A Letter to My Future Sons

This a sequel to this post from November. As with that post,

The following is inspired by my encounters with adults and with teenagers over the past twenty-four years. It is also inspired by my faith and my love of literature. It is intended to be both humorous and edifying.

And, of course, only God knows if I will ever have sons to read this letter. But for now, it’s for the blog, which at times is like a child to me. And perhaps through this blog post I can help others.

To my boys,

As I have said many times, reading is the one of the most important things in the world. Christ is the most important, but reading comes within the top five alongside manners and proper hygeine. Reading has the ability to change your life and the world. It has the ability to introduce you to new peoples and places. It allows you to challenge yourself and question yourself. It allows you to grow and to be.

Reading can make you a better person. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically become a better person if you just pick up a book and read it. You have to READ it. You have to understand it. You have to allow the book to soak into your mind and then your soul. You have to allow the book to become a part of you.

It’s not easy, but it’s such a good idea. It’s so good for you. And because it’s good for you, it’s good for the people around you-your friends, your family, and so on. You read. You allow the book to make you a better person. And thereby, you can make the world a better place. It might sound idealistic, but bit by bit, it works.

You can learn so much from books. Look at the journey of Huckleberry Finn to manhood. Look at the leadership of Henry V, the courage of Sidney Carton, the honor of Aragorn, the humility of Frodo, the hope of Samwise Gamgee, the love of Alexandre Manet, the joy of Merry (so aptly named) and of Pippin, the chivalry and humility of King Arthur, the self-sacrificial nature of Harry Potter, the love and dedication of Benedick, etc. Look at these men. They reflect characteristics that I want you to have. I want you to become men of honor and humility, of hope and joy, of love and dedication.  I want you to be Christ-like men. And I believe that from Henry V to Harry Potter, we see time and again the message that Christ gave to his apostles in his last days before his crucifixion: Greater love has no man than this: to be willing to die so that another might live. (John 15:13).

Greater love has no man…be men of that love.  Live that love, that passion. And you can learn it from Shakespeare, from Dickens, from Rowling. Pick up a book and read. Look at High King Peter the Magnificent. Why was he magnificent? Because he put others before himself, because he loved his country more than himself…because he was willing to serve Aslan in good times and in bad-this is what I want for you.

I want you to fight for what you believe in. Be an Aragorn. Be a Henry. Be a Gilbert Blythe. Fight for what you believe in. Fight for what you love. Fight. Don’t be afraid of greatness. Be great. Be men of greatness.

How can you learn to be great? Read about greatness. Read biographies and histories. Look at the lives of generals and missionaries. Learn about their lives. What made them good? What did they love? Why did they do what they did? What motivated them?

Look at their lives and learn from them. Be like Neville Longbottom. Be like Eustace Scrubb. Be like Henry V. Put your faith in something that matters. See beyond the moment and look for the greater picture. Look for the eternal. Live as a Narnian even if there is no Narnia.

Be men of honor. Be like Westley. Know that not even death can stop true love. And know that love is not just a romantic sentiment, but rather that it is an action, an action of nobility, honor, and courage. Love requires much of a man. Be men who can love.

And if you look at literature-both fiction and nonfiction, you will find countless men who know how to love-men who are willing to die for love, men who are willing to give up comfortable lives for love. Do not be afraid to be like them. Look at their motivation and courage. Be like them. Follow in their footsteps. Learn from their lives.

More than anything, I want you to be men of God. I want you to be the good men of whom Henry V spoke on St. Crispian’s Day. I want you to be not only hearers of the Word but doers of it. And I believe that for you to become strong, holy men of God, you must read. First, read the Bible. Meet Moses and Aaron, Samuel and David, Peter and John. Meet Christ. Then read literature. Read about the heroes of old. Read about noble knights who saved damsels in distress. Read about modern heroes. Learn from their deeds-both good and bad. Learn to recognize the difference between good and evil, light and darkness. And then, put those lessons into action.

So, become strong, holy men of God. It is my greatest hope and prayer for you. Challenge yourselves. Never let yourselves off easily.

Always remember that I challenge you out of love. And more importantly, remember that Christ challenges you out of love.

Be great. Be noble. Be holy. And please read.

With all of my love,

Cecilia

To Veil or Not to Veil

“Every man praying or prophesying with anything down over his head dishonors his head, but every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” (I Cor. 11: 4-6)

It was about this time of year four years ago that I made the choice to wear a chapel veil, or mantilla, during the Liturgy. In large part, I was motivated by the verse I quoted at the top of the post. I was also motivated in a very personal way by reverence for the Eucharist and for the Liturgy as a whole. As I have said to many people over the past four years, if the Eucharist (and thereby the Liturgy) are what we say that they are, then we ought to approach it with fear and trembling. It’s the Eucharist. It’s Jesus Christ, physically present to us. To me, that is something that requires incredible reverence and respect. And for me, that reverence and respect meant that I should cover my head during Liturgy.

However, I believe that this is my choice. Yes, it is guided by Scripture and Church teaching/tradition. But ultimately, this was my choice. I believe that I have been called to do this as a reflection of my own relationship with Christ. While it is something that I do in public, it is a personal decision, a personal call, and a reflection of a personal relationship. I came to this decision on my own through prayer and reflection, and as such, I do not wish to impose this on others. I don’t know if I’ll expect my (maybe possibly someday) daughters to veil-and I have been asked that before.

But as I said, it is my choice. I veil because I made that decision for myself. And I don’t want to force that decision on others. I don’t wish to make other people make the same choice that I have unless it is what they feel that they have been called to.

I say this because I have been asked by various people about my choice to veil. Most people accept it as my choice and move on. However, several months ago, a man said to me that he liked that I veiled and he wished that he could get his wife to do the same.

And that comment is what led to the writing of this blog post. He wished he could “get” his wife to do the same. Now, I won’t get into the gender roles and such involved in that statement because that’s not my point here.

Right or wrong, veiling has fallen out of common practice in the Catholic Church over the past fifty years. Now, I have several friends who veil, and I both respect and admire them for that choice. However, it is their choice. While St. Paul would like all Catholic women to veil, I believe that veiling is a personal decision. I think it is something that a women needs to explore at an individual level rather than having it imposed on her. (Goodness, I sound like a product of the early twenty-first century, don’t I?) I see veiling as a call. I see it as something that reflects, as I said earlier, my relationship with Christ. Therefore, it is something that I had to discern on my own, and I believe that every woman needs to go through her own discernment process. Does the veil fit her relationship with the Lord? If she believes that it doesn’t, then it is not for her.

Dear Void

Dear Blog,

I like to call you void because you have been void of all thought since Good Friday. And I feel as though I have been neglecting you, which is rather unkind of me. I really should have updated you at least once in the past few weeks. I mean, I had a ridiculously long spring break and I didn’t update you after Good Friday. I wonder what that says about me. I feel as though I’m a neglectful blogger. I’m an irresponsible blogger. I shouldn’t be left alone with my blog. I might forget all about it and leave it to rot in a corner.

But I digress. (On a random note, I would love to know how many times I’ve said “But I digress” over the course of the three years this blog and I have been together. Maybe “But I digress” would be a better name for my blog than “A Large Cup of Tea and a Long Book.”) And I digressed again.

Anyway, back to the original intent of this post. What is happening in my life? Well, it’s the fourth quarter of my first year of teaching. We’re in the home stretch. I think the kids and I have a different interpretation of what that means, but hopefully the same bullheadedness that led to me jumping an 18-inch snowdrift in reverse two years ago will get us through to where I want to be come June 8. Prayers would be greatly appreciate for us to reach that goal.

I’m still knitting. I have no flashy finished objects to show off at the moment, but hopefully I will by mid-May. Additionally, I’m doodling around with the idea of a new collection that relates somewhat to my pattern Grace that I released last summer. But that is all in early stages at the moment, and I don’t have much to report on that front yet.

I’m still drinking tea. Never fear. I will never stop drinking tea unless there is some medical reason for me to stop drinking tea.

Reading? What is reading? I hear that people sometimes read books. I tell my students to read books. A few weeks ago, I finished my second reading of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves. I wish I could tell you what this book means to me, but I can’t put it into words. This book motivates me as a reader and as a writer. It pushes me as an artist and as a human being. Please do yourself a favor and read it. If you don’t love it, I’ll give you your money back. Or I’ll buy your copy of the book from you. I’m also making my way through my beloved Emma again. I find something new and inspiring in that book every time I read it.

And rumor has it that there is a book waiting for me on the reserve shelves at my local public library until next Saturday. I’ll have to bop in there and pick it up soon. Maybe I’ll even find time to read it at some point in the near future in between everything else I do these days.

Beyond work, church, and family, I feel as though I have a very small, very limited life. I don’t think that my friends intend for it to be this way. I know that I don’t intend for it to be this way. But my life has changed in the past year or so, and I have found myself surrendering things that I never thought that I would surrender. Oddly, it isn’t a bad thing. I would like to have more of a social life. I’d like to have more adult conversations. I really would. But in pouring myself into my job, I have learned a great deal about myself and about the world in which we live. But that’s another blog post that will be coming in mid-June.

I ask for your prayers and your support in the next two months as I make my way through this quarter. Please keep both my students and myself in your prayers. We need it. I also selfishly ask for your encouragement. Sometimes I’m grumbly and complaining and whiny and I feel like I’m about five. And I hate that. I need some encouragement to push me through those days.

And so, dear blog-void, that is my life these days. It’s utterly boring, and I’m not sure why anyone other than me would care about it. But it’s out there in the void now so that others can at least know what I’m doing when I’m not here.

Good night, dear void. Until we meet again, Let us say not farewell, but as the French have it: Au revoir!