We're done with Lent, now, which is nice. Hopefully we're not done with growing in our faith though. This time of year we throw the switch from "Fast" to "Party". If you haven't already done so, it might be a good time to put together a reading list for the year of our Lord 2018. To help you, I'm sharing an annotated list of books that have shaped me
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.
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.
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.
If I had a dollar for every Catholic I’ve seen or heard who has condemned Game of Thrones, I wouldn’t have any student loan debt left. I’m friends with plenty of people who love the show and love the story; one friend even gave me a small Arya figurine that still sits on my dashboard in my car. But I’ve noticed a strong reaction against the show and story among my Catholic friends - and I get it. It’s a horrific story, with way too many gratuitous sex (or rape) scenes, a whole lot of incest, and it always seems to leave you in a place of despair. For those who haven’t seen the show, here is your spoiler warning.
The world of Dunkirk is cold and damp, one where men can go from scurrying like rats to survive to displaying heroic companionship and then back again. The instinct to survive, on full display here, proves tragically ineffective without some glimmer of hope but maybe more so the virtue of fortitude. Of course Christ calls us to more than ‘survival’ but to ‘salvation!’ So what does this retreat from war teach us of the spiritual fight to win life with God in heaven?
Ironically, it is often those who are hurting the most who are able to help others feeling the same way. Chester Bennington was struggling more than anyone knew, and yet the music he created brought hope and healing to so many people because of his authentic recognition of the struggle. Our wounds are given so that we might heal - but we cannot allow our own wounds to fester in the process.
A few weeks ago my sister told me about an incident near her old neighborhood in Baltimore. A young woman was walking home when a man in a baseball cap exposed himself to her. Luckily she was pretty close to her house, so she ran inside and locked the door. Not much later, the same man was at her back screen door, still exposing himself and pushing himself against the glass.
Some books are best read while you are a teenager. George Orwell’s 1984 springs to mind, as does his Animal Farm, and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried or Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. But of all the really great teenage literature out there—the books and short stories that set the teenage heart on fire and inspire him to take on The Man, to battle injustice and racism and oppression and capitalism and communism and all the other Evils of Society—of all the books and short stories that, while best read as a teenager, (should) continue to fire the mind decades later—almost every one of them is about men.
Instead of poking more holes into this show I want to challenge viewers not to dismiss this show entirely but to recognize and not devalue the situations our young people are living every day.
A few weeks ago, Mike and I went to see the musical “Into the Woods” at the Kennedy Center. The talented troupe of actors put on a very entertaining performance. The play intertwines several popular fairytales but pushes the endings beyond “happily ever after.” In the end, tragedy strikes nearly every tale. Prince Charming cheats on Cinderella, Rapunzel is trampled to death by a giant, and many other misfortunes befall. It seemed that the main purpose of the show was to convince its audience that “happily ever after” does not really exist. It left me with a sense of dread and an uneasy feeling that relationships can’t be trusted and every person must look out for herself/himself to have some sense of satisfaction “in the end.” In a way, “Into the Woods” was spot on. When fairytales conclude with a wedding and “happily ever after,” they leave out the ups and downs that life will inevitably bring.
In her brand-spanking-new book Invited: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner, Calis invites (*ahem*) Catholic brides and grooms to make the most of their wedding celebration. Invited does something unique and wonderful that the—literally thousands—of wedding ideas and guides out there on Pinterest and in magazines or secular books simply do not do: it teaches an overwhelmed bride to take a deep breath and thank God for her vocation which is about to begin in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
I’m just gonna come out and say it:
Modern worship music is appropriate for Catholic liturgy.
Boom. Thesis! There. I wrote it and it’s on the page. DEAL with it!
I jest of course but you wouldn’t know that from the way Christians often discuss the propriety (or impropriety as the case may be) of using modern styles of music in liturgy. The debate is one of the most contentious in modern Christiany. So before the comments section explodes (shattering the molds), let’s make a few disclaimers...
These past few months I have been thinking about how I can be so quick to judge others on social media without even knowing them. Of course, the people who fall victim to this most often are celebrities with their big flashy lifestyles. We all get their Snapchats, Instagram, and Tweets revealing so little about who they truly are as people, human beings with inherent dignity. Maybe it is them forgetting their own value, but most of the time it is the way we choose to see them and draw our own conclusions.
"Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everything is telling you that something wrong is right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say 'No. You move.'"
When I first read this quote it was way back in 2007, I was reading a Captain America comic book, in which he was speaking to Spiderman on morals. I was 17 years old, about to become a senior in high school. I wasn’t one of the cool kids. I was a Catholic Geek (and still am), and I loved it. I was one of the outcasts, always doing my own thing, and would relish in the fact that I am a geek.
I found myself wondering if it was even right for me to support these artists whose views and experiences are those I don’t share, and in some cases, directly oppose. It’s not like it would be hateful for me to refrain from listening to that stuff, would it? If anything, I’m separating myself from negativity… right? I don’t owe them a single megabyte of space on my phone… do I?
The wrestling began.