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A lesson from Bilbo

treeofgondor“But this is terrible!” cried Frodo. “Far worse than the worst that I imagined from your hints and warnings. O Gandalf, best of friends, what am I to do? For now I am really afraid. What am I to do? What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!”

“Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity.”

                                                                                                        – ch 2, The Followship of the Ring

Never had I pondered Bilbo’s relatively healthy mental state before upon the beginning of The Fellowship. Considering he had been in possession of The Ring for decades, there was little evil effect upon his soul by the time he does give up the ring to Frodo. The Ring had wielded such power over Isildur in times gone by, Sméagol in more recent times, and others, who had not even come into contact with The Ring. So why hadn’t it proved to be such a powerful evil once again, manipulating and affecting the mind of a content little hobbit after it had finally slipped away from the grubby Gollum and back into the world for its chance to reach Sauron once again?

As the wise Gandalf tells us – it’s because of pity. Pity can be translated into empathy, empathy to mercy, mercy to love. The pity Bilbo had in his heart for the pathetic existence of the creature Gollum is a character defining trait. Gollum was a trickster, an evil spirited being with no more moral compass then a snake. He was prepared, and even fastening a plan during their exchange, to kill Bilbo right then and there. And yet, when Bilbo had the upper hand, he showed this vile creature mercy. The first life and character altering decision Bilbo made when in possession of the ring was one of pity, of mercy, of love for a fellow creature. It is exactly as Gandalf says: Bilbo begins his ownership of The Ring with pity, with mercy, with love. Because of this very first decision he makes with such power within his grasp, evil is held at bay, it doesn’t consume him the way it did Sméagol – who, we know, made the opposite decision, and killed his cousin Deagol for the ring, which ultimately leads to the killing of any humanity within him. Instead of becoming an unrecognizable creature, Bilbo remains the same, save for his prolonged age, and definite desire to keep the ring in his possession.

The last decision Bilbo made with the ring – to leave it to Frodo – is connected to his very first decision. How, after so many years, was he able to (reluctantly, sure) able to leave it, to walk away from it? His very first decision regarding the ring was made out of love. Undoubtedly the decisions we make in life affect our later decisions. Selfish decisions encourage more selfish decisions, selfless decisions encourage further selfless decisions, giving into temptation once makes it harder to avoid the next time, just as standing strong against temptation makes it easier to stay strong the next time. His very first decision made out of love, against such an evil (an evil so strong it fills a pleasant hobbit mind with murder within minutes of touching it), would have given such strength to Bilbo’s soul. Despite decades of possessing the ring, he was still able to draw from that strength, courage, love, to leave the ring when he knew it was time.

Like Bilbo, we can also propagate strength through the good decisions we make, or propagate evil through the bad decisions we make. With every strong & good decision made against our human weaknesses, we gain graces, making it easier to choose good the next time. Likewise, every time we fail to make the good decision, we are pulled further down, making it that much more difficult to make the good decision next time. A seed can easily be dug up, drowned out, eventually lost and forgotten among a sea of weeds. Or, with tender and consistent fostering, it can grow into an oak tree, producing more fruits itself.

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St. Bernadette – quick & humorous

Lourdes, Santa Bernadette
I am currently reading a very detailed biography of one of my patrons, Bernadette Soubirous. There are several things that have popped out at me as being oddly familiar and similar (disclaimer: not comparing her sainthood with my attempts at it), but her response to persons of authority behaving unreasonably has to be the most comical I’ve come across yet. While I do my best not to be disrespectful, the humour in me can’t help but have a quick and somewhat sassy tongue. It is sometimes a vice, but sometimes just an imperfection. I find many things in life humorous, and it sometimes jumps out of my mouth before I can check it. The more I read of saints, the more I learn how human they really were, and the more I realize I, too, can become a saint, despite my sassy quips. I had a good laugh at the following scene, condensed for the

reader’s benefit:

Between the 11th and 12th apparitions at Lourdes, Constable Latapie was sent by Monsieur Rives, the Examining Magistrate, to bring Bernadette in for questioning and intimidation. Constable Latapie waited after High Mass, and asked the Sister accompanying the class of school girls who Bernadette was. When Bernadette came out of the church, he took her gently by the arm.

 
“Why are you taking her away?” asked the Sister, quickly becoming upset.

 
“I have orders.” the Constable replied.

 
“What do you want me for?” Bernadette asked.

 
“Little girl, you must come with us.” Constable Latapie replied.

 
Bernadette started to laugh and replied, “Hold me tight or I shall escape.”

 
Constable Latapie took Bernadette to Monsieur Rives’ (the Magistrate’s) house, and when they entered, M. Rives called out “are you there, you little rascal?” To which Bernadette replied, “Yes, sir, I am here.”

 
Monsieur Rives tried to intimidate Bernadette into answering questions “truthfully” and keep her from continuing to go to the grotto. “We are going to lock you up. What are you after at the grotto? Why do you make everybody run after you like this? There is somebody behind you driving you on to act like this. We are going to put you in prison.”
Bernadette replied: “I’m ready. Put me in there and make it solid and well fastened, or else I shall escape.”

 
❤ ❤ ❤

 
I absolutely love how little she was concerned by what they said or how they treated her. She knew she was doing right, and that’s all that mattered. No form of imprisonment or unjust accusations affected her in the least. She remained so calm in this entire scene (which is longer then what I’ve given you). And, despite her peace, she keeps her quick tongue flying in a way that throws her antagonists off, with humour.

 

Thrift Store Thrills

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I mean look at them.. Could you have resisted these!?

Red and I were out to dinner in an unfamiliar area a ways from our ridge, and popped into a thrift store I spotted a few doors before the restaurant. “Thrift” is such an alluring signage word, one never knows what treasures lie amid the piles of discarded items. I can’t help myself. And I don’t try to. It’s an innocent and lovely thrill. I must enter, and browse the shelves of old items that each have an history and story to tell of their own.

This was a very small shop, and (fortunately, for my wallet) scanty on the gold findings. There was a very small book section on a very small shelf, and took a very small amount of time to scan through. But in very small crisp black font on a very small orange spine, I read the word “Tennyson”. Before I knew what was happening, my arm had reached out, and pulled the small book off the small shelf – my heart slightly fluttering as my fingers flipped through it’s small pages and my eyes lay hold of the dainty illustrations surrounding the very small pages of poetry. I turned to the back cover and saw a small price tag marked $1.00. So I didn’t put it back on the shelf.

Continueing my scanning, another title popped out: “The Secret Garden.” I pulled it down, flipped through the pages with one quick sweep. The forest green spine was mint, not a single crease – an indication of its unread life. Having been sitting on a bookshelf, untouched, since the 90s (yes, I recognized the publishing era of my childhood on a classic novel), it was only right that it be given the opportunity of a proper life. I already have a copy of The Secret Garden. Fairy also already has a copy.

Reader, I bought it anyways. For the cost of $1.00.

This copy will sit on one of my bookshelves, awaiting its new home comfortably between two other beloved novels, until the person comes along whom this book has been waiting for, to enjoy its tale of friendship, adventure, learning and love, and rest easy on said persons bookshelf, knowing it is finally fulfilling its purpose, and waiting eagerly to be read again and again and again by hearts it deserves to be loved by.

Ahh the thrills that only a thrift or antique store can provide…

A Mere Passing: on living life for death

Photos“…Don’t be afraid, Ruby.”

“I can’t help it,” said Ruby pitifully. “Even if what you say about heaven is true – and you can’t be sure – it may be only that imagination of yours – it won’t be just the same. It can’t be. I want to go on living here. I’m so young, Anne. I haven’t had my life. I’ve fought so hard to live – and it isn’t any use – I have to go – and leave everything I care for.”

“Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life – the things that pass – forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other – from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there – Anne believes – she would learn – but now it was no wonder her soul clung, in blind helplessness, to the only things she knew and loved.”

– on the death of Ruby, Chapter 14, Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery

We all certainly have our own vision and idea of heaven, no doubt to be put to shame upon arriving there. But those imaginings are something we really all should have, in helping us to make heaven more real and kept at the forefront of our mind and heart through this life. If we don’t live for the higher things, what is there when we die? Ruby “laid up her treasures on earth only”, she never gave a thought to what lies ahead after death, or put effort into cultivating prayer and virtue in the hope of moving closer to heaven while still on earth. Naturally she was terrified to leave the only thing she knew. By striving to put our hearts, minds, intentions and acts a little bit closer to Our Lord everyday, we bring ourselves a little bit closer to heaven, so when the time does come to die, it doesn’t seem like such a far off, unfamiliar place. If we pray, ponder, and live for what comes after death, surely death will come as a welcomed friend – like waking from a dream to finally enter the reality we were made for: heaven.

 

2017 Review & 2018 Goals

2017 was a good year. Looking over my goals…

  1. Write/keep track of every novel I read this year. Success, in part. I have written about 13 books I read this past year. I didn’t keep track of every novel, for shame, since now I can’t remember all of them. I have a habit of being side-tracked by beloved novels and re-reading them during times I am trying to get through novels I can’t seem to get into, or (in Tess of the D’Uberville’s case) when the novel is too dark and depressing to continue before I take a breath of fresh air. My excuse to myself was that I’d read the novels before, so no need to write about them. But in truth it was mostly because I was so eager to get to the next one, I didn’t make the time to sit down and write. This year I shall write about each and every book I read. And I will read more books then last year. 
  2. Write more faithfully in my journal, as I’ve lacked the past few months. Unsuccessful. It was sporadic, and mostly not done. But I miss this habit. 
  3. No binge-watching. There were no long shows I’ve binge watched this past year. I slowly made my way through one long series, and enjoyed it more because it was spread out over several months. I did, however, binge-watch BBC’s ‘The Muskateers’ with Library (because she’d never seen it, and it’s a very entertaining series!)  
  4. Attend more social events. Friday nights are sometimes so hard to be social on, after a long work week – and I’m a social, adventurous extrovert! (Introverts, you have my sympathies on this, truly). Mind over exhaustion and be social before becoming squirrely. This goal became more about knowing my ability & my limits. Pushing through when necessary, but also allowing myself down time when deemed necessary. Sometimes it’s ok to skip out on something after three or four weeks of a busy schedule without down-time, and no need to feel guilty for it, even if I have been lacking purely social times. 
  5. Hike more in hiking season. Put other things aside and go out in nature, because that’s where I am happiest. This definitely did not happen. I think I went on a short morning hike once, early in the year, because of a very busy work schedule and my spring/summer/fall weekends being so busy with commitments. 
  6. Go shooting more. Unsuccessful. See #5 above. 
  7. Travel somewhere I want to go to. Success! In fact, more then a success. This past summer I travelled to PEI & Nova Scotia (a dream trip since I was old enough to read & watch Anne of Green Gables), and I also went to Australia for a pilgrimage, which was very last minute and whirlwind but an amazing experience and worth it! 

 

2018 goals: 

  1. Read more novels then last year.
  2. Write about every novel I read this year, including beloved re-reads. Attempt to keep the re-reads at bay, since there are countless new novels I want to read.
  3. Follow my work out/nutrition/cheat routine.
  4. Build back my habit of journal writing.
  5. Keep weekends more free from commitments, for recreational/personal time.

 

 

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 contempt 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.

Pause and do a Twirl

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Recently I was doing school lessons with my little niece while visiting with my sister-in-law and the kidlets. Reading lesson was over, and Fairy-godchild lifted up her catechism book onto my lap before flitting from light-switch to lamp to other light-switch, “getting some light in this place!” As she whisked up onto the couch to turn on the final lamp, she semi-reached, then had a split-second of thought before delightedly spinning a twirl with a dainty bounce. She then turned on the lamp, scrambled over to my side on the other couch, and sat down and to have her catechism lesson.

Being her “Fairy god-auntie-mother”, I naturally watch her every move without her being aware, and smiled as I watched her flitting about with a purpose to bring better light to read by. But when she paused mid-action to twirl and smile brilliantly to herself, I was struck by how right she was in pausing amid her necessary task to enjoy a twirl of gaiety before continuing her school work.

It never fails to amaze me how such simple lessons can be taught to us by innocent children. We all need to take a pause during the busy day and do a twirl of our own – stop and watch the sun set, take a deep breath and listen to the morning birds sing (yes, I’ve already heard morning song birds twice in the past week! Early spring? I hope so!), jump over a puddle, sprint down the sidewalk in a race with a friend while you’re out for a walk, or just do a little twirl as you’re cooking in the kitchen. It’s important to stop and remember to enjoy life, instead of being caught up in the hurried bustle of everyday without breaking to appreciate the simple and beautiful things life holds.