Monday, 23 February 2015

The Downton Abbey Episode That Made Me Bawl My Eyes Out


Hey hey, all you Downton fans! Everybody else, go away. This is going to be so irrelevant to you. It's like when you overhear people having an animated conversation about a common friend and common memories that only they share, and you're like "Who is Lady Mary and why should I care about her long drawn out romance with Matthew Crawley?" So go away, start watching Downton (preferably legally) and then come back and join the party.

Okay, so this is to give you some background to the bawling. I have had a tough, draining weekend emotionally and spiritually, and I've been waiting for Sunday night like the light at the end of a tunnel. Because Sunday night is the night I come over to my parents' and watch FIVE recorded Downton episodes in a row every week. So last night as I sat down to watch I was SO HYPERLY EXCITED about it. I had my chocolate (nope, didn't give that up for Lent), stretched out in front of the TV, and was ALL SET FOR THE AWESOMENESS. I wasn't disappointed.

 Pic provided by my 22 year old brother, who also watches Downton along with my mum and dad.

Now background to the actual episode. Season 2: Christmas Special. We've all been following Lady Mary as she's grown from a sarcastic, selfish, mercenary young woman to someone who actually acts and lives selflessly. Ages ago she shocked and disappointed me when she allowed herself to be seduced by a visiting Turkish diplomat (he was supposed to be irresistibly hot? I didn't see it) who died of a heart attack in her bed (MELODRAMA FOR THE WIN!) but the ramifications of that are still being felt. Her mother knew, her grandmother, the awesomely sarcastic Dowager Countess knew, she was engaged to the Creep (aka Sir Richard Carlisle) who knew, and blackmailed her into staying engaged to him because he would publish all if she left him.


But the two big showdowns that hadn't happened were between her and her father Lord Grantham, and her and Matthew Crawley, the (distant) cousin, and now heir, she had once been engaged to, was still in love with. In spite of being in love with each other, their love story kept getting interrupted by a number or tiresome obstacles:

1. Lady Mary's selfishness (Matthew was possibly going to lose his title and the fortune)
2. Matthew's disappointment in her (she didn't stick by him in thick or thin, so fair enough)
3. Matthew falling in love with and getting engaged to Lavinia Swire (sweet but she's NOT MARY)
4. Mary being noble and not telling Matthew about her feelings (yay selflessness)
5. Lavinia Swire dying 'of a broken heart' making Matthew feel guilty because he believed it was because she knew he was still in love with Mary. "We deserve to be unhappy." Psshhhtttt.

 Lavinia Swire and her extremely melodramatic death

6.  Also, Mary is now engaged to the Creep. The creepy Creep. Did I mention that he creeps me out?

 The Creep grabs her arm. Matthew is losing it in the background.

Now this is set in a time and place where Appearances and Avoiding Scandal are the two most important factors on which all decisions are made (probably not super different from very traditional Indian homes). Marrying a Creep apparently was her only choice to prevent her name being dragged through the mud. But but but... everything in our hearts cried out against it! This is not right! How can you be with a man who so plainly acts like he owns you, who has THREATENED you? Lady Mary is one of the most outspoken, plain-speaking, strong characters I've ever seen in real life or TV life. She reminds me of me in her no nonsense, who cares about frills in speech, say it like it is attitude. How can SHE be tied down by this man?

 Lady Mary and her father Lord Grantham

And then... out of the blue, her father brings it up. (Her mother had finally told him.)


ROBERT Can I ask you something? 
LADY MARY Of course. 
ROBERT Do you stay with Carlisle because he’s threatened to expose the story of Mr Pamuk dying in your bed? 

Ahhhh! She knows he knows. How is he going to react? A man of honour who has very strict standards of what is acceptable and what is not. A member of the British nobility reared to also care deeply about Appearances and Avoiding Scandal. How would he react to his daughter's shameful secret?

LADY MARY When did you find out?

ROBERT Your mother told me when I asked why you were still with Carlisle when you look so tired of him.
LADY MARY How very disappointed you must be.
ROBERT Your Mama chose her moment well. And you’re not the first Crawley to make a mistake.


Oh yeah.. so he had a brief flirtation with a pretty housemaid, which was so out of character and really upset me (emotional investment much?), but his better nature prevailed as he did not have an affair with he. But now... maybe his brief lapse, had softened him, helped him realize how weak, how fallible we humans are. Anyone can mess up.

LADY MARY To answer your question, it is partly true, though not entirely. In Mama’s phrase, I am “damaged goods” now. Richard is, after all, prepared to marry me in spite of it, to give me a position, to give me a life. 
ROBERT And that’s worth it? Even though he already sets your teeth on edge? What about Matthew? How does he view the late Mr Pamuk? 
LADY MARY He doesn’t know.
ROBERT So that is not what split you apart; I thought it might have been.
LADY MARY Oh, no. Th—there are other reasons for that... to do with Lavinia.
ROBERT I see. And those reasons are final?
LADY MARY They are final for Matthew. So, yes, they are.
ROBERT Here’s what I think. Break with Carlisle. He may publish, but we’ll be a house of scandal anyway with Bates’s story. Go to America, stay with your grandmother until the fuss dies down. You may find the New World is to your taste.
LADY MARY He’ll keep my secret if I marry him.


And then... moment of truth! What matters most in the heart of this man?

ROBERT Once I might have thought that a good thing. But I’ve been through a war and a murder trial since then, to say nothing of your sister’s choice of husband. I don’t want my daughter to be married to a man who threatens her with ruin. I want a good man for you, a brave man. Find a cowboy in the Middle West and bring him back to shake us up a bit.
[Mary chuckles with tears in her eyes and rushes to hug Robert.]
LADY MARY Oh, Papa!


And Sue starts weeping because OH MY SWEET BELOVED JESUS THE LOVE OF A FATHER FOR HIS DAUGHTER THE SWEET UNDESERVED GRACE AND LOVE AND FORGIVENESS AND HE JUST WANTS HER TO BE HAPPY HE WANTS A GOOD MAN FOR HER, A BRAVE MAN BECAUSE NOTHING SHE DID CAN STOP HER FROM BEING THE DAUGHTER HE WANTS TO PROTECT AND LOVE!!!!!!

Okay Sue, calm down. But really, I wept sweet, sweet tears. This is TRUTH,. This is real LOVE. This is GOD'S love. This is the love humans were MEANT to have for each other. Undeserved free unconditional love. Love that doesn't withdraw when it is disappointed or hurt. I have been more and  more reflecting on GRACE being at the core of my Christian faith, and how desperately the world is in need of grace, how much I need to extend grace to people, without for a moment judging whether they 'deserve' my love.

Okay, as if that wasn't enough for one episode, she tells Matthew about it too. I love Mary and Matthew's interactions because they're so real, so authentic. They know the worst and the best about each other. Their conversations are always so honest.

LADY MARY Why were you up at the house this evening? Did Papa summon you?
MATTHEW As a matter of fact, I came to see you. I wanted to find out what you meant when you said you had to marry Carlisle and that I’d despise you if I knew the reason.
LADY MARY Yes, you would.
MATTHEW Whatever it is, it cannot be enough for you to marry him.
LADY MARY That’s what Papa said.
MATTHEW So, you told him?
LADY MARY Yes.
MATTHEW And does he despise you?
LADY MARY He’s...very disappointed in me.
MATTHEW Even so...please tell me.


So she does... And then..

LADY MARY Say something...if it’s only goodbye.
MATTHEW Did you love him?
LADY MARY You mustn’t try to--
MATTHEW Because if it was love, then--
LADY MARY How could it be love? I didn’t know him—
MATTHEW Then why would you—?
LADY MARY It was lust, Matthew! Or a need for excitement, or something in him that I...Oh, God, what difference does it make? I’m Tess of the d'Urbervilles to your Angel Claire. I have fallen. I am impure.
MATTHEW Don’t joke. Don’t make it little, not when I’m trying to understand.
LADY MARY Thank you for that. But the fact remains...that I am made different by it. Things have changed between us.
MATTHEW Even so, you must not marry him.
ADY MARY So, I must brave the storm?
MATTHEW You’re strong. A storm-braver if ever I saw one.
LADY MARY I wonder. Sybil’s the strong one. She really doesn’t care what people think, but I’m afraid I do. Papa suggested I go to New York to stay with Grandmama to ride it out.
MATTHEW You can find some unsuspecting millionaire.
LADY MARY Preferably one who doesn’t read English papers.
MATTHEW Go or stay you must sack Carlisle. It isn’t worth buying off a month of scandal with a lifetime of misery...... You were wrong about one thing.
LADY MARY Only one? And what is that, pray?
MATTHEW I never would...I never could despise you.


I love that we can see the hurt in his face, that they don't act like it wasn't a bad thing. I feel like nowadays it would be like "What the heck? It was just a sexual adventure, which was my free choice to make and nobody better have an opinion about that."

And then, right at the end of the episode... sweet sweet fulfilment of all that we had been waiting for, for two seasons...

 
First at the Servant's Ball, he dances with her. (The traditional sign of a man's interest in a woman.) Our heartbeat quickens. Is he softening? Has he changed his mind, and decided that he is not expected to live with guilt forever? Maybe, maybe.... And then, later-

[Matthew joins Mary as she stands out in the falling snow with no coat.]
MATTHEW That was fun. There'll be a few thick heads in the morning.
LADY MARY No doubt they think it's worth it.
MATTHEW You're really going to America.
LADY MARY (nods) Mm.
MATTHEW Would Carlisle make your life a nightmare if you stayed?
LADY MARY I couldn't tell you. Maybe. Even if he does let me go, my story's still out there and always will be.
MATTHEW Would you stay...if I asked you to.
[Mary looks at him in surprise, then shakes her head and looks down.]


We hold our collective breaths... On the brink of happiness. Can it be? Will it be?

LADY MARY Oh, Matthew, you don't mean that. You know yourself we carry more luggage than the porters at King's Cross.
[Matthew chuckles.]
LADY MARY And what about the late Mr Pamuk? Won't he resurrect himself every time we argued?
MATTHEW No.
[Mary looks at him in hopeful surprise.]
LADY MARY You mean you've forgiven me?
MATTHEW No, I haven't forgiven you.
LADY MARY Well, then.
MATTHEW I haven't forgiven you because...I don't believe you need my forgiveness. You've lived your life and I've lived mine. And now it's time we lived them together.
LADY MARY We've been on the edge of this so many times, Matthew. Please don't take me there again unless you're sure.


Yes, we have! Please don't do this to us, Matthew. Only say it if you mean it. Don't play with our hearts, please. We've been waiting for this for so long.

MATTHEW I am sure.


Swoooon. He's sure! He looks strong, and confident, and happy, and sure, the way a suitor should look.

LADY MARY And your...vows to the memory of Lavinia?
MATTHEW I was wrong. I...I don' think she wants us to be sad. She was someone who never caused a moment's sorrow in her whole life.
LADY MARY (nods) I agree.


WE ALL AGREE!!!!

MATTHEW Then, will you?
[Mary looks into his face, her face lighting up]


Come on, Matthew, that's the best you're going to do? Nope, Lady Mary's got it.

LADY MARY You must say it properly. I won't answer unless you...kneel down and everything.
[Matthew sighs in amusement, kneels down and takes her hands.]
MATTHEW Lady Mary Crawley, will you do me the honour of becoming my wife?
LADY MARY Yes.



HAPPY HAPPY TEARS THIS IS SO RIGHT TRUE LOVE DOES EXIST EVEN THOUGH THIS IS A FICTIONAL TV SERIES BUT SOMEHOW SOMEHOW THIS GIVES ME HOPE AND MAKES ME SO SO HAPPY!!!!

I love how they don't just passionately kiss, but laugh as he lifts her up and spins around. Like real life when you're happy you laugh and you just can't stop smiling. Not look melodramatically romantic. They are just happy happy happy and we rejoice in their happiness because we waited so long for it, and rooted for them through the struggle and sacrifice and pain and hoping and waiting. So beautiful.

Sorry for making you sit through that. Until next time.

P.S. If you're way ahead of me, past Season 4, read this: The One Where I Slap Thomas (season 4, Episode 1)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Self-Obsessed

So I've been reading this book 'Let Go'* during my prayer time each day. Last week, I was reading about 'The Discovery and Death of Self'...
'It was Henry Van Dyke who said, "Self is the only prison that can bind the soul." Let Go Introduction
I've known for years I was self-obsessed. (That's why I tell people I'm going to be the patron saint of humility.) The photo folder named 'Me' that I kept adding photos to might have tipped me off. The way I skimmed through photo albums, and only paused if there were pictures of me. The constant obsession with (the unattractiveness of) my hair, compliments, guys who paid any attention to me, how much I talked about myself.

But now the more I think of it, the more I realize how easy it is for MOST people to live a life completely revolved around the God of ME, no matter what they may be doing. Its the most evident in the world of Facebook.

Selfies are only the tip of the iceberg. Or liking your own status.

Selfies circa 2005 or so... Somebody stop me!


 This didn't happen.

It's writing witty/wise/thoughtful statuses and incessantly checking how many 'Likes' you got.

It's that sinking feeling when no one reacts to something you posted.

It's checking WHO the 156 people who liked your profile pic are.

It's constantly changing your profile pic. Un-tagging unflattering pictures of yourself. Bugging people to upload photos from the last party/holiday because you want to see yourself in them.

I don''t want to mock anyone who does these things because I've been there. And they, like me, are just hungry for recognition, affirmation, validation. And maybe it doesn't mean that your ego is too big. Maybe it means your self-image is kinda shaky, and it needs some bolstering. Why NOT get it through a bunch of Facebook likes?

Because it can so easily become addictive. When you try to deal with low self-worth by feeding yourself with 'I'm-so-awesome-all-these-likes-prove-it', you begin to live for your next fix. And it will never satisfy.

We see the addiction and aggrandizement of self in blogging too. Nothing like a platform to make people feel self-important. 'A space for ME.' I think that's a direct quote from my first blog post of my first blog that I started almost nine years ago. Writing about MY experiences, MY opinions, MY feelings. Having an appreciative audience. Watching the stats, the number of pageviews, the comments. And that's just on an itty-bitty blog like mine that mostly only my friends read, and hardly anyone ever comments on. What must be the temptation for the BIG bloggers?

Okay, stop blogging then, Sue. Get off Facebook. You obviously need a reality check.


Don't worry, there's room for being self-obsessed everywhere! And there's better ways of hiding it from even yourself, under the guise of social acceptability. How about some doing good work... to make yourself feel good? How about thinking AS you help someone, 'Well, that was thoughtful of me'? (Like Phoebe in Friends 'There's no such thing as a truly selfless good deed.')

How about Instagramming your life to make it look prettier and more quirky/fun/meaningful than it is?

How about conversations that keep going back to YOU? (If not aloud, then in your head.) My sister and I have a code to remind each other when we're doing that- 'I don't have a cat'. Because of this:

Person 1: My cat died.
Person 2: I don't have a cat.


How about editing what you say to people about your day or week so that they hear about only the good version of you? Or wait, how about putting yourself down a little, being a little self-deprecating, so THEN they think you're humble? So much more subtle.

How about choosing your religion or beliefs or opinions from whichever option sounds the most polished/intellectually elite/popular/funny? Something that makes you feel a little rush of  'I'm so above all these uneducated, simplistic masses'? Don't worry, there's versions of that in people who profess to follow Christianity, atheism, agnosticism, and probably most other belief systems. How many of us love truth for truth, uninfluenced by how good that version of truth looks on us, or how it makes other people view us?

What about falling in love? How often do we call it 'love' when it's really about how the other person makes ME feel, how well they stroke my ego, the attention they pay me? Do I dwell longingly on the times when I saw signs of their interest in ME? Are they at all interesting to me if it's not in reference to me? Do I want marriage and babies because it'll make me feel validated and important in the eyes of the world?

Someone I know recently mentioned the rush of self-importance even of standing up as a lector at Mass. I have felt the rush of giving talks where I can see the effect of my words on my audience. I win them over, and I LOVE the feeling. Because IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!

How many of us approach any kind of social occasion thinking 'What will they think of me? What kind of impression am I making?' or 'How can I maximize my own pleasure at this thing? How can I get the most attention? How am I feeling?' (I once drew a graph of how much fun I was having WHILE hanging out with friends. Yeah, I think I'm so funny.)

I could go on.

There's self-important and self-obsessed people everywhere. It's more obvious in some. Most of us, if we dig a little deeper into our motivations, find that those self-important, self-obsessed people are us.

So what's the solution? I can delete my Facebook, and my blog, but that won't stop the ego from trying to poison other things in my life. Should I stop doing good works because of the impure motives mixed in the purer ones? Probably not. I could write blog posts about being self-obsessed, but maybe that would just make me feel I was being so authentic and honest, without really changing. Do I just accept my self-centredness as a fact of life, and resign myself to it?
I refuse.

The reason I have hope is because of the saints. The joyful, selfless people I've met who seem to have found the secret. And the secret isn't self-hatred. I think there are three keys to killing the self-obsession.

1. Take a good, hard, honest look at the ugliness of your own self-obsession. As it meets the light of truth, it will shrivel.
... Your ego can neither be convinced nor forced into submission by any means (except being reduced to a state of weakness): it is always finding secret lines of supply from your own courage; it is always discovering impenetrable retreats in your own cleverness. It was hidden from your eyes while it fed upon the subtle poison of an apparent generosity as you constantly sacrificed yourself for others....

Self love, forced into the light, sees itself as it really is in all its deformity and despair and disgrace...

To expose self love (is to) no longer see self as wise, prudent, polite, composed and courageous in sacrificing itself for others..
All you have to do is to quietly look at it as it is. The moment you can do this, self will disappear. (Letter 10, Let Go)
Once you've surrendered the worst, most shameful, vain, selfish part of you to a merciful God, who is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, let go.

2. Choose to live in the theo-drama: 'The favorite theologian of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Hans Urs von Balthasar, distinguished between what he called “the ego-drama” and “the theo-drama.” The ego drama is the play written by you, produced by you, and above all, starring you. The theo-drama is the play written and produced by God. You, along with everyone else, have a role to play in it, and discovering that role is what will make your life worth living. That's the pearl of great prize. That's the treasure buried in the field. Your life is finally not about you — and that is wonderful news.' Fr. Robert Barron, Providence College Commencement Address

Since I am only who I am in the eyes of God, neither the world's praise nor its blame can make or break me.

Living in the theo-drama doesn't mean choosing to beat oneself up all the time. It isn't to think BADLY of yourself. It is to stop spending so much time thinking of self at all. It's turning the gaze outwards- to God and neighbour.

3. 'Sparkle with self-forgetfulness'.

(Insert sparkly Instagram picture of girl who 'obviously' isn't self-obsessed, nah, doesn't work)

Some years ago, I was in the middle of one of those dramatic situations where Girl 1 and Girl 2 like Guy, Guy had been paying some attention to Girl 1, until Girl 3 turned up, then Guy falls for Girl 3, who is flirty and attention-seeking and altogether unworthy of Guy's attention according to Girl 1 and Girl 2 anyway. We were about to go for some outing, and I (Girl 1) was upset and worried about how everyone was going to relate to each other, whether Guy would pay any attention to me, how I should behave, etc. Then I went for Mass, and everything changed. From my journal:
Without consciously realizing it, my instinctive reaction was to think of how I could get maximum attention and happiness for myself. But then during Mass, grace kicked in! It suddenly all fell into place. The question was “What should I do? How should I be?” And the Answer came “Love.”
And I saw it all. The obvious answer obscured by my selfishness. Radiant with self-forgetfulness. I saw exactly how I should be. Playing with the children, talking to the adults, singing with the girls, fully present to the people I was with, listening, involved, not constantly following (Guy) with my eyes, or focussing on the drama or evaluating how much attention I or anyone was getting. Truly being who I was supposed to be. Being completely happy. And praise Jesus, it worked! He worked! It was such a great day.
It works. Try it.

*Let Go' is a collection of letters from Fenelon, a Catholic Bishop to bunch of people who he was spiritual advisor to at the court of Louis XIV in the late 17th century.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Confusing Response of Christians to Attacks

So I'm not sure if the rest of the world is aware of what's going on with Christians in India. Basically with the new government in power, a government that espouses a 'Hindutva' ideology, that believes India is for the Hindus, and Muslims and Christians are outsiders, a lot of crazy things are beginning to happen.

Churches are being attacked, Christian converts and Muslims (possibly) coerced into re converting to Hinduism*, a lot of political and religious leaders are feeling free to make their opinions known: 'Our target is to make India a Hindu Rashtra by 2021. The Muslims and Christians don't have any right to stay here. So they would either be converted to Hinduism or forced to run away from here', and both Christians and Muslims are feeling increasing insecure in our supposedly secular nation.

The shocker yesterday was when the Christian community in Delhi peacefully marched to protest the attacks and to demand that the government do something to protect the Christian community. Protests and marches are consitutional- we have 'the right to assemble peaceably without arms' as long as we are not threatening public order. But guess what happened to our peaceful protesters?


(Image from ndtv)

(Image from ndtv)

Police arrested hundreds, pushed them on to buses, and detained them at a local police station. Priests, nuns, and even children were dragged forcibly on to the buses, some said they were beaten with batons. At a peaceful protest! How is this happening?

The main thing I guess Christians are afraid of is not that the government itself will target Christians, but that they will turn a blind eye while the crazies do.

So, now what do we do? How do we respond?

Looking at comments on various FB posts, and from questions and comments I've overheard from my people in my own own parish, I can sense the anger and frustration of many Christians. Some suggest that the reason we are being attacked is because of our 'turn the other cheek' reaction. Many seem very insecure, nervous and defensive. We've lived fairly comfortably for so long, and we are not sure how to react to all this.

Here are some thoughts:

It is very possible and likely that the situation will get worse: We always feel like 'Oh, it couldn't happen to US!' But why wouldn't it? People are oppressed and treated unfairly all over the world. Christians have been persecuted for centuries, and still are in many countries. In India it has already been happening in other states. Just because it SHOULDN'T doesn't mean it WON'T.

 The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer (wikipedia)

That doesn't mean we need to freak out: Jesus said, "Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me." John 15: 20-21

If we REALLY believe what we say we do, then our churches being burnt,or even being in physical and bodily danger is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. Literally. The first reading a week ago was:

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.

Hebrews 10: 32-34

Our churches are not our greatest possession- Jesus Christ is, and NO ONE can take Him away from us.

The strength of the Christian community is not lashing back: How beautiful a witness to see that Christians are the only community in India who can be attacked and the country does NOT break into riots in a few hours. That does NOT happen in any other scenario. That is not a weakness but a strength! It takes much greater strength to control our fallen human instinct for revenge. 'There is a lot worth dying for, there is not much worth killing for.'



That DOESN'T mean we should sit back and say 'That's the way it is'. Don't just scroll past the FB news posts and move on to the next funny cat video. We do need to fight against injustice... PEACEFULLY! Our call to forgiveness to does not excuse our responsibility to fight for a just society. We need to do SOMETHING! Fast and pray! Blog! Create awareness! Speak up! Talk to our leaders and demand change! Join protests! I was happy to hear that MORE protests were being organized in other parts of the country even after.. no especially after.. hearing what happened in Delhi.

But even when we fight, we need to fight by LOVING our enemies! Are we praying for the leaders of the political groups who hate us? Not just 'God destroy them and protect us', but 'God, change them! Let them know Your love! They are sinners in need of grace, just like we are' (and meaning it). Our enemies are not flesh and blood! Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

From my favourite article ever: The Winning Strategy  by Peter Kreeft:

Our enemies are not anti-Catholic bigots who want to crucify us. They are the ones we’re trying to save. They are our patients, not our disease. Our word for them is Christ’s: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We say this of the Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Catholics, and to the Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Catholics. They are not our enemies, they are our patients. We are Christ’s nurses. The patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses know better.
Let's not isolate ourselves or demonize anyone who isn't Christian: It isn't 'those Hindus' or 'those Muslims' versus 'us Christians'. We ALL know good and wonderful human beings of every religion- we have wonderful friends, warm neighbourhood aunties, friendly shopkeepers, most of whom are from Hindu or Muslim families. Not every Hindu buys into 'Hindutva'.

Don't be afraid, the ultimate victory has already been won. Says Jesus, 'In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’ We're all going to die sometime, yeah? We cannot go through our lives oppressed by a spirit of fear. Let's joyfully and courageously continue to follow Christ, to be faithful to what He asks, to witness His love and mercy to our oppressors, and to love our country and our fellow-Indians no matter what happens. Remember Gladys Staines?

God WILL bring good from evil: That's his specialty.'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church'. Maybe it's a chance for many of us Catholics to re-examine our faith and decide if it really worth making sacrifices for. Is it only our westernized surnames and family traditions that make us Catholic? Time to dive a little deeper.

The Archbishop of Delhi says on the Archdiocese's website:
Martyrdom which means “witnessing” is the daily life of the Christian Community individually and collectively. May be God sends such situations in our life to wake us up from our complacencies and make us aware of our Christian vocation and our primary mission and identity in this world. We are fully founded on Christ’s promise to us: “I am with you always until the end of this world”.
 The Christian response to persecution is kind of confusing, except in the light of Christ and His teaching. 'We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength'1 Corinthians 1: 23- 25

*If anyone freely chooses to re-convert to Hinduism, that shouldn't be an issue for anyone, but it's very likely that it is not a free choice, but one of a mixture of bribery and coercion, with bribes offered if they convert, and threats if they don't.

Monday, 2 February 2015

A Melancholic Searches for Joy

Have you heard of the four temperaments?

You all know how much I love analyzing personality types, right? Well, I''m moving past Myers-Brigg to a new one.
Four temperaments is a proto-psychological theory that suggests that there are four fundamental personality types, sanguine (optimistic leader-like), choleric (bad-tempered or irritable), melancholic (analytical and quiet), and phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful).(wikipedia)

I had read about it a month ago after one of my mentors talked about different temperaments on a team could affect the dynamics, and how we needed to use the gifts of each while recognizing their weaknesses. But of course I find this all fascinating because it gave me an insight into my OWN  temperament. A friend of mine sent me a few pages from the book 'The Temperament God Gave You'. She and I both identify as 'melancholics'.

Disclaimer: Identifying with one temperament doesn't mean it completely describes you, nor does it mean you don't have traits from the other temperaments too. But it does mean it may be your dominant temperament or attitude or way you approach life. On one test, my dominant temperament was melancholic, and the lesser one was choleric.

In a nutshell, according to one website:

Melancholic people are emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic introverts.
Choleric people are the proud, extroverted 'alphas' of our species.
Phlegmatic people are meek, submissive introverts who live to please others.
Sanguine people are boisterous, bubbly, chatty, openly emotional, social extroverts.

So many ways to describe the different types:


Anyway, when I was reading the pages my friend sent me, I saw this:

Only through an intimate relationship with Christ will the melancholic learn to temper his overly critical expectations of other people- such trust should be placed in God alone- and to overcome his natural tendency to sadness.

A natural tendency to sadness!

You know Grumpy Cat?




A distant relative of mine.


I inherit my grumpiness and pessimism from both sides of my family. Our faces in repose are grumpy. I wouldn't be shocked to hear the words 'gloomy' and 'moody' used to describe me or many members of my family. (Not all, some are shockingly cheerful and optimistic.)


Poor melancholics! Poor me! Wait, another excerpt- Because of their introversion and their tendency to pessimism , melancholics can become excessively self-absorbed. They need to... fight against the temptation to self-pity. Self-pity is a trap that can keep the melancholic in a myopic, unproductive lifestyle.

Teachers and parents (and loving roommates) can help their melancholic students and children by encouraging them to exercise regularly and to eat well and to learn to develop confidence, optimism, and enthusiasm.

Melancholics procrastinate.


Why?

A melancholic's analytic tendency to uncover all potential problems and obstacles can inhibit action. He envisions all the potential disasters and thinks to himself , "This can never be done,"or "This project is doomed." or some other gloomy thought. Not only will he face all the potential obstacles, worst-case scenarios, and disasters possible for the project, but he will begin to envision all future projects to be accomplished by close friends and family members (as well as the depressing state of world politics and the cultural climate of licentiousness). Thus the web of disaster and despair spreads.  

They're talking about ME! Every time I approach a task, I think I'm dealing with LIFE and THE WORLD AND ALL ITS PROBLEMS AND EVERYTHING IS GOING TO CRASH AND BURN BECAUSE I'M NOT DOING IT ALL PERFECTLY!!!!

Anyway to fight the temptations of my temperament, here are some things that help:

1. Get enough sleep: If I don't, my mind is like a negative spiral of doom, and if anyone tries to gently tell me that maybe everything DOESN'T suck, I can PROVE it to them using calm, clear, deadly, precise logic. Being rested does wonders for a positive outlook on life. Take naps when necessary, and possible.

2. Exercise: Okay to be honest, this is one method I'm juuust beginning to use. But everyone has convinced me that ENDORPHINS ARE THE KEY TO EVERYTHING. Well, not everything, but apparently they help with depression and moods. But getting down to exercise seems to be the problem. From the book- For some reason, melancholics tend to be less physically vigorous than other other temperaments.



3. Eat regularly: Seems obvious, but not in the moment.

4. Do not marry or live with another melancholic: Well I haven't been married to anyone at all, but I know that when I was living with another melancholic, we pulled each other down with our negativity, pessimism and procrastination. I need someone to remind me to eat, sleep and that the world isn't going down in flames.

These are the kind of people I need


5. Ask oneself 'What's the worst that could happen?': When I allow my logic to proceed calmly, and I face my worst fears, I realize that I actually do NOT have control over most things, and that God does. I'm called to faithfulness, not success. If I take my faith seriously, I realize that even death is not the end of all things.

6. Read 'Searching For and Maintaining Peace': I know, I know, I keep recommending this book. But really, read it!

7. Notice when I'm on a negative downward spiral: (Especially PMS days, ohmygosh the craziness inside my head) And tell myself 'Maybe I don't need to solve the world's problems in my head right now.' Choose to notice and comment on the many good things happening in the world and in my life.


8. Give myself small achievable goals: And write them on an easily accessible to do list!

9. Acknowledge that this is my struggle: And give myself a break.

Do you identify strongly with any of the four temperaments?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Catholic Camps (Over)Simplified

So this post is probably going to be completely irrelevant to anyone who isn't Catholic. To anyone who is an active Catholic, or reads Catholic blogs, or cares about the Catholic Church in its nitty gritty painful details, this post will be very enlightening. Or infuriating.

So here's the thing. Most Catholics divide themselves into one of the following two groups:

1. Liberal

or

2. Conservatives/Traditionalists

How can you tell the difference? Well, here's some examples of extremists from both sides.














Well, that was fun.

As you can tell, I'm not on either side, at least not in their extremes. I'd rather describe myself as a 'faithful Catholic' than a liberal or a conservative. I care deeply about the poor, I recycle, and I am also faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. I prefer not to make up more rules than the Church prescribes (like some 'more Catholic than the Pope' folks do), but the teaching that the Church DOES hand down, and clearly defines as something JESUS has asked us be faithful to, I AM faithful to (unlike many liberals who think their opinion holds more weight than the successor of Peter).

There is so much arguing, anger and division among these camps, that I'm sure they've scared away any non-Catholic unwise enough to poke their heads into Catholic blogs (especially comments, scariest place on the Internet!)

What to do?

'In essentials, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, in ALL things, charity.' Saint Augustine

P.S. I like reading Simcha Fisher for a balanced Catholic approach to most things.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Linkses for my Peepsicles (Updated)

Yes, yes, I know it has been WAY too long. A lot has happened, and there have been a lot of changes in my life, with one of the side effects being the lack of motivation or energy or mental space to blog. But glory be, as I find my feet, re-organize my life and find a rhythm that works, I once again feel the stirrings of a desire to write.

And yet, it's hard to choose WHAT to write about. Be funny, thoughtful, intense or obsessive? Talk about things that matter, things that fill my mind, or comic sketches and snippets of the randomness of life? I want to do it all! I want to write about EVERYTHING! And I want to be hilarious  and yet real while doing it. High standards much?

As a result, even though I've been ready to write for a while, I still haven't written. So to get out of the non-writing rut, I'm just going to share a bunch of awesome links! You're welcome.

Leila Miller at Little Catholic Bubble shared the touching and real story of her mother-in-law's journey to Catholicism.


My Mother-in-Law Carol's Conversion Story, Part One

Part 2

And Part 3

I guess its meaningful because so many Christians pray and hope that their family members experience the truth and beauty of a faith in Christ, and yet so often a judgmental attitude, being overly pushy or overly scared of being pushy, and maybe just plain hopelessness creeps in. But this was encouraging, because it reminded me that GOD is the one pursuing people, and we need to either cooperate or get out of the way.
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 So everyone got really excited/upset about Pope Francis' comments on a plane out of the Philippines about Catholics not needing to be like rabbits.



A lot of people felt really hurt because a lot of people with big families have already been told by society that they are being irresponsible, that they must be uneducated and irresponsible to ever make such a choice.

But as usual if we look at the Pope's comments in context, reading the ACTUAL interview, not just mainstream media's reports of or comments on it, and also some of his previous comments, you can see he wasn't dissing big families. Leila Miller once again talks a bit about what he WAS bringing out.

"Breeding like rabbits", eh?

-------------------------------------

 Aand a single girl recommends articles about marriage:

Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits

I found this one very interesting especially the talk about 'bids for connection':
Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

 I actually think that the article is relevant for any kind of relationship, not just romantic ones.

This is another good one:

12 Lessons Learned In 12 Years Of Marriage

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Have you ever been asked to pray for a stranger? Do you ever do it? When I saw a lot of FB friends calling for prayers for Paul and Ann Coakley, I actually stopped and prayed. And seeing the many people who were united in prayer, I caught a glimpse of the community that we are called to live in.

 (That's Paul, in comic form)

And Heather from Mama Knows, Honeychild emerged from her hibernation to write this:

The Privilege of Praying for a Stranger

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Leah Libresco of Unequally Yoked did an interview about her conversion and spiritual life. I find her very unusual and very interesting- she's single, very intelligent, and though she's a Catholic writer doesn't seem to be trying to convince anyone of anything, but just explores the fascinating parts of the world on her blog.

My Journey from Atheist to Catholic: 11 Questions for Leah Libresco 

How does Catholicism influence your approach to being a writer?
It makes it a lot easier to resist weighing in on every hot button or controversial issue/news story to come along. I didn’t write anything on the Synod on the Family, for example.  I feel freer to choose the topics I have actual expertise in and where I have genuine joy to share, because no one’s salvation will ever turn on what I write or don’t write.

If I am doing good, it’ll be mostly by getting out of the way of God, and letting him shine through me more clearly, so I try to focus on writing about whatever delights me most or whatever strikes me as beautiful (hence, a lot math and Sondheim).
My job isn’t to explain the whole church and every bit of its theology, or to trace out what Christianity says about every question that might come up (I’ll leave some of those to the Vatican astronomer!). A lot of what Ido try to do is give a sense of why I find the church beautiful and plausible enough to be worth asking questions about, and, once someone’s sold on that point, they can do what I did and find the people who are specialists on whatever troubles them.
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Okay, more later!

Monday, 15 December 2014

7 Christmas Quick Takes


---1---

So usually I do quick takes on a Friday, because you know, that's when the link-up is hosted. But tonight I'm ready to write, so Christmas quick takes it is.

---2---

Did you know that many Catholics and other Christians have a big fight going on about Santa Claus? One side says acting like Santa Claus is a real person who leaves gifts for your kids is the same as lying to your kids, plus takes the focus away from Jesus, and the other side says people against Santa are killing the wonder and fun of childhood.

---3---

I see both sides. I remember the disappointment and let down on the day I found out Santa was my mum. Actually, it didn't happen at Christmas time, and it was all the Tooth Fairy's fault. I put my tooth under my pillow, waiting for my shiny one rupee coin to appear there (1 rupee got 30 peppermints, so that was wealth) and day after day passed and no coin appeared. i just couldn't understand what was wrong. Then my poor forgetful mum took me out on the balcony and said, "Well, Sue... actually the Tooth Fairy is me. And so is Santa Claus." NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Perhaps if we had never started playing that game, I would have avoided the big let down.



---4---

But then, but then, I also remember the years of joy and wonder of the night before Christmas, the anticipation, the thrill of trying to wake up early enough to catch Santa at work, the excitement at seeing the pile of gifts under the tree, and the ones with my name on them. (I must have been a very gullible kid, because I never noticed how similar Santa's handwriting was to my mum's.) It was magic! It definitely added something to my childhood. We also had prayer time, we went to Mass, my siblings and I were not greedy little consumers who only cared about material things. Our family growing up didn't have a lot of money, so the one or two gifts and the stocking full of sweets and dried orange and nuts were so special.

---5---

So I was thinking a lot about the issue. I'm all about the truth and keeping it real and all that jazz, so how did the two work together?

And then I found a great article that gave me a lot of clarity-

The Great Santa Lie Truth by Calah Alexander

Everyone keeps talking about how telling your children about Santa is a lie because Santa isn’t real. But who cares if Santa is real or not? That’s not the point. The point is, Santa is true.
We’ve so totally lost the ability to distinguish between the real and the true that we act like they are the same thing, when they’re not — at least, not always... 
But, said Lewis, myths are lies, even though lies breathed through silver.
No, said Tolkien, “they are not.
…just as speech is invention about objects and ideas, so myth is invention about truth.
We have come from God (continued Tolkien), and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.

You mean, asked Lewis, that the story of Christ is simply a true myth, a myth that works on us in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened? In that case, he said, I begin to understand.
(Read the rest here)

It's a cool perspective that basically says that Santa is a myth that prepares kids to understand deeper truths about God. Undeserved gifts- that's God. Joy and wonder and glimpses of a bigger, more beautiful world- that's a glimpse into God too. And THAT'S real!

---6---

It's a little bit like reading the Chronicles of Narnia, or the Lord of the Rings, or even George MacDonald's books. They're stories, but they feel real, because they reveal truth, and with it wonder and joy and even awe.

---7---

In conclusion, let me leave you with some Christmas memes, because what better way:


That's my plan too... roast chicken stuffing mmmmm


 Ah ha ha ha