Why I Celebrate the Lives of Dead Authors

Yesterday, a friend of mine remarked that I had to be one of the only people she knew who celebrated birthdays of authors. (I had just been whining about how I had to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday alone and I won’t be able to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakepeare’s death because I’ll be at her wedding.) She said this in a manner that implied (probably unintentionally) that it is weird to celebrate the birthdays of dead people whom you never knew “just because” they penned great works of literature.

I agree that it is not terribly common to celebrate the lives of dead people whom I never knew because they penned great works of literature that inspire my life, move my soul, and draw me into closer relationship with the God who made both me and those writers and inspired their souls to write such works. But just because a thing is uncommon, that does not mean that it should not be done. Every November 22 and 29, I drink a toast to C.S. Lewis because while I never met the man, he has inspired my heart and soul and enriched my life in enormous ways. I would not be the woman that I am today without his writing. I am grateful to him for all that he did as a human being, as a Christian, and as a writer. I owe him so much, and those toasts (for his birthday and deathday) are one way that I can honor him.

The good, the true, and the beautiful are often considered to be the transcendentals. I believe that life is meaningless without those three elements. Culture is not worthwhile unless is carries with it those three things. I am enormously grateful to Evelyn Waugh for his openness to those three elements in his writing. In reading his works, I can see the importance that he placed on these elements. In reading Waugh, I have seen his faith and grown in my own. He has encouraged me to think about new ideas and to look at God in new ways.

Similarly, my beloved J.R.R. Tolkien reflects these ideas in his works. Professor Tolkien was a devout Catholic who fervently believed in the Lord of time. He also believed that literature could be (Lewand often is) inspired by the Divine Creator.

“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

Lewis, Tolkien, and Waugh are but three examples of writers who reflected their Christian faith in their writings. Other writers did this as well, some in more obvious ways than others. This sort of literature is an important element of high culture. Culture demands truth, beauty, and goodness to survive. Our souls, which eternally crave God, desire this kind of literature, this kind of culture. It is important to celebrate this culture, to embrace it. To me, it is important to take time to celebrate the authors who celebrated and encouraged this sort of culture.

I think that C.S. Lewis might find it odd that I celebrate his birthday. I’m sure that Jane Austen would look a bit askance at the idea that I celebrate her birthday. But they celebrated culture. They embraced the idea of celebrating life. Their characters embraced life. Their characters rejoiced in good things. And while they might not completely understand this, I believe in celebrating them as a way of honoring what they did for literature and as a way of celebrating life, of celebrating the good, the true, and the beautiful.

These authors wrote in part because of a desire for another world. Faith inspired these authors. Hope inspired them. Look at the worlds that they created. Look at the characters that they created. Shakespeare, Austen, and Waugh give us characters who at the very least reflect strong virtue, high virtue. They show us right and wrong, good and evil. They show us morality and the exercise of such a thing. Lewis and Tolkien give us glimpses of eternity, of heaven. These authors must be embraced and celebrated. They point us towards God, and that is a beautiful thing, which must be embraced and celebrated.

Love Actually is The Holiday

Last night, my roommate and I had a Christmas rom-com double feature. We started out the evening with Love Actually and then moved on to The Holiday. While we were watching the movie, my roommate typed up our reactions to the movie so that we could share them with the blog.

(NB: A good alternate title for this post would be “A Good Catholic Girl watches rom-coms, gets frustrated with modern morality, and swears a lot.”)

Enjoy!

Who the fuck says “I know” to Colin Firth?  Moreover, who says “Get OUT, loser!” to him?!  What the actual fuck.

How many lobsters WERE present at the birth of Jesus?

How do you actually get a job doing [what Jack and Judy do]?  How much do you get paid to do this job?

Natalie swears:  shit, shit, fuck, piss it, fuck, fucking,

How do you hide that many people in your church?  And their instruments!  Unless…do they know all these people?

WHO cheats on Colin Firth with THAT guy?

/who cheats on Colin Firth?!

What do you do when your friend acts like…..  Colin Frissell

what prompts Harry to ask Sarah about her love life, exactly.
WHAT is Harry’s deal?  He cheats on his wife…

What made Colin think that Wisconsin was a fantastic place?

whooo says stuff like that to a married man?  if I was drunk, I MIGHT say that to [this single bloke I know]

what is she wearing?

Who labels their launderette?

Thomas Brodie-Sangster was 13 years old, playing an 11-year-old who looked about 7.  Six?   (“9” according to Cecilia)

“No one’s in love when they’re eleven!  No one!”

What does Harry/Sarah/Karl’s business actually do?

How come we don’t ALL have Prime Minister Hugh Grant around when we go through a breakup?

Does Daniel have nothing better to do with his life than worry about an 11-year-old’s love life?  I mean, come on!

Who cares what language you speak?  He’s Colin Fucking Firth!  Just snuggle!

Who would elect Billy Bob Thornton president of anything?!

(Well, who would elect Hugh Grant prime minister of anything?)

Why is she wearing that suit?  That suit is weird.
I would love to know what his Aunt Mildred looks like.

Why are you a douche-canoe?

Her dress is weird.

Why are you talking?!  Your personal life is not politics.

What is Colin Firth’s sweater?

How is Billy Bob Thornton afraid of antique furniture?  How is anyone afraid of antique furniture?

How do you sit?

You are fucking 11 years old. She is not the love of your life.
Who watches Titanic?
What’s all the garlic for?
How do you treat Emma Thompson like that?
The 270-pound necklace would, in 2015, cost $613.31.
Seriously, how do you treat Emma Thompson like that?
Why were they eating ice cream on Christmas Eve?  Isn’t it a bit cold for that, and also, bad for throats that are about to sing in a nativity play?
Does he think she doesn’t know?
How can you hate Uncle Jaimie?
His whole family just congregated SO fast.
Prime Minister – dancing, providing reassurance after breakups, going door-to-door “caroling” / etc.
“Eight is a lot of legs, David.”
Everyone should steal their lines from Colin Firth.
Can we talk about how many things are wrong with this Christmas pageant?
She already gave them ice cream!  Why do they need treats?
How can Colin Firth find Aurelia’s exact house while the Prime Minister has no idea where to find Natalie?
Do they have Dunkin Donuts in Portugal?
HE IS ELEVEN YEARS OLD.  YOU DO NOT FIND THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU’RE ELEVEN YEARS OLD
People talking like house-elves to each other is adorable.
Can I just point out that the PM does not fly into Heathrow and come out a commercial terminal?

~~~~~~~~~

Don’t kiss Jude Law when you want to kiss a cat!
why is this an explanation for irrational urges?  Look at your life, look at your choices!!  Shut the fuck up, if you want to make out with him, then make out with him; don’t sit here and try to rationalize your behavior.
Shut.  up.
Why does his six-year-old have a mobile?
Never promise you won’t fall in love with someone.

HANG UP.
“So he’s a schmuck!”

This is one of the movies that gives me unrealistic expectations about love.
It makes me feel like – love is only for beautiful people in beautiful clothes by beautiful houses in beautiful landscaping.

Don’t have sex just because you want to. NO.
Be honorable.  Be respectable.  Be respectful.

You couldn’t pay me to marry Jude Law’s character in this movie.  Actually, you couldn’t pay me to marry Jude Law ever.

I vote that New Year’s Eve, we drink wine and get takeout.

She’s here for, what, a week?  How do we have any evidence that this relationship will be successful?  They’re getting awfully serious after a date and two shags.

These poor girls are going to end up…
…with a wicked stepmother?
You shouldn’t introduce your daughters to your girlfriend after 2 dates!  You’re sitting there playing happy families…
You are who you are!  Own who you are – name it and own it.
What’s wrong with hot chocolate spilled on your jeans?

VIDEO SHOP.  IT’S BLOCKBUSTER.

“I only used the good notes.”  ❤
Sex and love are not the same thing.  Love is a verb, not a feeling.

To sum up:  The Holiday is suffering through the unlikeliness of a psychotic Cameron Diaz and a horny, impulsive Jude Law for the sake of watching Kate Winslet, Jack Black, and Eli Wallach being heartbroken people who sweetly help support each other.

Trust

At the beginning of Advent, I chose “trust” as my theme for the season. I wanted to spend the forty days prior to Christmas learning to trust God more fully.

Trust isn’t an easy thing for humans. I don’t trust easily-in God or in humanity, and it’s an area in which I always have room for growth. Going into Advent, I chose a quotation from my beloved St. Teresa of Jesus as my focus/theme: Trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

That idea is not easy for me. It is not easy for me to accept that I am where I’m meant to be. There are things in my life that I think ought to change. However, during Advent, those things didn’t change. Instead, I began to learn to change my attitude towards those things. The biggest lesson that I learned during Advent is to ask the Lord to change me instead of asking him to change my circumstances.

Yesterday, I was describing a situation in my life to a friend. She asked me how I was being patient in that situation. How? I’m asking God for grace in that situation and choosing to be patient. My roommate can tell you that it is not always a situation in which I am serene and peaceful. But I’m not in charge. I’m not the Lord of the Universe. My plans are not the best. I am trusting that His plans are bigger and better than mine. Screaming and yelling won’t get me the best. Trusting God will.

So I’m choosing to trust the Lord. As I told my godmother yesterday, I am praying that my life will go in the direction that the Lord wants. I know what I want, but I’m choosing to surrender my own desires to him. Is it easy? No. Is it good? Yes.

As Mr. Beaver told Lucy, he is not a tame lion, but he is the King. I’m choosing to ride the lion and trust in his plans for me. I’m learning to ask him to change me instead of asking him to change my circumstances. His plans are bigger and better than mine. Oh Father, make me good and make me good NOW. Make me what you want me to be.

” For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

-Jeremiah 29:11

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

Friday Link Love: Special Christmas Edition

Here are my five (or maybe more) favorite links related to Christmas. Some of these make me laugh; others cause me to meditate and rejoice in the divine and marvelous mystery of the Incarnation of Christ.

5. Communist Christmas Cats

4. Mr. Bean’s Christmas

3. Hugh Jackman and friends Sing “We Three Kings”

2. Muppet Christmas Carol: It Feels Like Christmas

1. God is With Us (Two versions from the same parish)

Bonus: The text of St. John Chrysostom’s Christmas Homily

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

I hope you all have a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Friday Link Love

Here are five links that I’ve been loving this week. (Next week’s video will be all about Christmas.)

An Artist’s Perspective: How an artist views God

10 Ways to Ruin Your Life in Your Twenties: I’ve honestly thought about talking to my middle schoolers about this list.

Have Courage and Be Kind Towards Immigrants: The message is so simple but so profound.

24 Things People Slightly Obsessed with Books Know to be True: BOOOOKS…MUST READ ALL THE BOOOOKS! NAO!

Why Swearing is F***ing Important: Hells yes.

Friday Link Love

Here is this week’s list of links that I’ve loved this week.

A Post-Abortive Perspective on the Scandal Christmas Episode: (Trigger warning on this post) This is not easy to read, but it’s a good read.

The Poetry of God: This is an Eastern Christian perspective on poetry and prayer. It’s beautiful, and I can’t help but recommend it.

Great News for People who Read REAL Books: It’s good for you! I’m so glad to know that one of my favorite hobbies is good for me.

54 Ways to be Merciful During the Year of Mercy: The Year of Mercy began on Tuesday in the Catholic Church. Here are some GREAT ideas for how to live mercy.

21 Glorious Gifts for Grammar Nerds: I need all of these things except the ones that I already own.

Halfway Out of the Dark

For regular readers of my blog, it can be no secret that I love Advent. I love this season of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s coming into the world. I have to admit that one of my favorite things about Advent is my Advent wreath.

IMG_2388

Here’s the thing about that “wreath.” I love light. I love candles. I think that candles and candlelight are beautiful. But I also love these particular candles because they represent Christ the Light of the World. I love the idea of Christ the Light coming into a world made dark by sin and Death. He brought his brilliant radiance into the world and changed everything.

As the Byzantine Tropar of Christmas says,

Your birth, o Christ our God, has shed upon the world the light of knowledge. For through it, those who worshipped the stars have learned from a star to worship thee the Son of Justice and to know you, the Dawn from on high. Glory be to you, o Lord!

Christ came into the world bringing light and truth. Even if Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25, it is appropriate that we celebrate the coming of Jesus just after the Winter Solstice. As the days begin to lengthen and the daylight begins to increase, we celebrate the birth of him who must increase in our lives and our hearts, of him who brings light into our lives. And the darkness flees from Christ, the Light of the World. Darkness does not understand Christ. When we welcome Christ into our hearts and our homes, darkness has no choice but to flee from his light.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not comprehend it.

-John 1:5

Christmas is in 20 days. We are halfway through the Fast of Philip. My Advent wreath is half illuminated. We are halfway out of the dark. We are halfway to the great celebration of the coming of the Light of the World. As we complete these forty days, I encourage you to seek out the Light of the World and ask him to dwell more fully in your heart.