About a month ago I went with a couple of my friends to Santa Monica to see a showing of Howl’s Moving Castle in 35mm film. For anyone who hasn’t seen this film, it’s an animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli and it’s based on a fantasy novel by Diana Wynne Jones published in 1986. The movie follows a young woman named Sophie who lives in this bright world that’s full of magic.
It seems like “You are in my thoughts and prayers” has become synonymous with “I will do nothing in the face of suffering and injustice” for many. Especially in the wake of a major disaster or violence, what used to be an expression of solidarity has become incredibly politically charged.
When the 40 desert days drew to a close,
And Your empty, worn down body cried,
“Seek comfort!” “You deserve it!”
My Lord, what did You do? Lean in.
Here we are again, at the start of Lent. One thing is shocking about the start of Lent this year, and it is how little our society is shocked by another mass shooting at a school.
I love everything about the big game. The crazy fans, halftime show, greasy food, friends, and one too many beers. But if I am being honest, something else weighs on my mind as dawn breaks the Monday morning. Sex trafficking at the Superbowl.
It’s been a month and a half since the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi, was released. Tension between fans who liked and hated the movie was higher than between main character Rey and her nemesis Kylo Ren, but by now the controversy has simmered down and conversation dwindled. Even though bickering over the film exists only in a sub-reddit far far away, I can’t help but ruminate on the Force, the relationship between teacher and pupil, and the simultaneous fragility and strength of hope.
When I tell you I’m pro-life, this is what I mean.
There is a crisis of discernment in the Church.
You might think that I'm going to write that there is not enough discernment. Maybe I'll write that a failure to discern is causing people to miss their vocations.
But that’s not what I’m about to write.
To my dear friend Mr. D.,
Yesterday I witnessed your union in holy matrimony to a woman who is now Mrs. D. In honor of your wedding, I have composed this letter-prayer for you and your bride:
If you haven’t seen The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I highly recommend it. It’s an Amazon-only show, and it follows Midge Maisel - a Jewish woman whose husband leaves her, so naturally she goes into stand-up comedy.
This Advent, especially as we approach Christmas, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “It’s better to give than to receive.” This is an important idea, one that emphasizes a spirit of giving rather than selfishness. But any Christian has heard it before, so I’m going to offer a different thought for reflection: the best thing that you can do this Christmas is receive.
So, let’s say you are a Christian. Christmas is a pretty big deal, right? The birth of the savior of the world warrants some major celebration. One problem, lots of your friends, family, and even society at large love Christmas but don’t seem to care much about Jesus. Most of the focus is on parties, presents, and Santa Claus.
What’s a Christian to do?
Have you noticed that after every scandal, both mass and social media become a flood with exhortations about the importance of sexual consent? Someone has even developed a sexual consent app.
Learn to think... we all have room for improvement. This is the path... that St. Thomas and his cohorts used to address the theological confusion of their day.
“Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2356).
Recently someone dear to me lost her fiancé to suicide.
My heartbreak is deep and jagged and ugly. It is not even my tragedy. My feelings of sorrow and remorse and anger must be pale shadows beside the darkness washing over those the young man left behind: his bride, his parents, his family and friends.
Grinding salt into the wounds is the vague notion plaguing my subconscious that suicide is a sin---images of unmarked graves at a crossroads and Dante’s forest of suicides haunt me. Surely this is not really what the Church teaches?
At the start of this school year, a Youtube video by “One Funny Mother” circulated social media. The video features a mom frantically piling a Target cart high with supplies for her children’s teachers as she rants about her kids. “I will give you anything to take my kids,” “That means I don’t have to talk to my kids anymore,” “I don’t have to pretend to entertain my kids anymore,” are among the many statements she makes. I saw it shared by tons of people, gleefully acclaiming that “this mom hits the nail on the head”, or “this is so me!” or “ so true!”
“Forgive me, Father, for I have trolled. My last confession was right before I saw that stupid post on Facebook. You know the one: the one where that idiot said something really dumb. Well anyway, since that time, I have spent way too much time on social media telling people that they were wrong. I stayed up too late, neglected my other responsibilities, burned with the rage of 1000 white hot fiery suns for mine enemies, let total or near strangers disrupt my inner peace, and used arguments so terrible that they wouldn’t convince a hungry German shepherd to eat bacon. For these and all my sins, I am heartily sorry.”
“A good confession, my child. For your penance, say two Hail Mary’s and read this dank blog post.”
What is harder to believe? That you’re going to suffer? Or that you’re loved, utterly and unconditionally? Perhaps one of the most reliable teachers of humanity is suffering. From the wailing infant to the senior groaning with pain, an entrance, an exit and the passage between. More than any companion we choose in life, suffering accompanies us, through anxiety, loss, disappointment, and heartbreak. In fact, our inability to find, connect with, and receive love is one of the great sources of suffering. Some have even painted Hell as simply eternal separation from God who is love.
Despite the good times, the memories, the wonderful things about this person that you’ve come to love, you’ve decided that it’s time to end it. You weren’t sure before but you’ve prayed and thought and discerned and consulted and now you know what you have to do. You just have to actually do it.