Thursday, July 30, 2015

Catholic Bytes - a great new Catholic podcast

Each episode features a different priest who is in Rome right now. They discuss a variety of topics such as the importance of the body, prayer, how Christ makes us free, saints, and much more.

No matter the topic, the explanation is simple and understandable. A host gently inserts questions for further information but the focus is on the presenter. There's also a quick summing up at the end which is a nice touch.

The episodes are short, between 8-10 minutes, which helps make them easy to fit into your schedule and to understand. Or you can do it like me. I'm addicted and have been listening to one after another.

They'd be good for anyone who is interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, from those who are simply curious to Catholics who'd like a quick refresher which might also just prove inspirational at the same time.

Catholic Bytes just began about a month ago but they've already got 13 episodes posted.

Not every episode shows up in the iTunes feed but if you go to Catholic Bytes' website, it's easy to go to the older page and download the older episodes.

Worth a Thousand Words: Keepin' It Cool

Keepin' It Cool
"Anana swims in her 60F chilled water to beat the 95F heat."
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
Some rights reserved

Well Said: What We Deserve

It is always a terrible thing to come back to Mott Street. To come back in a driving rain, to men crouched on the stairs, huddled in doorways, without overcoats because they sold them perhaps the week before when it was warm, to satisfy hunger or thirst — who knows? Those without love would say, "It serves them right, drinking up their clothes." God help us if we got just what we deserved!
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
"God help us if we got just what we deserved!"

Yes. That would indeed be a terrible fate.

Can I visit it upon another? There is justice, to be sure, and it is much needed in this world. But justice must be served up with mercy. That is the delicate balance with which we all struggle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Life on the Provence Coast

Life on the Provence Coast
taken by French Sampler
None of the alleys near me ever look like this. Darn it.

Lagniappe: "I do not know of a happier way to spend an afternoon..."

When we were not doing up jams and jellies, we were down in the brook, which is deep enough to swim in, and shallow enough, with a good sand bank, for the children to play on, so it was a vacation indeed. I do not know of a happier way to spend an afternoon than sitting in a shallow brook with babies paddling happily around. There were little crawfish on the bottom, little minnows darting between your fingers as you try to catch them, boat flies on the surface, and beautiful blue dragonflies flying just above the water. There were neither mosquitoes nor flies nor gnats. The sun-warmed waters of the brook made up for all the "pail baths" we had been taking through the heat. We washed the children's clothes before we went back to the house, and we picked Indian pipes and pennyroyal as we went back through the field.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
The lovely thing about this journal is that she writes down life as it happens so between thoughts about faith and deep subjects, worries about retreats and how to feed the poor, comes some beautiful writing about episodes like this "vacation." I feel as if I had gone along.

Please Allow Me to Bend Your Ear About St. Martha, My Patron

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, Jan Vermeer
via Wikipedia

Today is Saint Martha's feast day and I still have not written anything I like better about her than this piece, which I present again.

It is no secret that Martha is my patron saint. I chose her because she is the patron saint of housewives but it soon became clear that it probably was God who chose to put us together. I relate to Martha in so many ways and her life stands as a measure of the person I work toward becoming ... a faithful servant who loves Jesus and is his good friend.
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."

The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
This is the story about Martha that springs to mind for most people and this is the first time (chronologically) that we hear her mentioned. We have all heard variations of the basic message about this passage of keeping your mind on Jesus no matter what else you may be doing.

However, we also see the confidence Martha shows when approaching Jesus with her complaint. What good friends they were for her to feel so comfortable coming to him like that. Jesus' affection is clear as he answers her much more gently than he often does his disciples.

For us, it also is a lesson in the fact that there is nothing too small to go to Jesus about. He will always help us with anything, even if it is something like helping give the right perspective.
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

So the sisters sent word to him, saying, "Master, the one you love is ill."

When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus...

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."

Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, "The teacher is here and is asking for you."
Again, a familiar story featuring Martha though more often it is told from the point of view of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. First of all, we may wonder how Martha knew that Jesus had arrived when Mary didn't. What it may make us think of is someone who is attuned to all the little details even in the middle of her grief. Perhaps there was a flutter of unusual activity that clued her in, so she went to investigate.

When we examine Martha's conversation with Jesus, we see again how familiar and friendly she is with him. She doesn't hesitate to say that she is disappointed that he didn't save her brother. How can one not love the confidence and trust that shows?

Martha also shows her great faith and understanding in unmistakable terms: I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. What an amazing moment that must have been between Jesus and Martha. Yet, after such a moment, she also doesn't forget her sister, Mary, who is still at home mourning. Martha is both loving and practical to the bone.

We have an unmistakable example of that practicality when Jesus is getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead and we are told: Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days" (John 11:39). Martha's unwavering, housewifely, detail-oriented common sense is used to emphasize the greatness of Jesus' miracle. The corpse is well into decay and yet he will still be brought back to life. How like God to use the mundane and practical moment to catch our attention and bring it to an even greater realization of His glory and love for us.
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus 2 and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Through watching Martha's progression in the previous Scripture, this very simple mention speaks to the difference between the first time we saw her and now.

Martha served.

That is all that needs to be said. Nothing about needing help is brought up now or comparing another's service to her own. Mary serves Jesus in her way while Martha serves Jesus in hers. Together they complement each other as both have chosen the better part. A beautiful end to a beautiful journey of faith.

I pray that my own journey may prove as fruitful as my dear St. Martha's.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Well Said: Involuntary versus voluntary penance

St. Angela of Foligno said that penances voluntarily undertaken are not half so meritorious as those imposed on us by the circumstances of our lives and cheerfully borne. ...

Most of us have not the courage to set out on this path wholeheartedly, so God arranges it for us.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
You know, that never would have occurred to me. Well said, indeed. And food for thought about how I live my life. For one thing I am terrible about taking up voluntary penances for the improvement of my soul. It is a comfort to think that God provides anyway.

Not that I love inconvenience or hardship, but we can't escape it so this is just one more way to orient myself toward the good that can come (and is intended) from it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies

Van Gogh, Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies
via Arts Everyday Living
Last year, I painted nothing but flowers to accustom myself to a a color other than grey, that’s to say pink, soft or bright green, light blue, violet, yellow, orange, glorious red.
Vincent van Gogh, letter to sister Willemien,
late October, 1887
Arts Everyday Living is featuring Vincent van Gogh this week, in honor of the 125th anniversary of his death. Do swing by there and take a look around.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Los Angeles Theater

Los Angeles Theater
Illustrator: Chris Turnham
I love L.A. This illustration makes me wish I were there right now.

Well Said: What's Your Hurry?

“What's your hurry?"

"Because now is the only time there ever is to do a thing in," said Miss Ophelia.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
I'm rereading this for the fourth time as I prepare for an upcoming episode of A Good Story is Hard to Find. Still loving it all the way.

Miss Ophelia and Topsy's relationship is one of my favorite parts of the book.

I listened to a number of audio versions before taking myself back to the one I did myself at Forgotten Classics. I was gratified to find that the reading wasn't half-bad; in fact, no worse than the best of what I could find on Audible. Plus the commentary was comparable to that of Heather Ordover at CraftLit.

It sounds as if I'm patting myself on the back, I know. The truth is that enough time has gone by (7 years) that I can listen to it objectively. I'm just pleased I did the job well. And can enjoy it myself from the "outside," as it were.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Well Said: Prayer for a Busy Day

What kind of an interior life can a mother of three children have who is doing all her own work on a farm with wood fires to tend and water to pump? Or the grandmother either?


How to lift the heart to God, our first beginning and last end, except to say with the soldier about to go into battle — "Lord, I'll have no time to think of Thee but do Thou think of me."
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
Within those ellipses (...) Day gave a summary of all her activities on the farm with her daughter. Oy veh!

You don't have to be a mother with little ones to occasionally look at the day ahead and foretell so much activity that just keeping on track is a chore, much less hoping for any spare time to feel the presence of God. I love that prayer for that very reason.

Worth a Thousand Words: Chagall

painted by Karin Jurick
I love Karin Jurick's paintings of people looking at art but this one hits me harder than the others which are usually in well-lit museums. This one is in a museum also but it feels like a chapel because of the lighting and ambiance.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Well Said: A Good Prayer for Many Sad Hearts

When my friends are in sorrow and trouble, or even when they are just without spirit, I like to pray, "Jesus, they have no wine," or "Mary, they have no wine." It is a good prayer for many sad hearts today.
Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage
I'm rereading this book which is Dorothy Day's daily diary from 1948. Into it she pours all the daily activities, which are quite varied considering she begins the year spending 2-1/2 months with her daughter in the country waiting for a new grandchild to be born and then returns to the city for her retreats and charity work.

Interspersed with all this are her spiritual reflections and often tart comments on the state of the country in general.

She's a fascinating person who I relate to in many ways. In others, not so much. But that's how it is with friends ... and saints ... is it not? The point is seeing where we intersect which, hopefully, is where Christ comes in.

This caught my eye because I recently began saying that prayer for my daughter and her fiancé who are searching for a good, inexpensive spot for their wedding reception. I thought what better prayer to say in this instance? After all, we know Jesus cared enough to provide enough wine to make that town very happy for a long time.

It was when reading this passage that I realized all the different ways "they have no wine" could be interpreted. What a good use of scripture in prayer.

Worth a Thousand Words: Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire

Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, Thomas Sully, 1843
I need to go see the original of this lovely, gentle painting. It's in the Dallas Museum of Art and was brought to my attention when sweet Hannah gave me a print of it after a visit there. I love the glimpse of the stepsisters primping in the background.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What We've Been Watching

Summertime, with our regular television shows on hiatus, means we can catch up a little on our movie viewing. These are mostly big movies that I was curious about. They surprised me in ways I didn't expect, for the most part.

Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance) 2014
A fading actor best known for his portrayal of a popular superhero attempts to mount a comeback by appearing in a Broadway play. As opening night approaches, his attempts to become more altruistic, rebuild his career, and reconnect with friends and family prove more difficult than expected.
People either loved or hated this. Tom felt lukewarm approval. I can't say I hated it but it did seem like a big waste of time.

That one shot trick was amazing and the use of the drum score to highlight the character's internal tension was very interesting ... but in the end I felt as if I were watching a one trick pony.

I thought these quotes in Wikipedia said it all ...
[Director and cowriter] González Iñárritu's own experiences influenced many of Birdman's themes, and said "What this film talks about, I have been through. I have seen and experienced all of it; it's what I have been living through the last years of my life."

Cowriter Dinelaris described this aspect as "a laughing look at oneself", but said it had to be done in a comedic way otherwise "it would have been the most unbelievably self-absorbed look at the subject".

I've got news for him. Humor didn't take that edge off.

I've seen All That Jazz. I've seen Adaptation.

Brilliant commentaries on art from people in those fields. Birdman was not those movies. Brilliant tricks and fantastic acting can't make up for an abundance of self-absorption and a lack of depth.

Magic in the Moonlight 2014
Set in the 1920s French Riviera, a master magician is commissioned to try and expose a psychic as a fraud.
A sweet little film that is not one of Allen's greatest but which does a good job in the first two acts of keeping us interested in the "is she or isn't she" clairvoyant question.

Colin Firth is good as the Houdini-esque character who debunks mediums. Emma Stone is good as the medium in question. Not something I'll want to watch again but it doesn't pretend to be more than it is. This was just what I expected it to be and that isn't a bad thing.

American Sniper 2014
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes his sole mission—protect his comrades—to heart and becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger and his struggle to be a good husband and father to his family back in the States, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq. However, when he finally returns home, he finds that he cannot leave the war behind.
This true-life tale is a surprisingly "traditional" sort of war movie in that it didn't worry about the politics of the war or about whether it was right or wrong to be in Iraq.

This is the story of a soldier doing the right thing as best he could, the toll it took, and his way back ... with no excuses and no finger pointing.

I found it refreshing.

Her (2013)
In the not so distant future, Theodore, a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user's every needs. To Theordore's surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all.
This was a fairly astounding movie. It startled, shocked, endeared, and made us think. We're still talking about certain aspects, especially how it looked at men and women (the title is "Her" after all and there is more than one woman in it), while simultaneously thinking about how we interact with technology, AI, and aliens. The more I think about it, the more I admire it.

This is all without even going into the atypical-typical futuristic look, the color themes, and Joaquin Phoenix's brilliant acting.

There was a certain amount of predictability to at least half of it but the unpredictable parts more than made up for that element.

NOTE: There is a surprising amount of sex in this movie, though not a way that is easy to explain. It is there for a reason but still surprised us and sometimes made us uncomfortable (which in itself had a purpose in the movie).

Edge of Tomorrow 2014
Major Bill Cage is an officer who has never seen a day of combat when he is unceremoniously demoted and dropped into combat. Cage is killed within minutes, managing to take an alpha alien down with him. He awakens back at the beginning of the same day and is forced to fight and die again... and again - as physical contact with the alien has thrown him into a time loop.
This was recommended by two people or I probably wouldn't have bothered.

Not bad but not great. Tom Cruise is a pleasure to watch in action movies, which are what he does best. However, there was some sort of problem with the pacing so that both Tom and I at different times said, "How long is this anyway?" It fell short of 2 hours but felt more like 3. That could be because so much time was spent in the beginning making sure we understood the concept. Note to director/editor: we've seen Groundhog Day. Just get on with it.

The World’s Fastest Indian 2005
The life story of New Zealander Burt Munro, who spent years building a 1920 Indian motorcycle -- a bike which helped him set the land-speed world record at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats in 1967.
The name and poster say it all. Anthony Hopkins gives a nice, underplayed performance as the old codger who no one takes seriously except the little boy next door. His goal is to get to Bonneville Flats with his 1920 Indian motorcycle in an attempt to beat the world land speed record. This sagged a bit in the middle on the road trip from L.A. to Utah, especially with so much of the story left to tell once he got to the trials. However, that's really neither here nor there in the big picture.

Not a big movie but it especially entertained my husband who loves cars and racing and engines and speed trials. Definitely recommended for Hopkins or car fans.

Lagniappe and Worth a Thousand Words: Chandler and Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Two Circles
They had Rembrandt on the calendar that year, a rather smeary self-portrait due to imperfectly registered color plate. It showed him holding a smeared palette with a dirty thumb and wearing a tam-o’-shanter which wasn’t any too clean either. His other hand held a brush poised in the air, as if he might be going to do a little work after a while, if somebody made a down payment. His face was aging, saggy, full of the disgust of life and the thickening effects of liquor. But it had a hard cheerfulness that I liked, and the eyes were as bright as drops of dew.
Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely
I don't know if this is the portrait Philip Marlowe was looking at because I discovered that Rembrandt did over a hundred self-portraits in his lifetime. But this expression is the one that came to mind when I read that paragraph. "Hard cheerfulness" is the perfect description.