Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State;
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace,
March of a strong land's swift increase:
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverent awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong,
To ward her people from foreign wrong;
Pride and glory and honor, all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

(Henry Holcomb Bennett)

Childe Hassam, The Fourth of July, 1916
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.
Ronald Reagan

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Movie You Should See ASAP — Inside Out


Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it's no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life.
There are not enough stars to say how much I loved this movie.

The movie description, while accurate, cannot possibly do this film justice. Ignore it and go anyway because this is one of Pixar's masterpieces.

It works because we all recognize everything going on in this girl's life and in her head. If Pixar had taken a false step we would have felt it, because we all know the source material so well. They hit every note perfectly to tell a nuanced, complex story that made me laugh and cry (just a little), touched my heart and made me appreciate my emotions just a little more.

I didn't read more than the beginnings of all the positive reviews because I didn't want the plot revealed. And I am going to follow that guideline here.

This movie ranks with The Incredibles and Wall-E, which is to say it is Pixar gold standard. This is already a top movie of my year and it may just push its way onto my all-time favorites list.

Get out there and see it in a crowded theater where you can enjoy it best.

Feast Day: St. Thomas, Apostle

I posted this in years past and find I cannot improve on the basics it presents for my reflection and celebration of this apostle who spoke so forthrightly and acknowledged Truth as soon as he found it.

Thomas has been my companion throughout the last couple of years as I have devoted myself to a private project with him at the center. I have made lamentably little progress yet find that the time has not been completely misspent from a personal point of view. My life is considerably enriched thanks to my growing friendship with this great friend of Jesus.

And the beauty of personal projects is that it gives me great practice in beginning again with great resolve.


The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
Via Wikipedia.
Gospel JN 20:24-29

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I became very attached to Thomas when reading A Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust with the Apostle Thomas. It's a little book that packs a big punch and I have read it three times. This is not because I especially needed a novena for doubting but because I was so fascinated by Thomas's story as told by tradition. Also, truth to tell, I could relate to many of Thomas's other various traits. Stubborn. A bit gloomy. You know ... the whole package!

And yet, Thomas's early insistence on proof made him one of the first witnesses for Christ. Ultimately he did marvelous things for God as he learned to trust and step out in faith. May we all do the same.

Here is the collect for today:
Grant, almighty God, that we may glory in the Feast of the blessed Apostle Thomas, so that we may always be sustained by his intercession and, believing, may have life in the name of Jesus Christ your Son, whom Thomas acknowledged as the Lord. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Thomas, pray for us.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In which we meet The White Moll and Gypsy Nan.


Who could resist a crime novel with someone named Gypsy Nan? I can't!

We're beginning it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Well Said: Show me your hands...

Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?
Fulton Sheen
Words worth considering as part of my self examination.

Worth a Thousand Words: Adolphe Cossard

Adolphe Cossard
via French Painters

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The 10 Books That Have Influenced Me Most

The Christian Century magazine asked a lot of famous people "What books did most to shape your vocational attitude and your philosophy of life?"

Here is C.S. Lewis's list, which he didn't explain.

Of course, being a list-loving gal, I wrote down my own, which I will explain. (In order of how they occurred to me.)
  1. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The story of Bilbo trying to pick the troll's pocket directly influenced me going to read aloud to my mother-in-law. (It's a long story, but that example made me realize that bravery is learned and you have to begin with small efforts.)
  2. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)
    The fact that it is a rattling good yarn is, of course, the first attraction. I've never read such a work on the power of mercy, love, and justice. Ever. I never used to be able to pick a favorite book. Now I can and this is it.
  3. Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
    A fantastic soap opera, full of cliff hangers, and with a wonderful Christ figure. I reluctantly read this at my daughter Rose's urging. I'd thought of classics as being boring (with the notable exception of Jane Eyre). Afterward, I thought that if this classic was so good perhaps I should try another. So I picked A Tale of Two Cities up and found ... a love of Charles Dickens and the classics awaiting me. I haven't looked back. All thanks to Uncle Tom's Cabin.
  4. A Father Who Keeps His Promises (Scott Hahn)
    The first serious theology book I read after my conversion. It taught me how to see below the surface of Scripture to the different levels of meaning. This changed not only how I read Scripture but how I watched movies and read books. It opened my mind to greater possibilities in each story.
  5. Catholic Christianity (Peter Kreeft)
    When I'd joined the Church I had serious reservations about Catholic teachings on many social issues, among them abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty. When I figured I'd better learn why the Church taught what she did, this book was just being published. Divine Providence? Possibly. Kreeft's inescapable logic is what reconciled me to those teachings, which I eventually was able to embrace.
  6. The Hiding Place (Corrie Ten Boom)
    This may be the most inspirational book I've ever read. Every time I read it I come away resolving to be a better Christian, a better person.
  7. The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis)
    The newest addition to my list. I just read this a few weeks ago. I've never read anything that so vividly made me understand how necessary it is to make daily sacrifices to toughen myself up in order to make it to Heaven. Also, it gives a wonderful interpretation of Purgatory which has greatly inspired me.
  8. Jurassic Park (Michael Crichton)
    The book that taught me to look critically at the "truths" business and science tell us. And a rattling good yarn. If you've only seen the movie, you're missing the whole story. The book is much better. I reread this often just for the fun of it.
  9. The Stand (Stephen King)
    Good and evil are real and here is how they manifest themselves in the world. As with so many others, a rattling good yarn that I've reread many times for the sheer pleasure of it.
  10. In Conversation with God (Francis Fernandez)
    This is more properly a series of seven devotionals, with entries for every day of the liturgical year as well as two volumes devoted to special feast days. I discovered these soon after I converted and reading them daily for at least four years was deeply formational. I cannot recommend these books too highly. The one most people have tried is the Lent/Easter book but the one I began with was for this time of year. I soon bought all the others.
Note that this is different than top 10 favorite books. That list will be coming soon!

I don't need an excuse to make a list, but that's a good 'un!

Worth a Thousand Words: The Klostersee

The Klostersee
by Edward B. Gordon
It's been too long since we've feasted our eyes on Edward B. Gordon's art at this blog. This is a lovely, pastoral scene.

And it's in Pomerania! I couldn't resist. Though I don't see a single Pomeranian (human or canine) in this painting.

Well Said: The Church's Execution

The notice of [the Church's] execution has been posted, but the execution has never taken place. Science killed her, and still she was there; History interred her, but still she was alive. Modernism slew her, but still she lived.
Fulton Sheen, The Divine Romance

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Man on a Balcony

Gustave Caillebotte, Man on a Balcony, Boulevard Haussmann, 1880
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: How Easily You're Offended

How easily you're offended is directly proportional to how dumb you are.
Bill Murray

Supreme Court Decisions and Living the Christian Life

I was surprised at how hard  the decision hit me. I was really hoping they'd go for truth and wouldn't let popular opinion sway them. I was surprised at how fervently I began praying for my country, which I was surprised to realize I love so much, in the midst of its folly.

So — I was surprised by a lot of things. And left feeling adrift, shaken, devastated.

What helped me was two things.

I share them with you in case you're also struggling.

First, I continued my reading of The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton's look at the spiritual journey of humanity through history. After an hour, I switched over to a history of Catholicism from The Teaching Company. I didn't intentionally select these to help my mood. I was just casting around for listening material.

History was the perfect corrective to remind me that this isn't the first time a country has gone off the rails. And the faith persists, because the believers continue to testify to the Truth wherever they are.

Secondly, we had dinner with a young couple that night. When our talk finally lighted on the topic, both said they were dreading having to turn down invitations for gay friends' weddings. The man said that he'd been wrestling all day with how hard this all was.

I'm condensing our conversation here, but in essence he said, "I realized it should be hard. Christianity began as a humble, downtrodden religion. If we fit in too well then something is wrong. We shouldn't be too comfortable."

Those words have come back to me again and again in the days since.

"It should be hard."

That works on a lot of levels.

What hits me in terms of regular life is how hard it is when things become personal rather than an ideal to argue about.

I imagine gay people whose invitations are turned down may think it is because of harsh judgment or bigotry. I'd bet that much more frequently these are reluctant decisions made because the dictates of conscience and faith must be followed no matter how much we love those friends and family.

I always thought of Jesus' words in Matthew 10:34-38 as those for new converts with disapproving relatives. I see that these timeless words apply right now to our society in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man "against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household."

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Do we love them less?

No. But we love Jesus Christ, the ultimate truth, more. So eventually we are driven to choose.

In other words, "It should be hard."

That's how much we should love and pray for those who put us in the position of choosing.

Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul
Chattanooga, TN

Finally, John C. Wright wrote a fine piece about what helped him begin to be able to pray for the conversion and salvation of those who have so wounded us.

It begins in a church. It ends with some of his thoughts. No one can be more inspiring when he gets going. Here's a bit.
In one hundred years, when this ruling is only an historical curio, like the Dred Scott Decision ... the One, True, Apostolic and Catholic Church will still be in business, still preaching and teaching the same truths that she has always taught.

And the Church will still speaking the language of sacrifice and self-denying love to a race of fallen beings ... who are so selfish and self-centered that this language is folly and a stumbling block to them.

Selfishness cannot understand selflessness. The darkness cannot comprehend the light, cannot surround and cannot besiege it, cannot defeat it, even in their hour of victory.

Because when we pray for the souls of our deadly enemy, our prayers are answered.
I'd forgotten the Dred Scott decision.

The outrage we feel now must be the same way people felt back then. Not all of them, of course. But over time we have all come to realize the obvious injustice. Which has been corrected.

That's the third thing.

Let us pray.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Self-portrait with a Harp


Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux (1761–1802, Self-portrait with a Harp
Source. Seen first at Lines and Colors.

Well Said: Chris Rock used to tell a joke about racial hardship

In the 1990s, Chris Rock used to tell a joke about racial hardship. "Do you know how hard it is to be black in America?" he would ask the audience. "I'll tell you how hard. There's not a single white person in the audience who would trade places with me. And I'm rich!"

Perhaps Ms. Dolezal is another sign of racial progress.

Blogging Around: The "So Much Religious Stuff" Edition

Fourteen Things Laudato Si Says. Nine Things It Does Not Say.

Rebecca Hamilton has a nice, succinct look at Laudato Si for those of us who haven't read it yet. Or for those who let their eyes only light on the bits they liked while sliding over those they didn't want to hear.

Via GetReligion whose commentary is also worth reading.

The Benedict Option versus The Buckley Option

I'd probably opt for calling it The Chesterton Option instead of The Buckley Option, but anyway this is an interesting conversation about how we carry our Christianity into the world. Via Brandywine Books.

Gay Marriage, Slack Parents, and Religious Ceremonies

Now that the Supreme Court has let down the idea of marriage which had humanity's entire history on its side, Jennifer Fitz has a very sensible idea (one which I thought we were already doing ... maybe that's just a pipe dream or only in our parish).

Read it all, but here's the money-quote.
Ironically, if we could just follow the Catholic faith, we would have no argument with Caesar. We’ll witness the marriage of any Catholic who is prepared to receive the sacrament, end of story.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Scott and Julie argue about the meaning of ...

... "Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods."

Neighbors tell them to take it to the edge of the woods because it's 2:00 a.m. and "some of us have work in the morning!"

They quiet down long enough to discuss Mockingbird by Walter Tevis at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.