Thursday, June 30, 2005

Mini Book Reviews

Quick comments about the last few books I've read:
  • 57. Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich - Stephanie Plum may be looking for a new job but it's business as usual. More cars are blown up in this book than usual and the family works itself to a fever pitch preparing for Valerie's wedding. For me this book didn't pick up until the last third when Stephanie gave up sugar and was forced to take up another stress-reducing activity. I'll let y'all find out what that is. Any Stephanie Plum fans will find this worth reading though not up to the last book's standards.

  • 56. Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski - Mike Yankoski and his friend, Sam, set out to find out what it is really like to be homeless in America by taking to the streets with minimal supplies and living in four American cities sleeping on the streets, earning their way with their guitar playing, and getting a deeper glimpse into what it means to be a Christian. This came highly recommended by martha, martha (sidebar) and is HIGHLY recommended in return by me. It will make you think twice the next time you want to turn your head and avoid that homeless man or woman coming toward you with their hand out. Also worth noting is their conclusion about handouts after months on the street. They advise giving food, water, gift certificates to restaurants or grocery stores, or taking the person to a place and buying them a meal. They do not advise giving cash because half of the time the person will be using it for drugs. This was the subject of much debate here several months ago and I'm glad to have confirmation of my granola bar/bottled water policy.

  • 55. Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger - classic book about a young soldier whose family runs afoul of the Spanish Inquisition. He winds up with Cortes discovering Mexico and goes through not only adventures but individual growth during that time. Written in 1954, this book has a good sense of perspective. Highly recommended, this has been a favorite of mine for many years.
For cookbook minireviews go to Glad Gastronome.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Church authority: The basis for the doctrine of the Trinity

The authority of the Church was necessary for us to know the truth of the Trinity. This most distinctively Christian doctrine of all, the one that reveals the nature of God himself, the nature of ultimate reality, was revealed by God clearly only to the Church. It was not clearly revealed to his chosen people, the Jews. It is not clearly defined in the New Testament. God waited to reveal it to the Church.

Scripture contains the data for the doctrine of the Trinity; but that is not enough, for every heretic, too, throughout history has appealed to Scripture. As a matter of historical fact, it has proved impossible for men to know the nature of the true God without the true Church. The dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation (and the two natures of Christ) were in fact derived from the Catholic Church.

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft

Post-Vacation Vow

I am going on a diet. From this day forward, I pledge there will be no pork chop too succulent! No donut too tasty! No pizza too laden with delicious toppings to prevent me from reaching my scientifically-determined ideal weight! As God as my witness, I'll always be hungry again!
Homer Simpson

This is a pretty universal experience wouldn't you say?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Abilene Update

We're in the Holiday Inn Express at Abilene, Kanas, impatiently awaiting the opening time for the Eisenhower Presidential Library (9 a.m.). We're grooving on the cable (first the history channel for a little Roman/Gaullic conflict, now Animal Planet for the skinny on the Tasmanian Devil ... very, very scary animals).

The hotel manager said that this hotel is always full because of the big draw that the Eisenhower Library creates. Lots of people like us will detour just enough to visit. Not only did Eisenhower save civilization and lead our country, but he helped saved his hometown of Abilene by creating a steady tourist trade.

We got an upgrade to a Executive Suite because of a room shortage (not because it's too full at the moment but because two maids called in sick this morning and they still don't have all the regular rooms cleaned up ... pity the poor breakfast cook who got a call after her father's birthday party to come in and clean rooms). Anyway, this room gets a much high rating than the Embassy Suites we stayed in at the Plaza in KC. Sad for the Embassy Suites but nice for us at the moment.

Most amazing is that I'm blogging from a Holiday Inn in Abilene, Kansas. Yes, wireless high-speed Internet is available everywhere. Though it is free here as a marketing pull (all the hotel billboards for a long way around push their FREE internet connections). Another improvement over Embassy Suites where we paid ten dollars a day ... good thing Tom had business to check on.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Another Postcard from KC

Hey, at least I'm not "live blogging" the reunion.

Yesterday we went to Pierpont's, a very nice restaurant in Union Station, the old railroad station. The station is very grand and has many shops but what fascinated Tom and me was the hallway that had the doors where you used to board the trains. At night with no people around you really could almost go back in time to when this place was just as busy as DFW Airport is today.

Reinforcing that is the General Pershing Memorial which is on top of the hill across from the station. It is imposing and grand and also done in that 1920's style. Really a wonderful sight to see and reflect on. It was so sad to look at the inscription that talked about "The World War" and realize all the joy of the war being over that was reflected in the monument was so short lived as WWII happened so soon afterwards.

My brother-in-law was astonished that this existed in KC and my mother never even knew it existed despite all the time they spent in and around KC during our formative years. It makes sense, though, because General Pershing was from here, Truman was from Independence just down the street (so to speak), and Eisenhower was from Abilene ... all those people coming from Kansas. And being in the middle of the country with the railroad as the main form of transportation, KC was vital to the war effort during the first World War. You tend to forget that these days.

Today my brother and his brave wife have taken all the kids to Worlds of Fun (local amusement park) while the rest of us are left to our own devices. Tom and I are meeting The Happy Capitalist and Merry Stitcher (check my sidebar) who are my old college friends from KU (we're not gonna go into how long ago that was!

Kind of funny during all this family interaction to look at how everyone has changed and in what ways ... how one family is very much like ours while another kind of reminds me of the family dynamics I grew up in. It's interesting.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Postcard from Kansas City

Hey y'all! We're having a blast here in K.C. Since our family is so small there are only 14 of us all total and there are no planned activities so this is like having a great vacation with your entire family. Very cool.

Won't bore everyone with the details but my sister's family and ours went to the zoo yesterday while waiting for the others to arrive in K.C. I think she had the best summary of the experience: "It's like they went for the San Diego zoo but forgot to put in the animals." I have never walked so many long concrete trails through very nice landscaping and seen so few animals ... especially at a ZOO!

Best Indian restaurant name ever (found in Westport):
Korma Sutra
The Sensual Food of India

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lords of Dogtown

*** Liked it despite absence of flubber. (see rating key at bottom)

The Lords of Dogtown is a movie about the Z-Boys who started the skateboarding craze in Venice, California, in the 1970s. If you are at all interested in the Z-Boys, skateboarding or Heath Ledger (the movie's one "name") then you probably will enjoy this gritty look at that time. The movie did a great job of showing us the boys' disparate backgrounds and problems and how they handled their eventual fame with the accompanying sex, drugs, and partying.

Not really being interested in any of those things I still found the movie to be well done and compelling, though it could have used a little less skateboarding for my taste (hence my rating). It is a really well done piece though and, not being a Heath Ledger groupie (unlike some in my household!) I was really impressed with his performance in a less than glamorous role. He was totally believable as the surf shop owner who first forms the skateboard team and then has to face who he really is in the wake of their rise to fame.

Extras: a killer soundtrack from that time period and cameo appearances by the actual Z-boys (if you're in the know).

HC Rating System
(from The Simpsons, what else?)

**** Listen, we've been meaning to have a talk with you about your reviews. Everything's a rave! Nine thumbs up, what the hell is that? (newspaper editor to Homer)
*** "Liked it despite the absence of flubber..." - Mel Gibson reading Prof. Frink's review
** Christian: You desecrated a classic film. This is worse than "Godfather III."
Mel Gibson: Whoa, whoa, hey, whoa! Let's not say things we can't take back.

* "Your movie was more boring than church. All you did was yak, yak, yak. You didn't even shoot anybody." -Homer Simpson's comment on movie screening

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Spirit and the Church

The Holy Spirit is to the Church what the soul is to the body. He is the Church's soul, the Church's life. The Church is "the Temple of the Holy Spirit" (CCC 737). Our bodies, too, are temples of the Holy Spirit (see Cor 6:19), because we are cells in the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit infallibly guided the Church's earliest ecumenical councils to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity -- including the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Why do Catholics believe in the Holy Spirit? On the authority of the Holy Catholic Church, which teaches it. And why do Catholics believe this Church has infallible authority? Because the Holy Spirit, and not any human spirit, is her soul.

"[T]he Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament" (CCC 738).

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Second Rate Movie is No Treasure

HC rating: Worse Than Godfather III **

I had so many people recommend this movie that against the movie critics' better judgment we rented it this weekend. I like Nicholas Cage and had a sneaking desire to see it so I can't blame it all on everyone else. Ho hum. Second rate plot. Lackluster acting except from John Voight who, with the lack of actual material to work with, seemed to be channeling the father from "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Sean Bean who turned in his usual excellent performance, though with an equal lack of decent material he was reduced to a lot of teeth gnashing. Distinctly boring puzzle pieces and mystery to solve. Nicholas Cage seemed to think that being scholarly involved a lot of sleepwalking in this part. The movie makers evidently were under the impression that if they mashed bits of a lot of classic movies together they could come up with a winner. Wrong.

You can do much, much better by renting one of the movies they were trying to copy.
  • A great adventure movie: Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark
  • A great movie with a quirky father-son chemistry: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Fabulous mystery to solve with two adversaries working against each other: The Fugitive
  • Humor, romance, puzzle solving mystery: Romancing the Stone
HC Rating System
(from The Simpsons, what else?)

**** Listen, we've been meaning to have a talk with you about your reviews. Everything's a rave! Nine thumbs up, what the hell is that? (newspaper editor to Homer)
*** "Liked it despite the absence of flubber..." - Mel Gibson reading Prof. Frink's review
** Christian: You desecrated a classic film. This is worse than "Godfather III."
Mel Gibson: Whoa, whoa, hey, whoa! Let's not say things we can't take back.

* "Your movie was more boring than church. All you did was yak, yak, yak. You didn't even shoot anybody." -Homer Simpson's comment on movie screening

How to "Get" the Holy Spirit

We cannot "get" him; we can only let him get us. He is God. Only God can give him. Christ gives him. He comes from the Father through the Son...

The Spirit is free. He is God's gift. There is nothing we can do to "get" him; we must simply ask, in faith, like a child trusting his father's love. That same is true of the Spirit's gifts, such as wisdom: we get them simply by asking and believing: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith" (Jas 1:5-6).

But be careful what you ask for, because God will take you at your word. The Spirit's job is to sanctify, to make saints, and saints are not safe! They are like the One who makes them. God is not safe. Rabbi Abraham Heschel says: "God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake."

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft
I think we all get to feeling so "familiar" with God that we forget who we're dealing with sometimes. That's why I like Rabbi Hershel's reminder, "God is an earthquake."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Spirit and Scripture

When a Spirit-filled Christian reads the Word of God -- the Word this very Spirit inspired -- the book seems to "come alive" and "light up" from within itself. This is because its primary Author is really present in the reader, alive, interpreting his own words...

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft
Does it get any cooler than that? Nope.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Best Summer Movie Ever!!!

HC rating: Nine Thumbs Up ****

Better than Bond. More fun than True Lies. More gorgeous than ... practically anyone (except Tom Cruise ... or actress of your choice - not really my forté, actresses).

No real need for more details but let me just say that when Hannah and Tom go to see this movie next week (and they will), Rose and I will be going too. It was just that much fun.

UPDATE: Barbara Nicolosi thinks the movie was a "Reece's Peanut Butter Cup" while her friend, Sean, goes for the chocolate truffle. Of course, I'm with Sean on this one. She also thinks a Christian would have made a better movie...
... If we made that movie, we would be more interested in the marriage issues than the shoot-em-up sequences. We would be more interested in showing how real love makes being an assassin by profession impossible. Then, I think it would be okay for us to do.
Perhaps so but it would not have been the same movie and I think it would have been virtually impossible to do in a way that would be appealing to the same crowd. She's talking about a different movie, one that I'd like to see, but not this one. I really expected this movie to take the "War of the Roses" turn (a movie I despised) and was very pleased when it didn't.

HC Rating System
(from The Simpsons, what else?)

**** Listen, we've been meaning to have a talk with you about your reviews. Everything's a rave! Nine thumbs up, what the hell is that? (newspaper editor to Homer)
*** "Liked it despite the absence of flubber..." - Mel Gibson reading Prof. Frink's review
** Christian: You desecrated a classic film. This is worse than "Godfather III."
Mel Gibson: Whoa, whoa, hey, whoa! Let's not say things we can't take back.

* "Your movie was more boring than church. All you did was yak, yak, yak. You didn't even shoot anybody." -Homer Simpson's comment on movie screening

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Human Sexuality

God invented sex. That is why it is not "bad" or "dirty". Nor is it merely neutral, to be used as we please. It is good and holy.

No aspect of the Church's teaching is more misunderstood and rejected today than her unchanging and unchangeable principles of sexual morality. For these cannot be understood except in the context of her vision of man.

Man has not evolved by accident or blind chance. Man has been loved into existence by God. Man is willed by God, deliberately designed, as male and female. That is the first reason why sex is holy.

The second reason is that God has designed and willed not only the existence of sex but also its purpose. It is holy not only because of its origin but also because of its end. That purpose is to be the means of procreating the greatest things in the universe: new persons, with immortal souls. "By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator's work" (CCC 372).

Sexual intercourse is like the Consecration of the Mass. It is a human work that God uses as the material means to do the most divine work done on earth. In the Mass, man offers bread and wine, the work of nature and human hands, for God to transform into the Body and Blood of Christ, In sex, man offers his work -- the procreation of a new body -- for God to do his work: the creation of a new soul. God grants priests the incredible dignity of being his instruments in working one of his two greatest miracles. God grants spouses the incredible dignity of being his instruments in working the other...

The principles of sexual morality are essentially unchanging because the meaning of sex is essentially unchanging. They stem from human nature itself, which God designed, not from the changing mores of society, which man designs. God's law is very clear: no adulterated sex, that is, sex outside of marriage. As Holy Mass is the place for Transubstantiation, holy marriage is the place for sex.

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft

Monday, June 6, 2005


Angels have intellect and free will, like man. Some angels chose, at the beginning, to rebel against God's will and became demons, or evil spirits.

Just as good spirits help us, evil spirits seek to harm us by tempting us to sin.

Any baptized and believing Christian has the power to resist temptation, whether it comes from "the world, the flesh, or the devil" - that is, (a) from the external world of fallen human society, (be) from the internal world of our own fallen, selfish instincts, of body or soul, or (c) from the supernatural world of evil spirits.

No faithful Christicn can be demon-possessed against his will, though many will be severely oppressed and all will be tempted. The Church, like Christ, has the power to free those who are "possessed" by exorcising the evil spirits. Christ promised this gift to his Church (Mk 16:17). In most times and places, demon possession and exorcism are rare. But they are real.

If the devil is not real, the Bible lies (for example 1 Pet 5:8), and Christ was a fool, for he certainly believed in demons and in Satan (see, for instance, Luke 10:18).

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft

Friday, June 3, 2005

The Hill of Crosses

hill of crosses

I can't get this place out of my mind after reading about it in Catholic Shrines of Central and Eastern Europe by Kevin J. Wright. Steve at November Song brought it to mind again by this post which has some really wonderful links to information and photos of this unique outward testimony to the faith of the people of Lituania. This is one of the lengthier entries in the book but I am putting it because it pulls together everything so well.
One of the most unforgettable and emotional sites in Lithuania is the Hill of Crosses. An intense place of pilgrimage, the shrine offers a glimpse into the history of Lithuanian Catholics and their struggles with the former Communist regime. A worldwide attraction, the two-humped hillock is today buried amidst a multitude of crosses.

More than 170 years ago, however, the site was simply a hill overgrown with weeds. That all changed in 1831, when the first of hundreds of crosses were placed in the ground to honor those killed or deported to Siberia in an anti-Russian uprising. Thirty years later, more crosses were mounted on the hill in memory of those tragically killed in the peasant rebellion of 1863. In the ensuing years, more and more crosses were added to the site. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, the faithful came here to pray in solitude or take part in religious processions. They came to present their needs to God, to mourn those who had been killed, imprisoned, or exiled, and to recall important historical events.

When Soviet authorities took power in Lithuania after World War II, the new government designated the place as "forbidden" and severely punished those who defied them. The great drama then began to unfold as authorities destroyed the crosses on the hill in an attempt to smother Christianity and erase the "fanaticism." Between 1941 and 1952 the Lithuanians suffered greatly as many of their people were exiled to Siberia. Entire villages were emptied. In 1956 the people began returning to their homes.

Only a short time later, the faithful began secretly replenishing the hill with crosses again in memory of the unbearable torture they had endured and of those who had died and in gratitude for coming back. Lithuanians who returned from captivity in Siberia also put up crosses to thank God for the chance to walk the paths of their homeland and breathe its air again. In time, the Hill of Crosses with its heart-wrenching inscriptions became an open book of people's lives. The site symbolized resistance to violence, oppression and genocide. The resurrection of the crosses on the hill told the world that the nation of Lithuania was not dead.

But once the Communist authorities discovered the freshly planted Christian symbols, they attempted in the spring of 1961 to rid the site of its religious sentiments once and for all. Under the strict guard of the Red Army and KGB, soldiers bulldozed the area, burned the wooden crosses, recycled the iron ones, and buried the stone crosses in the ground. A maple tree, planted by the people to symbolize Lithuania's independence, was also uprooted. (Ironically, however, the townspeople later returned the tree to the hill in the form of a cross.)

When new crosses began cropping up, the Soviets attempted new ways of destroying the hill. On oe ocasin, the Soviets flooded the place, turning the Hill into a virtual island. The Communists exhausted themselves in designing new ways to stop the faithful from planting the symbols of resurrection. They dug ditches, closed bus stops, posted signs, punished trespassers, and blocked roads. But all was in vain. Ironically, one of the new crosses erected during the night read, "Jesus, do not punish the villains for they not know what they are doing." In total, the government bulldozed the hill three times, only to see the crosses spring up again and again. In 1975 the authorities leveled the hill for the last time.

Since then, more than fifty thousand crosses have been placed on the hill -- a testament to the spirit of the people. the planting of crosses can be traced to the Lithuanian tradition of erecting crosses near roads and settlements. In fact, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, so many crosses had been placed on the side of roads that the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Empire issued an edict forbidding the erecting of them. However, the order had little effect, as the cross had already become a deeply rooted symbol in the heart of theLithuanian people...
Prayer of the Cross
Jesus, you became an example of humility, obedience, and patience, and preceded me onthe way of life bearing your cross. Grant that, inflamed with your love, I may cheerfully take upon myself the sweet yoke of your gospel together with the mortification of the cross and follow you as a true disciple so that I may be united with you in heaven forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Getting Closer to Jesus: Silence, Our Father, and Glory Be

The prayers that make up the Rosary are simple and easy to memorize (though I will admit I haven't really got the Apostles' Creed down yet). You can go here for instructions on which prayers are said when.

Before beginning each decade it is customary to announce the mystery and read the scripture associated with it, sometimes along with a short meditation. I tend to do most of my meditation while I am saying the prayers rather than before but I like to take a moment before each decade to center my mind on what I will think about, as you can range far wider in the Gospel than merely the announced mystery. This is usually when I "dedicate" each decade to an intention. Oftentimes the entire rosary will be dedicated as well but different mysteries will be applicable to different needs on your heart at the time.
Listening and meditation are nourished by silence. After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one's attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer. A discovery of the importance of silence is one of the secrets of practicing contemplation and meditation. One drawback of a society dominated by technology and the mass media is the fact that silence becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. Just as moments of silence are recommended in the Liturgy, so too in the recitation of the Rosary it is fitting to pause briefly after listening to the word of God, while the mind focuses on the content of a particular mystery.
The thing that I really noticed when I started saying the rosary was that the decades of Hail Mary prayers were always begun with an "Our Father" (aka The Lord's Prayer) and ended with a "Glory Be" (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.). In my mind they "cradle" the other prayers, surrounding the entire proceedings with God to whom all our thoughts and prayers should be offered during that time. Quite often when I am saying them, I also am thinking of how perfectly planned but yet unexpected God's plan of salvation is.
The “Our Father”
After listening to the word and focusing on the mystery, it is natural for the mind to be lifted up towards the Father. In each of his mysteries, Jesus always leads us to the Father, for as he rests in the Father's bosom (cf. Jn 1:18) he is continually turned towards him. He wants us to share in his intimacy with the Father, so that we can say with him: “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). By virtue of his relationship to the Father he makes us brothers and sisters of himself and of one another, communicating to us the Spirit which is both his and the Father's. Acting as a kind of foundation for the Christological and Marian meditation which unfolds in the repetition of the Hail Mary, the Our Father makes meditation upon the mystery, even when carried out in solitude, an ecclesial experience.
When I was learning the "Glory Be" I was struck by its perfection as well. It was a long, long time before I could get past thinking about the sheer mystery contained in "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." How do so few words communicate so much about God's nature and glory and what he has done for us?
The “Gloria”
Trinitarian doxology is the goal of all Christian contemplation. For Christ is the way that leads us to the Father in the Spirit. If we travel this way to the end, we repeatedly encounter the mystery of the three divine Persons, to whom all praise, worship and thanksgiving are due. It is important that the Gloria, the high-point of contemplation, be given due prominence in the Rosary. In public recitation it could be sung, as a way of giving proper emphasis to the essentially Trinitarian structure of all Christian prayer.

To the extent that meditation on the mystery is attentive and profound, and to the extent that it is enlivened – from one Hail Mary to another – by love for Christ and for Mary, the glorification of the Trinity at the end of each decade, far from being a perfunctory conclusion, takes on its proper contemplative tone, raising the mind as it were to the heights of heaven and enabling us in some way to relive the experience of Tabor, a foretaste of the contemplation yet to come: “It is good for us to be here!” (Lk 9:33).


Angels are not mythical but real. They are not an optional addition to the Catholic faith; their existence is a dogma of the faith (Lateran Council IV). Angels appear many, many times in Scripture. The life of Christ especially is surrounded by their work (see CCC 333).

"Angel" means "messenger". "St. Augustine says: '"Angel" is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is "spirit"' " (CCC 329). Angels are spirits who worship and serve God by ministering to men. (So do we!) They minister to men by announcing messages from God (their most important messages were at Christ's birth) and by guarding and guiding us.

Every human being has a guardian angel assigned to him from birth to death. Christ himself assured us of that: see Matthew 18:10 and Luke 16:22.

"Christ is the center of the angelic world. They are his angels" (CCC 331). When he returns at the end of the world, he will come with all his angels (Mt 24:31; 25:31).

Catholic Christianity:A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Peter Kreeft