Met Gala: Best and Worst Dressed of “Catholic Imagination”

The Catholic side of social media has been pretty divided as to whether or not having a Catholic themed Met Gala would respect the Church. Anti-Catholicism is nothing new, after all, and some people made a career out of appropriating Catholic culture. In fact, my first reaction upon seeing some of the Met Gala looks on my social media feed was a feeling of discomfort. My contemporaries at New Catholic Generation had some similar reactions.

Upon further reflection, however, I realized that there was a method to the madness. The Catholic Church has been a big influence in classic art and architecture, from the Renaissance artists to the beautiful Gothic cathedrals.

And so, as a millenial who’s watched her fair share of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, I will list off what I think are the ten best and works looks. I’m judging these outfits as to how they fit the theme and whether or not they’re aesthetically pleasing.

Worst Dressed

cardi b worst

I know that Cardi B is making a splash on the Billboard charts, but this outfit and her hair is ridiculous even by avante-garde standards. The train of her dress with the slit doesn’t flatter her legs, the bustline is too low for such a formal occasion, and her hair is in desperate need of some frizz control!

frances mcdormand

Frances McDormand may have the “Triple Crown of Acting,” but she is turning heads in a bad way with this getup. I’m not sure how this outfit fits the theme and she honestly looks like she’s wearing a giant tent with a bush on her head. It says a lot that Tom Lenk does a better job with this than her!

jaden smith worst

Dear Jaden Smith. This outfit does not make any sense and, well, your self-promotion is honestly very blatant, borderline narcissistic. There’s a time and place for showing off your gold records. This is not the time nor the place.

 

cara d worst

I only know of Cara Delevingne from her cameo in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video. She is dressed as the confessional screen and, sad to say, this dress reveals way more than it conceals. Try again, Mother-Chucker!

 

sjp worst

Tsk, tsk. I wouldn’t expect anything less than the worst from Sarah Jessica Parker. While the papal tiara hat fits the theme, the dress looks more like a reject from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movies. Actually, it’s more like the modern Alice in Wonderland movies crossed with the gritty Snow White and the Huntsmen movies.

 

miley cyrus worst

Miley came very close to having a wardrobe malfunction with this outfit. Not only does this outfit not fit the theme, but the plunging neckline basically screams “trying too hard to be an adult.”

 

tom brady worst

Everybody has already been mocking Tom Brady for this outfit and I don’t blame them. He looks more like he’s auditioning to be the toreador in a production of Bizet’s opera Carmen.

 

lana del and jared leto worst

Finally, we have Jared Leto and Lana Del Rey. While Lana’s outfit isn’t so bad, invoking Our Lady of Sorrows and sticking to the avante-garde style, I can’t say the same for Jared Leto’s ridiculous outfit. He looks like he belongs on a parody production of Jesus Christ Superstar or a remake of Life of Brian.

Onto the looks that I found to be the best of the bunch!

Best Dressed

zendaya best

Zendaya is one of the handful of celebrities who invoked a Joan of Arc style with her outfit. Kudos to her for evoking the beauty of armor with this outfit, along with her short hair. All she’s missing is a sword. (But maybe switch out the stilettos for boots.)

 

gigi hadid best

Gigi Hadid’s outfit is inspired by angel wings, but unlike Katy Perry, her outfit is tasteful and elegant without crossing the line into the outrageous. It flatters her body without being provocative.

 

ariana g best

Arana Gradne’s outfit was inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It reminds me of a Tudor-era/Elizabethan dress and I really like this outfit on her. I hope to see her performing in outfits like this more often.

 

emilia clarke best

Emilia Clarke’s dress is regal and beautiful. I can see Daenerys wearing this on an episode of Game of Thrones. It reminds me of an Eastern European Catholic art. Eastern Orthodox Catholics, what do you think?

 

leticia wright best

I’m biased about this outfit because I’m a huge fan of Letitia Wright as is, given how she’s one of the few celebrities in Hollywood genuinely devoted to being a Christian (or at least having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ). Her dress, according to her Instagram, is inspired by Ethiopian culture and I can definitely see that. Points to John Boyega, too.

 

chadwick best

The robe that Chadwick Boseman is wearing is reminiscent of a bishop’s cape. On the other hand, I am reminded of royal Byzantine robes as well. The King of Wakanda would probably wear this to Latin Mass and get away with it. So yeah, kudos, T’Challa!

 

lily collins bbest

Lily Collins goes for an understated, tasteful elegance with her outfit, which evokes Our Lady of Sorrows. Points for NOT wearing a Rosary as a necklace and instead just using a silver cross chain. With some modifications, I can see some high schoolers trying to wear something like this to prom.

 

lynda carter best

Lynda Carter is another woman in a beautiful, queenly outfit that wouldn’t feel out of place in the next Wonder Woman movie, as an older Diana who has become the new queen of the Amazons.

 

donatella versace best

While I’m not sure about Donatella Versace’s face, I do love her outfit. Evoking Joan of Arc’s armor, but in a more subtle way. It’s actually an outfit that I think I might wear. Not that I would actually wear it, but it’s something that I want to wear, so that’s something.

 

blake lively best

Saving the best look for last. Blake Lively, who could give Padme Amidala a run for her money with this outfit. She honestly looks like a queen. The only thing I don’t like is that she’s married to my celebrity crush, Ryan Reynolds and has the most beautiful children with him. But that’s just me being a fangirl. 😛

If there’s one thing every Catholic can learn from this event, it’s that we need to pray for all these people, whether they had bad outfits or good ones. This is as close to authentic Catholic beauty as some of these people will ever get. Pray for these people and for a conversion of their hearts.

Lent: It’s Not About Us

labyrinth

It seems like every Lent, people talk about what they plan on giving up. While I understand that for people who plan on fasting from social media, I think many Catholics try to make Lent all about them, whether consciously or unconsciously.

What is Lent really about?

This passage from Joel from today’s first reading gives us some insight:

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God. (Joel 2:12-13)

This Lent, Jesus asks us to refocus ourselves and center our lives on Him. It doesn’t matter how much money we put into the Rice Bowl or how much we do or don’t eat. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we do for Lent. What matters is that our thoughts and actions are done with Christ in mind. This goes well beyond “What would Jesus do.” Put simply, Lent calls us to do all things for the glory of God.

So what can you do today? Take some advice from today’s Gospel:

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

So please don’t post a selfie of yourself with the ashes. To quote my friend Katrina Ebersole “Every time someone posts an ‘ashes selfie,’ a kitten slowly dies.” If you’re still using social media, use it to glorify God this Lent.

Halloween Dos and Don'ts

pumpkin-heads-965566_1920

One thing I love about being a Cradle Catholic is that I grew up celebrating Halloween. You might be surprised to learn that Halloween is a Catholic holiday. As the Word on Fire website says, it’s time for Catholics to embrace Halloween. So here are some Dos and Don’t to make your Halloween a great one.

DO choose your costumes wisely.

In spite of the stereotype, there are great costume ideas for women that don’t involve dressing like a hooker. You can easily take advantage of the fact that Halloween is the eve of All Saint’s Day and dress up as your favorite saint. Plus there are awesome female characters to dress as like Supergirl, Peggy Carter, Katniss Everdeen, and the Crystal Gems from Steven Universe. Women don’t have to fall into the Princess/Slut complex on Halloween night. In fact, I see Halloween as an opportunity for girls and women to think outside of the box and be creative.

 

DON’T play around with ouija boards or try summoning rituals.

I avoid ouija boards like the plague. Granted, according to Ed and Lorraine Warren’s website, the real danger comes in when people invite ghosts or demons in, but the problem is that most people who play around with ouija boards or try summoning rituals don’t know that. They think it’s all just pretend or that the forces they’re summoning aren’t dangerous.

 

DO watch some awesome Halloween related specials!

One thing I love about Halloween are all the awesome Halloween specials on TV as well as the large number of Halloween-themed movies. I highly recommend The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and Hocus Pocus. I also liked the Halloweentown movies from Disney Channel.  If you’re up for more PG13 material, I recommend the original Halloween movie and Wes Craven’s Scream series. Guilty pleasures include Rocky Horror Picture Show and Saw. They’re not family-friendly but Rocky Horror is a hilarious musical and Saw is a fascinating character study when you get past the “torture porn.”

One web series I recommend is Frankenstein, MD, a modern adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Right now, though, I’m getting into this cool musical series called Muzzled the Musical out on YouTube that I think is perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit. Check it out:

 

DON’T be afraid to scare your kids.

There are a lot of great family-friendly scary movies out there such as Coraline or Disney’s animated movie Sleepy Hollow. Scary things can be exciting for kids and, if done right, teaching kids to face their fears can help them deal with handling their problems on their own as they grow up. Scary movies can be like what the original Grimm Fairy Tales were, a way to teach kids that “dragons can be killed,” to quote Chesterton.

 

DO be safe if you decide on going out.

I’m gonna be spending Halloween Weekend with my friends on retreat. It’s my first time since college that I went out for Halloween. If you’re gonna go out with friends, make sure that your time out is a safe one. Don’t take candy from strangers at the bar. It might not be candy. Also, make sure that any candy you get while trick-or-treating is safe to eat. I have food allergies, so I can’t exactly have kit-kat bars. Get candy you know your kids can eat and google whatever candy you don’t recognize. If you’re handing out or making candy, print out small ingredient lists.

 

Have a fun and safe Halloween, y’all and pray for me and my friends while I go on retreat this weekend!

Why Catholics Have a "Both/And" Policy: Salvation through Faith AND Works

bible-879086_1280

I’ll be honest when I say that I don’t consider myself to be an apologist. I’m not like Trent Horn or Patrick Madrid or Scott Hahn or Taylor Marshall. I did better in my philosophy classes than in my theology classes in college. And yet, as a Catholic, I am called to defend my faith when the situation calls for it.

My Protestant friend, Holly, commented on my “Yes, I am a Christian AND?” post with a really long comment that I’m going to break down here in the hopes of starting a civil discussion and dialogue.

Holly’s comments will be written in blue.

Saying you believe in salvation coming through faith AND works is just not biblical.

Yes, yes it is. 

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?James 2:14-20

When I discussed with Holly about the Letter of James, she said that James was talking about justification, which to her, is different from salvation. According to the apologetics books I own, this is because Protestants in general believe in a difference between justification before God and justification before men and because they see salvation as a one time event.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man” (CCC 2019). So justification does relate to salvation, as stated in this verse from Romans: 

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.- Romans 6:6-8

According to Catholic Answers: “What is significant about 6:7 is that when it says the one who has died has been freed from sin, the word for “freed” is actually the Greek word for “justified.” What it literally said was “he who has died has been justified from sin,” yet the context is so obviously sanctificational that all standard English translations of the Bible rendered “justified from sin” as “freed from sin.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Now of course if we are truly saved, we will want to please God, and our life will show obedience to His Word and commands. But it is ONLY through His grace that we are saved, and if we say we must do works to receive our salvation, that goes against these Words and ignores what He did on the cross for us. Works are a result of being In Him, but they have nothing to do with our salvation.

I often hear Protestants talking about having a personal relationship with Christ. Since Christ is fully human (as well as being fully divine), let’s approach justification and salvation from the perspective of a relationship.

When we have a relationship with a person, it’s not enough to just say that we love them. If there’s anything I learned from the comedy of errors that I call my love life, it’s that actions speak louder than words.

Ephesians 2:10, the verse that comes right after those two sentences says “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Emphasis mine.)

The second chapter of the Letter from James gives examples of people in the Bible whose faith was shown through action:

 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. – James 2:21-26

Paul also shows how salvation is a process in his letter to the Philippians:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13

Like any good relationship, a real loving and functional relationship with Christ starts with faith and grace, but needs works in order to thrive and grow. Christ dying on the Cross and rising from the dead was just the beginning of salvation, just like how a wedding is only the start of the life a married couple will share together. And that’s why faith and works belong with each other. Like a marriage, our relationship with Christ depends on believing in Him and sharing His love to the world through works and actions. Catholics don’t believe that doing a lot of good deeds will make up for any bad things, but that our faith inspires us and motivates us to go out into the world and testify to our faith through doing good.

But really, this passage from the Gospel of Matthew is, I think the strongest proof of how works contribute to salvation:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25: 31-46

Addendum 9/23/15 1:10PM

I shared this post with Catholic Answers staff apologist Michelle Arnold who said: “We can agree with your friend that grace comes first. Grace makes it possible for us to have faith and to do good works. Without God acting first, even so far as to give us the actual grace to desire supernatural faith, we can’t do anything. Where your friend goes off the track is in concluding that works are unnecessary. Faith and works are our responses to grace: faith, interiorly, and works, exteriorly. Both are necessary, but both flow from grace received from God.”

Yes, I'm A Christian AND…?

Jesus_und_Petrus_Matthäus_4.18-20

By now you’ve probably heard of this viral video from Buzzfeed. There are many, many awful things about this video, but honestly what I dislike the most about this video is just how bland the Christianity is. So yeah, you’re Christian and you like Beyonce and you’re not judgmental and you’re queer, blah blah blah.

Lemme ask you a question brought up in yesterday’s Gospels: Who do you say Jesus really is? Because if you don’t give the same answer Peter did…well, as they say in Texas, “Lord have mercy and bless your heart.”

WARNING: MAJOR CATHOLIC BRAGGING AHEAD. 

One wonderful thing about being Catholic is that there’s this beautiful phrase called “both/and.” As in we are Catholic AND we’re human beings like everyone else on this planet. I found this wonderful infograph on a Catholic tumblog that pretty much explains how Catholics see the world.

So Catholics are Christian but…unlike Protestant denominations, we believe that salvation is gained through both faith and works, which means accepting God’s gift of grace and cooperating with Him. Grace is the spirit that inspires us to go out into the world and helping the poor and needy. We believe that we can receive forgiveness from our sins both directly from God in prayer and through the Sacrament of Confession. We are people that are good because we are created in God’s image and sinful because we’ll always be in need for forgiveness.

What are we? We are a people who are free to make our own choices and obliged to choose what is good and right. We understand the world through religion and science. We can explain that the world was both divinely created and had natural evolution. We are a church made of traditionalists like Peter who remind us of what our core values are and visionaries like Paul who want to help make the church better.

What do we want the world to know about the Catholic faith? That the greatest commandment is to love God and to love all. We love our neighbors, our enemies, and ourselves. That our religion is based on Scripture and tradition. That we take the Bible as literature and interpret it spiritually for theology and ethics. We mediate on God’s word because it’s prayer and also study it because it’s history as well as theology. That we believe in a God who is a father and a king and his Son and the Holy Spirit and…I might as well just copy and paste the Nicene Creed at this point.

Finally, who do we say that Jesus is?

As Peter said, “You are the Christ.” “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 

So lemme ask you: “Yes, you are a Christian, but who do you say Jesus is?”

The Eucharist Brings Us Peace: Eucharist Bible Study Day 14

eucharist day 14

An excerpt:

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” – St. Francis de Sales

I think the hardest part about being in Mass and going to Adoration is that we often want to rush things. I’ve said before that when we receive the Eucharist in the Mass and when we are in Jesus’s presence, we ought to do so with reverence, silence, and love. It’s not an easy thing, though, because we are always in a rush. We rush through traffic to get to work. We grumble when we have to wait in a line. We fast forward through pre-recorded programs of our favorite shows.

What we actually make time for says a lot about what we love. We may wish for the Mass to be short, but we’d gladly sit and watch a football game for however long it lasts or watch the Oscars as they drag on past the four-hour allotted time and heck, even watch the red carpet before the awards start. So why is it so hard for us to give our time to the creator of time?

Go read the rest here!

The Japanese Legacy of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Most people recognize St. Maximilian Kolbe as the priest who offered his life in the Auschwitz death camp to save a man who had a family. However, Maximilian Kolbe also left behind a legacy in Japan that would later make a huge difference during the end of WWII.

During the 1930s, Maximilian Kolbe went on a mission trip to Nagasaki, Japan. Even though he didn’t know any Japanese, he was able to create a Japanese version of his magazine Knight of the Immaculate. It grew to a circulation of 65,000 in 1936. He also founded a monastery in Nagasaki and decided to build it on what the locals believed was the “inauspicious” side of the mountain. When the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, that monastery miraculously survived because the other side of the mountain took the majority of the blast. Today, it serves as a center for Franciscan work.

I also feel like Maximilian’s legacy remains in Nagasaki in other ways. My brother got to visit the city as part of his college’s study abroad program. While he didn’t get to visit the monastery, he did see a lot of monuments dedicated to peace, not to mention a couple of Catholic churches, which are pretty hard to find in Japan. The Japanese’s hope for peace is something I think St. Maximilian Kolbe would be very proud of.

Congrats to Bishop-Elect Robert Barron!

Courtesy of Word on Fire

Courtesy of Word on Fire

Back when I was in college, one of my friends introduced me to Fr. Robert Barron’s videos on YouTube. I quickly became a big fan of his because he loved talking about the things that he loved as well as teaching about the Catholic Church. He would’ve fit in with any of my wonderful professors. I especially loved how he often debated with New Atheists and his 10-part Catholicism series. (I have the book version.)

So I was really happy to find out this morning that Fr. Robert Barron is now going to be an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles!

My personal prayer for the soon-to-be-bishop is that he will follow in the example of Fulton Sheen and keep on making videos and wonderful new projects in new media. I also pray that the people in Los Angeles will be inspired by their new Bishop and follow in his example.

I’ll be here cheering him on and praying for him.

Read similar congratulations from Elizabeth Scalia, Deacon Greg Kandra, Tom Zapino, and Kate O’Hare.

Women of Christ Wednesday: Leah Libresco

DSC_2863_sm-1[1]

 

Leah Libresco grew up as an atheist in New York.  When she went to college, she picked fights with the most interesting wrong people that she met, who happened to be the campus Catholics.  After a long series of coffees, late night conversations, and book swaps, she would up changing her mind and leaving her deontological beliefs behind to be recieved into the Catholic Church in 2012.  She blogs about religion at Unequally Yoked and her first book, Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers that Even I Can Offer explains how she learned to pray to God, instead of just argue about Him.

 

When I was browsing around the Patheos site in my college days, I used to see Leah Libresco on the atheist channel. When I saw her blog on the Patheos channel a few years later, I was like “Oh, she converted. Good for her.”

She delves a lot more about what life is like for her as a Catholic in her book Arriving at Amen. I’ll be posting a review on that later this week. For now, I wanted to ask Leah some questions relating to her book and about apologetics in general.

1) Where did the inspiration for Arriving at Amen come from?

 

Becoming Catholic wasn’t as simple as just changing my mind about God.  I needed to learn how to have a spiritual life at all, and I couldn’t avoid prayers that were hard for me — that would have meant skipping all of them!

 

I wound up finding my way into prayer by relying a lot on analogies and examples from things I loved in the secular world (so, the repetition of ballroom dance helped tutor me in how to approach the Rosary, and some of what I’d learned about the Sunk Cost Fallacy helped me prepare for Confession).  I hope that the book can be helpful both to anyone who is stymied by one of the seven prayer practices I discuss or someone who’s a little more comfortable but would like to see a prayer from a new angle.

 

2) What do you tell atheists when they ask you why you became Catholic?

 

Well, when I want to tell the whole argument, it usually takes about three hours and starts “There are three major schools of ethical reasoning: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics…”  I can’t promise the short version is satisfying, but the gist is that the thing I was most certain of was that morality was real (something we discover, not something we construct) and that we were able to percieve it (albeit imperfectly).  Holding on to this idea created a lot of confusion about how we wind up having access to a transcendent kind of truth, and, in the end, I was more sure of this than I was that God didn’t exist.

 

3) How do you balance working in news with apologetics?

 

Most of the time, there’s no balancing act at all — I don’t write apologetics at work; I cover statistics-heavy facets of the day’s news.  The biggest way that my faith impacts my writing is that I try to reflect on the effect my pieces will have on my readers.  I try to avoid writing anything that leaves the reader with a feeling of contempt or hatred, even if I’m discussing a tragedy that’s being treated callously.  I want to follow the Campsite Rule and leave my reader better than I found them, and not just in terms of new facts discovered!

 

4) You’re obviously not one who shies against politics and religion. What are some tips for having a good civil debate?

 

A good debate is one that you and your opponent expect won’t be solved in a single conversation.  It’s pretty hard for someone to find out that they’re wrong in a single argument (and it’s prudent to go home and reflect on what you heard before conceding completely).  So, in general, you should be playing a long game.  That often means I put less of my energy and attention into arguments I can’t stick with (drive by commenters, etc).  Starting a fight means starting a relationship — I can only take on so many!

 

If you’re trying to lay the foundation for future conversations, you need to make it as pleasant as possible for your opponent to fight with you — after all, you want them to invite you over again for a second round.  I try to do this by asking a lot of questions about whatever I’m genuinely curious about, making sure I really understand my opponent, rather than trying to box them in our first discussion.  I try to be honest about which parts of my argument I think are weaker, so my opponent can trust me to be truthful and so that it’s clear it’s worth their time to ask questions of me.

5) With the recent news about the decline in Christianity, what are some reasons for staying Catholic?

 

I think there’s really only one — because I think it’s true.  It would be silly to stay Catholic just for community or to not disappoint someone or because you haven’t made up your mind what you’re leaving for.  Catholicism shapes my life in a way I wouldn’t want it to if I didn’t think it was rooted in truth.

 

6) Who are your go-to saints?

 

My confirmation saint is Augustine.  I wanted a saint who had experience with some of my temptations (gnosticism, Manichaeism, and others) who I could turn to in faith that he knew the troubles I was having.  I also really love St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose love cast out hatred when he volunteered to die for another prisoner in a concentration camp.  I think about St. Catherine of Siena, but mostly in the context of how intimidating I find her, rather than in prayer!  And I love the Breastplate of St. Patrick.

 

7) What advice would you give to young adults who don’t identify with any particular religion, fallen-away Catholics, and those just struggling with their faith in general?

 

Unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice in general.  I think advice in this domain tends to be best when more specific and tailored to the particular person.  If someone came to me and said that they were struggling with their faith, I’d wind up asking a lot of questions before I had any ideas on how to be helpful (including “What information or experiences do you think would give you peace on this topic?”).  If the person were interested, I might recommend Fr. Thomas Green’s Weeds Among the Wheat, which is a book on Ignatian discernment, but, if I were going to summarize it in a single idea, I’d say this: make choices from a place of consolation, not desolation.  If you’re not sure where you belong and feel conflicted/torn/lousy, try to think about what will lead you to a good choice, but also, just take care of yourself and be patient — don’t rush into anything without a feeling of peace and settledness about your choice.  If you keep pursuing truth faithfully, that sense of being welcomed will come.

 

Danielle Rose: Culture of Life

In the spirit of the marches and rallies for life happening all across the country, I want to bring attention to music missionary Danielle Rose and her album Culture of Life.

cover[1]

 

Copyright to Monstrance Music and Danielle Rose.

 

For those who don’t know, Danielle Rose is a Catholic singer/songwriter. She’s been making music since 2001. My personal favorite album is I Thirst, but I also like the tracks from Mysteries and Pursue Me. However, Culture of Life is by far her best album yet.

I don’t consider many real world people to be role model material, so believe me when I say that when I see Danielle Rose as my role model, know that my statement carries a lot of weight. One thing I’m noticing in all these songs is that God is always included in the story. None of these songs could be considered “praise and worship” in the traditional sense, but instead are more meditative, thought-provoking.

  • Little Flower: I love the Chinese flute intro, for starters. I also love the emphasis on God’s provision. “God provides” rings throughout, as if to say there is no need to worry about caring for the child in question. (In other words, take that one-child policy!) The music video is amazing, too. Watch it and please raise awareness of the Little Flower orphanage. Donate if you can.
  • Just One Life: Covering two instances where life hangs in the balance, with the bridge of Mary saying “yes” to the life God wanted to give to her. I can almost see a music video of my head of the stories getting happy endings, even though they don’t get any closure in the song. But maybe leaving them more open-ended is a good thing, since it makes you think of how much value one life really has.
  • You Matter: Living in Texas has made me a sucker for fiddles and steel guitars. It sounds like a wonderful, beautiful country-style song. The lyrics convey a love song, but it’s not one dedicated to a romantic interest in particular. Instead, it’s general enough to apply to anyone. It could be about a love interest or a child or a dear friend, but it’s a love song nevertheless. It’s a song you can dance to. If only country songs these days were more like this!
  • Waiting For You: It’s kind of crazy to think that the same lady who wrote ”Nothing Compares to You” is writing this love letter for her future husband. It’s a song of lovely longing worthy of being compared with the other epic love songs out there. This song does not beat around the bush about the importance of chastity, but it paints the waiting in such a beautiful light. What I love most, though, is that God still has her heart. St. John Paul II would be proud.
  • Make Love With God: Once again, this song does not beat around the bush about the sanctity of marriage. Too many songs about sex these days don’t really talk giving yourself to someone else. Instead they talk about what they’re getting out of it. And many, many people will probably laugh at the lyrics, but be honest. How many songs do you know talk about sex in such a beautiful way that respects both parties and includes God in it? And talks about family?! It’s not just making love, it’s making life.
  • A Mother’s Communion: This is every mother’s song to her child. It echoes what Pope Francis said about motherhood being a type of martyrdom. Never have I connected motherhood to the Eucharist until I listened to this song. My pastor said yesterday that our lives and our bodies are not our own (in reference to yesterday’s second reading). How often have we heard that phrase: “This is my body…” associated with justifying an abortion. How unaware they are that having that child is a call to surrender and selflessness. Pray for them.
  • Joseph’s Prayer of Adoption: It’s only natural that a song about motherhood would be followed by a song about fatherhood. This isn’t the first time she wrote a song in Joseph’s POV before and the lyrics feel like something Joseph would say to the child Jesus, like a father telling a bedtime story. The best part of this particular song, in my opinion, is when it extends from St. Joseph’s adoption of Jesus to God’s spiritual adoption of all of us.
  • Can You Hear Me: A lamenting song of the kind of loss that only abortion can give. Her vocalizations sound like crying, but in such a tragically beautiful way. The melody as a whole is haunting. This song provokes prayers for all those affected by abortion and I pray that it also invokes compassion. Danielle sounds like she’s really crying in this song, especially in the end. And heck, I’d probably be crying along with her.
  • Psalm 51: Okay, this lady obviously has some country roots in her. If “You Matter” reminds you of the upbeat country songs, this song is more akin to the strong, steady ballads that aren’t heard as often. Even though the lyrics speak of surrender and being sorrowful, the melody of the song speaks of strength.
  • Glorious Wounds: Another country-sounding song with fiddles and guitars. The uplifting tone also makes this song the closest thing to what’s typically recognized as “praise and worship.” It praises and worships the holy wounds of Christ, but also brings in the “felix culpa,” the blessing that comes from the brokenness. We may have our scars, but Christ still has His and we can use the scars of our lives to heal those who still have open wounds.
  • Not a Burden: I can see this song being sung as a round. I love the drums used. It inspires the hand-clapping and swaying kind of dance you would see in a charismatic Mass. It kind of reminds me of old spirituals like “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” The chorus is guaranteed to get stuck in your head.
  • Sharing Calvary: I can see myself listening to this during Lent. This song acts like an Ignatian meditation that takes you to Calvary and makes you feel like you’re really there, watching it or being a part of it. We can see ourselves as either thief or a spectator, sharing the pain that the ones crucified are experiencing. I love that it carries the theme of the previous song, that good things come from the pain and suffering that life brings.
  • The Saint That Is Just Me: This was the first song from the album I heard and I related to it instantly. I want my life to be just like so many other people, wishing I was someone else. The reason I have very few real life role models is because I’m more inclined to follow the example of the saints. But in the end, this song reminds me that God created me as I am and gave me this particular life for a reason. The first call will always be to holiness. How we live that call to holiness is up to God, but we need to answer that call to holiness first.
  • Reborn: I remember a movie night I had with my second graders where we watched a movie that included a scene of an old lady attending Mass. It was later revealed that the old lady was dead all along and her soul was attending Mass, preparing to enter Heaven. When I saw that scene, I thought of my dear friend Fr. Keon who passed away. I could easily see him saying these lyrics. Sometimes, I see him at Mass, celebrating with the priest. And other times, I think he’s still in the cafeteria at my old college, watching over the students. I still miss him, but this song makes me smile.
  • I Love Lifeland: It almost sounds like a children’s song, but I started laughing with joy as soon as the song started. It’s basically the song you would sing on a long road trip or at a summer. It’s like the Catholic version of Taylor Swift’s “22” or a throwback to “My Favorite Things.” There’s a little improvised scatting that acts like the bridge and just makes me wanna dance. The laughter in the song is absolutely contagious! What a beautiful way to end the album. It celebrates life with all the little moments and how the little things add up to a lot. And yes, this is my favorite track! How can you beat lyrics like “Daily Mass is the cat’s pajamas”?!

So if you haven’t done so already, get this album. So many of these songs can be anthems for the marches and rallies for life while other songs can apply to other aspects of life. I hope that at least one of these songs speaks to you the way they have spoken to me.