• books

    Constantine’s Sword

    There’s a lot we’re not taught about the history of the Jews. Honestly, there’s not a lot we’re taught about history in general. I knew the Crusades were a religious war; the most I know of the Spanish Inquisition is from Monty Python. It wasn’t until recently that I even knew the extent of Roman rule in Israel during Jesus’s time. Sunday-school–aged children like myself wondered why Pilate was even there, or did they cart Jesus back and forth to Rome?

    Constantine’s Sword digs into that history, proving the undercurrent of Catholic antisemitism from the Passion to the Holocaust. It’s a dense piece of work. It took me four months to finish. But in the end, I’m left… unsettled. The history of Jew-hatred is enough to unsettle, but that wasn’t the part that stuck out to me. The author, a former Catholic priest, has some issues with the Church he can’t put aside. I wonder what’s truly historically accurate, and what’s colored by his personal bias.

    I don’t deny there was some shady business in the Church regarding other religions, especially the Jews. Even the Gospels point at “The Jews” as the murders of Jesus, an accusation that sparked anti-Judaism throughout history. (This ignores the obvious Jewishness of Jesus and his Mother, which is often left out of the story.) Over time, this negative opinion brings worse and worse consequences. Jews are exiled from countries countless times; they’re blamed for the Black Plague; they’re forced into ghettos. I didn’t even know of the Roman ghetto before reading this book. Sometimes popes stand up for them, and sometime they don’t. We like the think the Holocaust was the last straw, but it wasn’t. Antisemitism still runs wild.

    But near the end, the author starts to get more opinionated than factual. The last section is titled “A Call for Vatican III,” a conclusion of what the Church should do to make up for its sins and be more inclusive. It includes things I do agree with, like fostering better relations between Catholic and Jews. But a lot of these “suggestions” miss the mark. The right for priests to marry? The church as a democracy? A call for sola scriptura? If this is what you want of church, you’re not Catholic. He completely misses the mark of Catholicism, which makes me question his historical research. What’s fact, and what’s bias? It’s an interesting read for the history of Catholic/Jewish relations, but I’m not sure how much of the details I can believe.

  • churches

    St. Anthony of Padua

    We were in Butler to pick up a Blessed Mother statue. I’d like to say it’s a strange story, but it’s not that weird—she needed a new home, and I’ve been wanting to have one. We planned our trip around the Mass times at St. Anthony of Padua, the parish down the street. I loved visiting new and different churches as a recent convert, which I haven’t done as much in the past year.

    That’s me!

    I’ve had a certain image of Catholic churches in my mind since I was a kid. Not the grandiose kind, though that’s obviously top of the list. But the quiet kind, the white walls and curved ceilings that seem to request contemplation. I don’t know why this screams (or, whispers) “Catholic” for me. I probably visited one parish as a kid that looks like that, so that is the image I’ve held. Or maybe there is something quiet and contemplative about them, which is something we often seek in a hectic life. Either way, this sort of church has a comfortable familiarity.

    It was a fairy overcast day, but inside seemed to shine. Filtered light came through the stained glass windows, and people spoke in hushed tones. The nave was small, at least compared to other local parishes, so the pastor was able to greet everyone as he walked up the aisle before Mass. I’m sure we stood out as visitors; it seemed the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else.

    Mass itself ended up being short, not even forty minutes. When I returned to my pew after receiving the Eucharist, I was surprised to see the back clock reading only thirty minutes past. But it didn’t feel rushed, despite the record-speed homily and lack of some more common things I’m used to. Instead, its atmosphere matched the structure of the church itself—quiet and contemplative, a refreshing change from the norm.

    I did pick up that Blessed Mother statue while in town. There was something comical about driving up to someone’s home, when they’re not there, to steal a box off the porch. I haven’t found a home for her yet, but she’s been well-traveled and could use the rest, too.

  • books,  marriage

    Bone of my Bones

    Three months ago, I got married. Sometimes I don’t believe that phrase: “I got married.” At the same time, it doesn’t feel weird to have someone else in my (our) apartment. I like cooking for more than one person, and I have a permanent date to events and functions. Even my signature isn’t all that different. I joke that I just turned my Z around to an S, and can still get away with an illegible scribble for the rest.

    I read Love & Responsibility right after we got engaged. It’s a hard read partially for its density, but mostly because it goes against against everything society pushes. It teaches that sex is sacred; men and women have separate and distinct identities; fertility is a gift, not a punishment. Logically, I agree with all this. Practically, it’s hard to unlearn those warped societal teachings.

    It’s been argued we should’ve moved in together before the wedding, and that it’s important to ensure “sexual compatibility.” This makes no sense. Cohabitation is a big disruption, in both routine and mental state. I’ve heard it said that living together, married or not, is one big, loud announcement of “We’re having sex!” Big announcements are not my style, but more than that, society has forgotten that sex is a sacred act.

    Sex says a lot of things, more than even complete exposure and vulnerability. It’s a literal creation of one unit, in the coming together of two. It’s a physical expression of a verbal vow: to have and to hold, ’til death do us part. It’s an acknowledgement of readiness to parenthood. Why has it become not only acceptable, but encouraged, outside of marriage? It’s a denial of responsibility. There are other expressions of love if you want to come together with your partner. Cohabitation and premarital sex cheapen the experience, and there’s no motivation to commit or, as the old phrase goes, “make her an honest woman” (or man, as the case may be).

    By choosing another person one chooses in him, in a sense, another “I,” as though one were choosing oneself in the other and the other in oneself. —Love and Responsibility

    The oneness of two was God’s intention from the beginning: “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) This isn’t just a partnership. I often grapple with the difference between “friendship” and “romance.” You can have strong feelings for friends, and often mistake that platonic love for romantic. So how do you distinguish? If you look at how we’ve treated romance, this confusion isn’t that surprising. Cohabitation and hook-up culture have blurred the lines. When you can get in bed with anyone you want, whenever you want, who has any use for love?

    Incompatibility in marriage is something more than simply physical incompatibility, and certainly cannot be tested in advance by pre-marital intercourse. Married couple who later consider themselves incompatible very often have at the beginning a period of perfect sexual intercourse. It turns out that the breakup occurs for another reason.

    One night in the first week, after dinner, we both realized the gravity of our vows. I quietly went upstairs for my nightly routine, relieved to have a moment alone. We thought we were prepared: we’d read the books and taken the courses. We had our premarital counseling. But when it came time to be married, we freaked out. We weren’t kids playing house; we had a home. I once had a friend whose live-in boyfriend broke up with her. I watched as she packed her belongings, trying to be there when he wasn’t home. It was embarrassing. How can you commit like that without commitment? I’m not saying marriages never end, but divorce is less likely than other romantic fallouts. Do people understand what it means to move in together, to make a public announcement of intimacy? Maybe they do, or maybe we’ve stopped caring about morality and chastity.

    We did it the right way. You don’t need a trial period or compatibility test when love is there. You’re already compatible by the time you’re ready to move in together and share a bed. It’s called “marriage.” It’s certainly not easy, but that’s part of the growing experience. It’s not just living in the same apartment. It’s a physical and spiritual oneness, coming together to live one life, no longer two.