Liveblogging Catholicism

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Fr. Robert Barron is on-campus today to offer a couple lectures, the first of which is going on…oh, right now. He’s also showing clips from the series, so I’m not sure how many notes I’ll take, but since I know at least my mom is jealous, I’m going to post anything worthwhile here. Stay tuned.

4:45: “Card. George says you can’t evangelization a culture you don’t love.”

4:40: “I hate dumbed down Catholicism, like what I got as a kid. My niece is reading Einstein in her science class, Shakespeare in her lit class, in her Latin class, Virgil, and in her religion class? A comic book. I am an enemy of ‘beige Catholicism’.”

4:37: Question: What does the “New Evangelization” mean? Using new media to invade the culture. The DVD series is available in seven languages, including Mandarin.

4:22: The radiance of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta is as beautiful as Chartres, and the answer to the mystery of this happiness is found in the heart of Catholicism.

4:13: “It’s Important to meet the skeptical world with the wealth of our intellectual tradition.”

4:08: Just watched the 9-minute trailer (sorry I don’t have a link; my iPad isn’t quite conducive to finding one). I don’t think it’s possible to watch it as a Catholic and not get a little choked up by the awesomeness.

3:56: The vast majority of the $3 million funding came from lay people, not parishes/dioceses.

3:54: “Catholicism is a smart religion. We’re constantly examining ourselves.”

3:50: Talking about how people have been led to his videos because of the pop culture references (someone who googled Charlie Sheen > Martin Sheen > Fulton Sheen > Fr. Barron). People who never would’ve gone to a church is drawn in by videos about Bob Dylan and The Departed.

3:45: “We have technology Fulton Sheen would’ve given his right arm for.”

3:43: There seems to be a recurring theme that everyone knows that Catholics need to embrace media, but most of them have no ideas about what that means or how best to do it.

3:40: ” Our Protestant friends are way ahead of us when it comes to using media.” Either stop complaining about it, or do something.

3:34: This lecture is sponsored solely by the Colleges of Science and Engineering. I think that says a lot (all good) about those departments.

3:25: Good crowd here, some of whom are the usual suspects, but also lots of people I wouldn’t have expected. I saw a priest whom I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged as a fan just whip out a credit card and buy the boxed set – before the lecture!

3:20: Students outside the lecture hall: “What is this – like, evangelism? Why would they do that here?” Yeah. Clearly it’s not necessary.

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A million miles without leaving home?

I recently read two books that were, the more I think about them, somewhat related.  Taken separately as well as together, they’ve occupied many of my thoughts over the last few days. First, on the recommendation of Mom and Jennifer Fulwiler, I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  While consulting on a screenplay based on his own memoir, Miller realizes that his life as it actually happened does not make a very compelling story (the layers of this sound more Inception-like and complicated than they actually are).  Thus, he begins to explore what it means to live a “good story.”  As he learns about the mechanics of storytelling, he applies it to his life, taking risks and overcoming conflicts.  His accomplishments as described in the book are quite impressive (think “biking across the U.S.” and “starting a non-profit”).

Overall, this book was a great read and very thought-provoking.  After I finished, his indictment of mediocrity stayed with me, and I began to consider things that I could do in my own life.  Ultimately, the problem is this: Miller is the independent writer of a New York Times bestseller.  He sets his own schedule and presumably has a larger travel budget than most of us.  I sat on the couch after finishing the book, spinning the globe around on my Google Earth app, taking in the vast amounts of geography that I’ve never seen and in all likelihood will never see, and getting more depressed by the minute.  I think one of the lessons of the book is that the greater the obstacles, the better the story.  But what about in the meantime?  Say, for example, that the greatest obstacle between me and my goal is time and money.  Well, both of these will come eventually through diligently going to work every day.  How do I live a good story in the meantime?  That’s my chief problem with this book: there wasn’t enough suggestion of how to apply these principles in everyday life.

The next day, still feeling a little down at the prospect of never hiking the Inca Trail, I came across One Thousand Gifts.  With a subtitle like “A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are,” I thought, Aha!  This will be the antidote!  Unfortunately, while the message was good, it got lost in the writing.  Miller’s book was extremely accessible while still being eloquent; Voskamp writes in a much more poetic style that borders on stilted.  The way that the modifiers all followed the nouns (“the fingers stiff,” “the grass dew-swept,” etc.) started to grate on me to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on the full sentence anymore.  The style may well suit some people; I’m just not one of them (based on the hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon, I’d say that I’m solidly in the minority).

The point of the book, though, was that in finding cause to be thankful in all situations, everyday life becomes more mundane, and misfortunes become an occasion to see grace.  It’s hard to argue with that, and I’ve already started adopting some of her practices.

Reading these two books in quick succession has left me wondering how to reconcile their ideas.  Miller seems to want me to have an series of events that I can look back on and say, “Yes.  That was worthwhile,”  while Voskamp would place the value on simply being able to recognize the merit of tiny occurrences of beauty, like the spectrum of colors in a bubble of dish soap.  Are these ideas compatible?  Does noticing the shape of each rock eventually lead to scaling the mountain?  This is what I’m pondering today.

Making my own music

One of the benefits of having spent so much time with a good choir is that I now have a “liturgical jukebox” of sorts in my head. Today’s first reading, for instance, brought to mind one of my favorite pieces (video below). It ran through my head, giving me my own personal offertory motet during what was otherwise a pretty…sparse Mass.

Of course, this ability backfires sometimes, leaving me with a badly translated Spanish hymn or just a lame English interpretation stuck in my head, but when that happens, my mental liturgical ninjas are on the case pretty quickly to restore order.