Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Bad so-called art (like polluted air) constitutes a really grave spiritual problem;" it "affects us only slightly at first, but in the long run, the effect is grave."
Thomas Merton

I was so glad to read, in Homiletic and Pastoral review, an article on the importance of beauty in life and in faith. Bad art, bad architecture, bad aesthetics are killing the faith of Catholics. The churches that once taught, by their very beauty, the truths of the faith and the love of God for mankind are replaced by churches that teach us that beauty, like everything else, is relative.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Just as one does not begin a feast at sunrise but at sundown, just so in the spiritual world one must first work forward for some time before the sun really shines for us and rises in all its glory." Soren Kierkegaard

I have pick up my Kierkegaard again, and again I wonder how I could have abandoned him for so long. The beauty of his writing, and the quiet inspiration I feel as I fall into his words is unique and refreshing. From my first reading of Kierkegaard I felt that he was not so much a philosopher as a poet, an artist who could "carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look."

It surprised me recently to realize that Kierkegaard is considered difficult and often left unread. I suppose though, that if one is not in love with him, his style, and the exciting contradicitons of his writing; Kierkegaard seems too dense, too different, too penetrating to be read comfortably. For me though, even as I adjusted to the intensity of his writing, the imagery and the passion kept the writing alive. It is as though he is writing a prayer, perhaps sitting in adoration and simply letting his soul pour out to God all of his doubts, questions, and challenges.

"What he yearned for was to accompany them on the three-day journey, when Abraham rode with grief before him and Issac by his side...For what occupied him was not the finely wrought fabric of imagination, but the shudder of thought."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour than he has yet profaned, has despaired of life and is pursuing a descending and darkening way."
Henry David Thoreau

This morning, after seeing my husband off to work I went out into my garden and flung myself into it's improvement. Weeds poked up between the slumping tomatoes, slugs oozed towards the summer squash, compost spilled from the overwhelmed bin. Armed with rubber boots, gardening gloves, and salt, I attacked the mess and conquered with an hour left to the morning.

It was beautiful. Greeting the cold early morning air before the basketball boys next-door began their day, before the smoking college students sat on thier porch for the first cigarette of the day. I loved working as the day woke and warmed around me; I loved my sore feet, and dirty hands; I loved looking over the fruit of my labors and rejoicing in my soul that I had made this messy garden in a lovelier spot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

“If God has made a law then it is this: Be solitary from time to time, for He can come only to a single one – or to a pair between whom He can no longer distinguish.”
-Ranier Maria Rilke

Our life here has been full of visitors recently: my sister-in-law (and dear friend), her husband and children, my sister, and brother-in-law, other in-laws and friends. The house has been loud, laughing, and busy for weeks; so much so, that when the last of our guests had been deposited at the airport, we breathed a sigh of relief and ran home to hide away for days together and alone.

We spent our solitary weekend sweeping up the dust our guests left behind, restocking the pantry, and relishing the loveliness of our home. Our back porch particularly, is a haven – surrounded by overgrown grass and tangling vines of beans and roses it seems so secluded – the ideal spot for a late-night cordial or clove, an evening picnic on a rainy day, or simply to sit and listen to the sounds of the neighborhood and my husband’s guitar.

One of the blessings of solitude is the opportunity to run back to God. It is so easy to drift from Him in the busy, bustling times when guests and their entertainment keep me distracted. In solitude, I can slow down and see more of the beauty of life, sip my coffee slowly and wash my floors well. There are few things more satisfying than a well-washed floor and the smell of Murphy’s oil soap and incense.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Today is the Feast of the Dormition of Our Lady, also known as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, also known as the Feast of Our Lady of Herbs.

Traditionally, we bring herbs to the church today to be blessed. Throughout the year we keep the blessed herbs, dried and hanging behind icons or tucked around statues in the house, to be burnt to ward off evil, or sickness, to add to special meals, to grace the home.

He talks about Jesus
and hash, as though salvation came
through a weed: put to his lips,
breathed out among many.

He runs at night
through the red-light center in his head,
hearing the heavy footfalls of One
who is never far behind;
hiding the incense he burnt to himself;
until it sinks into the asphalt
at his feet, soggy and sickly sweet.

He keeps his dreams bound
carefully beside the bed;
watching them from outside.
He tucks the nightmares away,
letting them curl back, waiting;
gathering strength as they twitch and whisper
in the darkness, pulling him back within
to feel around the hole inside.
To put his hand on the red, raw edges,
to touch the tender areas and wonder:
what has he torn out?

Friday, August 8, 2008

"The Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot."

St. Augustine

On some Sundays, my husband and I wake up early to attend the Old Latin Mass. I love the beauty of it. The incense, chant, and intensity remind me that I am truely engaged in the ultimate act of worship. The richness of the liturgy reminds me of the Byzantine rite I love so much and the joyous beauty of being Catholic.

Unfortunately, it is particuarily at this mass that I begin to wonder if my husband and I are the only ones who see the joy in our faith. The pews are filled with Somber Families sitting silent and still. Their children never cry, their attention never wavers, they never smile. They are dressed, almost without exception in home-made "Christian Modest Clothing," styled very much along Prairie or Mormon Fundamentalist lines. I have met these families outside of Mass, and they are lovely people, but the clothing and the somber stillness disturb me. Whatever happened to Catholic Passion?

We Catholics have a tradition of beauty, passion, and ostentatious joy that it seems we are abandoning in favour of the puritanical notion that modesty must mean shapeless jumpers, bulky dresses, and the abandonment of beauty for sensible similarity. But we are Catholic! Look at any church that holds true to Catholic building ideals, look are our art, our Icons; listen to our chants, our prayers. Look back at the history of the Church and see her passion for beauty. The sacramental nature of our Church demands that we strive for beauty in modesty, not modesty alone.

But look up modest Catholic clothing on the internet: in general, the clothing you find will not encourage women to believe that Catholic modesty is beautiful. Look up Jewish or Muslim clothing though and the options for modest, beautiful, funky fashions open up. Two I particularily like are and It seems that Catholics have some catching up to do when it comes to clothing. We need to remind ourselves that we are called to be an "Alleluia from head to foot," to reflect the beauty of God to the best of our ability, and to remind the world that "Truth is beautiful in itself."