In defense of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

Nobody:
Me: Sure, as a Jewish Catholic who has a reputation for resisting pop Catholic trends, I’d love to tell you what I think about The Passion of the Christ.

Here, I will focus on two criticisms: Its ultra violence, and its antisemitism; and why I think it’s worth watching. I don’t know, I felt like getting yelled at.

It it gratuitously violent?

Yes and no. No doubt some viewers reveled in the sadistic violence and graphic gore; but I’m also quite sure others came for the gore and saw more than they bargained for. But I don’t think the violence was just a hook to trick gore-happy viewers into an edifying movie. It was also a way to express how unanswerably outrageous the crucifixion, the murder of God, really was.

Gibson is far from the first to depict the passion and death of Jesus in grotesquely heightened terms, because if we have a hard time grasping the spiritual horror of what happened, we can at least feel the corporeal horror, and go from there. It’s not necessary to depict the crucifixion this graphically, but it’s not illegitimate or inherently inappropriate; and it does have a purpose other than to feed viewer’s blood lust.

For instance: After the notorious interminable scourging scene comes a heart-stopping aerial view of Jesus’ blood splattered all over the courtyard. An impossible amount of blood. Pilate’s wife comes out with a stack of fresh linens and tremblingly offers them to Mary and Mary Magdalene, and the two climb down on their knees and begin to carefully mop up every drop. An impossible task. That scene is responsible for a permanent change in my thinking, transforming the phrase “precious blood” from a pious nicety into a central reality that changed how I approach the Eucharist.

The violence may simply be too much for many viewers. But I didn’t see any violence that was there simply for the sake of showing violence. It was an ordeal to watch, and it was supposed to be.

Is the movie antisemitic? 

I mean? No, but actually yes. Yes and no. Mostly. . . . (heaven help me) no.

Mel Gibson assuredly is antisemitic. After an outcry, he did cut a “blood oath” scene from the original version; but declined to meet with the ADL, basically saying: Look, I hope you get over this not-being-Catholic thing someday. Newsflash: The man is an asshole. But my policy is to evaluate works of art on their own merits as much as I can.

Most accusations of antisemitism in the movie seem to fall into two categories: Things that were probably intentional, but which the average viewer (which I am) wouldn’t pick up on; and things which you can interpret according to your own baggage.

In the first category, intentional but missable, includes details like the sign on the cross. Sr. Rose Pacatte at NRO says:

That Gibson was making a conscious choice to reject and negate Judaism is indisputable when we see the sign on the cross. “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” is written only in ecclesial Latin and Aramaic. He rejects the Greek as detailed in John 19:20, and Greek was the common language of the Roman Empire at that time. Thus, according to Adlerstein, Gibson creates “a tension between Aramaic/Hebrew; he does not create a bond but severs it.”

and

One [viewer] mentioned the tear that fell from the cross and the earthquake, which is significant because the scene shows the destruction of the temple at the time of Jesus’ death, but the destruction did not happen until A.D. 70. According to Gomez, this scene points to a “replacement theology,” upholding the mistaken medieval idea that Christianity (Ecclesia) has replaced Judaism (Synagoga). The brokenness visible in the temple evokes the brokenness of Synagoga. In other words, it’s a “dig” at Judaism that does not appear to be there by accident.

I just plain didn’t notice the historical discrepancies, so if these details were attempts at antisemitism, they failed.

It’s harder to deny that Gibson portrays the Jews using offensive stereotypes, and shows the apostles as some sort of “high Jews” or “white Jews” by portraying them as separate from the others.

But . . . the Jews who crucified Jesus were the bad guys, and the ones who didn’t betray him did make themselves separate. I understand the dangers of feeding stereotypes, but how is a moviemaker supposed to portray evil without signaling to the viewer that it is evil? You tell me. The High Priests were concerned mainly with retaining power; Judas did sell out Jesus for money; the Jews who insisted on Jesus’ execution did reduce their faith to a bunch of ritualistic formalities which were threatened by his new commandment. These evils portrayed are what Jesus came to get rid of. To refuse to depict them would be to refuse to depict what actually happened. There isn’t a lot of nuance in character among the Jews who condemned Jesus because it’s not that kind of movie. The good guys don’t show a lot of nuance, either.

The question is, does the movie say “These men did something evil” or “These Jews did evil Jew things”? This is why I say it depends what you bring to the movie. If you’re an antisemite and you want to know why Jesus had to die, you’ll see that the Jews killed him because Jews are bad. If you’re not an antisemite and you want to know why Jesus had to die, you’ll see what kind of people rejected Jesus: Those who want power. Those who want money. Those who value order over truth. Those who are cowards. Those who are cruel.

So Mel Gibson and his pals may be saying, “This is what Jews are like,” but I don’t think that’s what the movie is saying, unless you’re specifically looking to hear that message. It’s the same with the Gospels themselves. If you read the Gospels shallowly, you’ll think they’re a story about how the Jews betrayed Christ. God knows many have read the Gospels this way! But if you read the Gospels with an open heart, you’ll see it’s a story about how we all betrayed Christ. So the movie gives you what you’re ready to get from it. It would be easy to watch the movie in 2019 and recognize, for instance, the College of Cardinals among the crowd of grasping, preening, vicious high priests willing to sacrifice an innocent victim to retain their power.

It’s also hard to make the case that the movie blames only the Jews for Jesus’ suffering, when the gleeful sadism on display is clearly a Roman thing. When Caiphas sees the scourging, he winces and turns away.

However, it’s weirdly pro-Pontius Pilate, which bothers me a lot. Pilate is a cultivated man who’s been assigned to a fractious backwater, and he has Jesus tortured and executed with great reluctance, to keep the mob at bay. That’s in the Gospel, as far as it goes. But the movie adds a scene where Pilate basically tells Jesus, “Look, I feel really bad about this” and Jesus basically says, “Hey, I see who you’re working with here. Don’t worry about it.” That scene is inexcusable, and makes the biggest case that the movie is antisemitic.

So, with these issues, why watch it?

It’s so freaking interesting. So outlandish and bold, but somehow never heavy-handed. Do you know how difficult it is to make a movie with a scene like the scourging scene and have people remember other scenes besides that one?

Gibson doesn’t take the easy way out in any scene. It’s a long movie, but the pacing is great (the scenes that feel long are meant to feel long). Herod is crazy, and weird, and sad. Judas devolving is so terrifying. Veronica is so appealing. The moment with Simon of Cyrene is gripping. Satan is scary as shit. Some people think it was just dropped in for spooky-ookiness, but Steve Greydanus says:

At certain points this androgynous figure is depicted in opposition to the Virgin Mary — but never more arrestingly so than before the pillar, where there is a kind of anti-Marian vision that I will not describe, except to say that it is so bizarre and grotesque, yet ultimately meaningless, that it seems to come straight from hell.

Works for me. I have never seen a depiction of Satan that works better.

Filming it in foreign languages was brilliant. Brilliant. When you’ve been a christian for a long time, it is so very hard to hear the familiar words of the Gospel as new. And it is so very ticklish to figure out what accent you should speak in when you’re playing Jesus! The solution? Put it in words that almost no one understands, and let subtitles, with their layer of psychological remove, work their magic. Or just let the visuals speak for themselves.

Best of all is Mary. Her face and the way she carries herself, and the way everyone keeps coming to her for help. This Mary was a major revelation for me, and helped me see a warmth and strength that’s missing from . . . really most depictions of Mary in art of any kind.  When Jesus is in prison and she comes to find him, you’re so glad they have each other.

And then the resurrection scene. (I had a little larf to myself when IMDB sequestered a plot synopsis that described this scene, warning that it included a spoiler. Boo!) It’s not corny. It’s not lame. It’s glorious, and terrifying, and it redeems everything you have endured during the rest of the movie.

Must you see this movie? Of course not. There is no movie a Catholic must see. If we’re not required to believe in Fatima, not required to pray the rosary, not even required to be literate to be practicing Catholics with a genuine relationship with God, then we can certainly make our way to heaven without having seen The Passion of the Christ (or Unplanned, or Fireproof, or God’s Not Dead, or Here Be Dragons, etc. etc. etc.). Movies are just movies, and you don’t have to come up with some particular reason to dispense yourself from seeing them.

But Passion is different from other movies that Catholics tend to guilt each other into watching. It doesn’t just carry a Positive Message that We Should Support; it’s a great work of art, and because of this, it at least can be tremendously powerful spiritually. Good for Lent; good for a Lenten retreat.

If you’re going to show it to anyone, know your audience. As described above, it could fuel antisemitism in those susceptible to antisemitism. But it doesn’t automatically deliver that message; and it could genuinely spur true spiritual growth.

It’s not for kids, for goodness’ sake. It’s not for people who can’t endure violent movies. Don’t make anyone watch it. But if you can stand some gore, and if you are yearning to feel more engaged in a story that has become stale with retelling, then don’t be scared away from this movie, thinking it’s just torture porn or propaganda. It is an ordeal, but a worthwhile one; and as a work of art, it’s a great.

***

P.S.
I deliberately didn’t read Steve Greydanus’ reviews of the movie until after I finished writing. I don’t always agree with Greydanus, but he gives lots of illuminating analysis here.

Who wants a discount code for the FemCatholic speeches?

You do! Because they are awesome.

Today’s the feast of the Annunciation, and it happens that my speech “When Women Say Yes: Consent and Control In Sex and Love” focuses on that moment when the angel came to Mary and . . . asked? Or told? It is called “the annunciation,” not “the invitation” or “the proposal.”And if God didn’t give the queen of heaven and earth a real choice about what would happen to her body and her life, then what chance do the rest of us have?

My speech is about how I worked through my distress over women’s apparent low standing in the eyes of God, and how I came out the other side understanding what consent really means, why it’s so important, how Mary basically invented it, and what the rest of us can hope for, including and beyond consent.

My speech is just one of ten, and if you use the code SIMCHA, you’ll get a 20% discount. Go to this Vimeo page  to order these ten excellent speeches:

1. How the Church Beats Feminism at its own Game – Erika Bachiochi, J.D.
2. Woman and Man: Genius and Mission – Dr. Deborah Savage
3. Was Jesus a Feminist? – Claire Swinarski
4. Suffering and Holiness in a Modern World – Leticia Ochoa Adams
5. Am I Good? Life, Love & Same Sex Desires – Shannon Ochoa
6. When Women Say Yes: Consent in Sex and Love – Simcha Fisher
7. Love in the Ruins: The Prophetic Examples of Dorothy Day and Caryll Houslander – Mary FioRito, J.D.
8. Informed Choice: Reclaiming Women’s Health – Gabrielle Jastrebski
9. Learning to Love the F-word: Embracing Prolife Feminism – Aimee Murphy
10. The Wild Diversity of Catholic Femininity – Meg Hunter-Kilmer

What’s for supper? Vol. 164: Nailed it!

Hey, great, it’s snowing. It’s okay. It’s fine. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza and birthday cake
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Poor Elijah. He keeps having his birthday during Lent. Some people put dry peas in their shoes, some subsist on nothing but dewdrops collected off the tombstone of St. Nicholas of Myra. Elijah gets terrible birthday cakes, and he’s a really good sport about it. He asked for Dragonball Z balls.

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I thought, “Ah, those gourmet lollipops would be perfect!” And they would have, but I couldn’t find any. So instead he got this:

They are made of rice krispie treats dipped in candy melt, and a lot of them fell apart when I dipped them, and the candy melt solidified faster than I expected. The kids helped by shrieking “NAILED IT!!!!”  Anyway, a cake was had, along with a multitude of pizzas, and the dragonblobs did have the right number of starblobs on them.
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SUNDAY
Boiled dinner
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Every year, I pretend I hate this meal, but I really love it. Well, this year, I changed things up by pretending to hate it, and then actually hating it. I blame the Irish.
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In other years, we’ve tried making other, more authentically Irish meals, and somehow we always return to boiling carrots.
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MONDAY
Egg, cheese, sausage bagel sandwiches
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I have no memory of Monday. Oh wait, yes I do! We had dozens and dozens of eggs in the house for weeks and weeks, so I didn’t buy eggs. Then Monday came along, and we had four eggs left. So Damien ran out to the gas station, and they had these lovely ones from a nearby farm:

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Fresh eggs are wonderful. Look at that yolk!
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Not gonna start keeping chickens, though. I’ve seen what happens.
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TUESDAY
Grilled chicken parmesan sandwiches, risotto, zeppolle
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Benny was in a play. She was an owl.

An owl who remembered all her lines! She discovered she likes talking into a microphone. That’s my girl.

Damien made a nice simple tomato sauce, and I roasted up a bunch of chicken breasts, which I sliced and served on rolls with fresh basil, provolone, and a good scoop of sauce.
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I also made some risotto, and man, it did not turn out great. I don’t even want to say why, but it was my fault and it was pretty stupid.
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HOWEVER, in the morning we made zeppole for the first time, for St. Joseph’s feast day, using this reasonably simply recipe. It’s important to dress correctly for this project.
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We’re pretty big St. Joseph fans around here. We started out piping the dough with a star tip, until it fell out.
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Then we just squirted it out of a bag; then we just went with spoonfuls. The last method actually turned out best. I had a feeling I’d be pushing my luck to make the cream custard filling from scratch, so I just got a bunch of instant vanilla pudding and piped that into the zeppole, then dusted it with powdered sugar.
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It was fun. We had fun. I ate a lot of zeppole. Yay St. Joseph!
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WEDNESDAY
Deli meat sandwich bake, asparagus
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Corrie and I worked together to roll out and stretch the dough over the pan for the bottom crust.


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We had a few friendly disputes over how to distribute the ham, but the cheeses and the salami and whatnot went fairly well. Then it came time to put the top crust on. She wanted to do it herself. As an awesome mom, I was willing to let her try, but I did want to start it off in the right spot. No go. She went immediately to “I NEVER WANT YOU TO BE MY MUDDER ANYMORE” and “THIS DOUGH IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.”  I made a few repair attempts, suggesting cooperation and taking turns and not being an insanely ridiculous person for once, but I just got more screeching and gurgling and drama. So I stepped away, thinking I’d just let her burn herself out.
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Which she did! I did some work on my computer, and before long she climbed down off the stool and trotted away to the next room, where I soon heard her singing Moana songs to herself– something about her wish to be the puhfect daughter. Well pleased, I turned back to the pan to finish spreading out the dough.
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And . . . it was gone. She was sitting at the table with the entire ball of dough in her hand, just eating it.
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So the dough was not in great shape. But I tucked some leftover basil leaves in with the meat
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and I thought it was pretty, pretty good. You brush some beaten egg over the top and then sprinkle on poppy seeds or onion or whatever you have on hand (in my case, nothing), then bake covered, then uncovered, for about 35 minutes.
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You slice it into strips or squares, and it makes a nice yummy brunchy thing. We also had the first asparagus of the season, which I just sautéed in a little olive oil.
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THURSDAY
I dunno

Thursday, I took #1 son to the orgal surgeon. I actually meant “oral surgeon,” of course, but there is a certain poetry to that typo. The orgal surgeon is a strange, strange man, as they always are. He has a southern accent which I can’t quite shake the feeling is fake, and he makes the exact same jokes every time (we have a lot of teeth out). I don’t blame him for that, but they are pretty strange jokes to begin with. Anyway, I had gotten four hours of sleep, and then I was hanging out at the orgal surgeon, and I suddenly realized I was supposed to turn in a book review for a book that I . . . look, I was almost done reading it. I’m not on trial here! So what I’m trying to say is that, no matter what the menu board says, this was no time to whip up a new kind of marinade with hoisin sauce and shred stuff and make lettuce wraps with rice noodles. So Damien just broiled the chicken breasts, cooked up some fries, and washed off a bunch of snap peas. I heated up the leftover deli sandwich bakey thingy, and it was a perfectly good supper for the likes of us.
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FRIDAY
I guess pasta?
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Umph, just two recipe cards this week! Whatcha gonna do. I am feeling pretty okay because, as of this minute, I have nothing due. No articles, no blog posts, no reviews, no interviews, no speeches I’m supposed to be working on. Just the regular old existential dread, but that’s a long term project. Oh, and we haven’t done a podcast in such a long time. There it is, I guess. Also, it is snowing.

 

5 from 1 vote
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Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque.

  3. Press "cancel," open the lid, and add the broth and wine, and stir.


  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 8 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

5 from 1 vote
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Deli brunch sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 6 8-oz. tubes crescent rolls
  • 3/4 lb sliced ham
  • 1/2 lb sliced Genoa salami
  • 3 oz Serrano (dry cured) ham
  • 33 slices Swiss cheese
  • any other meats and cheese that seem yummy
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 2 tsp garlic powder, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

Unroll 3 of the tubes of crescent rolls without separating the triangles, and fit the dough to cover an 11 x 25-inch pan.

  1. Layer the meat and cheese, making it go all the way to the edges of the pan. This part is subject to any kind of variation you like. 

  2. Unroll the remaining 3 tubes of crescent rolls and spread the dough to cover the meat and cheese. It's okay if you have to stretch and piece it together. 

Beat 2-3 eggs and brush it over the top of the dough, and sprinkle with garlic powder, onions, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.

  1. Cover pan loosely and bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until dough is slightly browned and egg is completely cooked. 

For parents on the fence about vaccines

This essay is for parents who are torn. They want to protect their kids from disease, but are extremely worried about the possible bad side effects of vaccines, and they are not sure whether or not to take those risks.

That was me, when my oldest kids were young. I was torn. I trusted my doctor about some things, but not others; and I knew the diseases in question were dangerous, but the possible side effects also seemed very dangerous.

Every time we went to the doctor, I had to make the choice over whether or not to vaccinate; and every time we went, I was overwhelmed by all the bad things that might happen if we did.

So we got some of the vaccines, but not all. Sometimes I would cry almost as much as the kids, when they got their shots. If I was especially torn, I would take the safer, neutral route and just decline. I couldn’t get myself to choose things that might turn out to be dangerous, so I just opted out of choosing. The choice was too awful, so I decided not to make it. It just seemed safer that way.

Now we all get all the recommended vaccines. I am still aware of the possible risks of some vaccines, and I’m not happy about them; but I’m no longer torn.

What changed? I sure wish I could remember. All I recall is that, one day, it became crystal clear to me that, no matter what I did, I was making a choice. When I said “no” to certain vaccines, I was making a choice. When I told the doctor I’d rather opt out, I was making a choice.

There was no safe, neutral middle ground in opting out. When I decided to opt out of vaccines, I wasn’t perching safely on a fence, avoiding possible dangers and perils and ruin on both sides. When I decided to opt out, I was choosing a side with very real possible dangers and perils and ruin. Opting out didn’t feel like a choice, because I wasn’t doing anything. But it was a choice all the same, because disease is real. It was a choice, and my choice had consequences for my children and for the community.

It wasn’t like piercing ears, where I could decide the risks were too great, and simply leave those ears alone. It wasn’t like going on a roller coaster, where I could decide the risks were too great, and simply step out of line and go about my day. It was more like being aware that people are occasionally injured by seat belts, and choosing to opt out of strapping my kids in when I drove. This is not a neutral act, even though I’m not doing anything. Deciding not to vaccinate meant that I was making a choice to expose my kids to serious diseases that could maim or kill them.

And I was making that choice for other people, too. My kids are, for the most part, strong and healthy, and have a very low risk of adverse reactions to vaccines. We’re not immunocompromised, we’re not getting chemo, and we don’t have allergies. We are in a group medically fragile depend on (and one of my children is now medically fragile, too). When I told myself I was taking the safe, neutral route by opting out of vaccines, I was really making a choice about the health and safety of other people — friends, family, strangers, kids at the playground, old women at Mass, the fragile child at the supermarket. Children like my child.

Now, if my doctor introduces a new vaccine, I read as much about it as I can from reputable sources, before I decide which choice to make. I talk to people whose judgment I have good reason to trust. And this includes the Pontifical Academy for Life.  CNS’ Cindy Wooden reports the academy said in 2017 there is a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others.”

Now when I take my kids to the doctor, I consider the possible consequences of getting each vaccine, and I also consider the possible consequences of not getting it — the consequences for my kids, for my family, and for the community, especially the vulnerable — and I ask myself if I’m willing to take responsibility for making that choice.

There really isn’t any such thing as opting out from this choice.  It’s our duty to take responsibility for the choice we make, to see clearly what we are choosing. If we choose not to vaccinate, we’re freely choosing to expose our kids and the wider community to diseases that can maim or kill. There isn’t such a thing as remaining neutral.

***

Image: CDC/ Amanda Mills acquired from Public Health Image Library (Website) (public domain)

Pro-life spotlight #5: We Dignify mentors pro-life students to lead with charity and humility

Abortion is part of a quick-fix culture, said Morgan Korth of We Dignify. A woman finds herself with a scary pregnancy, and the pro-choice world tells her she can solve all her problems by simply getting an abortion.

But the pro-life world sometimes looks for a quick fix of its own, explained Korth and her guest Zac Davis of America Magazine, in a recent podcast. There’s the temptation to try to swoop in and intellectually clobber our pro-choice opponents with a single conversation or a devastating scientific fact.

But this approach is not only futile, it doesn’t take into account the perspective, life experience, and dignity of pro-choicers or of women in difficult pregnancies. We Dignify is an organization that seeks to train and mentor young people “how to not only be pro-life, but live pro-life.”

The mission of We Dignify is to “mentor college students into skilled, virtuous, pro-life leaders, so they can build and nurture a culture of life on campus and in their future communities.”

Based in Illinois and founded in a dorm room in 2006, they want to transform college campuses into “centers for a culture of life where people treat life with love, new life is welcomed with joy, and people suffering from abortion are led to healing hope.”

They connect pregnant or post-abortive students with resources they need, and train students in practical skills like how to advertise pro-life events and how to lead pro-life groups that may be made up of students with various degrees of conviction.

And they train students how to engage in “dialogue with dignity.” It’s about more than giving the other person the benefit of the doubt, but also “the benefit of their life experience,” said Davis, who interned with We Dignify when he was a college student at Loyola in Chicago. They encourage you not to let yourself see others as a project, or to approach the conversation as a challenge to win.

In an age of hot takes and snarky memes, they challenge you always to consider how what you’re saying is going to be received, and to give the best possible interpretation to what the other person is saying; to avoid being defensive, in person and on social media; and to discern whether to be bold or to be content with helping pro-choicers realize that pro-lifers aren’t thoughtless, heartless caricatures.

In the recent podcast, Davis said that pro-lifers sometimes have a “savior complex;” but they need to be willing to accept that they are here in large part to be witnesses of love, life, and joy, and that much of what they do is to plant seeds.

At the core of it all, said Korth, is “charity and humility.”

They laughed somewhat ruefully over how everyone exclaims happily, every year at the March for Life, at how young the pro-life movement is. But when the march is over, where do young people go? Often, they disengage. WeDignify seeks to train students not only how to help and witness effectively on campus, but how to bring the skills and virtues they acquire forward into their future lives.

Davis said that he’s learned it’s normal for pro-lifers’ fervor to wax and wane, and so he knows what it’s like to become disengaged with the movement. He encourages pro-lifers to have the courage and humility to reengage, and to challenge their peers to do the same.

He said the pro-life movement does include a lot of people who are well-meaning, but crazy. It’s best not to seek these folks out, but instead to seek out those who are good at heart and also good at what they do.

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Contact: info@weDignify.org
217.255.6675

We Dignify podcasts

WeDignify on Facebook

WeDignify on Twitter

WeDignify on Instagram

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Previous volumes of the Pro-life Spotlight:

Gadbois mission trip to Bulgarian orphanage

Mary’s Shelter in VA

China Little Flower

Immigrant Families Together

Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center

If you know or have worked with an organization that works to build a culture that cherishes human life, please drop me a line at simchafisher at gmail dot com with “pro-life spotlight” in the title.

An awesomely awkward living room show with Samantha Crain

The other day, two goons stepped way out of their comfort zone and went to a Samantha Crain living room concert on a Tuesday evening in Boston. Best idea we’ve had in a long time!

I’ve written a bit about Crain, who has one of the most extraordinary voices I’ve ever heard. She’s a Choctaw-American Okie who sings, plays the guitar, and writes songs that pass right through your chest like a steel girder that loves you very much. Wonderful to discover she’s even better live.

After the show, I told her about the first time I heard her voice on the radio, and I was late picking up my kid from work because I had to pull over a cry for a little bit. She sang that song the other night. Here is “Elk City:”

She’s relaxed, chatty, and self-deprecating in between songs, and her frank face and demeanor put you at ease; but once she gets to singing, she has a trick of bowing her head right in behind her guitar, as if she’s climbing right inside the song. I was very impressed at how she committed to each piece, even though this show was the last in a long series, and the audience was maybe fifteen rather stiff, unresponsive folks. She tuned her guitar incessantly between songs, and absolutely filled the room with her voice, which, as I said, makes me think of a cold brook running in and out of sun and shade.

Her newest album, You Had Me At Goodbye, has less of a folk feel (although “folk” isn’t quite the right word) and more unconventional instrumentation and structure than her previous albums, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Listen to the deeply old-fashioned soulful wail of “When the Roses Bloom Again”

You never heard anything else like it, anyway, right? I wish Johnny Cash had recorded a song or two with her.

She performed the slyly funny “Antiseptic Greeting,” which she described as a song about the experience of having resting bitch face.

Here’s “Red Sky Blue Mountain” in the Chahta language, which she didn’t sing in this concert, but I’m including it to show how she sounds live:

So intense. Her guitar playing is also very deft and sets a complete mood. Some of her songs are . . . shattering. Many of her songs start out with some familiar sentiment, and you think, “Ah, this is going to be such-and-such type of song, for ladies,” and then the lyric veers away a bit, putting you off balance; and then comes the hook, which just flattens you. “When You Come Back” was one of those.

I do wish you could have heard this live in a small room. Her voice was so raw and direct. She also sang something I think was called “Tough For You” which I may never recover from. Damien almost fell out of his chair, too. I think she said she had just recorded it for her next album, so that explains why I can’t find it anywhere. Keep an ear out, but hold onto your butt.

Her lyrics are always well worth listening to, and you get the impression that she’s read a lot of things and listened quietly to a lot of people, and inside her head, it all weaves itself into something a little bit frightening but dreadfully familiar. There was another one, I guess also a fairly new one, where she can’t talk to the guy because she’s just an echo, and after a while even an echo fades away, and he melts like a pat of butter but she evaporates like water in a pan. Well, you’d have to hear it.

She said she rarely sings old songs she wrote a long time ago, because it’s like eating the same food over and over and over again, and it just tastes bad after a while. She called “Sante Fe” the pizza of her songs, because she still always enjoys it, and so do I:

She also did a rare cover song, “Slip Slidin’ Away” by Paul Simon, because I wasn’t already steadily leaking tears, and my nose needed to start leaking, too. Good grief, I just sat there and cried for an hour like a giant weirdo. But it was fine. Afterwards, a woman came up and excitedly told her that the Dolores in the song was actually about her mother Dolores, and Crain said that lots of people have told her the same thing about their mothers, Dolores! Ha.

About living room concerts: This one was actually in a small home furnishings store called A Curated World, but most are in actual living rooms, and the tickets are very cheap.  Crain explained that concert promoters lose interest in you if you don’t put out an album every year, and she wanted to devote more time to her next album; so living room concert series are an increasingly popular way to bridge that gap. There are few to no middle men, so the performer gets most of the profit; and the audience gets the incredible benefit of spending an intimate hour with the artist. They had invited us to bring beer or wine. We brought a nice bottle of red wine, and it turned out we were the only ones who had. Too bad!

Anyway, if Samantha Crain ever comes anywhere near you, it’s well worth a drive to go see her. It was an unforgettable hour with a top notch performer.

 

On eggs and God’s mercy: An interview with Alice Sharp of Hart’s Log Hand Made

Alice Sharp is a medieval scholar whose life changed drastically when her second child, Hannah, was born with complex special needs. Hannah’s now two, and much of Sharp’s time is spent at various medical appointments or doing therapeutic care at home.
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“But life is pretty good, here, really, except for lack of sleep,” Sharp says.
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Sharp, who now lives in Toronto, is working to integrate her life as a scholar and caretaker with her formidable artistic skills. She’s recently opened an Etsy shop for her batik dye eggs, which range from traditional to fanciful. Hart’s Log Hand Made offers handmade eggs, including personalized eggs and special commissions.
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Here’s our conversation:

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First things first. How do you pronounce “pysanky?”
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Most people say “pih-SANK-uh.” But last year, I went to a Toronto-based conference and was horrified to discover it’s “PIS-ank-ee.” I’m thirty four, and it’s hard to retrain myself.
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What is the psyanky community like?
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It’s very much a strong community, mostly online, as most things are these days. It’s quite international, of course with people from the Ukraine and Russia and central Europe, doing both traditional eggs, with abstract designs and limited color palettes, and also more diasporate patterns, with more natural depictions of insects or animals, and more detail and a much wider variety of color, as well as new geometric patterns.
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I enjoy playing with traditional patterns, but I do a lot of natural motifs, and meditations on scriptural motifs.
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Why did you begin making eggs? 
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It was partially because I never really thought of myself as a visual artist. My mother ran an alternative art space, with a theater and a poetry reading program and a gallery, when I was young. I hung out with artists, but I was more of a theater geek and a writer. I wrote plays in high school.
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I had a real interest in small things, miniatures. I had a dollhouse, and I would build tiny little Fimo models of things. I was drawn to what we would call “folk art.” I liked the idea of embroidery, but I actually hate to embroider. My mother taught me how to knit. I didn’t think of myself as very good at any of that kind of thing. So that’s one reason: Because the eggs were not something more talented artists were doing. it was something I could have as my own, as my own visual art space.
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Also, they’re pretty cheap, if you’re a pre-teen whose mother doesn’t want to buy a lot of yarn! A dozen eggs, dyes, wax — it’s not really the most expensive outlay.
It’s also very pleasurable to all the senses. The smell of melting the beeswax, the feel of the shell in your hand, the warmth as you melt it off. I wouldn’t recommend tasting it. But I love the tactile nature of the egg and the smell of it.
It sounds somewhat similar to the process of making icons.
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There is a certain meditative culture around it. It was something women would do at the end of the day, when they took a rest and had some quiet time. Sometimes they would sit down and work on in silence.
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For me personally, I’m often trying to think through something that’s been read at Mass, or a [scripture] passage that’s been on my mind. For me, it’s a very prayerful experience. But I would hate to see what an icon would look like if I tried to write one.
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How did you begin to make the connection between eggs and the spiritual life?
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I’m a convert. I was baptized when I was nineteen, in my campus chapel. I really was not raised with a clear idea of much Christian theology. We had a family friend who gave me a “Precious Moments” bible.
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I was in sixth grade and decided I was going to be get really good at making Ukrainian eggs and win this contest. But being the kind of person I am, I never actually submitted the egg. But I did really start looking at what the patterns mean, how they’re built, the geometric divisions, how much white is used. I had a booklet of symbols. It was my first introduction to the resurrection.
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I remember sitting on my parents’ kitchen floor and reading eggs that said, “Christ is risen,” and understanding for the first time why Easter is celebrated. It wasn’t just bunnies and chocolate and giant hams. If anyone had told me Christianity preached the resurrection before, it hadn’t really settled. The eggs are rooted in pagan practices, but for, me they were a real messenger of the Gospel.
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How long does it take you to make an egg, start to finish?
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It’s a multi-day process. It wouldn’t have to be, if you were uninterrupted, but when are we uninterrupted?
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For an egg that is just one or two colors, with a fairly simple pattern, it will take maybe three to four hours. Not all of that is hands-on waxing or dyeing. There’s a need to stop, to let the eggshell rest and dry. One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to respect the shell. I never really know what it’s going to look like, because every shell is different. Every hen is different. The shell could take dye or vinegar differently from another one. Some are pale, some are dark, some are spotty.
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Then, when you get more complex, the hours keep adding up. The basic mechanics is you move from pale colors to dark colors. Anywhere you want that color to stay, you put wax over it. You can get more complicated, and wash dyes off with vinegar or soap or a combination, and that adds time, because you need to let it rest. You don’t want the shell to get too saturated, because then liquid will start coming back up out through the pores.
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You posted pictures of an egg that turned out much paler than you were expecting. What else can go wrong, in all those steps?
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Well, there’s the basic breaking. At the workshop I was in last year, I was washing a color off, and I dropped it in the sink. There was my day, all gone in the sink.
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Then there’s cracks, particularly around the hole. And if it gets too wet, or moisture gets inside, it will come back out again.
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What happened with the egg [in the photos I posted], I think the shell got too cold, and the wax didn’t really adhere firmly. It was a brown eggshell I was etching in vinegar. You put the shell in vinegar, and any part that doesn’t have wax on it will dissolve a bit. One step is scrubbing it with a child’s toothbrush to get the layers off. But the wax started to peel off. So I used a tiny paintbrush, which I use for spot dyes, and I ended up just painting it.
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I do it all on an Ikea desk in a 825-square-foot apartment.
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Do you have a clear picture in your mind of how you want an egg to look, or does it change as you go?
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I do change it as I go. If I’m going to make a new design, like the sunflower egg, I start with an experiment. I’ll start noodling around with the wax and see what happens. Through the process, I’ll start noticing, “This part runs into the other part of the pattern,” or “that part is too complex; that part needs more balance.” Then I do a second or even a third egg, to really master what it should look like.
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Being a medieval scholar, do you feel any conflict when you invent new designs, rather then preserving traditions?
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I probably should, but I don’t really worry about traditions being lost. There’s people very passionate about preserving folkloric and talismanic traditions, keeping records, photographing everything for books. There’s a real wealth of information on the internet.
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Very rarely, someone who’s not familiar with it will say, “These don’t look like the eggs my grandmother made.” And they’re right. That’s why I say I do batik dye eggs, rather than saying I made pysanka. What I’m doing is inspired by Ukrainian folk art, but it’s not necessarily what someone is expecting.
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Does the process relate to your scholarly work at all?
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I did my dissertation on a twelfth-century commentary on Genesis. As I was working with this medieval text and looking at manuscripts, there were two stages of the text. Someone had taken it apart and inserted more commentary. It was sort of a gloss on the text, sort of like Talmudic commentary.
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Having struggled with trying to fix things into a limited space, I had this very visceral sense of what it would be like to be a scribe trying to figure out what kind of space you would need. I found myself gesturing with my hands, trying to figure out how to divide up the page, because each manuscript is going to be copied. Just like each egg is going to be different, the parchment size is different, each scribe will be different. Just like with eggs, where you have to think about the shape and the shell.
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The starburst egg, that I’ve made a ton of, is sort of rooted in when I was doing my oral exams. I was thinking about angels and light, those angelic wings going every which way, looking like fire. I didn’t put on dozens and dozens of eyes, though.
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You wrote about how you used to keep a hobby blog, but that fell away as your professional life got more busy. Then your life changed radically, and now you once again return to making things. What kind of balance are you looking for?
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I would like to get back to writing more about the Middle Ages for a broader audience someday. My life is not in a space right now where I have that kind of mental space. I need something I can pick up for fifteen minutes while Hannah’s in her stander, and then put down and move back to the next appointment, or answer a question about the teeth of whale sharks.
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I never really feel like I wasted the time I spent studying or making connections, because I’ve been in such a supportive community. My advisor would like me to get back to writing a critical gloss.
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The tagline for your blog is “making the best of the unexpected.” It sounds like what you do with your eggs. Is it also about how your life has changed?

It’s a large part of who I am. It’s such a hard balance. Like any child, I learn from being her mother. But she is her own unique, wonderful person, and she doesn’t just exist to teach me things. I don’t want to objectify her. Being her mother is full of agonizing grief, sometimes full of excitement. Sometimes it’s really boring:  For the next few hours, we’re going to work on eating this solid food.
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We were in Rome for my in laws’ wedding, during the Year of Mercy. Before we went through the door, I read a letter by Pope Francis that said, “Let God surprise you in this year of mercy.” I thought, “I guess I’m getting pregnant this year.” And I did. Hannah has been surprising in so many ways. Many of them have actually taught me about God’s mercy.
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 Is your psyanky time something you want to eventually teach to your son, or is it something you need to keep as non-kid time?
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For me, it is non-kid time. I’m working with Isaac now on baking and cooking. I do have a picture of Isaac as a two-year-old, sitting on my lap and helping me make an egg with an electric stylus (so there’s no candle involved).
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I’m hoping we can have a chance to give it a first try. I was a little older than he was when I learned. And I’m not as patient as my mother was when she taught me. But my children do not exist for my growth experience.
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You figured that out quickly, after only two kids!
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I’m on the crash course plan.
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You posted that you had to declare the weight of the goods you were shipping, and it was  .007 kilos. As a creative person and a scholar, do you have problems with the logistics of running a business?

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The hardest part is the imposter complex, which is an old friend, since I have a PhD. I think, “People will get these [eggs] and hate them. They’ll see there’s a flaw.” That’s my biggest challenge. I’m pretty good with boring paperwork, doing tax forms. What I struggle with is the advertising, making sure I’m tagging things properly, writing the search engine optimized descriptions. That’s where I wish I could outsource.

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If people want eggs before Easter, when should they order – in the US and in Canada?
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I have three tiers.
The eggs I made will be updated until the fourth Sunday of Lent; then I can’t expect them to get there [to customers] in time. If people want to see those eggs, they can “like” the Facebook page, or “like” the Etsy shop.
I do made-to-order eggs that I’ve done the design work for, but I can change the color or text, and those will be done ASAP.
Then there are commissions. I design an egg for you, then it goes through a series of several sketches, and I talk to you about it, do one or two practice eggs, and then the final egg. Those are sold out for Easter. I am running a waiting list for after Easter, for Mother’s Day, or weddings.
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Mary who stays

My daughter is drawing at church. She handily sketches in a crucifix: Top, bottom, one arm, then the other. She’s drawn it many times, over and over. Lately, she’s adding more detail, and at first I didn’t know what it was– some kind of ghost, a formless lump.

Then I saw it was Mary, swathed with robes and veils. Jesus on the cross is sharp and angular, and he turns his face up to the heavens in his agony; but Mary’s head is down, almost crushed into the ground as she bows under the great grief of his innocent suffering. She is utterly helpless. She can’t rescue the child she brought into the world.

In her grief, she is almost unrecognizable, and why not? Why should she be her same self, since the crucifixion is so outrageous? It never should have happened. How could it possibly have happened? This is God we’re talking about; actual God, that than which nothing greater can be thought, and here he hangs, bleeding dry.  Ripped into shreds. Extinguished. Thwarted by some thugs wielding a hammer.

Never mind the veil in the temple, it should have been the entire planet, the whole fabric of the universe that was ripped in two when he died. I don’t know how the world was held together through the crucifixion. How did everything not come apart?

I do know. It was held together through Mary, who stayed.

Under the intolerable weight of the suffering of her son, she was helpless, almost crushed. But she didn’t leave. There was nothing she could do, but she stood by and let it happen to her with him. Sometimes this is the only action of love: To stand by and not leave.

The suffering of innocents is what tears people away from the Church, away from God: When we have to stand by and watch the innocent suffer, and no one will rescue them. It tears us apart. This is why the abuse crisis has been the breaking point for so many people: The Church was supposed to be where children were safe, but instead it was where there they were ripped into shreds. Extinguished. Thwarted by thugs wielding a crosier.

It is not tolerable.

But it is nothing new.

The split, the rift, the gap, the unravelling: This has been the story of man since we left Eden. God the Father made His children for wholeness and delight, and what did they do but leave, tear themselves away from him; tear each other apart. Even when there is no ill will, this is the duality of the human experience of love since the Fall: We always live through love and loss at the same time. Never love without loss. From the moment we give birth, we prepare our children to leave us. From the moment we marry, we take on the burden of preparing our spouses for death. This is nothing new.

But Mary is something new. She holds in her heart the making and the unmaking of her beloved, and she does not come apart. She is strong enough to make the son of God and strong enough to stand by and watch him unmade, and still she does not leave. She is steadfast like no other.

Our sorrows are the first part of the story. The long story, the whole story, is that the world is all knit back together again in the womb of Mary. If Penelope wove and then unravelled a shroud, over and over again while she waited for the king to return home, then Mary weaves . . . what should we call it? The swaddling clothes that somehow bind up eternal life itself. And every day, death tries to unravel it, and every night she knits life back up again, day after day, over and over again. She does not leave her island. She is waiting for the king to return.

There are times when we all flee from the foot of the cross. It is too crushing. It hurts too much to be so helpless. We are perhaps willing to suffer, ourselves. But how willing are we to stand by and watch the ones we love suffer? That is the thing that feels intolerable.

But leaving the foot of the cross leaves the world unravelled. Running away from injustice, and staying away, leaves injustice as the final word. If we want to meet Jesus, we must meet him in suffering, in injustice, on this island world at the foot of the intolerable. That’s where he is right now. That is where love is. There is nowhere else, no other place but this temporal island called suffering. We will not be here forever, but we need to be here ready to meet him. To try to escape is to leave the world unravelled.

I can hear that I sound like I’m saying, “Don’t leave the Church, or you will betray the world and betray God.” I am not. I know I have said things that sound like that, and I am sorry. I don’t know what I would do if it had been one of my children abused. I don’t know what I would do if I were a reporter or a district attorney who talked to hundreds and hundreds of victims. When I do write about how the Church has betrayed the innocent, there always comes a time when I close my computer and put my head down and cry. But this is not my life’s work. If it were, I don’t know what I would do.

I am only thinking of Mary, and how glad I am that she didn’t leave.

Jesus was crucified for our sins, and Mary stayed at the foot of the cross for our sorrows. She stayed there for us, waiting on that island called suffering and death. She stays with us still. With her son she will make the world whole again; and then there will be love without loss.

 

The Virgin In Sorrow by Simon Marmion. Photograph by Rama, Wikimedia Commons

 

Dreamlike reviews: Hadesdown, The Ghost Keeper, and The Sopranos (again)

You know what the real thing is about being in your mid-40’s? You can do everything you used to do in your 30’s, but you cannot bounce back.

I was in Chicago at the FemCatholic Conference last weekend, and it was completely wonderful. Met Mikayla Dalton, Corita Ten Eyck, Theresa Scott, Leticia Adams, Donna Provencher, Jenne O’Neill, Aimee Murphy, and so many others in real life for the first time, and I spent lots of time with my wonderful friend Elisa Low.  And Nora Calhoun, and Hope Peregrina and Ben Zelmer, and Samantha Povlock! And Shannon Wendt and Meg Hunter-Kilmer and ARGH the woman at the Femm Health table whose name is escaping me at the moment. And so many other brilliant, interesting, driven women I admire so much. I felt so out of my league.

Anyway, now I’m lurching around like a reanimated but still desiccated mummy, dizzy and incoherent, picking ridiculous fights with people I care about, and complaining about how bad my head feels and always feels, and I just can’t seem to snap out of it. I blame feminism. And airplanes. And train madness! (I did not take a train.)

Oh, if you want to hear my talk and all the talks at the conference, you can stream and download the whole thing for $49. My speech was called “When Women Say Yes: Consent and Control In Sex and Love.” It was about . . . a lot of things.

Also, I’m sorry we haven’t put out a podcast since the middle of February. Soon, I promise! I’m sorry! You could listen to that one again if you wanted to. Sorry.

Anyway anyway, I don’t want the algorithms to forget me completely, so here are some quickie reviews of things I’m enjoying while busily burning through all my social capital:

Listening to Hadestown

My daughter Clara turned me onto this musical. Originally a New Orleans jazz-style folk opera concept album about Orpheus and Eurydice by Anaïs Mitchell (I know. Stay with me), it’s now a musical that’s premiering on Broadway this month. You guys, it’s so good. Entirely successful world building. I am a sucker for anything based on Greek mythology, but become irrationally enraged with anything that doesn’t do it justice. This one is just weird enough to work.

From The Theater Times:

[Mitchell’s] version isn’t totally pin-downable about where and when it’s set–it’s mythic, after all–but there’s a Depression-era vibe to above-ground scenes, where penniless poet Orpheus and his lover Eurydice struggle to survive. It is hunger that allows the wealthy Hades to tempt her down to the underworld–to an economically secure but soulless industrial town, where men may be guaranteed work, but forgo contact with the natural world. Naturally, it is Hades who gets rich from their labor.

You will not believe “Why We Build the Wall” was written in 2010.

But this isn’t about politics; it’s about mankind. “Wait For Me” just about killed me.

All in all, just a fascinating, captivating, completely original work. Perfect lyrics, songs that stay with you. Such good stuff.

What I’m reading:

The Ghost Keeper by Natalie Morrill

It is not a chick book, despite what the cover might suggest if you are one of my jerk sons. I keep plucking people by the shirt sleeve and shakily asking if they’ve read this book yet. I don’t know why I haven’t heard more about it. It did win the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, which is a good start. I’m working on a review for the Catholic literary mag Dappled Things, where Morrill is fiction editor.

This is seriously brilliant lyrical writing, on a level with the best of Michael Chabon or . . . I don’t know, I don’t want to be crazy, but I keep thinking, “Edith Wharton, no, E.M. Forster, no, Faulkner . . . ”

It follows a Jewish Austrian boy with a very particular vocation that keeps pulling him back. He grows up and starts a little family, and they are so happy, until the Anschluss.

The book follows them before, during, and after the war, and I’ve just gotten up to the chapter that describes another, related love story, but an infernally inverted one. And then they all need to figure out: What is love? What is loyalty? What is forgiveness? GOSH. I haven’t finished it yet, but even if it totally mucks up the ending (which I don’t anticipate!) I’ll forgive it, for all the moments of gorgeous tragedy and piercing joy. Do not read on airplanes unless you don’t care if you get stared at for gasping audibly while you read. Wear a sweater; you’ll get chills.

And we’re watching:

Well, we’re still watching The Sopranos. This is the second time around for me, and it’s even better than I remembered. It’s so much funnier than I remembered. It’s a little scary how much more sympathy I have for Tony this time.

I also think they should have won some particular prize for the depiction of dreams.

I guess the common thread in all these things is a sort of lyrical dreamlike quality, realer than real life.

That reminds me, what movie or TV show has the best, most accurate portrayal of dreams? It’s so easy to get it wrong and overplay your hand.

But will my husband suffer enough this Lent?

Like most lifelong Catholics, my husband and I have no idea what the rules of fasting are, so we have to look it up every year. And every year, I tell my husband, “But that’s how you eat every day anyway.” This is why he is within a single stomach virus’ distance of fitting into the pants he got married in over two decades ago, while I . . . well, let’s just say that marriage is an opportunity for growth, and I have not squandered that opportunity. No, indeedbaconator, I have not.

So I have my work cut out for me, but there’s a real danger my husband will skate by these next forty days without suffering at all! In case you’re in a similar position, here are some ways to make your husband miserable help your husband draw closer to Christ this Lent, which is your job:

1. Keep it spirituelle. Complain incessantly about all the things that make it especially hard for housewives to fast, like having to be around food all day, and being hungrier than most people anyway because your attitudes toward food and hunger and body image are all out of whack because of all the sacrifices of pregnancy and childbirth you’ve made throughout your married life. I mean, I don’t even know when I’m hungry anymore, you know? I can’t tell if I’m actually hungry, or just frustrated with how frustrating my life is, or if my body is telling my I’m deficient in something, because I’m so depleted, or what!

Then when he sympathetically suggests that you might go easy on yourself because of your state in life, give him a pitying look and murmur in a Holy Spirit kind of voice, “I don’t know, that just seems kind of . . . contrary to the spirit of the season, you know?”

2. Practice catecheticriticism. This is when you send a message to an adult in the next room by way of instructing children who are in front of you. Like this: “And so, kids, there are a lot of ways you can show God that you are sorry for your sins. Giving up Minecraft or candy OR OLD CROW is good, but you could also do things, like keeping your room clean or BRINGING THAT RIDICULOUS BROKEN DISHWASHER TO THE DUMP ALREADY or sharing your toys. These are all good things to do for Lent, and here is a nice coloring page of the stations of the cross, because I GUESS I HAVE TO BE THE SPIRITUAL HEAD OF THE FAMILY SINCE NO ONE ELSE IS STEPPING UP. Here are some crayons.”

3. Cry, and refuse to say why, because it’s nothing, just nothing. This one isn’t specific to Lent. It’s just pretty much the worst thing you can do to a guy.

4. If he persists in his concern, admit that you’ve just been feeling low lately, that’s all, and it would just be nice to get away from these same four walls and this kitchen and these kids and just feel like a woman, you know? Just for one time. Then when he reminds you that he asked you five times if you wanted to go to Chili’s, say, “Oh, I know, I know, but it’s Lent . . .”

5. Complain about female bloggers who talk about fasting when they really mean dieting, and how sick it is that, in society today, all we care about is women’s bodies, and what about their souls? Talk about Cosmo, armpit airbrushing, and how much the actresses in Star Wars got paid. Go into your room to be alone and pray for a while. When he comes in to search for the socks you claim there are plenty of in his drawer if he would just look, let him find you standing there, just gazing at that clingy red sundress you wore to your friend’s wedding two decades ago, back when you considered ice cubes an indulgent snack. Just gazing at it. Then say, “You know, in the Middle Ages, they fasted all the time, all through Lent. Did you know that? Ugh, we’re such wimps nowadays. People really were holier then. Society today really makes me sick.”

You know what, the $5 ‘Rita at Chilis is not half bad. I’ll meet you there, right after confession.