Thursday, December 15, 2011

Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary

I began my fifth year of total consecration this past Thursday. It's hard for me to explain, so I'll let St. Louis-Marie de Montfort do it for me. (Emphasis mine; I added it because the quote is long and I tend to skim the latter half of long quotes.)

St. Louis de Montfort noticed that the saints
stay at home with their mother—that is, they have an esteem for quietness, love the interior life and are assiduous in prayer. They always remain in the company of the Blessed Virgin, their Mother and Model, whose glory is wholly interior and who during her whole life dearly loved seclusion and prayer. It is true, at times they do venture out into the world, but only to fulfill the duties of their state of life, in obedience to the will of God and the will of their Mother.

No matter how great their accomplishments may appear to others, they attach far more importance to what they do within themselves in their interior life, in the company of the Blessed Virgin. For there they work at the great task of perfection, compared to which all other work is mere child's play. At times their brothers and sisters are working outside with great energy, skill and success, and win the praise and approbation of the world. But they [the saints] know by the light of the Holy Spirit, that there is far more good, more glory and more joy in remaining hidden and recollected with our Lord, in complete and perfect submission to Mary, than there is in performing by themselves marvelous works of nature and grace in the world....

Lord Jesus, how lovely is your dwelling place!1
In this consecration, I give all my possessions—corporeal and spiritual, present and future—to Mary, so that she may dispose of them as she wishes. In this way, I make her my superior in life. Mary, not to be outdone in generosity, lends me her virtues, and molds me perfectly to Jesus. (I remember reading the biography of a Carmelite nun; on the first day of her postulancy the superior took her to the foot of a statue of Mary and said, "ask her to make you a perfect spouse of Christ." This is what this little consecration is.)

Examine this verse (a favorite at this time of year):
...and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.2
The inn is the world, and there is no room for Christ in a heart full of worldliness.3, 4 Instead, Our Lady lays Jesus in the wood of the manger which, like the wood of Noah's ark, is a symbol of the Church. The Church, empty of all other glory, is able to receive Him.5 This consecration enables a soul to be empty, so that Christ can enter as He ordained: at the hands of Mary.

Please contact me with any questions about this devotion! Footnotes are after the jump.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Last month sometime, I shared an article to Facebook, a new development in the abortion-breast cancer link debate. The source site is on the reactionary end of the political spectrum, but it was only reporting the news, not performing the study. I posted the article and forgot about it (not being very fb-savvy).

The next thing I know, it is a few days later and I get a text (from fb) alerting me of a message from a classmate whose name I didn't recognize at first. She was very apologetic about something:
I just wanted you to know I wasn't even remotely trying to attack you when I posted on your abortion-breast cancer link. After Emily started ranting, I just thought you should know I wasn't enraged by your article, just skeptical as I am of a lot of things! I'm going to look into the subject more and come to my own conclusions on it, but I just wanted to thank you for posting. I hope you're well and weren't alarmed by my comment!
Attack me? Alarmed? I realized this must be related to the article I shared, and I returned to the post to find 22 comments, including a debate between an old TAC classmate and a medical school classmate in another town (a "fb-friend," not even an acquaintance). I know the TAC classmate well, since we were in section together as sophomores. He usually needed things reworded, he brought up issues not quite to the point, he displayed poor etiquette, etc.

In the comments to my post he was at it again, debating with my pro-choice classmate. His first comment was 385 words, a cardinal sin on a microblogging site and a faux-pas in the new evangelization anyway. Without waiting for a response he posted six links in a row, asking his opponent to read all of them. He got frustrated when she responded with a two-sentence argument (not having read the links), and answered in another chunky paragraph of 172.

The discussion became more equal as the medical student began to answer in longer bursts. The posts back and forth took on what I thought was a pedagogical, competitive tone, like two contestants instead of two people in discussion. I looked at the times of the comments: it was rushed. In fact, the TACer typed, "Perhaps you just answered it [a question he asked], I haven't read your latest response as you just posted it as I'm writing ths.[his latest argument, sic]"

Long posts, all caps, responses out of order, rebuttals to multiple points fragmenting the debate.... I became terrified, feeling like I'd created a monster without realizing it. I quickly commented, hoping to resolve the mess. I guess I judged hastily and those two were happy with their discussion! The TACer posted some hours later, disliking my comment:
[Medicalmatins], I'm not sure what you are referring to. As far as I can tell, the conversation has not gotten out of hand (whatever you mean by this). It was a civil discussion albeit, the participants on both sides feel strongly about their respective positions. There were no ad hominem attacks on either side. The discussion was going fine. Moreover, although you claim that [the medical student] doesn't want to "debate", [she] has not made that clear to me. Perhaps you should let [the medical student] speak for herself on this one. On the contrary, [she] seemed to be very much willing to discuss the issues and I've enjoyed the exchange.
I almost posted “I wince reading it. You two are missing each other by miles at every point. Too much vitriol, too much rhetoric, too little openness....” Instead, I just removed the share and all the comments.

Here's where the story gets dramatic (where I get confused and think all the characters are high school girls). The TACer posts to his wall:
It's sad when someone deletes a fruitful discussion from their wall because they are hyper-sensitive and over-react to innocuous comments that are made. Oh well, what can you do?
Friends of his that I did not know were already commenting:
Must have been a Calvinist... depraved beyond all hope. ;)
if an individual was THAT concerned with either what I or they wrote....more power to them, lol, let them feel that morsel of control in this huge world if that's what they need ;-]
Ouch. I private messaged the TACer:
[Name], forgive me. My intentions were good; I feel as though I don't deserve the hurt your causing.
Response the same day:
No offense, but you know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions. I think you were imprudent to chastise me in public about something that was merely your perception. You have to realize that you have a habit of being hyper-sensitive when a discussion doesn't meet your uber high standards of decorum. You have to consider that there can still be a good discussion even if it does not meet your ideal standards. Moreover, you need to consider that perhaps what you take to be impolite or uncivil conversation is merely what you are reading into the discussion. It is an online discussion so it is easy to misconstrue passionate conversation as uncivilized or undignified. As far as any hurt I'm causing, I know of none.
Ouch ouch ouch (and interesting comment about chastisement in public).... My final message:
I'll keep your advice in mind. Thank you.
He's right in a few things: I added tones of voice to the discussion (inevitable in electronic media); perhaps I made mistakes in some of those. And I am sensitive to decorum. But decorum is vital in discussions. Nothing gets done without it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"It's a Baby When We Want it to Be"

This post by Catholic blogger Joe Heshmyer is so refreshingly logical.

It's a Baby When We Want it to Be: "...when it's politically advantageous, they're not “fetuses,” they're “unborn children,” and they need to be protected *now *from [anything] that can harm them in the womb...."

Last anatomy lab

Parts of this post are hidden and contain graphic recollections of cadaver dissection. 12/2/11 was my last day of dissection. (I'll go into lab to study for the test a week from today, but I will never again take scalpel, probe, forceps, scissors, box saw, chisel, spoon, baster, or hand to a cadaver again.) We dissected the oral and nasal cavities by hemisecting the head. My partner actually broke a hand saw while dividing the bone. As we were washing our instruments and closing our tank, Semisonic's "Closing Time" came on (we almost always listen to music, courtesy of Pandora, during lab).
How wrong this has seemed! Only my facade has changed over the past five months. Fascinating? Yes. Disturbing? Yes. I am grateful to be through with it. Another thing I am grateful for: I was told it was inevitable to dream about one's cadaver, but this did not happen to me.
I dreamt I was a cadaver and I also dreamt of dead children coming to me and holding my hands, but I never dreamt about my cadavers.)

In the past five months, I have watched twenty persons' bodies be picked down to ghoulish parts. Much of what horrified me were cuts to bone, as we sawed off a leg to see a hemisected pelvis. But not everything awful was orthopedic: we cut little vertical slits below the lower eyelids, like the makeup on a mime, to see intraocular muscles.

I did not like opening ribcages like mailboxes, cutting out organs, peeling off skin like old linoleum. I did not like to hear people calling parts of bodies "junk" and "crap." I did not like some of the music they played in lab (I marched to the front of the room and skipped a track from Rocky Horror Picture Show once.) I hated the way people spoke about this body or that—"the old girl was well-fed," or "that's just sad" (male external genitalia dissection). I hated the sound of saws, the smell of open bone, the stench of preservatives, the stinging hands and eyes. I will try to forget holding skeletal hands and arms that bent back from rigor mortis; I will try to forget emptying the rectum; I will try to forget our penultimate cadaver molded and the bleach added to the smell.

And I will be all right. Oddly, I like to dissect: to cut is fun, to clean is satisfying. (To stitch is wonderful, but we didn't do that in class.) But I thank God it is finished.

Today (12/9/11) was our last exam in our anatomy class. I walked out of the lab at about 5:00pm in a mix of fatigue and shock, unable to feel the emotions I had built up for that moment. Again, although I might not feel much, I reiterate: Deo gratias!

Partes huius celatae sunt, quia recollectiones dissectionis cadaveris pavefactae continent. Ut articulus in toto videre, vise legem parentem. Ad fraterculos meos: non id legere...mox id vobis intimabo.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Last week I received some unsolicited advice.
You have to realize that you have a habit of being hyper-sensitive when a discussion doesn't meet your uber high standards of decorum. You have to consider that there can still be a good discussion even if it does not meet your ideal standards.
When I get constructive criticism I try to respond "fiat" and improve in the area highlighted if I see that the critic is right. But I don't think I'll act on this one. Decorum is vital in discussions; nothing gets done without it.

Decorum is a certain organization between people to facilitate a discussion. Sometimes, two people in discussion are so motivated by the truth that they need no help staying focused (like a bowler rolling a perfect strike); more often, some outside help is necessary (like rails on a bowling alley) in the form of protocols. I was taught a timed, structured debate style between two persons: opening statements, rebuttal, closing statements. However, decorum is not limited to this degree of structure. For instance, although discussions at TAC are in a loose seminar style and have a large number of people participating (between fifteen and twenty), policies like the dress code and the use of surnames add enough formality to hold everyone's attention on one topic. The more structured and focused a group, the more it accomplishes.

However, decorum is more than protocol. It includes politeness. Logic does little to convince unless they are put well and proposed gently, at a pace suitable to the opponent or audience. My first true debate was on contraception. (This was my senior year in high school, in ethics class.) I was con and one of my best friends was pro. Unbeknownst to the teacher, the stakes were very high: we were each defending our beliefs, the doctrine of our churches, and the practices of our parents. I remember the experience vividly: my logic overpowered her, and I saw it in her face. At my closing remark, I had the opportunity to triumphantly describe the clear defeat, but I did not. I tried to be tender. (We did not speak for a little while after class, but we are on wonderful terms now and she is a Catholic. Lauda Christi!)

(I can't resist showing this to you as I see it: a Euclidean compound ratio. Disregard this parenthesis if it is unhelpful. Decorum bears to debate a ratio compounded of the ratio logic bears to thought with the ratio politeness bears to counsel. Or, to be Cartesian:
decorum    =      logic ·  politeness
debate           thought    counsel
How I miss geometry! Anatomy was such a tease; my imagination longs for perfect solids and gnomons.)

Without logic, reasoning is poor and the search for truth is harder; without kindness, counsel repels and the struggle for virtue is longer. I prize decorum because I think it is a formal principle for truth and virtue. We must not lose it, especially considering our responsibility in the new evangelization!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Amazing stew

Above: the ingredients. Roll over the image for the complete list. Below: cranberries, one of nature's meanest tricks. They're so beautiful (their beauty made me take a picture and that's why they're in the post)...and yet so unbelievably sour that a venus fly trap seems more honest. Above: makin' the meatballs. I made them polite-bite-sized...they're so hard to eat otherwise! Apparently you're not supposed to knead meatballs too vigorously, so I tried to be gentle. Everything turned out tasty. Below: This lasted a week and was extremely filling...I credit the turkey stock.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dearth of Advent wreaths...

I went shopping for an Advent wreath yesterday, knowing that I wanted to make an investment in a beautiful piece that would last my adult life. I expected to have to compare several choices. But I couldn't find one. How is that possible? I guess I went to all the wrong places:
  1. Walmart
  2. Target
  3. World Market
  4. Pier One
  5. Bed Bath & Beyond
  6. Michael's
  7. Hobby Lobby
  8. an antique store
At about #3, I got tired of people giving me quizzical looks when I said "Advent wreath." So, I started giving kindergarten-CCD descriptions (it's like a wreath with spots for four candles...?) Everyone sent me to "wreaths" or "Advent calendars." Why don't people know what an Advent wreath is?? Walmart had menorahs in prominent display, and no one would mess up on those! Eventually, I gave up on finding an actual Advent wreath and tried craft stores to see if I could make one. Still, nothing suitable appeared.

I'll keep trying this weekend. Sorry I'm late, Lord!