Well my first attempt to write a post full of my favorite links shared on Facebook was a resounding success. What a great conversation we got going there. Since I promised that I’d follow up with more if there was a general interest, here’s another round of links to various pieces. I kind of like this list because it feels like it’s got a little theme going on. (And I think I might end up with enough for next week’s list to have a theme too. Wouldn’t that be fun?)
Beauty Is a Necessity Not a Luxury
Beauty is a necessity, not a luxury. Beauty moves us, awakens us, provokes us, bringing freshness and newness to hearts that have too easily grown old and stale. A luxury is something extra, added on after duties are complete. But beauty is not something extra, it is what comes first. Because without beauty, the duties prove too hard and, eventually, seem pointless. An old, tired soul cannot move itself, cannot sustain itself. It ultimately fails in its tasks. Beauty renews the soul, pointing us ever back to our origins and our destiny, making life begin again.
My friend M. said it very well:
Beauty was not something I considered until I was in a slum of one of Ecuador’s poorest cities. The degradation of stark poverty is depressing, the filth, hunger. Poverty is ugly. Then in the heart of it all was a monastery & it was absolutely spectacular. I knew some people might criticize the wealth when misery was outside, but to me, the beauty was so vital in such a place.
Many times I’ve seen people making the argument that it is unjust for the Church to have priceless works of art and gold communion vessels and such when people are starving. They say it’s an affront to the poor. But why should beauty be the prerogative of the rich only? The poor need that beauty more than anyone. We all need it. It seems to me the real injustice is an ugly church that fails to feed our souls’ need for beauty, that fails to draw us closer to heaven.
This is why I hang beautiful art on our walls, buy beautiful picture books, play beautiful music, invite my children to pick flowers and stare at the stars.
Have you taken time to feast on beauty today?
Marriage the Good, the Bad, the Salvific
These two pieces that look at marriage and family from two very different perspectives were side by side in my news feed and I think there is an interesting conversation to be had between the two. The first is a terrible tragic piece, the second very hopeful.
In A Roomful of Yearning and Regret the author writes about not only how awful it feels to have been cheated upon by your spouse but also how awful it feels to be the cheater. No matter which side you are on, you will be eaten up with yearning and regret.
No. 1, I have had an affair; No. 2, I have been the victim of one. When you unfurl these two experiences in the sunlight for comparison, and measure their worth and pain, the former is only marginally better than the latter. And both, frankly, are awful.[. . .]
I look at my parents and at how much simpler their lives are at the ages of 75, mostly because they haven’t marred the landscape with grand-scale deceit. They have this marriage of 50-some years behind them, and it is a monument to success. A few weeks or months of illicit passion could not hold a candle to it.
If you imagine yourself in such a situation, where would you fit an affair in neatly? If you were 75, which would you rather have: years of steady if occasionally strained devotion, or something that looks a little bit like the Iraqi city of Fallujah, cratered with spent artillery?
Several commenters on Facebook said they objected to the article because it makes the cheating spouse sympathetic, but I think that’s precisely why it is so powerful. I’ve been there, it says, trust me, you don’t want to go there. It’s not fun.
I don’t much like the attitude that sinners should be despised and never pitied. But I think of the words of Gandalf to Frodo:
Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
So there, a rather grim reflection about how marriages fall apart.
On the other hand there is the hopeful look at how marriages that don’t fall apart can help to save the world. Leila Lawler opens with the bold claim that Marriage is the solution to abortion: “Rather, abortion on the scale that we witness today in America is the logical consequence of forgetting that a baby is meant to be the expression of love between a man and a woman who have pledged themselves to unity.”
I just want to quote the whole piece because it is so good. Here’s a bit more:
We have to rescue babies.
Rescuing babies is pulling them out of the stream of death as they come by, at great risk to ourselves. It’s reaching out to their mothers who are being sucked under by the maelstrom.
And then some of us must climb upriver to see who or what is throwing them in at the top.
If we want to solve the problem of abortion as a way of life, which is what we have today in our country, we must think of how the babies and their sad mothers are being thrown into the river of death.
Then we must acknowledge and proclaim that a baby is safest when it’s born to a mother and a father who have promised before God and man that they will form a family.
Marriage doesn’t just happen, and isn’t one option among many. It’s an institution that requires great commitment from every person in society, for the simple reason (among many complex ones) that when families are formed through marriage, the weak are given their best chance at being protected.
Today, possibly the greatest act of love for the unborn that you could make is striving your utmost to heal and promote and maintain and provide for and respect marriage.
Know that your own marriage is a good for the whole community. Every person you know—and many you will never see—benefits from your fidelity, your struggle, your resolve to love and honor your spouse. Your sufferings are a fitting incense rising to God—they are not in vain.
When you appreciate your husband as the protector and provider of this safe haven for you and your children, you help the unborn.
When he loves and protects you and your children, he offers society a church in miniature—a sanctuary—and babies everywhere are safer.
Know that when you raise your children to love and respect marriage by treating their own bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit, you are fighting abortion with all your might. Every watchful, protective moment you spend guarding your children’s purity is a blow against the scourge of abortion.
Not Regretting Something Doesn’t Make It Right
This was an interesting little piece that popped up and seemed to connect with so many other things I’ve been thinking about: Not Regretting Something Doesn’t Make it Right
Actually this piece could easily have gone in the above take with the two pieces on marriage, I think it speaks very aptly about the issue of regret which the NYT piece about cheating spouses addresses. However, I’ve decided to give it a bit more space. Even though this has nothing at all to say about abortion directly, because it appeared in my news feed this week, I immediately thought about the number of women who make the statement, “I don’t regret my abortion” into a sort of pro-choice battle cry.
The more I think about it, the less stock I put into these sorts of thought patterns. Rather than reflecting the objective reality of decisions, I think that they reflect my optimistic nature. Really bad things can happen to me, and I’m still happy. Some circuit in my brain finds happiness and then weaves all past events into a narrative that supports that happiness: “If I didn’t have hundreds of thousands of gambling profits stolen, I wouldn’t have become a writer and put out a few books. Therefore I’m glad that I lost that money.”
So although I think that this thinking is the result of a really healthy and good mental attitude, it’s important to separate the gratitude and acceptance of events from the objective truth of them. It’s better to say that I’m not glad that I lost all that money, but I’m still happy, unphased, and ready to push forward undeterred.
Why does this matter? Because if I look at the past through rose-tinted glasses, I’m not very likely to learn from my mistakes. In fact, I’m not very likely to even acknowledge them as mistakes.
Its all too easy to let this kind of thought pattern blind me to my habitual sins. Well, everything turned out ok, I’m still happy, they’re still happy. It must not have been a very terrible thing that I did after all. God brings good out of even the most horrific of evils. Christ dies on the cross and his death brings life. But that doesn’t make the cross right. It doesn’t make it good. It is still the most terrible thing humanity has ever done: we killed an innocent man in the most brutal way imaginable. We killed God.
Healing and Hope
How the Nine Days of Prayers Comforted Me While I Fought Demons is not an easy thing to read. But I think it is very hopeful nonetheless.
For whatever reason [those memories] chose today to pop back up. But instead of feeling hopelessly lost in that old dark abyss something different overcame me. Not a peace. No. I don’t think that I will ever know true peace. It was a comforting feeling. Like a hundred people praying for me right at that exact moment. Then I checked my email and I realized that they were. Today marks the beginning of the 9 Days of Prayer, Penance and Pilgrimage sponsored by USCCB.[. . .]
For the mother who awakens each morning with the memory of abortion fresh in her mind: that the Lord may still the terror in her heart and lead her gently to the well-spring of his love and mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May she, and all who have been involved in an abortion decision, find healing and hope through Project Rachel Ministry.
The Miraculous Story of Claude Newman
This true story just gave me chills. Such a beautiful, beautiful story. The Virgin Mary appears in a series of visions through the intercession of the Miraculous Medal and converts two men on death row. I especially love the way the Blessed Mother catechizes Claude, teaching him about the sacraments. Also, check out the lovely icon painted by Jennifer Fulwiler’s cousin, Brother Claude Lane.
By God’s Grace All Is Redeemed
Finally, miracles happen even today: Elizabeth Esther writes about being made whole: Preach Always. If Necessary, Use Words. I am reduced to tears.