Thursday, October 25, 2012

Kristin Lavransdatter

Last night I stayed up late to finish Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. The story follows Kristin from birth to death in 14th century Norway and it's actually three books: The Crown, The Wife, and The Cross. This book was recommended to me about six years ago by a teacher at a Catholic high school in Chicago. I checked out a copy of The Crown from the library and I found it very hard to read. A few months ago I thought I'd give it another shot and that's when I discovered a brand new translation by Tina Nullally. The original English translation, for some completely bizarre reason, added thees and thous which are not in the original Norwegian and then cut out scenes making the book very choppy and hard to read. The new translation is true to Undset's writing and is beautiful.

I'm amazed I never heard of Undset, especially since I was originally a Literature major. Kristin Lavransdatter is the best book I have ever read! It's also the most Catholic book I've ever read. Being the mom of a toddler, it took me a couple of months to read it since it's nearly 1000 pages. My reading time is when I lay down in bed at night and most nights I read about half a page and pass out! It's one of those books that you want to get to the end to find out the whole story, but you don't want it to end since it's so good. I think it's the kind of book that I will need to read every few years because each read will reveal something different.

Since the book is about Kristin's whole life, I'm not giving anything away by telling you the end is about her death. Kristin is a complex, human person - just like everyone else on this planet - and she is hardly perfect. She is headstrong and makes very poor choices that haunt her and as she ages she comes to a deeper understanding of how her sins have impacted those around her. Kristin is not some perfectly crafted "character", she's perfectly, imperfect and that is what I love about her. As I read the last pages last night I was weeping and finally had to get out of bed so I wouldn't wake up my husband! Even with all of her imperfections, Kristin finally sees how the perfect love of God had surrounded her all her days and in her last breaths she is embraced by Love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More on my guilty pleasure

A few weeks ago I blogged about the new show on ABC, 666 Park Avenue.

I still find the show fascinating from a theological perspective. Many of the tenants of 999 Park Avenue make a deal with the devil character, Gavin Doran, only thinking of the immediate rewards and not thinking about the price. For instance, this past week a woman wanted to be an extremely successful writer. The deal she struck with Gavin guaranteed her success, however the downside to her deal was whatever she wrote came true. She worked for a prominent New York newspaper and wrote news stories that were based on lies and fiction. She winds up dead because of the webs of deceit she created only to be successful.

The storyline got me thinking about lies and then yesterday I heard a story on the radio that seemed like it came out of a Hollywood script. A local woman told her co-workers that her infant daughter died. Her co-workers donated money to her to cover the costs of the funeral and then discovered the lie when they arrived at the church for the funeral. The woman said she wanted attention and used the money to buy clothes and toys for her child. Well, she's definitely getting attention now because she's going to jail. This case is extreme and while the law might assign more weight to a particular kind of lie, does God?

A lie is a lie is a lie and I know I lie.

Why do I lie?'s usually to avoid something unpleasant. For instance, I might tell a friend that she looks great in an outfit so that I don't have to tell her that her butt looks big (to my friends: if you've gone shopping with me, you know I don't do this). While I might not be signing my soul away to the devil with a little white lie, I am definitely getting an immediate reward of not having a fight with my friend. Rarely do we think of the cost of a little white lie. What might happen when my friend goes to a wedding in her new dress and some tipsy family member makes a crack about her caboose? That "little" white lie could end a friendship or at the very least create a lot of tension while the question of trust hangs between us.

It's a heavy cost for something so "little", but hey, that's the way the devil works.

***I have to make one correction from my last post about the show: the protagonists of the show are not married, they're living together. ***

Friday, October 19, 2012

Being a Princess

I'm up to my elbows in making Halloween costumes.  

When I asked my son a few months ago what he wanted to be for Halloween he immediately said, "Super Why!"  He's a PBS superhero who teaches kids to read and find answers to problems in books.  I was expecting something like a dinosaur, dragon, SpiderMan, or any of the other typical answers from a little boy.  I continued to ask him over several weeks who he wanted to be and every time it was Super Why.  

"Sweet!" I thought.  It's a very easy costume to make (cape, mask, green t-shirt).  

Then he started asking who I would be for Halloween.  "Uhhhh...I...uh...well."  Since I hesitated my son decided for me.  "You're Princess Pea!"  (See upper right corner of picture)

This morning we ran to the store to pick up a few things for his costume and I parked the cart next to the remnant bin while I looked over a few items.  He reached in the bin and pulled out pink toile with rhinestones.  "Here Mommy, you're a princess."  

I realize that it's very sweet for my son to think I'm a princess, but I'm hardly the princess type.  I didn't even like princess stuff when I was little.  However, I ran into a friend who works at the craft store and I mentioned, "I'm going to be a princess for Halloween."

"That's perfect!" she replied. "You're a daughter of the King!"

Huh!  And so I am.  

God, who "dwells in unapproachable light", wants to communicate his own divine life to the men he freely created, in order to adopt them as his sons (and daughters) in his only-begotten Son.  Catechism of the Catholic Church, 52.  

I guess I better get over my problems with being a princess.  

Who knew making Halloween costumes would lead to such an interesting theological point to ponder? Or that I would be able to link costumes to the Catechism?  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blocks of faith

My son is discovering the awesome world of imagination, every item in the house can be turned into something else with an accompanying story. For instance he has a stacking ring set, which is normally a baby toy, the rings are doughnuts and I'm allowed to have one if I've been good. The base and stem can be separated and both of these items are magically transformed into water guns only to be used with the appropriate "shhhhhh" sound to mimic water shooting out.

This morning my son walked over to me with building blocks rigged up to look like a flashlight. "I can't see, Mommy, there's no light." And that reminded me of today's Psalm response: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life (Psalm 1). My son was playing, but his simple comment clicked gears into motion.

Sure, we need actual flashlights on standby in case the lights go out, but relying on anything other than God in life will not lead to eternal life. As St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:7, we live by faith and not by sight.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

She had moxie!

“Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.” St. Teresa of Avila

Today is the memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, virgin and Doctor of the Church. St. Teresa is my favorite female saint and I wish I knew more about her. The thing I like best about her is that she had moxie and would give God a piece of her mind. Once, when she was traveling, she was thrown from her donkey and landed in mud. She is reported to have said, "Lord, if this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few of them!" I love that! I have often heard people say that you're not supposed to talk to God that way, but I assume God already knows what I'm thinking, so I might as well be open about it.

While the friend quote might make you wonder if she was a heretic, the opening quote reveals the place God held in Teresa's life. She was a mystic who was blessed with a very deep and intoxicating relationship with the Lord. She was not afraid to be real with God and I find that example of honesty and depth so encouraging. God wants all of me, not just the good things or the pretty things. Jesus is waiting to be with me in the good, bad, ugly, and down right nasty.

Life is full of uncertainty and worries, but God does not change. Sometimes it feels like the world is going to crumble to pieces, but God will still remain. If I remain certain in that, then nothing can frighten me.

St. Teresa, pray that I may have moxie like you.  Amen.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Holy Catechism, Batman!

Pope Benedict XVI kicked off the Year of Faith on Thursday, October 11, 2012. The Holy Father asks that we take this year to learn more about our faith. Here is one way to do it - read the Catechism in a year. Using the link below you can sign up to get bite sized portions of the Catechism delivered directly to you inbox each and every day. Even though it's a few days late, it's not too late to sign up. You can choose to catch up or jump in tomorrow.

Many blessings on this Year of Faith!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three years ago...

Saturday will mark my son's 3rd birthday.

The days leading up to his birth were filled with fear and panic attacks.

Fear had been with me the entire pregnancy. My first pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of my son's big sister only 13 1/2 months before. She died at 37 weeks. When I was pregnant with my son I had to count kicks several times a day. Only days before my son was delivered I didn't get any kicks in the morning; I was 37 weeks and 1 day. Terrified, my husband and I drove to the hospital. I kept telling myself, Prepare to hear, 'there is no heartbeat.' Thankfully, there was a heartbeat.

The panic attacks were due to something I didn't discover until the day I found out I had to have a C-section: I'm terrified of surgery. As my bear bottom sat on a freezing cold surgical table while someone was sticking a needle in my spine (which also freaks me out) and I looked at a table filled with medieval torture devices, I prayed the Hail Mary. I said it over and over and over again.

Laying on the operating table I thought, 'It could still go wrong'. I worried my husband and I would drive home from the hospital without a baby in the backseat, again. After several minutes of further preparation, some joking with the doctors, my husband nearly poking my eye out because he was watching the operation, followed by my doctor wrestling with my son, he was finally born and screamed his little head off. Happiness flooded me and I cried, "That's the most beautiful sound in the world." I think any mom (or dad) feels that way when she hear the cries of her child for the first time, but my daughter's birth was silent and all of that pain was transformed into joy at the sound of his cry.

After he underwent the initial battery of tests, the nurse brought him over so I could see him. He was still screaming his head off! I quietly said, "Hi buddy, I'm the Mama." He stopped crying and turned his cubby little face towards me. It was love at first sight!

Today he is mobile and defiant and talks and still screams and he is the most wonderful boy in the world!  Happy Birthday, little buddy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Dear Guardian Angel

Have you talked to your Guardian Angel today?  I have to admit, I don't talk to my Guardian Angel.  I need to work on that.

There is only one mention of guardian angels in the Catechism (336).  St. Basil said, "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."  The Catholic Church teaches that each person has an angel whose job it is to watch over us.  As the quote from St. Basil suggests, their job isn't necessarily protest us physically, but to protect our souls and get us to heaven.  There are plenty of stories about angels saving people from accidents and that would support Psalm 91:11-12.

"For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone."

The Devil tried to tempt Jesus with power over life and death by using these verses.  The Devil told Jesus to throw himself down from the height of the wall surrounding Jerusalem.  Jesus said, "Don't put God to the test."  Message: don't test God by taking stupid chances with your life; that is not the job of your guardian angel.

If my Guardian Angel's job is to get me to heaven, then I imagine that would be easier if I actually talked to my Angelino.  If you're like me, this little prayer is a good place to start:

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear
to whom God's love commits me here.
Ever this day be at my side
to light and guard and rule and guide.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Devil on Park Avenue

Last night was the premier of the second season of Revenge. It is hands down my guilty pleasure. I usually don't like soap opera style shows, but Revenge is more than just rich people sleeping around (although that's in there, too). During the commercial breaks ABC was pushing a new series called 666 Park Avenue. I thought I would give it a couple of minutes and see what it was like. I was only able to withstand 10 minutes of Revolution on NBC a few weeks ago; my suspension of disbelief was not so willing with that one!

666 Park Avenue turned out to be awesome, that is if you're watching it with a theological eye. If you want to read the full synopsis of the episode, you can do so here. Here's the really brief synopsis: it's a modern take on Mephistopheles (a devil). In the first episode the viewer learns the price for making a deal with the Devil. Gavin Doran is the successful, real estate tycoon version of Mephistopheles. Don't ask me why my disbelief will suspend for this show while it won't for others, perhaps it's because there is theological gold in this show. The pilot episode jumped into several deadly sins: pride, sloth (discouragement), lust, and wrath.

What is yet to be seen is the balancing force against the Devil. I have a few ideas of how it will play out in the show, but I can bet none of them will involve a character saying "In the name of Jesus Christ, get back, Satan!" or someone reciting the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel. And, that is sad, because nothing human can fight the devil, only the name of Jesus Christ and the Heavenly Hosts.

Here is the problem with the messages in this show (including many movies and other shows - including my guilty pleasure): it's fine to satisfy any desire, any need and who cares about the side effects. In reality, ideas have consequences. If I lust after some guy that is not my husband, even if it's only in my thoughts, that is a doorway into serious sin. And, to be clear, I shouldn't even lust after my husband, because that reduces him to an object instead of the person God created.

There is an interesting scene where the two protagonists, a married couple, are talking after they willing agree to work and live with the Devil.  The wife asks her husband, "Henry, are we going to be okay here?"

No one is okay with Mephistopheles in their company.