Tag Archives: Our Lives

Birthdays and Feasts

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Today is the Feast of the Assumption. It’s also my little sister’s birthday–and has been since she was born.

When I was little, I used to get really jealous that we had to go to church on her birthday. For me, it was a special thing that we “got” to go to church on her birthday every year, but not on mine. My mom pointed out that there was daily Mass on my birthday–but, the silly child I was, I insisted that it wasn’t as special because you didn’t have to go on my birthday. It’s true–I wasn’t born on a Holy Day of Obligation, but my sister was.

In hindsight, I realize it must have sounded kind of silly… “It’s no fair, you have to go to church on her birthday but not on mine!” But at the same time I think it’s kind of cool that I was so enthusiastic about church. Now that I’m a bit more grown-up, I realize that the Mass said on my birthday (June 26) is just as cosmically important in the spiritual war as the Mass said on my sister’s birthday (today, August 15), even though it doesn’t carry the weight of a Solemnity.

My sister’s birthday is more special than mine for this very reason–she was born on a Holy Day of Obligation. She is forever blessed with multiple Masses said on and before her birthday in celebration of Mary’s Assumption into heaven. And little old me on my 26th of June… well, if I want to go to Mass on my birthday, I guess I can. It would probably involve getting up early and going to 8am daily Mass. And it would be one more soul fighting in a minor battle against the ever-present forces of evil. But today–my sister’s birthday–is a rallying day. A day when hundreds and thousands more souls are celebrating the Sacrifice in the harmonic time of our existence, experiencing “as through a mirror darkly” the systolic time of the Eternal.

I haven’t made it to Mass yet today–I’ll be going with my family in the evening. And as we celebrate the glorious Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I add in a prayer of thanksgiving for my little sister. She may be five inches taller and five times smarter than me, but she’ll always be my little sister and my best friend. Happy birthday!

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Temporary Discalcement

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I feel like “temporary discalcement” could be a band name. But that’s not the point of this post.

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My trusty sandals. Still wet from my morning walk to studio.

As I may have mentioned in passing, I’m spending my summer living between two houses, spending almost exactly half the week at each place. One is home-home. The other is just a house where I’m renting a room for the summer. I travel every week, and I’m always back at my house for the weekends, so I’m constantly figuring out ways to pack lighter and faster and tighter. The first thing I did was to ditch the idea of packing shoes. If I decided I were going to pack shoes, I’d have to actually choose which shoes I was going to pack, and I’m way too fond of my shoes to have to decide. So I just wear my sandals everywhere–they’re flat and comfortable and got me through a week’s worth of walking in Italy three years ago.

It has rained almost non-stop for the past two weeks. The first week I was living like this, it was sunny and hot. I don’t like hot, so I am happy about the coolness and the opportunity to wear sweaters and long sleeves, but man… my feet are SOAKED. ALL THE TIME.

This whole situation is giving me a lot of respect for the discalced religious orders. I really, really hate having wet feet. (Wet, icky feet are even worse–and sandals let in a lot of crud, so that happens way too often.) But I’m learning to deal with it and offer it up. Now my joke is that I’m a third-order discalced, even though I’m neither a religious nor a third-order and I’m fairly sure a discalced third-order doesn’t exist. It’s still fun to think about though.

And so, on this cold and grey and rainy day, I close with a picture of my umbrella which I took because it looked pretty darned awesome.DSCF4053

Re-charging one’s “batteries”

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One of my friends asked me the other day if I meditated. I asked for what purpose would I meditate? She said she didn’t know, if I ever needed some peace of mind or something. I said that if I need quiet time, I go someplace beautiful and spend time there. Pretty churches work best because then I’m surrounded by beauty and by God’s presence.

I discovered over this past year that I really, truly, desperately need to be regularly exposed to lots of beauty. The Catholic Center on campus is a little… well, it’s kind of drab and boring, like many Catholic Centers of secular universities. And while the Sacrifice is the same wherever you go, as a fallen human being, I often need external stimulation. My way of doing so is enjoying beauty.

For others, they may have different ways of “re-charging” and “re-focusing” whenever they need it. My theory is that so long as you’re within the Transcendentals–Goodness, Truth, or Beauty–you’re in good shape. So if your “thing” is working at a soup kitchen (Good) or reading up on apologetics (Truth) or spending time surrounded by icons (Beauty), or any variation thereof, you’ve found your way to talk to God.

A gorgeous German Gothic church from my home diocese

Exercising Patience

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I’m taking a summer studio class. (This is important because it means my entire summer is full of formal architecture training.)

For this class, I’m analyzing a building (at least to start) to understand its context, history, typology, etc. And holy cow, Stuttgart is one heck of a confusing city–I can’t tell if it’s because I can’t read German (and it’s kind of an intimidating language to my Romance-language-trained eyes) or because it’s just a confusing city.

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My Google Earth screencap of Stuttgart.

Lead and Follow

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Most architecture schools have a Beaux-Arts Ball every year.  This comes from the tradition of L’Ecole de Beaux Arts, the famous Parisian/classical school of architecture, which had a Ball de Quatr’Arts every year (the Four Arts Ball)–a fancy masquerade event where all the students and professors got together and partied.

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(For the sake of the author’s wish to remain as anonymous as possible, if you recognize this place, please don’t mention it and instead simply observe the beauty)

My school’s Beaux-Arts Ball was this past weekend, and it was at an undisclosed very beautiful location.  I believe it was built around the turn of the 20th century (I could be wrong) and is ornamented so intricately it’s gorgeous.  The ball was held in this location last year as well, and the first thing everyone did upon walking in was go “OOOOH!” and start photographing the inside.  Monumental staircases, balconies, alcoves, and the most delightful gilt detailing–all done in a sort of Indian style, with bodhisattva and elephants all over.  It is funny to me that everyone finds this place so beautiful because my school tends to lean in the Adolf Loos direction: ornament is crime and structural rationalism is pure and elegant.  It is also proof to me that beauty is not dead and still has an effect on the soul.

However, the discussion of the gorgeous location is not the point.  The point I am trying to discuss is the loss of actual dancing.  I am in the swing club at my school and learned quickly that you can do West Coast Swing to most pop songs.  But not most “house music” because it doesn’t really have a rhythm that can be danced to.  You can sway from side to side and step on alternate feet and move your arms and call it “dancing,” but there’s no actual technique or lead-and-follow or footwork involved.  What has been lost is the beauty of the partnered dance, where there is a clear lead and a clear follow and the leader’s job is to make the follower look beautiful.  The follower’s job is to do whatever the leader tells her and make sure she doesn’t go too far from him.  I spent the entire night counting the time of the “music” in my head, trying to find one that could have West Coast danced to it.  The selections were few, far-between, and not very good, so I was glad to find one once in a while.  But only one of my guy friends actually knows how to dance West Coast and he was elsewhere… so I tried to do it on my own.  It’s really, really hard–that particular dance is a slot dance, and I require momentum and control: in short, I need a leader.

When I looked out at the dance floor, I saw what looked like a writhing orgy of black and skin (architects always wear black; I stood out in blue).  The style of “dance” was what is called “grinding,” and it is pretty much obscene… not to mention that very few people show up to Beaux-Arts sober (being in the sober contingency is a little frustrating sometimes).  The whole thing made me sad.  What has been lost is an appreciation for culture and beauty, as well as any skill in dancing whatsoever.  Most dances which would qualify as “ballroom” dances are inherently gendered: the lead and follow is built in.  It requires sacrifice and submission on both parts; the leader is in charge of making all the decisions, whether he wants to or not, and the follower has to obey, whether she wants to or not.  Otherwise, they’ll go nowhere and probably run into each other.  And I really like that; it means that “Do you want to dance?” becomes a question which doesn’t involve some guy trying to rub himself all over you with music so loud you can’t hear yourself think and instead an opportunity for humour as you try to learn his leader-signals (each leader has his own little quirks) and follow what he tells you to do, while sometimes (or often) having to stop and say “wait, WHAT?” if his signals don’t translate to actions well.  It requires genuine attention on the part of both parties, making the social aspect more apparent as you can actually talk to each other.

Everyone should know some kind of real dance, even if just a little.  Gentlemen, learn to dance; especially if you are actively looking for a nice young lady.  I can virtually guarantee that she will be quite impressed if you know how to dance properly.

Short Discourse on Love

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(This is a simul-post with Ignitum Today)

Disclaimer: I don’t like writing about love in a public forum.  It makes me feel vulnerable to public opinion.

Some time ago, I attended a conference in my home diocese.  Having connections with the organizers, I ended up attending the after-party as well, and had an absolute blast with some of the speakers and the other after-party attendees.  In the midst of the philosophical discussions that ensued (this after-party involved tobacco, alcohol, and Catholic people), I found myself talking to a group of young gentlemen a few years older than I about many heavy matters.  Along the way, we hit a number of topics, and spent quite a bit of time discussing love.  This is where I went a little crazy and got away from myself (it was late at night and I’d had an early morning; when I’m tired my mouth runs faster than my brain) and ended up lecturing this group of slightly-older-than-me young men on the nature of love and how it is more than an emotion; it is an act of the will.

“Well, we all agree on the fact that to love is to will the good of another, yes?”  Nods all around.  I shifted my sketchbook on my lap and gestured with my capped fountain pen as I spoke.  “And I’m sure you all have experienced that with your family.  Like, I love my little sisters and wouldn’t want any harm to come to them, but oh GOSH sometimes they drive me nuts and I don’t like them very much.  But I still love them.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t ever had that outside of my family,” one guy interjected.  I shook my head.

“Doesn’t matter, that’s the important aspect of love.  And some day you’ll find that person whose well-being you willingly–and happily–put above yours.  For that person, you’d do anything.  You’d give your own life if it meant they would be well and happy.  And each day it is a new wish for them to have a good day, or to smile, or to be well.  It is, as we’ve agreed, an act of the will.  You want nothing but the absolute best for that other person and will do whatever it takes to get them there.  You want them to be a saint.”

The rest of the story is unimportant and rather irrelevant; this discussion is what matters.  All that matters is this: you want the people you love most to become saints.