Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Virgin and Child with Saint George and Saint Anthony Abbot

Antonio Pisanello, The Virgin and Child with Saints George and Anthony Abbot
via Wikipedia
[Pisanello's] amazing Saint George in the London National Gallery, in his mostly silver armour, and wearing an enormous straw hat to protect him from the sun-radiance of the Virgin and Child, is the most mannered picture of evil in existence.
Paul Johnson, Art: A New History
I am absolutely captivated by Saint George's hat. I also was struck by the modern feel of the painting in the way the rays of the sun radiate into the atmosphere, causing it to radiate in turn.

Well Said: The Fifth Gospel* — and Jacob's Well

Reading St. John beside Jacob's Well, one realizes that the conversation grew out of the surroundings and could not have been imagined by anyone. The water, the mountain, the road to Sychar on which the Samaritans soon appear, drawn by the news which the woman has carried to the village, are all so life-like, so vivid. And Jesus bade His disciples:

"Life up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."

Critics have written learned dissertations to prove that the fields could not have been white with the harvest: it was too early in the year. And others have provided all kinds of explanations to force this episode into Gospel chronology. But as I sat by Jacob's Well a crowd of Arabs came along the road from the direction in which Jesus was looking, and I saw their white garments shining in the sun.

Surely Jesus was speaking not of the earthly but of the heavenly harvest, and as He spoke I think it likely that He pointed along the road where the Samaritans in their white robes were assembling to hear His words.
H.V. Morton, In the Steps of the Master
Morton writes repeatedly of how his imagination is struck by the fact that the geography and natural situations bring the Gospels to life. This is a particularly vivid example and must be the sort of thing that strikes enthusiastic tourists to this day. (I hope it will be something that I am "awake" enough to catch when we visit ... if you are interested, do check out the link; there is room for more in our group!)

* Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you. (St. Jerome)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Doge Leonardo Loredan

Giovanni Bellini, portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan
via Wikipedia
The Doge Leonardo Loredan (1501-1505) by Giovanni Bellini shows how a great master can turn a formal state portrait into both a penetrating study of character and an image of beauty. ...He had a wonderful eye for a face and huge skill at getting it down on panel. He broke the old Venetian tradition that a ruler could only be presented in a formal "medal" profile, by showing the Doge Leonardo Loredan in an almost frontal position, a faultless work which many would rate one of the best half-dozen portraits ever painted.
Paul Johnson, Art: A Modern History
All I know is that when I look at this portrait it almost looks as if someone photographed a modern face and stuck it between the hat and cape. Simply amazing.

Ancillary Justice discussion at SFFaudio

The SFFaudio gang (Jesse, Bryan Alexander, Tamahome and I) have mixed reactions to Hugo-winner Ancillary Justice (which I liked a lot, by the way).

Blog Tour for "The Feasts" - The Holy Angels

The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as CatholicsThe Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics by Donald Cardinal Wuerl

I reviewed The Feasts yesterday. Today, as part of the blog tour, we'll take a look at The Holy Angels bit of the book which includes The Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on September 29 and the Memorial of the Guardian Angels on October 2.

Devotion to the angels is something integral to the life of God's people. It is a practice that christians and Jews have kept since ancient times, and for good reason. Angels do not move people like chess pieces. They live in relationship with us. The prophet Zechariah quizzed the angels sent to guide him. The young man Tobias spent days in conversation with his heavenly traveling companion. Saint Augustine often described our relationships with the angels as "friendship." God created us to be social, and our society is both earthly and heavenly. It includes family members who look like we do, and family members who are pure spirits and have no physical appearance whatsoever. Yet they are with us, and we should acknowledge them, and we should be grateful for their help.
The Feasts contains one of the best short summaries of angels I've ever seen. In just a few pages we are told the nature of angels and the Scriptural evidence, introduced to the archangels and guardian angels, and told about Michaelmas as a traditional day.

I know whereof I speak. I have read many books about angels.


What made me grab these feast days for the blog tour was recalling that in the fall after I entered the Church I was just beginning to observe the liturgical year a bit more than the basics. I had just splurged for the devotional In Conversation with God, Feasts July-December by Francis Fernandez when Tom's father had a stroke and we had to rush to Houston.

It was a dire time with much worse news than we could have imagined about his health. I remember brushing my teeth but needing something inspirational no matter how late it was in the day. Wanting to "do it right" I plunged in at our chronological point in time to see what upcoming feasts to expect. It was the Feast of the Archangels and the way this book did it was to not skimp over a single one. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael each had their own fascinating three-part feast written up. And right behind it — the Guardian Angels! Hey, I'd been wondering about them!

The knowledge of those angels helped hold me up during those days of trial.

That was my first introduction to the idea that I could have my own relationship not only with angels but with feast days. I now have some that I celebrate although our local parish doesn't mention them. I know that somewhere in the world there are parishes who are uniting with me in celebrating yet another unique way that our lives are united to that of Christ.

In those early days I was fumbling my way through understanding feast days and angels and many other "basics" of Catholic life. I'd definitely have welcomed a book like The Feasts which not only informs but inspires.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: The Meeting Scene

Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), The Court of Mantua
via Wikipedia
I love how realistic this is. I discovered it in Paul Johnson's "Art: A New History" where he tells us:
The Camera delgi Sposi, being an exercise in contemporary realism, is perhaps the most authentic presentation of court life in Italy's golden age that we possess. The painter actually witnessed it, and the two main scenes, one outdoors (The Meeting), one indoors (The Signing of the Contract), take us straight into the world of marriage diplomacy, ceremony, intrigue and secret manoeuvering we read about in letters and chronicles. That world was later described by Machiavelli in The Prince and by Castiglione in The Courtier. But Mantegna's cold brush brings it horribly to life. I say horribly because, though there is exquisite beauty in the room, particularly in the rendering of the young, their elders have hearts of ice. ... there are no tricks about the figures, which have a Flemish realism. They are the actual faces of living people--fifteenth-century Italians of the urban, courtly breed, whispering in ready ears, hiding their deepest thoughts, making honeyed speeches, dissimulating and boasting, Cutting a bella figura while keeping their poignards sharp, strutting for effect and feigning every kind of emotion ... As in all Mantegna's works, one learns a great deal because, though a master of illusionistic devices, he always tells the truth.

Lagniappe: As the sun goes down ...

As the sun goes down, a stillness falls over Egypt. Water channels that cross the field turn to the colour of blood, then to bright yellow that faces into silver. The palm trees might be cut from black paper and pasted against the incandescence of the sky. Brown hawks that hang all day above the sugar-cane and the growing wheat are seen no more and, one by one, the stars burn over the sandhills and lie caught in the stiff fronds of the date palms.

It is this moment which remains for ever as a memory of Egypt, a moment when day is over and night has not yet unfolded her wings, a strange between-time in whose tremendous hush the earth seems listening for a message from the sky. The fierce day dies and the sand loses its heat and all things are for a brief space without shadow.
H.V. Morton, In the Steps of the Master
Isn't this as good as a rest? Read it slowly, let your mind's eye place you there, and take it all in. H.V. Morton is superb at telling us the history and people of a place, but I have never seen anyone dwell upon his lyrical descriptions. They are scattered throughout this book and come to me almost with a shock as he suddenly stops talking about being a tourist and turns attention to the physical.

Our Lady of Sorrows

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905), Pietà, 1876
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many is Israel and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Luke 2:34-35
Any mother suffers when their child suffers. It is like a sword piercing their heart. However, Mary was no ordinary mother and her son was no ordinary son. John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, commented:
Simeon's words seem like a "Second Annunciation" to Mary for they tell her of the historical circumstances in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely in misunderstanding and sorrow ... They also reveal that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering at the Saviour's side and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.
If we stop to consider it, Mary must overcome many troubling and sorrowful circumstances through her life, beginning with trusting that Joseph will understand her pregnancy before their marriage. The circumstances of Jesus' birth, their flight into Egypt, then the trip to Nazareth where they must become established yet again, Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem, and much more are her lot. Jesus sees fit to spare her none of these experiences, including witnessing his death inflicted in the most shameful manner the Romans can invent as the result of lies and conspiracy.
Today's feast is an occasion for us to accept all the adversity we encounter as personal purification, and to co-redeem with Christ. Mary our Mother teaches us not to complain in the midst of trials as we know she never would. She encourages us to unite our sufferings to the sacrifice of her son and so offer them as spiritual gifts for the benefit of our family, the Church, and all humanity.

The suffering we have at hand to sanctify often consists in small daily reverses. Extended periods of waiting, sudden changes of plans, and projects that do not turn out as we expected are all common examples. At times setbacks come in the form of reduced circumstances. Perhaps at a given moment we even lack necessities such as a job to support our family. Practicing the virtue of detachment well during such moments will be a great means for us to imitate and unite ourselves to Christ ...

The particular circumstances are frequently the most trying dimension of sickness. Perhaps its unexpected duration, our own helplessness or the dependence on others it engenders is the most difficult part of all. Maybe the distress due to solitude or the impossibility of fulfilling our duties of state is most taxing ... We ask Jesus for an increase of love, and tell him slowly and with complete abandonment as we have perhaps so often told him in a variety of situations: Is this what you want Lord? ... Then it is what I want too.
Is this what you want Lord? ... Then it is what I want too.

That is what hit me hard about this reflection. How often in my life should I say that instead of trying to dodge around what I know I should do? Way too often is my sorry response.

Except for this last bit, everything here is either quoted directly or paraphrased from In Conversation with God: Daily Meditations, Volume Seven, Special Feasts: July - December.

Huzzah! Another Special Day! Reviewing "The Feasts" by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina

The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as CatholicsThe Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics by Donald Cardinal Wuerl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Church's calendar is an intricate, complex, and beautiful technology. It is the work of many human hands and human minds trained to deal with holy things. The seasons turn and the feasts interplay like the gears in a priceless clock. They regulate our religious life and enrich our spiritual life.

They seem to happen automatically, but only because the Church oversees the apparatus, averts temporal collisions, and finely tunes all the components to make the year as festive as it can be.
I am not sure exactly why but one of the things I have always loved about the Church is the liturgical year. The idea that there are a steady series of seasons and feast days linked with our calendar year enhances the richness of my life. Perhaps it is because my mother taught us to love nature and the turn of seasons simply because she herself loves them so much. Perhaps it is because, long before I was a Christian, I read and reread Rumer Godden's masterpiece In This House of Brede where the liturgical year is a continual background to the story.
“Don’t you see, it’s like a pageant. Our Cardinal has said the liturgy entertains as well as feeds us ... Yes, we’re not angels but humans," said Dame Clare, "and human nature is made so that it needs variety. The Church is like a wise mother and has given us this great cycle of the liturgical year with its different words and colours. You’ll see how you will learn to welcome the feast days and the saints’ days as they come round, each with a different story and, as it were, a different aspect; they grow very dear, though still exacting.”
Having unknowingly absorbed all that I suppose it is only fitting that I really enjoyed The Feasts. It covers the background and reasons for feast days, the liturgical calendar (and our calendar in general), and how these enrich our Christian lives. Even those of us who are well informed on the subject will find new information as well as good reminders of things we may have forgotten. For example this is supremely logical but just never occurred to me:
Sunday did not become simply a Christian version of the Sabbath. Christians were wary of enforcing a day of rest, as such enforcement had been turned on Jesus during his earthly ministry (see, for example, Mark 2:23-27). In any event, most Christians could not refrain from labor on Sunday because it was an ordinary workday in the Greco-Roman world.

Christian observance centered on the Mass, which was in most places offered very early in the morning (before work), but sometimes also in the evening (after work). ...
Certainly The Feasts is a worthy accompaniment to Cardinal Wuerl's and Mike Aquilina's previous two books, The Church and The Mass. Taken all together they provide a thorough, accessible, and much needed look at aspects of the Roman Catholic faith which seem very mysterious to outside eyes.

Tomorrow, I'll participate in the Blog Tour for this book by looking more closely at a particular feast. In this case, it will be that for The Holy Angels (which will surprise no one who is a regular reader of this blog).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Exaltation of the Cross, Russian icon

Some time ago I read Anthony Esolen's commentary in Magnificat about the elevation of the cross from the point of view of an English monk's meditation written in the Middle Ages from the point of view of the cross itself. It has haunted me, in a good way I hasten to add, as I would come upon small annoyances and inconveniences and then remember the image of the young Hero as a warrior striding toward the cross. Shame on me if I do not at least attempt to match that valiant attitude.
For it is not a shy and effeminate Jesus, this Savior of ours, the Healer, the Chieftain. No courageous German could respect a man who did not fight. And will Christ own us, if we do not fight for him? The poet dares to make us see Calvary in a way that we are not used to -- but in a way that is right and just nevertheless. Says the cross:

Then the young Hero ungirt himself -- that was God almighty,
strong, stiff-willed, and strode to the gallows,
climbed stout-hearted in the sight of many; intended to set men free.

Yes, Jesus sweat blood in Gethsemane. But he took the cross to himself, suggests our poet, as eagerly as the warrior takes the battlefield, or the bridegroom takes the bride. He needs no armor here. He strips himself, he climbs. And though it all the cross, as the first and most loyal follower of the Chieftain, stands firm; trembles, but does not bow; is drenched with blood and driven through with the same spikes that pierce the body of Christ.
Applying this to my daily life with its small and petty sacrifices, this helps immeasurably when I am reminding myself that my time is not really my own, that making a meal for a friend in need takes priority over my previous plans, and that even such a small thing is a step toward becoming a warrior in the young Hero's footsteps. It is surprising how contented one can be when embracing the cross with such an example.
This commentary is from 2008 and I repeat it here because it did me good to read it this morning.

It is rare that I relate to the daily reading in Magnificat from the saints who wrote a really long time ago. I always read them though because you never can tell just when something is going to hit you right between the eyes.

As did this from Saint Symeon the New theologian (died 1022):
... For Christians the cross is magnification, glory, and power: for all our power is in the power of Christ who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humility of God, who humbled himself to such an extent that he was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and with trembling, and with extreme reverence. For the image of the cross shows the reconciliation and friendship into which man has entered with God.

Therefore the demons also fear the image of the cross, and they do not endure to see the sign of the cross depicted even in the air, but they flee from this immediately knowing that the cross is the sign of the friendship of men with God...

Those who have understood this mystery and in very fact have known in experience the authority and power which the cross has over demons, have likewise understood that the cross gives the soul strength, power, meaning, and divine wisdom... To the degree of the reverence which one has toward the cross, he receives corresponding power and help from God. To him may there be glory and dominion for ever. Amen.
Just a little something to remind me not to make the sign of the cross automatically, as so often happens, I am very sorry to say. I must be heedful of what that sign has cost and what that sign means for me in my relationship with God.
I like this commentary also, which I posted a few years ago, also from Magnificat.

This is short, but good. And says it all.

The cross is the hope of Christians.
The cross is the resurrection of the dead.
The cross is the way of the lost.
The cross is the saviour of the lost.
The cross is the staff of the lame.
The cross is the guide of the blind.
The cross is the strength of the weak.
The cross is the doctor of the sick.
The cross is the aim of the priests.
The cross is the hope of the hopeless.
The cross is the freedom of the slaves.
The cross is the power of the kings.
The cross is the water of the seeds.
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen.
the cross is the source of those who seek water.
The cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekend Joke: Changing that Light Bulb

Because those are some of my favorite jokes, don't you know? Here are my favorites.
How many Proletarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None, the light bulb contains the seeds of its own revolution.


How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one but the light bulb has to want to change.


How many Boxers does it take to change a light bulb?

Doesn't matter. You can still play with the ball in the dark!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Elisabeth of Bavaria

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria (1865).
Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873).
Look at that dress! I know she was a great beauty of the time but that dress is the star of this painting to me.

Via Books and Art where there is a bit more info about the painting.

Well Said: Finding Peace

Great peace is found in little busy-ness.
Yes. When I remember to do the little things it helps the big problems recede.

Julie and Scott form a committee.

Scott wants the committee to immediately review who's marching in which parades, while Julie wants a school to stay open and thinks we better vote before someone kills Guy. Will they ever agree?

The one thing they can agree on is a mystery: Ashes to Ashes by Emma Lathen. Episode 91!

Cardinal Dolan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad St. Patrick's Day Parade

Cardinal Timothy Dolan is going to be the Grand Marshal of the next St. Patrick's Day parade in New York. Which was fine and dandy until the parade organizers decided to allow a LGBT group to march with a banner.

So now you'll see a wide variety of Catholics speaking up on whether Dolan should still be Grand Marshal. Which he is, by the way.

My initial question is this: wasn't this LGBT group always marching? Why does them having a banner suddenly make it immoral, according to some, for the Cardinal to participate? Why weren't they bringing this up before? In my view very little has changed. Banner or no banner, this group would have been very obvious to anyone attending. To my mind, this is a non-argument for this very reason.

There's also some discussion out there that since the St. Patrick's Day Parade isn't really a "Catholic" event that the Cardinal shouldn't participate. So if he's ever asked to throw out the first ball at Yankee Stadium he should turn that down too? Again, I understand the sentiment, but this makes no logical sense.

The Curt Jester has a post which sums up various responses around the web, including links. I don't necessarily agree with The Curt Jester's personal conclusion, but his post contains some of the wisest words on the tempest over Cardinal Dolan's participation in the St. Patrick's Day Parade:
Still what it comes down to is my prudential answer to the situation, did not match the Cardinal’s prudential answer to the situation. God is his great wisdom and mercy did not make me a priest or worse a bishop. ..."
Would that more of us kept that in mind when discussing the situation.

I myself keep recalling how many ways Christ participated in common life while people tried to use situations to judge him ... paying taxes, teaching at the Temple, attending a Pharisee's dinner, eating with tax collectors (both Matthew and Zachaeus), recruiting a tax collector as a disciple (that had to be one of the worst offenses, right?), and so forth.

All these actions could be seen as making a public statement for or against a big issue. It just depended on what group you belonged to and what group you were worried about. In fact, some of the situations were setups for traps based on that very concept.

I don't know if Cardinal Dolan's choice is right or wrong. (I really can see the validity of the arguments on both sides, although the venom some exhibit is not at all Christian.) I do know it's not my choice to make and stewing about it isn't going to change things.

(Side note: I'm also struck by what a small issue this is when I look at what people were complaining about in our bishops ten years ago, when I began blogging. Compared to the weak examples back then on issues like abortion, Dolan still comes out on the side of the angels.)

I'm not a cardinal and I thank God that I don't have to juggle all the factors he does in trying to serve God. In fact, I think all of you should also be thankful I'm not in a position of any real power. God definitely knew what He was doing with that one.

No matter whose side you think is right in this situation, let's pray for our our priests, our bishops, our Pope, and Cardinal Dolan.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11, Our Choices and Making a Stand

I originally wrote this for my Free Mind column at Patheos. It is still posted there, but I thought I'd put it here also. As I watch ISIS spread evil over the land, as I watch Russia wreak its will on the Ukraine, this piece seems just as pertinent today.

Two days after 9/11, my father-in-law had a massive stroke. My husband and I drove from Dallas to the hospital in Houston. Largely in shock between the double burden of terrorist attacks and personal tragedy, we were nevertheless stirred with pride at the many flags and hand-made signs we saw along the road. Tears sprang to my eyes when we passed a battered pick-up truck complete with obligatory shotgun rack and "We are all New Yorkers today" written on the rear window.

My husband said, "Those terrorists don't know what they have done. This guy would've spit on a New Yorker last week. And now he'd fight for them."

We were lucky. We didn't know anyone, then, who had died or been in the attacks. But we still suffered with the rest of the nation. It changed us as a people and as individuals.

It taught me a big lesson in forgiveness; as I expressed my forceful wish to see the people behind this attack "killed," a gentle friend from our parish looked at me with a troubled face. "I don't know," she said slowly. "But that doesn't seem right either."

I was taken aback and began to pray, even as I expressed anger. Gradually, the anger faded and the ability to forgive crept in.

Today, I mourn the 9/11 attacks as much as ever. Easy tears still spring to my eyes when I look over the old pictures, video footage, and exchange "what I was doing when I heard" stories with others.

I also think about the opportunity that we had to go forward as a people united—to bring something good out of the evil. We are more divided than ever, and ruder than ever. We squabble and complain about the red states, the blue states, the liberals, the conservatives, the Muslims, the Catholics, and on and on it goes.

Some of this is basic human nature, as old as the stories in Genesis, of brother striking brother. It seems to me, though, that some of it is Evil pushing its way into the world, and we are failing to push back for the common good. We listen to the siren call of "my way," which goes hand in hand with pride.

As always, when it comes to thinking things through, I find that others have pondered the matter so much more thoroughly than I could. Recently I picked up one of my favorite "good versus evil" books and found the words defining my thoughts.
It is said that the two great human sins are pride and hate. Are they? I elect to think of them as the two great virtues. To give away pride and hate is to say you will change for the good of the world. To vent them is more noble; that is to say the world must change for the good of you. I am on a great adventure.
Harold Emery Lauder, in Stephen King's The Stand
Twenty-three years before 9/11, Stephen King published one of his best-known and best-loved books, The Stand. It tells a tale of the United States, laid to waste when a biological weapons-grade virus inadvertently gets loose. As survivors roam the post-apocalyptic ruins, they begin to have dreams about an incredibly old holy woman, named Mother Abigail, or of a supernatural entity—Randall Flagg—who is her opponent.

Following their dreams, two communities begin to form—Mother Abigail's in Boulder and Flagg's in Las Vegas—and the stage is set for a final "stand" between Evil and God.

King has expressed frustration that so many fans call The Stand their favorite work, even though he has written scores of books since its publication.

Well, it's a heck of a book for one thing, so it's no wonder people love it. And although this is a horror novel, it is very translatable to our own lives. We no longer worry about bio-terrorism the way we did back then, but we can still relate to the scenario King paints.

In The Stand, King holds up the mirror to us. God and evil are present, of course, but they work through men, as ever, and we recognize ourselves in the pages.

Harold Emery Lauder was the quintessential misunderstood nerd, picked on in school, crossed in love, and finding power in hatred. His note could have been written by any of the terrorists who flew those planes into the World Trade Center. I imagine that, like Harold, their betrayal of innocents was the culmination of a long trail of choosing their own desires first. King shows us enough of Harold's choices—sometimes made despite the screaming of his own instincts—so that we can see a little of him in every selfish choice we make.

Harold's end is not a good one, and it is made pitiful by the fact that he is tossed aside like a worn out doll when evil is done using him for its own purposes. We cannot hold onto our anger at him because he has been misled so completely. In a similar way, when I think of those terrorists and their deliberate evil, I have a bit of that pity for them as well.

Once they were somebody's babies. I don't know what led them astray, but I lament the loss of the people they could have been.

King directly juxtaposes a rock star, Larry Underwood, against Harold.
"You ain't no nice guy!" she cried at him as he went into the living room. "I only went with you because I thought you were a nice guy" . . . A memory circuit clicked open and he heard Wayne Stuckey saying, "There's something in you that's like biting on tinfoil."
The Stand
After the plague, Larry is haunted by those words, "you ain't no nice guy"—they jump to mind whenever he contemplates a selfish or cowardly act. Ultimately, he actually becomes a "nice guy" by consistently choosing the nobler act, if only to prove those words wrong.

Larry is no different than you or me, or anyone who can see themselves with a modicum of self awareness. None of us are "nice guys" deep down because we are all stained with Original Sin. And we know it.

We have help, though, that Stephen King didn't give Larry Underwood. We have the grace of Christ, the sacrament of reconciliation, and our faith to strengthen us. Like Larry, though, we have to keep picking ourselves up and trying again. We must practice until we are more perfectly "nice guys."

9/11 has presented us with a chance to practice forgiveness over and over again. We're all in this together and lifting our thoughts (or hands) in hatred belittles us and our targets. We are Christ’s followers, charged to see Him in everyone they meet. We all have the same choice. Do we embrace Harold's way, or Larry's?
There's always a choice. That's God's way, always will be. Your will is still free. Do as you will. There's no set of leg-irons on you. But . . . this is what God wants of you.
Mother Abigail, The Stand

Have Mercy on Me Now and at the Hour of My Death. Amen.

I was "assigned" Captain Daniel O'Callaghan when Project 2,996 began. What an honor it has been every year to be allowed to bring this tribute of a fine American hero to everyone.

Captain Daniel O'Callaghan, 42, Smithtown, N.Y.

It has been a real privilege to read through the tributes of those who knew Daniel O'Callaghan and to learn about his life. Gradually this man I never heard of before has taken on real personality to me. Part of a large Irish clan, he was full of energy, loved children, loved joking around, and loved his family and job. In short, he loved life and made it better for everyone who was lucky enough to meet him.
When I was growing up, even though we didn't see the O'Callaghan's very much, it was always something to look forward to. We always had fun, laughter, jokes, & stories to tell. It didn't matter how long it had been since you'd seen each other, everyone was part of a big happy, loving family that hung together. Friends or family, it didn't matter; you were one of the family. It was wonderful.
I, myself, love the heart of someone who relished his job so ... and you've gotta love the image of those glow-in-the-dark boxers.
Though he came from a family chock-full of police officers - including six active officers and eight retired from forces in New York City and on Long Island - O'Callaghan, 42, switched to the fire department 18 years ago, after three years as a cop.

He was "born to be a fireman," said his friend and fellow firefighter, Paul Pfeifer.

His brother firefighters marveled at the constant energy displayed by "Danny O.," as he was known. "He was a ball of fire," said Pfeifer. In the engine house, he recalled, O'Callaghan "would have his pants and boots on already, like he was waiting for the next fire." And, Pfeifer said, at a fire scene, "You would turn around to see where he was, and he was already ahead of you."

O'Callaghan was also the one to provide comic relief when it was most needed. Pfeifer chuckled as he recounted one instance involving O'Callaghan and his glow-in- the-dark boxer shorts.

"We'd had a fire early in the evening that really beat the hell out of us," Pfeifer said. Most of the men were resting in the darkened bunk room, but not O'Callaghan, who never slept on the job.

"All of a sudden, he ran into the bunk room, and all you could see was the boxer shorts, jumping from bed to bed, and all you could hear was him laughing, and then he went out the door," Pfeifer said. "Everyone sat there, and was like, 'What was that?' I just said, 'That was Danny O.'"
That energy was one of Daniel O'Callaghan's main characteristics. It was mentioned time and again by all who knew him.
"Outstanding" This was always Danny's response...When I look back on it now though I realize it was his energy. It was his energy towards the two things he loved the most. His first would be his love for his beautiful family of Rhonda, Rhiannon and Connor. The other would be his other family. Being part of the NYFD. We should all be so lucky to have a loving family they we leave at home to join another that we work with.

It was his energy that could always be counted on when asked to assist in a family project or loan a hand in a task at ones home. Energy when telling a story or joke and always lighting up the place with his presence. His laugh was always robust and full of life...
Excerpts from John Caspar's tribute which was read at the memorial service
I was especially impressed by the fact that although his shift was over, he turned back to help in the emerging disaster that was September 11, 2001. That is just the kind of guy that he was. Born to be a firefighter, from a family with a history of public service.
The motto of the station, which is located in the Broadway area, is inscribed on the fire engine and fittingly reads: "The Pride of Manhattan. Never missed a performance."

It is a motto that probably befits Daniel O'Callaghan, who was not supposed to even be on duty that Tuesday. As the station was called out to the attack site, Daniel O'Callaghan was busy shaving in the station's bathroom before attending class to become a captain.

Maureen O'Callaghan was told her brother's shaving cream and clothes were found inside the station's bathroom, as he must have hurried to New York's aid with only half his face shaved, she said.
Anybody who lived life to the full the way that Daniel O'Callaghan did would also live his faith just as large.
"Much later, Anderson said, 'officials were able to identify Danny's remains in part by the Knights of Columbus rosary they found still firmly clenched in his hand.'"
I thought that I read somewhere that he was always fingering the rosary which he kept in his pocket, but couldn't find that reference again when I was looking around. Regardless, he had it when it counted most.

I think of him and feel that he had to be saying the rosary or at least thinking it in those final moments with the beads firmly in hand. I remember a friend told me that she read somewhere about someone who is devoted to Mary. That when they who stand before God for judgment they will see Mary come forward and tell Jesus, "This is one of mine" as she puts her arm around that person. Surely, from what I have read of Captain Daniel O'Callaghan's life he had no need of Mary coming forward but just as surely I feel that she was there with Jesus to greet him as he entered heaven.

I feel that I got to know Captain O'Callaghan just a bit as I searched for pieces of his life to show others. In fact, I have gotten into the habit of turning to him for intercession when in prayer. I look forward to meeting this loving, energetic, Irish firefighter if I make it to heaven myself. In fact, I'm asking him to help me get there.

My heart goes out to his family, especially his wife and young children. If I feel this way after simply reading about him then surely they must miss him sorely. My prayers are with them.

Daniel O'Callaghan was just one of the 2,996 victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as the attempted hijacking of Flight 93. They are all mourned and missed. We will never forget.

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

2,996 volunteer bloggers
are joined together in a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person is paying tribute to a single victim.

We honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.

Project 2,996 is here.

Remembering the tragic, sudden, and violent loss of 2,996 innocent Americans

I guess it is a measure of how time softens blows that it was only as an afterthought I realized today would be September 11. That memory makes me reel a bit when I think of how powerful it was to visit the Flight 93 Memorial this summer.

I still have no better tributes than those I have from past years so I present this one here today.
I turn on the TV and watch as the plane slowly flies into the Tower.
Hail Mary, full of grace
My daughter wanders downstairs, shoes in hand,
Turns to look at what has me transfixed on a weekday morning.
The Lord is with thee.
"Where is that, Mommy?" she asks.
Blessed are you among women
"New York," I answer. She nods. The name is familiar,
Like Venus,
Like Mars
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
"Do we know anyone there?" Her eyes are blue and full of innocent concern.
"No," I answer, thinking of friends, family, business associates, safe here.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
She has seen the green glass tower where I work,
Tucked amongst taller builders.
Pray for us sinners
But a skyscraper in one city looks much like one in the next.
"Where's the tallest building in the United States?"
And at the hour of our death.
My daughter looks relieved.

I remember that day and how horrible it was.

I also remember the many accounts and how moved I was by the heroism showed by so many. Looking back through my accumulated links, it moves me still.

One of those heroes was Captain Daniel O'Callaghan, 42, Smithtown, N.Y., whose tribute I wrote for Project 2996. I am reposting Captain O'Callaghan's tribute today.

Other good links from previous tributes: