Saturday, April 30, 2005

Haiku and Monkey

In his pursuit of poetry, Steven Riddle has moved on to haiku, which is one form of poetry that I always have admired.

I share this admiration with Monkey who celebrated April as National Poetry Month although I neglected to share any of this with y'all. Always the artist with prose, as anyone could tell from reading this delicate tale of composing a Pannetone Bread Pudding, Monkey also is an spontaneous composer of haiku as when during a pause in making Limeade, this came forth:
refreshing limeade
dancing over cool ice cubes
nectar of the gods.
Is it any wonder that Monkey's friends respond in kind?
joy envelopes me
reading erudite monkey
my soul is lifted
Truly inspirational.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Burial and Bargaining

GENESIS 23
When Sarah dies we see Abraham arranging the funeral by buying her final resting place. This takes us back to customs of an earlier age and different culture as the Life Application Study Bible points out.
BURIAL
In Abraham's day, death and burial were steeped in ritual and traditions. Failing to honor a dead person demonstrated the greatest possible lack of respect. An improper burial was the equivalent of a curse. Mourning was an essential part of the death ritual. Friends and relatives let out loud cries for the whole neighborhood to hear. Because there were no funeral homes or undertakers, these same friends and relatives helped prepare the body for burial, which usually took place on the same day because of the warm climate.

BARGAINING
The polite interchange between Abraham and Ephron was typical of bargaining at that time. Ephron graciously offered to give his land to Abraham at no charge; Abraham insisted on paying for it; Ephron politely mentioned the price but said, in effect, that it wasn't important; Abraham paid the 400 shekels of silver. Both men knew what was going on as they went through the bargaining process. If Abraham had accepted the land as a gift when it was offered, he would have insulted Ephron, who then would have rescinded his offer. Many Middle Eastern shopkeepers still follow this ritual with customers.

Four hundred shekels of silver was a high price for the piece of property Abraham bought. The Hittites weren't thrilled about foreigners buying their property, so Abraham had little bargaining leverage ... The custom of the day was to ask double the fair market value of the land, fully expecting the buyer to offer half the stated price.
All quoted material is from Life Application Study Bible." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hitler, Iraq, and Rose ... Oh My!

I was fixing dinner. Rose was reading about World War II, telling me of various revelations ... Hitler said that he was on tenterhooks during the first 48 hours after invading the Rhineland because if France had moved to stop him, Germany would have had to retreat ... Goebels said that if the authorities had moved against the Brown Shirts in the early days the Nazis never could have regrouped and regained their power ... and so on. She was struck by the fact that because people failed to step up and do the right thing, all the destruction and evil of WWII had happened. We then wondered how many similar tragedies had been averted that we never would know about ... simply because people had stepped forward to do the right thing when it didn't seem as if it would matter.

Later, she suddenly looked up from her book and said that she was struck by the connection between Hitler and Saddam Hussein. "What the????," I elegantly replied. Rose had just read that after the final treaties of the war, democratic leaders everywhere vowed they would never appease another ruthless dictator. She said, "That is just the way Saddam Hussein was doing things ... like Hitler ... the Rhineland, Austria ... a little here, a little there to see what everyone would put up with. We were appeasing him until we sent troops in."

It's not an exactly similar situation and no doubt greater minds than ours have already seen this connection ... but in our kitchen, that light bulb went on and we wondered if this was one of those situations where a huge tragedy was averted by doing the right thing when it didn't seem as if it would matter.

Monday, April 25, 2005

What the Heck is Anime?

Find out in in the new issue of Spero News ... along with a whole lotta other interesting stories. Why did I mention the anime story? It's mine. ha!

The Test

GENESIS 22
Now we come to the most famous incident in Abraham's story. God tells him to take his beloved only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him. No one ever really understands this until they become a parent but it is enough to strike horror into anyone's heart if they stop and visualize the scene. What really brought home the obedience required by all involved was when it was pointed out to me that in order to carry the wood for his father, Isaac also knew exactly what was going on when he was told to lie on the altar. What a test of faith for everyone.

An interesting bit of factual information about the place where Abraham offered Isaac.
[Note: " Mount Moriah is the place where Solomon (king of Israel in about 950 B.C.) set about building the house of the Lord, the temple that contained the Holy of Holies. Mount Moriah wasn't out in a remote desert; it was located where the city of Salem was situated in Abraham's day, which later became known as Jerusalem (see Ps. 76:1-3). Why the name change? An old rabbinic tradition attributes it to Abraham, based on what he said after sacrificing the ram: 'Abraham called the name of that place, 'The Lord will provide'; as it is said to this day, 'On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided (Gn 22:14). The Hebrew word for 'provide' is jira, which was then prefixed to Salem, thus making Jeru-salem." (A Father Who Keeps His Promises, by Scott Hahn; Ann Abor, MI: Servant Publications, 1998; p. 108)]

Abraham's test brings up the question that we frequently ask and seem to find no answer for ... why are we tested at all?
The test that God gives Abraham is so severe that it presumes an advanced level of knowledge and experience of Him. Compare it to the relatively simple test that God first put Abraham through, back in Gen. 12:1-4. There it was simply, "Pack up and go." Here, at least thirty years later, the test is staggeringly difficult. It builds on everything that has gone before in Abraham's life. For Abraham to endure the test, he will have to act on all that he knows about God, and he will have to be willing to mortify even the smallest weaknesses and imperfections yet remaining in his character.

This is what we call "purification." It is the final step in Abraham's life that establishes him as the Father of faith, both for Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 4:11-12). His obedience burned away the dross of even relatively minor imperfections. Interestingly, the test of Abraham gives us a dramatic demonstration of why God tests men in the first place. Men must freely choose to lay down their own wills in order to serve God. When they do this, they are conformed to the likeness of God. They participate in self-donation, which is the essence of the life of the Blessed Trinity. Abraham not only obeys God, but he becomes a living example of the character of God; he is a human being who reflects both the image and likeness of God. As the Catechism says, "As a final stage in the purification of his faith, Abraham, 'who had received the promises,' is asked to sacrifice the son God had given him...And so the father of believers is conformed to the likeness of the Father who will not spare his own Son, but will deliver him up for us all." (2572)
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

You Should Be Watching "House"

If there were a cynicism and insult meter, this program would easily be the most sarcastic, cynical program on television. House himself is constant barrage of bitter, sarcastic wit. His co-workers have little choice but to answer -- and work -- in the same terms. House won't even turn it off for strangers or patients. Add to this the fact that for most of the hour, the doctors are openly guessing what the disease-of-the-week might be in something not unlike a parlor game of "20 Questions." Yes, they conduct tests and use the most technologically sophisticated diagnostic techniques and they are all very bright, but in almost every show you will hear some version of "We have no idea what this is," and "Let's try this and see if it kills them." ...

Dr. House isn't a one-dimensional ogre, however. He has relationships, a history and an inner life. Already, we know he has an ex-wife, an ex-lover (now his supervisor at the hospital) and the romantic interest of one of his young female associates. Why would anyone ever love such a character? It's a marvelous question. Why is grace, grace? House deserves no friends or lovers, because he gives them all nothing except his bitterness, sarcasm or silence. The fact that House needs to be loved, and is a walking advertisement for what humanity without love can become seems to be part of the answer. House would have fit in well on the 70's show "M.A.S.H." or in Joseph Heller's "Catch -22." Cynical and sarcastic, but in the end, you realize these characters had to cope with themselves and their fears, with the war, its hypocrisies and its losses. Their twisted adaptations weren't their ultimate human face, but it was the one that came to dominate in the day to day.
The Internet Monk does a much more thorough job of analyzing "House" than I ever would ... but he articulates a lot of things that I have thought about after each episode.

One of the most interesting episodes dealt with House kicking his pain-killer habit ... not to get off of the drugs but to get a couple of weeks free from clinic duty. At the end of the episode, now clean, he goes right back to taking his drugs, arguing that his is a "livable" addiction. He's still paying bills, working, etc. It doesn't matter what arguments his friend advances toward staying off the pills, he likes life with them more. Yet for all his faults we see beneath the facade (very rarely and not deeply) to see the tortured soul who needs at least one person to be his friend.

Probably the most fascinating aspect of this show is that it will bring up a very touchy issue and then refuse to pander to either side in its thinking ... rather like House's character. When a woman was going to have an abortion so that she could then donate a kidney to her ailing husband, pros and cons from both sides of the moral fence were brought into play, without slamming either side. This happens consistently and is one of the things that I enjoy most about the show ... you aren't always cringing wondering when the "MESSAGE" is going to be stamped on you with a big, heavy foot.

This show has provoked more conversation within our family than any other about real life examples of the fallen state of man and how to live in the real world with all our flaws.

Plus, it's a killer medical show. So give it a try.

A Little Useless Information

FAMOUS CAT OWNERS

Samuel Johnson - Hodge
Edward Lear - Foss
The Kennedys - Tom Kitten
Charles de Gaulle - Gris Gris
Cardinal Richelieu - Perruque
The Simpsons - Snowball II
John Lennon - elvis
Churchill - Margate, Jock
Alice (in Wonderland) - Dinah
Mark Twain - Beelzebub
T.S. Eliot - George Pushdragon
Nicholas I - Vashka

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott
Inexplicably not included, Happy Catholic - Truffles. (Next week, of course, will be famous dog owners.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hannah and the SAT

Remember when I said Hannah was going to take the SAT after no additional studying and without freaking out or even worrying? We now have results.

She got 1980 overall (2400 is the highest on the new SAT) and 8 out of 12 possible on the essay. According to her guidance counselor both scores are considerably above the US averages so far ... woohoo!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

The trailer for the latest anime by the "Walt Disney of Japan," Hayao Miyazaki can be found at Ain't It Cool. Just scroll to the bottom of the column under the movie poster to find the links. It looks like a cross between Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service to me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chicken Sauté with Vinegar

Yes it sounds odd but it pleased everybody in the house, including our famously picky eater! Head over to Glad Gastronome to give it a try.

Hagar's Resume

Escape of some kind is usually the most tempting solution to our problems. In fact, it can become a habit. Hagar was a person who used that approach. When the going got tough, she usually got going -- in the other direction.

However, it is worthwhile to note that the biggest challenges Hagar faced were brought on by other people's choices.

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Mother of Abraham's first child, Ishmael, who became the founder of the Arab nations
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • When faced with problems, she tended to run away
  • Her pregnancy brought out strong feelings of pride and arrogance
Lessons from her life:
  • God is faithful to his plan and promises, even when humans complicate the process
  • God shows himself as one who knows us and wants to be known by us
  • The New Testament uses Hagar as a symbol of those who would pursue favor with God by their own efforts, rather than by trusting in his mercy and forgiveness
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Canaan and Egypt
  • Occupation: Servant, mother
  • Relatives: Son - Ishmael
Key verse:
"Then the angel of the Lord told her, 'Go back to your mistress and submit to her.'" (Genesis 16:9)

Hagar's story is told in Genesis 16-21. She also is mentioned in Galatians 4:24, 25.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for link to this reference.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

POPE BENEDICT XVI

Cardinal Ratzinger elected ... could I be any happier? NO! PRAISE GOD!!!

UPDATE: My friend, Maroy, made a couple of great points...
Don't you just love the international spectrum of the crowd and that Benedict XVI made a point to address his brothers and sisters in more than the usual 2 languages?? I was moved that he entrusted himself to OUR prayers immediately. I never appreciated that I personally could be of that much assistance to the Pope!

I guess they're dancing in heaven! Maybe The Chicken Dance, in honor of Benedict's German heritage??;-)
I might have to look into the history of the Chicken Dance ...

ALSO, Alicia makes a good point about The Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club ... it has been overrun and their server has crashed.

Habemus Papam!

The bells are ringing ... now we just have to wait and see who it is ... this is like Christmas morning!!! The suspense is killing me!!!!

That means the vote had a 2/3 majority in 5 or less votes ... what a strong message for whoever this is ...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dueling Haikus

Monkey is famous for delicate, spur of the moment haiku so "dueling frida kahlo haikus" seem natural. Just a taste to get you started, although for the full flavor you must go to the site and see the photos [the julie mentioned is not me].
frida kahlo and haikus go together like manchego and quince paste, so, this was bound to happen. my friend julie submitted the first haiku with the appropriate picture -

kahlo3

I don't believe you
I will not look behind me
There is no monkey


i could not help but be inspired and pen the following haiku -

how silly you are
frida is not behind me
no, i will not look.

Waiting on the Holy Spirit

There is a puzzled attitude among many in St. Blog's Parish about all the media attention to the papal election. Each person behind a blog has ideas about who they think would be right for the next pope, but there is also a kind of serenity and faith: that the Holy Spirit is in charge and that a great Pope could be elected, or a mediocre one, or even bad Pope. Believing Catholics take as a matter of dogma and doctrine that "The gates of Hell will not prevail" against the Church, and that the Holy Spirit will somehow prevent the Pope and the Church from falling into error.

Of course many among the faithful are offering prayer, sacrifice, fasting, and/or mortification for the intention that the electors will listen more to the Holy Spirit than to the temper of the times.
Alicia Huntly, Spero News
That's exactly it ... and that is how my friends all feel. At a prayer meeting on Saturday practically every person had a different way of saying it but the common prayer was for the Holy Spirit to have His way with the cardinals on who would be the perfect good shepherd to next lead our Church.

Faith in the World

The Christian should not leave his faith aside in any circumstance. Non-sectarianism. Neutrality. Old myths that always try to seem new. Have you ever stopped to think how absurd it is to leave one's Catholicism aside on entering a university, a professional association, a cultural society, or parliament, like a man leaving his hat at the door? (St. Escriva, The Way). This attitude is equivalent to saying -- in politics, in business, in leisure or in entertainment, when I am with my friends, when it comes to choosing a school for my children -- that here in this situation God has nothing whatever to do with it; in these affairs my Christian faith must not exert any influence, for none of this comes from God or is ordained to God.

Nevertheless, the faith casts light on the whole of existence. Everything is ordained to God. But this ordination must respect the particular nature of each thing. It is not a matter of turning the world into one big sacristy, or homes into convents, or the economy into a benevolent institution. Without naive simplifications, the faith should inform a Christian's thought and action, because he should never in any circumstance, in any moment of the day cease to be a Christian and to behave and think as such.
In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide

Ishmael's Resume

... Sarah's pregnancy and Isaac's birth must have had a devastating impact on Ishmael. Until then he had been treated as a son and heir, but this late arrival made his future uncertain. During Isaac's weaning celebration, Sarah caught Ishmael teasing his half brother. As a result, Hagar and Ishmael were permanently expelled from Abraham's family.

Much of what happened throughout his life cannot be blamed on Ishmael. He was caught in a process bigger than himself. However, his own actions showed that he had chosen to become part of the problem and not part of the solution. He chose to live under his circumstances rather than above them.

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • One of the first to experience the physical sign of God's covenant, circumcision
  • Known for his ability as an archer and hunter
  • Fathered 12 sons who became leaders of warrior tribes
Lesson from his life:
  • God's plans incorporate people's mistakes
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Canaan and Egypt
  • Occupation: Hunter, archer, warrior
  • Relatives: Parents - Habar and Abraham. Half brother - Isaac
Key verse:
"God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, 'What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." (Genesis 21:17, 18)

Ishmael's story is told in Genesis 16-17; 25:12-18; 28:8, 9; 36:1-3. He also is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1;28-31; Romans 9:7-9; Galatians 4:21-31.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for link to this reference.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Final Day of Mourning

PopeJohnPaul[2]


The last moments of Pope John Paul II as reported in the Times.

Some of the crowd then broke into applause for the life of the Pope; others sobbed uncontrollably at his passing.

As the end approached, history's best travelled and third longest serving pontiff had urged his followers not to cry for him by dictating a message to his secretary.

"I am happy and you should be happy too," he said. "Do not weep. Let us pray together with joy."

His last moments were described early today by Father Jarek Cielecki, director of Vatican Service News, a Catholic TV channel. "The Holy Father died looking towards the window as he prayed, and that shows that in some way he was conscious," Cielecki said.

"A short while before dying, the Pope raised his right hand in a clear, although simply hinted at, gesture of blessing, as if he became aware of the crowd of faithful present in St Peter's Square, who in those moments were following the reciting of the Rosary," he added.

"Just after the prayer ended, the Pope made a huge effort and pronounced the word 'Amen'. A moment later, he died."

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Stumble and a Son

GENESIS 20 & 21
Abraham plays the same old "Sarah is my sister" trick when he comes up against Abimelech. Sometimes we just can't help giving in to our worst instincts and despite Abraham's closeness to God, he is no different that we are in that quality. I always wondered what charms a 90-year-old woman had to make every man want to take her away. This makes it a little easier to understand.
... The average age span of that day was about 120-130 years; at the age of 90, Sarah would have been at the stage of her life equivalent to a 40-50 year old woman today.

I also like the fact that although Abimelech was innocent of any known wrong-doing he is told to go to Abraham and ask him for healing prayers. Not only does this show Abimelech just how close Abraham is to God but it shows us the power of prayer.
Think about what we have observed up to this point in Abraham's life concerning prayer. It is really most remarkable. We have seen that God answered his prayers for mercy on Lot's behalf. This was a prayer he prayed out of righteous love of justice and love for his kinsman. We have seen that God showed mercy and favor to Hagar and Ishmael through the intercession of Abraham, even though the unfortunate circumstances that required prayer were due to Abraham's departure from God's plan for him. Now, in these chapters, we have seen God withhold His healing from a gravely ill man until he did what was right (restore Sarah) and had Abraham, the one who wronged him, pray for him. What can we make of all this?

The best way to understand what Abraham's life shows us about prayer is to remember a thought from the previous lesson. Recall that when God revealed His plan to judge Sodom to Abraham, it was Abraham's human voice that defended the justice and goodness of God against the appearance of something otherwise. That was a sign to us that when God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him, it was the beginning of the Great Reversal for His enemy, Satan. Why? Never again would human voices fail to defend the character of God, as Adam did in Eden. The life of God in men (which is "grace") will enable them to be His presence within the fallen creation. Flesh and blood will thwart and eventually, in the Incarnation, destroy the power of the devil, just as God promised in Gen. 3:15.

What was it that Adam didn't do in Eden? He didn't pray for help from God. He did not lift his voice to object to the serpent's attack on God's character, and he did not cry out for guidance about what to do next. What would that prayer, had he prayed it, have done? It would have preserved his supernatural grace, the likeness of God that was his as a gift. Instead, he lost it. He was still in God's image but not in His likeness. Abraham, as we have seen, prays. He asks God to act, and the details of his story in Genesis show very clearly that his prayers loose God's power and mercy. Even when he is weak and culpable, his prayers are efficacious. This is an astounding statement about prayer. As the Catechism says, "Prayer restores man to God's likeness and enables him to share in the power of God's love that saves the multitude." (2572) Just as the lack of prayer led to the loss of God's likeness in man, the action of prayer is the first step to its restoration.

When we get to the New Testament, we can hardly fathom the power of the prayers of the New Covenant family of God. What we see here in Genesis of the way in which God uses the prayers of Abraham as His instruments for unleashing His power, love, and goodness on fallen human creatures is only a shadow of what lies ahead. If we have been baptized into Christ, we share in that special relationship between the Father and the Son. Therefore Jesus says, "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened." (Luke 11:9-10)

Once it sinks into our minds and hearts that prayer makes us like God and that, because He wants to vanquish His enemy through human beings, He uses our prayers to pour out His blessings on all mankind, we should comprehend why St. Paul says, in 1 Thess. 5:17, to "pray without ceasing." Amen!

Until going through this study I had never considered how deeply Abraham probably loved Ishmael. He would have been terribly grieved to cast him off and Ishmael would have been stunned to have his heretofore loving father cast him and his mother out. Why would Sarah have insisted on such actions?
... Isaac would have been perhaps 2 or 3 years old when he was weaned. At the feast given to celebrate his weaning, Sarah observed Ishmael (who would have been about 16-17 years old) "playing" with Isaac. St. Paul, in Gal. 4:28-31, says that this was not innocent child's play but "persecution." The implication is that Ishmael was mocking or taunting Isaac about becoming a "big boy" but not being as important as a firstborn son, as Ishmael was. This was the traditional Jewish understanding of this episode.
All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Contemplating Christ with Mary

poperosary

Mary, model of contemplation

10. The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she “wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger” (Lk2:7).

Thereafter Mary's gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of a mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).

Mary's memories

11. Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life.

Even now, amid the joyful songs of the heavenly Jerusalem, the reasons for her thanksgiving and praise remain unchanged. They inspire her maternal concern for the pilgrim Church, in which she continues to relate her personal account of the Gospel. Mary constantly sets before the faithful the “mysteries” of her Son, with the desire that the contemplation of those mysteries will release all their saving power. In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary.

The Rosary, a contemplative prayer

12. The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”.

It is worth pausing to consider this profound insight of Paul VI, in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary which show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation.

Monday, April 11, 2005

My Review of Millions

You can find it here at Spero News, the new weekly virtual newspaper. While you're there take some time and look around. I think they have a week's worth of good reading ... at least I know that I'm going to be reading practically everything I saw there.

Lot's Resume

When still young, Lot lost his father. Although this must have been hard on him, he was not left without strong role models in his grandfather Terah and his uncle Abram, who raised him. Still, Lot did not develop their sense of purpose. Throughout his life he was so caught up in the present moment that he seemed incapable of seeing the consequences of his actions. It is had to imagine what his life would have been like without Abram's careful attention and God's intervention.

By the time Lot drifted out of the picture, his life had taken an ugly turn. He had so blended into the sinful culture of his day that he did not want to leave it. Then his daughters committed incest with him. His drifting finally took him in a very specific direction -- destruction.

Lot, however, is called "righteous" in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:7, 8). Ruth, a descendant of Moab, was an ancestor of Jesus, even though Moab was born as a result of Lot's incestuous relationship with one of his daughters. Lot's story gives hope to us that God forgives and often brings about positive circumstances from evil...

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • He was a successful businessman
  • Peter calls him a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7, 8)
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • When faced with decisions, he tended to put off deciding, then chose the easiest course of action
  • When given a choice, his first reaction was to think of himself
Lessons from his life:
  • God wants us to do more than drift through life; he wants us to be an influence for him
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Lived first in Ur of the Chaldeans, then moved to Canaan with Abram. Eventually he moved to the wicked city of Sodom.
  • Occupation: Wealthy sheep and cattle rancher; also a city official
  • Relatives: Father - Haran. Adopted by Abram when his father died. The name of his wife, who turned into a pillar of salt, is not mentioned.
Key verse:
"When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them." (Genesis 19:16)

Lot's story is told in Genesis 11-14; 19. He also is mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:9; Luke 17:28-32; 2 Peter 2:7, 8.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for link to this reference.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Freedom

papa_01

Freedom consists not in doing what we like,
but in having the right to do what we ought.

John Paul II

Our Nine Days of Mourning

As we go through these days of mourning, I will put my favorite links about Pope John Paul II here and move it to each day as we go along.
  • Papa Familias has the Papal Carnival up with many wonderful contributions from people with their memories of our pope.
  • Nancy at Flying Stars is inspired by the pope to proclaim her Catholic identity in public.
  • Mark Steyn about why progressives never understood the Pope.
    The root of the Pope's thinking - that there are eternal truths no one can change even if one wanted to - is completely incomprehensible to the progressivist mindset. There are no absolute truths, everything's in play, and by "consensus" all we're really arguing is the rate of concession to the inevitable: abortion's here to stay, gay marriage will be here any day now, in a year or two it'll be something else - it's all gonna happen anyway, man, so why be the last squaresville daddy-o on the block?

    We live in a present-tense culture where novelty is its own virtue: the Guardian, for example, has already been touting the Nigerian Francis Arinze as "candidate for first black pope". This would be news to Pope St Victor, an African and pontiff from 189 to 199. Among his legacies: the celebration of Easter on a Sunday.
  • The Curt Jester's meditation on John Paul II's two names and the way he reflected those apostles.
  • Mama T remembers being in Rome and telling the pope she loved him.
  • Mary at Ever New gives us yet another gem (how does she do it every time?) in comparing the Church to the ocean and reminding us of why we must not fret about who is chosen to sit in the chair of Peter.
  • Peggy Noonan takes us back vividly to Pope John Paul II's visit to communist Poland and reminds us exactly why he was great and the work he did for Christ.
    Why, the pope asked, had God lifted a Pole to the papacy? Perhaps it was because of how Poland had suffered for centuries, and through the 20th century had become "the land of a particularly responsible witness" to God. The people of Poland, he suggested, had been chosen for a great role, to understand, humbly but surely, that they were the repository of a special "witness of His cross and His resurrection." He asked then if the people of Poland accepted the obligations of such a role in history.

    The crowd responded with thunder.

    "We want God!" they shouted, together. "We want God!"

    What a moment in modern history: We want God. From the mouths of modern men and women living in a modern atheistic dictatorship.

    The pope was speaking on the Vigil of Pentecost, that moment in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit came down to Christ's apostles, who had been hiding in fear after his crucifixion, filling them with courage and joy. John Paul picked up this theme. What was the greatest of the works of God? Man. Who redeemed man? Christ. Therefore, he declared, "Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude. . . . The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man! Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland." Those who oppose Christ, he said, still live within the Christian context of history.

    Christ, the pope declared, was not only the past of Poland--he was "the future . . . our Polish future."

    The massed crowd thundered its response. "We want God!" it roared.
  • George Wiegel has a piece in Newsweek with a more personal look at the Pope. Again we see the "serious sweet tooth" mentioned. My kinda guy. Via Get Religion.
  • Dinka has a tribute to the pope. I especially like her commentary about how being Catholic is to be be separated from society, even though one is right in the middle of it.
  • Mark Windsor features photos from Poland showing the people remembering the pope and links to a site that has many more.
  • TSO's reflections on seeing the body of a shepherd being carried by his people.
  • Abba Pater, a slideshow by Dom at Bettnet. A touching tribute.
  • Via TSO
    As you know, the two Marian events/devotions to which John Paul was most committed, and most identified, were the Divine Mercy, and Fatima. The Church's celebration of the feast of Divine Mercy began at sundown today, the First Saturday (cf. Our Lady of Fatima's request) of April. Because he died after sundown in Rome but before midnight, he passed on the one sliver of time in the entire year -- maybe even in years, given that Easter is not on a fixed date -- when both Fatima and Divine Mercy intersect.
    From Dallas News writer Rod Dreher
  • Santificarnos shares a joke that the Pope was said to enjoy. I like the idea of the pope laughing at this one.
  • John B. at The Catholic Packer Fan has a thorough, easy-to-understand timeline of events to come. And he has a comment that I agree wholeheartedly with which is why I'm not wasting my time worrying about anyone's "picks" on the next pope.
  • Mark Shea quotes Tolkein for the best I've seen so far at how our pope's homecoming to Heaven must have felt.
  • Tremendous Trifles has an original poem for Our Holy Father.
  • Ignatius Insight Scoop has a really thorough list of reactions and wonderful links to the Vatican pages. If you look at nothing else from the Vatican, be sure to see this page which shows John Paul II's pontificate. You click on each cross going up the hill to show all the accomplishments during that time period. Really amazing.
UPDATE: Some great tribute links are showing up in the comments boxes. Be sure to check them out.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Congratulations to ...

... Julie M. and Jaymen.

The Family

MeAndJPII

Lauren and her parents meet Pope John Paul II

The husband ought not to seek only his own interests, but also those of his wife; and she, those of her husband. Parents should look after the interests of their children, and these in turn look after the interests of their parents. The family is the only community in which man "is loved for himself," for what he "is" and not for what he "has" ... Respect for this fundamental norm explains as the apostle hiimself teaches, why nothing should be done out of a spirit of rivalry or for vainglory, but rather through humility, because of love. And this love, which is opened up to others, makes members of the family true servants of "the domestic church," where all desire the good and the happiness of each one; where each and every one gives life to this love with an urgent search for that good and that happiness.
Pope John Paul II
Homily of the Mass for families
Found in "In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide"

Clean Your Screen for Free Now

Go here.

(Be sure to try the ringtones too. If my phone could use them I surely would have #1.) Via Jimmy Akin.

Alternative News Network to be Launched April 11

SPERO NEWS LAUNCHES APRIL 11
ALTERNATIVE NETWORK FOR NEWS, COMMENTARY & ANALYSIS

Madrid, Spain/Houston, Texas /April 11/ -- Communication in today’s world requires openness and a new approach with respect to media. Spero News is that new approach.

Initially in English, and soon expanding into Spanish, Spero News is a bi-lingual weekly electronic magazine and community spanning the globe providing premium content submitted from its nearly 100 collaborators. Spero News aims to enhance society by creating a premier, alternative network for readers seeking quality news, information and interaction through the Internet by providing news, commentary, and analysis that encourages citizen participation. In that respect, Spero News is a unique experience towards creating a constructive dialogue between media and readers with the aim of promoting a correctly informed and discerning public opinion as reflected in Judeo-Christian values. By melding journalists, citizen journalists and sector professionals, Spero News also guarantees that its news is by the people and for the people.

Read the rest at Santificarnos. This is the network in which I'll have some columns appearing as will several others from St. Blog's.

A Little Useless Information

MISS AMERICA HAIR COLOR

The Miss America title has been awarded (with some breaks) since 1921,
when it was presented to Margaret Gorman. The statics of winners' hair color
might disprove the oft quoted claim that "gentlemen prefer blondes."

From 1921 - 2003
Brunettes - 70%
Blondes - 24%
Redheads - 6%

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott

Friday, April 8, 2005

The Right to Life

Holy_Father_Children

For man, the right to life is the fundamental right. And yet, a part of contemporary culture has wanted to deny that right, turning it into an "uncomfortable" right, one that has to be defended. But there is no other right that so closely affects the very existence of the person! The right to life means the right to be born and then continue to live until one's natural end: "As long as I live, I have the right to live." ...

It is necessary to recognize that, in this context, we are witnessing true human tragedies. Often the woman is the victim of male selfishness, in the sense that the man, who has contributed to the conception of the new life, does not want to be burdened with it and leaves the responsibility to the woman, as if it were "her fault" alone. So precisely when the woman most needs the man's support, he proves to be a cynical egoist, capable of exploiting her affection or weakness, yet stubbornly resistant to any sense of responsibility for his own action...

Therefore, in firmly rejecting "pro choice" it is necessary to become courageously "pro woman," promoting a choice that is truly in favor of women. It is precisely the woman, in fact, who pays the highest price, not only for her motherhood, but even more for its destruction, for the suppression of the life of the child who has been conceived. The only honest stance, in these cases, is that of radical solidarity with the woman. It is not right to leave her alone.

This is Why We've Been Missing Mark Shea

[commenting on Cardinal Law being at the Pope's funeral] I think this basically illustrates three things. First, the good news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family. Second, the bad news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family. We've seen these sorts of "What's *he* doing here?" stuff at our own family funerals.
Not only does he crack me up but it is absolutely true. He follows up with a very good observation which you can read here.

The Older the Mother, The Funnier This Is

Which explains why I was laughing hysterically, when I read "At Home, #3." From my in-box.
Birth order of children

Your Clothes:
1st baby: You begin wearing maternity clothes as soon as your OB/GYN confirms your pregnancy.
2nd baby: You wear your regular clothes for as long as possible.
3rd baby Your maternity clothes ARE your regular clothes.

Preparing for the Birth:
1st baby: You practice your breathing religiously.
2nd baby: You don't bother because you remember that last time, breathing didn't do a thing.
3rd baby: You ask for an epidural in your eighth month.

The Layette:
1st baby: You pre-wash newborn's clothes, color-coordinate them, and fold them neatly in the baby's little bureau.
2nd baby: You check to make sure that the clothes are clean and discard only the ones with the darkest stains.
3rd baby: Boys can wear pink, can't they?

Worries:
1st baby: At the first sign of distress--a whimper, a frown--you pick up the baby.
2nd baby: You pick the baby up when her wails threaten to wake your firstborn.
3rd baby: You teach your three-year-old how to rewind the mechanical swing.

Pacifier:
1st baby: If the pacifier falls on the floor, you put it away until you can go home and wash and boil it.
2nd baby: When the pacifier falls on the floor, you squirt it off with some juice from the baby's bottle.
3rd baby: You wipe it off on your shirt and pop it back in.

Diapering:
1st baby: You change your baby's diapers every hour, whether they need it or not
2nd baby: You change their diaper every two to three hours, if needed.
3rd baby: You try to change their diaper before others start to complain about the smell or you see it sagging to their knees.

Activities:
1st baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics, Baby Swing,and Baby Story Hour.
2nd baby: You take your infant to Baby Gymnastics.
3rd baby: You take your infant to the supermarket and the dry cleaner.

Going Out:
1st baby: The first time you leave your baby with a sitter, you call home five times.
2nd baby: Just before you walk out the door, you remember to leave a number where you can be reached.
3rd baby: You leave instructions for the sitter to call only if she sees blood.

At Home:
1st baby: You spend a good bit of every day just gazing at the baby.
2nd baby: You spend a bit of everyday watching to be sure your older child isn't squeezing, poking, or hitting the baby.
3rd baby: You spend a little bit of every day hiding from the children.

Swallowing Coins (a favorite):
1st child: When first child swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.
2nd child: When second child swallows a coin, you carefully watch for the coin to pass.
3rd child: When third child swallows a coin you deduct it from his allowance

The Long Way Home

One of the greatest challenges to spiritual life is to receive God's forgiveness. There is something in us humans that keeps us clinging to our sins and prevents us from letting God erase our past and offer us a completely new beginning. Sometimes it even seems as though I want to prove to God that my darkness is too great to overcome. While God wants to restore me to the full dignity of sonship, I keep insisting that I will settle for being a hired servant. But do I truly want to be restored to the full responsibility of the son? Do I truly want to be so totally forgiven that a completely new way of living becomes possible? Do I trust myself and such a radical reclamation? Do I want to break away from my deep-rooted rebellion against God and surrender myself so absolutely to God's love that a new person can emerge? Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing. As long as I want to do even a part of that myself, I end up with partial solutions, such as becoming a hired servant. As a hired servant, I can still keep my distance, still revolt, reject, strike, run away, or complain about my pay. As the beloved son, I have to claim my full dignity and begin preparing myself to become the father.

A Little Friday Fun

WHAT THE DICKENS?
A new theme park based on the life and works of Charles Dickens. Can't wait for the "poor house ride" ... and I can only imagine the concessions. Gruel anyone?

MORE FUNNY WORDS
Deb brings us some more new definitions courtesy of the Washington Post. My personal favorites from this crop:
2. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
3. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
6. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Ultimate IM

Pape-courriel

Today we are living in an age of instant communications.
But do you realize what a unique form of communication prayer is?
Prayer enables us to meet God at the most profound level of our being.
It connects us directly to God, the living God:
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a constant exchange of love.

Pope John Paul II
Celebration with Youth, St. Louis, 1999

I'm Gonna Do Something Radical

Something that I haven't done since ... well, maybe third or fourth grade. I'm going to try reading just one book at a time. I'm clearing off my bedside table except for the one book of the moment - which in this case is The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. Of course, y'all understand that a daily devotional to read with my breakfast doesn't count here.

I'm curious to see what this will feel like...

Think Terri Schiavo Was An Isolated Incident? Think Again.

85 year-old Mae Margourik of LaGrange, Georgia, is currently being deprived of nutrition and hydration at the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy. Mrs. Margourik suffered an aortic dissection 2 weeks ago and was hospitalized. Though her doctors have said that she is not terminally ill, Ms. Gaddy declared that she held medical power of attorney for Mae, and had her transferred to the LaGrange Hospice. Later investigation revealed that Ms. Gaddy did not in fact have such power of attorney. Furthermore, Mae's Living Will provides that nutrition and hydration are to be withheld only if she is comatose or vegetative. Mae is in neither condition. Neither is her condition terminal.
Read the whole story at Thrown Back. Via The Curt Jester.

Well Dang!

The funeral of the Pope will begin a 9-day period of mourning. (I think I said before that the 9-day period begins with the Pope’s death; that was wrong.)
Dom at Bettnet
If I can't trust Dom then who can I trust? It's too late for me now. My nine days of mourning are mostly done ... at least in terms of commemoration on the blog. I will be missing John Paul II for some time to come.

I guess I could just keep going ... though I'm perhaps going to run rather short on either quotes or photos. And, then would that make me a candidate to have the official JPII "groupie" blog? Hmmm ...

Dom also has the schedule for the real nine days of mourning.

The Best Salad Dressing Ever

Over at Glad Gastronome, you'll find a recipe for Spicy Caesar Dressing. Serve this and your reputation as a cook is made. It is a "signature" recipe and I gladly share it with y'all.

UPDATE: We also have what may be the best Indian Lentil recipe ever ... donated by a kind reader. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

What Made John Paul II So "Real"

A few little things that made him so real and just made us love him more.

JP2_Comic

Just a funny story from Jim Caviezel, actor, who met with the Pope after filming The Passion of The Christ. He was talking about this the other night on The Larry King Show...

Larry King: What was it like when you met him, James?

JAMES CAVIEZEL, ACTOR: Well Larry, I went into the Vatican and they took me from one room into the next. And immediately, I was intimidated. You know, I had an opportunity to meet him in 1984, I could have seen him and I didn't, and I always regretted it. So, when we were in Rome, I had this chance.

And finally, when I walked in the room, there he was, he was like 100 yards away. And by the time I got to him, I was so out of breath... and he looked at me, how are you? Jim Caviezel, not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

He said, Jim Caviezel, what have you learned in playing Jesus Christ? I said, well, holy father, I've been hanging out with -- he goes, yes, I said I think Jesus was Italian. He said, what? I said well, he didn't leave home until he was 30. He always hang out with the same 12 guys, and his mother believed he was God, so he had to be Italian, you know. I said, you're not upset with me.

He said, no, I always believed he was Polish.

Post poached shamelessly from
Regina Clare Jane at I Still See A Spark In You

pope koala

I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.
Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul's traveling press entourage was the most international (and for many years the largest) in the world. That meant that the questions were asked in five or six languages, and often answered that way by the multilingual pope.

That could be a problem for English-only reporters on a tight deadline. You never knew if the answer given in Spanish, French, German or Polish was going to be the real news, or one of the English answers you were able to understand.

pope_in_bonos_shades

Pope John Paul II wearing Bono's shades
Bono: This is an amazing—this was an amazing moment for all of us gathered, actually. I just said to him, “I know you’re a very—you’re a holy man, but I know you are a showman.” And noticed him spotting the fly shades as I was walking up to him, so I just gave them to him, and he put them on, and he made this kind of wicked smile.
Read entire story at Bettnet

Toiling quietly behind the scenes in Pope John Paul II's final hours were five Polish nuns who dedicated their lives to his service, beginning when he was Bishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow.

Sisters Tobiana, Germana, Fernanda, Matylda and Eufrosyana, from the Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were "the pillars" that supported the pope, a Vatican insider told AFP...

Sister Germana's vegetable pies - especially spinach - wowed the late Italian president Sandro Pertini, who was a regular at papal working luncheons and dinners when John Paul II was well enough to entertain guests.

Others fondly remember the carp served on Christmas Eve as a typical Polish delicacy.

For Polish visitors to the Vatican, the obligatory dishes included piroshki - dumplings with meat or fruit filling - pates, cheesecake and fish in aspic.

Sister Fernanda was in charge of the pope's pantry, replenishing it mainly with fruit, vegetables and milk from Castelgandolfo, the pontiff's summer holiday home just outside Rome.

John Paul II's wardrobe was the responsibility of Sister Matylda, who must have suffered immense humiliation during a papal visit to France, when a horrified French bishop gasped: "There's a smudge on the pontiff's robe!"

Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it.
Pope John Paul II
pope hockey stick

I've Always Had a Liking for St. Jerome

Now I like that sarcastic, cranky saint even more. The Curt Jester took a fresh look at him and realized he is the perfect patron for bloggers. Read up on it and then you'll understand why St. Jerome is now residing in the bottom of my sidebar.

bloggerpatron

This Sounds Good to Me

What do we need in a new pope? I was thinking yesterday about what name a new pope could take. I don't think an unending succession of John Pauls would be a good idea. The new pope should return to a traditional name. But the choice of a name indicates the orientation of the new reign. I think we need another Gregory--this would be Gregory XVII. The spirit of St. Gregory the Great is what the Church needs now. To be sure, John Paul II had it. Paul McLachlan associates Gregory with music and liturgy--think Gregorian chant--but there is more that the Church needs in his heritage. St. Gregory was a pope of renewal--he was involved with the early spread of the Benedictine Order. He was a pastoral pope--his Regula Pastoralis was the standard of pastoral theology for a thousand years; at the same time he was a pope of great learning. Most of all, he was a missionary pope. In his day, Italy was mostly occupied by the Lombards, who were partly pagan, partly Arian, whom Gregory worked to evangelize. He was inspired to begin the evangelization of England, where he sent St. Augustine, who became the first archbishop of Canterbury. We need all of these qualities now--a new pope Gregory, whoever he is. May the Lord send us one.
Henry Dieterich at A Plumbline in the Wind has a wishlist of papal qualities. I concur. Via Roz at Exultet.

A Man of the Covenant

GENESIS 18 & 19
Abraham is very hospitable to the three strangers here as is Lot later on. Whenever a stranger comes to my door, I always have an angelic encounter in the back of my mind. It helps temper a lot of the "temper" I might otherwise display! Life Application Study Bible tells about hospitality in Abraham's time.
... In Abraham's day, a person's reputation was largely connected to his hospitality -- the sharing of home and food. Even strangers were to be treated as highly honored guests. Meeting another's need for food and shelter was and still is one of the most immediate and practical ways to obey God. It is also a time-honored relationship builder. Hebrews 13:2 suggests that we, like Abraham, might actually entertain angels. This thought should be on our minds the next time we have the opportunity to meet a stranger's needs.

There is a highly symbolic understanding to the three men's visit. I never noticed before all the little hints that help show what is really happening on a spiritual level.
Note: "This new appearance of God to Abraham is somewhat mysterious: the three men stand for God. When Abraham speaks to them, sometimes he addresses them in the singular (as if there were only one person there: cf. vs. 3), and sometimes in the plural (as if there were three: cf. v. 4). That is why some Fathers interpreted this appearance as an early announcement of the mystery of the Holy Trinity; others, following Jewish tradition (cf. Heb. 13:2) take these personages to be angels. The sacred text says that one of the three men (Yahweh, apparently) stays with Abraham (cf. v. 22), while the other two, who are referred to as angels, go to Sodom (cf. 19:1)." (Navarre Bible: Pentateuch; Princeton, NJ: Scepter Publishers, 1999; p. 103-104)

I remember hearing this story of Abraham "bargaining" with God for the righteous men's lives in Sodom. Never understood it very well, until now, that is. I love the idea that Abraham is concerned about God's character and that God uses bargaining to help Abraham understand Him better. Very Middle Eastern isn't it?
Interestingly, as Abraham considers what God has told him, his primary concern is about God's character. He does not want to believe that God would allow those who live righteously (and surely he is thinking of Lot and his family) to suffer the same fate as those who live wickedly. This kind of treatment of men by God would suggest that He is not just ("Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" vs. 25). Abraham seems to comprehend in a flash that if the Creator of the world is not just, men are in very serious trouble ("Far be it from Thee to do such a thing....Far be that from Thee!" vs. 25). Why? Because if the Creator is not just, then there is no difference between right and wrong. If God does not reward righteousness and punish wickedness, men can and will do whatever they want. The alternative to justice is chaos.

This protest from Abraham reveals him to be a man who believes that God is just and that He can be expected to deal justly with men. In effect, what he is saying is, "God, You are not really like that!" It is his confidence in God's true character that makes him bold to make his appeal.

To allow the presence of righteous people in a city to spare judgment of the wicked in that same city is an
example of how justice and mercy meet. What a powerful moment this is in redemption history! We should get down on our knees when we read it. It is from human lips that the outline of our salvation is first established in Scripture. Father Abraham, God's covenant-keeper, raises the possibility that righteousness can be so powerful that it spares judgment on those who deserve it. This is not a violation of justice. Rather, it is a statement of the superabundant merit of righteousness. Abraham acknowledges that the wicked deserve to be punished, but he opens the door to the possibility that the righteous can fill up what is lacking in the wicked, thereby saving them.

And God accepts it!

Abraham perhaps realizes that the number of righteous people in Sodom may be very small. He is probably thinking of Lot's family and maybe a few others. He carefully works the numbers down to see how merciful God is and how powerful righteousness is. He stops at ten. The reality is, of course, that ultimately it is the perfect righteousness of one Man, God's own Son, who saves the whole world! As St. Paul writes, "Then, as one man's [Adam] trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." (Rom. 5:18-19)

If Abraham is an example of someone who keeps a covenant with God, then we are supposed to follow his example. Kind of a sobering thought. He has shown us several lesssons:
  1. Covenant-keepers should occasionally expect to be visited by God in "disguise." Energetic hospitality is the proper response to these visits. Sometimes He may come to us "hidden" in a family member, a coworker, or a stranger in need. Abraham's respect for and self-donation on behalf of his three visitors show us the way to receive Him.

  2. Covenant-keepers can expect that sometimes God will ordain circumstances in our lives that are meant to be occasions for Him to reveal His nature to us. These circumstances will cause us to examine what we believe about God - Who He is and how He acts in the world. Covenant-keepers will defend God's character against accusations or doubts (even when they come from within), just as Abraham did.

  3. Covenant-keepers should see themselves as God's co-workers, just as God described Abraham as one through whom the whole earth will be blessed. We should be prepared to pray as intercessors for those who are in need of God's mercy. Abraham's prayer for Lot meant that already God was keeping His covenant promise to him of making him a "blessing" (19:29). Our prayers for others fulfill God's promise to us to make us a "royal priesthood." As St. Peter writes: "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy." (1 Pet. 2:9-10)

  4. Covenant-keepers should be as bold and as humble as Abraham was before God.

All quoted material is from Catholic Exchange's "Catholic Scripture Study." See the sidebar under "Bible Study: Genesis" for links to references used.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

The Heart of the Young

pope_kids

Although I have lived through much darkness ... I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the heart of the young ...

Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His son.

Pope John Paul II
World Youth Day, Toronto 2002

Monday, April 4, 2005

When Inspiration Strikes

Rose's theology class was given an assignment to do a presentation about how God sees us versus how society sees us. From the moment she heard it she was really lit up because she could "see" the perfect song and fashion montage to start off with. By the time we got home, she had a variety of skits thought up. Add in the influence of her partner, Mary, and a video camera ... and they were off and running.

Her teacher liked the project. So much so that she showed it to every single theology class. It is on our webserver, smaller than I'd like but it will run fairly well on the web. I'd like to link to it here but considering the times we live in, don't want to spread Rose's and Mary's pictures all over the internet. However, if you are interested in seeing the video (it's about 8 minutes long), just email me (julie at glyphnet dot com) and I'll send you the link.

Two things if you watch it ... turn up the sound and be sure to watch after the credits have run (sadly, they are unreadable because of size restrictions but they were a hoot), for the bloopers finish.

Ahhh, Our Diocean Spokesman Still Making Us Proud

On Saturday, a ink-stained FrontBurnervian tells me, the News decided it might be nice to overprint "John Paul II In His Own Words," a beautifully produced special section for the Sunday paper, and distribute it gratis to local Catholic churches. When they called the diocese to enlist its help, spokesman Bronson Havard went ballistic and told them that any News employee who stepped on the Church's property would be arrested. Presumably this edict did not apply to those Catholic employees who went to Mass yesterday--at least we haven't heard yet of any who were led away in handcuffs.
Front Burner (D Magazine's blog)
Now you can see why around Dallas all you have to do is start a sentence with, "Bronson Havard..." and people's heads start shaking.

How Does the Pope Pray?

JP2_b


How -- and for whom -- does the Pope pray?

You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit permits him to pray. I think he has to pray in a way in which, deepening the mystery revealed in Christ, he can better fulfill his ministry. The Holy Spirit certainly guides him in this. But man must not put up obstacles. "The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness." ...

Because the Pope is a witness of Christ and a minister of the Good News, he is a man of joy and a man of hope, a man of the fundamental affirmation of the value of existance, the value of creation and of hope in the future life. Naturally, this is neither a naive joy, nor a vain hope. The joy of the victory over evil does not obfuscate -- it actually intensifies -- the realistic awareness of the existence of evil in the world and in every man. The Gospel teaches us to call good and evil by name, but it also teaches: "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). ...

The Pope, like every Christian, must be keenly aware of the dangers to which man is subject in the world, in his temporal future, and in his final, eternal, eschatological future. The awareness of these dangers does not generate pessimism, but rather encourages the struggle for the victory of good in every realm. And it is precisely from this struggle for the victory of good in man and in the world that the need for prayer arises.

The Pope's prayer, however, has an added dimension. In his concern for all the churches every day the pontiff must open his prayer, his thought, his heart to the entire world. Thus a kind of geography of the Pope's prayer is sketched out. It is a geography of communities, churches, societies, and also of the problems that trouble the world today. In this sense the Pope is called to a universal prayer ... [which] permits him to set forth before God all the joys and hopes as well as the griefs and anxieties that the Church shares with humanity today.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Yesterday is a Day I Always Will Remember

It sounds odd if I say that yesterday was a "golden day," one that will stay in my memory for a long, long time, if not forever ... but that's just what it was.

It started off with two "chance" meetings that made me very happy.

Then I went on for a bloggers' lunch with Mama T, Smockmama, and Steven Riddle. What a great bunch of people! Steven Riddle, Southern gentleman that he is, was so charming and nice and funny and real. As for the Summa Mamas, I was ready to hop in their car and go home with them. (Which, by the way, is not so far off ... after hearing about their church, we're gonna have to drop by there some Sunday morning. It sounds amazing ... just about as good as my church. Ha!) We all dove in talking as if we'd known each other for many years. What an absolute pleasure it was. I can't say it better than Steven Riddle (as if anyone could!), "Y'all ROCK!!!"

And, what a perfect group of people for me to be with when Mama T got the sad call that the pope had died. We were in a restaurant but it was as if we were in a soundproof bubble. Nothing else existed except the four of us and our shared, mingled sadness and joy. Tears flowed and we clasped hands and shared prayer together for our pope and our church. What an odd "coincidence" for us to be together to share that moment ... as if I believed in coincidence. In fact, my husband has said three times that he still can't believe how odd it was that I was with those St. Blog's parishioners at that time (and he doesn't repeat himself like that).

That actually was the second time that I heard the pope was dead as I had the misfortune to check The Drudge Report on Friday at the exact time that the false report of John Paul II's death was posted. I stunned myself by bursting into sobs and not being able to stop. When I went to tell my husband, he wasn't surprised that I was so upset. "You love him," he said. Well, I knew that! But I didn't expect it to be such a real, physical feeling of sorrow. Brother, was I ticked off at the media after that! However, I got to experience both an intense private moment of mourning for the pope as well as sharing it with community, so in a way I feel doubly blessed by that mistake.

Of course, I was floating on air after coming back from that lunch. But the day wasn't done with me yet. Then I got a phone call from a dear friend who offered a wonderful opportunity to both expand my horizons and to be of service. I'm excited every time it crosses my mind so this is definitely the right time for this to come along. More details later as things develop about that but ... gee whiz, what a day!

UPDATE: Steven's and Mama T's accounts are here.

It Is Jesus That You Seek

JPII-Prayer

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness;
He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you;
He is the beauty to which you are so attracted;
it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise;
it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life;
it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives,
the will to follow an ideal,
the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity,
the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society,
making the world more human and more fraternal.

Pope John Paul II
World Youth Day, Rome 2000

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Until We Meet Again

PopeJohnPaulII25th

I am so sad for us but I am so very happy for our dear pope ... don't you know there is a colossal whooping and hollering and clapping going on to greet him right now as he enters Heaven's gates? He was truly our good shepherd who watched over us to the limits of his strength and to the very end. With all my heart I thank you, Papa.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Nothing Else Need Be Said

This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the Pope.

Angelo Comastri

Vicar General of Vatican City

Lolek

2:15 PM Here’s a nice little bit of trivia: When JPII dies, according to tradition, the carmelengo will take a small silver hammer and lightly tap his head and say, “Karol Wotyja are you there?”

Then he will tap him again and say, “Lolek, are you there?”

“Lolek” is the nickname his mother had given him. When a man is named pope, one of the first things he is asked is by what nickname his mother called him. He is asked this because in old days, when it was not always possible to tell if one was dead or deeply comatose, it was believed that if one was called by the sweet name of one’s babyhood, one might respond to it.

It is an old idea, of course, and it might be “silly” today - clearly, we will KNOW when the pope dies…and yet, I think it is sweet and lovely, that at the moment of the man’s death, he will be called by the name his loving mother gave him. This article says the pope will not be hammered according to the new, streamlined plans...but who knows...it's still kind of lovely.

The Anchoress is blogging her thoughts while watching news coverage on the Pope's condition. I love this story about calling someone the nickname his mother had for him when he dies.

Also, like The Anchoress, I am touched by the many well wishings and caring messages from my non-Catholic friends. Nothing says "body of Christ" more to me than that does.

I Didn't Expect Tears to Spring to My Eyes...

... when I read this at BettNet
Update on the Pope

The latest information coming out right now says the Holy Father’s blood pressure is dropping, his breathing is getting shallow, his “cardio-vascular system has worsened.” His blood is being “poisoned” by the failures causing organ problems. It won’t be long now.

Dom also has a link to an article that he wrote about what happens when a pope dies.

Our dear Pope is old and frail. He has rendered faithful service long past when most ever would. He has been our good shepherd. I guess that is why I am crying right now. I have prayed for him to have a good death, whenever it finally would come. It is not as if this is unexpected by any means. But that reality is hitting me in the face right now and I am sorrowful beyond expectations.

I'm Not an April Fooler ...

... but I know some folks who are.

Drop by Too Many Chefs and read all about their Newest Team Member and their Family Secret Pizza Recipe.

Roz gets a reminder of the date.

Just for Fun

A few of my favorite quotes that are not "churchy."
You and I are here to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know.
W.H. Auden


I know not how to abstain from reading.
Samuel Pepys
[obviously we are soul mates]


A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.
Robert Benchley


Nothing shows a man's character more than what he laughs at.
Goethe
[another soul mate]


Outside of a dog, man's best friend is a book. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx

For Our Pope

Father in Heaven,

Thy will be done. Your faithful servant has served the faithful long and well. Thank you for the gift of him. If it be your will, let us keep him with us a while longer. Nevertheless Father, I'm certain that he is longing for home. Thy will be done to thy greater glory.

Amen
Steven Riddle at Flos Carmeli
Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.

Patience

Today's meditation in "In Conversation with God: Lent and Eastertide" is reflecting on the incident when the disciples had been fishing all night and caught nothing ... until Jesus told them to go back out after which their nets were so full that the boats were foundering. It seems perfectly timed to me.
Why did the Lord include so many fishermen among His Apostles? ... What were the good points that He saw in them? I think there was one thing which He specially appreciated in those who were to be his Apostles: an unshakeable patience ... They had worked all night and had caught nothing; long hours of waiting after which the grey light of dawn was to bring them their reward, but there was none ...

What a lot of waiting the Church of Christ has had to endure throughout the centuries ... partiently extending her invitations and leaving grace to do its work! ... What does it matter if she has worked very hard in one place or another and reaped very little for her Master? On the basis of his word, in spite of everything, she will launch her nets again until such time as his grace, the limits of which are in no way proportioned to human efforts, brings her again a new catch of fish. (R.A. Knox)
We don't know how or when, but all apostolic effort bears fruit, even though it often happens that we do not see it. Our Lord asks from us Christians the same capacity for patient waiting as he found in the fishermen. He asks us to be constant in our personal apostolate with our friends and acquaintances, never to abandon them or to give up anybody as being impossible. ...

If we persevere and carry on in the firm conviction that the Lord wills it, signs of a Christian revolution will appear around you, everywhere. Some will follow the call, others will take their interior life seriously, and others -- the weakest -- will at least be forewarned. (St. Escriva, Furrow)