story today - of all days - was very poignant for me in light of reading your article yesterday.
I pray that the confused and hurt students and alumni of Notre Dame are considering a similarly supernatural course of action to protest the current injustice on their campus. Perhaps they, too, can find some holy priests to lead their procession. I imagine them holding aloft an image of the Ark of the New Covenant, under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who contains in her womb the Bread of Life given to all men as food for their journey through the exile of this world.
I’m thinking Eucharistic processions all over the country would be pretty stupendous, wouldn’t it? And what would the press do in that case, with no “crazy right wingers” to caricature? You can’t caricature the Holy Eucharist. You can’t caricature a procession of quietly praying people.
Anyway, this reader truly “got it” and he said it so well that I wanted to share it with you. I think as long as Christians try the “worldly way” - using the tactics of leftist activism and depending on a cynical media to somehow report (over the air) on them fairly, they are doomed to defeat. They’ll use up a lot of energy, and the prince of the worldly and the air will still overwhelm because well, he rules the worldly and the air.
But if we go on faith - and that means purely on faith - with deep trust…well…someone once told us we would be able to move mountains. Nothing he ever said in scripture was meaningless. The Israelites had faith; they tumbled a wall with a trumpet blast.
And in truth, going purely on faith? MUCH more difficult than adopting the “worldly” way because we can’t see anything happening. We can’t touch what is happening, we can’t get feedback.
All we can do is trust, walk, pray, and keep at it while the world says we’re foolish.
I don’t expect anyone to take me seriously, but I just had to get that out - it’s been churning inside me like a fire - and S has helped me explain it! Thank you, S!
It’s not because of her magnificent voice, although that gift from God is happily now in our awareness.
It’s because it should not have taken that exposition for people to think well of her.
Susan is a reminder that it’s time we all looked a little deeper. She has lived an obscure but important life. She has been a companionable and caring daughter. It’s people like her who are the unseen glue in society; the ones who day in and day out put themselves last. They make this country civilised and they deserve acknowledgement and respect.
Susan has been forgiven her looks and been given respect because of her talent. She should always have received it because of the calibre of her character.
You’ll want to read it all.
Since we’re celebrating obscure women, let us also say a big yay for Olga the hairdresser and martial artist!
In honor of his birthday, I am reposting this from last April:
It seems almost silly to say I am bringing coverage of Benedict XVI’s extraordinary sojourn in America to a close (actually, my final final thoughts are here) because the truth is I will likely be reading all of his addresses more closely and bringing them up in coming weeks, but the wall-to-wall writing will end here. I do want, though, to end with a thought that blipped through my head when Benedict was in DC, and again as he addressed the United Nations.
Benedict XVI is the last man of the 20th century to walk the global stage. He saw tyranny overtake his country and the minds and imaginations of his countrymen, as well as his own liberty. He watched the cold war play out and worked closely with one of the destructors of that system. That he viewed all of these things through the lens of faith and mystery means that his perspective is not only singular, it is supernatural, as well.
Before we knew him as Benedict, while he was still Joseph Ratzinger, he was telling us what he knew, but between his “rottweiler” caricature and all the religious wrappings, we missed it:
“…the population of an entirely planned and controlled world are going to be inexpressibly lonely … and they will then discover the little community of believers as something quite new. As a hope that is there for them, as the answer they have secretly always been asking for.” [emphasis mine - admin] — (from God and the World)
He knows. Listen to this 20th century man who sees what comes ahead because he vividly remembers all that came before - all that we want to believe we’ve left behind. He recognizes the tyrant because he has seen it, has felt its breath on his very neck. And in that statement, he acknowledges for us that the tyrant this time will eat up liberty so thoroughly that only in the spirit will freedom be found, nourished and strengthened. A totalitarian world without a spiritual defense will be unsurvivable.
Someone asked me why I did not write about Bill Maher’s standard-issue hate words about Benedict - timed to coincide with his visit and thus garner Maher the most attention.
I did not comment on Maher because it seemed pointless to; every word he speaks about Benedict proclaims himself, and his own lonely creed of atheism.
Bill Maher is a 21st century man; a fervent atheist, as fierce in his secular faith as the holiest of rollers. When I consider that line by then-Cardinal Ratzinger…”the population of an entirely planned and controlled world are going to be inexpressibly lonely…” I think Maher is already living there in that cold place, where one may lunch with the cool kids who hold court in the lunchroom, but then go home to a solitary room, hoping in nothing beyond their still-deigning to like you tomorrow.
Atheism may be the burgeoning movement, but that’s only because atheism is so easy. It requires nothing more of you than your willingness to cultivate cynicism, which is the laziest thing to grow. It lives of a piece with Benedict’s “dictatorship of relativism” and his counsel that
“relativism…does not recognize anything as definitive [its] ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.
…An “adult” faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceipt from truth.
Relativism is a growth-stunter. When nothing matters and you answer for nothing, you’re living the life of a child, and a nation of children cannot survive for very long. Relativism-embracing Europe is dying for that reason, because growing up and parenting others is not just difficult, it is selfless; in relationships one is answerable to another.
In Christ we have a relationship, and Jesus calls us on it. We are answerable to Him, and (insofar as he has promised it) he to us.
Benedict knows this, just as he knew that sex scandals and bishops - including himself - must be called on and made answerable by and to the faithful, who in turn have their own responsibilities and relationships to maintain. This is hard stuff, not easy; it requires the cultivation of faith and trust, not cynicism. It requires the difficult, painful work of looking at things one would rather not, and asking forgiveness and trying to heal and rebuild. If we do that work, we can - eventually - look each other in the face, standing free and independent, living honorably together, in truth, and with no need to hide. We’ll be able to withstand the vagaries of life with hope, and joy and real peace.
Relativism is a game of hide-and-seek. Benedict XVI is calling out, “olly-olly-ox-in-free.” He’s saying “let’s get everyone out from the shadows” including the church itself.
That is the work of adult faith and if we now continue in this vein, we will be strengthened; we will grow; we will survive and be ready to face that cold, lonely “planned and controlled” world, and to ultimately defeat it. We begin again, as we mean to continue.
UPDATE: Just finishing my thought: Benedict is only a man - with all that coverage you might wonder if I have forgotten that, but I have not. He is a man, trying to shepherd the 21st Century, with the wisdom gleaned in the last century, the most deadly century. Actually, he is the last active soldier of the greatest generation, still standing, still fighting, and he will, I think, cast a giant shadow
Linking to this piece, Brian Saint-Paul at Inside Catholic makes a very insightful observation:
21st century man has skipped the last 100 years entirely. That’s why he can continue to parrot the parlour atheism of the 19th century without the 20th century’s sad lesson on where such things lead.
Yes, he is larger-than-life; gregarious, accessible, open, friendly, warm, charming, engaging…Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan is all those things.
Dolan kisses his crosier, signaling his acceptance of the Shepherd’s burden
But as he showed us in his barnburner of a homily just now, Dolan is afire with the love of Christ. When the time for jokes and camaraderie has past, he speaks of Christ and his spouse the Church with a direct, steely-eyed mien, and he shows himself as fearsome, fervent and formidable.
I say to you, my sister and brother disciples now on the road to Emmaus, let’s not turn inward to ourselves, our worries, our burdens, our fears; but turn rather to Him, the way, the truth, and the life, the one who told us over and over, “Be not afraid!”, who assured us that He “would be with us all days, even to the end of the world,” and who promised us that “not even the gates of hell would prevail,” the one who John Paul the Great called, “the answer to the question posed by every human life,” and recognize Him again in His word, in the “breaking of the bread,” in His Church.
Let Him “turn us around” as He did those two disciples, turned them around because, simply put, they were going the wrong way, and sent them running back to Jerusalem, where Peter was, where the apostles were, where the Church was.
For three weeks in July, 1992, I was on pilgrimage in Israel. I had a wonderful Franciscan guide who made sure I saw all the sacred places in the Holy Land. The day before I departed, he asked, “Is there anything left you want to see?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I would like to walk the road to Emmaus.”
“That we cannot do,” he told me, “You see, no one really knows where that village of Emmaus actually was, so there is no more road to Emmaus.”
Sensing my disappointment, he remarked, “Maybe that’s part of God’s providence, because we can now make every journey we undertake a walk down the Road to Emmaus.”
My new friends of this great archdiocese, would you join your new pastor on an “adventure in fidelity,” as we turn the Staten Island Expressway, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Broadway, the FDR, the Major Deegan, and the New York State Thruway into the Road to Emmaus, as we witness a real “miracle on 34th street” and turn that into the road to Emmaus?
For, dare to believe, that:
From Staten Island to Sullivan County
From the Bowery, to the Bronx, to Newburgh,
From White Plains to Poughkeepsie…
He is walking right alongside us.
“For why do we look for the living among the dead?”
“For He is risen as He said, alleluia, alleluia!”
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”
Amen, Amen. Mighty, mighty! We are blessed. We have exactly the pastor we need. He is not from New York, but everything about him says “I know Brooklyn.” Dolan has that singular quality that I call “American genius…” He speaks openly and honestly about the faults and weaknesses and wounds of the church, but he is able to remind us, too, of the transcendental glory of “the supernatural family of faith” that is espoused to Christ-in-Glory, Christ-in-Sorrow, Christ-in-Us. He says he aims to be “a happy bishop” and that “happiness attracts.” Yes, it does, powerfully.
We’re going to see renewal with this bishop. We’re going to see growth, energy, vocations. We’re going to see real hope. Real change. The “world” is going to recognise it, and the “world” is not going to like it.
The city is embracing him quickly, and he is giving it a big bearhug, right back.
We have a pastor. Thanks be to God!
And thank you, Pope Benedict. You prayed with us, and listened to us, treated our wounds and took our measure when you were here just exactly one year ago. And by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you gave us precisely what we needed.
More thoughts on the installation - and the abortion-Obama obsessed press - later.
First question from the press - predictably - “are you going to be an agent of “change” for the people of New York?”
Sheesh. They really don’t get it. The video is well-worth watching. Take your measure of the man who will be the Bishop of “the capital of the world.” He dares to talk about “the supernatural family of the church.” Good.
Dolan penned a column for the Daily News and tell us, “I am to be a happy bishop”. Good for him, and for us.
If you get a chance, try to watch some of his installation - livestreamed here.