Friday, December 12, 2014

The dignity of a haircut

The New York Times just featured the story of hairstylist Mark Bustos.  His weekdays are filled by giving $150 haircuts, often to celebrities.  But his Sundays?  His Sundays are dedicated to giving free haircuts to the homeless of New York City.  

The story of Mark Bustos' unique way of affirming the dignity of the person is here.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas gift list ... or should I say book list

It's been awhile since I've offered a Theology of the Body-inspired Christmas list for those of you looking for gift ideas (whether for friends and family or for your own wish list).  This year, though, I've seen sufficient new material to warrant a new post.  I try to stick with new resources, though a few other ideas might pop up in the list.

First up, we have Prof. Stanislaw Grygiel's "Discovering the Human Person: In Conversation with John Paul II."  The "in conversation" phrase seems to be applied rather liberally to biographies and studies of saints, but this particular book is written by a student and friend of the late Holy Father.  I have not read the book yet but was able to hear some of Prof. Grygiel's reflections in person at the John Paul Institute in Washington, DC.  He always had beautiful insights to share, and left us in awe of his personal experiences with the late Holy Father.

While we're on the subject of St. John Paul, I'd highly recommend Jason Evert's St. John Paul the Great: His Five Loves  Or, for about triple the cost of one book, purchase 32 copies in paperback to give to all of your friends.  Leave a copy on a coffee shop table with a note to anyone who would like to take it.  It's a different kind of biography -- a collection of verified stories of JPII that give fresh insight into who he was and what he loved.  My copy is quite underlined and asterisked. 

These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson didn't come out this past year, but made its debut late enough in 2013 to warrant a mention.  What a beautiful book!  Emily Stimpson is a gifted writer, with words simply flowing from her pen in such a way as to captivate the reader with her beauty, humor and insight.  Her book seeks to go beyond the idea that Theology of the Body is "just about sex" and instead to challenge us all to see how we can live TOB more fully in other areas of our lives (manners, what we eat, how we work, etc.).  It's the perfect book for the TOB aficionado and the person who has never heard of Theology of the Body.  All will find insight, challenge and beauty.  

Another book that I have not yet read but which looks quite promising is Anthony Esolen's Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity.  I've long found Prof. Esolen's writing to be engaging, witty and enlightening, and I have no doubt his reflections on this important matter will not disappoint.  

For the newly expecting couple, "Gift of Joy: The Blessing of the Child in the Womb" is excellent.  The actual blessing is not in the book.  Instead, co-authors Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Msgr. Brian Bransfield introduce parents more fully into comprehending the mystery they are living while awaiting the birth of their child.  

I'm sure there are plenty of other items I could add, though I risk not posting this until it's too late to purchase these books in time for Christmas.  For the Theology of the Body or St. John Paul II fans in your life, chances are likely that at least one of these items is not yet in their possession.

Happy gift-giving and receiving!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Why not live together before marriage?

One of the resources people ask me for are articles or pamphlets about cohabitation. Why not live together before marriage? It's virtually assumed today that two people planning on marriage will share the same address before exchanging rings.

There are quite a few articles and summaries of the problems with cohabitation, but today's article, "Why I Don't Live With My Fiance" was one of the best, simple explanations I have seen.

I don’t want to live with my fiancĂ© because his title says it all. He’s still my fiancĂ©. He’s not my spouse. He’s not the man I married—he’s the man I will marry. And when we’re married, we will move in together. Why then?

Because then I will know it won’t be a decision based on finances or split rent. It won’t be a decision based on the desire to sleep with each other. It won’t be a decision based on a trial run to see how things go and with an easy out when the going gets tough.

Rather, our decision to move in together will be based on a public profession to love each other in good times and bad, in sickness and health, until death do us part. It will be a decision based on mutual self-respect in a way that says, “You are worth more to me than a split rent check. You are worth more to me than any self-gratification. I don’t need a trial run of living together because I already know I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” that’s what dating is for!

Read the rest of the article here. It's worth bookmarking and sharing when you need a handy answer to a common question.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vocational Discernment 101

Just last night I was having a conversation about vocations discernment in which I recalled the words of Matt Maher during a concert at Franciscan University ten years ago. He said, "Sometimes people make finding their vocation their god." It becomes this all-encompassing thing to obsess over and spend every waking moment contemplating.

Exhibit A: "An attractive guy/girl sat in front me during Mass today. Maybe I'm called to marriage! Or, maybe it was an invitation from God to give up this good for the greater good of priesthood/religious life."

So, it was rather good timing that The Culture Project reposted an article from July entitled, "Your Vocation is Not About You." Benjamin Mann has some thought-provoking insights into how we view our vocation (whether in the future or the present).
Our expectations are wrong. Consciously or not, we sometimes expect a vocation to solve all of our problems, answer all of our questions, and satisfy all of our desires. But these are not the purposes of a vocation. Discernment, likewise, does not consist in finding the choice that will meet those expectations.

Your vocation will not live up to these unrealistic hopes. Nothing in this world will answer all your questions, solve all your problems, or satisfy all your desires. These are impossible, immature ambitions, and the spiritual life consists largely in realizing that they are impossible and immature.

The purpose of life is the unitive devotional service of God, which includes the love of our neighbor (in whom God dwells). This is the real purpose of any vocation. Some forms of life, such as monasticism, are ordered directly to this end; other states of life are oriented toward it indirectly. But these are only different versions of the one human vocation: to love and serve God, and become one with him in Christ.

A vocation – any vocation – is a school of charity and a means of crucifixion. Your vocation is the means by which your self-serving ego will die in order to be resurrected as the servant and lover of God. This is all that we can expect; but this is everything – the meaning of life, all there really is.

My vocation is where I will learn to let go of my questions, carry the cross of my problems, and be mysteriously fulfilled even when I am not happy. We have some choice as to how we will undergo that process; we do not – so long as we abide in the grace of God – get to choose whether we will undergo it.

Read it all here.