“Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II q. 188 a. 6 co.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Apologia: Why I'm Writing This Blog


Recently I attended a panel discussion about whether or not women can "have it all." This conversation is happening all around us right now (here is a very heartening contribution if you're interested). A little over three years ago I chose to leave an excellent job at a very prestigious university in order to stay home with my then nine-month-old son. I have never regretted that choice, but there have been times when I have missed the daily experience of engaging in conversation with groups of other adults who are interested in topics related to faith and culture. I am blessed to have a brilliant and thoughtful husband, inspiring and wonderful friends, and an ever-challenging and stimulating book club; but I always want more. As an undergraduate, I created my own major, which I called "Catholic Studies." Later, I taught apologetics at a Catholic high school. Now that I no longer spend my days in an academic environment, I still want more: more hours, more detail, more depth. I realize that for me, "having it all" means raising my own kids and keeping at least a toe in the door of academic discussion. Little else gives me greater joy than discussing doctrine and the arts from the perspective of the Christian Tradition with anyone who wants to.

One of the panelists at the event I attended said that she had wondered if she should continue pursuing her PhD when, after her son was born, she felt a strong pull towards staying home with him. A wise mentor told her that the value of earning those extra letters added to her name would be that people would be much more likely to listen to her if she ever had anything to say. That was about 20 years ago. Now, thanks to the internet, things have changed. What matters most is whether or not the writing is interesting. "Yes...people LOVE interesting writing!" proclaimed Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. So that's the challenge I lay before myself: don't go back to school for a PhD. It will add too much stress on your family now that you husband is also finishing up a PhD and your children are still so small. Just have an outlet. Just write something interesting.

The first thing I'd like to do is explain the title and the background image I'm using for this blog. The photo was taken in the Lateran Basilica in Rome just a moment after a tall, handsome, intelligent friend of mine had explained the typological schema in the iconography of the church. He told me how the Old Testament mosaics lined up wit the New Testament paintings and how both were linked to the statues of the Apostles situated below. My soul was stirring with wonder as I dashed around with him, soaking in all of the beauty & truth, faith & reason that I had never known existed in the Church in which I had been born and raised. He was moved by my heart, I was moved by his mind. This was our "Vision at Ostia" moment. The photo captures the very same beam of light that shone on us in the instant when I realized that he and I would have a phenomenal life together. I know this sounds a little "double-rainbow"-esque; but this photograph has always represented the first time I came to see that truth, goodness, and beauty are all one thing--one Person--and so everything in the world that shares in those attributes also shares in the Paschal Mystery. Mad Men is a good show. A great show. Therefore, I believe that it reflects God in some ways, and can lead us back to Him. Wittingly or not, Matthew Weiner has let God shine through him. That's the kind of thing I want to discuss here. I am quite aware that other people are doing this right now and I have every intention of linking those fantastic articles as I stumble across them (great example). I'm just dying to weigh in when and where I can. And I want you to challenge me with your questions and comments.

The title "Through a Glass Brightly" comes from an essay by the same name that I wrote a few years ago about Hans Urs von Balthasar's theology of transparency. The soul is like a pane of glass through which God's light shines either brightly, dimly, or not at all, depending on how much of our selves we have allowed to be transformed so that He may shine through us. C.S. Lewis explains this perfectly in "The New Men", the last chapter of Mere Christianity, which I had all of my senior students read. I want to argue that art acts in the same way. It is the creation of man, therefore sub-creation, as Tolkien called it his essay "On Fairy Stories"; and a work of art is a crowning achievement of human culture insofar as it shares in the likeness of God and His Art. The more true, beautiful, and good it is, the more it acts as a conduit of His grace. So you will see me argue that thing likes Breaking Bad and Mumford & Sons can give one authentic spiritual insights. I am lifted up to God as I take in that show, that band, and also countless novels, plays, and even commercials. The point of this blog is to share in that experience with you.

"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). Between the darkness of concupiscence and the clarity of Beatific Vision, we can spend our time learning to see ourselves, our neighbors, and all art ever more brightly. Domine ut videam. 

 Thank you so much for spending this time with me!

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First topic: The Great Gatsby and Brideshead Revisited


11 comments:

  1. Wonderful, Kathryn! Welcome to the blogosphere, I can't wait to read more!

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  2. Woo! Hoo! You finally did it! I'm so excited to read what you have to say.

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  3. Way to go Kathryn! Looks great!

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  4. You are going to love blogging! Great first post.

    Kari

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  5. I stopped by from Ana's blog! Looking forward to your next post. Brideshead is my absolute favorite book ever, but I've always felt somewhat 'meh' about Gatsby. Maybe you can enlighten me.

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    1. Hello, Haley! I'm honored that you have read my blog. I just discovered yours 10 minutes ago when I was planning a post about Breaking Bad and Flannery O'Connor and thought I should Google to find out if anyone else has written about them together (I, too, want to respond to Kendra' s post). Well, I have found a kindred spirit in you, indeed. (And Ana is one of my dear friends.) I hope you like my Gatsby and Brideshead posts!

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    2. Didn't see this reply til just now! I need to go back and read your Gatsby Part I (I just clicked over from Ana's blog when I saw that you had a new post). Hooray for kindred spirits :)

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  6. I feel like I get where you're coming from. ;) I just started blogging in May, for reasons similar to yours. Except that my topics of choice are politics/religion/society. I hope you'll hop on over to my place and check out my "about" and "full disclosure." I think you may find something of a kindred feeling in it. Good luck with your blog! I look forward to seeing what you've got to say!

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    1. Nice to (sort of) meet you, Julie! I like your blog a lot. I'm new to the whole blogging world so I'm very glad to have a spot like yours for inspiration.

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  7. Thank you Kathryn. I would have loved to have weighed in on that talk about women having it all. I was with a mutual friend (the one who made the comment about getting the PhD) days before the event when she was sharing about her upcoming involvement. It's a topic that I have wrestled with myself over the years. I have seven children now and 14 years of marriage to have worked through some of my initial difficulty with the choice which I made to leave the career path I was making in the arts in favor of mothering my children. In my case the answer is a no. We can't have it all. Choices have consequences, but we can still find our heart's deepest desire. Have you seen Babette's Feast? The singing daughter had to make a choice and hers was to sing for God, not fame.
    I love this outlet. You obviously have such wealth to share. God bless you on your endeavor!

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