Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Well Said: Bad Religion and Bubbles of Protection

This quote has been coming to mind repeatedly as one violent act after another are committed upon innocents. Combined with the feeling of chaos that the upcoming election brings, I am emotionally reeling. This gives me much needed perspective. He is with us through everything.
Only bad religion promises that if you pray enough, give enough or serve enough, God will put a bubble of protection around you ... That’s what got virgins thrown into volcanoes and it’s what gets TV preachers rich. It’s still a lie, though, no matter how loudly or piously you say it.

What good religion teaches instead is that there is a Power at work in the world that is greater than the power of the world. It’s a power that renews and restores. It heals ... It gives life ...
George Mason, Lakewood Advocate
The Lakewood Advocate is a free neighborhood magazine which is interesting and informative enough that I look forward to receiving it on my doorknob each month. I never miss George Mason's column. He's the pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church which is only a few blocks away from my house.

As Tom says, this man preaches to every Christian with his common sense, sensitivity, and understanding of living Christian faith. Believe me when I say that Tom doesn't bestow that praise lightly or often.

Click through and read the whole piece for a sample of why we like him so much.

The Virginian by Owen Wister

The Virginian: A Horseman of the PlainsThe Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this when I was a teenager and recall liking it well enough. Having just watched High Noon and Rio Bravo , I wanted more Westerns. The Virginian is often mentioned in connection with High Noon, believe it or not, AND Gary Cooper starred in that movie also. So that impetus carried me into downloading the free Kindle version from Amazon.

What I was unprepared for is how marvelous this book is. It is, strictly speaking, a Western but it didn't feel like any Zane Gray or Louis L'Amour story I've read. There are cow-boys (love that spelling), guns, horses and the hauntingly beautiful isolation of the Wyoming range. But amidst those trappings is a wonderful character study told in surprisingly contemporary writing.

Initially told by a tenderfoot who reappears periodically, the story is held together by the Virginian's wooing of schoolteacher Molly Wood. Molly comes from Vermont, so between the two newcomers, we gradually learn the Virginian's character and life lessons which it does us all good to remember. All done in a whopping good tale. Highly recommended.

Worth a Thousand Words: Moonlight on the Water

Moonlight on the Waters, Frank Weston Benson
This makes me think of those glorious days when Tom's parents would rent a beach house at Galveston and hold open house for the family for a month. I was continually renewed by the sound of the waves, the glint of light on the water, the life in and around the ocean.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church - Tertullian

Father Jacques Hamel (Photo: AFP)

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Jacques Hamel, pray for us.


Sohrab Amari is an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal. 

Welcome, brother.

Worth a Thousand Words: Proud Mother and Her Babies

Proud Mother and Her Babies
taken by Remo Savisaar

2016 Politics and Heaven on Earth

We can't control politicians, Facebook commenters, our friends, or our family. We can only control ourselves. And actions speak louder than words. Are we, as Christians, shedding light or heat, creating heaven or hell on earth?

The thing to remember is he was your dad and your children’s grandpa before he was a Trump supporter. Politicians come and go but your dad will always be your dad. ...

You want peace? Initiate it. Call up your dad right now and tell him you love him and hate the tense situation between you two. Tell him you miss him and that his grandkids miss him and you want him over for dinner. Just dinner. No ulterior motives like trying to “change his mind about Trump.” Just dinner.
Really good advice from Katrina Fernandez in response to a letter from a divided family.  Be sure to read the whole thing.

If they can follow that advice it will be like a little bit of heaven on earth. There is so much that divides us, makes us angry, makes us fear, makes us treat each other as less than human. To celebrate what unites us is truly heavenly.

Here's how naive I am. I thought that posting this sensible advice on Facebook would be welcome. People would be happy for this little reminder of the important things in life.

Instead comments became a one-note judgment of people who support a "hate talker" like Donald Trump. If that meant cutting off family or friends, well, they earned it.

How can you say, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' while you yourself fail to see the beam in your own eye?  (Luke 6:42)

I was truly stunned at this response. In vain did I quote Jesus on judging your brother. I'm just sayin' - we all have faults and there is no perfect candidate or party. The advice does say to eschew political talk so this was just about tolerating the presence of the person, not their political views.

Worst of all, to me, was watching people assume a candidate was supported only because of the lowest common denominator. Because this person saw Trump as promoting hate, she assumed that everyone supporting him is tolerant of hate speech. That assumption resulted in her endorsement of summary judgment and shunning of anyone who didn't agree.

That's equivalent to saying that the only reason women support Hillary is because they want to see a woman become president. Girl power, yeah! I've actually been told that.

And they'll all fight to the death to prove themselves right.

This is such a temptation that the author of that very good advice couldn't resist stopping by for a few  political statements. Which served to rile up everything again.

(Do we all remember that I am either not voting or voting for someone else entirely?)

Eventually I removed the post from Facebook.

Both sides want to make the world a better place, dare I say a "heaven on earth," but this is about as opposite as you can get. Welcome to hell, people. 

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

None of us are immune. I discovered I'm just as bad thanks to the Democratic "taco bowl" email.

This looks incredibly racist and many have jumped on it as such.

To my great shame, I myself really enjoyed the idea of how the "no tolerance" for  Trump supporters person would react to this news.

However, it turns out we probably don't have the proper context. Donald Trump posed with a taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo — the day before that email was dated. So the "taco bowl" comment probably was about trying to get Latino votes through the Trump photo.

Context is everything. I sure am glad I didn't give into that literally unholy desire to one-up someone for a cheap victory. I don't want to add to the ugliness of the world or to my own soul.

And that is my point.

Few things are as simple as one thinks. People are complex. Their reasons for voting are likely based on something you don't have any notion about, especially if they are voting for someone you dislike.

Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

These days, we don't have a culture any more of keeping our mouths shut if we disagree with each other. And it's not enough to simply state one's view. We keep pounding away until everyone agrees with us. And the other side pounds back. That's a never ending cycle.

Let's look at this political season as a chance to relearn a little discipline.  And maybe create a little heaven on earth.

Silence is golden.

Politics are fleeting.

Family and friends are forever.

What are our actions saying to those around us? What does it say about us to advocate the rightness of a political party while casting off  family and friends? Especially what does it say about those of us who are Christians? Are we following in the footsteps of our Lord who ate with sinners?

There is no heaven on earth without human contact and connection.

What sort of place will we create with our actions?

Double Feature Podcast Episode: High Noon and Rio Bravo

Julie kept her cool during this episode, walking bravely into the fight.

As instructed, Scott threw a flower pot through a window at just the right moment.

They both sang a song with Dean Martin, but that scene was cut due to the fact that it was unintentionally hilarious.

Episode 138 of A Good Story is Hard to Find is a podcast safe for women and children, despite (or maybe because of) discussing two westerns at once: High Noon and Rio Bravo.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I Will Fear No Evil

This was sent by a German friend after the attacks in Munich last week. It is almost getting to be a daily event to read about an atrocity committed on innocents, whether in Germany, Libya, France, Japan, or close to home.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
No wonder he sent this poem. We all feel the despair it expresses.

I read it out loud to my husband. He responded with: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me."

That surprised me because it isn't his way. It was what I needed to hear, so I share it with you.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
It is what we cling to more and more these days. God with us, Christ-Emmanuel, hear our plea.

Genesis Notes — The Woman: Both Blessed and Suffering

The Annunciation - Luke 1:26-38
The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
The Wedding at Cana - John 2:1-11
The Crucifixion - John 19:25-27
A Vision of Heaven - Revelation 12:1-7

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy. I strongly encourage anyone interested to get this study and read Lessons 6 and 7 for themselves. As if these scenes aren't powerful enough on their own, looking at their connection to Genesis adds such depth of meaning that it takes my breath away. This is the sort of thing where I see the "proof" that the Bible is divinely inspired.
Jan de Molder, The Visitation

The Visitation - Luke 1:39-56
Elizabeth "was filled with the Holy Spirit." Her utterance has the power of prophecy. In blessing Mary and the Child in her womb, Elizabeth gives voice to what all creation would want to sing out with "a loud cry" at the coming of the "woman" and her "seed" promised so long ago. Notice that Elizabeth does not separate the Child from His Mother. Her blessing is on both of them together. Her reverence is for both of them when she humbly asks why she should be the glad recipient of a visit from "the mother of my Lord." Even the child in her own womb, John the Baptist, leaps for joy when he hears Mary's voice. So closely are Mother and Child linked in this passage that the sound of Mary's voice is enough to produce rejoicing in the prophet-in-utero. John and his mother, Elizabeth, represent Israel, waiting for Messianic consolation. Jesus and His Mother, Mary, are God's comfort for His people. They are the flesh-and-blood icon of the Woman and her Seed from Genesis.

Menologion of Basil, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

The Presentation in the Temple - Luke 2:22-35
And now in this passage we learn from Simeon that the Mother will also share in the suffering of the Son ("a sword will pierce through your own soul also"). Were we prepared in Gen. 3:15 for the possibility of suffering?

Yes, we were. We could anticipate a ferocious battle between the serpent and the seed of the woman, both inflicting wounds on the other. The suffering shouldn't surprise us. But how and why would Mary share in this suffering?

We must remember that Jesus opened up to all His followers the possibility of sharing in His suffering for sinners. His call to those who would follow Him to take up their crosses daily represented a call to obedience to God's will, no matter what, AND an invitation to suffer for sinners. That is what the Cross meant to Jesus. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) He intended to make it possible for all who belong to Him to join Him in that redemptive suffering (see CCC 618) ...

Simeon's prophecy to Mary makes it clear that she was the very first Christian to share in His suffering for sinners. Her place in this is unique, of course, because of her unique relationship to Jesus and to God. It was not simply that His suffering would make her sad. Simeon's unusual words somehow place Mary there with Jesus on the Cross when the solider pierced Him through with a sword to make sure He was dead. She was the first one to be joined to Jesus in her suffering, but not the last. Down through the ages, the Church has called her children to join their human sufferings, in whatever form they experience them, to the perfect suffering of the Lamb of God on the Cross, Who takes away the sins of the world. Ever since the fall, suffering is inevitable. Remember that it is the lens that restores spiritual sight. The Cross teaches us not to shrink in fear from suffering but to actually rejoice-rejoice!!-in it. Why? Because through it we see God and ourselves in truth, through it we cry out to Him for mercy, and through it, the world is won back to Him.

Worth a Thousand Words: Statue of Jean Althen

Statue of Jean Althen, Papal Palace Gardens, Avignon, Belinda Del Pesco

Well Said: Next of kin trouble

The young man was maybe in his close family. Nothing cold be worse than next-of-kin trouble. She'd heard that, though secretly she longed for kin of her own. Such trouble must be wonderful. Why did people not know their plights were lovely?
Jonathan Gash, The Year of the Woman

Friday, July 22, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Blue Mountains

Edward B. Gordon, Blue Mountains

Well Said: An infinite number of crucified persons in the world ...

I see an infinite number of crucified persons in the world, but few who are crucified by the love of Jesus. Some are crucified by their self-love and inordinate love of the world. But happy are they who are crucified for the love of Jesus. Happy are they who live and die on the cross with Jesus.

St. John Eudes
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Putti in the Library of Congress

Library of Congress Great Hall. Detail of putti (gardener with a spade and a rake) on the Grand staircase

Well Said: The setting for a pearl

A jewel demands a setting of gold, and a pearl should only be placed in precious necklaces. Be, then, the finest sort of gold! Be a precious necklace, so that the spiritual pearl can be set in you! For Christ the Lord is the pearl that the rich merchant in the gospel hastened to buy.
St. Maximus of Turin
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi

Voting FOR Someone — Updated

A vote for Hilary is a vote for Hilary. A vote for Trump is a vote for Trump. And a vote for Darrell Castle (WHO?) is a vote for Darrell Castle.

To say that my vote for Darrell Castle (WHO?) is a defacto vote for Hilary Clinton tries to deny me the right to vote for the best person running for president.
And a vote for Gary Johnson is a vote for Gary Johnson.

I've been honestly stuck between not voting at all and voting for one of two major candidates who do not reflect at all what I want to see from my beloved country's leadership.

Invariably, when I've said I was in a quandary about who to vote for, someone has always hissed in my ear, "Vote against [this person]."

I voted against in the last couple of elections and see where that got me? Supporting people I was less than crazy about while losing anyway.

Bethune Catholic's comment above realigned my priorities. Yes, vote for someone. They probably aren't perfect. After all, if you are Catholic there is no political party that is going to live up to your goals completely.

But it's a positive action that serves as a witness to the sort of leader I wish we had. And that's the best I can do.

I realized I need to clarify my position.

It's not about voting for either Trump or Johnson. I cannot stand Trump or Clinton and cannot in good conscience vote for either. So it comes down to no vote or voting for Gary Johnson.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: A Fishing Boat at Sea

Vincent Van Gogh, A Fishing Boat at Sea, 1888

Lagniappe: Scram, beat it ...

How do you tell a man to go away in hard language? Scram, beat it, take off, take the air, on your way, dangle, hit the road, and so forth. All good enough. But give me the classic expression actually used by Spike O'Donnell (of the O'Donnell brothers of Chicago, the only small outfit to tell the Capone mob to go to hell and live). What he said was: "Be missing." The restraint of it is deadly.
Raymond Chandler in a letter to his British publisher

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

James Beard's Favorite Meat Loaf

Super easy. Super good. Freezes well.

And ... bacon.

It's at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Q: Why are Catholic bloggers such awful people?

Q: Why are Catholic bloggers such awful people?

Do you listen at Church on Sundays? We public Catholics are just as wretchedly in need of our Lord and Savior as anyone else. Some of us come across as very holy on the Internet, but really we aren’t, I promise you. Some of us splash our sins publicly, and in private are better people than you’d suspect. And there a few public Catholics who really are saints.

The willingness to speak about the faith in public is not a declaration that we are holy, it’s a declaration that God is holy. ...

Jen Fitz's Behind the Scenes in Catholic Blogging is a great piece that answers many questions about writing and reading Catholic blogs. As always with Jen's posts, you get the unvarnished truth, charitably spoken, usually with a great deal of interwoven humor.

I am pleased to a ridiculous level to be included on Jen's short list of must read blogs ... and even more pleased to be the example for her caveat. (Yes, that's how I roll.)
The shortlist isn’t a canonization or a fullproof guarantee. Julie Davis engages the wider culture extensively, and you probably shouldn’t watch every movie she watches. One of the great things about Julie’s blog is that she sifts through the noise to bring you the true, beautiful, and good so that you don’t have to.
Anyway go read it. Good stuff there ...

Worth a Thousand Words: Uma Rua na Favela

Eliseu Visconti, Uma Rua na Favela, c. 1890

Lagniappe: Mr. F's Legacy and Mr. Pancks

A momentary silence that ensued was broken by Mr F.'s Aunt, who had been sitting upright in a cataleptic state since her last public remark. She now underwent a violent twitch, calculated to produce a startling effect on the nerves of the uninitiated, and with the deadliest animosity observed:

"You can't make a head and brains out of a brass knob with nothing in it. You couldn't do it when your Uncle George was living; much less when he's dead."

Mr Pancks was not slow to reply, with his usual calmness, "Indeed, ma'am! Bless my soul! I'm surprised to hear it."
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
Mr. Pancks is one of my favorite characters in Little Dorrit. The first notice we have of his well meaning nature is the way that he knows how to deal with Mr. F.'s Aunt, who clearly is suffering from some form of dementia.

Having known several similarly afflicted elderly people, I applaud his tactics.