Month: June 2019

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ABORTION AND GUNS: THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

Not long ago I spotted a NYT op-ed headline reading “Pregnancy Kills. Abortion Saves Lives.” I didn’t bother reading the piece but I did think, Orwell’s 1984 has now truly come to pass. I thought, That’s right up there with “Guns Save Lives. Being Unarmed Kills.”

That afternoon while walking I came up with what I believe to be a brilliant idea, a kind of Gift of the Magi that, should it come to pass, might go a long way toward bringing the true security, love, and connection for which we all purportedly long.

It comes in the form of a question, or rather two questions:

To proponents of the right to gun ownership—Would you give up your “right to own guns” if it meant an end to abortion?

To proponents of the right to abortion—would you give up your “right to abortion” if it meant an end to private gun ownership?

The questions are a way of getting at the seemingly immovably entrenched views of gun ownership proponents and right-to-abortion proponents. Both positions are based on a very particular world view. Both views profess to be based in hard-eyed reality and both are based on fear—mostly of something that hasn’t happened, but may happen in the future.

The gun proponent’s motive, he or she will tell you, is to protect his family. The abortion rights proponent will tell you her motive is to protect the right to make decisions about her own body. Departing from either position would require an existential about-face, a re-examination of one’s entire purpose and place in the universal scheme.

Parsing out the ways in which the situations are distinguishable would be easy. But just as a theological-philosophical puzzle, the question is intriguing.

The left adheres to a gauzy, self-help notion that we are all connected. The right, the Christian and especially the Catholic, also purport to believe that we are all connected, in the Mystical Body of Christ. When one member is injured, all are injured. When one member is killed, the whole Body dies a little.

What if it were true—all of it? What if all acts really were “political” in the sense that everything we do, say or think affects every other person in the world, past, present and future? What hideous injury is caused by the destruction of a human life in the womb? What hideous collective injury is imposed by drone strikes, torture in subterranean chambers, millions of guns–designed to kill people and owned for the express purpose of killing people–hidden in the home, the car, on the body? All these supposedly invisible, unseen acts—and we haven’t even gotten to the harm caused by actually shooting and killing another human being—affect the Mystical Body in unimaginably destructive ways.

Christ was very clear on all of this. What is hidden will become visible; what was in darkness will come to light. You say adultery is wrong, I say even lusting (and coveting, and fear) in the heart will lead to evil. No-one knew better than Christ that the secret motives, sometimes inaccessible even to those of us who hold them, are where all hatred of our neighbor begins.

So if you own guns and your motive is truly to protect all human life (as opposed to say, fear of women, a sense of inadequacy, or addiction to (a false sense of) power)—would you give up your right to own guns if it meant an end to abortion?

Because if not, that means you value your right to own guns
over the saving of millions of human lives.
And if you’re adamant about a woman’s right to abortion,
would you give that up if it meant the guys (and women, but 62% of gun owners
are men) would lay down their guns?

Because if not, that means you value your right to end your
pregnancy over the lives (among many hundred thousands of others) of all the
kids who have been killed and stand to be killed in school massacres.

THE HUNTINGTON CHINESE GARDEN

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DC

ENID A. HAUPT GARDEN
SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM

I am back from my trip to Washington DC and I am here to report that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!

I’m going to write a column for Angelus so will not elaborate here. But I can’t resist posting these photos of flowers that, nourished by East Coast humidity, dew, and rain, looked good enough to eat.

 

 

VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

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THE JOURNEY BACK HOME

DC METRO

Hey folks, here’s the link to my conversion story on EWTN’s “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi. Question: why does Marcus looks giant and why do I look like a midget?

Speaking of journeying home, I’ve been in DC all week and HAVE LOVED IT! I’m staying at the Dominican Priory (not to be confused with the Dominican House of Studies across from the National Shrine) and the priests and brothers have been magnificent. Tons of walking and sightseeing. All is much more beautiful, charming and graceful than I imagined.

Today I’m headed to Dumbarton Oaks and then tomorrow I fly home. My plane doesn’t leave till 3:30 so I’m going to arrive at Dulles early, take advantage of one of the two United Club passes I get each year with my Visa, and relax with food and beverages before boarding and being whisked back to LA at a reasonable hour (instead of having to get up at 4 am and schlep in a twilight state to LAX as happens when you live on the West Coast and fly East).

Thanks to all the well-wishers who watched the show last night and wrote or texted.

EASTERN REDBUD
U.S. BOTANIC GARDEN

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THE JUBILEE MUSEUM

VESTMENTS, VESTMENTS EVERYWHERE…

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture piece begins:

Recently I got flown to Columbus, Ohio, to tape an episode of EWTN’s “The Journey Home” with Marcus Grodi. I never tire of telling my conversion story, so that was a treat.


And I’ve grown to love staying in a new town for a few days: walking, pondering, checking out the zeitgeist. Part of conversion, to me, is cultivating a curiosity about the world, a willingness to go to the edges and be an anonymous participant-observer.


So I booked an Airbnb for a few nights in a charming section south of downtown called German Village: cobblestone streets, brick townhouses, Schiller Park.


I strolled the first afternoon to the Audubon Preserve, an extension of the Scioto Mile, a walkway which runs from downtown along the river.


I took the free city bus up to the Short North Arts District, visited the famous North Market (akin to downtown LA’s Grand Central Market), and trolled the pleasantly jumbled shelves at The Book Loft, located in a pre-Civil War-era building that now houses 32 rooms of bargain books.


But my main field trip was to the Jubilee Museum, a one-of-a-kind, must-be-seen-to-be-believed establishment that somehow could only have arisen within the one, catholic, holy, and apostolic Church.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

THE CONVENT ROOM–MY FAVORITE.

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THE ONGOING SLOGGING JOURNEY

Hey folks,  my “Journey Home” conversation with Marcus Grodi will air this coming Monday, June 17.

You can watch it on Monday night at 8PM Eastern on EWTN, and if you don’t have cable, you can still view it for free at EWTN.com.

The full episode will then be available online–I’ll post the link once I get it.

“Unchurched” was their term–it sounds kind of awful like pagan or Wiccan. I explained that if I converted from anything, it was alcoholism, and that I was simply suffering and a lost sheep. As usual in these kinds of discussions, I lost. Thanks so much for having me on, though!

A MOTH THAT LANDED ON MY PILLOWCASE
ONE RECENT NIGHT.
DO MOTHS BITE?
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THE AVERAGE CROWD

ROBERT FRANK
DRUGSTORE, DETROIT, 1955


This then is how it is when God descends to men! The apparent folly and danger of it are so great that the just and orthodox prepare for legal condemnation. The event is not even clothed in the dignity of genuine poverty. That would also have been impressive, for side by side with the power of greatness there exists the moving or august power of poverty, which stirs by its own mysterious power. But it is not genuine poverty that accompanies Jesus–neither among his disciples nor in the cheering masses. It is simply the average crowd as it is to be found everywhere in workshop, store and street. Crowd in which we call could find our place–human reality, mediocrity bare of the pathos both of splendor and of misery.



How difficult it is to recognize the self-revealing God! How difficult to steer clear of the scandal to the worldly sense of propriety and righteousness!

–Romano Guardini, The Lord, from Part V, Chapter 1, “Entry Into Jerusalem”

Saw a wonderful documentary over the weekend on the photographer Robert Frank (best known for his 1958 volume “The Americans”): “Leaving Home, Coming Home.”

Speaking of leaving home, I am taking off tomorrow for Washington DC where I hope to straighten things out once and for all. I mean enough’s enough!

No seriously, I’ll be staying at the Dominican Priory and plan to creep about to museums, gardens and churches and in some small, probably doomed way, have a teeny bit of a “vacation.” I mean when you are single-handedly holding the burden of the world on your shoulders, it is kind of a dereliction of duty to take “time off!” I really do need a long nap, and am madly looking forward to my visit.

I could care less about the White House or Lincoln Memorial of any of that stuff. Dumbarton Oaks is more my speed.

ROBERT FRANK
HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY, 1955

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MISADVENTURES AT MISSION SAN ANTONIO DE PADUA

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture piece begins:

More than 20 years ago my (now ex-) husband and I took a road trip to Big Sur, cutting off the 101 north of Paso Robles to take the scenic Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. Then newly Catholic, I swooned when we came across what at that point was the largely abandoned, picturesquely derelict Mission San Antonio de Padua.


We stopped there to picnic, basking in the quiet and birdsong. Not long after, I learned that the Mission was undergoing renovation and that retreat rooms would soon be available. Ever since, I’d had it in the back of my mind to return to this enchanting place.


A few months ago, I finally reserved a room for three nights, made the trek from Pasadena, and prepared to fulfill my dream. The Mission is 30 miles or so from the 101 and the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also undergoing a noisy retrofitting and directly abuts a military base that seemed to have grown exponentially since our earlier visit.


The suggested donation is a reasonable 60 bucks a night. You bring your own food — there’s a fridge, coffee-maker and microwave. Behind a locked gate were the central courtyard, where volunteers worked the rose garden, a lovely church, and dorm rooms.


I arrived around 3 p.m., settled in, and reconnoitered the grounds. Here I learned about the Salinan Indians the missionaries met when they arrived in the 1770s, and whom they stayed to try to convert. You can still see the remains of the Mission Well, the Brick Kiln, the Mission Reservoir, and the “Temescal” (“Mission Sweat-house”).

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

SUNRISE AT THE MISSION

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RAVISHED, ANOTHER EXCERPT

BUY IT

Monday, June 3, I’ll be on Jon Leonetti in the Morning on Iowa Catholic Radio, 7:15 am CT. 1150 AM 88.5 FM 94.5 FM. Discussing my new book RAVISHED.

HERE’S AN EXCERPT:

PREFACE
I’m an ex-gutter drunk who graduated from law school in a
blackout, sobered up, quit my job as a Beverly Hills litigation attorney, converted
to Catholicism, and in the mid-1990’s embarked on the precarious life of a creative
writer. My history includes promiscuity, abortions, adultery, a 14-year
marriage that ended in divorce, and a life-long tendency toward romantic
obsession.
Divorced, childless, single, aging, as a woman, in and out of
the Church, I often feel I have nowhere to lay my head.
In and out of the Church as well,
I’m also often challenged by my fellow women to be angrier. “How can you belong
to a church that won’t allow female priests?” for example, is a question I hear
often. The short answer is because Christ set it up that way. The long answer
is that just because men do something women should be able to do it, and vice
versa, is a notion that strikes me as moronic. I want to glorify womanhood, not
water it down. Any woman who wants to be a priest for the right reasons—which
is to die to self, to serve—will already have
naturally ordered her life so as to be acting in a priestly capacity.
 Beneath the anger is fear. Beneath the
anger is the one fact we’re really not
“allowed” to say: that we long with all our hearts for the male gaze. To live
with the tension of not having that gaze returned with the intensity we ache
for, or maybe at all—and to react with patience, kindness, and creative
nonviolence, while still loving men—that is the way of the real warrior and the
real feminist.
So is trying to be kind, understanding, and compassionate to all women: the pregnant teenager, the trans
recovering alcoholic, the gun-toting, home-schooling Republican.
 To hold such tension,
all our lives, is the way of suffering. Not dumb, wearily-resigned suffering,
but active, conscious suffering. “Stay awake!” said Christ. And before we start
pointing the finger at everyone else, let’s remember that, being human, every
one of us comes to the table with our egos, our agendas, our wounds. Even those
of us sufficiently well-educated, well-traveled, and well-experienced perhaps
to consider ourselves above the fray come with deep vulnerabilities and fears: that
we’re not pretty enough, thin enough, loud enough, quiet enough. To acknowledge
our vulnerabilities and fears—and to devote our lives to trying to live fully
with many of them intact—is the way of strength, not weakness.     
Many of us come with a hard-wired propensity to “pick” and
then to compulsively pursue emotionally unavailable men.
For most of my life, I’ve counted myself squarely among that
last group. In fact, to have longed for a man and never to have had a truly
reciprocal, healthy loving relationship with a man—partly because I’ve been
blueprinted for another vocation, partly because my own temperament has
engineered against it—is my deepest, tenderest wound.
My “failure” at romance is the part of my story that tends to
make me feel most ashamed, humiliated, exiled, and like a loser. It touches upon
my fear that I’m not worthy of love nor capable of loving others. It goes to
the heart of my womanhood and my humanity.
To accept this reality—to have come to see my situation,
even, as a strange grace—has been a long, painful crucifixion. But to have
suffered the wound these last three decades without anesthesia—no matter how
lonely, frustrated, and crazy I’ve felt; never knowing how long the suffering
might last—has formed in me, at last, something useful, something eternal.
I want to tell the story of those
years of purification.  
I want to tell of what has been the adventure, the
pilgrimage, the gamble of my life.
Here’s what I’ve learned: Our deepest identity does not lie
in our gender, our sexual orientation, our wounds.

            Our identity lies in Christ.