This Isn’t a Smart Blog

This Isn’t a Smart Blog

Sometimes, I wish I wrote a smart blog.

Like, I’ll read someone’s blog or flip through articles in a First Things magazine and I wish that I wrote intelligent blog posts. Ones that made people really think or shared brilliant information with them that they never before knew. Yet, when I sit down to write, that isn’t what comes out of me.

I’m prideful, so I still like to think that I write with depth even if it isn’t deeply intelligent. As I come up with different things to write about, I’m not thinking of highly intelligent subjects. Instead, I think of the strained conversation I had with a student and what I discovered about myself as a result. I think about the simple yet alluring beauty of fresh flowers on a dining room table. I consider snippets of the Psalms that flood into my mind at random points throughout my days. I share how my heart strangely responded to a situation and how the Lord is seeking to knock, knock, knock at the door of my heart every single moment.

I just write, uncertain that it is really helping anyone and yet knowing that if it only helps me, that would be a sufficient reason to keep doing it.

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like a Sunday alms-box

like a Sunday alms-box

I was recently introduced to the Polish poet Anna Kamienska. As I walked the streets of Rome, post-crepe from a nearby shop, I read a poem she wrote about St. Edith Stein. It was providential because I have rather recently become quite intrigued with the life of Edith Stein. By all accounts, we have little in common and yet I can identify with her unasked for period of waiting for her desires to be fulfilled. I can only ask that I endure all future waiting with the hope and attentiveness to the present moment that she did.

So I read the words about Edith Stein, someone whose life overlapped Anna Kamienska’s, and wondered about this poet. I like poetry that uses surprising yet fitting word choice, poetry that paints rich pictures, poetry that points to a deeper truth in a perhaps unconventional way. I don’t like poetry that confuses me or seems to not make sense or offers no beauty. Reading through Anna Kamienska’s selected works in Astonishments, I have found several poems that I believe I will ponder, appreciate, and re-read during the upcoming days and weeks.

The one I’d like to direct your attention to is called “Gratitude”–something I am certain I will need to return to once the fall semester starts all-too-soon.

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Rome’s Concreteness

Rome’s Concreteness

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.’

Acts 23: 11

The readings for our pilgrimage to Rome were rather perfect. For a few days, they focused on Paul’s arrest and subsequent journey to Rome to stand trial. As we visited the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and walked old cobblestone roads, the Scripture readings came alive. Here was the place Paul had come in chains, insisted on preaching the Gospel, spoke to the Christian community, and later died for Christ. It felt more real, more alive when in the place where so many important things happened.

When he entered Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

Three days later he called together the leaders of the Jews. When they had gathered he said to them, ‘My brothers, although I had done nothing against our people or our ancestral customs, I was handed over to the Romans as a prisoner from Jerusalem. After trying my case the Romans wanted to release me, because they found nothing against me deserving the death penalty. But when the Jews objected, I was obliged to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no accusation to make against my own nation. This is the reason, then, I have requested to see you and to speak with you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains.’ 

He remained for two full years in his lodgings. He received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

In excavated catacombs, in the ruins of the Roman Forum, and in the expanse of the Colosseum, the reality of what had transpired in this ancient city rang clear. We prayed before Paul’s chains, momentarily visited the area where he was believed to have been beheaded, and stood near where Peter was crucified. Traversing beneath the current basilica, we stood before the bones of St. Peter, our first pope, and experienced the feast of Pentecost in the square just above. Everywhere we turned we were encountering concrete reminders that the apostles had visited this place.

I love several particular verses in Romans, but I couldn’t help but be struck anew that this was a letter written to the Roman people. And as a girl from the plains of South Dakota, where anything from the early 1800s feels old, I couldn’t help but be a little jealous that little Roman girls and boys get to grow up reading a letter written to them by St. Paul. How loved that letter must be! How beautiful to read: To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Then to read at the end of Romans as Paul lists numerous people to greet for him, real people who were working in the vineyard of the Lord and who knew Paul.

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Ex-Puritanical Lover of Books

I used to be a puritan.  Don’t tell my students, though, because I think they have finally stopped believing that I used to be Amish.  If you told them I used to be a puritan, they would think that they could now explain why I tend to wear skirts when the majority of the female population at my school wears slacks.  In truth, it is simply because they make me feel professional and I don’t have a lot of pants to wear.  In their minds, it is because I was Amish but converted to Catholicism. 

Anyway, I used to desire pristine books.  Now I love the underlinings and stars that easily mark the places that I found enlightening or beautiful. 

I love books.  I’m perhaps mildly obsessed with them.  My number one expense this year besides gasoline has been on books, I believe. is a dangerous thing.  Especially when it saves your credit card number and all I need to do it click “Buy” and the books are being shipped my way. 

I plan to do lots of theological reading this summer and underline and highlight books that I have been intending to read all year.  While I would like to borrow other people’s books, I find myself wanting to embrace them fully and write in them. 

To the casual reader, this might not seem like a very significant thing.  But I need to tell you about this moment of conversion that happened in my life.  When I was younger, I rejoiced in the beauty of pristine books.  I loved when their pages were immaculate with nary a bend or crinkle.  No dog-eared pages for me or an underline to note an interesting passage.  Now typically these weren’t deep and thought-provoking books but it is still interesting that I fiercely opposed anything that made the book look less than a brand new bookstore copy. 

Somewhere in my late high school and college years there was a transformation.  Initially it was just prayer books that I would faintly underline a particularly earth-shaking line, but these were few and far between.  College classes propelled me to full out highlighting and underlining passages while bracketing paragraphs of text at a time.  It was a leap into the next stage.  I looked behind me at untarnished pages and plunged into lengthy side notes and repeated asterisks.  Now I will lovingly flip through the pages of the book and see the carefully placed notes and lines.  It is the sign of knowledge while simultaneously a source of foolish pride, I suppose.

Yet one thing remains: dog-eared pages are out.  I will leave book marks, paper clips, a bit of string, a random lunch receipt, but I will not condescend to insult my book by folding over its page and degrading it in such a way.  Many will denounce this as behind the times or ridiculous but I will hold fast.  You may annotate your books but I will not abide by dog-eared pages. 

I used to be a puritanical book lover.  Now I embrace the life of books that show the wear of time and the branding of deep contemplation.  Read on, dear lovers of paper bound books (forget it if you are “modern” and use Kindles or electronic readers of some sort), and know that I will be joining your illustrious ranks come May 23rd.  Until then, know that my library is beginning to overflow with books ripe for the reading and knowledge free for the imbibing.