Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Diet

A poem for y'all.

I have been put on a diet-
No more fat or lard.
Just a thin slice of meat
And a grape
For me.

Or maybe a little kiwi.

For He likes to train,
To train my likes,
To change my appetite.

Mind and intellect,
Soul and sinew,
Trained anew.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Changing faces

You’ve heard me complain about my body. I’m thirty-six and my friend Beth tells me that this is the magic age for the transition from the 30s body to the 40s body. After baby number six, none of the fat has rearranged into its traditional spots. Now I have love handles, rolls above my waist, and that ultimate sign of middle age, fat on my upper arms. Sigh.

Which brings me to my topic this evening: plastic surgery.

For the first time in my life I have sympathy for women who have it done. Hey, I see all the same magazines in the checkout line. I go to movies (well, at least a couple times a year). I watch TV. (We don’t have cable, but I have friends and relatives who do.)

But I am not going to do it. My opposition to plastic surgery is not coming from my own body, but my understanding of what the body is supposed to be in the divine plan.

Tonight, the short form of the Theology of the Body. (I knew those degrees would pay off sometime--look out Christ West!).

With John Paul II, we turn to that critical moment in Genesis where the woman, newly created, is presented to the man as the one creature that fulfills his longing, a "helper fit for him." In this moment Adam sees Eve and joyfully exclaims, “Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” He is affirming that she is a gift to him. The gift of her whole person is present in the vision of her naked body. Because Adam is without sin, he can experience her as a gift, and he can glimpse the supreme love that is at the source of her creation--for our God created us from nothing and called us good. In this moment, therefore, he can see that he himself, who is bone of bone and flesh of flesh with the woman, is a gift. Because he is without sin, he experiences his own body in the same way—as a gift, a manifestation of his person which is not to be separated from it (contra Descartes).

When Jesus, in the back-and-forth with the Pharisees about the issue of divorce, directed them back to "the beginning” he directed us to this very moment as the heart of marital communion. In point of fact, however, this moment is not only important for our understanding of marriage, but for our general understanding of the body itself. It reveals the real meaning of bodily life—hence John Paul II’s “nuptial meaning of the body.”

Now, as regards plastic surgery (here I mean cosmetic plastic surgery), there are two reasons a married woman (like myself) might choose to have plastic surgery: because she is looking at other women, TV, etc., and feels unhappy with how she looks to herself, or because she wants to please her husband.

Lets take the first reason first. If it is the case that the body is a gift then a woman really has to see her physical imperfections as part of the gift. The body is redeemed in Jesus Christ, but it is not simply returned to the original state. Jesus suffers in the body, and, even in his redeemed state, his body retains the signs of the suffering—“Probe the nail marks, put your finger in my side…” We could say that, in light of the suffering and death of Jesus, it is precisely the physical frailty of the body that reveals its giftedness. We can suffer for others, we do suffer for others. A woman who has had children has suffered for others. And this suffering is evident in her body. Her body is a witness to a life lived for others. The medieval artists had it right: Mary offering her breast parallels Christ offering the blood from his side. (Granted, it is not a sagging breast!).

And so, the woman can rejoice, with Paul, that Christ’s suffering is being manifested in her own body.

Second reason, hubbie wants it. Lets talk about this man. The husband is called to love his wife’s body as he loves his own body (Ephesians). This is what Adam didn’t do when he sinned, he didn’t look out for Eve (I believe I got this from Scott Hahn). Paul articulates a return to that first moment when the woman is bone of his bone. The woman’s body is a gift that reveals and communicates the giftedness of her person. When we really love a person, we see in their body, their face, their presence, the authentic gift of their personhood. So, it is hard to see why a husband would want his wife to undergo plastic surgery unless he really is only seeing her body as an object for his own desires, not as the manifestation of her person.

And in this day and age, this would be the result of his having seen way too many other women who are presented as objects. In other words, pornography. As my husband has said, the ultimate male fantasy is that the woman will do anything, absolutely anything for the man. He wants to abolish her given reality (remember that it is God who gives the woman to the man) and have her remaide into his own creation (think about how many men are turned on by women having sex with women—hey, she will do absolutely anything!!!!). And so, to have his wife remade, in the image of his own idea, that is a problem. No woman should make herself into an object.

Nope, not gonna do it. No matter what hubbie says.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Children and churches

Just received my copy of the Journal of Sacred Architecture. This is publication that lifts my spirits. They are not pre-Vatican II, but are rooted in the Tradition, with really sharp sensibilities. They feature some amazing church buildings as well as the worst disasters. Just one of the great things that are happening at my Alma Mater.

When I have time (!) I want to write to them about church architecture and children. Why, in this "populist" era of church architecture, is no one talking about the way that children learn about their faith in church? Children can't read and the really small ones don't pray (at least like we do) but they see everything, from the color that father is wearing to the stained glass windows that I miss because I am busy taking care of them! In our parish church-in-the-round, there is, thank God, one beautiful crucifix. But there are no side altars, no place to take the kids after mass to say a quick prayer to St. Joseph or a patron saint. The church in town here is an even worse disaster--the tabernacle looks like a wooden crate. I am not rabid about these things. We love our parish and our pastor is phenomenal, but I feel that my job as a parent and the primary teacher of my children is compromised when I can't point to pictures and statues when I am teaching my children about the Passion or the Blessed Mother or the Trinity.

Children are totally concrete. They need the gold and the ornamemtation. They love it and they crave it. And so should we.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Today, and atleast once a week, I wonder where the communio is. I mean communion with others. I used to think that a really big family was where it was at. I still accept, trust, and live the Church's teaching on procreativity with all my might. But my heart goes out to the women who feel stressed with one or two kids. In today's mobile culture, where do you turn when you need support--emotional, physical? If your parents are close, you are the exception. If you actually have genuine friends in your parish you are the exception. If you and your siblings still all have intact marriages you are the exception.

Someone out there, Lorenzo Albacete actually, said that the movement Communion and Liberation is Opus Dei for bad people. Maybe it is Opus Dei for the desperate.

Check out the Easter poster. That's my day today.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Today was a terrible day. Maybe it was because I took Clare to the pediatrician--is it the stress of getting there, the stress of the shots, the stress of feeling like I am a bad mother for vaccinating, and that I would be a bad mother for not vaccinating?... Whatever the case, by the time my husband got home I was fit to be tied. So we fought and then I escaped to the store to buy lint traps and taco shells. I went by the magazine aisle--hey, maybe a gardening magazine would pick me up. And there I say Britney, buxom and beautiful, sparkling with pregnant sensuality on the cover of Elle. And then I just got madder because after baby number six my body is a wreck. So I got out of the store and figured that I had better not go home because we would just fight again because now I am fightin' mad.

So I went to adoration instead. I sat there and complained to Jesus. Hey, I am almost middle-aged with the body to show for it and, by the way, there are those two theology degrees which I got at great sacrifice and I am doing nothing with them. I love you, Jesus, I love your Church, and I love my children. I am making sacrifices.

So did I, He said.

So, what can I respond to that? But I still want to know what the degrees were for.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Benedetto and me

For any readers that may remain, a reflection tonight on the act of blogging. I have been wondering where this whole thing fits into my life. I started out with the intention to reflect on true motherhood, experientially and ontologically (in the realm of being). Well, true motherhood means not really having a lot of time on my hands. No time to check out all the neat websites out there, or other peoples' blogs (even those that belong to my loved ones!).

I guess that I am really more interested in reflecting, and I write when I have the time and ability to reflect. No fancy links here. Just good, old-fashioned theologizing. Then, tonight, finally got on Godspy and read this little piece. It made me feel better.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Cardinal George and the hurricane

This address by Cardinal George in Traces, n. 3, 2003 (see Archive)pretty much says it all when it comes to our country and disasters and our warped view of God. What we need here is a truly "spiritual" view, as in the Holy Spirit:

...we are not open to actions that are not planned; we are not able to recognize, to be surprised, when the Holy Spirit always brings novelty. Things must always remain the same. That is why, when a disaster happens, everybody assures us that we have not to worry, we will put everything back together. This is why the people that run society are insurance people and lawyers; we have to check everything with those people, because if there is something that has not been planned, then somebody is at fault and is going to pay for it. This is even true of God–there is a great resentment about God Himself being active; you can talk about God as much as you want, as a great goal of one’s particular experiences, and you can talk about God as the best in human nature or in human experience. But you cannot talk about God that breaks into history with a surprise, making all things new and changed. This God is resented, and deeply so.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Oh, Katrina

Long weekend out in Wisconsin. And now back to Katrina. Today the blame-game continues. A quote from a doctor on NPR: “10,000 dead is a real failure.” The implication is that the federal government has failed. There is some truth to this, no doubt. But since the gospel of tolerance became the official religion of America, it has become impossible to have a spiritual assessment of any natural disaster.

Where there is suffering, there is the opportunity for each person to encounter the Crucified Savior. The talking heads can do nothing but, well, talk. They drone on and on about what could have been prevented if only... But the only true response to a tragedy is compassion, literally “suffering with.” Anyone who has ever been at a deathbed knows that what is called for is prayer and silence, not commentary. . . And this is precisely what we, with few exceptions, are unable to offer.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dome, Sweet Home???

Canning tomatoes this morning but I just had to comment on the move of the refugees from the Superdome to the Astrodome. What are they thinking?? We are moving these people hundreds of miles to a place where they have no home, no jobs, no permanence, no family. Does anyone think this will work?

It reminds me of a Civil War story about what happened when a group of injured soldiers were evacuated from the batttlefield to a nearby town. The townspeople refused to open their homes to the dirty common soldiers. In a fit of righteous anger, Clara Barton rode through the night to Washington to find someone with the authority to order them to help.

How many McMansions did these people pass on their way to the Astrodome? Where are you when we need you, Clara?

Green grass

My brother-in-law out in San Diego has a green backyard, which is rare thing for San Diego. Apparently, there is an underground stream out there. I thought of this tonight as I realized that I haven't made it to adoration for a couple weeks. Since our parish began adoration in May, I have made it every week. Even though I have never doubted the power of adoration, I must say that I never really felt it until I started going every week. God's presence is like that underground stream. I would not even know He is there, always present, giving life, except for the green things that are growing. And I can tell that I haven't been over to the chapel because the grass is starting to brown out. In my life that means that I am losing my temper with the kids way too much, losing the focus at home, spending too much time on the phone... Time for a visit...

And farewell to the woods

An update on my previous rant. Today, they are etching the name on the condo village across the street: "River Wood"--which is what they ripped out to build the pastel monstrosities (got that insight from the folks who wrote Suburban Nation, one of my favorites).

It all made me think of James Howard Kunstler. His website is really popular with bloggers, but are Catholics blogging about this stuff??? Once you have got the Theology of the Body, then what comes next is the natural world. In other words, practicing NFP ought to change your thinking on not just your matter but the world of matter. Or, again, it is not just the body that is a gift, but all of creation.

We are not just in moral territory. This is about world view.