If you have 10 minutes to spare and need some smiles, this video comes courtesy recommended by Saint Kansas, my thrillofthechaste.com webmaster. It's Hero, the 4-year-old winner of a South Korean TV wunderkind competition, offering a spirited rendition of a Beatles classic.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
If you have 10 minutes to spare and need some smiles, this video comes courtesy recommended by Saint Kansas, my thrillofthechaste.com webmaster. It's Hero, the 4-year-old winner of a South Korean TV wunderkind competition, offering a spirited rendition of a Beatles classic.
[Keeping this uptop for now; scroll down for a newer post.]
I am sad to hear that Dave Clark Five singer and songwriter Mike Smith has died at 64.
The night I saw Smith live and was unexpectedly called to join him onstage in March 2003 (right) was one of the most joyful times of my life. The story is in the Dawn Patrol archives.
For more on the artist, visit MikeSmith1964.com.
I got word the other day that I will be speaking at Oakland University and also Our Lady of Refuge on March 13, both near Detroit. Am waiting to learn if the public is invited—will post details as I receive them. It will be my first time ever in Michigan—yay!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
An article and fascinating photos on the New York Times Web site marks the 100th anniversary of the PATH train that took me home every night from my newspaper job when I was living in Hoboken and writing my book. Celebrate by revisiting my Chesterton-inspired "PATHs of Glory" article as it appeared in Hoboken's own Hudson Reporter (edited by my friend and former Tuesday Night Trivia co-host Caren Lissner), which later appeared in a revised version in The Thrill.
Thanks to Kevin Walsh for the tip on the Times piece.
Thought I'd share an excerpt of The Thrill of the Chaste today. The following is from Chapter 1, "Not the Same Old Song." Incidentally, since moving to the Washington, D.C., area, I have neither been able to locate Cheez Doodles nor an acceptable fat-free bran-muffin alternative. Currently the devil on my shoulder tries to get me to eat peanut-butter M&Ms and the angel tries to get me to opt for a Trader Joe's blood orange. With no further ado, from my book:
All my adult life, I've struggled with my weight. When I'm walking home at the end of the day, there's nothing I want more than a bag of Cheez Doodles or malted-milk balls. If I'm trying to slim down—which is most of the time—it's hard, really hard, to think of why I can't have what I'm craving.
The little devil on my left shoulder is saying, "Get the Cheez Doodles. You'll be satisfied, and you won't gain weight. Even if you do gain, it'll be less than a pound—you can lose it the next day."
And you know what? He's right. If I look at it in a vacuum, one indiscretion is not going to do any damage that can't be undone.
Then the little angel on my right shoulder speaks up. "Uh-uh. If you buy those Cheez Doodles, you know what's going to happen."
"I'll get orange fingerprints on the pages of the novel I'm reading tonight?" I reply.
The angel lets that one go by. "You'll buy them again tomorrow night," he nags. "And the next night.
"Please—" I groan. I know where this is going. The devil on my left shoulder is pulling my hair in the direction of the snack-foods aisle.
"And remember," the angel continues, smelling victory, "how your jeans kept getting tighter and tighter? And you had to—"
"I know," I say, exasperatedly.
"You had to lie down to zip them up," he says triumphantly. "Finally, one by one, you busted the fly on every pair of jeans you owned."
By that point, the devil has usually fled, and I am left looking for a nice, dry, fat-free, high-fiber bran muffin. But I am not happy. Quite the contrary—I feel deprived.
That's how I used to feel before I understood the meaning of chastity—when I was following friends' and relatives' advice to "stop looking." I knew some of the negative reasons for forgoing dates with men who were out for casual sex—such encounters would make me feel used and leave me lonelier than before—but I lacked positive reasons.
To lose weight without feeling deprived takes more than just listening to the warnings of the angel on my shoulder. It takes a positive vision. I have to imagine how I'll look and feel far into the future—not just tomorrow, but tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. I have to widen my perspective and see the cumulative effect of temptation: every time I give in, it wears down my resistance, but every time I resist, I grow stronger.
The tomorrow principle requires that vision to be able to see how chastity will help me become the strong, sensitive, confident woman I so long to be. I hate acting out of desperation, feeling as if I have to give of myself physically because it's the only way to reach a man emotionally. And I hate feeling so lonely that I have to take caresses and kisses from a man who essentially views me as a piece of meat—a rare and attractive piece of meat, deserving of the highest respect, but meat nonetheless. I long with all my heart to be able to look beyond my immediate desires, conducting myself with the grace and wisdom that will ultimately bring me fulfillment not just for a night, but for a lifetime.
Get The Thrill live at one of my upcoming appearances in Florida, South Carolina, Notre Dame, and beyond.
Monday, February 25, 2008
A meditation on the Nativity. Watch, listen, and be blessed!
American Papist has the story. Glad a grand jury understands that the "right to privacy" created in Roe vs. Wade does not give Planned Parenthood the right to privacy from investigations of whether it broke the law.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Reader Jim writes that his parish priest, Father Jim Nibler of St. Peter Catholic Church in Newberg, Ore., the priest's brother, Lawrence, and a friend died in a boating accident yesterday. Please pray for the victims and their families, and for Father Jim's parish family.
Father Nibler "was my RCIA guy, confessor and one of two priests that I ever received the Eucharist from," Jim writes. "I feel selfish; he was responsible to so many. Please pray for our parish."
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Many thanks to Sean Gallagher of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis' Criterion for his great story on my recent appearance at Holy Name of Jesus Church.
As Eden grew in her faith, her eyes were opened to how rebellious chastity truly is in a culture where freedom is understood as “freedom from responsibility,” and where “there [is] nothing sacred about marriage and nothing sacred about sex.”Read the whole thing. You can also listen to the talk I gave at Holy Name via the church's Web site — click on the "Dawn Eden" link in the upper-right hand corner of the page.
She learned that chastity, as a lifestyle, applies to a person’s wholeness—to body, mind and soul. It is relevant for all people—to those who are single, married or living lives of consecrated celibacy.
“We’re not talking about a ‘one size fits all,’ ‘Just do it’ or ‘Just don’t do it’ kind of philosophy,” Eden said. “Being chaste is a requirement for growing in your relationship with God.”
She also came to learn that living a chaste lifestyle is the groundwork upon which strong relationships with other people are built. This was the exact opposite of her previous assumption that having sex would bring her closer to the man she might want to marry later.
“I realized for the first time that all the sex I ever had, far from bringing me closer to marriage, had actually taken me further away from even being able to sustain a relationship that would lead to marriage.”
Eden said that this was the case because “you can’t seek permanence through impermanence.”
She said her sexual relationships had no ultimate commitment and, beyond that, involved her and her partners using each other for their own ends.
They were not relationships based on the fundamental principle of chastity: that sexual choices should be based on the belief that every person is created in the image of God.
“The sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s and their ideological children tout the supposed joys of sexual ‘freedom,’ ” Eden said. “But how does the freedom to use or be used, to separate emotions from sex and sex from commitment, make one truly free?
“True sexual freedom, like all freedom, can exist only when the dignity of the human person is recognized.”
Here are the latest. So happy to be touring the South during the winter! As mentioned earlier, my Florida talk has gotten some pre-publicity via an interview in the Florida Catholic. Tomorrow, the St. Petersburg Times is scheduled to run an interview as well.
St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church young-adult dinner, Spring Hill, Fla., 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for singles; $20 for couples, and may be purchased after the Feb. 17 and Feb. 24 Masses, at the door or by e-mail.
Book signing, Daughters of St. Paul bookstore, 243 King St, Charleston, S.C., 3-5 p.m.
Talk on "The Thrill of the Chaste," Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, S.C., 7 p.m., free. Sponsored by the diocesan Family Life Office and hosted by the Society of Our Lady of Joyful Hope.
Church of the Holy Communion's Parish Lenten Retreat, Hendersonville, N.C.
Edith Stein Project conference, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Ind., 1 p.m., more details TBA.
Pre-Cana Day, Cathedral of St. Patrick, Norwich, Conn.
Legatus dinner, Wilmington, Del. (private event).
Connecticut Christian Singles Network seminar, details TBA, 10 a.m.
Seattle Chesterton Society, details TBA.
Pending (confirmed, but details not yet available): London, Ontario, high school tour (April), Alaska tour (May), more Seattle dates (May).
Buy The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On at Amazon.com.
"One way to make enemies and antagonize people is to challenge the spirit of the world. The world has a spirit, as each age has a spirit. There are certain unanalyzed assumptions which govern the conduct of the world. Anyone who challenges these worldly maxims, such as, 'you only live once,' 'get as much out of life as you can,' 'who will ever know about it?' 'what is sex for if not for pleasure?' is bound to make himself unpopular. ...
"To marry one age is to be a widow in the next. Because [Jesus] suited no age, He was the model for all ages."
— Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ
... at a Catholic university. Alicia Torres has the story.
[Comment on Alicia's blog.]
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Just found one of my all-time favorite songs on YouTube — the Dave Rave Group's "Weight of the World," recorded in 1989.
The track captures the sense of unfulfilled longing that I experienced before discovering the thrill of the chaste. It's all the more poignant because its melody and arrangement are so upbeat and hopeful. Listening to it now takes me back to that place. It feels like a sort of Lenten mortification.
The video itself is delightful — shot in Russia in 1990, where the band, made up of Canadians and New Yorkers, somehow got a Melodiya record deal without having a contract in North America. It all started about two years earlier, when I took Rave and fellow band member Gary Pig Gold into a Russian-owned record store in the East Village.
It's from Valentino's Pirates, available on CD with liner notes by me.
A few quick notes:
- Tonight, I will be a guest on EWTN Radio's "Next Wave Live" from 9-10 p.m. EST. Listen online on EWTN Radio's Web site (click on “Listen Live”). On the same site, you can also find an EWTN Radio affiliate listing in your area. The show is also on Sirius Channel 160. It will encore Saturday night at 10 p.m. EST.
- I am delighted to announce that I am giving a talk on The Thrill of the Chaste on the evening of March 6 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, S.C., sponsored by the diocesan Family Life office, and will also be doing a book signing at the local Daughters of St. Paul bookstore that afternoon. Will post details tonight.
- Last, today is the last day to register for the Church of the Holy Communion's Parish Lent Retreat in Henderson, N.C., March 7-9, at which I will be a featured speaker. The Episcopal church is known for its Anglo-Catholic practice, and the retreat sounds like it is going to be a beautiful opportunity for Lenten contemplation and fellowship. If you are interested, contact Holy Communion today via its Web site.
On Monday, one day after my appearance at the Sex Week at Yale panel on "Sex and Spirituality," I had the opportunity to make the case for chastity with a lecture in the university's WLH building, sponsored by three Christian groups: Yale Christian Fellowship (affiliated with InterVarsity), Yale Students for Christ, and the Veritas Forum.
Meanwhile, in the room a few doors down where the previous night's panel had taken place, the last official guest-speaker event of Sex Week was taking place as David Johnson, group product manager for Trojan Condoms, lectured on "Evolve: America's sexual health problem and what Trojan's doing about it" — "featuring Trojan Condom and vibrating ring giveaways," according to the Sex Week schedule.
The turnout for my talk was modest — about 30 — but I was heartened to see that more students were there than had attended the heavily hyped "Sex and Spirituality" panel (not counting the Sex Week staff who turned up for their own event).
Since my talk at Georgetown a few days earlier had gone so well, and since I figured that the Yale students were in a similar position as those at Georgetown in terms of needing support to buck a campus culture hostile to chastity, I adapted the talk I had delivered at the Washington, D.C., university, adding a few items relevant to Sex Week.
One point that resonated especially strongly with the students was when I repeated what I had said the previous evening about the most glaring omission in Sex Week's roster of speakers: a married couple, especially one with children. After all, I said, most Yale students, regardless of their religious faith or lack of faith, were going to be married one day — a good number, in fact, were already married — and most of those who married would have children. If college is supposed to prepare students for the rest of their lives, then it made no sense to have an entire week devoted to "sex education" without any lecture focusing on the areas of their lives in which sex would play the most important role: marriage and parenthood.
Many heads nodded as I made that observation.
Another point the students seemed to especially appreciate was during the Q&A, when a student asked me how chastity could be viewed in relation to feminism.
I observed that the original leaders of the suffragist movement held traditional values with regard to sexual morality, and I admitted that I had personally benefited from achievements of the women's movement with regard to workplace equity. It was unfortunate, then, that the feminist movement had become inextricably linked with the movement for a sexual "freedom" that was in fact "utilitarianism" — a "freedom without responsibilities" that is, as John Paul II said in his "Letter to Families," "the opposite of love."
What I supported, I said, was what John Paul II called in his letter "On the Dignity and Vocation of Women" a "new feminism."
The Pope's choice of words was misleading, because this "feminism" had nothing to do with Gloria Steinem. Rather, I said, it was based on the concept that we express our sexual identity as men or women in the most authentic way when we are virtuous.
That is reassuring to me, I said, because it means I don't have to "try" to be feminine. It says that the meaning of femininity is not hearts and flowers and lace and shyness and giggling. Whatever I do that is virtuous, I do through the body in which I was created, as a woman. That body gives all my actions a uniquely feminine character, and makes them most creative, most powerful, and most feminine when they express virtue.
I added that, according to the same papal letter, certain ways in which women, by nature of their physicality, express virtue are meant as an example for men. Women are built for receptivity — physically, emotionally, and spiritually — and so they are called to show the world in a unique way what it means to be loved by God. That is, they can receive God's love in a way unique to their sex, and their sex likewise enables them to uniquely express that love.
It was beautiful to see the way some of the students' eyes shone when I said that.
* * *
One pleasant surprise of the evening was that Sex Week founder Eric Rubenstein was there from the start despite his own event's going on in the other room — and he stayed for my entire talk and Q&A. Since our interactions at the "Sex and Spirituality" panel had been heated on both sides (and I do regret having erupted at him and current Sex Week director Joe Citarrella during the event), it was with some surprise that I saw how gracious and genuinely interested he was. He spoke with me and Yale Christian Fellowship campus minister Greg Hendrickson afterwards and solicited our advice on how to make the next Sex Week more balanced.
* * *
After the Q&A, several students came up to thank me, and many of them gave their e-mail addresses to Hendrickson, who invited them to attend a luncheon later in the week where they could discuss the topics I had raised. As with Georgetown, it was extremely gratifying for me to see the students enjoy a new sense of fellowship with one another, as they realized they were not the only ones interested in living chastely.
Thanks so much to Greg, Sex Week's Citarella, and everyone who made my trip possible. It is a real blessing to share "The Thrill" with students who long for more than what their campus culture offers them.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
A worship community in Florida with the self-conscious name Relevant Church is making international news with its "30 Day Sex Challenge," a program in which participating couples commit to having sex every day for 30 days while singles commit to abstaining for the same duration.
The guide for the challenge, available for download from the church's blog, recommends two books to singles participating in the challenge, one about marriage and one about chastity. And so it was with some surprise that I learned today from a friend who downloaded the guide that The Thrill of the Chaste is the official chastity guide for singles doing the 30 days.
I am thrilled and honored that my book is being recommended. At the same time, I find it a bit baffling, because the "30 Day Sex Challenge" guide itself doesn't seem to stress chastity so much as the idea that sexually active singles should stop to clear their heads.
While I do believe it is important to stop and reassess one's behavior, especially if that behavior is not bringing what one wants most in life and love, my book is not just about examining priorities. It is about transcending the superficialities that surround dating in the modern age and learning how to bring divine love not only into a romantic relationship, but every relationship.
Perhaps Relevant Church covers those topics in its Sunday sermons. I hope so, because I don't see that in its challenge's guide.
I also have serious problems with what I perceive as the challenge's subtext that chastity is a sort of punishment for being single or, conversely, that sex is a reward for being married. Again, I would like to think that Relevant does not wish to put forth that subtext, but that is my gut reaction to their campaign as an unmarried woman.
Lauren Winner has pointed out the conflict in some churches that preach abstinence 'til marriage while saying that, after marriage, anything goes. The implication is that the sexual instinct is a kind of demon that can be temporarily bound but never tamed.
Chastity is about the proper integration of sexuality within the person, which includes recognizing the marital relationship as the proper context for sexual intercourse. That context, however, is damaged if sex is brought into it as something to be "had."
Sex can never be separated from an individual. For a married person to commoditize the sexual act as something deserved or not deserved on a given day leads to viewing his or her spouse not as an individual, but as an object.
Married sex, like every aspect of married love, should always be an act of the spouses' free will. The decision when to engage in it should be made between husband and wife — not husband, wife, and pastor.
* * *
As it happens, I'll be practically in Relevant's back yard come Sadie Hawkins Day — Friday, February 29, when I speak at St. Frances Cabrini Parish's young-adult dinner in Spring Hill, Fla. Details are in the current issue of the Florida Catholic, which includes an interview with me by Arleen Spencely (who I think did a great job). Here's a sample:
"Rebellion has always been built around the idea that there's something you aren't being told that's really the most important thing to know," she said. In chastity, she says, she found it.Read the whole thing.
"The chaste life is far more fulfilling than the unchaste life," she said. "I'm living from a sense of having something rather than a sense of lacking something."
And so far, it's been a liberating experience.
"You see just how much there is to appreciate in other people, in your environment and in everything you've been given," she said. "You're living as you were designed to live."
UPDATE, 4:25 p.m.: Jason Sowell, a pastor at Relevant Church responds —
I am actually a 29-year-old single guy who is doing the teaching for this series from the single perspective. I also work for an abstinence education program here in Tampa that references/recommends your book. I read your book a few months ago and want you to know that I am a big fan of your book and your perspective and descriptions of living singular and the chaste lifestyle. I was very inspired by much of what you had to say, which is why I wanted to reference your book as a source for further study.
Please know, that as a church, we are in total agreement that chastity should be a lifestyle and go beyond a 30-day challenge to a commitment of abstaining from sex until marriage. We are certainly encouraging and teaching that. I also wholeheartedly agree that, as single adults, we should be "transcending the superficialities that surround dating in the modern age and learning how to bring divine love not only into a romantic relationship, but every relationship."
This series is about strengthening intimacy within relationships. As you will see in the guide, for married couples, it is about learning each others deepest emotional needs and working to meet them for each other. Sex is one of the most intimate expressions of love couples can have with each other, when it is in the right context and driven by the right motives. For single adults, it is about learning what your own deepest emotional needs are (I do believe that it is difficult to have healthy relationships and meet other peoples emotional needs in the right way when you don't understand your own). The challenge to abstain for at least 30 days is to hopefully help many single adults recognize that sex in the wrong context may be what is complicating their relationships and continually driving them to unhealthy relationships. ...
... I would also like to hear specifically what in our guide as lead you to some of your thoughts/concerns. I would encourage you to take some time to go on our web site www.relevantchurch.com and listen to/watch our podcast from this past Sunday as we introduced the challenge. I believe that may also clear up some concerns for you.
Thank you so much for writing your book and taking on such a challenging topic in our culture. I'm sure you, better than most, understand how people can misconstrue your message, so thank you for expressing your thoughts in a balanced way. Honestly, this is a series we wanted to do for our congregation and people in our community that may need to better their relationships. We definitely did not expect all of the media attention we are getting and I only hope that what recognition we get leads people to your book, as well as others that are teaching truth, to help them better their relationships with each other and ultimately with God.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Was going to blog about the talk I gave on chastity at Yale, but that will have to wait until I have more time tomorrow. I will say for now that I was pleasantly surprised to find that more students showed up for it than did for the official Sex Week panel the night before — not counting the ones at the panel who were on Sex Week's staff.
"[T]he orders and congregations with a long tradition in the Church [have suffered a] difficult crisis due to the aging of members, a more or less accentuated fall in vocations and, sometimes, a spiritual and charismatic 'weariness.'
"[Today, many young men and women] experience a strong religious and spiritual attraction, but are only willing to listen to and follow those who give coherent witness to their adherence to Christ.
"It is interesting to note that those institutes that have conserved and chosen a state of life that is often austere and faithful to the Gospel lived 'sine glossa' have a wealth of vocations."
— Pope Benedict XVI
Monday, February 18, 2008
Running off to Mass, so am posting a couple of blurry shots from last night's panel; full story and more (hopefully better) pics to arrive later this afternoon.
If you know Joey Reynolds's show, you have an idea of what last night was like. Yale's Reform Jewish chaplain, Rabbi James Ponet, whom an organizer had told me would participate, must have known; he showed up but didn't join the panel.
UPDATE: Moved the photos from this post to "Lux be a lady" entry above. Waiting on more photos to be developed — should have them tomorrow night.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I know I've been heavy on the prayer requests lately, but I really need them today as I leave for two days of appearances during Sex Week at Yale.
Please pray for me and for those who attend both evenings' events, especially tonight's "Sex and Spirituality" panel.
In particular, I would be grateful if you would pray that God arm me with spiritual armor, giving me the wisdom and strength to speak the truth in love.
Thanks very much! Will post from New Haven as time permits; returning on Tuesday.
Got one more wonderful testimonial from my Georgetown talk last week, this one from the Protestant co-sponsor:
"We so appreciated the evening of the Dawn Eden talk and the ensuing discussion. Dawn has a way of getting at the heart of a very important issue — chastity — without shame or embarrassment, and yet she speaks in a way that is winsome and gentle. Especially encouraging was her charge for us to consider ourselves (i.e. the chaste) as today's 'radicals'! This gave our students some excitement to think of themselves as part of a movement.
"We also found the conversation afterwards very beneficial. The large group Q & A time was edifying, and the breaking into small groups was such a great idea too, since students were able to be more honest with their struggles and personal questions with fewer people listening in.
"I would like to see Dawn's ministry increase far and wide. Let's start a radical movement!"
— Kevin Offner, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Grad Staff, Washington, D.C. Area Universities
Thrill of the Chaste publisher Thomas Nelson informs me that in addition to Polish and Spanish, my book will soon be available in Chinese Traditional.
It is being published in Taiwan by the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.
Needless to say, I am utterly thrilled.
I don't yet know exactly why the demand for my book in that part of the world, but methinks this has something to do with it.
Friday, February 15, 2008
"Once after watching the movie 'The Song of Bernadette,' my father remarked that Jennifer Jones, the young actress who played Bernadette, beat out the Blessed Mother for Best Actress at the 1944 Academy Awards."
— Hugh Vincent Dyer O.P., "The Healing Love of Lourdes"
Pure Romance, a sex-toy company based in Loveland, Ohio, with more than $80 million in sales last year, gave the student organization that runs the week $30,000 to pay for most of the 21 events, a student-made video documentary and a 60-page magazine circulated at Yale and the seven other Ivy League schools.Students who want to hear more about chastity than what I am able to say on the panel (where I will be alongside a pornographer/sex-club owner, a sex therapist/Planned Parenthood advisory board member, a sexual storyteller who promises a "multi-chakra experience," and Yale's Reform Jewish chaplain) can hear me give a talk at Yale the following night not associated with Sex Week. Here are updated details on both evenings' events:
"Yale's Sex Week is pretty much the foremost for its distinct, provocative format," Logan Levkoff, a sex educator and spokeswoman for Trojan, the condom unit of Princeton, New Jersey-based Church & Dwight Co., said in an interview after lecturing Yalies about the female orgasm.
Detractors include some participants, such as Dawn Eden, a panelist this weekend and author of the book "The Thrill of the Chaste." She said the week promotes premarital sex and endorses unhealthy images of sexuality. She objected to a porn debate between adult-film stars Ron Jeremy and Monique Alexander, to be moderated by ABC television's "Nightline" host, Martin Bashir.
"This is how they get out the word, by having juicy events featuring porn stars and sexologists?" Eden said in a telephone interview. "I think that is very damaging, physically, psychologically and certainly spiritually."
Panel discussion on "Sex and Spirituality," part of Sex Week at Yale, WLH 119, Yale University, New Haven, Conn., 6 p.m., free. Open to students, with very limited admission available for nonstudents — arrive early for a seat.
Talk on "The Thrill of the Chaste" at Yale University, WLH 116, 7 p.m., free. Sponsored by Yale Christian Fellowship and Veritas Forum. It's a small room, so arrive early. Nonstudents welcome.
Just received this very kind testimonial from the president of Georgetown University Right to Life:
"As Christian students at Georgetown, we sometimes feel alienated by a campus culture that leaves little room for discourse about chastity, abstinence and the impact of our faith on our romantic relationships. Dawn's talk was invigorating and inspirational for us; she gave us the spiritual ammo to persist in our decision to remain chaste even in the face of the dominant 'hookup culture.' The small-group discussions we held [afterward] were incredibly helpful for us to work through some of the ideas that Dawn's talk presented, to make those ideas applicable to our own daily lives and to provide fellowship for like-minded people of faith. Overall, the event was an overwhelming success and I could not be more grateful to Dawn and all of the others who made it possible for us to bring her to Georgetown University."
—Caitlin Barr, Georgetown University
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Reader Kenneth Wolfe sends St. Augustine's homily for St. Valentine's Day, which used to be a feast day on the Catholic calendar for the martyred saint (the date is now the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius):
The day of triumph of the blessed Martyr Valentine returns to us today in its yearly celebration. As the Church rejoices in his glorification, so it proposes that his footsteps be followed. For if we suffer together, we shall also be glorified together.
In his glorious struggle two things must particularly be considered by us, namely, the brutality of his torture and the undefeated patience of the Martyr: the savageness of his torture, that we may censure it; the patience of the Martyr, that we may imitate it.
Heed the Psalmist railing against evilness: "Do not imitate those doing evil, since they quickly dry up like hay." Heed the Apostle urging that patience must be extended to those doing evil: "Patience is necessary for us, that we may earn the promises [of salvation]."
If you had told me before last night that, out of the 50-odd talks I've given on chastity to young adults since The Thrill of the Chaste came out in December 2006, the best one ever would be at Georgetown University, I would not have believed you.
I knew there was a pro-chastity contingent at the Jesuit institution, to be sure, including the groups who wanted me to appear on campus — InterVarsity Fellowship, the Protestant Student Forum, Catholic Daughters of America, and Knights of Columbus. But the campus is better known for countering Catholic teachings on sexuality in ways both official (hosting Eve Ensler's "Monologues" and sponsoring internships for Planned Parenthood lobbyists) and unofficial (Hoyas for Choice).
When I worked for the Cardinal Newman Society, Patrick Reilly told me I could expect conflict if I spoke at the nation's oldest Catholic university. He said that when he spoke there, he was met by women wearing graphic "Monologues" T-shirts.
So, before my Georgetown appearance yesterday, I called for backup, e-mailing five Jesuit Dawn Patrol readers who have been supportive of my book to ask for prayers. I also asked them for advice they might have on including references to Jesuit teachings in my talk, which I believed would add meaning even if many attendees were not interested in their university's heritage. They all replied with promises of prayers and offered some excellent tips.
Arriving at the university, my first time ever there, I was taken to dinner by students who filled me in on the campus culture. Hookups were common, they said, and, contrary to an op-ed in this week's school paper, condoms were easily available, distributed for free in the school's "free speech" area, the ironically named Red Square, and in envelopes outside dorm-room doors of student volunteers known as "condom fairies."
"And the RAs [resident advisors] permit that?" I asked.
"Often the condom fairies are the RAs," a student replied.
After dinner, I was led to Room 107, a classroom at the Intercultural Center that seats about 60. The organizers weren't expecting a huge crowd. It had rained nearly all day, and many students were expected to attend a conflicting event — an on-campus talk by Ron Paul.
To everyone's surprise, so many students crowded into the room that there were actually people sitting on the floor.
The audience behaved ideally — they were entirely gracious and highly attentive. I gave a talk similar to recent ones I gave last month at Arlington Diocese Theology on Tap (listen online) and Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church outside Indianapolis (listen online), with added references to Jesuit teachings. For example, on the advice of a scholastic (seminarian) who answered my e-mail, when I spoke about how chastity is a requirement for growing in one's relationship with God, I linked it to the Jesuits' motto: Ad majoram Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God).
The advice I had received from Jesuit prayer warriors also helped during the Q&A. When a female student asked a variation of the "how far can I go with my boyfriend" question, I said, borrowing from the advice of the same scholastic, that one should rather ask, "How can I show the most love," — not only to my boyfriend, I added, but to everyone. (I also answered the question directly with a bit of advice I've heard from a priest: Go for affection, not arousal. It's not easy, but if you make a conscious effort to be aware of your body's responses, you know where to draw the line.)
Another scholastic's advice helped when the same questioner asked about "unchaste thoughts." It made me think of a section of Ignatius' autobiography describing a time before the saint was so saintly.
Ignatius talks about how his imagination ran as he recovered from leg surgery. Lying on his sickbed, he fantasized about an "illustrious lady" and how he would impress her once he was mobile. But he also had thoughts about drawing nearer to God, a result of how his caretakers had, against his wishes, given him spiritual reading to occupy himself during his recovery. (He had asked for "romance novels" — the supermarket-checkout tomes of his day.)
In answering the student's question and talking about my own nightly efforts to push out sexual fantasies in favor of godly thoughts such as contemplating the mysteries of the rosary (events in the lives of Jesus and Mary), I paraphrased these lines from Ignatius:
This succession of thoughts occupied him for a long while, those about God alternating with those about the world. But in these thoughts there was this difference. When he thought of worldly things it gave him great pleasure, but afterward he found himself dry and sad. But when he thought of journeying to Jerusalem ... and practising austerities, he found pleasure not onlywhile thinking of them, but also when he had ceased.It is the same, I explained, with me. Both kinds of thoughts give me pleasure, but it's only when I fall asleep thinking about God that I find myself in truly good spirits when I wake up in the morning.
I left the podium to applause, but, unbeknownst to me, the best was yet to come.
The organizers had mentioned there would be a discussion afterwards. I hadn't really thought about what that would entail, as there had never been one after any of my past talks, but I stuck around to find out.
About 20 of the 60 students remained to talk. They were divided into two small groups, with a moderator from one of the sponsoring groups leading each one.
I was amazed that, after sitting through my half-hour talk and the half-hour Q&A, so many students stayed to talk about the issues raised — for over an hour.
* * *
Since I began speaking about chastity, I have often observed how hard it is for one speaker to make a difference. It feels like I get airdropped into a campus, do my thing, and then have to trust that someone will pick up the ball afterwards and work to change the culture.
Georgetown was different. The students who stayed for the discussion groups — as well as the many more who listened to me and asked questions — were visibly hungry for fellowship. They wanted to make what they had experienced during the evening last.
The "Monologues" and "Hoyas for Choice" culture leads many of these students to fear that he or she is practically the only one trying to live out the Church's teachings on chastity, while everyone else is having sex.
Being able to speak with their peers in small groups, the students — both those who were already living chastely, and those who were curious but found it problematic — were able to see that they were not alone in their discomfort with the cavalier ways in which sex is presented to them. Even the students who weren't sold on all the Church's teachings felt like sex meant something, or should mean something, and they wanted to find fellowship with others who were bucking the pressure to hook up.
At the end of each group, the moderator passed around a sign-in sheet for participants who would be interested in follow-up activities. Each sign-in sheet was filled.
I get goose bumps now just thinking about it. Something happened. Students are taking the opportunity to find support in living chastely and are running with it.
Both the Protestant and Catholic sponsors agreed: The Holy Spirit is working.
From now on, I am going to ask my speaking agency to recommend (though not require) that every college-age group that invites me to speak engage participants in small-group discussion afterwards.
Thanks so much to the sponsors, and many thanks to everyone who prayed for the success of the event. This was a very special evening. I am so thankful to have been part of something that looks like it will bear beautiful fruit.
Next stop, Sex Week at Yale!
Happy Valentine's Day! Send your sweetie a free Thrill of the Chaste e-card. Mad props to thrillofthechaste.com webmaster Saint Kansas for devising this beautiful and fun promotion.
* * *
And, speaking of love from above, please send up prayers for Brett's wife, Tracey Hallman, a gifted poet and creator of the endearing lupus-awareness podcast "Butterfly Mom," as her illness has been flaring up.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
"There is a wonderfully funny and eclectic show that started at the beginning of the season called 'Pushing Daisies.' The plot line is that this boy discovers that if he touches something dead it comes back to life. ... In the series as an adult he brings his childhood sweetheart who was murdered back to life and he can never touch her again without her immediately dying. The same goes for his childhood pet dog who he had also brought back to life. Watching the show you get the sense of the loss of intimacy since he has to keep away from his dog and always uses gloves if he is going to pet him. The same goes for his childhood sweetheart and the show shows the lengths they have to go to try to show affection for each other without her dying, such as kissing through Saran Wrap. The comic sadness of this is easy to see, yet somehow people see using a condom as something intimate and it is an act of separation on a couple of levels."
— Jeff Miller, a k a The Curt Jester
Evangelical blogger Julie Neidlinger asks the question in a thought-provoking post on her recent mission trip, "Thank you for this life":
[W]hat is pro-life? Is preventing a life, even if it saves a child from an existence in misery and poverty, pro-life?Read the whole thing.
It seems to be a larger concept than just an interpretation of abortion or of controlling the number of lives brought into a world in which I, a Westerner with a limited understanding of the storehouses and blessings and plans of God, deem a nuisance at best and irresponsible at worst.
I suppose at some point, if this were a discussion with live people in real time in which I didn't have the floor like I do here in this post, the talk might cut me off before I could get to the end and could veer off onto tangents of unwed mothers, women having children to trap men, families with children with different fathers, families already stretched to their limits and not able to support more mouths to feed, the need for education on reproduction and responsibility and all the things we call our obsessive need to control the size of our own families for convenience sake -- it could easily go that way. That, however, is exactly that: tangential.
This is not that discussion.
This is, instead, about trying to understand what it is to truly be pro-life, to be in support and love and understanding of the value of all life free of judgment and logic. It is about seeing value in life beyond the limits of financial feasibility, beyond the limits of productiveness, beyond the limits of my definition of what is a "good" life, and what kind of life should be allowed to grow dim and die or to never even start out of "compassion's" sake.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
"A 'G-string diva' is a no one to be envied or admired. This is not an 'art form.' It's a tragic, lonely, and dangerous lifestyle. Behind the sexy stripper facade is a deeply wounded and confused little girl who needs help, who needs compassion, in short, who needs Jesus. She usually ends up hating men for being stupid enough to give her money for gyrating in front of him. She knows deep down that he is exploiting her, and that she is using him. And she knows that the whole thing is a con game, no matter what she tells herself. One of the popular songs the women at my bar liked to perform to was titled 'Living Dead Girl,' and for me, that epitomizes the state of an dancer's soul."
— The anonymous creator of Saved from Strip Clubs, via her online testimony. A convert to Catholicism, she works to help women escape the sex industry.
Prominently displayed in the George Washington University Ivory Tower food court is this ad for a food-delivery Web site:
That's right; late-night pitas and snacks are "ALMOST AS GOOD AS A BOOTY CALL FROM SOMEONE OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE."
GW students fed up with the "booty call" culture that their university apparently condones are invited to hear me speak at Georgetown tomorrow night.
Monday, February 11, 2008
A Hartford Courant op-ed by a member of feminism's anti-porn wing describes how the Ivy League university's event showcases a "glamorous" pornography production house that "acts as a recruitment tool for a mass-production sweatshop industry."
Only feminists are allowed to do that — with copious personal insults and profanities, of course including comments by former John Edwards webmistress Amanda Marcotte, who takes the opportunity to indulge in sadistic fantasies about me.
Moral: Ask people to pray for a "pro-choice" post-abortive woman who has written that she "grieve[s]" in a "fountain of pain" and You.Will.Be.Crushed.
Thou shalt not put a pro-choice narrative into a pro-life context. Or else.
For all the talk about my politicizing a woman's grief and pain, Marcotte's attitude, as she wrote January 24 on her Pandagon blog, is that a woman should just get over her "internalized guilt" about having an abortion — which is in fact nothing more than killing a "tapeworm."
[All links above contain offensive language.]
A Cincinnati Enquirer columnist finds the skeletons behind the traveling exhibition of Chinese citizens' corpses.
Marcin, the proofreader of the Polish edition of The Thrill of the Chaste, offers a thought for Lent:
"During Mass on Ash Wednesday, a visiting Capuchin told us in his sermon that started a retreat session something illuminating for me. Namely, we normally start Lent promising so much change for the better. Yet it is not (most frequently unatttainable) virtues that will save us, but God, and the thing is to be as close to Him as possible. In other words, we should focus more on the relationship with God rather than on our betterment. As with the rich youth in the Gospel, he was virtuous keeping all the commandments, but his relation with God stopped halfway. Maybe such a shift of focus would really make sense, esp. if we are sick and tired of trying and failing for a thousandth time..."
Sunday, February 10, 2008
The following is an updated version of a post that originally appeared on The Dawn Patrol February 22, 2005.
Planned Parenthood's Web site currently has a feature article "celebrating the leadership of African Americans who led the fight for reproductive freedom."
To those who know Planned Parenthood's history, the organization's flattery of blacks is nothing but a sick joke.
Brian Clowes, PhD, of Human Life International, has compiled a remarkable collection of nearly 1,200 quotes from the Birth Control Review, published between 1917 and 1940 by the American Birth Control League, forerunner of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The sheer breadth of the quotes from magazine, edited by Birth Control League/Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger until 1928 and continuing to represent the views of her organization thereafter, show that Planned Parenthood's philosophy is grounded in disgustingly obvious racism and eugenics.
All of the quotes were taken from the 1970 unabridged collection of the first edition of the Birth Control Review by Da Capo Press (a division of Plenum Publishing Corporation). Clowes precedes each one with a helpful coding system, including:
[ADU]—Pro-adultery, pro-fornication and pro-prostitution quotes
[COE]—Quotes advocating forced abortions, sterilization and contraception
[FAM]—Anti-child, anti-marriage and anti-family quotes
[ILL]—Quotes advocating illegal Activities
Following are some typical examples, but I invite you to peruse the archive yourself (read the introduction first). As you read them, keep in mind that Planned Parenthood flat-out denies that Sanger was a eugenicist, though it grudgingly admits that some of her "progressive" ideas—such as placing illiterates in concentration camps—are "objectionable and outmoded."
"We hear a great deal about preserving our institutions of democracy and the traditions of liberty, free speech, free press and all of these ideals for future generations. Rather should we be concerned as to the quality of life that we are passing on today. What type of people are we breeding to form future generations? These institutions and traditions will take care of themselves if the people of future generations will have the intelligence to use and appreciate them. We have got to revalue our own human values...Birth control can be used as a means to raise the level of the intelligence of our population; to lower infant and maternal mortality. It can be used to improve our general health and well-being and it can curb the pressure of population which explodes into war."
—Margaret Sanger, "Doors to a New World." Birth Control Review, Volume XXIII, Numbers 5 and 6 (New Series, February-March 1939), page 168.
"If it is necessary, and hence legitimate, for the government to control production and distribution, income and wages, why is it not equally necessary for it to control the number of the beneficiaries of all this? In other words, why is not birth control as necessary to the welfare of the state as any of these others?"
—Theodore Dreiser, Birth Control Review, Volume I, Number 4 (New Series, January 1934), page 2. [Yes, that Theodore Dreiser. "An American tragedy," indeed.]
"Eugenics without birth control is simply a castle in the air, a beautiful vision in the clouds, no doubt, but not to be brought to earth. Birth control—in the wide sense which includes sterilization and some day perhaps even more radical measures—is the chief instrument vouchsafed to civilized men wherewith from the infinite possibilities of brutal procreation to carve the great future of the race."This last quote requires an introduction. It appeared one year before Sanger began her notorious Negro Project, which Planned Parenthood calls a "unique experiment in race-building and humanitarian service to a race subjected to discrimination, hardship, and segregation," and black leaders like the Rev. Johnny M. Hunter call simply "genocide."
—Havelock Ellis. Quote from his book More Essays of Love and Virtue, Birth Control Review, Volume XV, Number 12 (December 1931), page 357.
"... the low incomes which Negroes receive make bachelorhood and spinsterhood widespread, with the naturally resultant lowering, in some cases, of sex standards. On the other hand, the mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that part of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.Yes, it's that W.E.B. DuBois—the founder of the NAACP.
"There comes, therefore, the difficult and insistent problem of spreading among Negroes an intelligent and clearly recognized concept of proper birth control, so that the young people can marry, have companionship and natural health, and yet not have children until they are able to take care of them. This, of course, calls for a more liberal attitude among Negro churches. The churches are open for the most part to intelligent propaganda of any sort, and the American Birth Control League and other agencies ought to get their speakers before church congregations and their arguments in the Negro newspapers. As it is, the mass of Negroes know almost nothing about the birth control movement, and even intelligent colored people have a good many misapprehensions and a good deal of fear at openly learning about it. Like most people with middle-class standards of morality, they think that birth control is inherently immoral.
"Moreover, they ["Negroes"] are quite led away by the fallacy of numbers. They want the black race to survive. They are cheered by a census return of increasing numbers and a high rate of increase. They must learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts."
—W.E.B. DuBois, Professor of Sociology, Atlanta University. "Black Folk and Birth Control." Birth Control Review, Volume XXII, Number 8 (New Series, May 1938, the "Negro Number"), page 90.
Planned Parenthood is quite aware of DuBois's quote. In fact, on its Web site, it refers to the sentence beginning, "The mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously," and states: "Taken out of the context of his discussion about the effects of birth control on the balance between quality-of-life considerations and race-survival issues for African-Americans, Dubois' language seems insensitive by today's standards."
You now have the context of W.E.B. DuBois's infamous quote. Is it anything other than an utterly abhorrent argument for reducing the numbers of blacks in the population? Why can't Planned Parenthood simply admit it has a racist past?
Maybe because it remains a racist organization—both in its targeting its abortion clinics in poor neighborhoods so as to kill a disproportionately high number of black babies, and in its alleged unfair treatment of minority employees.
Happy Black History Month—from Planned Parenthood.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
That's the gist of one of several questions asked by the blogger I wrote about last week ("When the 'right choice' leads to a 'fountain of pain'") in an entry titled "Are anti-choice Americans motivated by racism?" (Link contains profanity.)
She writes of pro-lifers, "Have they EVER done anything to help make it easier for economically exploited minorities to have children?"
Knowing that the Catholic Church is, after the federal government, the greatest provider of social services to minorities and immigrants in the United States, and that the nation's pregnancy resource centers —which exist largely to help minorities whom Planned Parenthood targets for destruction — outnumber its abortion clinics two-to-one, the question reminds me of a scene from "Monty Python's Life of Brian": "What have the Romans ever done for us?"
As Rod Dreher wrote in a 2002 article on crisis pregnancy centers, there is a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" tone to pro-choice criticisms of pro-lifers' aiding minority women who choose life:
Citing the disproportionately high abortion rate among minority women, CPCs are trying to open more branches in low-income areas. This has opened the movement up to charges of racism and classism (i.e., taking advantage of the poor) from abortion-rights activists. Veteran pro-life activist Frederica Mathewes-Green responds: "It seems ironic that those who are so adamant about decreasing the population see the excess as being the poor and the dark-skinned, and those who are already marginalized. These are not the people who have power in our nation, and these are the ones targeted for elimination."RELATED: For background on Planned Parenthood's eugenic history, I have updated and reposted my 2005 post "Planned Parenthood's racist roots."
CPC counselors in New York City say that blacks and Latinas are more open to the pro-life message than white clients-this, even though they tend to be poorer than white women seeking abortions, and therefore less able to provide for their own material needs. "A good CPC director knows how to take advantage of the public and private resources to help these women," says one volunteer counselor. "Some of these women are asking for abortions because they simply can't figure out how to navigate the bureaucracy. I've seen women look at me and go, 'Oh, I guess I really could take care of this baby.'"
NOTE TO READERS: As I wrote when first linking to the blog of the woman who asks the question above, if you are moved to comment on her blog, I beg you, please do not write anything that might in any way be construed as critical or harassing. If anyone makes such a comment on her blog, I will ban that reader from commenting here. Thank you for your cooperation.
... to Cleveland priest Fr. V, whose blog Adam's Ale is currently celebrating its first anniversary.
I had the pleasure of meeting Father Valencheck when he arranged a Cleveland mini-tour for me last February, the first time I got to fly (rather than take a commuter train) to out-of-town speaking dates.
With thrillofthechaste.com" webmaster Saint Kansas (singer/instrumentalist of "Chastity Rome-Chick Blues" fame and Fr. V. before my talk at St. Therese of Lisieux.
Friday, February 8, 2008
Last night, the St. Stephen Martyr young-adult group sponsored a Holy Hour for the intentions of young people. Following is the text of the handout given to those in attendance, reprinted by permission of one of the organizers, Brother Hugh Vincent O.P.:
You are invited to pray for these and any other intentions you may have for young people. We gather to pray especially for those who do not pray for themselves that the young people of the world will be transformed and led to a life of true happiness.
For young people who do not yet know the love of Christ, that the Church would bring them His love.
For young people who do not know they have a mother in Mary.
For young people who have been inadequately taught about the Gospel and gifts of our tradition.
For young people who have fallen away from the practice of faith.
For the young people of the world who are orphans living on the streets and for those who are without the necessities of life: food, clean water, clothing, shelter.
For young people who are forced into slavery and prostitution and for those whose work is unrewarding.
For the young who live in war torn areas of the world especially those who have never known days of peace.
For young people who suffer because or racism and prejudice.
For young immigrants struggling to learn a new language and way of life.
For young people who suffer from severe boredom and are in need of the interior life of Faith.
For young people who lack genuine affirmation and for those who feel totally alone.
For young people who suffer anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness.
For young people who are considering suicide and for those who practice forms of mutilation.
For young people who suffer from terminal illness.
For young people who suffer from learning and physical disabilities.
For young people who are burdened by debt and financial troubles.
For young people who are enslaved to addictions, especially those caught by drugs and alcohol.
For young people who find their community in gangs and other criminal associations.
For young people caught by the allure of materialism and fame.
For young people who are in bondage to excessive entertainment and the tyranny of fads and fashion.
For young people in bondage to pornography and other forms of sexual addiction.
For young people that they will be given the virtue of chastity and that they will come to know that a more chaste society is a more just society.
For young people who are caught in practices of the occult and Satanic worship.
For young people who have been physically, emotionally, sexually, or psychologically abused.
For young women who have had an abortion and for those who are considering one.
For young men who have lost a child through abortion and for those who are considering participation in abortion.
For young people who suffer because of a broken home.
For Divine protection upon all young people who are vulnerable in any way.
For young people who are searching for their vocation in life.
For young men and women who are seeking a Christian spouse.
For young priests and religious who are struggling with their vocation.
For young married couples who are struggling with the challenges of life and parenthood.
For young married couples who are having difficulty conceiving and for those with special needs children.
For young single people trying to embrace the fullness of Christian life as single people.
For young people in the legal and medical professions that they will fight to uphold the dignity of human life in all its stages.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga Pray for us
St. Maria Goretti Pray for us
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Pray for us
All you Patrons of youth Pray for us
Loving Father, grant all your children the virtues necessary for their condition and state in life, heal and liberate them according to their needs. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns in unity with you and the Holy Sprit, one God, forever and ever. AMEN!
Haven't run a photo in a while, so here's one of me signing books at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in the Indianapolis suburb of Beech Grove after speaking there last month. I know it looks posed, but it's not. As I wrote earlier, I had a beautiful time at the church, and you can hear the talk I gave there on the parish's Web site — see the link to my name on the upper right-hand side. Photo by Sean Gallagher of The Criterion.
A woman who describes herself as "a feminist, a leftist, a liberally-educated eternal student" has started a blog to talk about her abortion experience.
It's not pretty.
The man who got her "knocked up," she writes, subsequently "in an abusive, manic swing, convinced me that not only did I dread raising a kid with him, but that I also feared being involved with his gene pool."
Her first blog entry pinpoints the conflict between the "feminist" in her who is afraid of discussing her loss, and the "fountain of pain ... that seems to gush interminably."
It reads like pure agony:
There’s a lined and as-yet empty journal that has been on my bed for a few days, while entries compose, edit, and erase themselves in my mind. They are things I want to remember and forget, tell everyone and keep private, things I want to at once embrace and hide from.In her second and latest post, she describes what happened when she went to Planned Parenthood. From the sound of it, little love awaited her:
I lost a baby, a baby that never got a name. Lost it on purpose, days after the thirty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It was my first, one accident dropped into years of carefulness. I had wanted it in an abstract way for several years, but it came at a time that wasn’t right, and it didn’t have the father I would want to raise a child with. The feminist in me shrinks away from talking about the pain of that loss. Even though my heart believes I sent it back so it could return at a better time, there’s fountain of pain and a kind of aloneness I had never experienced that seems to gush interminably.
The interminable is relative, of course. Time has passed. I cry less. My body that for five weeks swelled in anticipation fits into my clothes again. I’m no longer avoiding the hugs of friends to protect my sore breasts.
I dream about the baby, the one with no name. In the dreams, I am overwhelmed with trying to find someone to help me care for it, of hearing it call the babysitter “mama” because its mother can never be there. When this happens, I feel like I made the right choice for myself and the children that will come. But I still grieve.
The protocol used by Planned Parenthood in my region is this: you go to their office (after a phone counseling session), they do a pregnancy test and ultrasound to determine the length of the pregnancy, then they give you a pill, Mifiprex, which you take there, and then send you home with instructions, the second round of pills (misoprostol), antibiotics, anti-nausea meds, and an RX for Vicodin. The first pill stops the fetus from continuing to grow, and the second round, taken 24-48 hours later, starts cramping and empties the uterus.Sadly, it didn't end there.
I asked if I’d feel sick before taking the second round. It’s unlikely, they said. I woke up vomiting, and I vomited all day until I wished I were dead, especially knowing that I had to take pills that *do* cause nausea and vomiting. Severe cramping, bleeding, and more vomiting ensued within 30 minutes of taking the misoprostol. That was when I wished I could change my mind and have a surgical procedure instead. The unbearable pain continued for several hours, but eventually I was able to rest. I’ve since read in some forums that it goes on for hours and hours for some women. I can’t even imagine.
A week later, I was experiencing significant pain and a fever, so I went back to PP. There, they diagnosed a uterine infection and gave me more antibiotics. Statistically, not many women get uterine infections after medical abortions; I’m the person for whom medical things seem to always go wrong, so I guess I should have known it would happen to me. Now I worry that the infection may have done enough damage to make conception difficult in the future. It’s really terrifying. And there’s nothing I can do about it. So, I’m taking care of myself, trying to get better, crying when I feel like it.However much she may say she made the "right choice" for herself, I can't help thinking that women, let alone their unborn children, really do deserve better than abortion.
In Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II writes to women who have had an abortion, "[D]o not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope":
I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.RELATED: Lumina offers a list of resources for post-abortion healing.
NOTE TO READERS: I am sharing the preceding out of a desire that readers pray for the woman in question, who is telling her story on her own public blog. If you are moved to comment on her blog, I beg you, please do not write anything that might in any way be construed as critical or harassing. If anyone makes such a comment on her blog, I will ban that reader from commenting here. Thank you for your cooperation.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Got some encouraging news from the doctor yesterday, which I will share later today or tonight. I'm doing very well, thanks largely, I believe, to prayers. So well, in fact, that, if you've had me atop your intentions, I think it's safe to move me down the list.
Still, if you're in the business of making petitions, I would be grateful if you would pray for guidance for me as I prepare to speak at Georgetown on the 13th (next Wednesday) and Yale on the 17th and 18th, during its notorious Sex Week — details on those, too, to come after I get some z's.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Just got in from the Ash Wednesday young-adult event at my church, St. Stephen Martyr: a showing of "The Passion of the Christ."
I didn't know St. Stephen's young-adult group when writing about such ministries in The Thrill of the Chaste, but if I had, I would have used it as the textbook example of the way such ministry should be conducted. It's centered around prayer and fellowship, with its events geared towards helping members deepen their relationship with Christ and with one another. (That doesn't exclude engaging in the occasional fun for fun's sake — otherwise, I never would have seen the Caps show up the Edmonton Oilers.)
And so, when a fellow member of the group invited me to see "The Passion" tonight, I went, even though I had intentionally not marked it on my calendar. I've been avoiding seeing the film since it came out, mostly out of disliking having cinematic images of violence imprinted on my brain. I'm very sensitive to violent movie visuals and was particularly uncomfortable with the idea of seeing ones of the Passion. My fear was that they would supersede and, in some way, be less affecting to me than the ones I already carried in my imagination. Whether they were more realistic than the ones I already carried was immaterial to me; the images I carried touched my heart deeply, and I was afraid the ones in the film would simply gross me out.
Because of my discomfort with seeing the film, I let others in the group know that I would likely leave within the first few minutes. No one was more surprised than I that I stayed for the whole thing.
Now that I've seen it, the first thing I should say is that the violence did not disturb me nearly as much as I thought it would. This was largely because I had gone to great lengths to read about the film when it came out, since, not seeing it, I felt left out of the cultural zeitgeist. I had even looked through a picture book of the film that depicted its bloodiest scenes — which, to my mind, did not risk affecting the way I envisioned the Passion as much as if I saw the actual film. Images have greater impact when moving and with sound.
Thanks to such research, it turned out that I had already seen the worst of the film's violence. Moreover, having read so many reviews, I was ready for those few spots where it would be so disturbing that I would have to turn away.
To my relief and surprise, I do not feel now that "The Passion"'s images would impact the way I envisioned the Passion either positively or negatively. At the same time, I still don't believe it is necessary for anyone to see it in order to understand Jesus' sufferings. Likewise, I would not begin to assume that having seen it gives me a better understanding of those sufferings than one who has not seen it.
In many respects, I was surprised at how beautifully done the film was. Even the most glowing reviews and the most evocative still photographs had not prepared me for how genuinely affecting it was on many levels.
Having said that, there was one aspect of the film that made it very difficult for me to watch — much more difficult than the violence, and it got worse as the movie progressed.
I kept thinking to myself, over and over, "I am so glad I did not see this before I was a Catholic."
At the time "The Passion" came out, I was a recent Jewish convert to evangelical Protestantism. I had big problems with many churches' attitudes towards Jews, but particularly with those I encountered in some Catholics, most of all those who shared Mel Gibson's radical traditionalist leanings.
The Vatican II document on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, is remarkably beautiful and has the air of Holy Spirit truth that helped me ultimately get over my reservations. However, in order to get over those reservations, I first had to be convinced that the truth of the Church's teachings overrode the ignorance or outright dissension of some of its members. Mel Gibson's contrast of cartoonishly ugly, hook-nosed Jewish Sanhedrin against a sympathetic, tortured-soul Pontius Pilate would not have helped.
Gibson has said that he went out of his way to portray the Jewishness of Jesus and his disciples, and to show that not all Jews wanted to crucify Jesus. Many Jews have said the film gave them a better appreciation of Jesus, and I have no doubt that it helped to spark conversions, so, certainly, not everyone who is Jewish would have reacted as I did.
I do think, though, that a Jew watching the film and trying to discern its maker's attitude towards Jews would look not just to what Jesus and his disciples are saying, but also what they are doing. And, at the central moment when Christ is raised on the cross and the film flash back to the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal, and Jesus holds up the bread to say, "This is my body,"— he is actually holding ...
... a piece of panini bread.
Or, to be grammatically correct, a panino Perhaps a flattened ciabatta.
Whatever it is, it ain't matzo. And, while I had been prepared for that moment by reading the reviews, I still could not keep myself from throwing up my hands and silently mouthing the words, "It's a friggin' panini!" Really, it kind of ruined the moment.
I think to some extent one has to be Jewish to understand why this is so hard to take. Anyone else could simply say, "It doesn't matter what kind of bread it was — the point is that it was His body." And, strictly speaking, that's true. Anything Christ says is His body is his body. God's word says the Church is Christ's body as well, I'm a member of the Church, and I had Cosi bread for dinner (which actually looks even more like the bread in "The Passion") — so His body certainly doesn't exclude leaven.
The problem with Gibson's depiction is that the Bible says Jesus was a Jew and He kept the Law perfectly. The Law says in no uncertain terms that no leaven is to be in the home throughout all of Passover. So, to a Jew who is already uncomfortable with what he or she perceives as Christians' wrongheaded attitudes toward Jews, having Jesus hold up a smushed baguette or whatever risks confirming such prejudices.
To me, before I was Catholic, it would have said, in essence, "Hey, goyim, this Messiah's just for you! He's not really Jewish. He wasn't really under the Law — only those creepy bug-eyed beardy guys in stripey robes who crucified Him were."
It bothered me more than it would have were "The Passion" a lesser film. Because the other aspects of the film were so masterful, the effect of the cartoonish characterization of Jews, and especially the anachronistic Hot Pocket or whatever that was, was as though I were watching "Citizen Kane" ...
... when, suddenly, for no apparent reason, an image from a Simpsons parody of the Orson Welles classic was dropped in.
I am glad I saw "The Passion," and especially at a church I love. But, boy, had I seen it when it came out, it would have waylaid me on my journey to Rome.
... you're more informed than these supporters of his:
The only one I can think of is that he voted against Illinois' Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
Radosc zyjacych w czystosci, my dears!
I just learned that is the title of my book, The Thrill of the Chaste, in Polish.
My book is coming out in the land of John Paul II, Maximilian Kolbe, and many of my ancestors.
I got the news via out-of-the-blue e-mails from the translator and proofreader of the book, a husband-and-wife team who are doing the job for the W Drodze publishing house, which is, I'm delighted to say, run by Polish Dominicans. Having been received into the Catholic Church by a Polish Dominican priest, Father Jacek Buda, two years ago at New York City's Church of Notre Dame, that likewise has special meaning for me.
This means that readers will soon be able to get The Thrill in three languages — English, the just-released Spanish edition, and Polish.
"And I say to myself, what a wonderful world" — and, if the Thrill translations keep piling up, perhaps a more chaste one as well.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
I put on a scarf and went out on the town last night for the first time since my surgery, to Arlington Diocese Theology on Tap, no doubt overexerting myself but having a great time enjoying the lecture, fellowship, and chicken tenders.
As I told my friend Mary-Rose about how I've been doing since my operation and the news that I'll require more treatment, I found myself actually joking with her about it.
"I was always a hypochondriac ..." I began, which is absolutely true. I'm a germophobe as well. A co-worker at the New York Daily News once bought me a bottle of rubbing alcohol out of sheer annoyance. He said it was for me to use to disinfect my desk, because I kept complaining that another co-worker, who was coughing, was too sick to be on the job. The only reason I don't use those portable sanitizing gels that other germophobic city dwellers swear by is that I'm afraid they'll make the already dry skin on my hands peel, and then I might catch more germs through open cuts.
Anyway, I continued to Mary-Rose, "... so now it's great, because I finally really have something to complain about.
"And it's the best of both worlds," I added, "because after getting to complain for a while, I get completely cured."
Except that I am actually in such good spirits thanks to all the prayers and good wishes I've received that, save for the stitches in my throat — which make me feel a bit like the mythical girl with the black velvet ribbon — I truly have nothing to complain about.