Friday, December 2, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Chrysanthemums

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Chrysanthemums
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: To every life there eventually came a moment when one had to accept the fact that the future was entirely out of one's hands

In the morning when Mrs. Pollifax awoke she realized at once that a fateful day was beginning. She lay and thought about this dispassionately, almost wonderingly, because to every life there eventually came a moment when one had to accept the fact that the shape, the pattern, the direction of the future was entirely out of one's hands, to be decided unalterably by chance, by fate or by God. There was nothing to do but accept, and from this to proceed, doing the very best that could be done.
Dorothy Gilman, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax
I've been listening to The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, which is the first in the series about the grandmother who becomes a CIA spy. It's been a real pleasure revisiting a beloved character anew through Barbara Rosenblat's excellent narration. When I was young my mother would bring home the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries from the grocery store and it would get passed around. We all enjoyed Mrs. Pollifax's personality and ingenuity, as well as the author's talent for weaving a spy novel with a light touch.

I reread these so many times that the plot is coming back to me, several decades later, but it doesn't diminish my enjoyment.

Jesse Tree - Day 2: Adam and Eve

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 2: Adam and Eve

Symbols: tree, man, woman

The Creation of Eve, Sistine Chapel, fresco Michelangelo, 
a "spandrel" in the Ancestors of Christ series.
"Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..."

Yes. Anyone who has ever fallen in love knows that feeling. After such loneliness in not having even one other person like himself, how great must have been Adam's joy.

I know the statue below is entitled Paradise Lost, but I like the touching tenderness of Adam and Eve as a couple.

Thierry Caro, Le Paradis perdu (Paradise lost), 
une sculpture de Jean Gautherin conservée par la Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, à Copenhague, 2007.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Via Wikipedia

Immaculate Conception Novena - Day 3

Mary and Jesus Under a Palm Tree (Middle Eastern)
via Matt Stone's Global Christianity

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; because He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid (Entrance Antiphon, Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

...The Blessed Virgin gives us a perfect example of how to fulfill the Will of God by our complete availability. How unfortunate it would be if, in one way or another, we were to try to exercise our own caprice in the matter. We can best cooperate with the Lord through our complete dedication when we allow him free rein in our life.

Here is the novena for the third day.

Lisa Nicholas's Omniblog

New website alert - Lisa A. Nicholas who has her fingers in a lot of pies but most especially in Catholic writing and editing has launched a new website. Of most interest to me is her Omniblog which gathers all her blog posts from various sites. Check it out!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Snowball

taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar
Living in Texas, the trees are just beginning to hit full color and we're hitting our first cold weather. Not only is this little fellow adorable but the snow on the branch reminds me that winter is in full swing in some places.

Well Said: Love can be hated when it challenges us.

God is love. But love can also be hated when it challenges us to transcend ourselves. It is not a romantic “good feeling.” Redemption is not “wellness,” it is not about basking in self-indulgence; on the contrary it is a liberation from imprisonment in self-absorption. This liberation comes at a price: the anguish of the Cross. The prophecy of light and that of the Cross belong together.
Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives

Immaculate Conception Novena: Day 2

Mary and Jesus (Chinese)
via Matt Stone's Global Christianity

Before God made known his coming into the world in the fullness of time, He prepared Mary as the suitable creature within whom He would dwell for nine months, from the moment of his Incarnation until his birth in Bethlehem. Evidence of God's power and love show forth in his creation. Mary is the House of Gold, the new Temple of God, and is adorned with so great a beauty that no greater perfection is possible. The grace of her Immaculate Conception, including all the graces and gifts God has bestowed on her soul, are directed towards the fulfillment of her divine maternity.
Here is the novena for the second day.

Jesse Tree - Day 1: Creation

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

This online Jesse tree grows very slowly as I add a day or two each year ... obviously this is a work in progress.

Let's begin with what a Jesse Tree is.
The representation of the Tree of Jesse is based upon the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-2:

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the sprit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.


The Advent Jesse Tree is fairly recent practice, trying to emphasize "Christ" in Christmas by studying His roots. A home Jesse Tree can be a small evergreen tree, artificial or real, bare branch set in a sturdy pot, or a wallhanging made of felt, posterboard or wood. Each evening in Advent a new symbol is placed on the tree, the Scripture verse is read and the significance in Salvation History is explained.
Jesse was David's father, from whose line Jesus came (just to get all the connections straight). You can read the full story of Jesse in Isaiah 11:1-10 and David in 1 Samuel 16:1-13.

So if we begin at the very beginning, both in terms of Christ's roots and Salvation History, obviously we're talking about ...

Day 1: Creation

Symbols: sun, moon, stars, animals, earth

"The Blue Marble" photograph of Earth,
taken from Apollo 17, via Wikipedia

I read the story of Creation and love God looking over all he made and saying, "It is good." I also love the vivid descriptions of what is created: "... great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind." And, of course, Adam is also part of what is "good." He is here to be a part of creation also.

God creating the land animals (Vittskövle Church fresco, 1480s).
Via Wikipedia

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Lagniappe: Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born

Some of us rush through life, and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey SAT through life. Sat in the house, early and late; sat in the garden; sat in unexpected window-seats in passages; sat (on a camp-stool) when her friends tried to take her out walking; sat before she looked at anything, before she talked of anything, before she answered Yes, or No, to the commonest question — always with the same serene smile on her lips, the same vacantly- attentive turn of the head, the same snugly-comfortable position of her hands and arms, under every possible change of domestic circumstances. A mild, a compliant, an unutterably tranquil and harmless old lady, who never by any chance suggested the idea that she had been actually alive since the hour of her birth. Nature has so much to do in this world, and is engaged in generating such a vast variety of co-existent productions, that she must surely be now and then too flurried and confused to distinguish between the different processes that she is carrying on at the same time. Starting from this point of view, it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the good lady suffered the consequences of a vegetable preoccupation in the mind of the Mother of us all.
Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White
My favorite Wilkie Collins' book is The Moonstone, especially because it is so funny, but The Woman in White also has touches of Wilkie Collins' humor. The passage above is a favorite of mine.

Worth a Thousand Words: Titan Travel Poster

from NASA's Visions of the Future collection
Frigid and alien, yet similar to our own planet billions of years ago, Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has a thick atmosphere, organic-rich chemistry and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. Cold winds sculpt vast regions of hydrocarbon-rich dunes. There may even be cryovolcanoes of cold liquid water. NASA's Cassini orbiter was designed to peer through Titan's perpetual haze and unravel the mysteries of this planet-like moon.

Immaculate Conception* Novena: Day 1

As has become tradition over the years, let's say the Immaculate Conception Novena together to get us in the proper frame of mind as we approach that feast day.

Master of the Winking Eyes, Madonna and Child, ca. 1450

Mary's purpose is to show us her Son. She always points the way to Him. I have never known her to fail me whenever I have asked her to show me Jesus. I will be posting something each day as this is a very worthy Advent contemplation ... and if you want to pray the novena, then here it is!
Mary constantly showers down graces and favours on the faithful, and so has won the prerogative all-powerful intercessor. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Christians know that they can reach God through his Mother. She is our shortcut — the most direct path to God for us. Our love for her is shown in our continually coming up with new ways of expressing affection for her. We begin the Novena leading to the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception by trying to offer Our Lady something special each day.

Our Lady's appearance is the first ray of dawn that shines forth in the world. She rises over the horizon and is the forerunner to the brilliant splendour of salvation that will enter the world through Jesus Christ.
Here is the novena for the first day.

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son,
we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain,
so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession, to come unto You.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, world without end.


Day One

O most Holy Virgin, who was pleasing to the Lord and became His mother, immaculate in body and spirit, in faith and in love, look kindly on me as I implore your powerful intercession. O most Holy Mother, who by your blessed Immaculate Conception, from the first moment of your conception did crush the head of the enemy, receive our prayers as we implore you to present at the throne of God the favor we now request...

(State your intention here...)

O Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Mother of Christ, you had influence with your Divine Son while upon this earth; you have the same influence now in heaven. Pray for us and obtain for us from him the granting of my petition if it be the Divine Will.


Litany of the Blessed Virgin

Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us
Christ, hear us
Christ, graciously hear us

God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us
God the Son, Redeemer of the World, have mercy on us
God the Holy Spirit, ...
Holy Trinity, one God, ...

Holy Mary, pray for us
Holy Mother of God, pray for us

Holy Virgin of virgins, ...
Mother of Christ, ...
Mother of Divine Grace, ...
Mother most pure, ...
Mother most chaste, ...
Mother inviolate, ...
Mother undefiled, ...
Mother most amiable, ...
Mother most admirable, ...
Mother of good counsel, ...
Mother of our Creator, ...
Mother of our Saviour, ...
Virgin most prudent, ...
Virgin most venerable, ...
Virgin most renowned, ...
Virgin most powerful, ...
Virgin most merciful, ...
Virgin most faithful, ...
Mirror of justice, ...
Seat of wisdom, ...
Cause of our joy, ...
Spiritual vessel, ...
Vessel of honour, ...
Singular vessel of devotion, ...
Mystical rose, ...
Tower of David, ...
Tower of ivory, ...
House of gold, ...
Ark of the covenant, ...
Gate of heaven, ...
Morning star, ...
Health of the sick, ...
Refuge of sinners, ...
Comforter of the afflicted, ...
Help of Christians, ...
Queen of Angels, ...
Queen of Patriarchs, ...
Queen of Prophets, ...
Queen of Apostles, ...
Queen of Martyrs, ...
Queen of Confessors, ...
Queen of Virgins, ...
Queen of all Saints, ...
Queen conceived without original sin, ...
Queen assumed into heaven, ...
Queen of the most holy Rosary, ...
Queen of Peace, ...

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Grant we beseech Thee, O Lord God,
that we, Thy servants,
may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body:
and, by the glorious intercession of the blessed Mary, ever Virgin,
be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy eternal gladness.
Through Christ, our Lord.

This link is where I got the novena.

* The Immaculate Conception is a belief in the Catholic church, as well as some Protestant denominations, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was protected by God from the original sin during her own conception. Since she subsequently lived a life completely free from sin, this makes her perfectly pure. The idea of the Immaculate Conception is often confused with the doctrine of the Incarnation and Virgin Birth of Christ. The Immaculate Conception was defined as dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854 and consecrated by Pope Pius XII in 1942. However, this tradition had existed within the Catholic church for more than a millenium. Eastern Orthodox Christians do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, because they have a different view of the original sin from Catholics, and in their tradition, it would be unnecessary for Mary to require divine purification from this. The majority of Protestants reject the idea because it is not explicitly stated in the Bible.  (Description from Olga's Art Gallery.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Well Said: Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. ...

If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.
Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
I'd say that this applies not only to the hard boiled detective but to how we live our own lives.

Worth a Thousand Words: Last light on the Guadalupe Mountains

Last light on the Guadalupe Mountains at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Culberson County, Texas.
Taken by Jason Merlo Photography

Julie's gang name is Brigid. Scott's is Patrick.

Together they lead The Leprechauns to drive the snakes out of the Bronx. Episode 147 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast: Concourse by S. J. Rozan.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: The Red Umbrella

The Red Umbrella
painted by Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: God delegates to His creatures

For he seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye. ... We are not mere recipients or spectators. We are either privileged or compelled to collaborate in the work.
C.S. Lewis, The Efficacy of Prayer

Genesis Notes: The Call to Abram

Genesis now spends a long time studying Abram and Sarai. I never thought about the fact that these are the first two people whose lives are looked at in great detail and this is a sign of their extreme importance. We get to see God interacting with them and especially Abram in a way that has not been shown before. Therefore, not only do we learn more about these people but, through them, about God.

Life Application Study Bible tells us a bit about Abram's background.
Abram grew up in Ur of the Chaldeans, an important city in the ancient world. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a flourishing civilization there in Abram's day. The city carried on an extensive trade with its neighbors and had a vast library. Growing up in Ur, Abram was probably well educated.
So when Abram followed God's call to the wilderness he was leaving a lot behind, a pattern we see over and over right up into our own lives.

I also never noticed before that everywhere Abram goes he is busy building altars. I like the fact that Abram's altars are a connection we still have with us today in the Catholic church.
It is worth taking note of the use of altars in man's relationship with God. Noah built an altar to the Lord and pleased Him with the sacrifice he made on it. Men after Noah everywhere built altars to deities. Through ignorance and perversion, many men worshipped false gods. Yet there was among men a common understanding that an altar is appropriate when men approach the Divine. Why? It is because men know instinctively that they owe God something. The altar represents man's desire to give something to God. In false religion, the offering is made to a deity out of fear or a desire for manipulation. When men worship from the heart, the altar is associated with praise and thanksgiving. In the life of Israel, the altar would take on a central significance in the relationship between God and His people. It would be a visible expression of atonement for sin and of thanksgiving to God. In the life of the Church, the altar continues to be a central, visible expression of the atonement that Christ won for us on Calvary, as well as the place where our offerings of thanks ("eucharist" means "thanks") are joined to His perfect offering as we renew our intention to be His covenant-keeping people.
Abraham's Counsel to Sarai (watercolor c. 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

One thing I never really understood in previous readings was the whole "Sarai is my sister" ploy that Abram trotted out ... she really must have been a looker which is something else I never considered. Still, God uses Abram's human weakness to lead him back on the right path. I like the point that is made here about how God shows Abram that He is everywhere.
It seems that God did what was necessary to convince Abram to live righteously. He shows great patience with Abram's weakness. He understood the fear that prompted the sin and so sets Abram back on the path to restoration. In addition, for Abram to see God at work in Egypt, following him wherever he went, would have taught him a profoundly new lesson. This God is not like pagan deities, who were associated with specific locations. This God is everywhere. God did not want to start over with someone more reliable; He wanted to make Abram into a more reliable man. Will Abram cooperate with God? This is the question God had put to Cain: "If you do well, will you not be accepted?" (Gen. 4:7). It is the question He asks each one of us. He shows Himself willing to work with us in our weakness; it is rebellion and turning away from Him that will exclude Him from our lives.

This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Jokes

Why can’t you take a turkey to church?
Because they use such FOWL language!

What kind of key can’t open any doors?
A turkey.

What always comes at the end of Thanksgiving?
The G

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

In Thankfulness on This Day

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Jennie A. Brownscombe, 1914
Have a blessed day with your families as we enjoy the many riches God has bestowed on us. I truly have so much to be thankful for, much more than I could list here, which fall under the broad categories of God, Catholic Church, family, country, and friends (because that corny stuff is also the real stuff of life).

Here is something I have posted every Thanksgiving. I like seeing what Abraham Lincoln had in mind for the holiday (before I go dive into that turkey, pie, and football ... GO Cowboys !). I'll be off the computer until Monday.

So without further ado, I present to you ...
Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863
It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Baking the Bread

Baking the Bread, Anders Zorn, 1889
See this? That's me today.

Ok, not literally. Thank goodness I've got an enclosed oven for one thing. But I'm cook, cook, cookin' the day away preparing the Thanksgiving feast.

It's easier this year since Rose is at home. She's been the main Thanksgiving cook among her friends in L.A. so we think the same about timing and the general approach to getting a big meal on the table.

It's also more fun!