Monday, March 12, 2018

Renovations, Celebrations, and Ruminations

We've been having Mass in the parish hall so that the floor could be repaired--it was damaged during Hurricane Irma. But we're back in our beloved Stella Maris and even the pews have been refinished and installed on the new floor. But the best part has been the painted dome with stars. My cheapie phone camera doesn't do justice but you can see how pretty it is. And the red sanctuary light showing that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved shows up better too. 

We had a High Mass to celebrate this weekend, along with a potluck supper and how fitting to do this Laetare Sunday. Rejoice!!! I loved the simple Gregorian chant Mass and motets for Holy Communion. There's a reason this music has endured. It truly lifts the soul heavenward. And the rose vestments also remind us that Lent is more than half over. And just a word of encouragement here: if you've failed to keep your Lenten resolutions, begin again. I love that our God is a God of second and third and hundred chances. We can always pick ourselves up after we fail and fall and resolve to do better the next day, the next hour, even. My head hasn't been the greatest and I've failed to detox as I should but I'm starting over.

I'm getting behind in sharing some of the good books I've been reading so without further ado... 

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storm by Tim Tebow and A. J. Gregory is a book for anyone who is struggling with the ups and downs of life. Tebow writes in such a straightforward manner about his own disappointments and setbacks in his football career, but the thrust of the book is remembering Who he belongs to. Always, always, Jesus is the answer. Tebow gives lots of examples from his own and others' lives how Jesus transforms people, gives them hope and faith to weather life's storms. Although this book is probably geared towards sports fans, I found it interesting to read about having a high pressure career like football and how he's able to keep God front and center. Highly recommended for young men. Thanks to Blogging for Books for a review copy.

To Love Fasting: the Monastic Experience by Adalbert de Vogue is a slim book that reminds people that Jesus expects us to fast, to pray, and to give alms. He doesn't say, if you pray, if you fast, if you give alms, rather *when* you pray, *when* you fast, *when* you give alms. However, the practice of fasting has all but disappeared from the lives of most Christians. This hermit-monk details his own experience as he returns to the rule of St. Benedict, gives the history of fasting, and the reasons for its decline and also for a revival of the practice, so as to love it.

I also like the companion book: Fast with the Heart by Fr. Slavko Barbaric. Both books have a similar message to revive this practice because it is a very Christian thing to do. 

Catholics are required to abstain from the flesh of warm-blooded animals all the Fridays of Lent and Ash Wed. and expected to fast on Ash Wed and Good Friday. However, most Catholics find fasting very difficult and it's because we do not practice it. Since the beginning of our conversion we decided to keep the Friday abstinence in place always (because the problem with choosing your penance is that you'll end up choosing nothing at all, or silly things like giving up Brussel sprouts). Michael and I started to fast on a regular basis only last year (see this post about Nineveh90) and the first six months were difficult. The latter half of the year went much easier. Fasting on Fridays is a habit now. And Michael is becoming monkish in his ways. But I see how it has drawn him closer to God, how much more self-control he has in all aspects, and a side benefit has been weight loss. I've begun to do longer fasts for therapeutic reasons alone with excellent results. Something about longer fasts resets the body so that the migraines stop. I also combine this for special intentions.

I happened upon The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (translation by Sonia Soto. Isn't it a pretty cover? It exudes a certain lightness. But what it is, is a love story to a more traditional, simpler life, where neighbors care for one another, take care to educate the children well, and have delightful conversations about books and philosophy. I don't think I spotted a single cell phone :) The story is Miss Prim's discovery of San Ireneo when she responds to an advertisement in the newspaper. "Wanted: a feminine spirit quite undaunted by the world to work as a librarian for a gentleman and his books. Able to live with dogs and children. Preferably without work experience. Graduates and postgraduates need not apply." Why, Miss Prim reminds me just a little bit of myself. And her incredulity at discovering children knowing Virgil was mine as well. Her awakening mirrors mine. My only quibble is that I was just a little bit annoyed at the reference to Miss Prim's employer as the "Man in the Wing Chair"--it was fine for a chapter, but not over and over, given that she knows the names of the other people in the village. In any case, if you are interested in the Benedict option, this is a book you will enjoy. 

I picked up An American Childhood by Annie Dillard for a buck at the Friends of the Library book sale. Hardcover. In perfect condition! What a delicious find! I love her writing--so specific. She paints a picture with words. I'm savoring it slowly. I think every children's writer should read this book because of how deeply she delves into the mind of a child. I recognize so many of the intense emotions of childhood--the joy of being alive, the belief you can fly if you run fast enough, the fear of the moving shadows in the dark.  

Another book that I'm thoroughly enjoying is Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. It's so gratifying to read that I'm not the only procrastinator. Haha. In fact, I'm convinced that writers are the best at it. I have several full-length memoirs but these little snippets of hundreds of writers, artists, composers is a gem. It's well-researched with many quotable quotes. Here's a random entry about William James: "I know a person who will poke the fire, set chairs straight, pick dust specks from the floor, arrange his table, snatch up a newspaper, take down any book which catches his eye, trim his nails, waste the morning anyhow, in short, and all without premeditation--simply because the only thing he ought to attend to is the preparation of a noonday lesson in formal logic which he detests." This he told his class. I daresay he was speaking about himself! 

And that's all folks. I hope the rest of Lent is fruitful for all of us as we draw nearer to Jesus. Easter is almost here. Local friends, I'll be at the Mt. Pleasant Town Center Sat. March 31 at 11 o'clock for story-time, egg-hunt, and book-signing. Please come!


Mirka Breen said...

Thank you for the deeply felt recommendations, and I was glad to see your Easter PB there, too. It's almost time, again!

Vijaya said...

I hope you'll pick up a couple of these at your library. And so fun to share my little book with kids!

Faith E. Hough said...

Gabe has been carrying your Easter egg book around in a backpack everywhere he goes. It's a sturdy little book! :)
I also very much enjoyed Miss Prim, and love to recommend it with the caveat that the author does philosophy better than she does story. The writer in me craves more character development (and, yes, a simple name would be nice), but philosopher in me loves all the ideas and how they're presented. I wonder if certain things would come across better in the original Spanish...? (Maybe I could brush up on my college Spanish...)

Vijaya said...

Aw, so fun to hear about Gabe toting my little book around. Snap a picture, will you? I was thinking you'd love Awakening. Yes, a little more character development would've been better but even so I enjoyed their company very much. They stoked my love of learning even more.

dbp said...

Vaishali and I have experimented with various fasting diets. We both did the 5-2 diet a few years ago. I still do it for a few months at a time and am currently on the plan. What I do is weight lift with unlimited calories (you need to be in caloric excess to gain muscle) for a few months and then 5-2 away the fat. I will generally keep fasting (Mon and Thu) until I notice sustained decreases of strength. So, I sort of see-saw between muscle gain and fat loss.

Vaishali tries to incorporate "leangains" into her life. That can be really complex, but mostly comes down to all her calories ingested in an 8-hour span per day, with a workout before eating the first meal. Typically, she will try to get in a workout either before work or on her lunch break and then her first meal of the day is lunch.

On top of the weight loss, there are supposed metabolic benefits. What we notice is a kind of confidence in knowing that you can press-on with your life's activities and not worry about when, or if, you eat.

Vijaya said...

David, that is really wonderful how much you've gained from fasting twice a week and working out. No wonder you all look so good! I don't exercise much--just walking with the dog--but I think with improved health it is easier to do so. And I completely agree with your last comment. The fact that I no longer think about the next meal is so freeing. Thank you for sharing your experiences with me.

Michael only eats once a day now (supper with family) during the work-week. I'll have a snack with Dagny when she comes home from school and then supper. And for years I've not eaten breakfast because my stomach isn't awake until noon (tea and toast if I need to take any meds), so pretty much I'm also consuming the bulk of the calories in a short window.

And the metabolic benefits are documented. If you just think about something simple as insulin resistance, fasting lowers insulin. People who are suffering from Type 2 diabetes should definitely consider fasting. It's so dumb to give people more insulin when what they need is to lower it. If I had access to a lab, I'd generate a whole set of metrics to pore over. But I don't mind being an armchair scientist :)