Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"How I Pray" Series

 How I Pray is a new series from Thomas L. McDonald at God and the Machine blog. Each Monday he features a different Catholic who tell about their practices and experience of prayer.

It's an interesting series and it's disquieting to consider how inadequate my answers would be. In that way it definitely inspires me to shape up my own prayer life. Of course, there are also some very inspiring thoughts in the posts that go above and beyond examining my own inadequacies!

So far we've seen from McDonald himself, The Curt Jester, and now Jimmy Akin. Fingers crossed he gets Dean Koontz to contribute!

Worth a Thousand Words: Second Dream of St. Joseph

Second Dream of St. Joseph
by Daniel Mitsui
It's no secret that I really love illustrations of Biblical scenes done in Asian style. It's also no secret that I really love Daniel Mitsui's work in general. And it should also be no secret that I'm a real fan of St. Joseph.

So when I saw this new work of art I naturally wanted to share it with as many people as possible. After you have enjoyed the work at first glance, see what the artist tells us is included that you might have missed.
It depicts, in a Japanese style, the second dream of St. Joseph, in which an angel (traditionally identified as St. Gabriel) warns him to flee into Egypt with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christ Child. In this work, I especially imitated the style of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, a late ukiyo-e master. I referenced his series of woodblock prints 100 Aspects of the Moon for many parts of my drawing.

St. Gabriel holds a fan containing a vision of the Flight into Egypt and the Miracle of the Cherry Tree. I attempted to convey a sense of otherworldly urgency by having the angel’s robes and hair blown by a strong wind that affects nothing else in the picture. St. Joseph sleeps in the stable of Bethlehem, next to the gifts of the Magi (in antique Chinese vessels). The text is from Emile Raguet’s Classical Japanese New Testament translation of 1910, and says Gabriel and Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him.

Well Said: I have learned many things ...

I must confess that I have learned many things I never knew before ... just by writing.
St. Augustine
There's something about having to organize one's thoughts enough to write that sends them further than they'd have gone if everything just remained in one's mind. It is funny how that is. It is why keeping a journal, a blog, or writing letters (or emails) is so good for us. Like St. Augustine we learn things we never knew before.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Well Said: Try Monotasking

One thing everyone should do more of is: just drive while you’re driving. I have a custom license-plate holder. It says: “Try monotasking.”
Bill Nye, WSJ interview
Ain't that the truth? We could apply that to our regular lives also. We'd be happier and a lot of things would get done better.

Worth a Thousand Words: Nature's Creation

Nature's Creation
taken by Remo Savisaar

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Solemnity of Christ the King

A repeat which I very much enjoyed reading again. Hope you do too!

As the visions during the night continued,
I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14
Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 for the universal church in his encyclical Quas Primas. He connected the denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At the time of Quas Primas, secularism was rising, and many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ's authority and existence, as well as the Church's power to continue Christ's authority. Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders. Just as the Feast of Corpus Christi was instituted when devotion to the Eucharist was at a low point, the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning, when the feast was most needed. In fact, it is still needed today, as these problems have not vanished, but instead have worsened.
I was surprised when I looked through my archives and didn't see any comments about the Solemnity of Christ the King. Perhaps that is because I haven't really appreciated it much until over the past year. That is partly because one can only absorb so much at a time and although I converted in 2000, that is not really such a long time ago.

It also signals an internal conversion, which we all undergo in one way or another for our entire lives. I recently caught myself saying, "His majesty" and meaning God. That made me happy for two reasons, the first of which was because I never understood how St. Teresa of Avila could be somewhat sassy to God and still call him "His majesty" ... and now I did understand that much more.

The second because I feel much more that I am a daughter of the king. That would anyone happy, wouldn't it? To discover that they come from royalty, albeit a royalty that reigns in order to render humble service. Certainly I feel I have a bit better understanding of my place in the scheme of things overall and my gradually deepening relationship with my king who rules through love.

The above image of Christ the King comes from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. I was captivated when I discovered it. The strength and confidence of this image of Christ fills me with joy. For a discussion of the symbolism included, read Msgr. Charles Pope's piece Awesome or Awful? Here's a sample:
... let’s look a little closer at Christ’s face (at Left). Look closely at his eyes. Notice that the one on the right (from our perspective) is more rounded and serene than the one on the left that is narrower and piercing. Notice also that the right eyebrow is more arched and peaceful and the one on the left angled and downward in a severe look. Now take your hand and cover the left side of the face and see that he is more serene and then cover the right side of the face and see that he is severe. This is very common in Eastern Iconography which likes to present both the Justice and Mercy of God on the face of Christ. It is subtle but it is meant to be otherwise we’d have a weird looking face. On the Day of Judgement there will be mercy seen by those who have shown mercy and severe justice to those who have been severe (Mat 5:7; Mat 7:2; James 2:13) for Justice and mercy are alike with him (cf Sirach 5:7). Looking into his eyes I am reminded of the stunning text from Hebrews which says of Christ: No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. (Heb 4:13)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Jokes

Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
The outside

Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chicken's day off

What are the feathers on a turkey's wings called?
Turkey feathers

What's the best dance to do on Thanksgiving?
The turkey trot

Can a turkey jump higher than the Empire State Building?
Yes - a building can't jump at all

What do you get when you cross a turkey with an octopus?
Enough drumsticks for Thanksgiving

How can you make a turkey float?
You need 2 scoops of ice cream, some root beer, and a turkey

Friday, November 21, 2014

Julie and Scott make it to within ten paces of the Emperor.

Will they take action? Which way will the candles blow?

Episode 96 of A Good Story is Hard to Find is our discussion of Hero, a 2002 movie directed by Yimou Zhang. Come and listen!

Well Said: Our battle-flag

The battle-flag is always placed among warriors, as a sign to which they look during the hardest fighting of the battle. We are continuously at war with the princes of darkness ... If anyone is troubled, vanquished, and overcome, let him look to the Lord hanging on the gibbet of the cross.
St. Thomas of Villanova

Worth a Thousand Words: Aladdin and Princess Badoura

Aladdin and Princess Badoura. Detail.
By Himmapaan
I foresee that my wish list is going to expand to include anything including Himmapaan's illustrations. Simply superb.

Emmaus Road's 20% - 50% Off Thanksgiving Sale

From Emmaus Road Catholic publisher comes this notice:
Save 20% to 50%

A Special Thanksgiving Offer

We have created a special page for our friends to enjoy great savings on a choice selection of Books, ebooks and Gift items. The sale prices are in effect now through December 5th.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Japanese Bantam

Japanese Bantam
by Himmapaan
I'm a sucker for roosters so this caught my attention. I love this naturalist style.

Well Said: Pilgrimage and a blessedness rooted in "the act of seeing"

To the pilgrim Dante, Beatrice explained that the purpose of all human existence is to see God; love itself is a means leading to this end. In analogous fashion, the Holy Years—times particularly dedicated to God—perfect the means and lead to the end. An indiscreet love that, according to Peter Chrysologus, nonetheless has the "ardor of piety" drives millions of people to undertake the pilgrimage to Rome, and at the end of the pilgrimage they want to see something; they have made the trip in order to taste, here on earth, a blessedness rooted in "the act of seeing." This is the logic of the system of great signs that accompany the life of believers—the sacramental system, that is; and it is the logic of pilgrimage, which is a "sacrament" of the individual's search for God.
Timothy Verdon, Art & Prayer
Somehow this makes great sense to me. Connecting the pilgrim's need to "see," to be in a place and experience in the flesh all the art, architecture, sounds, smells, and everything physical ... with the sacred.

Perhaps it is deeply rooted in what I love about Catholicism. The Church takes every chance to connect our bodies and souls with the divine. Pilgrimage takes that experience of finding the sacred through those things at mass and allows us to link it to the wider world, to the other physical things which God has given to help us "see" Him. Fascinating.

Of course, I am drawn right now to pilgrimage meditations because of the proposed pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Diana Von Glahn, The Faithful Traveler. We can't go if enough people don't go with us. Surely that is part of the physical experience for a pilgrim? Fellow travelers on the way? Who bless you, who get in your way, who make you think, and who may carry God's message to you. If you think you might be interested in journeying to "Come and see" the Holy Land, check out the link. And sign up!

Blogging Around: Fun Stuff Edition

First Look at Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell for the BBC

I didn't know they were doing a BBC miniseries but if anyone can do this book justice it will be the BBC. The photo doesn't exactly match my mental image of Strange & Norrell but, on the other hand, I instantly knew who was who. Which is good enough actually.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

I definitely want to hear Cary Elwes' book in audio since it features the heavy hitters from the movie reading the parts about themselves. Brandywine Books has more about the book as well as a link to an article which helps whet your appetite with tidbits.

Turning Corners Into Art

Joseph Susanka has a heads up for an artist on Instagram whose specialty is photographing corners. Which results in some gorgeous art. I myself found the images on his website more compelling than Instragram but then Instagram ain't my thing. Check out Joseph's post for samples and links.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

These Just In: Interesting New Books

These are books that passed the first chapter test. Some are enticing me in spite of myself. Naturally that means that although I haven't read them yet I wanted to give you a heads up in case they entice you too.

The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life TodayThe Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today by John Michael Talbot and Michael Aquilina
In the 1970s, John Michael Talbot was new to the Christian faith and developed a habit of looking to the Church Fathers, including St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine and Gregory the Great for guidance. This book tells the story of how these men helped Talbot through spiritual and professional challenges throughout his life, and how these ancient Christians are relevant to the lives of modern believers today.
I'll be participating in the blog tour for this book. They had me at Aquilina. Then they threw in the Church Fathers and John Michael Talbot whose music, I'll be honest, I've never listened to. However, I'm friends with one of his longtime friends (the main deacon in our parish) and so am interested in his story. Plus, when flipping through I could see his memoir intertwines with the Fathers' stories in a way that just pulls me in.

Then Comes Baby by Greg and Lisa Popcak
Greg and Lisa Popcak lend readers the benefit of their twenty-five years experience in parenting and marriage and family counseling to help them navigate the earliest years of parenthood. They recommend rituals, routines, and tips on how to manage feeding, fatigue, and finances and how also to prioritize marital bonding and faith life, suggesting that setting the pattern early will pay dividends later ... while seeing these everyday experiences through the lens of Catholic teaching on the purpose of family life.
To be honest, I'm not going to actually read this whole book. However, I loved the Popcak's Just Married book and that gave me the impetus to flip through this one. I saw so much common sense displayed, combined with sensible Catholic grounding, that I resolved to buy two more copies to give to some young mothers I know.

Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas AquinasPractical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas Aquinas by Peter Kreeft
Here are 359 pieces of wisdom from St. Thomas's masterpiece, the "Summa Theologiae," which ... have helped Kreeft in the struggles of real life, to live in the real world, to grow closer to the Lord, and he hopes they will do the same for his readers. After each passage directly from Aquinas, Kreeft provides brief spiritual commentary to help explain it and apply it - practical, personal, existential, livable thoughts. He has framed these readings as answers to questions that people actually ask their spiritual directors. Each answer is taken word for word from Aquinas.
I've been noting Jeff Miller's (The Curt Jester) progress with this book at Goodreads. Though he is a fast reader, this book's been taking him a while. I've never been interested in reading Aquinas and Jeff's slow progress wasn't inspiring me to get a copy of the book, though I am a Peter Kreeft fan from way back. Then, lo and behold, a review copy came in the mail.

And it happened. Kreeft laid a zinger on me on the very first question ...Yes, organized religion is a crutch. You mean you didn't know that you are a cripple? ... and I was hooked. These bits of Aquinas aren't easy. They require slowing down, mulling them over, and really thinking. It's been a while since I've had to do that. But they definitely look worthwhile. I'll be working my way through them at a rate of one per day. So in about a year I may be a little wiser. And maybe (fingers crossed!) a bit closer to heaven.

Chastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a VirginChastity Is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin by Arleen Spenceley
Seasoned journalist and self-professed “happy virgin” Arleen Spenceley offers a mature, funny, and relatable vision of Catholic teaching on chastity for young adults. Chastity Is for Lovers provides perspective on a variety of topics—the difference between chastity and abstinence, how virginity is an affirming and valuable life choice, how the word “purity” can be harmful in ministry settings, how to date well, and why sexual self-control is the best form of marriage preparation—and gives single adults the best possible chance to find true love. She carefully avoids using language that shames readers and instead presents a view of chastity that is joyful and positive.
I'm not the target market for this book but I know lots of young women who are. That's what made me flip through the book. I kept coming across sections that caught my attention and made me want to know the rest of the story. I finally realized that I'm going to have to read this book even if it isn't aimed at me. Which says a lot about how personable this author is. And, let's face it, if I know people in the target market then I need to know what this author's saying because it could come up in conversation. Such are the times in which we live.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas illustration/cut-paper
by Himmapaan
Continuing our weeklong look at Himmapaan, we jump ahead seasonally. Look through the art featured at the linked post above and then go to the Amazon listing for The Night Before Christmas and look at the reader uploaded scans. That end pop-up has to be seen to be believed.

Well Said: The One Who Says "Come and See" to Pilgrims

Antoine Lafréry, Visit to the Seven Churches of Rome, 1575
This image of pilgrims going from one church to another highlights an important connection: that between prayer and visibility. Every journey undertaken in a spirit of prayer leads in fact to something visible: a mountain, a grotto, a temple, seven churches. On arrival, the pilgrim's experience is structured through rites nicely calculated to satisfy his desire to see something: processions, the exhibiting of relics, the veneration of images. Interesting, in this respect, the language used by the Florentine Giovanni Villani, present in Rome in 1300 for the first Jubilee, who tells us that "for the consolation of Christian pilgrims, every Friday and solemn feast day, the Veil of Veronica was exhibited" — the veil bearing the imprint of Christ's face, that is. But this rite served for "the consolation of Christian pilgrims," because human beings yearn to see God and are thus consoled in seeing his image. That is the connection: images presented to pilgrims at journey's end console them. Like the first disciples, pilgrims set out in response to One who says, "Come and see" (John 1:39a), and in Veonica's Veil or some other relic—as in the architecture and art they find on reaching their destination—they contemplate his face and behold his abode under the form of images.
Timothy Verdon, Art & Prayer
I never thought about the images at the end of the pilgrimage as being the "consolation of pilgrims." Or about connecting the end of the trip to the invitation to "Come and see." This is something I must reflect upon.

Of course, I am drawn right now to pilgrimage meditations because of the proposed pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Diana Von Glahn, The Faithful Traveler. We can't go if enough people don't go with us. Perhaps that is also the consolation of the pilgrim? Fellow travelers on the way? I know that often it takes someone else to point out what should be blindingly obvious to me. If you think you might be interested in journeying to "Come and see" the Holy Land, check out the link. And sign up!

After yesterday's horrific attacks in Jerusalem I almost removed this post which I had prepared yesterday. However, Diana got a note from a friend there who said that they need the tourism trade and that pilgrims are generally safe. This made me think about pilgrims through the centuries who we often forget braved physical danger in their quest to see where Jesus walked. And it puts me in touch with them in a more real way than ever...

In which we vacation in a very foreign land -- the past!

An audio sampler of The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer ... at Forgotten Classics podcast. Enjoy!