Status

The horse hair held

A brief note between appointments to say that I made my deadline and the draft is not as terrible as I thought it looked when my nose was to the grindstone. I’ve still got some ways to go until my literature review is complete. Mostly reading about the ‘Post-Secular’ turn in International Relations.

I avoided the Dunce Cap and I am quite pleased. It forced me over a very important hurdle of writing something substantial. There is a paralysis that one gets when it hits them that they are writing a book and expose their thoughts, ideas and passions to an audience that will not always be kind. Its a real form of vulnerability that can be genuinely scary to face.

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Aside

Salutations from the Literature Review

First, I know I have been slack with the writing on the blog. I’ve been buried in paper and Scrivener trying to force some momentum on the literature review now supplemented by an impending deadline. For it to be serious (or I won’t actually write anything) I’ve requested my supervisor enforce a consequence.

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Aside

PhB: Doctor of Baking

For most people who come into a PhD after taking a number of detours, that acceptance letter feels like a dream. You’re side-hustle, hobby and passion becomes a career.

This is an awesome feeling, it is a real sense of purpose and serenity, a sense that is sustained even in the midst of fits of self-doubt and frustration. But… when your hobby becomes your career that consumes your every waking moment, you’ve lost something too.

Hobbies are important. Leisure is essential to who we are as human beings. The more intellectual, abstract and pressured you’re day job is, the more you need a hobby that consists of manual labour, that uses your body and hands and generates a simple, tangible result.

This hobby also needs to be disconnected, i.e. non-involved in screens. This is not to say leisure cannot be found in things like video games or reading a novel on kindle, but for someone who reads and writes all day (mostly onscreen) my eyes and my mind need a break from the stimulation of the screen.

I’ve always loved being outside and gardening, but I live in an apartment with one small window box, so that is something that I will have to explore later down the track. What I have also been fascinated by is baking, especially bread.

Now that my hobby has become my career, I have instinctively begun exploring the art of baking bread. Baking is working really well for me because it is physical, it produces tangible results that I can eat, but it also requires being left alone.

The fact that I need to leave my dough to rise, means that, yes I can procrastinate by baking but, only for a little while. I have something to occupy my attention while my brain digests some reading. And then I need to let the yeast do its work and so I return to my work. I can fit it in around my reading and writing and it is something productive to do when my brain can’t take anymore.

As in life, my baking doesn’t always turn out the way I want it, but it is a different kind of learning, a different kind of creativity and reminds me that a PhD is a process and as abstract as it seems now, it will produce. In the mean time, I have bread to eat.

Suores Vitae Part II

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. This is the FINAL POST and the end of my Discernment Journey. I hope you enjoyed and check out the rest of my journey here.

Part 23: Suores Vitae Part II

Originally Published: Saturday December 7th, 2013

Sunday night at Villa Maria, I was picked and brought back to the Bronx for a beginning of a new week. That retreat was the shot in the arm I needed.

So I was back for dinner in the Bronx and it was nice to get back to some ordinary time with the postulants. So Monday was the usual, but we got a sleep in! Except I couldn’t get up… I was held hostage by a vivid dream of a deformed cow following me around ringing a bell and reciting Shakespeare… No joke. It was weird. I have no idea what it may mean but I promise I’m not consuming any kind of hallucinogens. We caught up with all the news from the Sister’s visiting day on Sunday over meals and got stuck into the various chores around the place.

Tuesday I headed back up to Villa Maria Guadalupe with Sr Filumena the Kiwi novice and a load of food for the Come and See Retreat and it was snowing! The first snow of the season and I was very excited!

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Suores Vitae Part I

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.

Part 22: Suores Vitae Part I

Originally Published: Saturday December 7th, 2013

It is Wednesday, sitting in my hotel room in Midtown Manhattan and I can finally start detailing my adventure with the Sisters of Life.

It began on the 17th of November. I arrived at on a chilly New York evening, dropped my bags off their Convent on W 51st Street and then headed to meet them at St Patrick’s Cathedral. They were doing Night Fever. It was huge, the doors of St Patrick’s were thrown open, with Eucharistic Adoration going on and confession too. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) were doing music and more CFRs and Sisters of life were inviting people in to pray and light a candle. It was a good way to begin the next 17 days.

I settled into my room at the postulant house in the Bronx. Not the dodgy part of the Bronx… The really nice part!
Saturday it was up early to go out to Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stanford, Conneticut for the Coworker Formation Day. What a full on day! Communication skills, talks by the sisters, food… 60 people from all over the place to help out the sisters.
The talk that had the biggest impact on me was Mother Agnes’ Delighting in Her talk. It essentially boiled down to this…
We can only truly will the good for someone else (i.e. Love them) when we perceive and receive their intrinsic goodness first. Otherwise we are not working for their good, we are working because we are good.
Kinda makes you rethink your whole interpersonal relations ever. I got a lot out of that day. But alas, it was only a day and we made our way back to the Bronx in the evening for dinner and sleep. It was then up for a regular week. Up at 5 am, morning prayer, meditation and mass followed by breakfast in silence (silence till midday usually). It was then off to the days activites.
Tuesdays it was off to the Mother House about 30 minutes upstate for philosophy classes with a brilliant Jesuit and Sr Mary Gabriel. A rousing game of soccer, ultimate frizbee or football in between, this week it was soccer.
Wednesday was apostolic day where the postulants were split up and sent to what ever tasks needed doing. I was sent to the Apostolic Centre in Manhattan to help sort out a huge load of donations that came in. Mostly clothes. Friday was a day of silence and prayer.
I also had a whole library of spiritual reading and at Sr Antoniana’s recommendation, I dived into Fr Timothy Gallagher’s Discernment of Spirits and Ignatian spirituality.
I was busy. Which was a good thing, considering I spent the entire freaking week in the throughs of spiritual desolation. It was not fun. At all. The whole week was numb and blah, going through the motions.
It was not fun. It was frustrating and discouraging. Being caught in a cycle of despondency is really not fun. I have no idea how Mother Teresa lived and was productive for decades in that state. Thank God for Sr Antoniana. Thursday afternoon she says “Kiara, how do you feel about going on the Young Adult Retreat we were talking about? I’ve signed you up!”
So Friday afternoon, Sr Virginia Joy drives me out to Villa Maria again for a retreat with 40 other young people. The retreat began in the evenin with dinner a conference and vocation story from Sr Filumena, the first kiwi Novice. Following that was a Eucharistic Healing service where the monstrance is bought down and you can get close and touch it.
That was my lowest point. I went up and knelt before Jesus and felt nothing, just blah. Confession was going on so I went and the wisdom of the young priest was just what I needed. I was still in desolation, but I came to grips with it and was able to move to a place where I could resist it.
The Saturday was a much better day. It was a silent day so I walked the grounds and read, there were a couple of conferences and spent every opportunity in the Chapel. I was still feeling the desolation but I had better sense of what this was and perhaps why I was suffering it.
Saturday night was party time! We had an All Saints costume party. Complete with Purgatory, the place you go to ‘clothe yourself in sainthood’ if you didn’t bring a costume. I dressed up as GK Chesterton. It was hilarious. No his technically not a saint, but his cause is open for canonisation.
There you have it! We also had Irish dancing going on in the basement and the we make a fire. Unfortunately we only had green wood so Sr May Karen and I split it into matchsticks to make it burn. No, I don’t have a photo of Sr Mary Karen and an axe.
Sunday was the final conferences finishing with Sr Mary Loretta. This little lady from Brooklyn has the most phenomenal charism for evangelism I have ever seen. No matter who you are, she can talk about Jesus to you. I left that retreat with a shot in the arm spiritually but I was not quite out of the woods yet.
Stay tuned for part II in a couple of days!
Status

PhDs, Discipline and Lent

I am Catholic and like most Catholics, I try to observe Lent. Usually by giving something up. I have been pretty hardcore and lived on bread and water for 6 days a week the entirety of Lent (Sundays are a day off fasting as they are a ‘small Easter even during Lent). Like most Catholics, I struggle with it somewhere between Day Two and Forty with that sacrifice. I struggle with discipline many areas of my life and so what do I do, I choose to do a PhD that is made or broken on my self-discipline!

So, it’s the day after Ash Wednesday and I am combining my Lenten sacrifice with a positive and productive practice of self-discipline: A two hour block, five days a week, first thing in the morning of writing. If it doesn’t happen then, then as soon as possible that day. Two hours. No distractions. Just write.

I can tell you now, I’m not off to a great start. Ash Wednesday was a fight to get out of bed and get started. But every day is a chance to get back up and try again. Please pray for me this Lent. I will take all that I can get.

Picture Credit: Follower of Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) The Battle between Carnival and Lent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Literary Rant #4

Today I want to tell you about a lesser known work of one of the English language’s most famous authors, Mark Twain. It is a travesty that this is not one of his better known books…

“I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.”

Mark Twain

This book is one of the best books I have ever read in my life. Ever.

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