Gestures: A Lost Art

I want to take a moment to talk about house-warning gifts, hostess gifts, and thank you cards. Small acts of graciousness and thoughtfulness which have somehow been lost in today’s world.

Once we settled into our newest Hobbit Hole, Library & I had a house-warming party. I love to hostess – filling others with good food, drink, being the instrument of a merry time for those I care for. Capital D&M (i.e. my parents) have always been such virtuous examples of generosity, welcoming others into their home and providing for their needs and wants. I give credit to them for my own ability and desire to do just that. When I was younger I didn’t think much of it, I just did it and knew I enjoyed it, despite the work it sometimes was. But as I’ve aged (how that word makes me sound far older then a 20-something!) I’ve grown to truly appreciate good hospitality, hostessing, and general care and attention given to those you welcome into your home.

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ConvertKat’s perfectly delightful housewarming gift

When ConvertKat walked through the Hobbit Hole door, she had with her a quaint basket, filled with desirable things. It was so sweetly displayed, it took me a week to unpack it simply because I enjoyed looking at it every time I walked past the liquor cabinet which I had set it on! As I looked through it upon it’s arrival, I couldn’t help but acknowledge how deliberately thought out this house-warming basket was: a set of tea towels, whose colours and patterns match the Hobbit Hole just so; a matching butter dish & creamer in pretty colours & pattern; quince jam; some Italian treats. Every item in the basket had a reason for being in there. The entire basket contained items of use and necessity (tea towels – when I expressed my admiration of how well the tea towel colours suited the Hobbit Hole, ConvertKat confessed that she had been taking mental note the last time she had been here, of colours and patterns and what would suit), pretty but functional items (butter dish & creamer, for company usage), an adventurous and personal item (quince jam, ConvertKat & I had talked about it some weeks before because I had read about it and ConvertKat said she likes it, and I probably would too, and should try it), and finally just a sweet little treat (Italian wafer rolls) for us to enjoy. This basket was the epitome of thoughtfulness and kind consideration towards friends who are settling into a new home. It displays such virtue in ConvertKat, with such care and attention that went into something for another person.

Another friend, LitNurse (as in “literature” nurse, not “drunk” nurse, except that she is one who enjoys her libations at the appropriate times, and so this pseudonum fits her just right) brought us a pumpkin. It was very like her, season suited, and the perfect decorative but non-permanent item to enjoy for the next while.

But the thoughtful gifts weren’t only left to the girls. IntenseKnight brought us a bottle of red wine, because he knows how much we both enjoy that. HandsomeAndSingle brought a bottle of the whiskey he had been telling me about during a whiskey conversation we had a couple weeks prior. And DancingGoof – despite him living in the US and only seeing him when he is home on the occasional Christmas visit or summer vacation – brought a bottle of scotch he thought I would like, because he remembered that I like scotch. And finally, AmericanNeighbour brought some lovely muffins he baked.

I was so heartily impressed by these friends’ thoughtfulness, and yet not truly surprised, for these are exact reasons I am friends with each of them. Their consideration and attention towards others is a virtue I strive for as well, and it is natural to surround yourself with those who would bring you higher.

Housewarming gifts are a corner of the lost art of friendship and hospitality. When someone moves into a new home, for a friend to provide their presence to warm it, and a little something to hold warmth after they leave, is an invaluable gift which both fosters friendship and provides care and attention to someone you care about. You are both bringing warmth and leaving some behind as your friend tries settling into a new house and making it “home”. Friends are meant to support and encourage each other, keeping the path lighted with comaraderie and joy. A housewarming gift is just the sort of physical thing to show that support, encouragement and friendship during a change.

Hostess gifts serve a bit of a different purpose. Hostesses are hard at work while you are in their home, enjoying their company, their personal space, and their provisions. A hostess gift – which can be something as simple as a bar of scented soap, some wild flowers, or tea – is a little something to show your appreciation of being welcomed into their home, of their effort going into making you and other guests comfortable. It lets your hostess know you consider her as someone to be appreciated, and are grateful to her for her friendship and care.

And finally, thank you cards are a missing gem from modern society. Where did the days go when one sent a note the day after a dinner party to say thank you for the lovely evening? One can (and naturally does) thank a friend for a gift or for a lovely dinner evening upon receiving it. But a little note the following day, or the following week, shows a lasting appreciation – you haven’t forgotten about that gift after the rush of the party, that you hold the gift or time spent very dear, and are grateful to your giver or host for having given or made it happen.

All three of these ageless acts show a thoughtful consideration for others, a gracious humility, a tender act of friendship, and should undoubtedly be carried out by all of us striving to live a virtuous, Catholic life.

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2017 Book 9: Tess of the D’Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy

Oh where do I even begin!? This is quite likely the most tragic of novels I’ve read.

***SPOILER ALERT***

tess1.jpgThe story begins with a beautiful, virtuous, innocent girl of 17, and ends with a broken, beaten down spirit of a woman who once was. Tess is a victim from the start. Her misery is sparked by a few regular ever-day actions which lead to a mis-hap, killing the family horse. Since the horse is the means of her family’s income, Tess feels it is her fault/responsibility to make up for the lost income and well-being of her family. Her mother’s idea to marry her off to a supposedly distant family member by sending her to work on his property where he will obviously fall in love with her, is the first phase of her life long misery, the beginning of her detriment.

Alec D’Uberville is a villain if there ever was one. Smooth talking and persistent, he takes advantage of Tess’ sweet and vulnerable nature, quite literally leading her through the forest, manipulating her emotions, and when she is exactly where he wants her, he takes what he wants. Claiming love from the start, Alec persists, during the three months following, that he wants to marry her. Tess is forever pushing him away, verbally, physically, emotionally. But to her he is somewhat of a viper, tranquilizing her into eventually being unable to avoid him any longer. Knowing him to be evil, Tess packs up and leaves when she realizes she is with child. Despite knowing how wretched Alec was from the moment she met him, Tess somehow feels that she is to blame.

Tess goes back to her parents home in shame, but her mother, knowing that she should have been more considerate towards Tess’s innocence, takes her back without qualms. A few months later Tess gives birth to a little boy, and lives the next year in her childhood village as an outcast, where she toils day by day with her child on her back. Her pride as well as her disdain for him keeps her from asking Alec D’Uberville for anything. Tess often has mixed emotions towards her child, though she loves him unconditionally. He is the only beam of sunshine her sad life contains. But after a year, her little joy becomes ill, and despite every effort Tess makes throughout the night, he dies. She had the minister called during the night as her little one fought for his life, and requested a baptism. She didn’t want him to suffer the sins of his father, she wanted him to rest in peace. But the minister refuses to baptize her son, claiming that children born of sin have no place in heaven. By dawn her little one takes his last breath, but not before Tess herself baptizes her son. Again, her son isn’t granted a place in the cemetery, and one night Tess goes out into the dark and buries her little boy alone, leaving a cared for but nameless grave behind her.

Tess leaves her parents home for a job as a milkmaid at Talbothay’s farm, where her story isn’t well known and may only be heard through rumour or speculation. She tries to make a clean start of life. But instead of living a secluded, hidden life, she meets Angel Clare. Angel is an apprentice farmer, having walked away from potentially living the clergy way of life. He and Tess have a certain chemistry between them that the other girls admire and pathetically mourne for. Angel is seemingly exceedingly good and forthright, an honest and hard working man. For as long as she can Tess keeps him at a distance despite her growing attraction and love for him – “for his own sake” she claims, due to her past. She believes herself unfit for such a man, that he would despise her once the truth is known of her (through no fault of her own) impurity. But Angel continues in persuading her, claiming that nothing she could possibly have done would ever warrant the removal of his love for her. Eventually Tess’s heart over-rules her head, and she accepts his proposal.

Tess and Angel marry. The day is pure bliss for both of them. But they each had a secret they didn’t want to divulge to the other. Once Angel has secured her in marriage, he feels the need to come clean. Angel admits to Tess that he was once with another, by his own choice and actions, and begs her forgiveness. Once Tess hears this, she feels compelled to tell Angel about her own past, with sure hope that he will forgive her as readily as she forgives him, and they can continue this new life in openness. But nope. Angel is stunned into silence by her story, and says he needs time to think things over. SAY WHAAT!!!??? He literally just says “hey babe, I slept with this girl one time, but I didn’t love her, and I love you, I was young and foolish, can you forgive me?” And of course Tess’s heart forgives this love of hers, because it was in his past, and isn’t who he is today. Then Tess says “since we’re on the topic, I was raped a few years ago by a horrible man, had a baby, my baby died, and then I came here.” And Angel’s response is “wow, you’re not as pure and good as I thought. I’ll have to think things through, this sort of changes all the vows I just made to you five hours ago.”

Angel decides to go away for a spell, across the ocean, where he had originally been thinking of taking Tess to farm with him. He leaves money at Tess’s disposal so that she might not want for anything while he takes time to think and just be far away from everything he knows. Tess humbly and quietly accepts this, returning to her parents home for the time being, dreadfully unsure of her future, and for some reason still believing that she is completely to blame for Angel’s change of tune towards her.

At this point of the novel, I had to put it down for a while. I picked up some “Anne” books instead because, to be honest, this story was just too tragic and depressing for me to handle. Both men made me nauseous. Tess’s lack of gumption when it came to telling both men off drove me insane. Her humility is admirable, but I also found it too much. There is virtue in humility, no doubt about it. But there is also virtue in strength and will power for justice’s sake. And Tess allowed these two men to take terrible advantage of her. Yes she was done a horrible disservice by her mother, who kept her in the dark when it comes to the world of men. And I don’t necessarily think anything she could have said or done would have changed either of these men’s actions. But had her character responded differently,  I think she could have stirred something in each man that would have made them feel disgust for their behaviour as well as remorse and a proper way of dealing with things afterwards. The tragic circumstances and lack of immoveable goodness in every single character of the book (except Tess) was just too much. I had to put it down for a spell.

The rest of the story continues in just as much tragedy. Now Tess is forced to live a life of toil, since she won’t use any more of the money her husband left for her and is determined to find her own way, while being committed legally and emotionally to a man who has more or less deserted her. It’s horrible. Then Alec comes back on the scene, and he is smooth and disgusting and she is fighting to be rid of him. She FINALLY feels anger towards Angel when she realizes she can’t hold Alec off much longer. The man she loves – who loves her – has left her to be swallowed up by a fiend, without so much as a backward glance.

Eventually she does give in. Alec uses his wealth and her fatherless family’s situation to manipulate her into – quite literally – a life of sin. Fully aware that her strength is weakening, Tess writes a hostile letter to Angel; first accusing him, reproaching him, and finally imploring him. But by the time Angel receives her letter, months have gone by, Tess is trapped, and Angel has already realized his injudiciousness.

Angel hunts Tess down, and after seeing him, it sets something off in her that crazes the mind of one who has been badly used by too many people for far too long. She sends him away in a cold manner. She returns upstairs, and ends up stabbing Alec to death after an argument. She runs after Angel, and they spend the next six days in compete bliss, hiding from the world for as long as they can. Tess doesn’t actually feel remorse for her crime. She feels a sort of freedom, even though she knows she’ll face death once she is found. And yet she is at peace with it. She expects it to come, and simply wants to enjoy the few days she has with her love before she is arrested and sentenced.

The morning before her arrest, Tess convinces Angel to take with her younger sister after she is gone. Liza-Lu – who is most similar to Tess of anyone else – is the only creature in the world “good enough” for him, Tess claims, and Tess couldn’t bare for Angel to be alone once she is dead. Liza will be a consolation to him, she claims. And it would put Tess’ sole ally in the care and protection of the only man Tess ever loved and trusted. Even after everything Angel put her through, Tess is good enough to be considering his welfare after she is gone. Certainly he is undeserving. But Tess is that virtuous.

Angel and Liza-Lu watch Tess’s execution from afar. They turn, hand-in-hand, away from their pure and loving wife & sister.

The only consolation in the ending of this story is that Tess is free from the horrible injustice and abuse she received throughout her life from the hands of all those around her.

I knew I would be reading a depressing story in Tess of the D’Ubervilles. But I didn’t realize it was THIS tragic.

2017 Book 8: The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery

Image result for the blue castle      The past few weeks have found me absorbed in Anne of Green Gables. Feeling the need to take a break from a rather sad novel, I was propelled towards the happiness of the Anne series. So I re-read a few of them once again, and I’ve been in an entirely Anne mode the past few weeks because of it. Keeping with Montgomery’s style, I picked up a copy of another one of her books, “The Blue Castle”, recommended by my sister, Library.

Valancy Stirling is 29 years old, unmarried, and living under the strict thumb of her mother and aunt. She has never had a beau, she has never traveled, she doesn’t even have friends. She spends her time in obedient dullness, forever holding back her real thoughts, opinions and desires, due to her snobbish, mundane, and difficult family clan. Her only happiness is escaping to her “Blue Castle” in her fantasy world.

But one day, Valancy receives the fatal doctor’s note, informing her that her recent heart flutters are signs of a bigger problem, which will one day claim her life – most likely within the year. Valancy doesn’t fear death, but rather, she fears missing the life she should have lead. Out with propriety and in with her true self, she allows herself to say exactly what she thinks, and ends up leaving her mothers home to nurse a socially cast-out acquaintance – another young woman, closer to death then Valancy herself.

In her new position of nurse, housekeeper, friend and companion, Valancy finds purpose. She finds joy and meaning in the serving and nurturing of others. She also meets Barney Snaith, maverick of the town, who lives alone on a little island, keeps mostly to himself, and drives around in his old big loud car. A wide range of speculations assumed to be truth by the town say Barney is a criminal, murderer who fled from justice, a cheater, a liar, a psychopath. Valancy defended Barney to her relatives before ever having met him. Somehow she instinctively knew none of this to be true about him. When she does meet him, she discovers she was right. Friends with the old man & his daughter whom Valancy lives with & works for, Barney quickly becomes a regular presence in Valancy’s new life.

We get to know Barney through Valancy’s eyes. He is good, honest, doesn’t speak much about himself besides the tales of his various adventures around the globe. He is thoughtful, always stopping by and asking what she needs from town before heading there himself. And he’s protective, driving the distance to an “up back” party he was told Valancy would be at, but which he knows will be unsafe for her – and gets there just on time to pull her out of a harmful situation. And yet, there is so much mystery surrounding Barney Snaith – we know nothing about his past, why he is the way he is (until you keep reading, that is).

When her companion dies, Valancy finds herself clinging onto this new life she’s made. One day Barney comes upon her in the garden, and Valancy asks if he will marry her, knowing full well that he doesn’t return her love, and assures him it won’t be for long, since her life will be claimed by death, most likely before a year has passed. But Valancy can’t bear the thought of returning to her mother’s house and living once again in the prison of propriety, the childish obedience demanded of her, and spinster-hood. Barney agrees. He acknowledges that he doesn’t love her, but likes her well enough, and would be quite content to bring her along to his island, if that’s what she truly wants.

When Valancy first sees the little house amoung the pines, she sees her Blue Castle, in real form, for the first time.

…there’s more to the story… but I won’t give any more away.

Barney’s character is one I really appreciated in this story. It was evident to me from the start that there was deep hurt in Barney’s heart, that he had somehow been on the receiving end of severe unkindness in his earlier years, hence the living in seclusion. But his naturally kind, gentle, thoughtful character, remains. Despite his past (which we know leaks into his psyche from the occasional cynical remark, and his emotional reservation) his soul thrives on the good, the beautiful, and he never fails in his goodness. In some respects, his character doesn’t change from beginning to end – he is always constant, dependable. But in others, he does. Being on the receiving end of love, being cherished and respected by one he also cares for, allows his character to develop in a way it yearned to in his younger years. It unlocks the natural joy in his heart, he is finally, in a way, set free.

I also appreciated that Valancy finds purpose in a life of service for others. Never being allowed “idle time” in her mother’s house, she spent countless hours sewing, quilting, keeping her hands busy, but all with fairly superficial things that were simply stored away up in the attic for future use. She may have been using her hands and skill, but it was idle in another sense, in that there was no food for the soul coming of her work. But when her hands go to cooking, cleaning, caring for others in need, she begins living with a type of vigour, satisfaction, and joy, that only comes from serving others, where you know you are needed.

This book is another treasure, to be kept on the shelf, and pulled down when some warmth to the heart is needed by a good book.

 

Nota Bene: Although it may seem like this is pretty much the whole story, it isn’t. This is only some of the first half, and there is detail, character development, and over all beauty in this story that can’t be captured through a re-cap. So it’s definitely worth a read!

 

 

 

 

For the Men: Appreciate Austen in your Quest for Fair Lady

The other evening I was conversing with ConvertKat at a social event. Topics naturally changing, it turned to literature, and – to my somewhat surprise – switching from his own conversation to ours was SearchingGuy. SearchingGuy and I are not friends, in fact I barely know him, except from a couple conversations during Sunday Coffee hour. SearchingGuy somewhat interjected and asked abruptly what literature I read. When I replied “classics, mostly”, CatechumanGuy joined the conversation as well. We talked on for a few minutes, and in a natural conversation pause, they both turned to me and pointedly asked “but really, what do you read?” I replied again, “mostly classics, Thomas Hardy at the moment.” SearchingGuy responded with an “ugh, that means you read Jane Austen” and CatechumanGuy chuckled with an affirmative comment I don’t remember. “Whoa! Do I hear tones of condescension?” I asked, in a somewhat louder and probably unintentionally disgusted sounding tone.

I have zero to no respect for men (particularly catholic men) who condescend and belittle females who read Jane Austen novels, and here’s why:

Austen’s work is such a clever and vibrant study of human nature & interpersonal relationships. Not only is her writing witty, but her ability to understand such a variety of characters and personalities is vastly under-rated. Unfortunately her work is painted as the romantic’s fantasy, which is such an injustice. Condescender’s (who have evidently not read her) often think Austen’s work is filled with “ideal men”, and if you read her, your head becomes filled with a type of perfect man that doesn’t exist (which, I gather, frustrates these catholic men because they feel this now excludes them from achieving respect and admiration in catholic women’s eyes).

But upon actually reading Austen’s books, one learns how imperfect her male characters (all her characters for that matter) are. Here is a brief outline of “perfect” male characters our Condescender’s hate on:

  1. Edward Ferrars: unintentionally plays with Elinor’s heart when he falls in love with her but is committed to another. After fostering a friendship which is obviously a bit more, he withdraws and isn’t heard from for quite some time. If it was a modern tale, he’d be a jerk-face at first glance. But then we learn the reasoning behind his behaviour, and suddenly there is an outpouring of respect for him. Do men not identify with this? For whatever reason, their actions are misunderstood, but when it comes to light, they are suddenly admired for those same actions?
  2. Captain Wentworth: after the heroine breaks his heart (eight years before the story begins) he does all he can to move on. Yet he comes back once circumstances change, and, despite still being deeply in love with her, he flirts away with her cousins, trying to both forget her, and pain her in the process. So he’s definitely not perfect, since if he were, his un-dying love would have brought him straight to her feet and begged for her love. But no, he doesn’t do that, because he has pride. Contrary to popular belief, we female readers admire men with healthy pride and self-respect. It’s the vengeance on Anne’s emotions that brings Wentworth lower.
  3. Fitzwilliam Darcy: could there be a more pompous character? Ok, granted, he wasn’t actually that pompous, it was partly a misinterpretation on Lizzie’s part and some mis-communications on both ends. Doesn’t this also happen to modern men? A girl they like perceives them incorrectly and so the story goes… Darcy & Lizzie knowing each other changes both of their characters for the better. But not without some major misunderstandings and verbal disagreements which included both parties expressing their dislikes of the other. This is  pretty standard mis-understanding etc. between men and women that Austen deals with in these two characters. Darcy is a pretty normal guy , striving for virtue, excelling in some, but falling short in others, just like every other catholic guy. Darcy & Lizzie’s relationship is an excellent example of working through mis-understandings & communications, bringing both parties closer & strengthening the bond between them. Contrary to the popular belief of this being a “perfect love story”, what we catholic females actually like about this story is the work put into this relationship on both ends, which blooms into a beautiful romance.
  4. Frank Churchill: Oh Frank. Such a fun, charming guy, who likes to hangout with friends and socialize. But on the flip-side, he gets jealous, and harsh flirts with another girl all the time, just to..what exactly..prove a point? I’m not even sure. He was just being an emotional fool. Something men and women alike fall into.
  5. George Knightly: We’ll just move on from here, since there’s literally nothing wrong with Mr.Knightly. At all. Ever. He is definitely Austen’s perfect man – albeit in a very human way. He reprimands Emma (in all charity) for her mistakes, expects more of her then her laziness sometimes allows, goes the extra length for other’s, not just those he is closest to. He gets irritated, even angry. He strives for self-discipline, and never takes advantage of others, or assumes anything. He’s imperfect in a perfect way. He is forever encouraging Emma in virtue, through friendship and fraternal love, which eventually becomes romantic love. She gets haughty with him at times, but because of his genuine care, character, and the belief that he only ever tries to do that which is good, she always accepts her mistakes, and tries harder the next time. And in turn, her feminine – though imperfect – nature encourages Knightly to be a better example, to be the best man in every situation, and always in genuine humility.

Of course these are all rather watered-down accounts of the various male characters shown such contemption by our jolly Condescender’s. It seems fitting to explain characters in simple ways to people whose simplistic attitude leads them to believe they know what they’re talking about despite never having read a single page of Austen. This sums it up rather quickly. There isn’t a single character in all of Austen’s work who is literally perfect. Her works aren’t about the “perfect romance” like some harlequin romance dubbed a “New York Times Bestseller”, or the latest of Nicholas Spark’s line of cookie-cutter “love” stories. Au contraire, Austen is a true love author. Her works deal with the true and good meaning of love and relationships, be they friends, family, or lovers. None of her heroine’s are perfect, they all have their strengths and weaknesses alike. The same goes for her heroes. Each story is an intricate web of characters, class, life styles, emotions, practicalities, attraction, virtue, vice, and everything else innately human.

(As a side note, I will also point out that Austen’s heroine’s have definitive characters. They have looks, a style of dress, natural virtues & vice, emotions, thoughts, sweet tongues or sassy tongues, every aspect of personality that makes a person individual and unique. Unlike many modern “heroines” who are intentionally written in a vague way, so as to allow any and every woman who reads said book insert herself into said character’s position, and “identify” with the character. I would think this would be appreciated by men, since they complain of this trait in modern stories.)

Appreciating such an authoress and the works she has written that provide momentous opportunity for contemplation, understanding and enlightenment on the subject of human relationships, shows a side of character that women find attractive. A man who shows the ability – or even the attempt – to understand and appreciate (and perhaps even learn to communicate a bit better) through a means that contains such insight into a vital part of the inherent nature of woman, shows himself to be a man who strives to go beyond himself, one who reaches past his own nature so as to form better bonds with one who is the opposite of his own, i.e. woman. I don’t believe men feel the same need to be understood by women, which is simply just a difference in our nature. But I know, personally, I have appreciated Austen’s insight into the male species as well. We won’t understand everything about each other, but the point is to understand what you can, so as to strengthen your relationships and grow in love.

By nature, women are more emotional creatures then men. We form bonds by sharing emotionally with one another, by conversation and a glimpse into one another’s hearts. This is what encourages and forms friendships and love between two people, be they men or women. Yes it comes more naturally to women (it’s a woman’s natural tendency towards nurturing & community, after all). And I’m not of the belief that men must always be in tune with women on a level contrary to their natural instincts. We are different creatures, God made us thus. But are men and women not called to form solid, healthy relationships, where both parties strive to understand and communicate effectively, with empathy and love? My point is that in the attempt at getting to know, appreciate, and have good relationships with women, catholic men would do well to give Austen a chance, and find out what it really is about her books that catholic women enjoy so much. Particularly if said men hope to find the right catholic woman someday. And maybe – just maybe – you’ll end up enjoying Austen’s books, and appreciating her insightful logic and reflections of the opposite sex.

 

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And now for a meme that I hope makes you laugh as much as it made me laugh…note to men: avoid being a Mr.Collins at all possible costs. 

Be Happy in Hope, and Let the Sun Shine Through You

“And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which, though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will. Thus they were all cheerful, and many of them merry.” – Phase the First – The Maiden, Tess of the d’Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy

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Let the sun shine through you (photo taken while out for a walk at a near by Canadian Lake)

To put this treasure of a snippet into context, the narrator is speaking about village country girls, sometime in the later half of nineteenth century England, as they dance in a May Day celebration. But as I read this, I thought how fitting it is for young Catholic women. We should all be warmed by some hope, rooted deep within us, that sprouts itself so high it’s peeping out through our faces, where everyone will see it. The specifics need not be known by others. But a dream, a hope, a love should be so firmly rooted in us that it’s as constant and immovable as the sun itself, and warms our whole being so that those whose paths we cross are warmed by the sun within us.

Sometimes it can be tough to hold on to hope in a dream we’ve been holding onto for a long time. But hoping when everything seems hopeless, is what it’s all about. That’s what hope really is. Hope doesn’t die when the road ahead seems too vast or treacherous. On the contrary, this should invigorate us to hold on and persevere with renewed strength, knowing that at some point the road eases, or we’ll finally hit the luscious valley. The key to hope is seeing the end in your mind’s eye, and keep walking to it no matter the ruts, dips and hills that we have to trudge through to get to it.

Sometimes it feels like it’s time to let go of one dream, and find a new one. And sometimes this is the right thing to do, depending on the dream or hope – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes our lives take a turn we didn’t see coming, and it changes the course of our path entirely, perhaps even away from the initial dream we had. It’s okay to let go of one dream, and pick up another. If a dream really has no chance of coming true, is it a good dream to have? Probably not. Real hope means there is a legitimate chance your dream can come true. To hold onto something that has no probable, possible chance of coming true, is not a dream that will foster healthy hope. If a dream will not foster true hope, it will be detrimental to the soul, since hope is a fundamental piece of the soul. If you’re not going up the hill, you’re rolling backwards. If there is no reasonable hope that a dream can come true if you persevere in prayer and action, it should probably be let go of, because it’s unhealthy to live in an irrational dreamland. But don’t mistake this with persevering in your hope or dream that seems like it won’t ever come true. Use the seemingly endless times, the strenuous times, the times when no matter how much you give it feels like you’ll never see your dream fulfilled, to strengthen your spirit, strengthen your resolve, and grow in love for Our Lord.

That hope or dream within you is the warmth carried through your being, that will draw others to you. Let it bring a smile to your face, let it keep you a merry and happy woman, even during the vast and treacherous times. As Catholic young women striving to be valiant, we should always be striving to bring others closer to Our Lord through our lives. And how better to bring others to him then through our own love, hope, dream, secret sunshine that we can use to show others His Love. Let the joy you find within your own hopes, dreams and desires, be magnified by His Love and shine right through you for others to see, always reflecting Our Lord’s Love.

 

2017 Book 7: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

 

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Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited is a narrative story told from the perspective of one Charles Ryder, an agnostic young man who becomes friends with Sebastian Flyte, a cradle Catholic who struggles with his faith. Charles is quite taken with the members and dynamics of the Flyte Family, (a family of Catholic’s living in 1920s Protestant England) and each of them have their own particular relationship with him. A family torn between a pious mother and a rogue father, each of the four siblings has his/her own struggles. Two are committed Catholics. Two are confused, lost, and somewhat repelled by their faith. Charles witnesses the lives of these different characters as they live out the consequences of their decisions, some outwardly suffering but inwardly excelling in virtue and holiness, others materially excelling but inwardly suffering as they ignore and have anger towards their faith.

Charles himself develops an animosity towards the Catholic faith through the years of knowing the Flyte family. But during WWII, he is brought back to the family estate and as he reflects on his life’s entwinement with this family, he slowly realizes the purpose, the point, the whole mystery of the Catholic faith.

This whole story was a very real example of family circumstances regarding the faith. The mother, a cradle catholic, is a pious soul, whose intuition and ability to communicate do her service in managing and dealing with those she loves. The father, a lapsed convert, is living abroad with his mistress and holds hostile resentment towards his wife. The eldest son is a committed catholic, and goes about his staunch but slightly odd way, never outwardly reprimanding his lapsed siblings but calling things as they are, and not pretending they are otherwise. The elder sister defies her mother and religion by marrying a protestant for his social position, leading her down a path of hardship and saddness. Sebastian feels he can never quite aspire to be the good man he should be, always having an under-lying suspicion that he is too much like his father, and falls into a habit of drunkenness at a young age. The youngest daughter is a pious thing, and although she does not live the life she thought she would, she grows in piety and holiness the older she gets.

Waugh writes about living the catholic faith with such reality. The temptations and struggles each character deals with are very apparent in our day-and-age. The father’s decisions and life choices also affect the children and the struggles they have later in life. This is something I often ponder – generational sin and how our spiritual lives will affect the spiritual lives of those who come after us, just as our spiritual lives are affected by our ancestors. (Generational sin – there are excellent sermon’s online about it). Just as the mother’s piety affects those of her children who are inclined towards that, so the father’s various sins affect those of his children also inclined to those particular sins. It’s a complex thing, but at the same time, simple. The father’s virtue and vice affects his children. The mother’s virtue and vice affects her children. And each child will be affected by it differently, therefore living very different lives, each with his own struggles and successes.

Charles doesn’t quite understand many things within the household, of the dynamics and relationships between various members of the family. But, despite the unsettling feeling the wayward children have towards their mother and more pious siblings, there is still an under-lying understanding of their family and faith. Sebastian comments to Charles a few times that he “just can’t understand” because Charles is not a catholic. Speaking as a cradle catholic, this is more often then not, quite true. Sometimes I find myself in conversations with others who simply can’t grasp what I mean. And it comes down to faith. It’s not something you can explain to another person, particularly if they aren’t wanting or willing to understand. Faith is also a gift, and not everyone has been given it – although all they need do is ask for it.

The “wayward” children know the choices they should make, even if they can’t put a concrete reason as to exactly why. Also what struck me was the emotional outrage stirred up in one character during a particular scene, when her older brother spoke simply and openly about her choice to live in mortal sin. The brother wasn’t unkind or accusatory at all in his speech, but speaking openly and truthfully about her actions ultimately brought her guilt to the forefront. This is too true a scenario. When one runs one’s life catering to the passions, it is naturally the emotions which take over whenever an opposition comes about. It usually ends in an ugly scene where said outraged person is illogical, full of self-pity, and contempt for the opposition (and, I might add, all in the name of “being judged”).

We also see the compassion within the catholic characters, the forgiveness which is such a core part of the faith, and the mercy shown it’s most bitter and ornery children, even if it’s merely moments before death. Because ultimately the catholic faith is about Love and making sure we spend eternity with our one True Love.

I really found this story intriguing. It’s written in a captivating style, keeping every moment interesting. And because it is written in first person, there is a vast chance to ponder the reasons behind different characters actions, which adds so much to the story, if you’re one who likes ruminating on various aspects of life and the soul.