Author Archives: Jo

About Jo

Woman, wife, Catholic, literature nerd, philosophy nerd, Southerner, writing about life or something like it.

Good Friday

This is my third Good Friday at this duty station.

This year I spent on the couch with my husband, watching the EWTN broadcast of the Celebration of Our Lord’s Passion from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The stream cut out in the middle of the intercessions, which coincidentally was at 3 PM, so we went ahead and prayed today’s Divine Mercy Novena. The broadcast was beautifully full of silence, and so even if we couldn’t be there or at our own little church here, at least we were able to fill our living room with prayerful sounds.
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Imagining the Trump Supporter

A friend of mine emailed me about my last post, saying that she simply DOES NOT UNDERSTAND TRUMP SUPPORTERS. Another friend of mine recently mentioned somewhere that he was shocked to discover that racism actually exists within the Republican party. And I’ve read several articles about Trump’s popularity, ranging from “people are angry” to “people feel disenfranchised” to “people feel like they lost the culture war and want someone who will fight for them,” and all those things are true. And there are probably several more articles out there that already say what I’m about to say (this Atlantic piece is a good outline), but all the same, I thought I’d put out a few details. In this approach I am not attempting in any way to condone any of the opinions or viewpoints that I theorize the average Trump supporter holds; but I am attempting to present them with relatively little commentary on their merits or lack thereof.

Side note: Sunday afternoon, Trump held a rally in my home state, and one of our senators became the first sitting senator to endorse him. I heard about it during the hourly NPR news update, and for the first time in my life, I was ashamed to be from Alabama.

Let me be clear: I’m from Alabama. I know, okay? I’ve lived in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, driven through much of the rest of the country, and spent a fair amount of time on the East Coast. If I stopped to count I think I know someone from almost every state in the Union. I’m descended from the sister of a Confederate general and there are absolutely slaveholders in my ancestry. My hometown, though the first to integrate its school system (peacefully, no less), is still under a desegregation order. [Side rant about all the schools in the rest of the country that have never been under a desegregation order but are no less segregated.] We keep electing Roy Moore to be Chief Justice of our State Supreme Court, even after he was kicked off. I get it. There’s a lot to be embarrassed about.

Embarrassed. But it’s my home, and I love it, and I want the best for it. It’s part of why I always planned to move back, no matter how far away I went. I’m a strong believer in the value of getting out and in the power of going home. I’m an eternal optimist.

But when I heard Senator Sessions giving his endorsement, for a moment, my spirits were absolutely, totally crushed.

Side note the second: Trump is performing well, but his competitors are still in the fight. Not every person who fits into one or more of the categories I’m about to describe is a Trump supporter. (This means, of course, that Cruz and Rubio possibly also have racists voting for them, ironically enough.) Not every Trump supporter fits into all of the following categories.

So who are these people, and why are they supporting Trump?
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Independent

Part of my “get on top of life” resolution has included trying to keep at least a token sense of being up-to-date with the world’s news. This of course has coincided with the primary season (aka, when all the campaigning actually starts to matter). I’ve been ignoring most of the campaigning itself–I’ll almost certainly be voting third party, and I have better things to do with my time than listen to adults hurl invectives at each other and make vague promises in the meantime–but now that votes are starting to roll in I’ve been reading a lot of analysis about why things are happening the way they are, and how they might get better or worse as time goes on. And being me, I’ve had some thoughts. I don’t know how coherent I’m going to be able to make them, but it’s worth a shot.

Some background reading:

On the potential progressions of the Republican nomination battle.
Why evangelicals are voting for Trump, i.e.
How Wag the Dog ruined me.

I went looking for the genesis of other thoughts of mine, but those have mostly taken place in non-public Facebook threads.

So.
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I was thinking…about temptation

One of my Lenten goals is to be more mindful of my time usage, and part of that is to be more aware of what I’m trying to accomplish each day while simultaneously not beating myself up if life gets in the way of it. (“Life” in this instance being things like “the baby refused to sleep outside my arms,” not “and then Facebook kept being interesting.”) (Though since I do conduct a great deal of socialization via Facebook, I’m not cutting it out completely. But I AM trying to be more mindful, and keep up with my correspondence. Anyway.)

Since I’m usually lucky enough to get a good solid afternoon nap out of the baby (who is TEN MONTHS OLD your pardon is begged), I thought I would try devoting one afternoon nap a week to posting on the blog again. So here we go, with some baby steps, based on this past Sunday’s Gospel reading.

A quick recap: the reading, Luke 4:1-13, is at the bottom of this page. I’ll copy the parts I specifically want to address here:

(vs. 1-2) Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan
and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days,
to be tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing during those days,
and when they were over he was hungry.

Last fall my CWOC group read the first half of Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage, which is a lovely mix of scholarship, travelogue, and spiritual reflection focusing on grounding the Gospel–and thus, the human Jesus himself–in the physical reality of the Holy Land. It’s given me new tools for considering Christ as well as a better understanding of and perspective on the stories contained within as well as, I have to say, deepening my affection for Jesus as a person. I mean, obviously he’s a person, and a Person, and as a Christian I am striving to love Him while also being infinitely (or finitely, I suppose) aware of my inadequacies and ignorance in that department. And obviously, Ignatian meditation is all about putting yourself in the Gospel scene, so it’s not like this is anything new. But I find myself better able to picture walking alongside Jesus–a guy, a friend, someone who laughed at jokes and liked washing the dirt off his feet at the end of a long day of walking–and with it has come an affection for his human frailties, which he experienced as clearly as I experience my own.

(Perfectly, of course, and with less complaining.)
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I was thinking…about Mary

I’ve been writing (almost) every day for about a month now, so I feel like I (sort of) have a routine, and so it’s time to revisit this blog thing. With an “I was thinking…” post, because baby steps.

  • Last night in his homily our priest took pains to point out that the Immaculate Conception isn’t directly tied to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity–that is to say, if God had willed she not be a virgin but that she live out that part of her marital vows with Joseph, she still would have been doing her will and still would have been sinless. Sex in its proper context is not a sin. Tension in the congregation of the “there are kids out here, Father” variety aside, I thought it was a beautiful and well-made point.
  • I was praying a decade of the Rosary last week, I think to keep myself awake while nursing, and I realized something that made me laugh. Every Ave starts with “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” right? But Scripture tells us “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”

    I mean obviously, now up in heaven, she knows perfectly well what sort of greeting it was, and the songs of the angels are a comfort rather than a fright. But I still imagine a gentle sort of ironic smile on her face as we petition her using words that once scared her out of her wits. It’s natural to us to say these things to her; when she first heard them, they were remarkable, and new, and terrifying.

  • I think I felt closer to the Christmas story last year, when I was pregnant, than I do this year, chasing after an almost-eight-month-old. But then I was thinking about Christ on the cross, and how the Eucharist is Christ crucified, and how the flesh we eat was once soft little baby skin stretched over tiny little baby bones and chubby little baby fat. I pray I never have to experience Mary’s grief, but it makes her all the more incredible that she endured it.

I had another thought, but I’ve slept since then. Happy Advent, all.

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Corpus Christi

I ate my slice of humble pie alongside a heaping serving of God-is-good this morning: our community on post just switched their Mass time to 10 AM, and since baby girl had my husband and I up at 6:30, an hour later we decided to drive the extra fifteen minutes to the off-post parish for Mass at 8, since our day had already started.

We walked in at the psalm and bless her heart the cantor’s voice was wavery and she was having some trouble reading the verses, and my heart sank a bit. Music is generally the most important part of Mass to me (as a choir member myself), and while I sometimes try not to be exacting in my judgments (sometimes), I’m usually easily influenced by the hymns and quality of music when I’m at Mass. I snuck a peak at the rest of the hymns for the day and was equally disheartened (nooooo not “I Received the Living God”). And looking up at the altar, I saw an elderly-looking priest and a not-young deacon and readers, I confess, I was wondering if we hadn’t made a huge mistake in rushing out the door to this Mass.

We made it through the Alleluia and the deacon did a lovely job of reading the Gospel and then the priest tottered his way to the ambo and I braced myself–

and was treated to the. most. AWESOME. homily.

He started off talking about the great love God has for us, and the Incarnation, and what the Eucharist is (Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity), and then–he started riffing on the Presentation of Gifts, that part of Mass where we’re all digging for our checkbooks and wallets and ushers are walking around and we’re singing a hymn and not necessarily paying attention to the procession coming up the aisle to the altar, or the handing over of the bread and wine. He pointed out that Eucharistic prayer starts with the priest saying, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice AND YOURS be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father,” that the bread and wine brought forward are gifts that we offer. That gifts reflect the giver, that really what we are doing is offering ourselves in that bread and wine, and that the miracle is that Christ comes down and becomes part of our gift, offers himself with us and for us, sanctifying our offering, and that then God takes that offering and GIVES IT BACK TO US, now holy and living, so that we might have grace.

This is an abbreviated version, obviously, and the written word can only do so much to convey the effects of it spoken (especially when done so by someone with such experience). But I was sitting in the pew crying, and God gently laughed at me as I sat there listening and reflecting on how appearances and accidents are nothing compared to the substance of a thing, and reminding me how when I think of something spur-of-the-moment and feel compelled–that He is guiding me, and He will see me safely through. And at the end I just wanted to jump up and clap or shout or dance and sing AMEN.

Instead I prayed that I may be a worthy offering–be made worthy, since we are never worthy on our own–and in the Mass Christ always, always hears and answers that prayer. And that, too, is grace. The Presentation of Gifts hymn had a line about God helping us and restoring us even in the face of the “grace we wasted,” and isn’t that just–exactly what happens, again and again, and always grace is the end, not the waste.

And “I Received the Living God [and my heart is full of joy]” was, for once (having been overplayed at the Basilica at ND), perfect.

Afterwards there was a Eucharistic procession, and as we walked around the block I thought about how lovely it was to have the chance to literally follow Jesus with my steps, to follow his Way, silly and a little awkward as it can feel–to have his glory displayed in earthly things, for the sake of those who do not see and yet believe but still need reminders, to have the chance to witness by doing little more than taking one step at a time.

Life is hard. Life with a newborn is hard. Trying to remember to set others first, to still be giving when it seems like every gift I have has to go straight into the baby, to take the time to be generous for my husband as well–is hard. And God knows that, and is living within me, trying to help me remember to walk where He would guide me, that the gift of self is the only gift He wants, the best gift there is, that the opportunity to make the gift is as much a blessing as the grace I receive in making it, even when it’s hard. He gives us Himself in the Eucharist, so that we might see the model of the giving, so that we might have the grace and strength to be the gift–and not just any gift, but the gift of His Body, given to others as it was given to us.

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi, y’all.

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Grace

I’ve been meaning to write a post about nursing, but obviously that requires two hands and lately those have been in short supply. Though it’s getter better! But I have five minutes and I need to remember–

last night was rough, starting with both my husband and I forgetting our ID cards and having to drive to the literal other end of post and then pray I could get on (as I forgot my license as well–I know, rookie mistake). It started looking up when baby girl (I have a baby girl! have I mentioned that? she is six weeks old as of yesterday) went a full four hours between nursing sessions, thus allowing me about three and a half hours of sleep! But then she latched on poorly and all my attempts to fix it were in vain, so I gave up and played Candy Crush, figuring it couldn’t possibly be that bad–

and then I lay in bed for an hour and a half in agony, unable to sleep, miserable–

so finally I took a shower and then fed her again and passed her off to my husband and got about thirty minutes of glorious repose–

only to be rudely awakened when he set the baby down to get ready for PT and she woke up–

and reader, I cried.

(Not one of my better moments, but I was exhausted.) (Hysterical.) (There’s nothing like dripping tears onto your baby’s head to make you feel like a winner.) (Also when you’re kicking your heels like a toddler when your husband tries to hand you your child.) (It was Not Pretty.)

And then it was time to feed her again anyway, so at six-thirty-ish I latched her on (better this time)

(my husband is snort-laughing at the baby right now I assume everything is okay)

and then I considered playing Candy Crush, but decided it was the source of my problems

(ah he was squishing her cheeks)

and so instead I turned on the podcast of this morning’s Morning Prayer, so I could at least lightly pray while nursing.
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A Brief Note of Concern

Okay. I’ve seen a couple young ladies on my newsfeed link to a blog post entitled “The Day I Decided to Stop Listening to What Everybody’s Saying I’m Supposed to do & Why I’m Not Ready to Get Married in 44 Days.” The first time I read it, most of the comments were still sensible, but apparently many more people have discovered it since then and the sense has mostly been buried.

If you go back through the comments, I highly recommend reading the original comment from “Nathan” and also one from “Sandy.” If you’re too lazy/anti-internet-comments to do so (understandable), have a soapbox moment from me instead:

1) This post very much reads like it was written by a young twenty-year-old. There is nothing wrong with being twenty years old! It is a transition time from teenagerdom to adulthood. And some people are older at twenty than others, and this young lady falls into the latter category.

2) On that note, I’ve read blogs and talked to people who were married at twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. Some of them were young, like the author of this blog post, and those whose marriages have lasted will unabashedly tell you how difficult being young and unready (which in this case often means “completely unaware of the sacrifices involved”) made the first few years of their marriages.

Others were older, and though unready in the sense that it’s impossible to truly understand what the sacrament will do to you until it’s done, had a sense of the responsibilities involved–had the sense that they still had growing and changing to do, but were committed to going through those experiences together.

3) In that sense, being “ready” to get married can, in part, be understood as being “ready” to submit yourself to God and to your spouse–and in THIS is freedom.

4) The author of the blog post defines freedom as “God created me as a [free spirit/the person I am right now and therefore I can do whatever I want because that’s who he made me to be.” This is not Christian freedom. Christian freedom does not elevate the individual above the community, nor does it provide justification for your every action. Christian freedom is the freedom to follow God, freedom from the slavery to sin, freedom to serve one another as Christ served us.

5) This is what God created us to do, to be. Each in our own unique way, with our own gifts, yes–but we are called to submit those things to him, and to do with them as he wills. Oftentimes that means submitting ourselves to the authority or will of others–rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, or honoring our fathers and mothers.

So ironically, the message the blog post author wants to convey is, technically, correct–we are called to the freedom of God’s children, which often bucks conventional “worldly” wisdom. She is, however, completely INcorrect as to what that actually looks like. Her words are quite romantic, but it’s an adolescent understanding of freedom–a young twenty–that fails to understand that her “free” (in this case, we could charitably call it “blind”) spirit is not the primary nor final arbiter of right and wrong, nor even of the path God wants her to follow.

God doesn’t always speak to us directly in our hearts. Sometimes he uses those around us–because after all we Christians are a communal people, one body bound in the breaking of the bread–to be his voice in our ears. True discernment–of marriage, of moving, of all the decisions we make–lies in learning to hear his voice, to see past the cloud of our desires into the clear sky of his light–and then learning to align our desires with his. Again, THAT is true freedom. Not walking barefoot at your wedding (a neutral act), nor putting your feet on someone else’s desk (actively willful–and somehow, I doubt that will is God’s).

So please, when reading this article, take it with a grain of salt. Or better still, skip it. But at the very least, recognize the difference between ramblings and wisdom, between a young woman experimenting with her understanding of the world and a young woman who understands that the world does not revolve around her.

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Childbirth Class the First

Having now watched two birth videos I can safely say that by the end the mommies and daddies on the screen were not the only people crying when they got to hold their babies for the first time.

The emotional whiplash from “oh gosh she looks so tired oh labor’s still happening oh she’s so exhausted this looks exhausting this is going to be so exhausting” to “what the are they showing us the baby crowning oh that’s gross that’s so oh no oh NO OH NO I DON’T WANT TO BE WATCHING THIS HAPPENING OH NO” to “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAW LOOK AT THE BABY IT’S OVER THEY’RE ALL TOGETHER EVERYONE’S OKAY I’M SO HAPPY FOR EVERYONE” is intense though. Probably these videos should come with a warning for pregnant women. Unless they’re trying to help us practice for the actual emotional whiplash on its way.
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Lent: The Halfway Point

I’ll admit it–this year has not been my best Lent.

Sure, I’m pregnant, and hitting the very pregnant stage, and we’ve had two snowstorms trapping us in the house, so we’ve missed Stations twice and haven’t made it to Adoration at all. But for Lent I said I would make a point of spending half an hour in prayer every day, and last week I think the longest I made it was ten minutes.

See, we’re doing this study called Oremus in the CWOC group that I joined, which is all about deepening and enriching your prayer life, right? I came in on week three, so I had to do a bit of catch-up with the exercises, but the general idea is that every week has a set of readings and every day you do the lectio divina, and then once a week you gather with your group to watch a DVD talking about the next week’s focus and then discuss how the previous week has gone. It’s a pretty darn good study, and to me the most valuable aspect is that it a) sets forth a reading plan and b) provides accountability in the form of my fellow ladies. (More on that latter point in another post.)

And then we hit the most recent week, where Day 2 invites you to get up at sunrise and contemplating Genesis 1–not in a lectio divina sense, just in a communining with God in the beauty of his creation sense. Which would be great if a) I could motivate myself to get up at/before sunrise (hahahahahahahaha) (ah ha) (ha) (ha) or b) there had been a morning in the past week that wasn’t so cloudy as to obscure said sunrise. One day I tried to say screw it and just meditate on Genesis 1, but I was so tired I almost fell asleep as soon as I finished reading it, and anyway I feel guilty for not following ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS lest I somehow fail to get out of the program what I’m supposed to be getting out of it. And then our meeting for last week was canceled due to snow, and this week’s meeting was canceled due to Spring Break. So the two things that have been motivating me–the reading plan and the accountability–both fell apart.

And I let them.
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