Blogs Worth Reading with a Glass of Moscato

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Blogging and coffee

Or coffee, or tea, or other delicious beverage. Reading in bed is a plus.

Note: These are blogs that are so good they merit being read with a delicious beverage.  Not so bad that they need Moscato to mitigate the effects.

Not as much time for a long blog post today (I have lots of “real work” to do!) but I’ve been wanting to direct people to some of the blogs I read on a daily basis (and boy, DO I).  These writers are well worth your time.

Blogs I Read Daily/Weekly (in no particular order, and not including all of them!)

Conversion Diary: Obviously.  I only reference this blog every single post.  So often I’ve opened Jen’s site only to read a post that gives me the encouragement or advice I needed.  Favorites include: 21 Survival Tips and Openness to Life (never understood this concept until I read it here).

Gal Meets Glam: I’m not going to put you through the sheer number of fashion blogs I check every day, but this one is by far my favorite.  Julia describes her style as “classic, feminine, and colorful.” Her outfits are unique but not too out-there.  You’ll love her. I promise.

The Evangelista isn’t really a fashion blogger. She does cover style but she does so in a way that reminds readers (and I need it sometimes) of its proper place in our lives.  She also writes very honestly about her own faith journey.  Really, really good stuff.

Mysteries and Manners is my best friend Maura’s blog.  She writes so beautifully, and her insights make me miss sharing a room with her so much! So lucky to have her as my friend.  This post alone completely revitalized my prayer life.

Speaking of friends, Verily is not a blog, but a fashion magazine with some opinions and articles I seriously respect.  For one, it’s literally the only publication I’ve ever read/seen that has addressed how difficult it can be to maintain friendships with girlfriends after you get married.  I mean, am I the only one with this problem?? I don’t think so.  Verily writes for “the woman you are, not the woman you should be.” Amen. Plus, they say everything you want to say to your daughter one day but sound way cooler doing it.

La Luz de Fe: Oh my gosh.  I feel a little like a stalker when I read this blog, but a stalker who is being turned into a saint because of how wonderful the person she’s stalking is.  Teresa (shares my name, which is an honor) went to UD with me and has since married and had a teeny baby.  I don’t think we’ve ever spoken, but her posts are joyful and beautiful. They make me want to live better!!

Wellness Mama: Only just now getting into this health/lifestyle blog but it has some of the best writing on the Internet!! That’s a bold claim.  Read this article about coconut oil and tell me if you could make it sound half as good.

Other blogs I should read with a glass of Moscato? (Or some other wine. Maybe I’ll do a wine and blog pairing series.  Only problem being I don’t know anything about wine). Blog and/or wine suggestions are welcome!

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Work/Life Balance

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Work/Life Balance

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but perfectionism and “no that’s stupid, who needs to read that? no one” has gotten in the way.  So here I am. Moira, my nanny-baby, is asleep for maybe another forty five minutes if I’m lucky.

Several months ago, Dan suggested we watch this movie:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

I’m not a huge documentary watcher (Dan is), so I was hesitant. But it ended up being one of the most fascinating films I’ve ever seen. Watch the trailer here and rent it on Netflix if you can. I’ve never seen sushi look so good.

Quick Summary: Jiro Ono is an 85 year old sushi chef who is supposed to be the most talented sushi chef in the world.  His restaurant seats only ten people.  One plate costs around $100. You have to train for fifteen years just to be an apprentice.  People travel to Japan just to eat his sushi.

You get the picture.  The film focuses on Jiro’s fame but also on his philosophy of work:

Once you decide on your occupation, you have to immerse yourself in your work.  You have to fall in love with your work.  You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret to success.

The reviews in the poster above call Jiro’s “breathtaking, inspirational, and humbling,” and that’s true.  Listening to this man’s advice on work was very humbling. For me, it really put into perspective some of the complaints I had at my first two jobs out of college –that the expectations were too high, the hours too long. In some ways, that’s just what you have to do to succeed in your occupation, in your skill.

But another word I would use to describe the movie is “horrifying.” A sub-theme in the documentary is Jiro’s relationship with his two sons.  Both are in their forties or fifties and both are sushi chefs.  The first son is filmed saying (with a smile, so he must have gotten over it) “I wanted to go to college.  my father talked me out of it.  For the first eight years, I hated working here.”

In another scene, the two sons sit together discussing their childhood with the interviewer. They recall (again, laughing, so maybe this is just a cultural thing I’m not getting) waking up on Sunday mornings to find their father in the house. They would be so unused to seeing him that they would run to their mother (this is the only time she is mentioned in the film) saying, “Mom, there’s a stranger in the house!”

In this way, the documentary reminded me of another film I absolutely LOVE, which also features a highly successful… individual.

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Why is no one readyyyyyyy?

“The Devil Wears Prada” follows Anne Hathaway’s character as she works the major fashion magazine Runway for the magazine’s Executive Director Miranda (played by Meryl Streep).  Though Hathaway really wants to work as a serious (non-fashion) journalist, she takes the job as Streep’s assistant because editors tell her it will be a major stepping stone.  “A million girls would kill for that job.”

Hathaway starts out frumpy and skeptical, but (through many twists, turns, and awesome makeover scenes) she comes to respect Miranda and the work that she does.  The movie ends, however, with Hathaway making the decision to leave the position because she repeatedly sees Miranda putting her work before the people in her life, and Andy (Hathaway’s character) sees herself beginning to follow in Miranda’s footsteps.

It’s a great movie.  But there’s one scene I never really got. Andy jump starts her big Transformation after a devastating (but oh so fun to watch) dress-down from Miranda for her attitude towards fashion.  Exhausted and humiliated, Andy goes crying to a coworker (played by Stanely Tucci) and tells him, “I don’t know what to do.  I’m really trying–” to which Tucci replies, “Oh please. Honey. You’re not trying.”

When I first saw this scene, I sat there staring at the screen, thinking I’d missed a line. “What do you mean? Of course she’s trying. She puts up with Miranda. She does everything Miranda says…”

But that’s not the point.  Hathaway has not “fallen in love with her work.” She hasn’t entered deeply into the craft.  She hasn’t even entertained the possibility that the fashion world could have some importance she doesn’t grasp.  There is no passion there. She’s not trying.

On the other hand, both Jiro’s and Miranda’s stories show the downfall of working with that kind of passion.  As I said, Jiro literally looked like a stranger to his own sons.  Miranda goes through her third divorce before the movie’s end.  Neither are really able to sustain healthy relationships in or outside of the office.

This whole meditation had an interesting tie-in with yesterday’s Gospel and homily.

St. Martha

Is this not the craziest depiction of St. Martha (or any saint) you have ever seen??

Our priest’s homily was actually about how it’s NOT bad to work hard! (Seems like a tough pitch with that whole “Martha Martha” thing in the background, right?) He encouraged us to look at the Gospel in light of the Old Testament reading, which sows Abraham and Sarah working very hard to welcome the Three Visitors to their home (making bread, killing the fatted calf, etc. etc.).

According to our priest, the juxtaposition of these two stories is supposed to show us that Abraham’s attention (and Mary’s, in the Gospel) to God is what sanctifies his actions.  First, Abraham notices God passing by. Next, he invites Him to say. Finally, he sits down with the Lord and listens to him. All of his actions are ordered towards a relationship with God.

So, the answer to this whole Work/Life Balance thing, according to Father Bob? Well, it’s a… balance.  Only by maintaining this active relationship with the Trinity will we know when to stop serving the Lord and start listening.

7 posts in 7 days

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It’s Reesa!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged, and I’m a little bit hesitant to return to the blogging world after so many awesome posts by (my better half) Rachel.  However, I was inspired to come back by (who else) Jennifer Fulwiler, who not only hosts the Seven Quick Takes series, but also has come up with the brilliant idea of:

The Seven Posts in Seven Days Challenge.

Long story short: Jen has been blogging less than usual because she’s been working on getting her book published.  She came up with this way to get herself quickly back into the swing of things now that it’s all set to come out the chute of IGNATIUS PRESS (Whoo-wee!)

Like I said, I was hesitant to jump on this band wagon.  Not least of all because I have a lot of other things on my mental and spiritual plate right now, so adding rapid-fire blogging into the mix didn’t seem like the most prudent decision I’d ever made.

Then, this morning, Jen posted a few reasons to jump on the bandwagon, one of which is “It will help you overcome Perfectionism.” Since this is the #1 thing on my mental/spiritual plate right now, this whole blogging thing suddenly didn’t seem like such a departure from my spiritual path.

So here I am.  Buckle up for 7 posts from yours truly Reesa, filling in for the riveting Rachel as she rollicks out her remaining raptures through Rome.

You have so much to look forward to.

MOVIE THOUGHTS: The Great Gatsby (or “A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Hope and Love”)

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It’s probably not good that I am proud of myself for having ONLY a week and a half between this post and the last one. Mental Note: Aim HIGHER, Rach!

Since I started at the end of the last movie, this time I am going to start at the …TITLE! (I’m going to cheat a little because Luhrman closes the movie with a shot about the title.) The Great Gatsby. The operative word here is “great” and it poses the central question of the book and movie: Is Gatsby actually “Great”?

Luhrman seems to be convinced that he is. So, my favorite starting point: after Nick finished typing the last iconic line of the book on his proto-hipster typewriter, he flips all his papers back to the title page which says only


GATSBY.

Above this he writes in painfully sincere handwritten script: “The Great”.
Again, Luhrman gives us his moral judgement on the movie and the characters: GATSBY IS GREAT, GUYS!

The problem is that he’s not. Not that I’m saying any of the other characters are either:

Cast

Daisy is a beautiful and weak-willed fool, who becomes a beautiful and weak-willed adulteress, and finally a beautiful and weak-willed murderess. Tom is a “cruel bodied” philandering, racist misogynist. Jordan is a bored liar. Myrtle is a tramp. Wilson is a dupe then a murderer. Wolfsheim is a gangster. The party goers are users attempting to anesthetize themselves to life. Nick is the guy who prides himself on reserving judgment on people, yet narrates one of the most snidely judgmental books of all time. BUT their frailties do not make Gatsby great by comparison! This is the point that Luhrman seems to miss in his rush to help us sympathize with the DiCaprio character (just like in R and J!)

The funny difference here is that DiCaprio has become a better and a smarter actor – he plays Gatsby exactly as Fitzgerald wrote him: Charismatic. Attractive. False, and in that falseness- subtly, but profoundly unsettling. I should give Luhrman some credit. The screen play he uses is rigidly accurate to the characters’ dialogue from the novel. Even the scenes are picture perfect.The problems come in his additions to narration of Nick Carraway. Henceforth I will distinguish Luhrman’s narrator as Narrator Nick!

NARRATOR NICK!

NARRATOR NICK!

Narrator Nick!, after seeing Gatsby hide the truth of Daisy’s crime, casts Gastby’s life in the following light: He loved Daisy so much that he imagined and hoped the perfect world into existence for her. “Gatsby was a Son of God and as such must be about his father’s business.” Narrator Nick seems to view this business of world-making by imagination and power of will. Gatsby, coming from from nothing, through his colossal HOPE creates the perfect world. The fact that Gatsby (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER!) dies alone is mostly because Daisy and Tom suck a whole bunch. Gatsby is Great because he is the Patron Saint of and Martyr to HOPE! 

It's alarming how charming he feels!!!

It’s alarming how charming he feels!!!

If that were true, then we could really take the title “The Great Gatsby” un-ironically. He never let the world, or reality, or Daisy’s rejection get him down. He hoped eternally. Isn’t that great?

angry-no

The problem is that hope is not real hope which denies reality.

I offer this alternate interpretation of Gatsby’s life: He is a man who creates the Platonic ideal of who he should be at the age of 17 and never allows it to change. He manipulates, lies, and steals in order to bring it all to pass. He does not participate in or take over God’s work in world making. Rather, (here I finish the Fitzgerald fragment that I think Luhrman based his interpretation of the novel on) “Gatsby is a son of God and as such must be about his Father’s business – the service of a vast and meretricious beauty.”

Definition of MERETRICIOUS 1: of or relating to a prostitute. 2: tawdrily and falsely attractive Sound FAMILIAR?

Definition of MERETRICIOUS
1: of or relating to a prostitute.
2: tawdrily and falsely attractive
Sound FAMILIAR?

Put bluntly: Gatsby creates a falsely perfect world – an attractive whore of a world, which he props up and protects by never allowing the invasion of anything real. He cannot bear the threat posed by any part of the world that does not fall into his delusion because reality and its attendants – Alteration, Change, and Growth – all must stand as enemies of Gatsby’s world. Gatsby is not a patron saint of Hope because there is no need for hope in a complete world. It is done. Finished. Perfect. Not for one moment does Gatsby allow himself to truly dwell in the dirty, changing, imperfect, beautiful world of reality.  

This brings us to Daisy.

Daisy

(AGAIN, I must congratulate DiCaprio again on the scene I am about to describe because it is beautiful … and frightening.) After Daisy and Gatsby’s whirlwind rekindled romance, Gatsby begins to pressure Daisy to leave Tom, her husband,  but not just to leave Tom: to leave him, saying that she loves Gatsby, has always loved only Gatsby, and has never loved Tom.  When she is unable to do so, he flies at her – wide-eyed, shaking her, shouting – and tries to force the words from her.

Whose charming now?

Who’s charming now?

He cannot, and she abandons him and his world. Even then, he does not see this or her. He is utterly convinced that she is his and only his. 

This is not hope. This is delusion. This is closing his eyes to the real woman in front of him in favor of the Imaginary Daisy who would never have married Tom. Real love is seeing another person rightly and willing and hoping for the best for them. Gatsby does not love Daisy because he cannot see her.

Notice that he DOES NOT EVEN LOOK AT HER.

Notice that he DOES NOT EVEN LOOK AT HER.

Somewhere along the line, his service to and protection of “the vast and meretricious beauty” he has imagined has superseded any love he has for the real, weak, frail, fallible, beautiful woman he avowedly seeks. As such, he cannot hope for her. He cannot will the best for her because that would be to admit that his creation is not the best.

I would argue that Fitzgerald understood this. He leaves Nick’s trustworthiness as a judge of character and sincerity as a narrator enough in question that we must watch Gatsby’s actions. In DiCaprio’s performance, we are still afforded that opportunity to see through Gatsby’s charm to the 17-year-old boy who refused to grow up. Gatsby is “Great” only in his own imagination, which he refuses to leave.

The problem with Luhrman’s interpretation, built on the additions he has made to Narrator Nick! proclaiming Gatsby’s greatness as rooted in  love and hope, is that he once again undervalues the heroism of real love and real hope by using those words to describe paltry imitations. 

 

So, to counter balance him, I will leave you with a man who understood the true nature of Love as seeing rightly (flaws and dignity, frailties and beauties) and Hope as ceaselessly working to carry the beloved to the BEST world and love’s completion.

SONNET 116
By William Shakespeare.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Taking out the Trash: A Single Girl’s Meditation on the Salvific Vocation of Marriage

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BY RACHEL

This is a tricky blog post because part of me feels like I don’t actually have the right to say these things. (Reesa, you will have to stand as arbiter, OK?)

I’ve posted a couple of times this year about my Junior class’ study of Pride and Prejudice. From some combination of Jane Austening for three months and the amazing insights shared by my recently married friends, I have come to (and/or shamelessly poached) some thoughts. Most of these revelations may be really obvious to people who are not me. If that is the case, I’m sorry!

1. Marriage is a vocation. (No. Duh.) Vocation is not about what makes you feel good, but about God calling you closer to Him. The point of marriage is for each spouse to help the other to get to heaven.

This much I kind of already knew. The new part came in when talking to my many recently married friends. Suddenly I was given a brand new picture about how one person can bring another to God. In P&P, Darcy brings Lizzy closer to heaven by correcting her vision of other people; Lizzy does the same by correcting Darcy’s behavior. (This much seemed to totally justify the Rom Com cliché of “fixing” another person.) Because of these corrections they fall in love and get married. The End! Right? The part that I, and I think possibly many others, have forgotten is that even in the book, Lizzy and Darcy are not done. The real correction happens within the marriage, and we as readers don’t get to see very much. Because it is kind of none of our business.

2. In marriage, man and woman become one flesh. I was thinking about that colossal statement…. and this is where my brain gets tangent-y, pseudoscientific, and hard to follow, so bear with me:

So far as I understand it, our habits actually shape our brain. By performing actions, we help our neurons to shape pathways that we will use as our basis of operating. We get used to actions by repeating them. Discomfort that exists the first few times we do anything new becomes less as we perform the action over and over. This much is true of both good habits and sins. In our habitual sins, we physically (because our brain is physical) get used to it. We get mental calluses.

However, if my future husband and I are becoming one flesh, then on my wedding day, I am handing him all the habits I have formed. Into that bargain come the gifts and wonderful things probably signed up for in the lovey dovey dating stage, but also ALL THE SINS. Now he gets to care for and carry them too.

Except that Future Spouse Man (That is, of course, his superhero name… I haven’t figured out his secret identity just yet) doesn’t have the right calluses. He has the calluses from his own sins, but at the wedding I am handing him a whole new basket full of sins that he may never have struggled with before. Happy Wedding Day, Darling!

3. I am pretty sure that this very cruel process is exactly how spouses get each other to heaven. Not just by chastising or preaching, but by loving, being loved, and suffering. (Not having yet experienced this, I can really only talk about it in theory and from observation, but I think I can see a little of this in how my students helped me this year.)

Because I loved them and I knew how much my anger and impatience could (and occasionally did) hurt them, I made greater efforts than I ever have in the realm of patience. It is not that my anger and impatience weren’t hurting my soul before. I had simply become used to it. My students were a blessing precisely because they were raw little nerve endings.

I think that marriage might work the same way on a much greater scale, because at the wedding, we hand over our every sin in one go to a person whom we love and cherish. Then we spend a lifetime watching our sins hurt them. I cannot think of a stronger motivator to STOP SINNING!

4. This idea has actually been the most helpful thing to my spiritual life in a really long time. I know that I will be handing over a Hefty bag of spiky, painful, heavy sins to my husband on my wedding day. 24-years of habits have pretty much guaranteed that.

However, I can start taking out the trash RIGHT NOW. I may not feel the burden of my sins anymore, but I can at least imagine what it would feel like to see him feel their weight for the first time.

So, Dear Future Spouse Man, a few things: (1) I am sorry in advance, but these suckers are gonna hurt. (2) I’m working on it! (3) Thank You.

MOVIE THOUGHTS: Romeo + Juliet

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BY RACHEL

Guess Who’s Back… back again… Rachel’s back. Tell your friends!

From this you should be able to tell several things:

1 I have been listening to too much Eminem…
2. SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER!
3. I have started watching movies again.

Specifically Baz Luhrman-y things. My excuse is that my 9th and 10th graders finished out the year with two books (semi)recently adapted by Baz Luhrman into melodramatic and overblown, but (occasionally) well-acted misinterpretations: Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby.

I suppose I should get several things out of the way. I do not hate either of these movies. I don’t mind updating Shakespeare with modern settings and cut lines, so long as the themes remain intact. I like anachronistic soundtracks. I think Luhrman’s interpretation of Mercutio’s “Queen Mab” speech as a statement that Romeo’s type of love is a drug (pre-Ke$ha) is interesting. I think that Gatsby is spectacularly well-acted. I adore the complete lack of the shaky camera that keeps invading movies that I otherwise enjoy. I even kindof like the fact that Luhrman’s movies tend follow this sequence:

1. Cool-filtered and melancholic opening scene foreshadowing the DEPRESSING end of the story by having an angsty narrator look back on the events of the movie.
2. 20 MINUTES OF JUMPY-CUT-BUT-SMOOTH-CAMERA, PSYCHODELIC, FRENETIC, OVERBLOWN, AND ULTIMATELY POINTLESS PARTY SCENES!
3. Sudden shift to the sentimental love-story, marked by slow motion eye-contact and suddenly gentle soundtrack (R and J: Kissing You; Gatsby: Young and Beautiful).
4. Hour and a half of escalating sentimentality, which can only mean Doomed Love (Note the capitalization!)
5. Sad ending, endeavoring to leave the audience somber but not requiring any alteration in their actions, behavior, or lives.

(By the by, just a reminder, I am writing for people who have seen the movies and/or read the books. If you haven’t, either stop reading or prepare to be thoroughly spoiled. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!) This brings me to my actual problems with the movies.

MOVIE THOUGHTS: Romeo + Juliet

At first I was going to write one monster post on both of these, after all: both movies are by Baz Luhrman, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, underscored by interesting/poppy soundtracks and guilty of parallel misinterpretations! However, I found I had too many thoughts. Sorry!

Let’s get the ball rolling: ROMEO AND JULIET IS A TRAGEDY! Not just because the main characters die. Tragedy is NOT EQUAL to sad. Tragedy is a single unified drama in which we are invited to consider the nature of human character and fate by witnessing the fall of a noble character because of a fundamental ignorance which leads to a transgression act. It is sad, but the goal of the story is not just to have all of the sad feels. We, as an audience, are to purge ourselves of the toxic emotions in order to better consider the moral implications of our choices.

The great danger, to which most modern interpretations of Romeo and Juliet have fallen prey, is taking this as Shakespeare prefiguring Nicholas Sparks.

 i.e. He wrote about “perfect” but depressing love between teenagers whose story ends in death but only because of the general badness of the world (be that badness cancer, mean people, Alzheimers, or feuding parents.)

i.e. He wrote about “perfect” but depressing love between teenagers whose story ends in death but only because of the general badness of the world (be that badness cancer, mean people, Alzheimers, or feuding parents.)

Pardon my french in advance: This is a load of horse shit. Let Shakespeare be the new Sophocles or Aeschylus. LET HIM NEVER BE BLASPHEMED AS THE OLD NICHOLAS SPARKS! Alright, I am calming down. But seriously folks, we must not think of Romeo and Juliet this way. Not to contradict Taylor Swift, but this is NOT a Love Story.

To explain this, I am going to start at the very end. A very weird place to start.

In Shakespeare’s version, we do not have the return of a chorus to tell us the social significance of the play or how we ought to feel. The final lines of the play are the Prince, the civil authority, saying:

A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorrow will not show his head:
Go hence and have more talk of these things;
Some shall be pardoned, some punished:
For never was a tale of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

This closing is a command: Go. Think. Talk. Judge. We are asked not simply to say “Gee, that was really sad,” but rather to consider who deserves pity or scorn (pardon or punishment) for the horror at the end of this play. Moreover,  we are pushed to consider the degree to which they deserve pity or scorn. Sorrow is not the object of this lesson; it is the means by which we are pushed to judge – not only the choices of the characters but our own.

That’s Shakespeare.

You fabulous genius, you!

You fabulous genius, you!

Then there is Baz Luhrman.

Tragedy.... I do not think that means what you think it means...

Tragedy…. I do not think that means what you think it means…

Superficially,  we might say that the ending of the movie is the same. Except it isn’t. And if you have read the book, YOU SHOULD NOT STOP THINKING AT LUHRMAN’S INTERPRETATION. GO. TALK. THINK. JUDGE.

So. What is different?

1. Paris doesn’t die. Specifically Romeo does not commit that much less pardonable murder. We’ll come back to that.
2. The Prince has the penultimate, not the final, line. And it is changed. Instead, he screams into the camera:

“ALL ARE PUNISHED! ALL ARE PUNISHED!”

3. The actual last two lines are delivered by the televised talking head who serves as Luhrman’s chorus.

What effect is brought about by these TINY alterations? 

1. Romeo (and Juliet) are more pitiable. I will come back to that.
2. The civil authority does not judge each according to their actions, rather ALL are punished. Consequently, we as the audience have no homework. The characters have been weighed and EVERY single one of those still living has been found wanting. Case closed.
3. The chorus (who first gives us the idea of the “star crossed lovers” … I.e the poor but idealized teenagers whose “perfect love” was just RUINED by fate and their families) has the last words. And those words are…

“Be sad.”

BE SAD!

This is the problem with Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet. He takes away the moral power of a tragedy by presuming the goal of a tragedy is simply sorrow, when in fact, the goal of a tragedy with all of it’s dramatic irony, emotion, transgression, failing, (and yes, even sadness) – is to MAKE US ABLE TO SEE RIGHTLY AND MORALLY.

So, because you are all super nice (if you have read this far) I am going to list (hopefully quickly) my observations as to the actual moral problem presented by Shakespeare.

The transgressions in Romeo and Juliet can be condensed into the failure of understanding the role and responsibilities of vocations.


Vocational Duties in R+J and how they are ABANDONED!

1. Civil/ Political Vocation

THE PRINCE

THE PRINCE

The Prince, as civil authority,  should have stopped and seriously punished this feuding long before this point. Failure to punish and protect is failure indeed. His vocation calls him to the care of his city and its citizens. Because he fails in his civil vocation, there is a vacuum. Someone must restore civil order, presenting an occasion of sin for Friar Laurence.

2. Religious Vocation

FRIAR LAURENCE

FRIAR LAURENCE

Friar Laurence is a priest, specifically he serves as confessor and pastor to the entire town of Verona. His vocation is the care of souls. Yet, because of the “civil strife making civil hands unclean” he abandons this responsibility, starting with his very first scene.

After meeting Juliet, in Act III, Romeo comes tearing into Friar Laurence’s cell gushing about this NEW perfect beloved – Juliet. (This entire act, by the way is Shakespeare calling attention to the fact that Romeo is falling so fast that everyone he meets spends the first have of the interaction assuming that he is gushing about his former infatuation, Rosaline.) Friar Laurence at first says EXACTLY what he ought to. He instructs Romeo in the correct ordering of affections, the fact that his love for both Rosaline and Juliet are mere idolatrous imitations of love. He counsels and counsels well.

Then, he says the following fateful lines:

But come, young waverer, come, go with me,
In one respect I’ll thy assistant be;
For this alliance may so happy prove,
To turn your households’ rancor to pure love.

On the face of this, it is easy to see the good in this. Friar Laurence will use Romeo and Juliet’s loving infatuation to form an alliance between these two warring families and restore peace to Verona.

Did it bother anyone that I just said a priest is going to use (coughSTUPIDcough) teenage infatuation rather than reorder and heal it?

It is a PROBLEM that a Friar is setting aside his vocation to the pastoral care of soul. This failure and abandonment is made more concrete in the last act when Friar Laurence (for fear of the fast approaching civil authorities) abandons a drugged, distraught Juliet in a tomb, pinned down by the corpse of her husband.  To some degree, the blood  and soul of this child is on his hands.

3. Parental Vocation

THE NURSE

THE NURSE

He is not alone in his act of abandonment. All of the parental figures of this play similarly abandon – morally and/or physically. Their vocation to the care and guidance of children, protecting and restraining when necessary.

First, Juliet’s Nurse, in her hurry to approve of everyone, encourages Juliet not only to imprudence, but even to bigamy. She calls everyone she meets “good and wise and virtuous.” Again, this is not in and of itself a problem. After all, isn’t it good to see the best in people?

Except that her want of right judgment deprives Juliet, a 13-year-old girl, of any guidance. Much as we may want all choices to be equal and equally good and wise and virtuous, they are not. In failing to guide Juliet, she essentially morally abandons her.

Second, Juliet’s parents do more than essentially abandon her. They actually do it. When she is reluctant to marry Paris (because she is already married.) Her father vows that he will give her to his friend or cast her out into what ever form of harlotry she wishes. Her mother then refuses to even speak to her.

While I am not saying that Juliet is purely innocent of her suicide, I will say that Shakeapre makes an awfully big deal about how young she is – even for “the olden days.” She is still clearly in need of love, protection, and judicious guidance. This is what parents and guardians are CALLED to provide. She receives none. 

4. Marital Vocation.

ROMEO AND JULIET

ROMEO AND JULIET

This brings me back to my initial point. Romeo and Juliet is not a Love Story. It is an Idolatry Story.  By idolizing one another, Romeo and Juliet fail in the vocation of marriage — the care of the soul of the beloved .

Marriage is not eternal. It has a finish line: Till death do us part. This should not be a sad statement. The point of marriage is not the forever fluffy feelings. Marriage is the vow (of man, wife, and God ) that you will push, pull, and carry your beloved to the perfection and completion of Love Himself in heaven. Marriage is not necessary in heaven.

In the romance of these two children, Shakespeare provides a reminder that our world needs more than ever, showing what this idolatrous erotic love looks like from origin to symptom to inevitable result.

How does it happen?
Juliet falls into idolatry (as teenager girls are wont to do) for the lack of protection. Romeo, on the other hand, arrives at idolatry by refusing wise counsel.

In short, the problem with idolatry is that it makes the universe too small. Instead of a universe created by and governed by an infinite and eternal Love, idolatry limits the world to whatever can be governed by something smaller.

Making an idol of another person begins with limiting our vision of reality and ignoring any signs or counsel that calls to and indicates a higher and wider world.

What does it look like?
Idolatry, because of the blinders it requires, looks like infatuation. It is the exact “us agains the world” mentality. Because of this, I would argue that the only thing that comes close to the religious wars our world has witnessed is the emotional war between a besotted teenager and his or her parent. This is because this love is not rightly ordered. It is not leading toward God and eventually family.

Where does it end?
In suicide. Heaven is abiding in the complete presence of and union with God. If Juliet is god, then Verona (specifically marriage to Juliet in Verona) is heaven. Hell is irrevocable separation from God. If Romeo is banished from the presence of his god, Juliet, then he is in hell.

In making a mortal person into God, suicide is the only logical conclusion. If you are already in hell, why should death and subsequent separation from a God in whom you do not actively believe make any difference?

Ok. That was really long. SORRY!

Basically, here is what I got. Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet is dangerous, not because he is willfully leading children astray into idolatrous and unhealthy loves. However, this movie is guilty of the very same transgression as the adults in Shakespeare’s play: a failure to care for the formation of the loves and souls of the young. Similarly, under the supposed guidance of this, more children are guilty of confusing idolatry with love. (TWILIGHT. TAYLOR SWIFT. ETC. ETC. ETC.)

On my Sister’s Engagement

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Hello everyone! My name is Teresa. I’m Selina’s older sister and Matron of Honor. First, I just want to say how happy I am that we have all just witnessed this truly beautiful sacrament of Holy Matrimony between Selina and Andrew. And I have just one thing to say about it… FINALLY.

In all seriousness, though, this has been a long journey.  Selina was saying that as of yesterday, she and Andrew had been engaged for seventeen months.  Now, I know that they didn’t necessarily plan their engagement this way, and it’s been difficult for them to wait so long to finally be married.  But I just want to say that it has been one of the most beautiful engagements I’ve ever witnessed.

I was blessed enough to move home just a couple months before Selina and Andrew were engaged, so I was able to be there—and to be with Selina—for much more of it than I would have otherwise. As Selina’s older sister, I can say that she and Andrew both have grown so much these past seventeen months, and I want to tell you all about a few of the virtues that I’ve witnessed in their engagement—that I know now are going to be hallmarks of an amazing marriage.

I think the first big challenge in Selina and Andrew’s engagement came the spring after Andrew proposed, when they decided it would be best for Andrew to take an opportunity to work and teach with a school in Urbil, Iraq.  I remember Selina coming into my room shortly after they’d made the decision, and she was just crying.  At first I thought she was crying because it would be so hard for her to be away from Andrew.  But in fact, Selina was crying from joy! Because she was grateful for the opportunity, because she was grateful for Andrew’s courage in taking the position, and because she was filled with an unexpected peace that they would emerge from that challenge all the stronger.

It was beautiful to see Selina’s faith in that moment—faith in God, in Andrew, and in their relationship.  In that moment, my little sister’s maturity and self-sacrifice amazed me.

And then, as you all know, Andrew was accepted into Officer Candidate School midway through his time in Iraq.  And he and Selina made another difficult decision: for him to come back, go to Rhode Island, and commit to the U.S. Navy. One of the biggest challenges that came with that decision was that the timing of this whole wedding was thrown into complete turmoil.  As was mentioned last night at the rehearsal dinner several times, both Selina and Andrew are planners. Andrew’s being in the US Navy made it really difficult for them to begin to plan either this wedding or the rest of their lives together.

But again, I witnessed Selina rise to the occasion with so much sweetness and grace.  You all should have seen her in the months leading up to this day. Her concern with the material details of planning a wedding sort of fell away, and she told me, “I don’t care.  I just want to be married.” I admire so much Selina’s ability, amidst the stress of planning a wedding (not to mention being IN SCHOOL), to focus on what really matters. Because your marriage is your vocation.  It is THE MOST important thing that God has put in either of your lives.  Everything else is secondary. And you have both shown that you understand that.

Andrew, I am so happy to welcome you into our family.  Because I see these things about Selina—that she is selfless and faithful and sweet and gracious—but I think you see them even more.  You see that you are the luckiest man in the world, because you could not ask for a better wife.

And Andrew, I want to tell you one more thing that I think you know: Selina is so proud of you. She is so proud, that I am sometimes embarrassed to take her out in public because I know as soon as I turn my back she’ll start talking to a complete stranger about you and your accomplishments, and this day, the day she gets to be married to you.  You deserve that pride she has in you.

This has been a long journey for you both.  But you have shown that you have faith in God, you have faith in each other, you can roll with the punches and you can come up with the knowledge of what is most important in life.  You are going to have an exceptional marriage, and I could not be more proud.

Congratulations Selina and Andrew.  Many blessings for a beautiful marriage and life together.  I love you.