Saturday, January 28, 2006

My First Gig

Before I attempt to introduce JPII's "Interpretation of the Sexual Urge," I'd just like to say that last night was my first dance performance "gig". I performed a 15 minute set to Turkish and Egyptian music for some friends' birthday party. I had a blast, and I think the performance was a smashing success with the crowd. Good times.
My beloved roomie and I.
(Thanks for taking these shots!)

Caught by the birthday boy!

Hello there.

Here, hold my veil; I insist.

Make room. Coming through.

"The Unveiling" or "I am Bat Girl"-
whichever you prefer

No matter how many times I hip-drop,
I just can't make myself Persian.
Dang it.

He just ain't no good for me.

He is mesmerized by my veil.
Or maybe he's in a drunken stupor.

I challenge you to a shimmy.

The piƱata clown gets it.
Why doesn't anyone else get it?

"The Tempest"

Dance, my Esmerelda, dance!


Sunday, January 22, 2006

Roe & Doe (In Case You Don't Know)

January 22, 1973 - Roe vs. Wade ruled that most state laws against abortion are a violation of a a constitutional right to privacy. The Court then removed the right for any state to restrict abortions during the first trimester (3 months) of pregnancy. Roe does allow states to regulate abortions in the second and third trimesters so long as there are provisions for situations in which the "health" or life of the mother is threatened. [Transcript of Roe].

Doe vs. Bolton, Roe's companion case, also ruled that same day to define "health" of the mother to include "all factors-physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman's age-relevant to the well-being of the patient." In a nutshell, January 22 of this year marks 33 years since our federal government made abortion legal through all 9 months of fetal development for virtually any reason throughout all 50 states.

I'd like to point out here that if a woman's life is truly at risk during a pregnancy doctors should seek to save her life as well as her unborn child. The original Hippocratic oath required physicians to pledge to "do no harm" to any patient. Both mother and child are patients because both are living human beings. The Oath also states, "To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion." The Catholic Church teaches that no one should ever directly and intentionally destroy the life of an unborn person. We are never to perform an intrinsically evil act (i.e. taking a human life) so that good may result. In fact, even if a child has implanted in a woman's fallopian tube (which will ultimately lead to a rupture of the tube, hemorrhaging within the woman, and the death of the child) the Church does not condone the direct destruction of the child in the womb via suction methods or what have you. Rather, the doctor should remove the portion of the tube which will ultimately rupture and could kill the mother. The child will be inside of this part of the tube, and the doctor must allow the tiny child to die naturally. There is no way to make a child re-implant in a woman's uterus that I am aware of and during this early period the child could certainly not survive outside of the protective, nurturing environment of her mother's body. If during a legitimate operation or treatment to save the mother's life, her child is indirectly harmed or killed, this is morally different than an abortion.

If Roe is ever overturned it will not make abortion illegal in the U.S., but rather each state government will be handed back the reigns to regulate abortion within their own state. I dream of seeing states outlaw abortion completely. It would be a brutal state-by-state battle to achieve this dream, though. Senator Rick Santorum writes in his 2005 book It Takes A Family, "Laws have meaning, and therefore, laws teach. When something is legal it has the presumption that it is moral and right" (34). Many Americans cannot imagine a United States without legalized abortion on demand. We have been in a "culture of death" (John Paul II's words) for 33 years, and many of us have embraced the "right" to abortion as an inalienable human right. As my priest put it this morning, the culture of death values life, but only life that it chooses to value. It is a schtzophrenic culture in this sense.

Senator Santorum goes on to explain in It Takes A Family that the freedom America's Founding Fathers sought to secure at the Constitutional Convention was not the "self-centered, No-Fault Freedom" we hold so dear today. He explains: "It wasn't a freedom that celebrated the individual above society. It wasn't a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted. It wasn't the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be. It wasn't even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don't yet know. The Constitutional Convention's freedom, American's traditional freedom--or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty--was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self. For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity. Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one's duties--duties to God, to family, and to neighbors. Our founders were in the business of constructing a nation, a political community. No-Fault Freedom, a freedom from every tie and duty, provides no basis for that project: it is a principle of division and social deconstruction." (44)

We as Americans no longer conceive of ourselves as a people with a "common vision for society", with a shared "sense of justice and morality" (45). Santorum continues: "It is the pursuit of the common good, f using our freedoms to promote the general welfare, that makes the Great Experiment of American democracy so remarkable. But today, it must be said, we have not always been good stewards of our founding fathers' freedom. . . . The Preamble has been long forgotten; freedom is increasingly just about the individual and his choices. Freedom has become its own end, and virtue has fallen out of the equation. No-Fault Freedom serves no common good, only the pursuit of one's own happiness. Promoting the general welfare is no longer considered a duty of citizens-- after all, that's why we have the government, right?"

". . . Just as original sin is man's inclination to try to walk alone without God, individualism is man's inclination to try to walk alone among his fellows. Under the spell of individualism, we splinter into pursuing what each of us considers important for ourselves and think little if anything about what might be important for our communities. And we do so not necessarily for any grand reason or purpose, but merely because it is more convenient, merely because it is easier." (52)

In the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, the Court wrote, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Santorum comments on this case in his book, "You cannot build a community that is healthy for families and individuals if you understand society only as an unconnected group of individuals, each pursing his own idiosyncratic vision of his self-centered good. That isn't our founders' vision of a community with a common good; it's an image of society as a pile of sand, each grain unconnected to all the others. And the common good, like a house build on sand, sinks and fractures. No, No-Fault Freedom is not American liberty." (53)

This book is so good, I have to quote just one more paragraph before I conclude. I highly recommend this book to you, by the way.

"The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the federal Constitution, enshrines our inalienable rights as a free people. Through the responsible use of these rights we can seek truth and the Truth Giver, marry and raise a family, pursue our dreams, and influence the government and each other. These are opportunities that every American inherits from the great document that is our Constitution. Yes, these are rights that belong to us as individuals. But these rights were never intended solely for individual gain for 'the individual welfare.' The framers clearly stated that the purpose of the Constitution--and, therefore, of all these individual rights--is to promote the general welfare, not simply the welfare of the individual. The men who wrote the Constitutions gave us, in the Preamble, a purpose for these personal freedoms--a purpose greater than the needs, wants, or dreams of any one person. Freedom's goal in their mind was not individuals pursuing whatever end fits an individual's desire, but the general welfare, the common good." (47-48)

I pray that each of us living in this day and age in America (and elsewhere) will embrace the "culture of life" worldview that John Paul II promoted. I want to see communities where people know each other and feel responsible towards their neighbors and their neighbor's children - to promote morality in their community for the common good. I ask God to show us each what we can do in the small piece of earth where He has placed each us and with the human persons He has set us among. Please pray, also.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Warming Up for JPII's "Interpretation of the Sexual Urge"

Where JPII is headed in his book Love & Responsibility is toward a thorough, philosophical analysis of sexual morality in regards to male-female sexual union. He has just told us that justice and love are interconnected. It is just to love and affirm a person because that is what persons are designed for. Also, in loving someone, wel naturally treat them justly . . . because we love them.

JPII warns now that "in the sexual context what is sometimes characterized as love may very easily be quite unjust to a person" (43). Because sexual intimacy is usually pleasurable, our sensuality and sentimentality will greatly tempted to turn toward a quest for pleasure "for its own sake" (43). And eventually it is possible that one will begin to view the pleasure-seeking approach to male-female relationships as "the proper basis for a norm of behaviour" (43).

When it comes to a sexual relationship, there are two mindsets upon which we can choose to base our interactions: the utilitarian principle or the personalistic norm. JPII refers here to Saint Augustine's way of defining these two different mindsets. Seeking pleasure "for its own sake, with no concern for the object of pleasure" is what Augustine calls uti. When a person "finds joy in a totally committed relationship with the object precisely because this is what the nature of the object demands," (44) Augustine calls this frui.

When Christ commands us to love one another, He is calling us to frui. This personalistic, deeply human approach to love is also how we must approach sexual love . . . that is if we really want to experience to fullness of our gift of sexuality.

Stay tuned! Next time we will launch into JPII"s "Interpretation of the Sexual Urge."

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"Love is a Verb"

(So says DC Talk. :-)

At the end of the last entry I quoted JPII as saying that "love for a person must consist in affirmation that the person has a value higher than that of an object for consumption or use" (42). He goes on to say, "He who loves will endeavour to declare this by his whole behavior" (43). We all want to be loved, to be truly loved for who we really are. And we need to experience another person taking time to show us their love. (By the way, in the homily today at Mass our Pastor stressed that how we live our lives demonstrates what it is we most desire. We can show God our love by how we spend our time. Our Pastor especially exhorted us to spend time simply in prayer and meditation on Scripture as a way to know God and to love Him with our time.)

Anybody read The Five Love Languages by (Protestant author and counselor) Gary Chapman? I personally love the book. He has observed 5 major categories of ways that people express and receive love. The five major categories he gives are: 1. words of affirmation 2. physical touch 3. quality time 4. giving/receiving gifts 5. acts of service. It could be that my best girl friend tends to express love and receive love primarily through gifts, but I am more of a "words of affirmation" girl. So if she gives me a bracelet she bought on trip to Brazil (all hypothetical), I can understand that she is showing me how much she values me. However, I may not be particularly fond of knick knacks and trinkets or even jewelry, and therefore, I do not derive much pleasure from the gift itself but rather from knowing what that gift expresses. I in turn may frequently praise my friend for her maturity in handling difficult situations and her great fashion sense. She appreciates it, and knows that I am saying those things because I love and value her. But perhaps a hand-made card would have communicated my love even more loudly to her because for some reason such tangible gifts are her favorite way of receiving love.

Anyway, I think that the "love languages" concept is really fun to think about. The overarching message of the book is that when you love and care about someone, you are willing to make the effort to find out what makes them tick and to learn to express love to them in a way that speaks loud and clear to them personally. Again, we all long to be loved this way, for who we really are, and in such a way that another person's love for us affects their behavior profoundly.

Catholic psychologist Conrad W. Baars, M.D., and Anna A. Terruwe, M.D., discuss in their book Healing the Unaffirmed the innate need each of us has to be truly affirmed by another, to know we are valuable simply as we are. This affirmation frees us to become even more fully who we are, to become the best, most holy person we can be. It fills us with confidence. Here are some thoughts from the book:

"The most typical characteristic of mature human love is tenderness, whether manifested in the tone of voice, words, touch, or the way one looks at the beloved. People are tender because they sense another's goodness and beauty, because they realize how precious the other is. They take care to let the other person be, precisely because they love the other just the way he or she is at that moment." (184)

"It is through the tender touch, the tender look, the tender words and tone of voice that the child is affirmed in its own goodness, worth, and loveableness. The tenderness with which a mother cradles her infant in her arms, cuddles and caresses it, and presses it to her, is as primary in the order of importance as it is in the order of development. Without such tactile expressions of maternal love the child will develop later in life the most serious form of emotional deprivation disorder." (184)

" Similarly, such tender love leaves its unmistakable mark in the expression of the eyes. The tender gaze is characterized by repose and tranquility in the delight of contemplating the good. It reflects admiration and awe, as well as the joy of love. It changes in character as soon as one feels a desire to possess or direct the other to oneself. Nor does the other fail to sense this, for the will can mask or control the expression of the eyes only very slightly. . ." (185) [emphasis is my own]

"Only genuine love declares unequivocally to children that the other has recognized them as good and valuable. Only this love affirms their goodness and worth, and because this process takes place on the emotional level, in the sensory sphere, it becomes anchored in the soma, in the biological organism where it forms a lasting source of the feeling that children are a good for themselves as well as for others. Without it they may in later years arrive at the conclusion that they are good because of what they do: performing their duties, showing obedience, getting good grades at school, attaining success in their profession, and so forth. Yet this cognitive knowledge will never provide them with the feeling of self-love which is the indispensable requirement for the fullness of their existence as social beings. 'Man's being,' says Heidegger, 'is to be with others,' to commune with one's fellow human beings in a union of feelings, in mutual emotional rapport. The nature of people as social beings absolutely demands this emotional contact with others; they cannot become open to others unless they have first been affirmed by another's unselfish love. Without such affirmation they are doomed to a life of gnawing uncertainty about their own self-worth. No degree of professional or intellectual accomplishments, however outstanding or widely acclaimed, can make up for this emotional deficit. It can only be filled by the unselfish love of another person." (185-6).

I John 3:18 "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

I John 5:2-3 "This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome . . . ."

James 2: 14-26 "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

"But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.'
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Personalistic Norm

Guess what time it is? It's time for the personalistic norm! Yeah!!! But first . . . a few words from our Sponsor:

Deuteronomy 4:4-6 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts."

Leviticus 19:17-18 "‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."

Matthew 22:37-40 "Jesus said to him, ‘"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.'” (NKJV)

Okay, now . . .

The personalistic norm, as articulated by JPII, confirms that "the person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love" (41). In the "negative" definition, the personalistic principle "states that the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end" (41). Wow!

JPII explains that the command to love persons is not the personalistic norm in and of itself, but rather, Christ's command to love is based on the personalistic norm. See, we have to be told these sorts of things or else we'll just go on acting selfishly and using people for our own personal gain either out of malice or ignorance. But now we know . . . and as "they" say, "Knowing is half the battle." (Hmmm . . . I think that might be relevent to the concept of faith AND works vs. faith alone. Knowing, accepting, and believing something is all nice and good . . . but you've gotta put it into action. That's how you know that you really know and believe something from the depths of your being.)

The commandment to love is not derived from a utilitarian value system that prioritizes pleasure over love for the person. Nope, indeed. The personalistic norm, however, is part of an entire system of values that JPII calls "a personalistic axiology" (41). Within the framework of a personalistic axiology "the value of the person is always greater than the value of pleasure (which is why a person cannot be subordinated to this lesser end, cannot be the means to an end, in this case to pleasure!)" (41).

Again, the command to love presupposes the personalistic norm, and the personalistic norm provides "a justification for" the command to love (41).

Ahhhh. I just love John Paul II. And that's why I'm now going to quote another beloved and lengthy passage from Love & Responsibility. ;-D

"This norm, as a commandment, defines and recommends a certain way of relating to God and to people, a certain attitue towards them. This way of relating, this attitude is in agreement with what the person is, with the value which the person represents, and therefore it is fair. Fairness takes precedence of mere utility (which is all the utilitarian principle has eyes for) - although it does not cancel it but only subordinates it: in dealings with another person everything that is at once of use to oneself and fair to that person falls within the limits set by the commandment to love."

". . . this attitude, will be not only fair but just. For to be just always means giving others what is rightly due to them. A person's rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use. In a sense it can be said that love is a requirement of justice, just as using a person as a means to an end would conflict with justice. In fact the order of justice is more fundamental than the order of love - and in a sense the first embraces the second inasmuch as love can be a requirement of justice. Surely it is just to love a human being or to love God, to hold a person dear. At the same time love - if we are to consider its very essence - is something beyond and above justice; the essence of love is simply different from the essence of justice. Justice concerns itself with things (material goods or moral goods, as for instance one's good name) in relation to persons, and hence with persons rather indirectly, whereas love is concerned with persons directly and immediately: affirmation of the value of the person as such is of its essence. Although we can correctly say that whoever loves a person is for that very reason just to that person, it would be quite untrue to assert that love for a person consists merely in being just" (42).

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Never weak, but always strong?

I have the song "It Ain't Me, Babe" by Johnny Cash and June Carter running through my head. At one point Cash sings, "You say you're looking for someone who's never weak but always strong, to protect you and defend you whether you are right or wrong." And then he proceeds to explain that "it ain't me you're lookin' for." It's almost a humorous song, but it's also sad.

It seems that men often get the impression that a woman is looking for perfection in them. This is a lot of pressure, indeed. I can see why many men feel this way. This song seems to express the high expectations men often feel that women have of them. And I'm sure that many a woman (not only today, but throughout the course of history) have sought a savior in a relationship with a man. As Christopher West says in his talk Sex and the Meaning of Life, whenever any person expects another person to be their savior and to make them happy in every way, they will crush that other person. He says, "Do not hang your hat on a nail that cannot support the weight."

"It Ain't Me, Babe" seems to paint a picture of how a man can feel extreme pressure from a woman to be perfect in every way according to her standard of perfection. Cash (along with Carter) sings of his frustration and resignation, "It ain't me, babe. It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe." And there is also a sense in the song that he does not love this woman and is not interested in making sacrifices for her. I have no clue what Cash or Carter thought about this song.

When Cash sings that this woman wants "someone who is never weak but always strong," I think, "Most women don't want that." I'm not saying I, or any other woman, desire a husband who is wimpy, passive, effeminate, or overly emotional. Somewhere in Wild At Heart, John Eldredge describes a difficult period in his marriage, and whenever he and his wife finally discuss what is wrong she tells him, "You don't need me." It is built into a woman to be a nurturer, and a woman desires to be needed, even by her husband. Women like to be able to encourage and to comfort at times.

Ponder these lyrics from a few other songs:

"Made for You" by Watermark (a husband and wife duo, Nathan and Christy Nockels):

Nathan: "Darling, I need to confess,
it's hard to show my weaknesses.
I want so much to show you strength,
With every feeling . . . everything."

Christy: "You know what I always say.
When you're weak you're strong to me;
It's another way of loving me.
'Cause when I see your heart,
I get carried through
The reasons why I fell in love with you."

"Til Kingdom Come" by Coldplay:

"Hold my hand inside your hands,
I need someone who understands.
I need someone, someone who hears,
For you, I've waited all these years.

For you, I'd wait 'til kingdom come.
Until my day, my day is done.
And say you'll come, and set me free,
Just say you'll wait, you'll wait for me."

"You are like Coming Home" by Lonestar:

"Go ahead and let your hair fall down.
This wanderlust: it's gone now.
I'm here in your arms; I'm safe from the road again.
These are the days that can't be erased:
Baby, there isn't a better place;
You're like heaven; you're like coming home.

You're like a Sunday mornin', pleasin' my eyes;
You're a midsummer's dream under a star-soaked sky,
That peaceful easy feelin' at the end of a long, long road.
You're like coming home.

You're that innocence, that serenity,
That long-lost part of me."

[ Oh, the complimentarity of the sexes. Gotta love it. ;-) ]

"To Really Love a Woman" by Bryan Adams:

"When you find yourself lying helpless in her arms,
You know you really love a woman."

[Among other images this last line conjures, I picture Christ as a helpless infant sleeping on Mary's lap and also Christ lying lifeless in His mother's arms after His removal from the cross on which He was crucified. The ultimate man Himself loved a woman and gave Himself to be loved by her.]

I had heard somewhere that after the Fall, men have a tendency to objectify women and women have a tendency to worship men. We see this everywhere! Women will take horrendous physical abuse or abort their own child in order to keep the "love" of a particular man. This is the nurturing instinct turned against the woman and used as a weapon. (Yeah, Satan has a way of doing that with good things, and we're all hopeless without God's revealed truth since the Fall.) I wonder if this problem is what God meant when he told Eve after she and Adam ate the forbidden fruit, "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Hmmmmm???

Anyway, just some thoughts that were running through my mind. ;-)


Friday, January 6, 2006


"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8)

The man to his beloved: "My love, you are as beautiful as Jerusalem, as lovely as the city of Tirzah, as breathtaking as these great cities. Turn your eyes away from me; they are holding me captive. . . . Who is this whose glance is like the dawn? She is beautiful and bright, as dazzling as the sun or the moon" (Song of Songs 6:4,5, 10 TEV).

This morning I woke up way before my alarm. I just couldn't sleep any more. As I got up and prepared to go for a walk and to pray the Rosary, I could not stop thinking about George Weigel's reflections on beauty in Letters to a Young Catholic. Perhaps this was on my mind because I went to sleep fantasizing about art work that I'd like to buy to hang in my bedroom.

Weigel writes:

"Chartres . . . teaches us about the importance of beauty and the beautiful for Catholic faith. The sad fact is that a lot of contemporary Catholicism is ugly: ugly buildings, ugly furnishings, ugly decorations, ugly vestments, ugly music. There are exceptions, huge exceptions, to be sure. But the general Catholic drift in the United States is not, to put it gently, toward the beautiful. That's not just an aesthetic problem. It's a serious religious and theological problem.

"Why? Because beauty helps prepare us to be the kind of people who can be comfortable in heaven--the kind of people who can live with God forever. Beautiful things and beautiful music draw us out of ourselves and into an encounter with a truth that's beyond us, yet accessible to our senses. . . . The beauty that, by its very nature, draws us out of ourselves is an antidote to self-absorption. The beauty of Beatrice drew Dante [The Divine Comedy: Paradisio] out of himself and into paradise, and into an encounter with the beauty that is Love itself. The same experience is available to us in our encounters with the beautiful.

"The joy of beauty is another anticipation of the kingdom, and another way that we're prepared for the kingdom. How are we to become the kind of people who can be happy forever--especially those of us who are congenitally grouchy? Beauty, by giving us experiences of unalloyed joy here and now, prepares us for that dimension of life with God. So does beauty's inexhaustibility--the fact that we never tire of a beautiful painting, sculpture, building, poem, or piece of music. . . . The inexhaustibility of beauty . . . is another reason why beauty prepares us for, even as it anticipates, life in the kingdom, life with God forever. As Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote, the more we know and love and understand a great work of art, the more we recognize that we can't, in the final analysis, 'grasp' its genius. That's why we never 'outgrow' a beloved work of art. And that inexhaustibility prepares us to 'contemplate God in the beatific vision, [when] we will see that God is forever the ever-greater.'

"So beauty helps deepen in us a sense of our human and spiritual destiny, which is life forever in the light and love of the Holy Trinity. . . .

"Beauty is something that even the most skeptical moderns can know. Balthasar once wrote that people who doubt they can say what's good or what's true can't be similarly skeptical about the meaning of beauty, once they've experienced it. People know that they know what's beautiful. Thus beauty is one way we can introduce our doubting friends and colleagues to the mystery they often deny: they mystery that there is truth and we can know it. Once they've crossed the bridge of radical skepticism, the results can be dramatic and surprising. You'll remember Father Jay Scott Newman from an earlier letter. It's worth noting that the Gothic beauty of the Princeton chapel played a considerable role in breaking him free from the rationalistic atheism he had adopted as a teenager and bringing him to Christ.

"All of which takes us back to the great theological mentor of the Middle Ages, St. Augustine, and his Confessions. In perhaps the most famous and lyrical moment in this first true autobiography, Augustine takes himself to task for his resistance and then exults in his surrender to the God who is Beauty itself:

Late have I loved thee, O beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved thee! You were within, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance over me; I drew in my breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your embrace

"The Catholic spirit can't live without beauty; the human spirit can't live without beauty. . . . Everyone needs beauty. We need it for our souls. We need beauty to prepare our souls, and the rest of us, for what lies ahead, when we come home at last.

". . . An increasing number of Catholics pray with icons in their homes. Why?"

"In part, I suspect, because of a reaction to the not infrequent ugliness I have already mentioned. Even the most sterile cinder block 'worship space' (another of those awful AmChurch neologisms) is ennobled by an icon. Post- Vatican II Catholics may be discovering the power of icons after too many preconciliar decades of religious 'art' that was, truth to tell, shlock. But whether it's in response to modern AmChurch ugliness or old-fashioned Catholic bad taste, the new interest in icons is instructive for the same reason that Chartres is instructive--it tells us that beauty and prayer go together.

"When Chartres invites us out of ourselves into a realm of luminous beauty, it's inviting us, however gently, to pray. The brilliant craftsmen who put those extraordinary blues and reds into the glass of Chartres . . . the glass they made was an invitation to a wider and deeper vision of the human estate, a vision that necessarily leads to praise and thanksgiving, intercession and contrition--in a word, to prayer. The same is true of icons. I think that's what so many people who now buy icons or applaud the erection of icons in their churches intuitively understand.

"As we've discussed before, we don't merely look at icons; we look through them and discover ourselves engaged with the Truth the iconographer has written. We meet the truth of Christ through [them] . . . . Beauty is an invitation to pray. The God who is Augustine's 'Beauty ever ancient, ever new' pours beauty into the world as one facet of his thirst for us. God asks us to drink at the wellspring of beauty here and now in order to drink, finally, of his own ineffable and inexpressible and inexhaustible beauty in the New Jerusalem.

"Through the beauty of Chartres we encounter what the early Greek Fathers of the Church called the 'divinization' of man. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, O.P., the archbishop of Vienna, reminds us that this 'divinization' of man is made possible by what the cardinal calls 'the humanization of God'--the Incarnation. When God enters history in the flesh, history isn't the only thing radically transformed; so are the possibilities of the human. Through the Incarnation, human nature is led to its fulfillment, its completion.

"That's the truth shining through the ineffable blues of the Chartres windows. That's the truth that makes every icon possible. That is grace at work--God's outpouring of his superabundant life into the world and into our lives. Like Augustine, we burn for the embrace of the Beauty that is always the same and always new. That burning, which God himself has built into us, is the beginning of every prayer" (198-206).

The beauty of an epic film often moves me to prayer on a deeper level than I typically experience day in and day out. There is something about such a film that awakens the depths of my humanity and causes me to cry out for more of the beauty of God. I hope that if I do ultimately pursue Middle Eastern dance performance publicly that my dancing will be an act of beauty and an invitation to prayer. "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted" (Titus 1:15). We'll see.*

Peter Kreeft in Catholic Christianity had the following to say about beauty:

"The experience of beauty often leads to God more directly and intuitively than does a process of argument. 'There is the music of Mozart, therefore there must be God'--you either see this or you do not."

"Our desire for joy, for a joy we can never find in this world, even from other people, points to another world (heaven) and another Person (God): for every natural, innate, and universal desire corresponds to a reality that can satisfy it. The reality of hunger shows the reality of food; the same is true of the hunger for God and heaven" (34).

* This passage captures my heart's desires to romance others to God through the beauty of my dance performances . . . one day.

The Women: "Dance, dance, girl of Shulam. Let us watch you as you dance.

The Woman: "Why do you want to watch me as I dance between the rows of onlookers?"

The Man: "What a magnificent girl you are! How beautiful are your feet in sandals. The curve of your thighs is like the work of an artist. A bowl is there, that never runs out of spiced wine. A sheaf of wheat is there, surrounded by lilies. Your breasts are like twin deer, like two gazelles. Your neck is like a tower of ivory. Your eyes are like the pools in the city of Heshbon, near the gate of that great city. Your nose is as lovely as the tower of Lebanon that stands guard at Damascus. Your head is held high like Mount Carmel. Your braided hair shines like the finest satin; its beauty could hold a king captive."

Song of Songs 6:13 -7:5 TEV

(You know, from the sound of that last passage of Scripture, I'm thinking I should say that at least I can romance my some-day husband to reflect on God. Haha. That book is so steamy. Only my husband would be allowed to say after seeing me dance, "Your breasts are like two gazelles." And he'd better be joking. Haha.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Don't be jealous . . .

". . . because I've been chatting with hot babes on-line all day." (- Kip "So Dreamy" Dynamite)

Rather, be jealous because I got a speeding ticket today and you didn't. However, I am willing to give anyone who is interested pointers on how to get your own speeding ticket. I would say the secret of success begins with losing directions to an appointment, leaving late for said appointment and following the directions as best you can remember until you are headed into the wrong county. Then, once your doctor realizes that you are not there at the appointed time, be sure to answer your cell phone and have a lengthy discussion with him about where you are and where you are not. As he tries to look up directions on Mapquest, be sure to turn down a road where there is a school zone. But, and this is key, remain frazzled enough that you will not realize there is a school zone, and proceed at your usual 40 mph. Then, if you see a young man wearing a safety green vest jump in front of your vehicle and flag you over to the side of the road, be sure to say, "Damn it, I just got pulled over by a cop. I'll have to call you back." While you are doing this, you must simultaneously step on the brakes causing your address book to fly out of your lap and into the floorboard at your feet.

Not only is this successful for obtaining a speeding ticket, but it also provides the perfect opportunity to have a good cathartic cry while the officer is at his vehicle doing a background check. Not only is life romantic, but it's also really funny! Okay, now it's your turn!

*The above story is not the "personalistic norm," neither is it the norm for me personally. ;-D

Monday, January 2, 2006

"The cheese is old and moldy. Where is the bathroom?"

I love that part in Encino Man. Okay, now down to business. . .

What I love about reading through Love & Responsibility is that I feel as if I am sitting at Christ's feet, asking questions like, "What exactly do you mean 'love' my neighbor?", and getting a detailed response. When Christ was on earth, He once explained that to even look upon a person lustfully is to have already committed sexual sin in our hearts. I'm sure he could have elaborated, but since the Bible is not a book of systematic theology or moral philosophy, this is where we must rely on the Church. God has given us nearly 2000 years of guidance and teaching via His instrument, the Church, and her leaders. And now I can sit at JPII's feet and get detailed answers to my questions as from the very lips of Christ our Lord Himself. (*sigh of comfort*)

Well, L&R is a bit repetitive. But I really need that, so I am thankful for it. And now, I will repeat what has basically been said in all previous posts.

We are commanded by Jesus to love God first and foremost, and to love our neighbors (all persons) as ourselves. God is "the most perfect personal being," and "the whole world of created persons derives its distinctness from and its natural superiority over the world of things (non-persons) from a very particular resemblance to God" (40).

The utilitarian principle "points to pleasure not only as the basis on which we act but as the basis for rules of human behavior" (40). Utilitarianism has its own set of values, "that according to which pleasure is not only the sole, but also the highest value" (40-1). Such an approach to persons can never lead to love. I made a note in the margins of my book, "Funny how you can experience great physical pleasure with someone yet have a negation of pleasure emotionally because you do not truly love the person or they do not truly love you." And how. JPII says, "The principle of 'utility' itself, of treating a person as a means to an end, and an end moreover which in this case is pleasure, the maximization of pleasure, will always stand in the way of love" (40).

A friend recently commented to me over coffee (you know who you are ;-D) that our society has lost the concept of sacrifice. He's so right. All around me I see relationships based on the pleasure principle, and then when things get tough and sacrifice is required on behalf of one or both parties, somebody decides to split. I'm sure many of us have been there ourselves. That is no mui bueno. (Yeah, I don't speak Spanish.)

It's easier to say this now, while my life is going nicely, but I think sacrifice is one of the greatest privileges of living. It is a solid way to really love another person. And to love another person and give your life for them fulfills our own God-given desire for love. Fascinating.

Next time I write, I'll be picking up with what JPII calls the "personalistic norm". Stay tuned. ;-D