New Years Come and Go So Quickly Around Here

First there was the start of the fiscal year, then the beginning of school (I still haven’t broken myself of the habit of marking time in semesters), then Rosh Hashanah, and now, sneaking in just before Advent, is start of the Year of Faith (beginning on Oct 11, the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council).

I’ve signed up for two interesting readings meant to supplement the year, so I wanted to pass on the information to the Catholic (or just very curious) readers of the blog.

The first, found via Aggie Catholics, is Flocknote’s Read the Catechism in a Year project.

For this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has encouraged you to study and reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Well, here’s an easy way to do it. Simply enter your email address and – starting October 11, 2012 – you’ll start getting a little bit of the Catechism emailed to you every morning. Read that little bit every day and you’ll read the whole catechism in a year. Cool, right?

The second resource, found via the Anchoress, is the Magnificat Year of Faith Companion.  If you order it now, you’ll have to hurry to catch up with the daily readings.  They’re up to a third printing, so if you tarried like me, you won’t get a copy til the end of October.  Every day, there’s a reading in one of these categories:

  • Profiles of the holy men and women of the Bible
  • Reflections on Sacred Scripture
  • Short explanations on the Catechism
  • Devotions for deepening faith
  • Essays on key aspects of the Faith
  • Meditations from saints and spiritual masters
  • Prayers both ancient and modern
  • Poems capturing the beauty of faith

I like that both of these tie-ins are a way to encounter a lot of different entry points into Catholicism in an orderly way.  And I imagine both will give me plenty of blog fodder to mull over with all of you.  Perhaps you’ll see some of those meditations pop up on Patheos’s about to launch page for the Year of Faith.

I love giant bookclubs; the universality of Harry Potter made it a delight to know I could always strike up a conversation with almost anyone my age on what the remaining Horcruxes were, which side Snape was on, whether Hermione was getting a little too ruthless and if this might be how Snape fell, and whether Hermione/Ron was the worst pairing in the world (there is a right answer).

So I’m delighted to know that the Anchoress and other Catholics will all be in this book club with me, along with as many of you that care to join in.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Noah

    Only a year? Please, it takes us Jews 7-and-1/2 years to get through the Talmud. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daf_Yomi

    • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

      The Talmud is way longer than the Catechism.

      Also, Leah, I am going to risk sounding like a super-trad here and recommend that you read the Catechism of Trent alongside or after the JPII Catechism. It’s so much less fluffy and vague.

      • deiseach

        Careful with Trent. I have gotten into so many rows online with Protestants triumphantly telling me What Roman Catholics Believe by quoting chunks of Trent – usually with enormous glee when it comes to the “And if anyone shall say (insert proposition to be condemned), let him be anathema” – in order to prove that Catholics don’t accept the Bible, or worship Mary, or the like.

        • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

          I think this is an excellent reason to read it. Read things that are true but difficult so you force yourself to understand more, and are therefore able to explain more to others.

        • TheRealAaron

          I admit I’ve only read a few parts of the Catechism of Trent, but I don’t recall there being any anathemas in it. I believe those are in the Canons of the Council.

          The Catechism itself is actually quite pastoral, with suggestions for how priests can preach on or apply its teachings.

          • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

            True.

    • Alan

      The better comparison, rather than Daf Yomi, may be to the annual cycle of Torah readings that we concluded and began anew today (Simhat Torah)

  • Cous

    That Flocknote/CCC project is awesome, thanks for the heads-up. T-33 till the Year of Faith…

    • Cous

      Scratch that, just use the Vatican’s own countdown.

  • jenesaispas

    Thankyou v much for the Flocknote link, I’ll definitely share it.

    Secondly, I was just reading Potter today :O the coincidence feels too big to ignore (since I normally don’t), y’know? What is the right answer with the Ron and Hermione ? :) It did come as a little bit of a surprise!

    I definitely won’t be reading The Casual Vacancy, adult fiction always seems to be lacking something.

    • leahlibresco

      I’m strongly opposed to Ron/Hermione. He has contempt at worst, apathy at best for her curiosity and brightness! How could you marry someone who didn’t care for what you loved to do?

      • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

        hmmm, I’m not sure love would really take that into consideration actually

        • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

          I don’t see how a healthy love could not take it into consideration. Not that two people need to share everything, or like/be good at all the same things, but they should at least appreciate and respect each other’s core abilities, shouldn’t they?

          • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

            Sure, but which comes first? When you love someone, everything they do/are/interested in becomes interesting but only through that love. For example, my wife is interested in the show “Say Yes to the Dress”. On my own, I can’t stand it but if she is watching and commenting I can easily get pulled into discussion about various aspects of dress design/fit/cost/family dynamics/etc. and I find myself being interested, just for the moment, in that interest.

            Another example would be how we met. I thought she was a ditzy blonde freshman and (in my arrogance much repented since) even told someone that I wasn’t interested in her because we didn’t think about things in the same way (I meant that I thought about deep things, she thought about friends). As I fell in love with her I discovered that I had really been a jerk, that not only did she think deeply but that her thoughts really challenged my own paradigm. Shortly thereafter I began exploring the Catholic Church (she was Catholic, I was not) and now here I am (swam the Tiber in 2007).

            I guess my point is that love, from the most basic form of seeing your opponent as human to the full commitment of marriage, as an act of the will, leads to respect, interest, etc. Those things might come first (before love) but they certainly will follow.

      • KL

        Ooooh, I have to disagree so much. I read Ron asabsolutely respecting Hermione’s brightness, but being a teenage boy struggling to express it in appropriate ways. He turns to her over and over again over the course of the series when the trio needs help finding answers. The Deathly Hallows shows him finally maturing enough to be sincere in his admiration and support for her, a stage than many young men I know take much longer to reach! And the climactic moment of the Ron/Hermione ship, when they finally kiss in DH, is prompted by Hermione’s realization that all this time, Ron has been listening to her and internalizing the importance of the cause she is passionate about (house-elf welfare), despite the years he has teased her about it. Is Ron a bit of a prat to Hermione a lot of the time? Absolutely. But it’s been my experience that most boys his age are a bit pratty, which always made his character resonate more with me as one pretty true to life.

        • leahlibresco

          I think he sees her intelligence as instrumentally useful, but he doesn’t see knowing things as a beautiful end-in-itself, contemplating the mind of God kind of thing.

          • KL

            That’s fair, but there is a difference between appreciating someone else’s values in and of themselves and appreciating them simply because the other person takes delight in them. I think you can be a good partner so long as you have the latter, with the former a nice bonus but not strictly necessary. My fiance doesn’t really understand why ten-part choral arrangements move me to tears, but he appreciates that I am moved and encourages me to go to choral performances. I see Ron’s journey as a gradual coming-to-appreciate Hermione’s values because he cares for her, which I think speaks well of him precisely because he doesn’t share those values affectively. It wouldn’t be as noteworthy if he, too, were naturally intellectual; rather, part of his maturing as a person comes in recognizing and valuing that which is foreign and Other to him.

            Incidentally, you’re not pro- Harry/Hermione, are you? Because I think any argument against Ron as a partner applies just as much, if not more so, against Harry!

          • leahlibresco

            I’m not sure we’ve met a good spouse for Hermione (which is fine! she’s 17). I’m ok with Harry/Ginny, but I prefer Harry/Luna since they have a good time on their date and she likes him as Harry not HARRY POTTER.

          • thomasc

            I don’t think Ginny is present enough in the books to really count as someone Harry might want to marry (or even knows very well). I think he is attracted to her because he wants to be part of her family, being the only family he has ever actually encountered.

          • Owlmirror

              “I think he sees her intelligence as instrumentally useful, but he doesn’t see knowing things as a beautiful end-in-itself, contemplating the mind of God kind of thing.”

            Has Hermione every said anything that would imply that’s how she thinks of her intelligence or of intelligence in general?

            The obvious nerds-of-a-feather pairing is Hermione/Neville.

          • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

            +1 to KL’s point about her fiance and 10-part choral performances.

          • leahlibresco

            It’s definitely clear Neville has a crush on Hermione for at least some subset of the books. When they run into him at St. Mungos, his grandmother knows Harry Potter (obviously) but also recognizes Hermione with interest because Neville’s spoken of her. She makes no comment on Ron.

          • TerryC

            Ron’s opinions on opinions on “knowing things as an end in itself” is rather the norm than the exception among both people in the real world, and characters in the wizarding world. Still Arthur Weasley seems to have quite a passion for,to him, the useless knowledge of Muggle things, so perhaps Ron might grow into not falling so far from the tree.
            Personally I can tell you that my spouse doesn’t see knowing things as an end in itself as beautiful or especially useful, except when it’s instrumentally useful. As a technologist at a national laboratory my view is somewhat different. It hasn’t prevented us from being happily married for thirty something years.
            Still I think that one must also look at the point that while Rom and Hermione are together at the end of DH (I’m speaking of the end of the Battle of Hogwarts, not the epilogue,) they are still very young and what Ron believes or doesn’t believe by the time we see them married at the end of the book is unknown.

        • jenesaispas

          I think I agree KL as regards “Ooooh, I have to disagree so much.” I think Ron might have been a bit jealous of Hermione to start with, and he can’t of had so contempt for her for them become friends after the troll beating.

          I think later in the series particularly the last book I was more horrified/annoyed at the choice of names for Harry, Ginny, Hermione and Ron’s children, Lupin getting angry at Harry, Lupin/Sirius/Dumbledore dying and Dumbledore not being such a kind soul after all (or perhaps Snape remembered something incorrectly)

    • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

      The correct answer to the Ron/Hermione question is “No, no, a thousand times no!”

      • Erick

        I second!

      • Owlmirror

        *amusement*

        So, you’re basically saying that the God that created them and their universe — J. K. Rowling, that is — is wrong?

        • jenesaispas

          Come oooon! it’s not really that funny because Rowling’s world is fictional (somewhat sadly): and this is reality! Anyway, in theory couldn’t think God was real but still wrong? I’m confused.

          • Owlmirror

            I agree that a God that actually existed might be wrong, but most Christians, as far as I know, posit that God cannot possibly be wrong. Of course, they are also positing that their church cannot possibly be wrong, and that they themselves cannot possibly be wrong.

  • grok87

    Thanks Leah- great idea. I’m in!
    Just signed up for “Read the Catechism” in a year and ordered the Magnificat companion.
    cheers,

  • grok87

    Providentially, today’s gospel seems auspicious towards the beginning of a project like this of reading/reflection/contemplation:
    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100912.cfm

    Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
    She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
    Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care
    that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
    The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
    There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
    grok

    p.s. for those in the UK you may be able to get the magnificat companion to the year of faith more quickly
    http://www.secondspring.co.uk/books/

    • grok87

      actually Ignatius press has the Magnificat year of faith companion in stock
      http://www.ignatius.com/Products/MYFC-P/year-of-faith-companion.aspx

    • Owlmirror

        “The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
      There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.””

      Shorter Jesus: “I want sycophants! If you can’t give good sycophant, don’t kvetch.”

      (I totally forgot to blaspheme on blasphemy day. And, really, every day should be blasphemy day.)

      • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

        It’s not blasphemy unless you believe – see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2012/09/who-can-blaspheme.html.

        It’s just rude.

        • jenesaispas

          Or neither if you don’t know what a kvetch is and you’re not sure what a sycophant is.

        • Owlmirror

            “It’s not blasphemy unless you believe”
          Well, I see that claim made, in different ways, throughout the thread. But the Catholic Encyclopedia article on blasphemy is far broader:

          Blasphemy, by reason of the significance of the words with which it is expressed, may be of three kinds.

          It is heretical when the insult to God involves a declaration that is against faith, as in the assertion: “God is cruel and unjust” or “The noblest work of man is God”.
          It is imprecatory when it would cry a malediction upon the Supreme Being as when one would say: “Away with God”.
          It is simply contumacious when it is wholly made up of contempt of, or indignation towards, God, as in the blasphemy of Julian the Apostate: “Thou has conquered, O Galilaean”.

          I’m pretty sure my statement falls under the third kind, at the least.

            “It’s just rude.”

          Is there any polite way to say that I find it very creepy that Jesus expresses an absolute preference for submissive women?

          • Troy

            “Is there any polite way to say that I find it very creepy that Jesus expresses an absolute preference for submissive women?”
            I can see how you get that reading from the passage, but I think you should also at least give a nod to how the Christian community reads the passage. To utterly ignore the community to whose faith tradition the passage belongs is just, I dunno…mind-boggling. It’s like reading the Bhagavad-Gita without any awareness that Hindus might have a take on what it all means, and that that might matter.

            The (protestant) Christian community has traditionally read this passage as a commentary on the active versus the contemplative modes of approaching Christ. There are literally scores of protestant devotionals which deal with: “Being Mary in a Martha World: How to Slow Down and Focus on What Matters!”
            I’m not so familiar with Catholic/Orthodox treatments of this passage.

          • deiseach

            Interesting reading – the usual exposition I’ve seen done is that Mary is playing a masculine part, sitting at the Master’s feet being taught just like a male disciple, and Martha is calling her back to the feminine role of service in a domestic setting where the men are seated and the women feed and cater to them.

            The usual counterpoint to this is the raising of Lazarus, where (in the first encounter) Martha was in the background until she came forward to complain of Mary, now Mary (who stays in the house) is in the background, where Martha goes out to meet Jesus.

            I don’t see a preference for submission, unless you think sitting and learning (either by listening or reading) is submissive?

          • http://creativefidelity.wordpress.com Dan F.

            eh, but even the third kind presupposes a belief in God. You (from other statements) are an atheist right? Or are you saying that you believe in God but are still contumacious?

            Also, Jesus isn’t expressing a preference for submissive women but simply that Mary’s choice to listen to Jesus was a better one than Martha’s choice to worry about whether or not everything was just right for dinner. Remember, in the story (whether you believe it or not) Jesus is the Son of God – the point to the reader of the story is to not worry so much about the details and to pay better attention to Christ’s words. The story doesn’t have anything to to with submission at all.

          • Owlmirror

              “I can see how you get that reading from the passage, but I think you should also at least give a nod to how the Christian community reads the passage.”

            Well, I’m pretty sure that the Christian community generally has the tacit presupposition that Jesus is a nice guy, even when he condemns whole towns to hell (yay justification for collective punishment!), or commits violent assault. (Blasphemously) challenging this presupposition by implicitly judging Jesus and God in light of their actual actions will, I hope, inspire people to rethink their positions on that presupposition (and the many other presuppositions they hold), and maybe even change their minds.

              “It’s like reading the Bhagavad-Gita without any awareness that Hindus might have a take on what it all means, and that that might matter.”

            I haven’t read that one yet, but I’m pretty sure that there are presuppositions that desperately need challenging in there, too.

            ===

              “Interesting reading – the usual exposition I’ve seen done is that Mary is playing a masculine part, sitting at the Master’s feet being taught just like a male disciple”

            Really? Luke 10 is filled with little snippets that have men being active, not just being taught. They’re sent out by Jesus to do magic shows and thundering hellfire revival meetings, and returning successfully; or challenging Jesus by asking questions and having a dialog with him that ends with a parable — about more active men.

            And Mary is praised for passively sitting and listening. No challenging dialog for her. Martha’s challenging dialog results only in her getting shot down.

            ===

              “eh, but even the third kind presupposes a belief in God.”

            Well, this is from the Catholic encyclopedia.

              “You (from other statements) are an atheist right?”

            That would be a correct inference, yes.

              “Or are you saying that you believe in God but are still contumacious?”

            I’m not sure why I can’t be contumacious towards a character I think is fictional or confabulated. Leah doesn’t think much of Ron Weasley, despite the fact that she, and everyone reading, knows that Ron is the product of J. K. Rowling’s imagination.

              “Also, Jesus isn’t expressing a preference for submissive women but simply that Mary’s choice to listen to Jesus”

            . . . quietly and submissively . . .

              “was a better one than Martha’s choice to worry about whether or not everything was just right for dinner. ”

            I find myself wondering now if this little snippet was not a reflection of a struggle in the early church between deaconesses who wanted to be active and involved in the services and worship, and those who wanted them to sit down and shut up, and be good girls, like Mary.

              “Remember, in the story (whether you believe it or not) Jesus is the Son of God – the point to the reader of the story is to not worry so much about the details and to pay better attention to Christ’s words. ”

            Yeah, and that’s pretty creepy too. “Pay close attention to the guy who says he’s the offspring of an invisible person with magical superpowers. We should totally believe him because he says so, and because he’s done some neat magic tricks. Or so people say, anyway.” /moar blasphemy

          • deiseach

            owlmirror, Martha’s “challenging dialog” is “Tell Mary to come help me in the kitchen!”

            In other words, “Tell my sister to live up to the notion of what a good woman is and does; one who is domestic, one who caters to the needs of men, one who confines herself to the role deemed acceptable by our society”. There is nothing keeping Martha from sitting down herself and joining in the conversation, except her own anxieties.

            As for challenging, so what do you say to Martha who leaves the house and goes out to meet Jesus and reproaches him for not coming sooner to heal her brother? By Jewish tradition, after the burial, the family should stay in the house: “The only time a mourner is supposed to leave the home is on Shabbat to attend services in the Synagogue.”

            I don’t see Martha as being squashed by the response of Jesus in the first account, and I don’t see Mary as being confined to the role of submissive just because she was asking for more time to hear the teachings.

          • Owlmirror

              “Martha’s “challenging dialog” is “Tell Mary to come help me in the kitchen!””

            Yes, I should have put that phrase in scare/sarcasm quotes originally. Sloppy of me.

              “In other words, “Tell my sister to live up to the notion of what a good woman is and does; one who is domestic, one who caters to the needs of men, one who confines herself to the role deemed acceptable by our society”. ”

            I concede that these verses may represent a struggle going in the other direction from what I first suggested — between those who thought that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, and those who wanted a place for women in the religious sphere. But it still tacitly implies that women should/will be granted access to the religious sphere on the condition that they be quiet.

              “There is nothing keeping Martha from sitting down herself and joining in the conversation”

            There is no conversation.

              “As for challenging, so what do you say to Martha who leaves the house and goes out to meet Jesus and reproaches him for not coming sooner to heal her brother?”

            I don’t see the relevance. Different author; different narrative.

              “By Jewish tradition, after the burial, the family should stay in the house: “The only time a mourner is supposed to leave the home is on Shabbat to attend services in the Synagogue.””

            Is there any particular reason to think that the author of the narrative knew much about the details of Jewish mourning rituals?

              “I don’t see Martha as being squashed by the response of Jesus in the first account, and I don’t see Mary as being confined to the role of submissive just because she was asking for more time to hear the teachings.”

            Perhaps because of your presuppositions about the narrative.

    • jenesaispas

      Thanks, I’m might buy it but I’ll see if the parish has ordered them in :)

      • grok87

        @jenesaispas- very good idea. I’ve already ordered mine by mail, but don’t think it is going to arrive by tomorrow, so it’s worth me checking as well…

        • grok87

          @deiseach,
          thanks- nice reply. I hadn’t thought of that linkage between the two passages with Martha/Mary.
          cheers,
          grok

  • thomasc

    I think not being part of a global book club is one of the odd things about our civilisation – to generalise wildly and presumptuously, one of the things that seems to have been true of Western culture until about 60 years ago, and probably of most cultures, was that there was a canon of stories that all educated people (admittedly a small class) would be expected to at least be familiar with. In the West, it would include a great deal of scripture, lives of saints and classical literature, but often also a certain amount of more recent poetry and novels. I don’t know about India or China that much, but the terrifyingly educated children in the Dream of the Red Chamber suggest that idle Qing aristocrats would get drunk and play “complete the classical quotation” with each other, indicating a similar shared literary inheritance.

    What this meant was that people had shared stories as a kind of shared experience – something you can relate current issues to and discuss them in terms of. I don’t think we have this any more (as people claim to go into art galleries and not know what the pictures are about), and I think it makes living in common more difficult. You’ve mentioned the difficulty when talking about ethics or religion that neither of you can make progress until you’ve found some common ground or at least understood something of where the other person is coming from – I think our lack of shared stories makes it harder to find that common understanding.

    • thomasc

      I’ve certainly used Harry Potter to this end – the depiction of Voldemort as being increasingly dangerous but also increasingly less than human, not more than human, and trapped in a few degraded ways of relating to the world around him, is an example of the sort of thing meant by sin.

    • TerryC

      Which is why I’m a proponent of a liberal (in the classic sense) education based upon the Great Books. In my opinion you can’t even carry out a meaningful discussion on many subjects without such a common reference.

  • Pingback: A Disquisition on the Nature of Love, or, Contra Ron/Hermione


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