Friday, 31 May 2013

Seven Quick Takes VII: Linkses!

So I'm in the middle of another crazy couple of weeks with too many things to do, too little attention to do them with, and that panicky feeling that a deadline is gonna jump out of nowhere and hit me over the head with something.

To maximize my limited attention, I'm going to leave you with a bunch of links to interesting articles and blog posts. You're welcome.


How to Become an Annoying  Catholic (In Eight Easy Steps)
If you were paying attention last week, you’ll recall from my newsy little post on Friday, that Pope Francis has charged Catholics with asking the Holy Spirit for “the grace to be annoying.” His words. Not mine.
I know what you’re thinking: Easy, peazy lemon squeazy, right? Not right. Admittedly, that was my first reaction too. “Yes!” I thought. “Finally a grace that comes naturally to me. I don’t even have to pray for this one.”
I love easy to read posts like this with plenty of Catholic memes, and enough actual practical food for thought.  (Also, interesting fact: #3 is kind of why I wore a nose ring for the past ten years.)


The Ramblings of Crazy Face

I love this blog because it is a big slice of the authenticity I keep talking about. This is real life, broken, messy, confusing, hard... and into this mess comes the healing grace of God. If you're not drowning, why do you need a Saviour? Leticia is a far from typical Catholic blogger, and that makes her story that much more interesting.


The Catholic's response to homosexuality is really confusing. Love the sinner, hate the sin. Treat people who struggle with same sex attraction with 'respect, compassion, and sensitivity'. But we cannot support or approve homosexual relationships as a normal or healthy way of life, because we believe that isn't God's plan for men and women. We also have the same belief about divorce, premarital sex and live-in relationships- that they go against God's plan for us, and do not allow us to be truly happy and fulfilled.

But we don't contest the existence of civil divorce. So why do we oppose 'gay marriage'. which is essentially a civil union? Now that gay marriage is in the news a lot, we have to figure out what we're saying, and why.

Marc Barnes from Bad Catholic writes a thought-provoking post about this:

The Difficulty With Engaging Gay Marriage


Speaking of homosexuality (which seems unavoidable in this day and age), here's someone who has helped shaped many Catholics' perspective on the gay debate- Steve Gershom, who struggles with same-sex attraction, but is also convinced about the truth of Church's teaching of homosexuality. He writes honestly about his struggles, and he also calls us all to learn how to accept each other's weaknesses and brokenness, and to open our hearts to them.

Hearts of Flesh
That’s our job, as Christians: to live in such a way that our friends will know, as Jesus’ friends must have known, that nothing could make us run away from them. Since my friends are good men and women, there’s always somebody I can go to when things get heavy. There’s always ten somebodies. They help me bear my burdens and I help them bear theirs; and, having shared burdens, we are better able to share joys.

I love to think and talk about emotional chastity, because it is something so relevant to most women. What always surprises me is that so few Catholic women talk about this danger. It's considered normal to go through one desperate crush after another, (which I regularly did when I was younger) and it's like we had no idea that it was even possible to 'guard our hearts'.

Stephanie Calis shares an honest (you notice how this is a recurring theme on my blog?), funny, and wise take on infatuation, sentimentality and the emotional aspect of chastity.

Chastity is more than physical
At the weekly prayer group we were both part of, each person would state their intentions before we prayed the Rosary together. "I'd like," he said, "to pray for my girlfriend." Slam. There went my heart. Somehow I made it through the next hour, then promptly left in search of a place to empty my dangerously full tear ducts. My college is over 200 years old, founded by a priest and featuring four chapels. All of them were occupied. After half a frustrated hour of trying to find somewhere empty, I settled on the back pew of the main chapel, where a grief group was meeting far away from me, up front (maybe I should've joined them?).

Warning: Shameless self-promotion ahead

Are you an introvert? Do you have friends and family who just. don't. get. it? Send them some guidelines to get how to relate to you, and avoid all (okay, a lot of) the frustration of the typical introvert-extrovert relationship.

How an Introvert Socializes


And this is just for laughs... or uncontrollable giggles. Even though the last time I watched The Matrix was probably eight  years ago, this was hilarious.

Okay, I'm done. Back to Real Work. And oh yeah, go to Jen's.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How an Introvert Socializes

First of all, introverts don’t hate people. We just need to plan when, where, how, and for how long we want to be with them. So, here’s a list of what works and what doesn't for this particular introvert.

Does NOT Work 

Any kind of spontaneous socializing plan: Someone calls or texts and says, “Hey, some of us are going to ________ tonight. Wanna come?” See, in my mind, tonight was already set up as a stay at home, read my blogs, watch some TV, don’t talk to anyone except my family kind of evening. I can’t just switch to socializing mode that fast.


Time to get used to the idea: Maybe a week or so. Perhaps even longer. Note to introvert’s friends: Plant the idea first. Let her swill it around like good wine. (No, I’m know nothing about wines, good or otherwise. And I know I’m mixing metaphors.)

Does NOT Work 

The wrong KIND of socializing situation: It only took me a couple of parties (read really dumb ‘fresher’ afternoon parties, but still) to realize that night clubs are the only option I would choose if someone was holding a gun to my head. Smoke laden haze, trance beats, everybody checking everybody else out, shouting to be heard, drunk people, fakeness. Come on, this can’t be just an introvert thing. Likewise, rock concerts are a VERY bad idea.


Not too many people, not too much noise: Game nights work. Breakfast at my place works. Coffee works. If I must meet new people, please let me meet them where I can actually talk to them, and don’t have to do small talk multiple times. Extroverts don’t get it, but small talk is torture to us. I suppose theoretically it’s possible to be authentic while having two minute conversations, but in practice, how do you do it? I desperately need to make some REAL contact with people I meet... or I’d rather hide in the bathroom, and not meet at all. Okay, I’ve never actually hidden in a bathroom, but I think it’s a great idea... unless of course there’s already an introvert hiding there.

Works: Cheese mushroom spinach onion omelettes, sausages and french toasts

Does NOT Work 

Platitudes/Banalities: It’s like scraping nails against a chalkboard. “So what else is new?” “Nothing much, yaar. What about you?” “Work and all na. Busy, busy.” “Mum and dad are doing okay, no?” “Keeping well, by God’s grace.” “What else?” AAAAAHHHHHH!!! Makes me want to run screaming in the opposite direction.


Humour/Randomness/Authenticity: Of course the problem with this is that not everyone knows how to deal with too much honesty in a first conversation. “I can’t talk to you right now because I’m in a bad mood.” And even humour can get out of control when people aren’t expecting it. Randomness is definitely not the norm in India. And I do realize that all these things have their time and place, but they just help me cope with uncomfortable social situations. The unexpected pro of this is that every now and again, you suddenly meet someone who gets it, and doesn’t back away like you’re crazy, and perhaps even responds in kind. 

Also, REAL conversations: I know most people don’t want to talk about deep, introspective, thought-provoking stuff the first time they meet you, but introverts can’t talk about anything else. “What it is like to be you?” “Have you ever wondered...” “Has anything about motherhood surprised you?” Even in the fairly normal “Have you seen (insert latest movie)?”, I have to get at the underlying theological/moral dilemma. Yes, it’s tiring to be around me.

Does NOT Work 

Phone calls: Don’t call me. Ever. It just doesn’t work. For one, it breaks the ‘no spontaneous socializing’ rule. You’ve broken into my space without warning. Also, phone calls can easily turn into meaningless chit chat. “So, what else?” “AAAHHHH!” But also, I find it very difficult to focus on what you’re saying without any visual cues to tell me what you’re REALLY saying. Call me crazy. But don’t call me.

"It really worries me that you called me ON MY PHONE. Did you not read my blog post??"


Texting/Face to face meetings: See, this is to show you that I don’t really hate people. Texts work for me because I can answer when and how I feel like it. I can get and give information without unnecessary and draining chitchat. And I can set up face to face meetings with people. When I see your face, and when there is not a lot of other stuff going on, it helps me to focus, and to enjoy friends’ company. And just to clarify, just texting is the stupidest way to get t know someone. My sister and I shared a rant about that last night, which should definitely lead to a blog post some time.

In conclusion, it’s very hard to figure out how to relate to introverts unless you know the secret list of rules. To a large extent, I've just had to learn to use the social norms of the adult world. But that doesn't mean I like it. I have gotten better even at small talk. Heck, I even talk on the phone once in a while. But also, I've just learned what works better for me, and try to use that key to build better relationships with people. (Wow, that ended on a serious note.)

Friday, 24 May 2013

Seven Quick Takes VI: I'm Back!


So after two weeks of a 'working holiday' in the (comparatively) cool hills of India, I'm back home. There's a beautiful breeze outside this morning, so I'm not complaining yet. Also, we're expecting the monsoons in the near future, so I hope the back of the intense summer is broken.


Talking to a cousin last week, I found a bunch of details about the life of one of my ancestors who turned out to be a prominent figure in the 19th century in a big Indian city. Fabulously wealthy because of his successful opium trade with China (which was not illegal at that time), he lost all his money by the end of his life, largely because he financed Goa's freedom struggle, which was unsuccessful because the fleet of ships he sent out were destroyed in a storm.

So interesting, especially because our family now is not at all wealthy, famous or involved with opium of any kind. I read the account with some fascination, if not approval. I guess it appeals to some desire for glamour to know that one is related to the rich and famous of yesteryear. Still, I'm happy to be poor, unknown and honest. The one saving grace in his story was that he was known to be very generous to the poor, and when he died, beggars from all over the city came to attend the funeral and pay their last respects.


I found this headline in a newspaper.

'State threatens traders with ESMA'

It immediately made me imagine this:

My hopes were dashed by ESMA standing for Essential Service Maintenance Act. And also the creepy woman (who scares the heck out of my nieces) is spelled 'Yzma' not 'Esma'. Sigh.


It was nice coming back to the World of the Internet, heaps of emails, plenty of new blog posts, things that all my favorite bloggers are talking about, arguing about, announcing. Jen's got a publisher for her new book- Ignatius Press (!!), everybody's excitedly talking about abstinence education, the pros, the cons, and the obvious problems with the existing model (which mostly makes me scared because if this is happening in the States, I can't even imagine how bad the sex education in India is, where women are routinely treated as objects, and I don't think even Catholics have woken up to the Theology of the Body-sex is good perspective), I found out that something I wrote got posted on a big pro-life blog, so I was all

when I opened my laptop last night.


I am seriously out of practice with this whole quick takes thing. Or maybe the whole blog thing. Maybe I'll pull a Steve Gershom, and write once a month, and dazzle everyone with my rare but brilliant blog posts. Or maybe I'll get back in the mood in a few days, and dazzle you EVERY DAY.


Was no one else creeped out by BBC's news segment on cockroaches, and how they have evolved in the past TEN years so that they now hate the taste of glucose... which poison manufacturers started putting in cockroach poison ten years ago? They showed the cockroach shaking its head after tasting some sugar AND SPITTING IT OUT. Bleeargh.


Okay, that's it, folks. Lunch time.

Over to Jen.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Sometimes Everything Just Works Out

And today was one of those days. My family is leaving for a holiday (for me a working holiday) tomorrow, and I was working on finishing all the little jobs that I had very conveniently put off until the last minute.

I hate leaving my house. I know that sounds like I'm going through depression or something, but really it's partly introversion, partly an aversion to hot, dusty streets, and largely an old phobia of 'doing official things' which I'm mostly over, but not completely, obviously. Some day I'll write about that phobia, which I haven't discovered the name for yet.

So at almost 3 pm, I remembered I had to go to the bank, to submit documents that were (check email) two weeks late already. Since they hadn't included a penalty (submit these documents OR WE'LL SHUT DOWN YOUR BANK ACCOUNT AND CONFISCATE ALL YOUR MONEY) I had obviously put it out of my mind, until I suddenly woke up this afternoon.

What time do banks close? Since I never go to banks, I assumed maybe 4.30 pm, 5 pm? Google check: oops, 3.30 pm. I am not a fast mover, as my mother will confirm, so I almost gave up the idea.

But then Responsible Adult Sue emerged, and I printed the form, filled it up, said a quick prayer and left. I needed to photocopy a document, and all our shops were shut because the traders are protesting a tax... but I saw an open shop with the comforting 'Xerox' sign outside.

Then I tried to park, and shot dirty looks at some annoying guys who were leaving, but taking their own time about giving me a space. I finally found a spot, parked and arrived at the bank at about 3.15 pm. One of the feature of the official-stuff-o-phobia is of not knowing what exactly to do, whom to speak to, how to get things done. But I walked in, and there was a desk set up for the exact job I needed to get done. I asked a question, gave in the form, and was out of the bank in all of three minutes. Woo hoo!

And then... I couldn't get my bike out. The parking spot was on a steep incline, off the road, and I just couldn't with all my girlish strength, heave it up the steep edge of the road. Of course, the normal thing to do was to ask a passerby to help. But I hate asking for help! Especially from strangers! So I averted my eyes, as two capable looking men passed by. But the Lord rolled his eyes, and nudged them. They saw my predicament, and asked if I needed help, and pulled me up in a second.

I was so pumped with my successful trip that I stopped at two more stores to stock up on stuff for the trip, and even got my eyebrows done. (Indian girl thing. Don't ask if you don't know.)

I know God COULD have let everything go wrong, and it would have been good for my soul (builds character, according to Calvin's dad).

But I'm so glad he didn't.

See you guys after two weeks.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Seven Quick Takes V


I went for two funerals in the past week. I realized that a) I am uncomfortable with public displays of grief and b) people from different backgrounds grieve very differently. I've never lost anyone very close to me, but I'm pretty sure the highest level of display of grief in my family would be muted sobs.

One funeral I went for was of the brother of a lady who used to work for my family. She's from a village, a different world from the one I grew up in. As people went up to pay their last respects, the closer family started wailing loudly. Friends and family held them close, and even the teenage sons cried audibly, and were held by their friends. I can't imagine my brothers doing that.

On the one hand, I feel uncomfortable, and wonder if some are deliberately working themselves up, because I've heard that in some cultures, if you don't cry loudly, people will think you aren't really sorry about your loss. On the other hand, their visible emotion allowed their friends to share their grief, and give physical comfort. It seems to me that people who hold it in often suffer from depression, and it's a lot harder to help them when they've isolated themselves. Here, grief was a community affair.


As I heard all the typical funeral Mass readings, and reflected on death, I felt like there is something wrong with depths of grief at a Christian funeral. I mean, I realize that of course I would be sad to lose someone close to me, but my sorrow would be much more for ME than for them. If I do believe what I profess to believe, then if that person died in friendship with God, I'm not afraid for them or sad for them, I am happy, because they are FREE! (After the purification process, of course, which is still not a reason for sorrow.)

I know it's easy to say all these things when I'm merely a detached observer. But I'm still leaving instructions for my family to REJOICE when I die. (That sounds a little strange.) Assuming I haven't died in unrepented mortal sin. Not sure what the proper way to celebrate that kind of funeral is.


Is it possible to be both boring and creative at the same time? Only if you're me. See, I like to make handmade cards. But. I don't like coming up with new and effective and easy ideas for designs. So if I hit on something that works, I just replicate the same design for the next few months of birthday cards.


On a shallow note, everyone keeps talking about hair and hairstyling products, and such girlish nonsense. For years, I've been one of the most unadventurous, what-does-external-beauty matter, simplicity-is-the-bomb kinda people, much to the despair of my mother. Part of my whatever-ness was due to the fact that I had crazy hair for many years. I wanted this:
Yup, Rachel from FRIENDS was cool when I was 15.

And instead I had this:

Yes, it's the annoying girlfriend from Sleepless in Seattle, with the annoying laugh, and the annoying hair.

My mother kept trying to convince me it was pretty, while I kept trying to remind her that we were no longer in the 80s. Although I'm still kinda lazy about such things, I do take a little more trouble than I used to. One miracle recipe that has changed my hair from being super dry and sticking out in all sorts of unbecoming ways is the tried and true traditional Indian method- hair oil.

When I was a kid, many friends would come to school with their hair shiny and smelling of Parachute coconut oil. I always found it gross, especially since my mum never did it to us. But in recent years, with the high levels of pollution ravaging our skin and our hair, and so much of my hair falling out that it brought chemotherapy to mind, I decided it was time to try SOMETHING. So out came the Parachute coconut oil, an excuse for my mum to massage my head, and an hour later I washed it out. It worked wonders!


Okay, enough already with the hair tips. This is not that kind of blog.


I recently read this post on the Catholic Answers Blog- Let's Talk about Jesus. Patrick Coffin says Catholic bloggers talk more about 'abortion, canon law, the magisterium, Church history, principles of apologetics, natural law, "faith," virtue, sacraments, grace, divine Providence, the priesthood, liberalism, social justice, the criteria for the worthily reception of Holy Communion, pornography, Calvinism, contraception" than they do about Jesus.

As soon as I read it, I thought, "That's true!" I wonder whether some Catholic bloggers assume that if they talk about Jesus as a Person whom they know intimately, they would sound more like Protestants. I recently had someone tell me that the term "personal relationship with Jesus" sounds too Protestant.

Well.... is the Pope Catholic?

“It is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ, mankind’s only Savior. Only from a personal relationship with Jesus can an effective evangeli­zation develop.”
- Pope John Paul II

But we ourselves must be personally involved in an intimate and profound relationship with Jesus.”
- Pope Benedict XVI, Rome, October 4, 2006

"Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ... Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians... Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world."
- Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, Sept. 3, 2008
"If you haven't had an encounter with Jesus Christ, you are not a Christian."
-Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) in an interview with the president of YWAM (an ecumenical missionary organization) in Argentina

"I think intimacy with Jesus should be at the core of our faith, and that evangelization means inviting others to know Him in the same intimate way."


I haven't been a big novena prayer in the past, I can actually count on one hand the number of novenas I've prayed in my life. But this is one that the Lord has poked and prodded me into praying more than once. In fact, this will be my third time to pray the Novena to the Holy Spirit, which starts tomorrow and finishes on the feast of Pentecost on Sunday, 19th May, 2013. 

If you haven't done it before (and even if you have), go for it! Who doesn't need a little more Holy Spirit in their lives?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Attention! Attention!

This explains so much. That I already knew. Except that it never reached my long term memory because a cat video kicked it out. No, that's a lie. I have many ways to waste time, and get distracted, but cat videos are not one of them.

I KNOW I can be more creative than this. I KNOW I can learn more, use my intelligence better. But I just meekly hand over my intellect in exchange for (reading) another blog post. This is why I left Facebook a few months ago. this is why I gave up checking my Google Reader during Lent. (They shut down in protest.) This is why I ask my parents to turn off the wifi by 10 pm. This is why I'm not planning to even have an Internet connection at home when I move out next month.

There have been improvements. I started a blog, which I write fairly regularly for. I have written articles for other websites, which necessitated actually THINKING and putting my thoughts together in a coherent way. But I still have quite a way to go.

I have three blogs in my draft folder, with not more than one line in each of them. An idea hits... and instead of working on it, I let it hit, and then walk away.

In the past few weeks, I have read a grand total of ONE physical book. Because physical books don't allow me to do three other things at the same time. Which working or reading on my laptop does. It demands my full attention. My full attention is outraged at being invited to participate. It has become a recluse, who never comes out for anyone.

I have not written in my journal for weeks. My journal serves as my thought-processor. I take my discomfort, my uneasiness, my emotions, and thrash them out. I go to the source, and logically deal with them. I come to conclusions. I feel emotionally and intellectually satisfied by the end.

Alas, my journal too is on my laptop. If my laptop is open, there are so many good reasons to do so many other important things.

The result is that thoughts don't get processed. My only thought-processing happens at bedtime when I play Snake on my ancient cell phone, listen to Joshua Radin and fall asleep. And then I have crazy dreams, because my subconscious says, "If YOU won't process your thoughts, I'LL have to." And I wake up, tired.

My prayer time is often distracted too. The million thoughts, ideas, memories, arguments, theological debates, what-ifs, and to-do lists hammer at the door of my mind, and without waiting for me to open the door, march in and out and dance around, making themselves completely at home. And Jesus waits in a corner, patiently.

It's time to learn how to barricade that door. To invite in one guest at a time, and then shoo everyone else away, lock the door, and sit down for a nice cup of tea. Or cold juice, in this weather.

The video ends with the words- "The best thing we can do for our minds is to find some time every day to unplug, calm down and focus on one thing at a time."

Or vice-versa. I'm off to pray. And make a birthday card. But not at the same time.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Seven Quick Takes IV

Super busy past few days, and it isn't over yet, so super quick takes today, just to keep my hand in the game.


The heat was insane last week. I reached the point where I couldn't sleep unless I had drenched a bed sheet in water, and covered myself with it. And then I would wake up in the middle of the night after it had dried up, and do it again. My mum gave my nieces free rein to flood the house, as we discovered that would bring the temperature down... a little. The most popular item in my house was this:

Air conditioner and water cooler sales were booming. (Not because of my family, unfortunately.) People were down with heat stroke. I had to go out mid-morning on my bike once, and within a few minutes my head scarf (which all female bike riders in India wear) was drenched in sweat.

But glory, hallelujah! The heat broke yesterday! It's a beautiful 30 degrees C right now, after a hellish 41 degrees C last week. (That's 86 degrees F after 106 degrees F!) I don't know whether it broke broke, or whether this is just a lull (I don't trust weather forecasts.), but I have my fingers crossed (because that's a very Christian thing to do :-D).

Oh, how we bloggers love to talk about the weather.


Oh, wait, that wasn't a super quick take. I can't seem to stop once I'm on a roll.


Did you know that it is not NORMAL to have 26 different thoughts simultaneously running through your head, and to have the attention span of a crazed squirrel? I only found out this morning when I woke up after nine hours of uninterrupted sleep and I wasn't thinking, "I MUST HELP ALL THE PEOPLE AND DO ALL THE THINGS AND THIS IS HOW! AND THIS! AND THIS! AND THIS!!!"

Now how do I reconcile my night owl tendencies with my desire to not suffer from Insane Brain all the time?


One of my favorite moments of the last week was when I set aside the zillion things I needed to do, and played 'beauty parlor' with my nieces and mum and sister. We had face masks, cucumber slices, pedicures, and even chocolate. Yep, girl time at its finest.


And now, let me go do other feminine and housewifely things- stitch up a blouse and cook some butter chicken for an event we're organizing this evening. I haven't used a needle in months.


Speaking of gender stereotypes, I recently read this 'joke' about Indian women:

A news headline read 'Bus kills woman'. What's wrong with this picture?

What's a bus doing in a kitchen???


I'm kind of excited at how much I've been writing on this blog. It's one month old, and I've averaged one post every two days. It's good for me, because I know that the only way to be a writer is to WRITE. And it's good for anyone who reads this blog, because I know one of the main things I look for in a blog that I read is regular, fresh content.

So here's a few of my recent posts if you're interested-
Virtual Catholic Community
When Life Isn't So Damn Daily
What's In a Hug?

Happy reading!

And go find some new blogs to read at Jennifer's Quick Takes!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Virtual Catholic Community

Proof that I'm Catholic- First Communion many, many years ago

I've been a very active Catholic Christian since I was fairly young. I grew up surrounded by the Charismatic Renewal, and the most committed Catholics I knew had been influenced by this movement. Through the prayer group and community my family belonged to, I learned to give myself to Jesus and walk with Him, and value my faith. I learned to pray, and read the Bible.

But the one thing I missed out on was a strong Catholic identity. Yes, we were Catholic. Missing Sunday Mass was not an option, we prayed a decade of the Rosary every day, (along with reading the bible and singing hymns), we went for Confession twice a year, and we usually had Mass at every retreat or camp we attended.

But still. Something was missing. We were not EXCITED about being Catholic. Our community focussed a lot on ecumenism, which I know is VERY important. But sometimes it felt like you couldn't love the Church AND be ecumenical. I know in theory you can, but in practice it doesn't work that easily. Pope John Paul II is one of the few Catholics I know* who seemed to have both down. And Peter Kreeft.

We didn't talk about the saints much, or even Mary. The people who DID pray the Rosary, prayed it at breakneck speed with no reflections. Our parish didn't have Confirmation saints, at least the year I received the sacrament. I've never heard anyone talk about contraception being a sin. I could rarely describe our Mass hymns as beautiful or uplifting- people seemed to go more for ‘lively’ in recent years, maybe as a reaction to ‘dragging’ and ‘screechy’. I was not exactly sure what 'liturgy' was. Or why we shouldn't clap at church. (Boring and stick-in-the-mud were the words that came to mind instead of reverence.)

My mother was the only Catholic I knew who owned and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. She was one of the few people who talked about being Catholic. In fact, after I read the da Vinci code, that Catholic-bashing piece of fiction, she was the one I turned to with my questions.

Anyway, after reading ‘Rome Sweet Home’ by Scott Hahn, I realized there was more to being Catholic than I had originally thought. Well, I realized there was more, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. I threw around phrases like ‘riches of the Church’, but I wasn't sure what they were. I heard about Franciscan university of Steubenville, and young Catholics flocking to daily Mass, long lines for Confession, and teenagers voluntarily choosing to pray the Rosary together when they hung out. What was I missing?

I didn't get my answers at my home parish. I went to Mass, knowing that the Eucharist was important, but homilies never convicted or educated me. There were good people in my parish. But they seemed divided into ‘enthusiastic about Jesus’ (and not His Church) and ‘devout Catholics’ who didn't seem enthusiastic about anything although they served on a lot of committees and did a lot of ‘programmes’.

Then I discovered the online Catholic world. Jennifer Fulwiler, Catholic Answers Forums, National Catholic Register,, Catholic convert stories, Lifeteen, testimonies, and the multitude of other Catholic blogs**. Over years of reading, I have been strengthened in my faith, got a lot more of the ‘whys’, and saw that the Catholic faith IS relevant and reasonable.

I also read more books (that I had heard about online), got a Catechism, Catholicism for Dummies, A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Lord Have Mercy, Catholic and Christian, Story of a Soul, Fulton Sheen, the YouCat, The Lamb’s Supper: the Mass as Heaven on Earth, and an Ignatius Study Bible.

Through my reading, I have gotten a glimpse of how awesome and powerful and life-changing the Eucharist is, even without beautiful, awe-inspiring hymns or powerful homilies to remind me.

I go to Confession more often, even though I often have priests telling me my sins are not sins. (Rolling eyes.) I feel a part of a family, with Catholics all over the world, and the saints and angels. I especially feel it when we all talk about the same feasts, or Mass readings, or beloved saints. Catholic culture and liturgy is important. (I know that Protestants are part of that family too, united in Christ, although many of them are not fully aware of it.) I know that when I have difficult questions, I have the teachings Jesus handed down through the apostles, and informed Catholics who break down those teachings for me. I see the reasonableness of the Catholic faith, because we believe reason is not the enemy. My Catholic faith is more than arguing over our differences with Protestants, but it is a new identity, a new worldview, the 'fullness of truth', a light by which to see the world.

I now see and believe the Catholic Church to be the visible Body of Christ in the world, of which Christ is the Head, of which I am grateful to be a part.*** If I love my Jesus, I want to know and love His Body, the Church.

I'm not surprised so many people (including Catholics) don't get Catholicism- have they ever come into contact with a truth-seeking, beauty-loving, mission-hearted, grace-filled Catholic community? Once we see more joyfully Catholic communities in the real world, I think we'll see more openness to and interest in Catholicism.

* I claim acquaintance with him on the basis of just having created a ppt about his life. And shooting a prayer to him.
**I do have some reservations about some parts of the Catholic online world, especially the people who think loving the Church makes all Protestants the enemy. I believe ‘there’s far more that unites us than divides us’. 
 ***Yes, notwithstanding the individual Catholics who mess up and give the whole Church a bad name.