Friday, February 27, 2009
Now... I've mused about if I'm writing Catholic Fiction or if I'm just a Catholic Writer writing about Catholic characters. I certainly don't think any of my stories would fit in the Catholic/Christian fiction genre. Actually, I know they wouldn't. The nature of my stories don't fit into that niche at all. Quite honestly, it's not a genre of fiction that I have any interest in reading anyway. I have a not so objective opinion about how I feel about that genre. I have a stereotype in my head about the genre. I suspect the plots are solidly written, religious in nature, but don't have much by way of tension or drama. I've been told publishers don't like to see any cursing, swearing or sex of any kind in the stories. Surely, it would just be wrong for the characters to have pre-martial sex-- maybe they kiss sweetly, but not deeply, passionately on the mouth. It's electrifying just to hold hands. They can't go further than that. They always go to Church on Sundays, perhaps there is a preachy message about salvation and redemption. Perhaps in some ways, these books serve to evangelize the unsaved, maybe they serve to entertain the already believing flock or perhaps they exist to counter balance all the other work that is out there, that doesn't necessarily fit this mold. The stories that are daring, that don't mince words, that may be dark yet still teach the same lessons in redemption and salvation, but aren't white washed.
Honestly, I'm not trying to be snarky but I do worry that my fiction might be way too Catholic. That I might be preaching the faith too much in my work and am by some unintended way, making my fiction inaccessible to a mainstream audience.
I believe that my stories have lessons in salvation and redemption as well. It may not necessarily be in a religious sense, but in a personal sense anyway.
However, discussions I've witnessed on forums and communities have also led me to the notion that my work would not fit in either. I'm not writing to shock or create scandal. My characters are just who they are, some created from facets of my own personality, some are people I'd never want to be and others are idealized versions of who I might like to be. We, writers, all do that. In original fic, the dreaded Mary Sue, isn't as dreadful or the kiss of death as it is in fandom writing. I willingly admit that my characters are part of me and come from my own experiences. I cannot say that I am writing wish-fulfillment stories through my main characters. Quite frankly, I don't think I'd really want to have their lives entirely.
My characters, I hope are fallible and human. They don't strive to be perfect, in fact, their flaws make them human. I try to capture a moment as I see it happen in their lives.
So while I worry about the Catholicism creeping in and turning off main stream readers, I wonder what Catholic readers would think?
Oddly enough, I suspect that my characters would be judged harshly in the Internet Catholic Realm. I still find my mouth agape when I read stuff posted by other Catholics on the Internet regarding real people, so as my characters reflect reality, I suspect that the term "Cafeteria Catholic," or the accusation of being "not a real and true Catholic" would be tossed at out many of them. My characters are sinners, just like everyone. And they seem to catch flack in my fictional universe. There's Lena's brother who abandons the church to go to a gay friendly Episcopal church in DC. The aunt who apostates, the priest who truly believes in his vocation, is strong in his faith and wishes his twin sister understood him. The younger brother who is lost, the cousin who had an abortion, the grandmother who lost her faith completely, the seeking boyfriend who finds his faith.
It seems like in my universe my characters are either looking for faith or something, or are abandoning it one way or another. I hadn't thought much of faith in my fiction until one day I sat down and reread and revised some of Lena's story. When I started writing it, I was lapsed from mine, but elements of Catholicism crept into the story through Lena's culture and upbringing. It amazed me just how much it all influenced her and though she doesn't want to believe (I don't think she disbelieves, but she doesn't need or want God in her life) she can't deny how it has shaped her life. We Catholics joke about Catholic guilt all the time, but it's very real. We just all deal with it differently. Some obsess, some blow it of and some confess it all the time to a priest. I'm sure there are other ways too.
Anyway, I'm starting to ramble and am not sure if any of this makes any sense. I'll come back later and see.
Also posted to my writing blog.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Today is the start of Ash Wednesday and well, I think I'll actually manage to fast today. I'll definitely abstain from meat. I might eat grilled cheese and soup. Chicken noodle is out huh? Drat. That always makes me feel better.
During Lent, I am going to cut back my online time in favor of exercise. I started reading a book about the Eucharist that my religious ed director gave me. I have yet to pray this morning's hours, but I will, as I made a commitment to myself that I would return to my daily prayers. I slept most of the morning, waiting for my stomach to settle. The Liturgy of Hours, for me, keeps me grounded with my prayer life, as I'm not really good at self-directed or self-created prayer. I may try to attend Mass this evening. It's a nice service, a nice time to start this penitential season it's spiritually enriching, but as I feel a bit under the weather, I'm relieved that it's not mandatory.
On Saturday's class I spoke to the children about stewardship, fasting and prayer and how these things are important to think about and do during the Lenten season. I asked them to make Lenten prayer chains that I saw in a magazine, and I wrote down several ideas for them to pull from. I knew they wouldn't finish the activity in class, but maybe they did take it home to finish as I asked them to do.
I may actually try to use the chain that I created for my daily Lenten commitments. Putting this together really helped me to think of the things that I should and can do during Lent. I am looking forward to this season and to this Easter.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Actually I'm reading a scene I wrote about my character Andrew-- in the scene he's 16 and complaining about a lot of stuff 16-year-old boys complain about. So he meets a popular girl-- and I read over the line:
She danced on our school’s drill team and performed atour football and basketball games.
Seeing that, which I wrote a long time ago, I immediately thought to myself that I created a future liturgical dancer. Yeah, I'm bad. I know it. I have 8 more pages to read then I'm going to work.
In other news, I'm not really inspired much to do any blogging these days. Perhaps that is why I'm interjecting more tidbits about the mundane parts of my life and some writing bits. I received a strange email yesterday to my gmail account, actually the one associated with this blog and my facebook account. It was a letter criticizing Sr. Helen Prejean, her work and her books. I didn't toss it as spam because of the subject heading: Sr. Helen and the Death Penalty. I've never talked about her in the blog before, at least I don't think so, so it seemed odd to come from a bot or someone reading the blog. I think because I joined her facebook group recently, I may have been mass emailed. Still, it was a bit weird.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I wrote a little scene inspired by true life events and posted it at my writing blog. It's a snippet in the day of the life of Isabel while she waits for her brother to finish typing an address on an envelope so they can go to lunch.
Is that teaser enough to lure you over there?
first seen on Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Fr. Martin at America posts a piece about Dan Brown and Ron Howard's "Angels and Demons". The only thing that looks nice about the movie is that Ewan McGreggor is in it playing a priest.
There is a video clip where Howard, Hanks and McGreggor are interviewed. The movie looks bad, people. Of course, I'm one of the few people who probably didn't make it through the "Da Vinci Code" at all, neither the movie nor the book. I thought it was dull, silly and dumb. I haven't given the book Angels and Demons a try and highly doubt I'll watch the movie, not even to see how Ewan dresses up a Roman Collar. I have my standards. Sometimes.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I hate romance novels and I'm not overly fond of sappy, Valentine's Day celebrations. I'm not jaded either. It's how I've always been in or out of a relationship. It's just another day on the calendar. And according to Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia, it is actually St. Raphael to whom we should ask for incession for finding a loved one. He is the patron saint of Happy Meetings. The Catholic Match people list him as the patron saint into finding one's soul mate. However, I think he's tuned me out.
I have referenced him in my story as the patron saint of love.
Besides, it's also Sts. Cyril and Methodius day. They are credited to bringing Christianity to the Slavic nations, and being the good little Czechphile that I am, have known this for quite some time.
Here's the story from Catholic Online.
Sts. Cyril and MethodiusFeastday: February 14
Cyril and Methodius must have often wondered, as we do today, how God could bring spiritual meaning out of worldly concerns. Every mission they went on, every struggle they fought was a result of political battles, not spiritual, and yet the political battles are forgotten and their work lives on in the Slavic peoples and their literature.
Tradition tells us that the brothers Methodius and Constantine (he did not take the name Cyril until just before his death) grew up in Thessalonica as sons of a prominent Christian family. Because many Slavic people settled in Thessalonica, it is assumed Constantine and Methodius were familiar with the Slavic language. Methodius, the older of the two brothers, became an important civil official who would have needed to know Slavonic. He grew tired of worldly affairs and retired to a monastery. Constantine became a scholar and a professor known as "the Philosopher" in Constantinople. In 860 Constantine and Methodius went as missionaries to what is today the Ukraine.
When the Byzantine emperor decided to honor a request for missionaries by the Moravian prince Rastislav, Methodius and Constantine were the natural choices; they knew the language, they were able administrators, and had already proven themselves successful missionaries.
But there was far more behind this request and the response than a desire for Christianity. Rastislav, like the rest of the Slav princes, was struggling for independence from German influence and invasion. Christian missionaries from the East, to replace missionaries from Germany, would help Rastislav consolidate power in his own country, especially if they spoke the Slavonic language.
Constantine and Methodius were dedicated to the ideal of expression in a people's native language. Throughout their lives they would battle against those who saw value only in Greek or Latin. Before they even left on their mission, tradition says, Constantine constructed a script for Slavonic -- a script that is known today as glagolithic. Glagolithic is considered by some as the precursor of cyrillic which named after him.
Arriving in 863 in Moravia, Constantine began translating the liturgy into Slavonic. In the East, it was a normal procedure to translate liturgy into the vernacular. As we know, in the West the custom was to use Greek and later Latin, until Vatican II. The German hierarchy, which had power over Moravia, used this difference to combat the brothers' influence. The German priests didn't like losing their control and knew that language has a great deal to do with independence.
So when Constantine and Methodius went to Rome to have the Slav priesthood candidates ordained (neither was a bishop at the time), they had to face the criticism the Germans had leveled against them. But if the Germans had motives that differed from spiritual concerns, so did the pope. He was concerned about the Eastern church gaining too much influence in the Slavic provinces. Helping Constantine and Methodius would give the Roman Catholic church more power in the area. So after speaking the brothers, the pope approved the use of Slavonic in services and ordained their pupils.
Constantine never returned to Moravia. He died in Rome after assuming the monastic robes and the name Cyril on February 14, 869. Legend tells us that his older brother was so griefstricken, and perhaps upset by the political turmoil, that he intended to withdraw to a monastery in Constantinople. Cyril's dying wish, however, was that Methodius return to the missionary work they had begun.
He couldn't return to Moravia because of political problems there, but another Slavic prince, Kocel, asked for him, having admired the brothers' work in translating so much text into Slavonic. Methodius was allowed by the pope to continue saying Mass and administering baptism in the Slavonic tongue. Methodius was finally consecrated bishop, once again because of politics -- Kocel knew that having a Slavonic bishop would destroy the power of the Salzburg hierarchy over his land. Methodius became bishop of Sirmium, an ancient see near Belgrade and given power over Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Moravian territory.
The German bishops accused him of infringing on their power and imprisoned him in a monastery. This lasted until Germany suffered military defeats in Moravia. At that time the pope intervened and Methodius returned to his diocese in triumph at the same time the Germans were forced to recognize Moravian independence. There was a loss involved -- to appease the Germans a little, the pope told Methodius he could no longer celebrate liturgy in the vernacular.
In 879 Methodius was summoned to Rome to answer German charges he had not obeyed this restriction. This worked against the Germans because it gave Methodius a chance to explain how important it was to celebrate the liturgy in the tongue people understood. Instead of condemning him, the pope gave him permission to use Slavonic in the Mass, in Scripture reading, and in the office. He also made him head of the hierarchy in Moravia.
The criticism never went away, but it never stopped Methodius either. It is said that he translated almost all the Bible and the works of the Fathers of the Church into Slavonic before he died on April 6 in 884.
Within twenty years after his death, it would seem like all the work of Cyril and Methodius was destroyed. Magyar invasions devastated Moravia. And without the brothers to explain their position, use of the vernacular in liturgy was banned. But politics could never prevail over God's will. The disciples of Cyril and Methodius who were driven out of Moravia didn't hide in a locked room. The invasion and the ban gave them a chance to go to other Slavic countries. The brothers' work of spreading Christ's word and translating it into Slavonic continued and laid the foundation for Christianity in the region.
What began as a request guided by political concerns produced two of the greatest Christian missionaries, revered by both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and two of the fathers of Slavonic literary culture.In Their Footsteps:
Cyril and Methodius believed in the importance of celebrating liturgy in our own language, a privilege we have only had in last twenty years. If this change took place before your time, ask older Catholics about the differences that have taken place in their worship because of this change. If you were worshiping during the change, reflect on how celebrating in the vernacular has helped your worship and your spiritual life.Prayer:
Saints Cyril and Methodius, watch over all missionaries but especially those in Slavic countries. Help those that are in danger in the troubled areas. Watch over the people you dedicated your lives to. Amen
Friday, February 13, 2009
I love all these activities. I find pleasure in each thing that I do, but I find I can't even seem to find the motivation or the desire to pick them up again. My rosary, Christian Prayer, and a few other books sit on my night table unopened or unused. It's not that I don't have the time to sit quietly and pray or read, I have plenty of that. I'm not having a spiritual crisis, dark night or even a feeling that I am distant from God, though I might be right now. I am certain of His prescence in my life and I don't even doubt my faith, but I feel so detached right now.
For some inexplicable reason, I cannot make myself put aside the least amount of time to pursue any of these activities. I need to exercise both physically and spiritually but I'd rather just put it off for another day. I could certainly spent less time online. I always manage to find things that I enjoy that are offline. I certainly have a lot of time invested in blogging, chatting and this new found amusement with Facebook. It's not that these things are bad. I enjoy them but how many times can a person refresh her LJ friend's list a day before it becomes way too much? An addiction perhaps?
I suppose I feel slightly better that some of the blogs I read and communities I spend reading are Catholic/Christian related. And fortunately, the blogosphere has been pretty calm and mellow these days.
At least I'm getting back to my writing. I'm trying to make that a my focus while everything else seems a bit awry. I do have some Catholic writing/story observations to make as well.
Also, I am looking forward to Lent. Perhaps I'll get my spiritual life back on track by then.
I did not stage that photograph either.
Monday, February 9, 2009
So many things I've worked through about my faith and the church I've worked through them with my writing. I haven't posted anything I've written fiction-wise in this blog before. This is just a snippet of a scene where my character (who went through 16 years of Catholic school) shows how naive and apathetic she is when it comes to her faith and religious upbringing. It takes place just after her twin brother's ordination to the priesthood. She's been pretty much lapsed from the church for roughly six years or so, and before that, she never gave her faith much of a thought.
None of this will make much sense, but at least I'm not the only one who didn't know much about indulgences. ;-)
“Where are you having your first Mass?” Angela asks Andrew.
“Next Sunday at the Cathedral. I expect all of you there, especially you,” he says looking directly at me. “You’ll even get an indulgence.”
I nod my head, pretending like I know what he’s talking about even though I’m clueless. I suppose I’ll look it up when I get home.
Dad eyes me specifically, “we’ll all be there, won’t we Isabel?”
I shrug. “Yes, Dad.”
Then my dad focuses his attention on my grandmother, who goes to church even less than I do. “Mom? You’re going to be there too, right?”
“Yes, Mijo,” Grandma says. “I’ll sit in back with Isabel, in case the church starts crumbling down.”
After dinner, we all go our separate ways. Angela and Christopher follow my parents to the car, my grandparents tell us to come over tomorrow after Mass for brunch. My grandpa slips me a small, wrapped box and says to open it later. Grandma Leonor kisses my cheek and tells me that she hopes I like it. “I love you, Mija.”
“I’m sure I will," I slip the box into my bag and look at her, wondering if I should ask my question or not. "Grandma, what’s an indulgence?”
She looks at me a bit annoyed for asking. She hates answering religious questions. “It’s kind of like a free get out of purgatory card,” she says rolling her eyes.
“Honestly, Leonor,” Grandpa shakes his head and looks at my grandma a bit disappointed, then he turns to me and tells me, “ask your brother, he’ll give you the right answer.”
Grandma scowls, it’s obvious her animosity for the church runs deep. So conceding to Grandpa, she tells me to ask Andrew. Grandpa hugs and kisses me and then they leave. He walks just behind her, with his hand on his back, but she pulls away.
Feastday: February 9, 249
St. Apollonia, who died in the year 249, was martyred for not renouncing her faith during the reign of Emperor Philip. The account of the life of St. Apollonia was written by St. Dionysius to Fabian, Bishop of Antioch. Apollonia had all her teeth knocked out after being hit in the face by a Christian persecutor under the reign of Emperor Philip. After she was threatened with fire unless she renounced her faith, Apollonia jumped into the flames voluntarily. She is considered the patron of dental diseases and is often invoked by those with toothaches. Ancient art depicts her with a golden tooth at the end of her necklace. Also in art, she is seen with pincers holding a tooth.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Let's see in other real life, mundane Facebook related activities, I just edited my favorite movies and added "The Sound of Music" -- that modernist propaganda film according to SSPX Bishop Williamson anyway. I think he's a pretty good comedian. Those of you regular readers should totally understand this.
I found some of my sorority sisters too. I haven't seen them in years and of course, am wary about friend requesting them. I used my real name so people I know can find me. As Jen at Musings from the Big U said, it's been a good and a bad thing. She also made a post about warnings, which I think I'll take heed and follow. I find that the people I've been most communicative with on Facebook are the people I know from fandom, LJ and my adult life. Sure, it's nice to know what some of my old friends are doing, it's not like we're going to be best friends again now.
I'm also wary of Facebook because of a news report that showed a poor guy who had his account hacked and his poor friends fell for a scam that he was kidnapped or in trouble and they sent out money to the "hackers" on his behalf. Of course, I'm online enough to know if someone is messing with my Facebook status and is out to scam my friends, who of course wouldn't fall for it.
Let's see, in Catholic Squee news. I got two new books today on the Mass. I know most bloggers are probably away that Amy Welborn of Charlotte of Both lost her husband, Michael Dubruiel, suddenly the other day. I bought his book from Amazon. For support and for the fact that it's been highly recommended. And then I got Children Discover the Mass, for my students. It has some pretty neat ideas and hopefully I'll find a few good ideas I can add to my lesson on Saturday.
Phoenix priest to become bishop of Gallup, New Mexico.
Phoenix, Feb 5, 2009 / 11:33 am (CNA).- This morning, the Holy Father appointed a Phoenix priest, Fr. James S. Wall as the new bishop of Gallup, New Mexico. Fr. Wall, 44, will be the diocese’s fourth bishop.
Fr. Wall, the current Vicar for Priests for the Diocese of Phoenix, was born in 1964 in Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo reservation. After studying History at Arizona State University, he went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from St. John Seminary in Camarillo California, Jim Dwyer from the Diocese of Phoenix told CNA.
He was then ordained a priest for the Diocese of Phoenix in 1998.
Since then, Fr. Wall has served several parishes and is currently both the Vicar of Priests for the diocese and the Director of Mount Claret Retreat Center in Phoenix.
The bishop-elect will continue his duties in the Diocese of Phoenix until he is consecrated as a bishop. The date for his consecration is not yet determined.
Bishop-elect Wall will fill the position left vacant when Bishop Donald E. Pelotte, who retired in April 2008. Bishop Pelotte attracted national attention when, in 2007, he fell down the stairs in his home, causing doctors to suspect he was the victim of an assault. The bishop maintained he was not attacked by anyone.
Later that year, Bishop Pelotte went on medical leave, and since January 2008, Bishop Thomas Olmstead from the Diocese of Phoenix has overseen the diocese.
Bishop-elect Wall will serve 58,000 Catholics and 53 priests.
I didn't realize the Diocese of Gallup was that small, but it's glad that it will have a shepherd once again.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I really enjoyed this quote:
Now what does a university call for? Whereas in modem "universities" the males all believe in "if it feels good, do it," which is why they are, as they wish, overrun by feeling females, on the contrary in a true university one thinks about universal reality, which is the prerogative of men. A woman can think in this way, or do a good imitation of handling ideas, but then she will not be properly thinking as woman. The dilemma is inescapable: she cannot do what is properly men's thinking or work without cutting across her deepest nature. Did this lawyeress check her hair-do just before coming into court? If she did, she is one distracted lawyer. If she did not, she is one distorted woman.
Moreover, true university thinking tends to produce leaders because true students have pondered on more or less universal reality. Cardinal Newman may argue that the cultivated mind is an end in itself, but if Mother Church has always raised universities, is it not because an elite of all-round minds will in any society powerfully help many souls to get to Heaven, if those minds' studying has been governed over all by the true Faith? But women are neither meant, nor normally gifted, to be leaders! Therefore girls should not be at university. As for a Queen Isabella the Catholic, Spain was her family and she never went to university! Nor did Theresa of Avila, Catherine of Sienna or Joan of Arc.
Concretely, if a girl devotes several years of her youth and much money of her parents to acquiring a university education, especially a decent one, how easily will she submit to her husband, especially if he has not had that education? And how may she not argue with him if he has had it? And if she has a "degree", how will she not think herself above the multiple humiliations of being "barefoot and pregnant"? And if she is a "graduate", how will she not hold-herself superior to being-a “vegetable at the-kitchen-sink"? And if making a family makes her forget in the right kind of way all about "graduating", "degrees" and "university", why go there in the first place? The dilemma is inescapable: in doing manly things like going to a university, either she is merely going through the motions or she is damaging her potential for motherhood - conclusion: she should not go there.
This makes me really sad to read all this. It's like stepping back in time. And there were women educated in universities throughout history. Granted, not in the numbers we see today in modern history, but an educated woman was/is not trying to be a man, by pursuing man things. I could go on and on why a woman needs an education, but I'd be preaching to the choir to those who happen to read this blog.
I posted this at LJ already. Today has been a fun day on the Internets. I love it when Catholics can laugh and have fun. My favorite thread of the year so far is now gone, but I'm sure the frivolity will carry on in other ways. I know lately the Catholic blogosphere has really been getting on my nerves and maybe for others as well. I'm tired of seeing all the bashing and negative comments back and forth spewed at each other on the Internets, that it's nice to see some humor for a change. Leave to an inflammatory post on catholicism today to restore my faith in my fellow Catholics.
Now... I think I'm going to get some writing done. I was actually thinking about my characters and my stories again. I may post some thoughts in here later.
Monday, February 2, 2009
I'm feeling really good tonight and I really hope that the feeling is mutual for my students. Tonight they made their first reconciliations. I was worried they weren't really prepared or ready, but I think they all did wonderfully. One on my girls was really scared, but I saw her smile afterward, so I think she handled it well. They all seem so young and this is such a milestone for them, something I know they will remember and I hope cherish.
I remember things about being 8 or 9, but I don't remember everything but I do remember my first confession. I think I was so much more worried and scared than they were. I truly was anxious for them. I suppose because as their teacher, I had no control over the situation. I worried that they weren't ready or that something would go wrong. When I made my first confession, I was terrified and remembered making my mother come with me. Now in retrospect, she sat nearby but didn't actually come with me. I don't recall having a Reconciliation Service like my students had last night. It was really wonderful. Father was very kind and compassionate. He encouraged them not to be afraid, that anything they told him or any of the priests would be between them and God. It made me feel better as a teacher. I also managed to go to Confession as well, which was spiritually enriching for me at a time when I think I really needed it.
In talking with parents, I think I might have a future priest or maybe even a future nun in my class. Of course, they're only 8 going on 9, so who knows, but I'm very proud of my students. Now... if I can get off my bum and prepare my lesson on The Mass for them for Saturday.
One other thing I realized that if there is something special going on at the church during the week, there is always food. I had a very lovely dinner, thanks to our parish secretary who made goodies for the priests. Leftovers are a blessing.