Friday, October 21, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: For president, Abram Lincoln

For president, Abram Lincoln. For vice president, Hannibal Hamlin
via Library of Congress
Print shows a large campaign banner for Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln and running mate Hannibal Hamlin. Lincoln's first name is given here as "Abram." The banner consists of a thirty-three star American flag pattern printed on cloth. In the corner a bust portrait of Lincoln, encircled by stars, appears on a blue field.

Well Said: Horror, Monster, and Monstrance

Next week we'll begin counting down to Halloween with some of my favorite spooky quotes and images. But let's put it in perspective first ... Catholic perspective that is!
By Toby Ord
Most people don't think of horror as a genre of literature or film that is particularly agreeable to Christian sensibilities. However, two of the great practitioners of horror on both page and screen consider their work to be an extension of the gospel. Stephen King, author of many a scary tale, says that he considers himself the spiritual heir of the great Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards (who preached the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"). William Peter Blatty, who penned "The Exorcist" wrote the story precisely in order to show both the depths of demonic evil and to remind the world of the reality of Christ-like self-sacrifice.

By Broederhugo
It is the depth of the darkness of the Enemy that paradoxically highlights the brilliance of the light of Heaven. Indeed, the word "monster" comes from the same root as the word "demonstrate" and "monstrance." A "monster" demonstrates what we can and will be apart from Christ. A monstrance shows forth the saving eucharistic, and self-sacrificial power of him who underwent the worst horror the world has ever known to save us from the terrors of Hell. He has prepared a eucharistic table for us in the presence of Satan himself--and deprived him of his prey.

This Halloween, be not afraid.
Catholic Exchange, Word of Encouragement, Oct. 31, 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: The Green Parasol

Guy Rose, The Green Parasol, c. 1909-1911
via Arts Everyday Living

Lagniappe: Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings, where huge stone gods loomed above. Dust shifted in a strange downpour of tears from their eyes, tears made of sand and powdered rock.

The boys leaned into the shadows. Like a dry river bottom, the corridors led down to deep vaults where lay the linen-wrapped dead. Dust fountains echoed and played in strange courtyards a mile below. The boys ached, listening. The tombs breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon, and powdered camel dung. Somewhere, a mummy dreamed, coughed in its sleep, unraveled a bandage, twitched its dusty tongue and turned over for another thousand-year snooze ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Genesis Notes: Symbolism in Noah's Story

In that glorious way that Scripture has, the story of Noah and the flood work on more than one level. There are worlds of symbolism therein as the early Church Fathers found. Genesis: God and His Creation elucidates for us.

Noah's Ark, Tecamachalco Church in Puebla, Mexico
via SMU

The Fathers of the Early Church saw the ark as a figure of the Church. "God ordered Noah to build an ark in which he and his family would escape from the devastation of the flood. Undoubtedly the ark is a symbol of the City of God on pilgrimage in this world; that is, a symbol of the Church which was saved by the wood on which there hung the Mediator between God and men-Christ Jesus, Himself a man. Even the measurements of length, height, and breadth of the ark are a symbol of the human body in which He came ... The door open in the side of the ark surely symbolizes the open wound made by the lance in the side of the Crucified-the door by which those who come to him enter in the sense that believers enter the Church by means of the sacraments which issued from that wound." (St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, 15, 26; quoted in The Navarre Bible: Pentateuch, Princeton, NJ: Scepter Publishers, 1999; pg. 70)
The number seven should remind us of the hallowing of the seventh day of the first creation, which became a sign of the covenant God made with all creation. We are to comprehend that God is undertaking a re-creation of the earth and even of man himself, in a sense. He wants to renew the covenant. We should not mistake this for just another attempt to get things right. Rather, we are to absorb from all the details that evoke the creation that it is God Who desires to free man from his problems. God's unrelenting initiative in seeking to restore man to his original destiny is unequivocal proof of His love for us. The enormity of God's persistent love should rise up above all the details of man's early history as the sun rises in the morning sky. We dare not interpret any of it apart from the illumination of that bright light. Behind, above, beneath, before, and throughout everything is the glorious love of God for mere mortals. "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy Name in all the earth!" (Ps. 8:9)
"In the beginning," the earth was without form and void, and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). To read in Genesis 8:7 that "the wind" of God, which is His breath, the Holy Spirit, is blowing over the earth helps us to recognize the beginning of the re-creation. The repetitive use of language from the original creation story teaches us that God's original plan for the universe and for man was a perfect plan. That is why the re-creation scenes in Scripture, wherever they appear, always use language from the original one. God doesn't keep trying out new ideas until something works. He is determined to make His original plan work, no matter what rises up to derail it. No fault can be found with the plan. Human history will reveal where the problem lies.
The Church helps us to see the Holy Spirit as the dove that looks for habitable ground. In the days of Noah, it was dry earth that the dove sought and finally found. The appearance of the dove with the olive branch was a sign that a new life for man on the earth was about to begin. At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove is a powerful sign that finally the soil of the human soul will be fit for the presence of God's Spirit once again. Is there any thought more beautiful than this?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Starling

taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

October Lagniappe: The Ghosts' High-Noon!

From Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan.
When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls, and the bat in the moonlight flies,
And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds, sail over the midnight skies –
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail, and black dogs bay at the moon,
Then is the spectres' holiday – then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees, and the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tomb-stones are gathered the bones that once were women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow, to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

And then each ghost with his ladye-toast to their churchyard beds takes flight,
With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps, and a grisly grim "good-night";
Till the welcome knell of the midnight bell rings forth its jolliest tune,
And ushers in our next high holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Julie and Scott head out to live in the woods because, frankly, everyone else is just doing it wrong.

Sure, they'll miss butter and glass windows and apples, but they'll have more pointy sticks than anyone has ever had.

And a witch.

Or two.

The Witch (2015) is the subject of Episode 144 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Well Said: The Church is something alive ...

The Church is something alive, a force at work; but many pious people seem to believe, or pretend to believe, that she is simply a shelter, a place of refuge, a sort of spiritual hotel by the roadside from which they can have the pleasure of watching the passers-by.
Georges Bernanos
via Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
by Ralph C. Wood

Worth a Thousand Words: Ceiling Fresco by Salvador Dali

Ceiling Frescoes by Salvador Dali at Palace of the Wind, Dali Museum
taken by Barcelona Photoblog
I love the way that Dali gives us unique perspectives that turn us upside-down.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Memorial: St. Theresa of Avila

Saint Theresa of Avila
Saint, Mystic, Doctor of the Church

Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens
St. Theresa of Avila is probably the second saint who ever "caught" my attention. She did so by force of her remarkable personality which comes to us down through the ages as vital and sparkling. She was a profound contemplative, a zealous reformer of religious life, and the first female doctor of the Church. Those things make us expect a person so far above us in prayer, thought, and accomplishments that we can never hope to understand her. Indeed, she is far above me in all those things. However, it is impossible not to love and relate to someone with this amount of sass:
Those watching from the river bank saw the carriage she was in swaying on the brink of the torrent. She jumped out awkwardly, up to her knees in water, and hurt herself in the process. Wryly, she complained. "so much to put up with and you send me this!" Jesus replied, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends." She was not lost for an answer: "Small wonder you have so few!"
That's so very human and Theresa lets her humanity hang out in a very real way.
From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.
She scandalized people when they came upon her teaching the nuns in her convent to dance. When they received a donation of pheasant on a fast day, she instantly cooked them up for all to feast upon. "Let them think what they like, she said. "There is a time for penance, and there is a time for pheasant."

When I have trouble praying I remember that St. Theresa too said that she often needed to have a book to help her pray (obviously a soul sistah!). She was often distracted and couldn't calm her thoughts.
This intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down.
Heaven only knows that I have had more times like that than I care to admit. When I have trouble sticking with prayer at all, Theresa's open and honest avowal helps me hang in there just a little longer.
For many years I kept wishing the time would be over. I had more in mind the clock striking twelve than other good things. Often I would have preferred some serious penance to becoming recollected in prayer.
These things are those which give me hope that I could come near to loving God and serving Him the way that she did. Here is a little more information about her.

Last, but not least, here are a few of my favorite inspirational quotes (since I have already favored you with the more humorous above).
How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing Thee?

Give me wealth or poverty, give me comfort or discomfort, give me joy or sorrow...What do you want to make of me?

As to the aridity you are suffering from, it seems to me our Lord is treating you like someone He considers strong: He wants to test you and see if you love Him as much at times of aridity as when He sends you consolations. I think this is a very great favor for God to show you.

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day.

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Vanity

Vanity, 1907, Frank Cowper

Lagniappe: Distressed Jeans

She wore the kind of distressed jeans they distress by rubbing money on them and a T-shirt that said HELLO, RUST BELT! in what looked like real rust and probably cost #300.
Timothy Hallinan, Crashed

Pope St. Callistus, Martyr

St. Callistus
Imagine that your biography was written by an enemy of yours. And that its information was all anyone would have not only for the rest of your life but for centuries to come. You would never be able to refute it -- and even if you could no one would believe you because your accuser was a saint.

That is the problem we face with Pope Callistus I who died about 222. The only story of his life we have is from someone who hated him and what he stood for, an author identified as Saint Hippolytus, a rival candidate for the chair of Peter. What had made Hippolytus so angry? Hippolytus was very strict and rigid in his adherence to rules and regulations. The early Church had been very rough on those who committed sins of adultery, murder, and fornication. Hippolytus was enraged by the mercy that Callistus showed to these repentant sinners, allowing them back into communion of the Church after they had performed public penance. Callistus' mercy was also matched by his desire for equality among Church members, manifested by his acceptance of marraiges between free people and slaves. Hippolytus saw all of this as a degradation of the Church, a submission to lust and licentiousness that reflected not mercy and holiness in Callistus but perversion and fraud.
Today we celebrate St. Callistus, a saint who was merciful. For this he was castigated by someone who also became a saint. And his history is written by those who hated him.

It strikes me that he is particularly suited to lend us his aid and wisdom. The upcoming elections are generating a level of finger pointing, castigation, and general wrath which I fear will continue afterwards. Unless we are ready to repent if we have contributed to that condition ... and to forgive those who repent.

Read all of St. Callistus' story at Catholic Online.

St. Callistus, pray for us, pray for our country.

Blogging Around: "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" Edition

Clinton's Campaign Team and a "Catholic Spring"

“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.” – Sandy Newman, president and founder of the Voices for Progress, in an email to John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign for President.

In response, Podesta — a Catholic — tells Newman that structures have been put in place to work toward that end. A headline in the Washington Post would suggest that the line of thinking in these Wikileaks-obtained emails was mere joking, but the conversational back-and-forth appears to be in dead earnest.

It also seems shockingly ignorant.
If you haven't heard of the email leaks about a disturbing exchange which shows an ignorance of Clinton campaign heads about both Catholicism and religious faith in general, you can read basics at The Washington Post. It also shows a sophomoric sense of humor. However.

For a thoughtful analysis and response, read Scalia's piece.

Interfaith Group Asks US Government to Reject Report that Stigmatizes Religious Americans

A letter to Barak Obama, Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan was sent by a widely diverse group of religious leaders representing Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, the Church of Latter Day Saints, the African Methodist Church, Evangelicals, Krishna Consciousness, and many more. They were responding to troubling statements in a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The Commission asserts in its Findings that religious organizations “use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate.”

What we find even more disturbing is that, in a statement included in the report, Commission Chairman Martin Castro writes:
“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
Read the whole letter. This is important.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

It's been a troubling last few days with a couple of stories about targeting Catholicism and freedom of religion. Luckily, this Sunday's readings are perfect for the situation. They're all geared to encourage and remind us to pray (while we do all we can) and to trust God.

In fact, it includes one of my favorite parables, about the judge who delivered a just decision because he was afraid the widow would "poke him in the eye" (specific translation from the Greek which is often toned down in different translations). Makes me laugh and recall that we often forget Jesus' sense of humor.

I was greatly inspired and encouraged after hearing commentary from two different sources.