Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The Book: CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH with Modifications from the Editio Typica. Doubleday paperback reprint, 1997.
First read: Still reading
Owned since: 2002

Even Catholics have weird ideas about what Catholics believe or don't believe. For the confused or the misinformed, this is the ultimate resource. Not exactly light reading; I use it as a reference book.

It's important to distinguish -- as this book does -- between the principles of faith and the customs and practices of the Church, which are designed to support, illuminate and strengthen our faith. It's the difference between the standards of health and exercise.

Take fasting, for instance, which observant Catholics do during Lent (although our fasting is not the same as hunger-strike fasting; read this post for an explanation). The Catechism says that fasting and abstinence "prepares us for the liturgical feasts and helps us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart."

Yesterday's book looked at the intersection of body and will; Catholicism is very much concerned with how human beings put their free will to use. Created by God in God's image, we are more powerful than most of us ever realize or acknowledge. The challenge of human lives is to put that power to good use, in the service of God and God's creation. It's such an enormous thing that God asks of us, it's no wonder that most of us don't even try, and even most of us who do try only do so (speaking for myself here) in spurts, like binge drinkers going on the wagon.

Human beings are flawed; if we were perfect, we'd be God. What matters is to keep trying. So we have these liturgical seasons, at least in part, to remind us to keep trying.

Five Random Songs

"A Short Reprise for Mary Todd, Who Went Insane, But For Very Good Reasons," Sufjan Stevens, from Come on Feel the Illinoise. Yes, short: it's 48 seconds long. Poor Mary Todd.

"Many Rivers to Cross," Jimmy Cliff. One of the most beautiful songs ever written, a hymn of exile and persistence. I've never heard a bad cover, but this is the original.

"Burning Down the House," Talking Heads. How wrong is it that I still think of the first "Revenge of the Nerds" movie when I hear this song?

"Small Blue Thing," Suzanne Vega. A perfect description of a very particular type of depression: "With my knees against my mouth I am perfectly round/I am watching you."

"I'm Waiting for the Man," Velvet Underground. Another original version of a song that's been covered to death. I still like this version best.


norby said...

You are not the only one who thinks of Revenge of the Nerds when you hear that song. 'We Are The Champions' by Queen does it too. It just can't be helped, they're sort of the 'bread' of the movie if you know what I mean.

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

Laura said...

I just realized as I finished the draft of CMLH that it has an underlying theme of free will. Must be the born Catholic in me leaking out!

Every time I give up sweets for Lent, I gain five pounds. And fasting gives me horrible low blood sugar headaches. Better read my bible more, instead.