Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Eve at the D. House

New Year's Eve has become a "family" night for us ever since the kids got old enough to want to stay up until midnight. We eat junk food (taquitos anyone? how about some Rotel cheese dip?), play board games and watch movies. Tom and I quaff champagne the whole time ... albeit at a very slow pace. (We're not big drinkers.) Rose has turned down babysitting two years in a row because she doesn't want to miss her New Year's Eve at home.

This year will be different only in venue and some of the people. We're going to be visiting Tom's mom in Houston and are not sure who else will be there. I'm planning on making Mexican food in case there's a crowd. And champagne goes with everything right? We'll certainly find out with that combination! However, we'll be taking our favorite board games (including Risk which may be too involved for that sort of evening) and movies. The moveable party!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

PC or Mac?

The answers to my RSS questions lead me to believe that I am waaaaaaay outnumbered because I am a Mac user. For instance, the extensions info was for Windows, a dead giveaway. Is everyone else on the PC or do I have compatriots out there?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Our Delightful Evening

Last night felt more like a weekend and it was a distinct shock to realize I have to go work this morning and actually think! Tom and I were taken to dinner by a couple who we have known through work for some time. Steve has been a client for many years (10?) and his wife, Cathy, has a jewelry design business for which we have provided web work for maybe a couple of years. Both are very enjoyable people but it never occurred to us to get together socially until this invitation.

I sure am glad that they thought of it! We were taken to a tiny restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Veracruz in the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff (for any Dallasites reading). This place had perhaps eight tables but wonderful decor, service and, most important of all, food. Although it is surprising that I noticed any of that because Cathy and I were so engrossed in conversation that my Pipian Chicken (chicken breast with pumpkin seed sauce) almost went to waste (almost!). As she later said to Steve, "Oh, were you there too?" I don't think the guys suffered because I heard a steady stream of talking and laughing coming from them.

It was especially fun because Cathy and I connected on soooooo many levels. She's the only other person I know who shops weekly at both the Central Market and Kuby's. She goes to a reformed temple ("it's very reformed") and y'all know I'm a staunchly conservative Catholic, but we agreed on so many intersecting areas of the need for education, intellectual curiousity and the application of those things to child rearing. It also was refreshing to talk to someone who has teenagers (hers are 19 and 16 year old girls) as so many of my friends have very young children. We both understood the idea of being the parents providing the gathering place for kids' friends, had similar "clever" stories about our almost grown kids' views, etc. Steve and Tom? Yeah, they were still there somewhere ...

Before and after dinner they showed us a bit of the area. Tom and I were intrigued and, if we can find our way back, want to go during the day with the girls and explore a bit more. One quirky place we explored was ifs ands & butts, which bills itself as "The World's Most Famous SodaPop & Tobacco Shop". I could believe it. I had no idea that so many old brands of soda pop still were being manufactured. Our conversation with the proprietor about Coca Cola from Mexico versus Holland was so fascinating that he almost couldn't quit talking (a passion for his work, don't ya know!).

As I work my way slowly toward New Year's resolutions (that is a whole other post), this reinforces a life style change that Tom and I discussed last year and that I am going to try to force this year ... we must make the time to entertain more. Ok, let's make that, we must make time to entertain at all! It's too easy to let it slide in the middle of a busy life and then discover you never have any of your friends ever come over. It took us several months just to set the date for last night's outing. Certainly we have to have Steve and Cathy over and continue all that talking ... for one thing, I never got to talk to Steve!

Frostie

I Love My Butterbell

Do you? It is one of my kitchen essentials and if you haven't heard of it you might be missing something that makes life a little easier.

Also, Monkey has been back in the kitchen.

All over at Glad Gastronome.

Biblical Prayer Themes, Part II

[continued from Biblical Prayer Themes, Part I]
4. Longing and yearning. In its advancing stages the pursuit of God includes a hungering and thirsting for him as though we were a parched desert in need of a soaking rain, or as a doe longs for the running waters of a stream (Ps 63:1; 42:1-2). At times in life we need quietly and patiently to wait for the Lord, who will fill us in due time (Ps 37:7, 40:1). The psalmist seeks to understand better, to celebrate, to love, and to observe the precepts and plans of the Lord (Ps 119:1-176).

5. Prayerful suffering. Since all of us suffer in one way or another, and in diverse degrees, it is not surprising that the biblical word would teach us how to bear our crosses in life and how to use them to come to a closer communion with the indwelling Trinity. Jesus, of course, leads the way: in the midst of his agony in the garden of olives he shares with the Father his inner pains and expresses his desire that the divine will be done (Mt 26:39). We, too, express our heartaches to this same loving Father and unload our burdens before him (Ps 55:4-5, 16-17, 22; 62:8). We may even cry out in our pains and sufferings (Ps 22; 23:4-6; 27:7).

6. Sorrowing for sin. There is need in any honest heart to join David and the publican in begging pardon of the all-holy God, for we are sinners (many psalms; Lk 18:13). The first step in obtaining forgiveness is to confess humbly that we have sinned. Then we renounce the sin, express sorrow, and return to the Father, firmly resolved to profit from our experience and to be deeply converted (Ps 32:1-5; 51; Lk 15:11-24). Since serious sin wounds the sinner profoundly and issues in bitter guilt, he wisely returns to the only one who can heal him fully and he seeks relief from the divine forgiving love (Ps 38:1-10, 17-18, 21-22).
Prayer Primer, Thomas Dubay, S.M.
[Varieties of biblical prayer themes to be continued...]

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Glorying in the Eternal Investment - Children

My children can have more far reaching implications for society and posterity than anything else I can do. Having babies and training children for Jesus Christ means my life work will last forever. I hurt for you and those sad, misguided souls who would think of prolific motherhood as reducing women to the status of "baby machine." I refuse to accept the minimizing, selfish, materialistic, and limited vision of womanhood dispensed by the apostles of modernity and relevancy in this generation. My dream is far greater. I reject the options which the world offers. I want something bigger.

I loved reading this spirited and glorious defense of the large family by Beall Phillips over at Doug's Blog. Much thanks to Donna at Quiet Life for the heads up.

What Do We Have to Say for God?

To others pondering senseless suffering, read the comments on this post over at Open Book. Some very powerful answers over there.

The Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Massacre of Holy Innocents

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (front, predella): The Massacre of the Innocents.

Nor must we forget that our greatest happiness and our most authentic good are not always those which we dream of and long for. It is difficult for us to see things in their true perspective: we can only take in a very small part of complete reality. We only see the tiny piece of reality that is here, in front of us. We are inclined to feel that earthly existence is the only real one and often consider our time on earth to be the period in which all our longings for perfect happiness ought to be fulfilled.

There is anguish for us, twenty centuries later, in thinking of the slain babies and their parents. for the babies the agony was soon over; in the next world they would come to know whoom they had died to save and for all eternity would have that glory. For the parents, the pain would have lasted longer; but at death they too must have found that there was a special sense in which God was in their debt, as he had never been indebted to any. They and their children were the only ones who ever agonized in order to save God's life ... (F. J. Sheed, To Know Christ Jesus)
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Monday, December 27, 2004

My Christmas by Julie D.

FIRST THINGS FIRST
The church looked gorgeous and really reflected the joyous celebration. We always attend Christmas Day mass. Not only does that make the day itself special but we have learned to avoid those Christmas Eve "crushes" I've seen other St. Blog's folks complaining about (it took a few years of suffering because the girls sang in a children's choir on Christmas Eve before we could get away from those crowds).

UNDER THE TREE
Santa was very good to the Glad Gastronome. I also got many things from my Amazon wish list including Michael (love John Travolta's turn in that movie), The Anvil of the World (some great fantasy s-f by one of my favorite authors), and Thinklers! (I've gotta get material for the weekend puzzlers somhow!). The biggest and most surprising gift was from Tom; a one year subscription to NPR's "Wait, Wait" and "Car Talk" that I can download into my iPod weekly. Woohoo! No more trying to remember to be home to tape it! What a great idea!

Also, this wasn't really "under the tree" as I had pre-ordered it many months ago, but Amazon got The Simpson's 5th season DVD (released on 12/22) to us in one day and it was a great festive start to the holidays. There's no better way to get the excitement level going than watching "forgotten" or little seen episodes of The Simpsons in their prime.

COOL STUFF OTHERS GOT
  • Tom: Postcards from the Boys by Ringo Starr. I never knew that whenever any of the Beatles went anywhere they'd mail postcards to Ringo but here they are collected in this book with Ringo's commentary.

  • Rose: a very cool hat from Urban Outfitters. She always looks fab in hats and this one sets off her looks just perfectly. (Although I also liked her Muse cd a lot more than I thought I would have ... to the point of needing it on my iPod.)

  • Hannah: a toad house. This summer we had a toad living in the bottom of our Earth Box. I didn't even know we had toads in our yard. She is very into nature and this was perfect for her.

WHAT I LEARNED
  • Tom has a real liking for red ribbon ... a REAL LIKING! Practically every package he wrapped had red ribbon all over it.

  • Two graphics people wrapping gifts spend too much time making sure the "color blend" doesn't have too much of one color or another (and why did I wind up with so much blue paper I wonder? never again!).

  • Around St. Blog's people wrote about buying tons of gifts or limiting gifts to a few to better keep their focus on the season. Here's our philosophy, which I found echoed in an interview by Paul McCartney of all people. We don't buy things for the girls the rest of the year but for Christmas and their birthdays we go all out ... or as all out as we can afford at the time. It is a time of generous celebration and the more the better. We have never had a problem remembering that Jesus is the center of everything ... I think that is more of a family focus than a function of how many gifts are given. After all, I always remember that Jesus gave the village in Cana so much wine the entire village was blasted for three days so who am I do pull back in gift giving?

  • Tom's relatives, who we spent Christmas Eve with, tended to be about half Catholic and the other half are either evangelical or Methodist. Occasionally the Catholics would talk about which mass they would attend. Suddenly Tom's Methodist sister-in-law broke into an explanation of why they weren't going to attend any Christmas services at all. It seems the minister whose sermons they enjoy was doing all the services that conflicted with the family's schedule. The services that would have been easy to attend featured a minister whose speaking style is not as good. I know this is not how many Protestants are, simply because of my blogging friends, if for no other reason. However, it stood to point out to us that the Eucharist is the heart of any Catholic mass. That is the point of having all those mass times available. Whether the homily (sermon) will be good is really besides the point. You might internally cheer or sigh when you see who stands up to speak but whatever. As long as you get the Eucharist it's all good.

  • I didn't realize how upset our priest was by the low attendance figures this Sunday. For one thing we were moving pretty slowly and wound up at the 12:30 mass which is usually sparsely attended. It was only when talking with Fr. L. afterwards that we realized how many more usually would have been there ... and this was with the vigil masses not held on Christmas evening. He always is cheerful but made some very pointed comments about how many parishioners he wondered were out at the malls at that very time. We're such terrible consumers that we'd forgotten all about the after-Christmas sales ... so we dropped everything and ran right out of the church (just kidding).

John, Apostle and Evangelist

JohnEvangelist

Correggio. John the Evangelist (detail).

For John, as for everyone else, his vocation gave a new meaning even to the most ordinary things. The whole of life is affected by Our Lord's plans for each one of us ...

John's whole life was centred on His Lord and Master; in his faithfulness to Jesus he found the meaning of his life. He put up no resistance of any kind to His call; he was found on Calvary when all the others had disappeared. This is what our life, too, has to be like, because even though Our Lord calls some people in a special way, all his preaching comprises a vocation, an invitation to follow him into a new life whose secret he possesses: if any man would come after me ... (Matt 16:24)

Our Lord has chosen all of us -- some of us with a specific vocation -- to follow him, to imitate him and to carry on in the world the work of his Redemption. And from all of us he expects a joyful and unshakeable faithfulness like St. John's -- even in the most difficult moments.
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Sunday, December 26, 2004

St. Thomas Aquinas Church

No photos can ever do a place justice but I thought I'd bore everyone anyway with my church in its "holiday" garb.

STAloftview

View from the choir loft



Altar

A closer view of the altar


Altar2

Altar details (the angels only come out for Christmas ... and possibly Easter; they're new so I'm not sure)


Nativity

Nativity scene

St. Stephen - The First Martyr

StStephen

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen, Rembrandt

We have only just celebrated the birth of our Lord and already the liturgy presents us with the feast of the first person to give his life for this Baby who has been born. Yesterday we wrapped Christ in swaddling clothers; today, he clothes Stephen with the garment of immortality. Yesterday, a narrow manger cradled the baby Christ; today, the infinite heaven has received Stephen in triumph. (St. Fulgentius, Sermon 3)

The Church wants to make us realize that the Cross is always very close to Jesus and his followers. As he struggles for perfect righteousness - sanctity - in this world, the Christian will meet perfect situations and attacks by the enemies of God. Our Lord has warned us: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you ... Remember the word that I said to you; a servant is not greater than his master: If they persecuted me they will persecute you. (John 15:18-20) Since the very beginning of the Church this prophecy has been fulfilled. And in our days too, if we really follow Our Lord, we are going to suffer difficulties and persecutions in one way or another and of different kinds. Every age is an age of martyrdom, St. Augustine tells us. Don't say that Christians are not suffering persecution; the Apostle's words are always true ...: All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim 3:12) All, he says, with no one being excluded or exempted. If you want to test the truth of this saying, you have only to begin to lead a pious life and you will see what good reason he had for saying this. (St. Augustine, Sermon 6, 2)
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Feast of the Holy Family

HolyFamily

Between Joseph and Mary there existed a holy affection, a spirit of service, and a mutual desire for each other's happiness. This is Jesus' family: sacred, holy, exemplary, a model of human virtues, ready to carry out God's will exactly. A Christian home must be an imitation of the house of Nazareth; a place where there is plenty of room for God so that He can be right at the centre of the love that members of the family have for one another.
In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Welcome, Lord Jesus

Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds by François Boucher, 1750

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful,
From David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
By judgment and justice, both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Isaiah 9:5-6

May God bless you richly and may you recognize the blessings He sends you. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Riddles

What do elves learn in school?
[The Elf-abet!]

What was so good about the neurotic doll the girl was given for Christmas?
[It was already wound up.]

Did you hear that one of Santa's reindeer now works for Proctor and Gambel?
[Its true, Comet cleans sinks!]

Mom, can I have a dog for Christmas?
[No, you can have turkey like everyone else.]

What nationality is Santa Claus?
[North Polish.]

What do you call a cat on the beach at Christmastime?
[Sandy Claws!]

What kind of bird can write?
[A PENguin.]

Waiting in Joyful Anticipation

Jerusalem, turn your eyes to the east,
see the joy that is coming to you from God.
Look, the children you watched go away are on their way home;
reassembled from east and west,
they are on their way home at the Holy One's command,
rejoicing in God's glory.

Baruch 4:36-37

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Gospel According to Cats and Dogs

A dog thinks:
This man feeds me, loves me, lets me in and out and cares for me. He must be God.

A cat thinks:
This man feeds me, loves me, lets me in and out and cares for me. I must be God.

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "It's funny because it's true." Thanks to Kim at The Upward Call for reminding me of this one!

Great Study Resources

READ THE BIBLE IN A YEAR
My Daily Catholic Bible-RSV: 20-Minute Daily Readings
My Daily Catholic Bible offers the only reading plan that …
  • divides all of Sacred Scripture into 365 segments, one for each day of the year
  • features two small, manageable readings for each day, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament
  • tells you the Catholic saint or feast for each day, and provides an insightful quote from a saint for that day.
There’s never been an easier way to read the Bible. You don’t have to start on January 1. Begin reading on any calendar date and twelve months later you’ll have made your way through all seventy-three books of the biblical canon. And a place for a check mark next to each entry makes it simple to keep track of your progress. Plus, you’ll know exactly where to start in again if you miss a day or two!

CATHOLIC BIBLE STUDIES FOR WOMEN
I found these on an Amazon list by a woman who is Catholic & an aspiring Carmelite. It's pretty hard to find Catholic Bible studies, much less specifically for women, so I thought I'd pass these recommendations along.

Woman of Grace: A Bible Study for Married Women
For married Catholic women. 9 lessons.

Courageous Virtue
For Catholic women. 8 lessons based on the moral and theological virtues

Courageous Women
For Catholic women. 8 lessons on holy women of the Bible.

Courageous Love
For Catholic women. 8 lessons on topics such as holiness, prayer, obedience, dignity, etc.

READ THE CATECHISM
Don't forget that Living Catholicism is taking us through the Catechism a bit at a time. This is the easy, spoon-fed way to read the book that I have heard is second only to the Bible as a "must read" for Catholics.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Jesus, Son of Mary

Matthew 1 details the genealogy of Jesus starting with Abraham and showing how Joseph descended from the line of King David (of the house of Judah), hence fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about the lineage of the promised messiah (and explaining why Joseph had to register in Bethlehem).

Here's the twist...Jehoiachin (he has some other aliases I forget), the last surviving king of Israel (reigned shortly before Israel went into Babylonian captivity), was evil and was told by God that none of his descendants would be king. Now we have a little problem. Joseph descended directly from that king, so if Jesus were his son, he couldn't be the promised king.

Marla at Proverbial Wife has some very cool info about Jesus' genealogy and, not incidentally, about Jewish mothers.

Biblical Prayer Themes, Part I

... many people think of prayer mainly as asking for help in our sundry problems and needs. Fewer still think of it as being in love with God and expressing that love in many diverse ways, often in touching and tender terms. But such is the scriptural reality. In order to handle clearly this extraordinary abundance of interpersonal beauty, I think it best to sample these biblical prayer themes under several headings. Your own use of the Bible and participation in the eucharistic liturgy will furnish you with many more examples of these themes.

1. Petitionary prayer. We begin with a type of prayer that is familiar to everyone -- even to the former atheist in the foxhole. We are to ask and it will be given to us, seek and we shall find, knock and the door will be opened (Mt 7;7-8). We are to call on this God who works wonders for those he loves (see Ps 4:3). Just as infants turn with complete trust to their parents for all of their needs, so we also cast our cares on the Lord, because he cares for us tenderly beyond our imagining (1 Pet 5:7).

2. Adoration, praise, blessing. Filled with joy, we worship our Origin and our final Destiny, purest goodness and beauty (Ps 16:5-11). We join with "everything that lives and breathes" in a hymn of praise (Ps 150:6; 96:1-2, 98:4-8). We bless and praise this God, not simply once in a while, but at all times (Ps 34:1). We glorify him as the worker of marvels on our behalf (Ps 31:21), as we celebrate his lasting love in outpourings of tribute and thanksgiving (Ps 136:1-26). All this occurs in an atmosphere of blessing and rejoicing in the tender love of the Creator toward everything he has made (cf. Ps 146:1-2; 150:1-6)

3. Thanksgiving. Closely akin to adoration and praise, and yet with an added dimension, is heartfelt thanksgiving. Repeatedly the psalmist and the Church hearken to our privilege and duty of expressing gratitude to the Father for every good and perfect gift that descends from him (Jas 1:17). All of us are to declare to this God an endless proclamation of thanksgiving (cf. Ps 28;7; Col 3:15).
Prayer Primer, Thomas Dubay, S.M.

[to be continued...]

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

St. Dorothy and Relics

Dorothy was born in Caesarea, where her Christian parents had fled to escape the persecutions taking place in Rome. The Roman emperor Diocletian stepped up his harassment of the Christian communities around the time that Dorothy was a young woman of marriageable age. When marriage to the roman prefect Fabricius was arranged for her, Dorothy refused, saying that she wanted to remain a virgin. To compound her insults to the Roman authorities, she also refused to take part in the ceremonies to the old gods. She was thrown into prison [where she was was tortured]...

Along the route to her place of execution, Dorothy met a young clerk in the legal network, named Theophilus, who made fun of her belief that when she was dead, she would be transported to a heavenly garden filled with flowers and fruit. "Send me fruit and flowers, then, when you are dead," he mocked. In one version, the young man watched Dorothy kneel down before she was executed, and while she was praying there, an angel appeared to him carrying three roses and three apples. In another version, after her death a strange boy appeared at Theophilus's door in the dead of winter, carring a basket with three red roses and three red apples.

Theophilus was converted and later martyred by being beheaded, after which his body was thrown to wild animals...

DEVOTIONAL PRACTICE
During the winter months, place on your altar or in a special area in your home three apples and three roses., See them as reminders of the eternal garden that exists within you even in the dead of winter. Thank God for allowing you to have faith in this vision.
The Way of the Saints by Tom Cowan
St. Dorothy is Rose's patron saint. Her saint day is February 6 but Rose liked the suggested devotional practice. Rather than bear the expense of the roses all through the winter, she has reached a nice compromise of putting three red roses and three red apples on a special table on the first and last days of winter, and on Dorothy's saint day. Today is the winter solstice which is the first day of winter so this is our first day of observing this commemoration.

On the way home from buying the roses and apples, Rose suddenly asked if it would be ok to put it on the "Mary" table. This is an end table in our living room where we have a cross, a statue of Mary, a statue of the holy family, and a little jar containing the dried rose petals from our "miraculous rose." Talking it over we realized that we had both envisioned everything going on the "Mary" table. Why? Because of those dried rose petals. They are our physical evidence of the miraculous. I suddenly connected that with relics and felt I was a little closer to "getting it." No wonder people would want to build churches with relics in them.

After I got home I read this post by Steve Bogner at Catholicism, holiness and spirituality about ... yep, relics. I don't know why relics are suddenly coming to my attention but I definitely am going to read that page in the Catholic Encyclopedia that Steve found.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Old Mass is Found in the New

My thesis is that to understand and enter fully into the spirit of the modern liturgy you must understand the Tridentine liturgy, just as to fully understand the impact of the New Testament you must be intimately familiar with the Old Testament. After all, it was always the intent of the Church that the modern Mass should emerge as an organic development of the old Mass--not as a rejection of centuries of liturgical practice, a liturgical practice that nourished and was central for most of our well-known saints. It is funny that many who love St. Francis of Assissi seem so hostile to and suspicious of the Mass that was central to his life.

Catholic Analysis, insightful as always, discusses the need for a synoptic approach to both liturgical forms. A great point and one that hadn't occurred to me.

Men and Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

That is the subject of an interesting article by Jay at Living Catholicism. I never really thought about it much one way or the other but I don't thing I know any men who are devoted to the Blessed Virgin ... or if they are, then they aren't mentioning it. (Kind of hard to work into conversation for one thing!)

Jay not only gives reasons why it is a good idea but then talks about how to do it ... or at least see if it is right for you. This is well worth it for women to read as well as there are some good insights in general here.

My friend Ron had some interesting comments about Jay's post ... I especially like his insights about Mexican culture.
Interesting. I would never have thought in such broad terms. It seems there are a lot of Men who pray the Rosary and to me that seems to be a true devotion to Mary. Maybe the point is we need more....

I grew up in large part revering the Virgin of Guadalupe. In the Mexican culture it's almost ingrained in you from the beginning and it seems that many men have a special place for her. In fact the culture itself seems for the most part to be a Matriarchal society and revering Mary is just an extension of that (or vice versa). I know most people think that since the word "macho" comes from the Mexican culture that it implies a patriarchal society. My experience just doesn't prove that out, Men are very integral and in some parts very strong but the woman is the glue - the spiritual guide.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

I am Gonna Get You So Many Lizards!

Fry: "I said I want the best one! Now which costs more, the parrot or the stinklizards?"

Man: "The lizards are a buck each, the parrot is $500."

Fry: "That's a hell of a good parrot!"

Fry: "Although I could get five hundred lizards for the same price. Girls like swarms of lizards, right?"

Man: "Sir, the store is closing in two minutes."

Fry: "I'll take the five hundred lizards! No...wait...yes. No! Yes! Yes! Yes! The parrot!"

Parrot: "squawk!"

later in episode ....

Leela: "Hi there."

Fry: "Leela! Oh my God, you saved my life! I am gonna get you so many lizards!"
Futurama, Xmas Story


This is the bit of Futurama Christmas show that led to one of our family's private jokes. After we watched this episode for the umpteenth time, I had gotten something at the store that Rose loves but didn't expect (what was it? I have no clue.). She popped out with, "I am gonna get you so many lizards." Cue laughter and a family tradition/joke was born. It didn't take long ... now Hannah's friends have watched that episode and are starting to say it too ...

I Like Tom's Explanation

Checking out at the Central Market today I recognized the checker. That's easy enough to do if you go to any store often. They're always in the same place. We expect to see those familar faces. This fellow wasn't someone I usually go to but the CM is remarkably open at the check out area so looking around while groceries are being bought you get used to the regular faces.

I was surprised though when he looked at me and said, "Weren't you just in here yesterday?" It took me a minute and then I remembered that I ran in for a gallon of milk (ok, and a quart of eggnog on the side, if we must be totally honest). He was my checker in the "10 items or less" line. Now I only bought two unremarkable items and paid in cash (remarkable for me but he didn't know that). Out of all the people he saw yesterday he still remembered me well enough to remark on it?

Ahem. I have had this happen before so I know I look ... well, let's call it "distinctive" enough to have people remember me. Perhaps it's the combination of spiky haircut, glasses and rather spherical profile. I was telling Tom about the incident and he said, "It is the glow of your radiant beauty they recognize." Awwwwwwwww. I am gonna get him soooo many lizards!

Weekend Puzzler

LAST WEEK'S ANSWER
The answer to last week's Puzzler about the boy who had to figure out a way to get his fishing pole on the bus is:
He goes back to the store where he bought the fishing rod and gets a box that's 4 feet by 3 feet and the diagonal is 5 feet.

Congratulations to Gilbert, the only person to guess the right answer last week (including me because I never look at the answer until I post it).


THIS WEEK'S PUZZLER: IGOR AND HIS PRINCESS
Also from Car Talk

The beautiful young princess had a dilemma. She was in love with Igor, the blacksmith's son, and she wanted to marry him. However, she knew that her father, the king, would not approve. Furthermore, if the king knew of their love, he would surely have the young man executed.

They devised a plan. They will elope. Sadly, their plan is foiled, and they are stopped at the castle gates by the guards.

And they are brought before the king. Now the king was indeed furious but decided to offer Igor a sportin' chance, as they say. He said he would write the word princess on one piece of paper and death on another, and the young lad could decide his own fate by selecting one of the slips of paper from a jar. So the two slips are crumbled up, thrown in a jar.

Sadly, the king is a sneak. He writes "death" on both pieces of paper. Despite this. Igor manages to win the princess's hand.

How did he thwart the king?

Friday, December 17, 2004

My Christmas Menu

For my friend Marlene and anyone else who is interested ... my Christmas Menu and a few of the recipes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Faith of Mary

Take the trusting serenity of the virgin Mary in the secret she kept from Saint Joseph. Mary loved Joseph and she saw him suffer (Matt. 1:18-19). She trusted in God. It is possible that in following our own vocation or in carrying out God's will, we may be afraid of making our loved ones suffer. He knows best how to arrange things. God knows best. She was to understand later. The accomplishment of God's will, which always involves faith, is the greatest good for ourselves and for those with whom we normally come in contact, or have dealings with.

Think of the faith of Our Lady in the difficult moments that preceded the birth of Jesus. St. Joseph knocked on many doors that Christmas eve and Our Lady heard many refusals. Think of her faith in the face of that rapid flight into Egypt, of God fleeing to a foreign land!

Consider too Mary's trust every single day of those thirty years when Jesus led his hidden life in Nazareth, when there were no miraculous signs of her son's divinity, nothing but simple and ordinary work ...

Ponder the faith of Mary on Calvary. This was how the Blessed Virgin made progress on the pilgrimage of faith. She maintained her union with her son right up to the cross. There, by the divine plan, she took her stand, endured bitter grief with her only child, shared with a mother's heart in his sacrifice by giving a loving consent to the offering of the victim who had taken birth from her. (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium)

Mary lives with her eyes fixed on God. She has placed all her trust in the Almighty and surrendered herself entirely to him. She asks this for us, too: that we may live with unbreakable trust in Jesus, untroubled amidst all the storms of life and eager to pass on the same attitude to those around us. This is what she wants for us, her children. And, above all, she wants some day to see us in heaven, beside her Son.

(In Conversation with God, Advent and Christmastide)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Dancing Queen

Friday was Hannah's school dance recital and it was mercifully brief compared to last year's. This year there were two different teachers and one of the thing that stood out was what a difference choreography can make to an inexperienced dancer. Luckily, Hannah's teacher was the good one of the two but I really felt for the hapless Intro to Dance students whose teacher had them doing carefully timed moves. They had little chance of being together on most of them so one was left watching the individual students for their own levels of expertise.

Of course, Hannah was the best in her class ... was there any doubt of that? Actually, she always does stand out because somehow she has that perfect ballerina posture and completes every movement with great assurance. She also looks out with a serious composure that reminds one of a prima ballerina. I know I'm the doting mother here, but I have had more than one person comment on this to me. Perhaps she should have been taking dance classes all along ... too bad to think we might have deprived the world of an artist. Or maybe she actually is here to remind us all of the grace possible in just holding ourselves well (as I straighten my back hastily)!

Friday, December 10, 2004

I Now Know More Than Most People Ever Should About Alcatraz

After Tom took Hannah to San Francisco for her 16th birthday trip she returned with insatiable curiousity about Alcatraz and "Birdman" James Stroud. What she found out and reported over the next week was really interesting.

Last night Rose practiced her Speech "final" with me ... over and over and over ... about Alcatraz (what else?). So not only has my memory been refreshed, I got to hear several debates over the fine points as Hannah's sources often differed with Rose's. The battle of Alcatraz, James' Stroud's little anger management problem (let's just call him insane and be done with it), Al Capone's reaction to imprisonment there, and much more are now part of my data base forever.

Now I hear through the grapevine that my good friend, the Happy Capitalist, is complaining because the light from Alcatraz blinks and obscures his fine view of San Francisco. That's one detail I didn't need to hear. Let's all go blow dust off our old records of Joe Walsh's Life's Been Good to Me So Far and sing along ... "I can't complain but sometimes I still do..."

(Now I've just gotta get myself to Oakland so I can complain about that darn light too!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Something to Keep in Mind When Buying Christmas Gifts

LITTLE ABIGAIL AND THE BEAUTIFUL PONY

There was a girl named Abigail
Who was taking a drive
Through the country
With her parents
When she spied a beautiful sad-eyed
Grey and white pony.
And next to it was a sign
That said,
FOR SALE -- CHEAP.
"Oh," said Abigail,
"May I have that pony?
May I please?"
And her parents said,
"No you may not."
And Abigail said,
"But I MUST have that pony."
And her parents said,
"Well, you can't have that pony,
but you can have a nice butter pecan
Ice cream cone when we get home."
And Abigail said,
"I don't want a butter pecan
Ice cream cone,
I WANT THAT PONY --
I MUST HAVE THAT PONY."
And her parents said,
"Be quiet and stop nagging --
You're not getting that pony."
And Abigail began to cry and said,
"If I don't get that pony I'll die."
And her parents said, "You won't die.
No child ever died yet from not getting a pony."
And Abigail felt so bad
That when they got homeshe went to bed,
And she couldn't eat,
And she couldn't sleep,
And her heart was broken,
And she DID die --
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn't buy.

(This is a good story
To read to your folks
When they won't buy
You something you want.)

Shel Silverstein, The Light in the Attic

Monday, December 6, 2004

The Reason for the Luminous Mysteries

Back in September, Mary posted the following:
"There are three influences which appear to Us to have the chief place in effecting this downgrade movement of society. These are-first, the distaste for a simple and labourious life; secondly, repugnance to suffering of any kind; thirdly, the forgetfulness of the future life."
Pope Leo XIII
Remedies:
Dislike of Poverty - The Joyful Mysteries
Repugnance to Suffering-The Sorrowful Mysteries
Forgetfulness of the Future - The Glorious Mysteries

She then asked:
"For what ill in society would the Luminous Mysteries be a remedy?"
Alicia at Fructis Ventris has the answer and it's a goooood one! I won't steal her thunder by telling her answer. You need to go read it for yourself. It makes perfect sense to me considering that we were given the Luminous Mysteries in this day and age. The Luminous Mysteries are my favorites and I am going to be even fonder of them when keeping her reflections in mind.

Friday, December 3, 2004

CRHP Central, How May I Help You?

Last night we had a wonderful concentration of CRHP sisters in our lives for about an hour. Arlene called to see about Hannah's availability for babysitting but I didn't surrender the phone until we had a chance to catch up with each other. Tammy dropped by to visit between leaving her office and going to the gym. While we were chatting and she was getting a very sketchy cooking lesson watching me cook dinner, she got a call from Holly. Nothing like shouting "Hello" at a cell phone from across the kitchen is there?

As Tammy was leaving, dear "Veronica" called, ostensibly searching for a babysitter. It also seems that "Veronica is on the Verge" of learning to do sidebars for her blog ... so she'll be dropping by my house Monday evening for a lesson. Actually, "Veronica's" been a very busy bee getting a lot of people excited about scrapbooking (not me) or knitting (YES me!) 'n' praise sessions. She's also getting ready to run our Women's Prayer Meeting on Sunday. I don't know when she's going to have time for blogging ... speaking of which, it is really fun to talk to someone in person about your favorite blogs, which is a luxury I don't have except when Veronica and I chat like that.

Anyway, there's nothing like a flurry of friends to remind me of how blessed I am to have them in my life, all because I joined up for a weekend retreat. Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Christ in Christmas

Don't look for Christ in the abstract or "spiritual"; look for him in the familiar. We don't need to "keep Christ in Christmas," he never left! They can't get rid of him, no matter how hard they try. "Happy Holidays" and "Winter Solstice" concerts can't erase him. Throughout the country secular radio stations are playing songs that sing explicitly of Jesus. On Christmas Day millions of Christians witness to Christ by going to church, where they gather in his name. Be they regular Mass goers or the Christmas and Easter crowd, the ultimate and objective reason for their presence is Jesus Christ. Whether or not they are attentive or feel holy or want to be there, their very presence in the church points to the presence of Jesus ...

If we are attentive, then even the commercialization of Christmas cannot obscure him: when you see a house gaudily lit and decorated, when you eagerly breathe in the smell of pine, when you keep age-old traditions of cooking and baking in absurd abundance, or wrapping presents, both practical and unnecessary, in bright paper and bows, or participating in concerts and caroling in schools and nursing homes and all kinds of places. Why? Why this attack on all of our senses? Because God has entered history; he came to us through our ordinary senses! He is a light in the darkness that can be seen! All these traditions point back to Christ.

Let us not lament what is missing but rejoice in his Presence. The manger left a lot to be desired, but it carried the Desire of Nations. Why don't we recognize him today? Because we don't expect to find him in our imperfect family, in our own weak humanity, and in the crass hubbub that can surround Christmas. But it all points to him! He is here! He has come and is still with us in and through all that is familiar to us. Come, let us recognize him and adore him.
Father Richard Veras, Magnificat magazine

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Microsoft Blogging Software

The Curt Jester was good enough to test Microsoft's new blogging system. No joke, they really are doing one. It actually looks a lot better than I thought it would and he says it's easy to use. Go see what all the fuss is about.

Iraqi Terror Alert System

I don't know how The Onion manages to keep coming up this stuff but I had to laugh out loud.

article3028

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Giving to the Homeless, Face to Face

(This post has been updated and reposted here)

The first time I ever saw a beggar was in Paris, 18 years ago. She was across the street and Tom said, "Don't look at her." Of course, I did and she began screaming invective and shaking her fist at me. It's a good thing my French wasn't very fluent or I'm sure my ears would have burned. Everywhere we went there were beggars. It was deeply troubling for someone like me who had never seen such a thing before. Tom, whose family lived in London for several years, was more blasé. He taught me to ignore them and that they were making plenty of money off of the population at large. I did make him give to a couple of WWII veterans who were playing music for their coins but at least they had sacrificed something for their country ... they had done something to deserve our charity.

I wasn't Christian then; I wasn't even sure if God existed. Nothing other than popular thought occurred to me in those situations. That was saved for 15 years later in 2001 when we went back to Paris and London with the girls. I had converted by then, we attended Mass weekly, and they went to Catholic school with religion lessons every day. It was fairly common to see the homeless on street corners but we were insulated by the car and traffic flow. These up close encounters with beggars in Europe were different. Tom and I gave the standard "making money off the crowd" explanation but it didn't sit very well, especially with the Christian precepts that had taken hold by then.

Then, one evening, I read this quote.
There are those who say to the poor that they seem to look to be in such good health: "You are so lazy! You could work. You are young. You have strong arms."

You don't know that it is God's pleasure for this poor person to go to you and ask for a handout. You show yourself as speaking against the will of God.

There are some who say: "Oh, how badly he uses it!" May he do whatever he wants with it! The poor will be judged on the use they have made of their alms, and you will be judged on the very alms that you could have given but haven't.
St. John Vianney
You certainly couldn't get much clearer than those words. St. John Vianney covered pretty much every objection I ever thought of for giving to the poor. That was my wake-up call and the end of ignoring beggars. We were supplied with handfuls of coins that were distributed at large as we went through the subway stations. When I got home I stocked the car with granola bars and bottles of water. I passed them out at every street corner we stopped at. I never have any cash on me and they almost always had signs saying "Will work for food" so it seemed a good match.

Then Dallas passed a law against any panhandling on street corners and, for the most part, the homeless disappeared from sight. I had gotten used to being on the lookout for people to give my granola bars to and now the corners seemed very empty.

About that time, I was the leader of a Catholic women's group that met weekly. One evening our discussion became a debate over two strategies of giving to the homeless. One group believed in giving to people as they were encountered. The other countered with stories of scam artists and believed in giving to organizations who would distribute goods and cash in the most beneficial way to the needy. Two things stuck with me after that meeting though. The first was that my friend, Rita, said she was troubled by those who didn't want to give face to face because "they don't know what blessings they may be depriving themselves of." Once again I remembered St. John Vianney's quote.

The second thing occurred to me as I listened to the debate. Jesus never said anything about helping the poor by giving to the local temple or soup kitchen. He said:
"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

Then the righteous will answer him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?"

And the king will say to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25: 35-40

Tom and I do support organized charities and I know they reach farther than I ever could personally. This is not an argument against those organizations. However, I think that we cannot rest with those contributions. I believe that if we have a personal encounter with the needy it is because they have been sent to us for their good and our own. If we turn them away, then we are turning Christ Himself away and what blessings are we sending away with Him?

This was reinforced for me during a retreat I attended a few weeks ago. Somehow the debate over how to give to the homeless came up along those old familiar lines, not just once but twice. Each time I trotted out my St. John Vianney quote. Then my friend, Mauri, said that when she looked at those unfortunates she saw people she knew. For instance, she has a schizophrenic nephew who doesn't want to take his meds so he has been found wandering only in his boxers in a Chicago suburb. A confused old lady at the bank reminded her of her mother and Mauri found a discreet way to help her while preserving her dignity. She reminded me of the worth and dignity of each of these people. She later sent me this story which is the perfect example of looking past the surface to the real person that is there in front of us.
Today at the post office I saw this man going through the garbage -- I think looking for food as he was going through a discarded fast food bag and picked out left over bun from the bag, emptied the bag of the other garbage, and then used the bag to neatly wrap up the left over bun and then placed it in his satchel. You could tell that he still had his pride as he looked well kept, although worn and a bit "dusty". He was not begging in any way. Just walking through the strip center where the post office was.

I wanted to help as I sensed that he was hungry, but he was not asking for help and he did not approach me in anyway. I was so worried to bruise his pride, but could not stand the thought of him only having the leftover bun for food. I got out of my car with $5 and asked him if he was hungry. He said he was fine but hesitantly. I gave him the money and told him that I had many of times when I was hungry but didn't have the cash on me to go through McDonalds or grab a sandwich. I told him to take it for when he might need it. I don't think I hurt his pride. His eyes were so kind.

I only wish I had asked his name ... He looked like he might have been mid 60s. I should have given him more money. I can't get him out of my mind. He could have been someone's grandfather, father, etc.

I am so grateful to Mauri for bringing me to this phase in my awareness of the homeless. Each of them was some mother's baby, a tiny toddler learning to walk, a laughing boy or girl at school. We must remember that when we are looking at these people who can seem so frightening or strange or manipulative. I pray that someday I can look at these people and find my vision is perfect ... I hope that someday I can look at a homeless person and see Jesus Himself. In this quest I think we can not do better than to take the advice of someone who achieved perfect vision and sought out her beloved Jesus in the homeless.
Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Monday, November 29, 2004

Equal Representation

My sister got this from a friend who is a Democrat. A nice touch and hilarious to boot!
Healing Poetry

The election is over,
the talking is done.
My side has lost,
and your side has won.
Now, let's all pull together,
and let bitterness pass.
I'll hug your elephant,
and you can kiss my ass.

Depp-alicious

FINDING NEVERLAND
Rose really was determined to see Finding Neverland, being a Johnny Depp fan. And who am I to deny her that? For one thing I was so grateful that two of her other picks were rated R ("Troy" and "Alexander") so I was happy that this was something I might enjoy. For another, I am not immune to Johnny Depp's charms and he was in practically every scene. It was really good but totally an art house film. I love going to The Angelica, one of our three art house theaters nearby and was happy to see it was playing there.

Finding Neverland is the story of J.M. Barrie (Depp), the famous playwright, who becomes great friends with a widow and her four irascible sons. The only holdout to Barrie's imagination and charm is Peter who is mourning the untimely death of his father and resents silliness. Barrie's friendship with the widow leads to trouble with his wife and scoldings from the widow's formidable mother, played by Julie Christie with great assurance. I loved seeing Christie look every inch the dowager but yet still beautiful without botox and dyed hair. Also really well done were the scenes that flipped back and forth between Barrie's imagination and the games he played with the boys. Another favorite moment was watching the audience as they watched the premiere of Peter Pan. Seeing Barrie's ploy to gain society's acceptance of a play that was essentially a children's tale was really enjoyable. Every performance was right on the money. The film overall was magical.

We all agreed that it was just as well that Tom didn't go (not really a guy's movie) although he probably would enjoy seeing it at home when the DVD comes out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Sin That is Different

"Each one of us, if we examine our conscience well, will realize that apart from all the sins we commit, there is one that is different because we are more ready to commit it. It is that sin to which we are secretly attached and which we confess but without a real will to give it up. It is that sin we think we can never free ourselves of because, in fact, we do not want to free ourselves of it or, at least, not right now... Sin enslaves us until we truly say "enough!" Then it loses almost all its power over us ...

But what must we do exactly? In a moment of recollection let us kneel down in God's presence and say to him: "Lord, you know my weakness and I know it too. Trusting therefore only in your grace and faithfulness I declare that from now on I no longer want that particular satisfaction, that particular freedom, friendship, resentment, that particular sin ...; I want to accept the idea of having to live without it from now on. I have finished with sin and with that particular sin. I repeat, enough of that! Help me with your Spirit. Renew in me a firm spirit, keep my heart generous. I consider myself dead to sin." After this, sin no longer reigns simply because you no longer want it to reign; it was, in fact, in your will that it reigned. There may be no apparent change, those around us may still notice the same faults in us, but where God is concerned something has changed because our freedom is now on God's side.

However, we must insist on one thing: this decision must be put into practice right away, otherwise it can easily get lost."
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., preacher to the papal household

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Feeling the Power of Prayer

I have had people tell me that they knew my prayers helped them or that they could feel people were praying for them. I have had many times when I experienced answers to the prayers of me and others but never anything immediate ... until Thursday. That was when I wrote a quick note about needing to get back the joy of Christmas.

My dear CRHP sister, Deb, wrote that she was praying for me. She knew what I needed when I didn't myself. For some reason I was feeling desperate about this problem. Why? I don't know but I just was. I read Deb's warm response and thought, "Jesus, give me the joy." Then I thought I'd just look at one more blog before going back to work and wound up at M'Lynn's where I read a passage that refocused my thoughts and eased my heart ... instantly. (I have to note here that every time I get a quick response to something I'm always ordering Him around ... no "please" or "if it's in Your will." It is never deliberate but just something I realize when looking back.)

Not only was I not dreading Christmas preparations but I was filled with an active, joyful anticipation of cookie making, shopping, decorating ... everything. M'Lynn is insightful and a great writer but that would be a lot to ask from any one inspirational paragraph ... unless it was direct, immediate answer to Deb's prayer. Wow! What a powerful lesson and how thankful I am for it!

Turning this over in my mind throughout the day, I then followed a statcounter link back to a new blog, Martha2. Not only do I feel that "Martha" connection (she ain't my patron saint for nothin'), but I admired what I read about the resolution to a chance meeting with a girl who broke her son's heart, and then there was her most recent post from today.
can you feel it now? some, somehow.
there are always times in my life when i am asking someone to remember me in prayer, or mostly to remember my family if we are going through a hard time.

for whatever reason, i just thought i'd report for those of you who are praying for me (us?) that for today, it feels like they are working. i feel almost "normal" today, and for that, i am thankful.
Martha2

I think there's a fair chance we may be on the same wavelength.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Quick Book Reviews

MURDER ON THE IDITAROD TRAIL by Sue Henry
Only the toughest and the most able come to compete in this annual torturous test of endurance, skill, and courage. Now, suddenly and inexplicably, the top Iditarod contestants are dying one by one in bizarre and gruesome ways.
I found this more interesting for the explanation of what it is like to run the Iditarod race. The details of taking care of the dogs, what the mushers endure, and how the race is set up are the thread that takes us through the story. The mystery and writing were average. I won't be checking out another by this author for that reason.

FRIED CHICKEN: An American Story by John T. Edge
John T. Edge weaves a beguiling tapestry of food and culture as he takes us from a Jersey Shore hotel to a Kansas City roadhouse, from the original Buffalo wings to KFC, from Nashville Hot Chicken to haute fried chicken at a genteel Southern inn.
You have to be interested in both food history and reading about fried chicken to like this book. I fit this description and found this little book very enjoyable. Edge has a comfortable, conversational style and provides 15 recipes to go alone with his voyage of discovery. I liked this enough to request the next in this series, "Apple Pie," from the library.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL
Since they received goats from Heifer, the members of Zambia's Evergreen Women's Club have been able to provide life-saving milk for their children, grow valuable crops to support their families and help their neighbors support themselves.

Lilly Daka, a group member and mother of 10, says her children were thrilled to get their goats, "After the goats, there was such an excitement in the house and enthusiasm to look after them. The offspring have given us milk and improved the appearance and health of our children."

The women are also using their Heifer skills and training to raise healthy animals. Justina Nawa, a group member, says, "HPI has educated us on how to keep the goats. I now assist my neighbors. I have passed on the gift of knowledge and advised them about ... medicine to care for their diseases."

In addition to caring for their families, the women are caring for the environment. They're using goat manure to grow crops so they don't damage the soil with chemical fertilizer. According to Justina, "We have been taught that when we use chemicals we destroy the soil and with manure it is healthy."

Through their hard work and commitment, the women have gained a strong sense of pride and accomplishment. They're passing on their gifts to help other families in the community become self-reliant.

Lilly is moved by the opportunity to give to her neighbors, "We are so excited to Pass on the Gift to another family. I still follow up and visit them as we have become friends. ... They are now part of my family."

This is one of my favorite charities. Heifer International donates livestock like pigs, ducks, chickens, water buffalo or ... heifers, of course. The communities learn to care for the animals, make money from the eggs, milk, etc., and then pass on offspring to other needy families and communities to help them in turn. It is a self-sustaining process that improves lives and gives new hope. If I don't know what to give someone, they often get a card telling that a gift of honeybees has been given in their name. Check out this very worthwhile cause.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Bible, Is There Anything It Can't Do?

The second divinely authored meditation book is Sacred Scripture. Splendid as are the marvels of our universe all the way from the incredibly tiny to the vastly enormous, and all that lies in between, far more awesome and enrighing are the truths of divine revelation. The Author of these two books has made nothing boring or prosaic [the first book being nature, as mentioned in yesterday's post]. Boredom comes not from reality but from people who are only half alive. The truths of this second source can be read from Scripture itself, from any solid theology book or biblical commentary, from the lives of the saints, and from the best spiritual reading, mainly from the classics. For example, you have noticed in this primer references to "CCC", the Catechism of the Catholic Church, for further developments of what we are describing in these pages. This single volume has literally thousands of mediation subjects full of grace, truth,and beauty. Rich mines are available for the asking. It is up to you to take advantage of them. (Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within by Thomas Dubay, S.M.)

It is impossible to say how very deeply I feel that Scripture is indeed God's living word. As mentioned in previous posts, my "Bible flip" experiences went a long way toward proving that very thing. Even without that frame of reference I think that Dubay is correct in pointing out what a rich resource Scripture is for meditative prayer. Someone last weekend said that a friend of theirs claimed the Bible as her favorite book. "It's got everything," she said, "Humor, drama, sex, romantic love, nobility ... " I hadn't thought of it that way but it is so true. It qualifies as the perfect "desert island" book.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

God's Everyday Cathedral

...we said a few words about input for reflection. A bit more needs to be added. God is the author of two books that bountifully provide numberless topics for pondering: the book of created reality, our awesome universe, and the inspired book of the Scriptures. First, creation. If one delves deeply enough into it, every reality in our cosmos is seen to be splendid beyond our wildest expectations: a grain of sand, an atom, a living cell, a leaf, a bird, a star, a galaxy. It is no exaggeration to say that each of these things is astonishing. Always we find that the more we discover, the more we find endless vistas of what we did not expect and more of what we do not know. Scientists constantly experience this phenomenon. If we are vibrantly alive to reality, we learn that there is no end to what can and should trigger awe, wonder, praise, thanksgiving, and love. (Prayer Primer: Igniting a Fire Within by Thomas Dubay, S.M.)
I always have been drawn to nature and this is just a natural extension of what I experienced in the country this weekend. I really can't improve on what Dubay says here. It's a perfect expression of my feelings.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Back from Retreat

The retreat was wonderful. There wound up being 13 of us and I knew only 3 really well. It was such a pleasure to get to a deeper level of friendship with the others who I already admired from monthly Prayer Meeting attendance and CRHP weekend support. There also was a group of kids and youth ministers there from a Garland parish (near Dallas) for a confirmation retreat. These kids were really nice and it was truly inspirational to see their level of involvement in worship when they graciously invited us to share their evening Mass.

We had a lot of time to be in solitude with nature, which I think I remember Steve Bogner at Catholicism, spirituality and holiness mentioning from a week or two ago. I haven't been to the country for a long time and it was luxurious to be able to wander through paths in the woods looking at God's creation. When we did the Stations of the Cross outside as a group it was a totally different experience than I had ever had when doing them in the usual Friday setting in a church. Nature really is God's everyday cathedral and I am so glad that I went if only to be reminded of that fact, even if it DID take a two hour drive to get there!

I felt I had been called to this retreat for some reason and that was dramatically revealed in three parts. I won't mention any specifics here other than to say I am at this point pondering just how to pass on the message I was given for someone else. Weird sounding I know but very clearly this is what I am to do.

The other pleasure came when I returned home. I was ready to gladly serve my family by grocery shopping, washing clothes, cooking dinner, etc. When I came home it was done. The house was clean, all chores were done, Rose cooked dinner (chicken in mustard sauce, mmm mmm good!), and one of the dogs had been pining away until I returned. What else could I ask? It was a very generous and kind gift given to me by my loving family

Then to top it off, my blogging "gang" of Julie M., Alexa, Rebecca, and Kalanna had been doing some round robin impressions about blogs they read regularly. It was like a little gift in itself to read what Julie M. had written about this blog (ok, ME!). Thanks gang!

Now I'm renewed so it's time for me to remember the message I was given before I left to give, give, give. I got a call tonight that gave me that very opportunity. Just as I was turning over in my mind the idea that answering this request was not going to be very convenient for me, "give, give, give" echoed through my mind. I remembered that it was the things that weren't convenient that were the occasions for such giving. So I quit looking for excuses, did what I was asked and did it GLADLY by the way, and was blessed in the process. When will I learn that is so often the case? Guess I just have to keep on getting these reminders.

Once again, my kind and loving family also gave ... cheerfully letting me go out into the night for a couple of hours for this task. How I am blessed. God is good.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tracking Down Mary

There was once a fourth famous Virgin of Chartres; a silver image crafted in the thirteenth century. She no longer exists, though a depiction ofher may still be seen in one of the windows, where a pilgrim is shown praying to her. Her story proves that vandalism is not exclusively the province of revolutionaries.

This Virgin was greatly venerated in the Middle Ages; indeed, she held the place of honor above that altar. Yet at some point her popularity went into decline ...

For the next two centuries she forged on, doing her best despite reduced conditions. But then came the debt crunch of the 1760s. The canons of the cathedral went casting about for any little scrap of gold or silver. In a note signed April 6, 1769, Germain Blonnie, a goldsmith of Chartres, acknowledged receipt of twenty-four livres for "melting down the Christ and the Virgin of the old altar." The little silver Virgin had been turned into ingots to pay for Carrara marble ...

It is horrifying to think that an image that had received so many prayers over the centuries could be so blithely destroyed. Then again, the Church could reply that works of religious art are intended to be not receptacles for prayer, but windows to a higher reality; that one prays through, not to, an image. A statue of Mary is not Mary, and maybe it's better to melt down the images from time to time before they turn into idols.
An avowed atheist, Ward indulged his long held desire to walk on pilgrimage in going to various Marian shrines throughout Europe. In doing so he presents one of the clearest and most even handed views of pilgrimage and these shrines that I have ever read. He gives the history for each place, which includes Lourdes, Chartres, and Fatima. We then share his experiences in current day surroundings and see the many types of pilgrims that also are at these shrines. Atheist or not, Ward has an excellent understanding of the Catholic Church's view and is more open minded in many cases than some Catholics I know. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cultural Differences

Talking with CF about colleges. She's a client and a friend with daughters who are slightly older than Hannah and Rose.

CF: So what is Hannah interested in studying?

Me: She's interested in zoology; maybe thinking of being an environmental scientist.

CF, eyes lighting up, instantly enthusiastic: Oh, that would be wonderful! Wouldn't you be PROUD for her to do something so worthwhile? That would really be a career to be PROUD of!

Me: *silent while trying to think of what to say, thinking, "What is she talking about?"*

CF: I mean THAT is something you could be so proud of! She would be doing something that makes a difference!

Me: *feebly doing my best* Well, she'd be very practical. It would be good to have someone in that field who is down to earth."

CF then goes on to talk about her daughter's possible career choice that would make her so proud.


So you get the drift. Tom was there too and we both were having real trouble wrapping our minds around why CF was so crazy about this particular career. It took a while for me to figure out the missing piece, why I didn't connect with CF, and then it hit: CF is Jewish. I guess sometimes those stereotypes ring true. When I remembered that I thought, "Oh right, my son the doctor..."

I thought it was interesting that CF actually DID care what particular career her daughter would choose and equally interesting that it never occurred to us to care about one career more than another. For Tom and me the ideal career is the one Hannah was meant for and the whole idea is for her to discover what that is. Admittedly I take this idea further than Tom but we both agree on the basics. It really never occurred to either of us to "steer" her toward one thing or another because it is a voyage of self discovery. If she's happy, fullfilled, and earning a living that's enough for us. Not to say that I wouldn't brag shamelessly if she was a brilliant scientist ... any regular HC readers know I already do that for much, much less.

I truly feel, however, that each person has their place in the plan. This was brought home to us when Tom and I had a date on Saturday and, after getting all "likkered up" on margaritas and Mexican food, went to Dillard's to buy ourselves some shoes. (Woohoo! Do we know how to have fun or what?) Not only does our Dillard's have the largest shoe selection in several states but they also understand that skilled salespeople make a difference. We left that store and Tom said, "That is like the Stepford department store ... it's the perfect store. All those sales people were so good!" Part of the secret was that I ignored the young sales people who were standing around chatting with each other, glancing at my scuffed loafers and rolling their eyes. I honed in on the experienced ones who were chasing down customers to make the sale ... which included great service, knowing the stock, and thinking about the customers' needs. If Hannah or Rose wound up selling shoes and were as good at it as those people I'd be PROUD ... just as proud as if one becomes an environmental scientist.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Monsieur Incroyable!

THE INCREDIBLES
I loved this movie. It is about a family of super heroes in a time when they have to hide all their talents because collateral damage lawsuits have made it prohibitively expensive for the government to allow them to be heroic. Not only is it in the best tradition of James Bond and super heroes but writer and director Brad Bird obviously knows and loves family life. Where else would you see Mr. Incredible and his wife, Elasti-Girl, racing to the rescue while simultaneously continuing an argument about domestic issues?

My favorite point was made several times and, indeed, was one of the main thrusts of the movie's message. In a world where everyone gets an award, where "graduations" are held in 4th grade so the kids feel special, where everyone must be acknowledged as "super," ultimately there is nothing left for everybody but the same level of mediocrity.

I can't remember which critic said this but this really is a movie for the parents where the kids can tag along. That doesn't mean the kids won't thoroughly enjoy it though. We saw it in a theater predominantly filled with tiny kids and they loved it. In fact, one of the things we all enjoyed most was a little boy who was so into the move that he would shout out comments to his mother, "Oh no, Mommy, what will they do now?"

This movie deserves every penny of the $70 million it made last weekend. That also makes me happy for Brad Bird whose excellent "Iron Giant" was abandoned by the studio practically before it got to theaters. He and Pixar deserve acclaim for combining originality, humor, suspense, spy spoofing, family values and "heart" in a movie that I liked better than anything else I have seen all year.

(Why the French headline? A tribute to my favorite villain of the movie, Bomb Voyage, who only spoke French and had mime face paint.)

Friday, November 5, 2004

On Being the "Older Woman"

Elena at My Domestic Church talks about when she realized that she had become the "older woman" from Titus 2.
3: Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good,
4: so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children,
5: to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited.
This made realize that I first felt like the "older woman" a year ago last May when I was in our CRHP team of about 30 people. It had a large proportion of unmarried, 20-something women. I was one of the oldest, which is pretty amazing since I was only 46 at the time. I was by no means the wisest of these wonderful women. However, because of the subjects that came up, I realized that I had some life experiences to share that many of them had not yet come across. Even though that team time is over I still find myself doling out advice in the same way (and every so often that advice was even solicited!). This is not a role I ever would have predicted for myself. It is not a role I have among mothers of college age or older kids but I now know so many young women that it comes up frequently. Elena's reflections are much deeper than mine especially I never really thought about it until reading her insightful post. I'm glad she was thinking about this and got it all on "paper."

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Apostleship

Both of the faces of apostolicity, what we are "sent" from and what we are sent to, are the face of Christ. An apostle is one sent by Christ to proclaim Christ, to complete his work. The church is the continuation of the Incarnation. What would Christ do in India? Look at Mother Teresa. What would Christ do in the Middle Ages? Look at Saint Francis. How would Christ theologize? Look at Saint Thomas. What would Christ be as a woman? Look at Saint Catherine, Saint Teresa.

What the Church is sent apostolically to do is to make saints, i.e., to make humans completely human. This phrase, completely human, is often misused today to mean its exact opposite, to reduce the Church's supernatural task to a merely natural one. But the Church betrays her mission and her Lord if she lets psychologists and sociologists who do not know Christ as her source dictate her end. We are sent to be completely human as Christ was, to love as he loved, not to be nice, not to "have a nice day", not to pitch in a little bit to help build what everyone else is building. No, we are sent with a distinctive task: to build an eternal kingdom, a different building. We live in two worlds, and we rightly cooperate in building this one too, but the Church's raison d'etre is not to be one more social service agency but to be the one and only ark of eternal salvation, to be Christ to the world. This includes social service and liberation of the poor. Christ healed some bodies, but as a sign of his essential mission to heal all souls. Christ loved and liberated the poor, but as a sign of his love and liberation of our spiritual poverty. His work in time was a sign of his work for eternity. Even Lazarus had to die again, but "he who believes in me will never die."

The apostolic Church is sent to be Christ to the world. This is not a comfortable thought. Eleven of the first twelve apostles were martyred. That is the norm. Christ himself says so: "If they hated me, they will hate you also." We are called "not to be understood, but to understand, not to be loved, but to love". When we love as Christ loved, we will find a cross as he did. If the world prepared no crosses for us, then we are not loving enough, not loving as he loved, not fulfilling our apostolic vocation. "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you, for so they spoke of the false prophets." The Church is a prophet-making organization, not a profit-making organization.
Peter Kreeft, Foundamentals of the Faith

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Can You Be Perfect?

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
If you want to see a great, feel-good movie that just happens to be about football, rent Remember the Titans. If you want to see a great movie that is football go see Friday Night Lights. It shows the relentless pressure to be perfect that is put on the high school players and coach by everybody in Odessa, Texas in 1988 ... and no doubt to the present day. I don't know how this director captured both the essence of football from the inside and the essence of small town mentality but that is what you experience when watching. It is gritty and at times unpleasant but drives home basic truths that are delivered by fabulous acting and editing.

Billy Bob Thornton was great as usual, playing the coach in an understated fashion that was very effective. We were really impressed by Tim McGraw's performance as a distinctly unsympathetic character and, not being country music fans, didn't recognize him as anything but an actor until the end credits rolled. My friend, Angie Bolling, was recognizable (to us anyway) as a booster wife sitting at the end of the table next to the coach (Billy Bob Thornton). She only had a couple of lines but it was fun to see her on the big screen. Most interesting of all was the fact that when it came to the "big game" ... and every movie like this comes down to the big game, doesn't it ... I had no clue who was going to win. That was something we all had in common. None of us had a clue which way the game would go. We were on the edge of our seats during the last part of the movie and you don't expect that from the typical sports movie.

I'm not sure I'll watch this movie again. Gritty, edgy movies aren't my preferred fare and I have to be "tricked" into watching by something like having a friend in them. However, it was well worth watching, provided a lot of conversation between all of us, and even generated a couple of catch phrases that may wind up permanently in our family repetoire. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

What Are Ghosts?

Without our action or invitation, the dead often do appear to the living. There is enormous evidence of "ghosts" in all cultures .... We can distinguish three kinds of ghosts, I believe. First, the most familiar kind: the sad ones, the wispy ones. They seem to be working out some unfinished earthly business, or suffering some purgatorial purification until released from their earthly business. These ghosts would seem to be the ones who just barely made it to Purgatory, who feel little or no joy yet and who need to learn many painful lessons about their past life on earth.

Second, there are malicious and deceptive spirits -- and since they are deceptive, they hardly ever appear malicious. These are probably the ones who respond to conjurings at seances. They probably come from Hell. Even the chance of that happening should be sufficient to terrify away all temptations to necromancy.

Third, there are bright, happy spirits of dead friends and family, especially spouses, who appear unbidden, at God's will, not ours, with messages of hope and love. They seem to come from Heaven. Unlike the purgatorial ghosts who come back primarily for their own sakes, these bright spirits come back for the sake of us the living, to tell us all is well. They are aped by evil spirits who say the same, who speak 'peace, peace, when there is no peace'. But the deception works only one way: the fake can deceive by appearing genuine, but the genuine never deceives by appearing fake. Heavenly spirits always convince us that they are genuinely good. Even the bright spirits appear ghostlike to us because a ghost of any type is one whose substance does not belong in or come from this world. In Heaven these spirits are not ghosts but real, solid and substantial because they are at home there: One can't be a ghost in one's own country.

That there are all three kinds of ghosts is enormously likely. Even taking into account our penchant to deceive and be deceived, our credulity and fakery, there remain so many trustworthy accounts of all three types of ghosts - trustworthy by every ordinary empirical and psychological standard - that only a dogmatic prejudice against them could prevent us from believing they exist. As Chesterton says, "We believe an old apple woman when she says she ate an apple; but when she says she saw a ghost, we say 'But she's only an old apple woman." A most undemocratic and unscientific prejudice.
Peter Kreeft, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Heaven

Friday, October 29, 2004

Daily Devotion: Meditations

In Conversation With God series by Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
This seven-volume set gives you brief (five to six pages) meditations for every day of the Church’s entire liturgical calendar, including feast days and each of the three cycles of Ordinary Time on Sundays. Author Francis Fernandez-Carvajal makes generous use of the writings of the great saints as he brings you focused and moving meditations on themes taken from the Mass readings for that day, the liturgical season, and more. This work is rich and extensive enough to serve as your spiritual reading for a lifetime, as it helps you relate the particulars of the message of Christ to the ordinary circumstances of your day. Each volume is small enough for you to carry it to Adoration or some other suitable place for meditation. The whole set comes with a handsome slipcase that prevents wear-and-tear on the individual volumes.

I have been reading this series every morning for about three years and have yet to find one that is better or more complete. Following the daily Mass readings, topics range from the sacraments and virtues to family interaction and friendship. The sensible and down-to-earth writing is enhanced by quotes from saints, elsewhere in the Bible, Church documents, etc. I especially enjoy the fact that this was translated from the original Spanish, meaning that things applying to my daily life and problems are exactly the same things faced by people in Spain, or, indeed, around the world. I bought this one book at a time as they didn't have the slipcased version out yet but would highly recommend springing for the whole thing at once.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

My "little friend Mary"

The friend in this story is someone who I have worked with for about 15 years, since before either of us had children. She is a strong Christian but not Catholic (which is important to this story) and also is a client of ours. She was in our office telling of her extreme computer woes at home and that no one could figure out what was wrong. It was wreaking havoc as their kids had on-line school work and had to go to friends' homes to do it. As she was leaving, she started laughing and told me that she half jokingly had asked her teenage son the night before it if was ok to pray for her computer to be fixed. He'd said, of course, that God cares about everything. But my client kept thinking of someone she knew who had just been diagnosed with cancer and didn't know if it was right to ask for such small things. She "knew" it was all right but I think just wanted to be reassured.

I instantly pointed out the wedding at Cana, that before Jesus went on to cure lepers he had given that wedding all their wine just so they could continue the celebration. I told her, "That's where a Catholic will go to Mary because she's the greatest saint. She's the one that pointed out the wine was gone and cared enough to ask Jesus to fix it. She's got that little extra pull with Jesus so we'll ask her to put in a good word for us." She left without saying anything right after that and I wondered if I'd been out of line but then forgot it.

I just got a call and without even identifying herself my friend said, "You can tell your little friend Mary that she fixed my computer." I didn't even connect what she was talking about until she repeated exactly the same thing (because somehow I'd never think of Mary as "your little friend Mary"). Then I said, "You mean Mary, otherwise known as the mother of Jesus?" She said, "Exactly. My computer was fixed in less than an hour thanks to that tip that Tom gave me. I can see why she's the greatest saint of all." Now, my friend was laughing the whole time but I have to think that the fact that she gave Mary the credit, however jokingly, is a great tribute to Our Blessed Mother.

As I was typing this story it just occurred to me that it has now been about a week and a half since I have started saying the rosary every day again. While in the middle of saying it this morning on the way to work, I had to stop my car in the middle of the street and wait while a huge moving van pulled into an apartment parking lot. While that van was practically parked in front of me, I couldn't avoid seeing that the part of it directly in front of me showcased their name ("Budd") and the red rosebud painted on the side of the truck. At the time I thought it was odd since I was praying the rosary but now that I got this phone call ... well, are those enough "coincidences" for y'all? Which, as anybody who knows me well will tell you, are things I don't believe in ...

Giving God a Blank Check

Christ does not specify what needs we are to pray for. We are to give God the blank check, "our daily bread". It is not wrong to add specific needs, for we are assured that "my God will supply all your needs out of his riches in Christ Jesus", but we must give God room, give God a blank check for him to fill in the amount. he knows what we need, and the very first thing we need is to keep that fact firmly in mind.

Our needs and our wants are not identical. We need some things we may not want (perhaps to fast or to relax or to pray more or perhaps to suffer, to be tested), and we want many things we do not need (the million toys this world offers us to distract us from our real need, which this world can never supply). We need only one thing. "Only one thing is necessary", Christ tells us. That is why God offers us only one thing: himself in Christ. Christ does not just give us joy or life or salvation or resurrection; he is our joy, our life, our salvation, our resurrection.

Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith