Friday, June 24, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: A Paper Trail

A Paper Trail, Karin Jurick
Artist's note: A young lady enthusiastically sketches
on the floor in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.

Well Said: Holy Spirit, Work in Us Through Grace

Come, Holy Spirit
Let the precious pearl of the Father
and the Word's delight come.
Spirit of truth,
you are the reward of the saints,
the comforter of souls,
light in the darkness,
riches to the poor,
treasure to lovers,
food for the hungry,
comfort to the wanderer;
you are the one in whom
all treasures are contained.

Come! As you descended on Mary,
that the Word might become flesh
work in us through grace.
St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi,
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi
I've read longer prayers to the Holy Spirit, but never better, never richer. This seems to have endless food for meditation. At least, it speaks to me that way.

Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

This feast, a segment of Advent in the season of Ordinary Time, makes us aware of the wonderful inner relationship between the sacred mysteries; for we are still in the midst of one Church year and already a bridge is being erected to the coming year of grace.
The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch, via Catholic Culture
I've always respected John the Baptist's role in salvation history.

But I never really appreciated his role fully until reading this in Magnificat a few years ago.
I want to show you a sun that shone more brightly than all these, a soul that was truly free and detached, cleaving only to the will of God. I have often wondered who is the most mortified of the saints I know, and after some reflection I have come to the conclusion that it was Saint John the Baptist. He went into the desert when he was five years old and knew that our Savior and his came on earth in a place quite close by, one or two days' journey perhaps. How his heart, touched with love of his Savior from the time he was in his Mother's womb, must have longed to enjoy his presence! Yet he spends twenty-five years in the desert without coming to see our Lord even once; and leaving the desert he stays to catechize without visiting him but waiting till our Lord comes to seek him out. Then when he has baptized him he does not follow him but stays behind to do his appointed task. How truly mortified was his spirit! To be so near his Savior and not see him, to have him so close and not enjoy his presence! Is this not a completely detached spirit, detached even from God himself so as to do his will and serve him, to leave God for God, and not to love God in order to love him better? The example of this great saint overwhelms me with its grandeur.
St. Francis de Sales

Free State of Jones movie review

In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey) serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. After his nephew dies in battle, Newt returns home to Jones County to safeguard his family but is soon branded an outlaw deserter. Forced to flee, he finds refuge with a group of runaway slaves hiding out in the swamps. Forging an alliance with the slaves and other farmers, Knight leads a rebellion that would forever change history.
Until I saw the trailer, I'd never heard of the anti-Confederate rebellion which came to be known as the Free State of Jones, from which this movie takes its premise. The history around the rebellion and Newton Knight, who has been portrayed as a Civil War Robin Hood, is somewhat muddled.

Perhaps that is why Free State of Jones is a bit of a mess. The director/screenwriter couldn't seem to decide whether he was telling an inspirational story, a morality tale, or a history lesson. The actors do their best but they are given little to sink their teeth into as they are yanked from one focus to another. The result is no focus at all.

Adding to this problem is  a 1960s courthouse tale which is occasionally intercut with the Civil War era story. This was extremely distracting until the very end of the movie where it finally began coming together with the main story.

There were also various anachronisms, beginning with the glass windows in the cabin on Newt Knight's hardscrabble farm.

I was pleased, however, with the way religion was portrayed. It was clear that there was an underlying belief in and reliance on God. If poor people had the luxury of a book it was likely to be a small Bible, and the Bible was used to teach people to read. Despite trying times and several funerals God was never railed against and his promises were always turned to for comfort. This really seemed realistic for the times and, as frequent readers here know, is the way many regular Americans still practice their faith.

Unfortunately, despite some praiseworthy elements, Free State of Jones squanders a fascinating story and the potential of the talented contributors.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Marie Spartali Stillman - Self-Portrait

Marie Spartali Stillman, Self-Portrait, 1871

Summer Reading: My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane
by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and , Jodi Meadows

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
A GoodReads friend had so much fun reading this that it seemed like the perfect summer book ... and I luckily had an Audible credit burning a hole in my pocket so I plunged it.

For what it was — a humorous, inventive, light, romantic, alternative history — it was practically perfect in every way. It was sometimes silly but always charming and I was glued to it in every spare moment.

There are intrigues, betrayal, arranged marriages, inconvenient shapeshifting, pickpockets, notes slipped under doors, swashbuckling, blackberries, and men with big noses. Mixed with a smidgeon of history. And romances. I can't recall the last time I've been so invested in whether people would kiss.

One could see the major plot points ahead but that didn't matter. The fun ride is the thing wherein the reader is caught.

The story is told from three points of view (Edward, Jane, and Gifford), each of which was written by a different author, but I had to read that information to be sure of it. The story style flows smoothly without any obvious style breaks.  Narrator Katherine Kellgren was over the top sometimes in a way that startled me at first but soon saw perfectly reflected the story. The various accents and voices were perfectly performed.

I loved it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Well Said: We can't leave all our passions behind

My dear Sister, you tell me that you have brought your pride with you. I assure you that I was quite aware of that! If you had left all your passions behind you and were just an unfeeling lump, how could you prove your love and faithfulness to God? Therefore don't worry about your feelings, but fight bravely, leaning on God.
St. Paola Frassinetti
via The Voices of the Saint by Bert Ghezzi
This is something that was pointed out to me recently when I was bemoaning a character trait that I repeatedly try to reform. It is that very character trait which makes me who I am. Perhaps the way I exhibit it might not always be the most pleasing, but I can't leave "me" behind or, as St. Paola says, I'd be a lump!

Worth a Thousand Words: At Ease

At Ease, Karin Jurick

Speak Lord. Your Servant Is Listening.

Breton Girls at Prayer
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1904
via French Painters
Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O Lord and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!
The Book of Wisdom 11:22-12:2

I present one of my favorite Old Testament passages for our prayerful reflection. It's a wonderful image of love, understanding, and mercy. It also reminds me that Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Amen.

Thanks and gratitude for:
  • Rose's job opportunity
  • Deb's father's amazing healing progress
Lord, hear our prayers for:
  • Upcoming Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat — for couples attending, for more to sign up, for those presenting the retreat
  • Danusha's healing
  • Zoe's eye to heal
  • Tammy's request
    Continual prayer intentions ...
    • For our government officials to uphold our right to religious liberty
    • An end to abortion and a reverence for life in all stages of age and health.
    • Our priests and for vocations
    • Abortion providers, Lord open their eyes and hearts
    • Strength, joy and peace for oppressed Christians in China, Asia, and the Middle East. Also that their oppressors may have their eyes opened to the truth. And for all those oppressed, actually.
    If you have prayer requests, please leave them in the comments and I'll add them to the list. I keep these in my prayer journal also.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: The Gardeners

    Gustave Caillebotte, Les jardiniers, 1875

    Well Said: Understanding Life ... and Living It

    It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
    Soren Kierkegaard

    A Movie You Might Have Missed #56 — Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman

    "In the Oscars someone votes for you or votes against you.
    Racing, you do that yourself."*

    Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman

    Paul Newman's famous for a lot of things: acting, popcorn, salad dressing. But I tend to forget that he also raced cars. I never realized racing absorbed him so much that he ignored his acting career for it. That's just one of the many interesting facets opened up in this film.

    I picked this up because my husband loves documentaries and race cars. This seemed tailor made. I expected to tolerate it but instead I fell in love with this well rounded, subtle picture of a deeply private man.

    As the documentary tracked Newman's increasing love and dedication to racing, we saw him through the eyes of acting buddies like Robert Redford, racing team members, his brother, and his wife, Joanne Woodward. Archival footage fills in the gaps but it is the heart felt stories that draw the viewer in. The film winds up not just being about racing but about everything that Paul Newman loved and his talent for focusing on what absorbed him. In the process, we also learn more about what racing means to those who participate in it.

    In that sense it reminded me of Muscle Shoals where we came for the music but found surprising depth. Most documentaries don't have that sort of range but Winning is a welcome addition to documentaries that left me feeling inspired and that I could gladly watch again.

    * Paraphrased.

    Monday, June 20, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: See America

    WPA Poster

    Well Said: A Great Love Constrains Us

    Do not see us as coming to force upon an unknown people benefits against their will. Be assured that only a great love constrains us to do this. For we long, beyond all the desires and glory of the world, to have as many follow citizens with us as we can in the Kingdom of God.
    St. Augustine of Canterbury
    via The Voices of the Saint by Bert Ghezzi
    I like this way of putting it. I'm so accustomed to seeing Christianity attacked that I can become diffident about wanting others to join me in the faith. When you hear the voices long enough you are in danger of beginning to believe them.

    This is a wonderful reminder that it isn't because I want to force people to something. It's because I want them to join me in my great happiness and freedom!

    Genesis Notes: Adam's Resume

    Adam, figure from the Brautpforte (Rathaus Hamburg), Jacob Ungerer

    The Life Application Study Bible has a great feature for major Biblical characters. They do a profile on each one including a summary of their lives, a resume style listing of information, and key verses. It really helps bring the lessons learned from each into focus. I won't reproduce the entire thing here but liked this summary for Adam.
    Strengths and accomplishments:
    • The first zoologist -- namer of animals
    • The first landscape architect, placed in the garden to care for it
    • Father of the human race
    • The first person made in the image of God, and the first human to share an intimate personal relationship with God
    Weaknesses and mistakes:
    • Avoided responsibility and blamed others; chose to hide rather than to confront; made excuses rather than admitting the truth
    • Greatest mistake: teamed up with Eve to bring sin into the world
    Lessons from his life:
    • As Adam's descendants, we all reflect to some degree the image of God.
    • God wants people who, though free to do wrong, choose instead to love him
    • We should not blame others for our faults
    • We cannot hide from God
    Vital statistics:
    • Where: Garden of Eden
    • Occupation: Caretaker, gardener, farmer
    • Relatives: Wife - Eve, Sons - Cain, Abel, Seth, numerous other children. The only man who never had an earthly mother or father
    Key verses:
    The man said, "The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it. (Genesis 3:12)

    Adam's story is told in Genesis 1:26-5:5. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:14; Corinthians 15:22, 45; 1 Timothy 2:13, 14.

    Friday, June 17, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: Girl with a Pomegranate

    Girl with a Pomegranate, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1875

    Well Said: What gets us into trouble ...

    What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. It's what we know for sure that just ain't so.
    Mark Twain

    3 Godfathers

    3 Godfathers


    This is a sweet Western about three desperados who come across a dying woman and promise to save her newborn baby. The outlaws seem like pretty decent guys, except for their habit of robbing banks, so we aren't ever worried about the child's fate as they immediately bend all their slim resources to getting the baby to civilization. That isn't easy because there's a posse on their trail.

    I've been interested in this movie since seeing Tokyo Godfathers which is a family favorite. The idea of the Japanese director being so taken with this film that he created his own version (and an excellent one it is), almost boggles the mind. It certainly makes me take the movie more seriously than I might have otherwise.

    The fact that John Ford shot this in Technicolor in 1948 shows how seriously he took it and how much pull he had with the studios at the time. That made it very expensive indeed.

    Is it the best movie I've ever seen? No. But there was something about it that I can't quite shake so I thought I'd mention it to y'all.  It is worth keeping in mind since it'd make a good Christmas film to break the monotony of the usual candidates, as we often do with Tokyo Godfathers.

    Thursday, June 16, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: Pomegranate

    Pomegranate, late Southern Song dynasty or early Yuan dynasty circa 1200–1340

    Well Said: The Intimacy of Books

    Books give delight to the very marrow of one's bones. They speak to us, consult with us and join with us in a living and intense intimacy.