Friday, June 20, 2008

Writing Progress

As some of you know, I've been trying to write a novel lately. It's a bit of a job: I'm used to writing short things, but it's hard to sustain a story for the full length of a novel. I've set my goal for 80,000 words, and that is a pretty big task.

At any rate, this is just a pride and patting-myself-on-the-back post: I passed the halfway mark yesterday. The plot is a little further along than halfway; I will probably have to add some material in the beginning. But still, I feel a sense of achievement.

The story is aimed toward Catholic young adu.lts--a rather small audience, but one that is really under-represented in books. I've had some encouragement to actually buckle down and write this thing, so I started it last fall and hope to finish it before this Christmas--hopefully by early fall, if possible. I'm hoping--hoping very hard--it can be published. Even if not, it will be an achievement and it was fun to do, but I want it to get out and be read.

So, prayers are always welcome. I'd better get back to work!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I desire mercy, not sacrifice

Last week's readings really got me thinking about a trend among Catholics today. Most Catholics nowadays do not have the problem I'm talking about. Within the more liberal sections of the Church, people tend to ignore rather that overrate the importance of sacrifice. But in the most conservative circles, perfection in liturgy or the advertising of a "Catholic way of life" which emphasizes public piety takes preference over values like mercy and charity.

What am I talking about, exactly? I'm talking about parishes with an absolutely flawless liturgy (whether "Extraordinary Form" or Novus Ordo) and no apostolic action--no Legion of Mary, no soup kitchens, nothing. They feel that the effort they pour into their liturgy excuses them from other Catholic activities.

I also have a problem with Catholic colleges that advertise the perfect Catholic atmosphere and yet are missing the most important Catholic virtue--charity. The most "pious" on campus feel they have a reason to look down on the others, to avoid them, for fear they will be "contaminated" with the less perfect attitude of those who don't go to daily Mass or who drink on the weekends. And the administration is so concerned with projecting a perfect image for outsiders that it is more likely to cover up problems than to fix them, if fixing them might hurt the public image. I'm not talking here about my own college specifically; I think this is a widespread problem, although of course there are movements counter to it in Catholic colleges as well.

To discuss the readings that got me thinking about this. The first reading was from Hosea, with the line "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice." The psalm helps to explain what God means by this:

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for mine are the world and its fullness.
Do I eat the flesh of strong bulls,
or is the of goats my drink?”

God does not need sacrifice. Those who are too concerned about the liturgy think that they are perhaps doing God a favor by giving Him a perfectly-performed Mass. Of course, when we put it in those terms, the absurdity of the viewpoint seems obvious. God asks us to put effort into worshipping Him for our own good, not for His. Although I'm the first to say that putting that effort into the liturgy is important, unless this helps us focus on God more and to act more like the kind of people He wants us to be, we're wasting our time. The Pharisees got in trouble for just this kind of hypocrisy. They thought if their piety was perfect, they were good to go. Christ actually was harsher on them than on the ones who didn't pray at all. Why? Because they were misusing the worship intended for God, making it simply a way to make themselves look better than others. The best things, corrupted, become the worst.

The Gospel was the call of Matthew. Christ befriended a tax collector, and these pious hypocrites objected. As always, those who think they're the closest to God are the first to criticise Him when He starts doing things they disapprove of. They think they know everything there is to know about God, so they're terribly offended when all of a sudden He does things they don't understand.

I wish some of our modern-day Pharisees could understand the saying, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do." In other words, the most impressively holy parishes, colleges, and organizations should be serving the greatest of sinners. Instead, see how quickly they abandon someone when they fail to live up to the code of virtue. I have recently found out that students of Catholic colleges who become pregnant are often expelled. Meanwhile, it's public colleges who earn praise from pro-life organizations for being welcoming to pregnant students. They realize that those who have fallen into sin once are fragile: they need to be treated with mercy and compassion to encourage them to come back to the flock, not with the rejection that might lead them to further sins, like abortion. It would be ironic to think that Catholic colleges encourage abortion, but it is not impossible that a frightened, pregnant student might take that path rather than face expulsion when discovered.

All in all, I'm frustrated. Even those who seem the best seem to have their hidden faults, so much so that one looks for communities with obvious imperfections--that way we know we won't be surprised. In the end, I would like to see prayer and piety united with a real interior life, mercy, and charity.

“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”

Saturday, June 7, 2008

On being 22

Today I turn 22 years old. It's the oldest I've ever been. ;)

22 seems a more steady age than 21. At 21, the main milestone is that you can drink. At 22, you're likely to be graduating from college (although, of course, I myself graduated last month). A 22-year-old is someone who's starting out with "real life." He still seems like a kid, with little experience with how life works, at the bottom of the totem pole in whatever job he has. But he is not on the totem pole. He isn't still in school, living in what some would deem a prolongation of childhood. He's fighting the battle of life, even though he's a newcomer to the battle.

At any rate, that's how I see myself. Many people suggested I go on and get a master's degree after graduating. But I just couldn't see myself staying in school that long. I felt I'd been receiving long enough: it was time to find how I could give back. Learning is great, but there is a place for doing as well. I hope learning never ends, especially with a job in education. But I wanted to start passing on what I know as soon as I can.

This birthday, though not a particular milestone, has been very nice. John, my extremely awesome boyfriend, traveled all the way from Virginia to surprise me with a visit to my family. I think that might be the best present I've ever received, even though he couldn't be here for my actual birthday. His journalism internship in Philadelphia starts today, so he left on Friday to travel there.

Also, some of my other close friends were able to come to a small party on Tuesday. It was great fun, playing games and talking to people I have known for years. It's good to catch up.

I hope this year is a good one. I sure will do what I can to make sure it is!