Monday, July 13, 2009

The Domestic Arts

Lately I've been taking up some projects around the house which are more housewifely than I realized at first. I've been teaching myself to sew, and have suddenly found myself the possessor of two sewing machines - one a cheap Overstock special, and the other a 70s-era Singer bought on impulse from the Salvation Army. The old Singer still needs work and I'm refinishing its cabinet since its previous owner was apparently a chainsmoker - but the cheapo machine has been great for learning on.

I've begun to bake my own bread in the interest of saving money. Thanks to a fantastic book (Artisan Bread in 30 Minutes a Day) even this baking-impaired woman can make tasty bread. I also made my own yogurt for the first time yesterday. I got the yogurt maker as a wedding present from my wonderful undergrad advisor, and this was my first opportunity to use it. I had some of the yogurt for breakfast - it was great! And would you believe I'm seriously thinking about learning how to make my own preserves with our awesome local fruit?

These seem like unlikely projects for an engineering grad student, don't they? But I find an immense satisfaction in making useful and tasty things. For me these things harken back to an older time, when women took pride in domesticity and self-reliance was key. I feel that the spirit of "do it yourself" is deeply ingrained into our American culture - if less honored today than it was in an earlier time. I think it is very sad that these skills of "home economics" were scoffed at once women entered the workplace, and seen as incongruous in a world where women and men should play an equal role in the home.

Fortunately I see a trend back towards these domestic skills - but the emphasis is on sustainability, helping the environment and reducing waste. Hey, whatever works, right? But for me the focus is on thrift - and the sheer pleasure of "doing it myself." I believe that whenever we make something useful or beautiful we are participating, in some small way, in God's work of creation. The work of our human hands honors Him.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Felicity and Perpetua

A fellow member posted this item on CAF about two young women in Iran jailed for their Christian beliefs:

Two Iranian Christian women, Maryam Rustampoor (27) and Marzieh Amirizadeh (30), continue to be held in Evin prison in Iran because of their Christian faith, unfairly labelled as ‘anti-government activists’, because of the hostility of the government towards practising Christians.

In the aftermath of the political turmoil in Iran, they are now in danger of being forgotten. One church leader from Iran said, “With so many hundreds of protestors now in the prison system, Maryam and Marzieh are likely to be forgotten.”

Arrested on March 5 , 2009, the two young women have now been in prison for four months. After being in solitary confinement for three weeks in May and early June, they were then put one small cell together for about two weeks. Then, following the arrests of thousands of protestors after the disputed presidential elections, Marzieh and Maryam were moved to a larger cell to make room for new prisoners. About 600 women were brought Evin prison during the days of the protests. There is still no clarity regarding their case. In one court session in June a judge told them that he would make sure they were both executed as ‘apostates’. Maryam and Marzieh have responded with courage, however, telling the judge to “expedite his sentence.”

It made me think of the martyrs Felicity and Perpetua who suffered together in a Roman prison, Incidentally, today is their feast day. Let us ask their intercession in for these two Iranian women and for all Christians who live where the Faith is persecuted.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tomorrow is the First Friday of the month!

I very nearly forgot again! :D I'll see you at the 11:30 AM daily Mass in the Basilica. Blessings!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Who's buried in St. Paul's tomb?

Archaeological evidence suggests it's probably... St. Paul:

Though the carbon-dating experts knew nothing of their origins, the bone fragments were recovered after a tiny probe was inserted into the tomb which lies in a crypt beneath the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls in Rome - a church long held to have been built on the site where Paul was buried.

It was only three years ago that the tomb itself was discovered by Vatican archaeologists.

The fact that it was positioned exactly underneath the epigraph Paulo Apostolo Mart (Paul the Apostle and Martyr) at the base of the altar convinced them it was Paul's tomb.

Now backed by the evidence of his carbon-dated bone fragments, the Pope has announced: 'This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that the bone fragments are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul.'

When I first heard about this on the news, my rather flippant response was, "Well, duh. What have we Catholics been telling you all along?" To which my husband quipped, "Sounds like the old joke about 'who's buried in Grant's Tomb?'" All flippancy and silliness aside, I find this incredibly exciting. George Weigel's excellent Letters to a Young Catholic has a wonderful chapter about the discovery of Peter's tomb under St. Peter's Basilica and how it reinforces our real and tangible sense of our Catholic faith. He may have to add to that chapter in the next edition, because the discovery of Paul's bones is equally amazing.

Matthew at Shrine of the Holy Whapping has more:

One common line of argument I had read suggested the relics had been stolen and dispersed by Saracen pirates sometime during the early Middle Ages, so it is somewhat of a relief to discover they're still down there. More intriguing is the fact the bones, like St. Peter's, were wrapped in purple cloth, suggesting they were treated with reverence and swathed with costly fabric from a very early age.

Yet another reason for me to go on pilgrimage to Rome! God grant that I can make it there some day.

Won't somebody please think of the children?

Slow blogging again this mom and sisters were here for a visit, which was all too short, and left this morning. I will miss them terribly. It is difficult to be on the opposite side of the country from one's family.

Bleg: Can anyone tell me about good Catholic-based Bible study guides? My sister is engaged to a fine young man, who has been raised in the Baptist tradition but seems interested in Catholicism. While she was here on her visit she asked some great questions about the meaning of various Bible passages, and expressed some interest to me in learning more about Scripture. I can only guess that this interest was sparked by conversations between her and her fiance. I think it would be nice for them both to have a Scripture study that is firmly grounded in Catholic teaching. I'll ask around on Catholic Answers for suggestions as well.

I took them to Chicago for the weekend and while watching TV in the hotel it was difficult to escape constant coverage of Michael Jackson's death. Like many children of the 80s/90s I can remember "Thriller" and his other hits during that time. For her part, my mom and her brothers grew up loving American music and the Jackson Five were part of that as well. For the majority of my life, however, MJ was a grotesque figure, more "famous for being famous" than anything else. His sporadic "comeback" attempts always seemed to simply fizzle out.

But this was hardly intended to be a Michael Jackson memorial post. I have always loathed "celebrity worship" and it seems especially disgusting in this case considering Jackson's apparent pedophilia. No, I feel that the real innocent victims are Michael's children. Conceived by means of a sperm donor and a surrogate mom, deprived of a normal childhood with mother and father, forced to wear masks and veils in public, and now losing the only parent they have known at a young age.

Money can buy anything and in this modern world, that includes children. Their connection with their ersatz dad was not genetic, but financial - he paid to have them brought into this world. How sad is that? To me it seems an act of monstrous selfishness - not unlike the "Octomom" and her actions. I am sure Jackson did not see it as such - rather perceiving the children as something he needed to make his life "complete." But no good can come of it when we reduce persons to objects and means to our own ends. During a discussion over the "custody battle" for Jackson's children on Fox, a commentator observed that "people need to realize children aren't property - you can't will them to someone." I thought that was very telling. I pray Jackson's children will have at least some semblance of a normal, stable life now.