Friday, May 28, 2004

Unlikely Guardians

It may seem as if the only movies I ever see are anime. Not so. However, they often are fresh and original in a way that Western animation does not even consider. Such is the case of "Tokyo Godfathers." This Japanese tribute to John Ford's western "Three Godfathers" centers on three homeless people: a middle aged drag queen, an alcoholic former bicycle racer, and a teenage runaway girl. Their discovery of a baby in a trash dump sends them off to find the baby's parents. Along the way they grow, chiefly by confronting each other and themselves about the lies they've told each other about the past. Hana, the drag queen, names the abandoned infant Grace and insists that she has been sent by God. Coincidences and miracles happen increasingly throughout and seem surprisingly Christian for a Japanese film.

The juxtaposition of humor and drama are deft and play off each other in unexpected ways. At one point Hana is dramatically describing how he will commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. We have been primed by this time to find Hana's pronouncements quietly comic. Then the viewer realizes that someone in the background is taking the exact measures that Hana describes. Both humor and drama are in play as they also realize it a beat later and rush to stop the person from jumping. We never were disappointed. Although one expects an overall happy ending the plot twists on the way were original and unexpected. It is rated PG-13 and some of the material is not suitable for children.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Speech of the Class of 2004

by Rose Davis, Valedictorian

Good evening. Before we honor ourselves, let us honor those around us. First, thank you to Father Libone who, with Mrs. Lucas, has nicely finished off our well-rounded religious education by treating us to Mass twice a week and Confession four times a year. You have single-handedly saved us from half an hour of Science and History every Monday. Next, thank you to Mrs. Frauenheim, the staff, and our teachers, past and present, especially Ms. Tharp and Mr. Rogers who managed to fit an extra half-hour of class in on Tuesday. Thank you to all the parents, who have not only brought us into the world, but have threatened to take us out of it, ensuring our success and obedience. Thank you lastly to the coaches, for although I do not know you personally, I have heard you are quite good.

Tonight we are being honored for what we have achieved here, for what can be recognized and printed on to paper. But every one of us here has done great things that may never be recognized, even by ourselves. Each one of those great things has touched someone in a way we cannot see. Those who are not receiving their recognition now, it will come later when it is most important.

There are many conflicting feelings about the future and about the past, about what will happen and about what has happened. When we leave here we will think wistfully about our memories, good and bad, and then turn to the future. But as long as we have the memories we will never truly leave.

Our lives are filled with stories. Sometimes, they mean nothing and sometimes they mean everything. But no matter how insignificant the story may seem, it is a part of us. It makes us who we are. Every experience, every person that touches our lives leaves their own individual mark, even those that are not here with us today. And though we may not remember them twenty years from now, they’re still there.

Now it is time for things to change. Even in the loneliest times we will still be there for each other through what we have shared over the years. Our memories are intertwined and parts of our stories are the same, but to dwell in the past will bring nothing but sorrow. We are still writing our stories.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Mostly Martha

Martha is a chef who has a great deal of discipline, an obsession with food although she never seems to eat, and little joy in her life. When her sister dies, Martha is forced into facing unknown situations after her orphaned niece comes to live with her. Then a new chef is added to the staff and Martha's loss of control seems complete. Suddenly Martha's life is no longer under control at all with the expected growth of character resulting.

This is a slow and deliberate movie but the acting and dialogue are great and a lot of the scenes are very funny. Naturally, as this is about a chef, it is a major "foodie" film. Mostly Martha is a German movie with subtitles but don't let that scare you. Actually we liked listening to the German and picking out words that were almost the same as in English ... but that's the kind of thing our family does for fun. We all enjoyed it. In fact, Rose enjoyed Mostly Martha so much that she bought the DVD.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Get Your Freak On

Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

I heard rave reviews about this book but didn't expect to find myself constantly apologizing to Tom for all the giggling while reading it in bed. Steve Almond is not only literally crazy about candy but a hilarious and talented writer. His quest to find his favorite candy of yesteryear takes him around America to the last of the independent candy manufacturers. Even when mentioning his personal political or environmental views, Almond never really dwells on them or seems to take anything too seriously ... except candy, of course. Its a quick read that left me with a desire to look for 5 Star Bars, Peanut Chews, Big Hunks ... all that candy that I never heard of before but now long to experience.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

More Movies Your Kids Probably Haven't Seen

These animes are by the same director as My Neighbor Totoro. All are original stories and each is a treasure in its own right. {Note to anime fans: I am aware of Princess Mononoke but don't think it is in the same league as these.}

Kiki's Delivery Service is about a plucky 13-year-old girl who is spending her first year soloing as an apprentice witch. Kiki is still inexperienced but that is offset by her resourcefulness, imagination, and determination. With her trusty cat Jiji by her side she's ready to make her mark in the village she's chosen as her new home. This is sweet and charming in the same way that My Neighbor Totoro was.

The Castle of Cagliostro delivers plenty of adventure in this caper flick. The mysterious adventurer Lupin III and his faithful sidekick, Jigen encounter a runaway bride, a magical ring, an evil count with a dastardly plan, an inspector bent on catching Lupin, perilous rooftop chases, ninjas with superhuman powers, a counterfeiting scheme, and an ancient mystery. This is full of wise cracks and off handed wit in the same way as hard boiled mysteries of the 1930s were.

Spirited Away is my personal favorite. More complex than the other movies mentioned, it combines Japanese and Russian folklore in a fascinating fantasy. On the way to their new home, Chihiro and her parents find what they think is a deserted amusement park. Her parents stuff themselves until they turn into pigs, and Chihiro discovers they're trapped in a resort for traditional Japanese gods and spirits. Naturally Chihiro must save them and does so with pluck and determination.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Marvelous as a Morning in May

May is Mary's month and what better way to celebrate it than getting a better understanding of Our Blessed Mother? This excerpt from chapter 6 of "Adventures in Orthodoxy" discusses the common idea of "virgin" versus the real meaning as applied to "Virgin Mary." As a bonus, this explains something I always wondered: why didn't Mary and Jesus (and possibly Joseph) stand out as unusual? The comments in brackets are my own for clarification of points the author discussed earlier in the chapter.
"... born of the Virgin Mary"

...Mary, the mother of Jesus, is an icon of beauty and purity because she is a virgin. But I'm aware that this term, too, [like the term "purity"] has been misunderstood and maligned. We think of a virgin simply as a person who hasn't had sexual intercourse. This is the shallowest of definitions. Defining a "virgin" as someone who hasn't had sexual intercourse is like defining a person from Idaho as "a person who has never been to Paris." It may be true that most Idahoans haven't been to Paris, but to define an untraveled Idahoan by that simple negative definition is too small. Even the most stay-at-home fellow from Idaho is bigger than a negative definition.

What were the early Christians thinking when they honored the Virgin Mary? Was it simply their form of goddess worship? [as some nonbelievers would say] If so, why the emphasis on virginity? When you look at what they believed about Mary, it turns out that they were honoring her for far more than the biological fact that a maiden remained intact. For them the Virgin wasn't just an untouched woman. Her physical virginity was a sign of something far more. It was an indication of her whole character. In her they sensed a kind of virginity that was a positive and powerful virtue. Mary represented all that was natural, abundant, positive, and free. Mary was a virgin in the same way that we call a forest "virgin": she was fresh and natural, majestic and mysterious. Mary's virginity wasn't simply the natural beauty and innocence of a teenage girl. It held the primeval purity of Eden and the awesome innocence of Eve...

You might imagine that such total innocence and goodness would make Mary a sort of Galilean wonderwoman. It's true that her innocence was extraordinary, but it was also very ordinary. That is to say that while it was momentous, it didn't seem remarkable at the same time. There is a curious twist to real goodness. It's summed up by the observation that what is natural isn't unusual. If a person is really good, he is humble; and if he is humble, he is simply who he should be. There is nothing bizarre or egotistical or eccentric about him. There is therefore nothing about him that calls attention to him. Truly good people blend in. They are at home with themselves, and no one is out of place when they are at home. In the same way, Mary wasn't noticed in Nazareth. Because she was natural, she didn't stand out. Mary fit in because she was simply and wholly who she was created to be. Because she was perfectly natural, she was perfectly ordinary. Therefore, she was both as marvelous and as unremarkable as a morning in May.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Standing Things on Their Heads

Adventures In Orthodoxy
The Marvels of the Christian Creed and the Audacity of Belief
by Dwight Longenecker

This book compellingly conveys the joy and excitement that is present in our faith and in God. Longenecker does this by following G.K. Chesterton's technique of looking at familiar ideas differently by "standing them on their heads." Each chapter looks at the Apostles' Creed line by line and shows us that it is not simply a comfortable recitation of beliefs but a launching point for an exhilarating encounter with God. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter which looks at the Creed's opening phrase "I believe..." This is written as a contrast to the person who must have everything proven as fact, often scientifically, before they will believe it..

Even since Cain, we have found it difficult to believe. The reason has nothing to do with science. Quite simply, it's difficult to believe because it's difficult to obey. Belief is never simply an intellectual exercise. As rational beings, we know that to acknowledge something as true means that it must change our life. If something is true - really, utterly, and radiantly true - it demands our total allegiance. If something is eternally and magnificently true, it was here before I was and it must change me; I can't change it. No matter who the person is, or in what age he has lived, belief that demands obedience is, and always will be, a terrifying and exhilarating prospect.

Even the mere word obedience is a shock to the heart. It's enough to make you throw a book across the room. The word makes us think of pursed-lipped old nuns ready to thrash timid children into submission. We see hordes of jackbooted thugs goose-stepping to the commands of their demonic overlords. We imagine gullible religious devotees submitting to bizarre beliefs. We think of the young automatons of religious sects and the quivering woman shielding her children from the demands of an outrageous husband.

These are examples, not of obedience, but of domination and subservience. The obedience that goes with belief is something different. It's an inquisitive, open-ended, and youthful virtue. The word obedience comes from the Latin obedire, which means "listen to." True obedience is a kind of curiosity. It's a fresh alertness, a childlike eagerness to listen and learn. It's the voice of deep calling to deep. It is a human heart open to the drawing and calling of a timeless and universal power that the ancients could only call Love ...

... The first step is not to believe all the specifics, but simply to believe. To Be. To Live. To Be Alive. To Believe.

To believe in all things seen and unseen is to accept all that is real, both in the natural and in the supernatural realms. It means embracing every morsel of matter, from each grain of sand to each gargantuan star. It means being full of wonder at all things invisible - from atoms and angels to molecules and miracles. To believe in all things seen and unseen means accepting that the visible and invisible realms are intermingled in a marvelous and mysterious way. It means gasping with delight at the wonderful and frightening realization that all things are possible. This is the innocent, unembarrassed, and blessed state of the believer: His heart is open to everything on earth and in Heaven, and he plunges in to be overwhelmed by it all, crying, "I believe!"

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Castle

Our Friday family movie night featured this sweet Australian movie which I almost had forgotten. The Castle is an understated comedy about a man whose home truly is his castle. When the local airport wants to buy the property, which any normal person would jump at as it sits at the end of an airport runway and directly under gigantic power lines, he fights in court for the right to keep his home.

The main thing I remembered from seeing it long ago was the father's unconditional love and approval of every person in his family. Watching it as a family I was reminded that the entire family reciprocated those feelings. Watching the local news the father turns to his daughter, the only family member with a "college degree" (from hairdresser school), and tells her that they have "ripping bodies" but their hair really could use fixing up to be like hers. Needless to say, the daughter's hair is horrendous but her pleased and loving reaction underscores the family's complete happiness. If they think about the outside world at all it is to be sorry that the world doesn't have a share in their contentment and "riches".

Hannah and Rose loved it and both said that if more families were like this one the world would be a better place. Very true. A word of caution: this movie is rated "R". The only reason I could see for that rating was language. "F***" was heard occasionally, especially whenever the lawyer was trying to fix his copier (I had much sympathy for his situation!).

Counting Sins the Pharisee Way

Continuing through the historical backup for Luke, William Barclay gives some vivid examples of just how nitpicking the Pharisees were about sin. The modern equivalent of this is "more Catholic than the Pope." We all know people like this and we are lucky if we are not one of them. It is a natural human tendency to want it to be easy to know what to do and what to avoid. Unfortunately, it becomes all too easy to focus on the letter of the law and forget the big picture that led to it in the first place. That leads to hard hearts and lack of forgiveness. No wonder Jesus kept placing such emphasis on prayer and living our faith from the heart.

The basis of the law was the Ten Commandments. These commandments are principles for life. They are not rules and regulations; they do not legislate for each event and for every circumstance. For a certain section of the Jews that was not enough...From the Ten Commandments they proceeded to develop and elaborate these rules...

To heal on the Sabbath was to work. It was laid down that only if life was in actual danger could healing be done; and then steps could be taken only to keep the sufferer from getting worse, not to improve his condition. A plain bandage could be put on a wound, but not any ointment; plain wadding could be put into a sore ear, but not medicated. It is easy to see that there was no limit to this...

The name Pharisee means "The Separated One"; and the Pharisees were those who had separated themselves from ordinary people and ordinary life in order to keep these rules and regulations. Note two things. First for the scribes and Pharisees these rules were a matter of life and death; to break one of them was a deadly sin. Second, only people desperately in earnest would ever have tried to keep them, for they must have made life supremely uncomfortable. It was only the best people who would even make the attempt.

Jesus had no use for rules and regulations like that. For him, the cry of human need superseded all such things. But to the scribes and Pharisees he was a law-breaker, a bad man who broke the law and taught others to do the same...the tragedy of the life of Jesus was that those who were most in earnest about their religion drove him to the Cross...

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Book Lust

Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason

"When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food." — Desiderius Erasmus

This pretty much sums up my approach to books. I love them with a passion. I can't wait to read good ones I've heard about. So I was interested to take a look at Book Lust. Librarian Nancy Pearl has turned a lifetime love of books into lists of recommendations in over 175 categories. There is something for everyone: Dinosaur Hunting, Academia: The Joke, Road Novels, Kitchen-Sink Poetry. Each of her suggestions is accompanied by a few of her thoughts on it and a succinct plot summary. She also has highlighted a few authors that are relatively unknown and "Too Good to Miss". I was pleased to see two of my favorite "unknown" authors, Connie Willis and Ross Thomas, were included.

I usually don't wind up with many recommendations from this sort of book because I'm a fairly low brow reader, sticking to mysteries, science fiction, and memoirs ... and none of them had better be too sad or serious. I was surprised to find myself with a list of over 60 books to try. Eventually, I'd put the book down to do something and when I came back it had disappeared. Hannah now has a large list of books to try also. Thank heavens for the public library!

Monday, May 10, 2004

Monster Mash


Werewolves, vampires, and Frankenstein ... oh my! Van Helsing is like the Vatican's 007 complete with an underground cavern where the friar equivalent of "Q" invents monster killing equipment. They thrown in practically every type of monster that ever has been in a movie except zombies. Why no zombies? Perhaps because they don't have that "Transylvanian" story behind them. I'd say more but there's no point. Its a summer spectacular which was just about what I thought it would be from the previews: a mishmash of monsters and over-the-top special effects with way too little plot. Sadly, even the obligatory one liners weren't that good. And I don't understand why Kate Beckinsall was dressed like a dominatrix (probably the guys at the movie understood that just fine). It wasn't a complete loss. Hugh Jackman always is a treat although he spent most of the movie with a turtle neck sweater on. Staying home with one or both of the X-Men movies is a much better way to get a dose of him than going to this.

Of course, the whole point of going to the movie was that it was Rose's birthday party. On that score it was a HUGE success. Everyone loved the movie although it does take a car full of good Catholic girls to puzzle half way home about a plot point involving the Archangel Gabriel, which cracked me up. Even more hilarious was that Tom said his car full of girls was doing the exact same thing. I love it! I was reminded that I am lucky that Rose has good friends who are such great kids. Listening to the laughing and hilarity before and after made the whole movie worthwhile.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Nazareth - Crossroads of the World?

After finding out how much I didn't know about Galilee I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find out that Nazareth wasn't the tiny burg I pictured. More from William Barclay:

One of Jesus' very early visits was to Nazareth, his home town. Nazareth was not a village. It is called a polis which means a town or city; and it may well have had as many as 20,000 inhabitants. It stood in a little hollow in the hills on the lower slopes of Galilee near the Plain of Jezreel. But a boy had only to climb the hilltop above the town and he could see an amazing panorama for miles around.

Sir George Adam Smith described the scene from the hilltop. The history of Israel stretched out before the watcher's eye. There was the plain of Esdraelon where Deborah and Barak had fought; where Gideon had won his victories; where Saul had crashed to disaster and Josiah had been killed in battle; there was Naboth's vineyard and the place where Jehu slaughtered Jezebel; there was Shunem where Elisha had lived, there was Carmel where Elijah had fought his epic battle with the prophets of Baal; and, blue in the distance, there was the Mediterranean and the isles of the sea.

Not only the history of Israel was there; the world unfolded itself from the hilltop above Nazareth. Three great roads skirted it. There was the road from the south carrying pilgrims to Jerusalem. There was the great Way of the Sea which led from Egypt to Damascus with laden caravans moving along it. There was the great road to the east bearing caravans from Arabia and Roman legions marching out to the eastern frontiers of the Empire. It is wrong to think of Jesus being brought up in a backwater; he was brought up in a town in sight of history and with the traffic of the world almost at its doors.

Thursday, May 6, 2004

A Great Movie Your Kids Have Never Seen

My Neighbor Totoro
Ok, your kids might have seen this but chances are if they have it is because you know my kids. Thanks to Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z my girls got attached to Japanese animation (anime) when they were little. Then they moved on to kids' manga (Japanese graphic novels) which is where Sailor Moon, etc. actually began.

Anime usually doesn't have much of a U.S. following, except among true movie lovers, because they don't follow the expected pattern. For one thing, they are animated but aren't produced by Disney (or Dreamworks). For another, they tend to show in art houses which also are unfamiliar to a lot of folks.

We heard of My Neighbor Totoro and were surprised to find it available for rental. Eventually we had to buy our own copy, which my daughters now take with them when baby sitting. This delights the kids and annoys the parents because then their children start pestering them to buy the movie.

My Neighbor Totoro is a charming, original story by a famous Japanese filmmaker. It is the story of two young girls and their father moving to a new home in the forest. The girls go exploring and come across Totoro, a giant forest spirit. Check out the reviews at Amazon for the full story. Or borrow it from me!

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Galilee - The California of Israel?

Now for some of that very interesting info I came across studying Luke. It never would have occurred to me to question why Jesus began his ministry in Galilee. It was home, he already was there, etc. It seems there were other good reasons for starting out there. William Barclay says Galilee was incredibly fertile and supported a large population. The Galileans were famous for accepting new ideas and revolutionary changes. Basically, Galilee was jammed full of open-minded folks who understood the context of everything Jesus said. I suddenly started imagining Jesus speaking to the multitudes in California today. No wonder the orthodox types had a problem, especially once you threw in Jesus' radical message. Here's what Barclay says:

Galilee was an area in the north of Palestine about fifty miles from north to south and twenty-five miles from east to west. The name itself means a circle and comes from the Hebrew word Galil. It was so called because it was encircled by non-Jewish nations. Because of that, new influences had always played upon Galilee and it was the most forward-looking and least conservative part of Palestine. It was extraordinarily densely populated. Josephus, who was himself at one time governor of the area, says that it had 204 villages or towns, none with a population less than 15,000. It seems incredible that there could be some 3,000,000 people congregated in Galilee.

It was a land of extraordinary fertility. There was a proverb which said that, "It is easier to raise a legion of olive trees in Galilee than to bring up one child in Judaea." The wonderful climate and the superb water supply made it the garden of Palestine ...

The Galileans themselves were the Highlanders of Palestine. Josephus says of them, "They were ever fond of innovations and by nature disposed to changes, and delighted in seditions. They were ever ready to follow a leader who would begin an insurrection. They were quick in temper and given to quarreling." "The Galileans," it was said, "have never been destitute of courage." "They were ever more anxious for honor than for gain."

This is the land in which Jesus began. It was his own land; and it would give him, at least in the beginning, an audience who would listen and kindle at his message.

Daily Bible Study Series

I didn't really mean to drag everyone along with me through my study of Luke, but I'm coming across some amazing facts about life and times back then. First I must stop for a moment to qualify a few things about William Barclay, who is the source of a lot of this "wow!" material in his Daily Bible Study Series. He was recommended by my friend, Mary G., who is a Bible study veteran. On Amazon I repeatedly saw reviewers mention that he was really great as long as you watched out for his theology. No kidding. My jaw literally dropped when reading about the Nativity and seeing how many alternatives Barclay offered that would allow Jesus' birth to be called "virgin" but yet really have Joseph as his fully natural father.

So why use his commentary? Barclay's strengths are his phenomenal knowledge of the Greek language, the Jewish culture and religion, and the Roman occupation during the New Testament era. He is wonderful at conveying this knowledge in a way that simple and easily understandable. He puts it in context so that you can understand what events meant to the people to whom Jesus spoke to 2,000 years ago.

His application of those events to modern lives is less successful. Sometimes it works, as we saw with Jesus' temptation in the wilderness (May 3), and sometimes it doesn't. Regardless, the historical context is so wonderful that I am willing to suffer the other parts of his writing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

The Alamo

The girls and I went to see "The Alamo" this weekend. I didn't go in expecting a "feel good" movie. As a transplanted Texan I know the story much better than I did growing up in Kansas. I came out of it feeling the same way I did after watching "The Patriot" ... war is brutal, cruel, and, ok I'll say it, hell. It was really well done and found that delicate balance between real characters and legend. Certainly the filmmakers made us understand that both sides suffer and people of all sorts are caught up in the conflict. I also really admired the performances, especially Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. I suppose that is nothing that we haven't read in reviews already. My two realizations were:

  • As we watched the Mexican Army swarm the Alamo from all sides, familiar defenders began to die. I suddenly realized that in most movies like this I expect to lose a few favorite characters but we always know that some will live and prevail in the end. That wasn't going to happen here. I mentally compared it to the "Lord of the Rings" movies which I loved. Suddenly all those battle scenes seemed clean and sanitized, fangs and gore notwithstanding. "The Alamo" didn't follow that formula because it was following real life. (Just one of those mental head-slap moments.)

  • Our 13-year-old, Rose, and I know WAY too much about Goliad. I helped her with a research project last year and we both became "experts." Discussing this movie, we discovered that we also are devoted to making sure Goliad isn't forgotten. I'm sure there were a zillion historical details wrong but we only cared about the fact that no one ever bothered to explain why Fannin never came from Goliad with aid. Santa Anna's army already had executed Fannin and his army after they surrendered. That's one reason the Alamo defenders didn't surrender. They'd heard the news from Goliad. That's why the battle cry at San Jacinto was, "Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!" [courtesy of the "Remember Goliad" research committee, J Davis and R Davis]

Van Helsing Anyone?
Next up is "Van Helsing." You'd think that Rose would choose "13 Going On 30" for a birthday party movie, right? No such luck. I'll get to take 9 girls to see a monster movie. Granted, Hugh Jackman is looking mighty fine from what I could see in the trailers. I'm not sure that is enough to get me through 2 hours and 20 minutes!

Monday, May 3, 2004

Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness

When I read William Barclay's commentary about Jesus' temptation I couldn't believe how it all tied in with recent conversations about politicians, truth, etc. Its like a manual of how to follow God closely while living a public life.

... At this time Jesus was just about to begin his campaign. Before a man begins a campaign he must choose his methods. The temptation story shows us Jesus choosing once and for all the method by which he proposed to win men to God. It shows him rejecting the way of power and glory and accepting the way of suffering and the cross.

... this is the most sacred of stories, for it can have come from no other source than his own lips. At some time he must have himself told his disciples about this most intimate experience of his soul.

... The first temptation was to turn stones into bread ... The tempter said to Jesus, "If you want people to follow you, use your wonderful powers to give them material things." He was suggesting that Jesus should bribe people into following him.

The task of Christianity is not to produce new conditions, although the weight and voice of the church must be behind all efforts to make life better for men. Its real task is to produce new men; and given the new men, the new conditions will follow.

[The second temptation] is the temptation to compromise. The devil said, "I have got people in my grip. Don't set your standards so high. Strike a bargain with me. Just compromise a little with evil and men will follow you."

It is a constant temptation to seek to win men by compromising with the standards of the world. G.K. Chesterton said that the tendency of the world is to see things in terms of an indeterminate grey; but the duty of the Christian is to see things in terms of black and white. As Carlyle said, "The Christian must be consumed by the conviction of the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin."

I had never thought before that the only one who could have told that story to anyone was Jesus. The rest of the Gospels are eyewitness accounts but that was from the Lord Himself. Wow!

Sunday, May 2, 2004

A Gaelic Blessing ...

... for the person who stole our lawnmower right out of our driveway this afternoon.

May those who love us, love us.
And those who don't love us
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn't turn their hearts
May He turn their ankles
So we'll know them by their limping.

Jesus' Temptation in the Wilderness

In working my way through Luke, I was reading commentaries about Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by satan. I was really struck by what the Navarre Bible says:

Our Lord's temptations sum up every kind of temptation man can experience: "Scripture would not have said," St. Thomas comments, "that once all the temptation ended the devil departed from him, unless the matter of all sins were included in the three temptations already related. For the cause of temptation are the causes of desires - namely, lust of the flesh, desire for glory, eagerness for power."

By conquering every kind of temptation, Jesus shows us how to deal with the snares of the devil. It was as a man that he was tempted and as a man that he resisted: "He did not act as God, bringing his power into play; if he had done so, how could we have availed of his example? Rather, as man he made use of the resources which he has in common with us." (St. Ambrose)

He wanted to show us the methods to use to defeat the devil - prayer, fasting, watchfulness, not dialoguing with temptation, having the words of God's Scripture on our lips and putting our trust in the Lord.

I looked at that and thought how it made that part of the Gospel come alive in my daily life. Those are all things that I can remember and use ... and need!

Work is Spiritual

Yesterday was the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and this reading from Magnificat was simple but perfect. It has the basic reminder I need I am slogging through my day ... all work has meaning.

Saint Joseph the Worker
by Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete

It seems to me, though, that such corporate efforts are misguided. There is no need to add "spirituality" to work; human work itself is already a spiritual act. It is a form of spirituality. It is only by confronting the daily demands of work that we deepen our interior dynamism. Upon impact with the world that is "other," our dynamism configures the demands or needs that define our human identity, such as the quest for justice, truth, beauty, and fulfillment. It is this that links us with the Infinite. This is the realm of an authentic human spirituality. Therefore, it is not that spirituality "adds" something to work, or improves performance, or makes it barely tolerable. Instead, work itself is meant to become a spiritual act and this happens when it is experienced as being at the service of the quest for the Infinite.

We are often called upon to do "mindless" work. But our spiritual task is to transform it. Emptying the trash can be considered mindless, but if I see it as a contribution to the well-being of my family, it can be immensely significant for me.