Monday, October 31, 2005

One Last Halloween Fling

No jury duty! Woohoo! Though it was less nice to drop by the house to pick up lunch and find our boxer curled up on the couch ... since we weren't expected home yet.

Anyway, I wanted to share this from Catholic Exchange's Word of Encouragement but didn't have time to post it this morning.
Happy All Hallows Eve!

Psalm 23:5
Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
my cup overflows.

Most people don't think of horror as a genre of literature or film that is particularly agreeable to Christian sensibilities. However, two of the great practitioners of horror on both page and screen consider their work to be an extension of the gospel. Stephen King, author of many a scary tale, says that he considers himself the spiritual heir of the great Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards (who preached the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"). William Peter Blatty, who penned "The Exorcist" wrote the story precisely in order to show both the depths of demonic evil and to remind the world of the reality of Christ-like self-sacrifice. It is the depth of the darkness of the Enemy that paradoxically highlights the brilliance of the light of Heaven. Indeed, the word "monster" comes from the same root as the word "demonstrate" and "monstrance". A "monster" demonstrates what we can and will be apart from Christ. A monstrance shows forth the saving eucharistic, and self-sacrificial power of him who underwent the worst horror the world has ever known to save us from the terrors of Hell. He has prepared a eucharistic table for us in the presence of Satan himself--and deprived him of his prey. This Halloween, be not afraid.

Since they talk about authors ... let's just segueway over to scary books, shall we?

I've seen a lot of Halloween movies discussed but not favorite scary books. Here are a few creepy books that are favorites of mine (in no particular order). I know I'm forgetting a lot of them so just pipe up with your favorites.
  1. The Shining by Stephen King
  2. The Stand by Stephen King
  3. The Exorcist by William Blatty (not reread ... scared me silly and once was enough)
  4. The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle
  5. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  6. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  7. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (not traditionally scary but definitely unsettling)
  8. Dracula by Bram Stoker (maybe this isn't scary but I must have read it at least 10 times when I was in high school and no Halloween list is complete without it .... and actually, Renfield is majorly creepy now that I think of it)

Incline Your Ear to the Lord

What are some concrete steps we can take that will help us get the most from the Word of God? Here are a few that can easily be remembered by using the word P.R.A.Y. ...

P ... Prepare by studying Scripture and coming to a better understanding of how Catholics approach and interpret the Word... The less familiar we are with the Word that we hear proclaimed at the Eucharist, the more likely we are to be distracted by what we hear rather than fed.

R ... Read the Mass readings beforehand... If we read beforehand we can better listen when the readings are being proclaimed, and it is more likely that we will truly hear what God wishes to say to us.

A ... Attend to what is being read to us at the Eucharist. Listen in a way that acknowledges that God wishes to speak to you at this Mass...

Y ... Yield to what God is asking of you and respond with a "yes." Every celebration of the Eucharist is a renewing of the covenant between God and us. God waits for our response.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Roadside Crosses

Just this week, driving Rose to Kung Fu lessons, I noticed a roadside cross at a very busy intersection in the middle of Dallas. As always, when I notice them, it made me think. I wondered about the grieving family. I wondered how the accident happened. I thought about driving safety. Then I wondered where this custom came from. Thinking this custom probably had come with Hispanic immigrants, and probably originated in Europe (Spain?), I wondered if it was practiced only along the border ... or do they have roadside crosses as far north as Ohio?

The Dallas Morning News Religion section had their main story about that very thing. It turns out that the custom does, indeed, originate in Spain where crosses would be erected to mark a place of violent death. Although the custom was brought here by Hispanic immigrants it has spread throughout Southwest culture. Even my thoughts about driving safety were covered as it turns out the Texas Department of Transportation thinks they are a good warning about safe driving. They even have rules covering these memorials. Free registration is required but I found the whole story fascinating.

Also of interest in the section was an article about Opus Dei. I don't see any links yet but when one is put up I'll put it up. Fascinating and seemed very even handed. This article was prompted by John Allen's new book, Opus Dei. I will no doubt be reading this some time in the future.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ok, This Is Absolutely the Last Hottie Around Here ...

... for a few days anyway.

But how could I not respond to Rhonda's pain?
Poor thing. It would really be wrong of me to leave a sister in such a condition.

Not that I didn't enjoy selecting the photos.

Now I am so seriously going to start putting up some different posts for a little while. Well, tomorrow morning, anyway.

The Body of Christ

The Second Vatican Council captured a way of looking at our membership in the Church that is drawn from the writings of St. Paul, namely that the Church is the body of Christ. "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27). The Orthodox liturgist Alexander Schmemann said:
We need to be thoroughly aware that when we come to the temple it is not for individual prayer but to assemble together as the Church and the visible temple itself signifies and is but an image of the temple not made by hands. Therefore, the "assembly as the Church" is in reality the first liturgical act, the foundation of the entire liturgy; and unless one understands this, one cannot understand the rest of the celebration.
If we make this the backdrop to everything that we do at the Eucharist we will find that our whole view of the meaning of our acts will change. We essentially will be responding for the sustenance of our own body -- which through our membership in the Church now will be Christ's body. Our voices, our movements, and our treasure will be given not to some cold institution but, as Schmemann says, to the "temple not made with hands."

Spero News Scoop

... Spero News is a success. It's that simple ... the visitors keep coming in. How many visitors? In our first month up (April) we had around 470,000 hits, 104,000 page views with 38,000 visitors, compared to so far this month 900,000 hits, 251,000 page views and 100,000 visitors. That means even if the growth stopped (which we don't think it will) the site will average over 1 million visitors a year...
From a recent update. Congratulations to Clint and Robert. They have put a lot of hard work into this project and it looks as if it is being felt. If you haven't dropped by Spero News, alternative Christian news, go see what you've been missing.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bridget, This One's For You

And so is this one. I believe it was you who mentioned "the gorgeousness that is Jin?"

I Confess...

Every Mass begins with a chance for us to remember our own plunge into the waters of baptism, and throughout the Mass we recall all that separates us from God, namely our sins and our idols. When the priest or deacon asks us to call to mind our sins, we should do so. We should pay attention to what pops into our heads at that moment. God may reveal to you an area of sinfullness (somethat that is separating you from perfect communion with him) at that moment. Don't be surprised at what comes up but place it before God at this moment in the Mass so that he can transform it. Recall that God is your Savior, not yourself. Allow God to save you from your sins in his mercy. Believe that God's mercy is greater than your sins.
I have been trying to remember to do this since I read about it. It can be surprising and humbling to see what may pop into your mind at that moment.

Two "Must Read" Pieces

In fact, the awe we experience is a manifestation of human dignity. We see and understand ourselves to be a part of a greater scheme. We understand ourselves to be a part of the masterpiece that is Creation. We- each of us, have a starring role in the play of life- Creation. It is an unfolding drama, comedy and musical- with our best efforts and intentions a part of the script. We are not meant to ad lib our way through life. We are obligated and meant to make Creation an even more magnificent expression that It is, and we each of us have lead role in doing just that.
The Fight for Your Soul at Sigmund, Carl and Alfred puts into sharp focus the reason that religion scares so many but why it is also so very vital to our welfare. Short, to the point, and inspirational.

(Those of you who are going to write me and say that traditional worship doesn’t do a thing for you need to hear the following sentence: Other than the Gospel, I don’t care what you get out of visiting a church. You, and your (or my) preferences and entertainment choices, are not the point. Including you is one thing. Catering to you is another.)
The Internet Monk discusses why the Church on the Corner is in peril. It all comes down to changing worship styles that began in the 1970s to make cater to the young. Long but well worth reading, his penetrating commentary is just as applicable to many Catholic churches I've attended. They may manage to keep to the mandated Liturgy (barely) but have changed the rest of the Mass to so glorify the musicians, participating lay people, and congregation that it is barely possible at times to remember that we are there to worship the Lord.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Admitting Our Need

There is often talk about the way "modern" Catholics believe, picking and choosing what they believe and bypassing what they don't. It has been termed cafeteria Catholicism -- what it is in reality is intellectual sin. We accept Christ's teachings only so far as it agrees with what we already think. When it challenges us, we ignore it.

Jesus didn't accept this from his disciples. When he announced the doctrine of the Eucharist in John 6 many disciples ceased to follow him because they found the teaching too difficult (see John 6:66). Did Jesus yell out, "Oh, that's okay -- take what you like, ignore the rest?" No, instead he turned to those who had not left him and asked, "Do you want to leave me too?"

Our reluctance to accept the Lord's teaching, "in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do," may be our most persistent sin, one that we constantly need to confess openly, as we do at the beginning of every celebration of the Eucharist.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Confess Your Belief in God

Jesus revealed the love of God to us by dying for us and leaving us a memorial of his death in the Eucharist. The word memorial had a special meaning for the Jewish people of Jesus' time. It didn't mean recalling the past, as it does for us today, but rather it meant making present a past event. Thus, when we come together at the Eucharist, we are present as Calvary and witness once again what God is like through Jesus.

An Atheist and An Agnostic Look for the Virgin Mary

The Miracle Detective by Randall Sullivan
Virgin Trails by Robert Ward

My lastest Spero news article is a review of two different books whose authors search for the Blessed Virgin. The surprising thing about them is that one author is an atheist and one an agnostic. What do they find? That would be telling.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Horrendous "Head Count" But a Lot of Fun

In the spirit of Halloween we rented this movie. Dan mentioned in the comments boxes that he had such a slow workday that he wound up reading a story about a headless chicken who lived for 18 months ... he would have loved the number of headless bodies in this movie. Though, unlike Dan's chicken, they didn't live for any appreciable time once decapitated.

It is loosely based on the classic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. It is set in upstate New York. There is a headless horseman. Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane (most adorably, of course) and there are a lot of people with Dutch last names. There ends any resemblance.

Nevertheless it was fun to watch and certainly better than Tim Burton's last movie, The Corpse Bride, if for not other reason than the large amount of gore everywhere at every opportunity. It is as if about halfway through the movie, Burton said, "Oh, to hell with it. This isn't the real story anyway. Let's have some FUN!" Witches, gore, a massive explosion, old West style stagecoach fighting with the headless horseman ... he threw in everything but the kitchen sink.

And for some reason that was ok. We laughed at the whole thing because so much of it was so over the top and had a great time. Certainly it was a wonderful way to forget about all the stress of the work day (which, sadly, had no time at all for headless chicken stories).

Recommended only if you like lots of bodiless heads, blood, Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci ... and won't hold it against them for not really making a movie about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

HC Rating: *** Liked it despite absence of flubber (flubber in this case being any sort of resemblance to the original story).

Friday, October 21, 2005

Savage Chickens and Halloween

Next week is Halloween Week at Savage Chickens. Looks like they're getting a head start today. Check it out.

Hannah's Field Trip and Our "Assignment"

Hannah's government class took a field trip to the criminal courthouse yesterday. The kids were all free to go to whichever trials they chose, switch trials, etc. as long as they obeyed courthouse rules and were quiet and respectful.

Hannah became fascinated by a murder trial and stayed in it the entire time although other classmates came and went. A doctor was giving testimony about his client, Paul, who suffers from disassociation and also being bipolar. Without going into all the details, the "voices" took over at one point about two years ago and Paul murdered his girlfriend.

Listening to Hannah tell about this, my heart was breaking for Paul, his family, his murdered girlfriend, and her family. Most poignant was when the doctor said that Paul wanted to be good and would try to read the Bible and pray. All the while the voices would be roaring in his head, telling him that he was a murderer, that it is impossible for him to be good or pray to God.

I was haunted by this last night and, of course, feel that I have been given a prayer "assignment" for all the people involved. Hannah told me the same thing.

Her field trip had been planned for a couple of weeks ago but the water pipes at the school burst and the trip was postponed. So not only did the kids get a couple of days off (though I know that the teachers and administration had a royal headache because of it) but Hannah saw this trial which brought Paul to our attention. God uses all for His good I think.

( By the way, I am not posting this to start a lot of questions about Paul's condition or any other details of the situation. There is no way we know enough about it to comment on that in any constructive fashion.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Adoring God With Praise and Thanksgiving

One of my favorite quotes is from the journals of Father Alexander Schmemann: "God, when creating the world, did not solve problems or pose them. He created what He would call 'very good.' God created the world, but the devil transformed the world and man and life into a 'problem.'" If we want to adore God with praise and thanksgiving we are going to have to learn to stop seeing everything as a "problem" or "interruption" and begin to be open to seeing God's goodness and interventions even in the most unlikely of places.

Many of the most horrific sins ever committed by human beings happen because people see problems where they should see blessings. If we do not adore God above all, we risk doing horrible things as we serve whatever else we put in God's place.
Oh brother, does this quote fit my very busy day today. Thanks be to God for the employment that is making me so very busy!

Blagueur* Spotlight

This blog is definitely not what the name looks like. Instead of real Catholic news, Maureen Martin writes pointed and lively satires of news articles that parody absurdities in Catholic culture and life all around us. She was on hiatus to celebrate when her husband returned from Iraq. However, Maureen's extended absence showed how she has made her presence felt in her short time in the Catholic blogosphere as lplaintive requests for more stories began appearing in her comments boxes.

Some of my favorite stories include: " NBC to Air New Reality Show Featuring 'Ex-Priest' This Fall," " Baton Rouge Residents Secretly Pleased Over New Orleans' Demise," " Parishes Report Extraordinary Minister Shortage," and what has to be her best so far, Man Gets Birthday Wish, Church Ceases to Exist.
"That afternoon,I was reading the last page of the Aeneid when all the words vanished off the pages, and the book just crumbled to pieces," said Holland, a general medical practitioner. Words weren't the only thing to disappear. Apparently, the letter "J" was also a casualty of the birthday wish gone awry. "I'm known as Ohn now," he said.
Drop by and welcome Maureen back ... and check out some of those stories.

* joker (en Francais) = blagueur
(pronounced blogger, of course!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cure for the Liturgical Blues


Philothea Rose writes about not wanting to participate in liturgical discussions any more because they take her focus off of worshipping Jesus when she is at Mass (read the post, it's a good one). Many others have posted their bravas to this post.

I haven't run into this particular discussion problem (perhaps because I seem to constantly get sucked into predestination versus free will conversations at Protestant sites ... so I'm looking in another direction).

At any rate, I thoroughly understand Philothea's desire. The best book I have found that has helped me move further toward "reaching Jesus" in the Mass is a small and easy to read. It puts the Mass focus strictly where we should have it ... on the Eucharist and our response to it.

Dubruiel shows how to balance the Mass both as a holy banquet and as a holy sacrifice. Too often these days the sacrificial aspect is left out.
Participation in the Eucharist requires that we die to ourselves and live in Christ. If we want to get the most out of the Eucharist, then sacrifice is the key. This is what has been lost on many of us and if we want to reclaim all the spiritual riches that are available to us we must relearn what it means not only to "offer it up" but indeed to offer ourselves up.
Dubruiel uses an acronym to help remember the steps we can take to join ourselves in sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus.
Serve (obey the command that Jesus gave to his disciples at the first Eucharist)
Adore (put aside anything that seems to rival God in importance)
Confess (believe in God's power to make up for your weaknesses)
Respond (answer in gesture, word, and song in unity with the body of Christ)
Incline (listen with your whole being to the Word of God)
Fast (bring your appetites and desires to the Eucharist)
Invite (open yourself to an encounter with Jesus)
Commune (accept the gift of Christ in the Eucharist)
Evangelize (take him and share the Lord with others)
Each step is explored in a different chapter and every single one had "aha" moments for me, sometimes from Church Father quotes, sometimes from the Further Helps at the end of each chapter, and quite often from Dubruiel's own insights. Each chapter also includes "Lessons from a Three Year Old" to highlight points. This sounds corny but it didn't come off that way. In many cases, that three year old was much wiser his single mindedness than an adult.

I do not have time to write the review that this book deserves but did want to get mention of it out there for anyone who would benefit from it. Now that I think of it, I don't know any Catholic who would not benefit from it.

I will let the book speak for itself by posting a series of quotes in the days to come.
Serve the Lord

If you want to get the most out of the Eucharist you have to check your "I" at the door. The "I" that wants things, that endlessly critiques the way things are done, and that demands things be done in exactly a certain way (meaning "my way," not God's way). I think it was Peter Kreeft who once said that the famous song, "I Did It My Way," sung by such great artists as Frank Sinatra and Elvis, is the national anthem of hell. The way of the world may be to do things "our way" but the way of Christ is to do things his Way. We therefore consciously have to leave "my way" at the door and in exchange take up an attitude that asks "how may we be of service to you, Lord, in this celebration of the Eucharist?"

FUMA Reports Pittsburgh Unprepared for Zombies

"When it comes to defending ourselves against an army of reanimated human corpses, the officials in charge have fallen asleep at the wheel," Murphy said. "Who's in charge of sweep-and-burn missions to clear out infected areas? Who's going to guard the cemeteries at night? If zombies were to arrive in the city tomorrow, we'd all be roaming the earth in search of human brains by Friday."

Government-conducted zombie-attack scenarios described on the State Department's website indicate that a successful, citywide zombie takeover would take 10 days, but according to ZPI statistician Dr. Milton Cornelius, the government's models fail to incorporate such factors as the zombies' rudimentary reasoning skills and basic tool use.

"Today's zombies quickly learn to open doors, break windows, and stage ambushes," Cornelius said. "In one 1985 incident in Louisville, a band of zombies was able to lure four paramedics and countless law-enforcement officials to their deaths by commandeering an ambulance radio and calling for backup."
Read the whole story at The Onion who is doing their darndest to keep up with current Halloween news.

I'm Not a Baseball Fan Usually

But when the Astros are so close to getting into the World Series for the first time ever, my Texan pride overcomes all other prejudices!

And I am not alone in this sudden passion.

Halloween Countdown

For the ultimate superhero costume, I don't think you could improve on these.

Thanks to Tim for the heads up on this great site.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

So, Mom, If I Wanted to Get a Job...

Isn't that every parent's dream? To have those words come from their child without a lot of prompting?

Hannah said she was interested in working at Boston Market. Having put in a stint during college at Pizza Hut my conviction is that every person should do time (and, yes, I meant do time) at a restaurant chain. It is how you become quite convinced that you must go to college and get a different sort of job.

Actually, any job involving service with the public will do in that capacity.

Later Tom said, "I wonder why she suddenly wants to get a job?"

I blithely replied, "Oh, she's been saying for a long time that when she gets her driver's license she'll need to work to help pay for insurance." We never have made that stipulation but she has many friends who have to do so. (That's Saint Hannah, right? Oh a mother's naivete.)

Yesterday on the way home from school, Hannah looked at me sidelong and said, tentatively, "So, if I got that job ... could I go to Europe this summer?"


So much for those noble, lofty reasons I had. I told her about our conversation and she quickly said, "Oh ... of course ... that too!"


We were just happy to see that she thought she'd be comfortable spending three weeks with another family in Greece, Italy, France, and Ireland.

Hey, if I get an extra job do you think they'd take me?

The Anchoress Comes Out Swinging in Defense of Halloween

The Anchoress is standing up for the holiday people love to bash. Fantastic writing, as always, and you've got to go see the Invisible Monk costumes her boys had one year. Those may be the best costumes I've ever seen. EVER!

C'mon, Everybody, Sing Along!

What better fate,
To populate...

(clap clap clap clap)

Deep in the heart of Texas?

Get in the groove,
It’s time to move...

(clap clap clap clap)

Deep in the heart of Texas!

Screw doom and gloom,
There’s always room...

(clap clap clap clap)

Deep in the heart of Texas!

No need to toil,
(there’s so much oil...)

(clap clap clap clap)

Deep in the heart of Texas!

The numbers show,
There’s room to grow...

(clap clap clap clap)

Deep in the heart of Texas!

With much aplomb,
I thank you, Dom,

(clap clap clap clap)

Here in the heart of...Boston.

Kelly Clark
(in response to Dom's post about overpopulation)

St. Luke

St. Luke is Tom's patron saint. He says that he chose him because he was the only apostle who never saw Jesus. I like that sign of faith from Tom to identify with Luke that way. Certainly if we remember that detail then St. Luke's accomplishments become those that we can admire even more as a Christian who fully lives his faith.

St. Luke wrote the gospel that shows us so clearly divine mercy, gives us many details about Mary and the birth of Jesus, tells stories of women that no one else mentions, and gives us some unique parables such as my favorite The Prodigal Son. His medical training let him include many small details that otherwise might have gone unnoticed, such as in the story of the woman whose bleeding stopped after she touched the tassel of Jesus' robe.

His gospel and the book of Acts were written to someone who had converted. Luke wrote them not for himself but to help others and, in so doing, was used by God to leave a legacy of faith that helps us all today.

They say that he also was an artist who painted portraits of Mary. I like to think of him painting Mary while she perhaps told him stories of Jesus, of how she pondered things in her heart.

Most of all today, I am struck by the thing that was pointed out when I was reading Word Among Us' reflection for the day about today's Mass readings.
Only Luke is with me.
2 Timothy 4:11
Everyone left Paul except Luke. Luke was a devoted friend who knew how to show it when the chips were down, even if it meant danger to himself.

Surely Luke has left us much to admire but also much to attempt to emulate. Complete faithfulness to God, keeping our commitments, going the extra mile even when it wasn't easy, using every bit of ourselves in service.

St. Luke, pray for us.

(For more information about St. Luke look here.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Good Definition of Faith

For the pastor at the Byzantium Catholic Church who said he didn't know what faith was and if anyone had a good definition to let him know (as reported by TSO).
Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.
Saint Augustine
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…
St. Paul, Hebrews 11:1
If our priest said this I'd start worrying about everything else he said. It seems to me that someone who doesn't have at least an inkling of how they define faith is living an unexamined life. Way too unexamined on a very basic level to be giving the homily and telling everyone else how to live. At the very least, such a person is living a life without having read (every very cursorily) the classic Church Fathers...or certain parts of the Bible. Scary.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Weekend Reflection

Sin is the executioner of the good God, and the assassin of the soul. It snatches us away from Heaven to precipitate us into Hell. And we love it!
St. John Vianney

How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing Thee?
St. Teresa of Avila

Friday, October 14, 2005

All In God's Time

Last night we toasted to Ed's life, circled 'round the bed. His wife put a drop of his favorite single malt scotch (The Macallan) on his lips. At that, he raised the corner of his mouth in the way he always did when he grinned mischievously, then moved his tongue side-to-side to indicate he was there with us, enjoying the moment - and the whisky. That was a huge effort on his part, but there was no ambiguity. He was still there - a small, low pilot light.
Kobayashi Maru shares the three day vigil held with his brother, Ed, as he departed this world. It is a quietly powerful and moving story, one that I am not ashamed to say moved me to tears.

Ed was granted the gift of the "good death" that the old prayers to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph ask for. Surrounded by his loving family, allowed to go in God's time, while his family was blessed with the knowledge of God's love. As KM says, "God's purpose. God's plan. Goodness through hardship. Purpose through broken things." We know he wanted to stay, oh so badly. But since he had to go, what a way to do it. May we all be as blessed as Ed when our time comes.

Eternal peace grant to Ed, O Lord, and peace to his family.

I Had No Idea

I have heard about the Middle Eastern Christian martyrs and the Chinese Catholic Underground, but I am one of those who Crisis publisher Brian Saint-Paul mentions ... I had no idea about this situation. With that in mind, I am reprinting his entire email letter below.
A Religious Upheaval In India... And What It Means For Catholicism

Crisis Magazine e-Letter
October 13, 2005

Dear Friend,
Devidas Sabane was a diligent farmer, working the land of a former member of the Indian parliament. When his son fell ill, the impoverished Sabane went to the landowner's brother to request money for his treatment. The brother wasn't in a giving mood. He beat Sabane viciously and forced poison down his throat. The farmer died later that day. When his bereaved wife reported the murder to the police and the State Human Rights Commission, they brushed her off. She later committed suicide.

This is India today. The account -- one among many -- comes from the testimony of Indira Athwale, given last week before the United States Committee on International Relations. You see, the Sabanes weren't just Indians, they were Untouchable.

India is made up of a caste system, a construct of its Hindu heritage. At the top are the Brahmins -- the priestly class. Below them are the Kshatriyas, then the Vaisyas, and finally the Sudras.

There's another group that hasn't even merited a place on the Indian social ladder: the Dalit, otherwise known as the Untouchables. Life as an Untouchable is devastating. They're held in contempt by other members of society, are relegated to the most menial of jobs, and even physical contact with them is thought to bring contamination (requiring special purification rituals to cleanse the higher caste member). Their women are raped without retribution, and their men beaten and killed without justice.

While discrimination against the 250 million Dalit is officially prohibited in the Indian constitution, it continues unabated. That they make up almost 1/3 of the country's population is irrelevant. They're Untouchable and have no voice.

But now, something is happening among the Dalit... and it may have effects on the religious future of the country.

You see, after centuries of shameful oppression by their fellow Hindus, the Untouchables are starting to move away from the religion. Initially, there were large Dalit conversions to Buddhism. But the attractions of that faith are proving limited.

And so now, two religions are receiving attention and a growing number of Dalit converts: Christianity and Islam. The possibilities here are striking.

I spoke Friday with Betsy Vigneri, a media consultant with the Dalit Freedom Network, and she told me the shift began in the late 1990s. "It was a culmination of things," she said. "The world moved toward globalization, technology, and communication. Suddenly, some of the educated Dalits were able to see what was happening in the outside world. They realized they could tell their story to a global audience. That's when they organized and began to look for ways to help themselves. They also realized that the best way to find relief from this victimization -- from this slavery -- is to quit Hinduism and embrace another religion."

The transition wasn't easy at first. "Originally, the Christian churches were also practicing the caste system. But now, they're working for freedom of conscience in religion. They're there to serve -- the same approach Mother Teresa took. In their service, they're trying to demonstrate the love of Christ."

While the Muslims are making every effort to convert the Untouchables, the Christian churches have an advantage: the person of Christ. "I've found that when Dalits hear about Jesus, they're deeply moved to learn that He loves them," Vigneri said. "All their lives, they've been told how horrible they are. But they hear that Jesus not only loves them but died for them. In their minds, He reached out to the Untouchables of His day. Touched them... talked to them... ate with them... These are all forbidden for a higher caste person to do with the Dalits."

But Islam itself is not without its own attractions. When an Untouchable becomes Muslim, the female converts are protected by the Muslim men from the harassment of the Hindus. This is no small thing, since Dalit women are in frequent danger of assault and rape.

On the other hand, there are aspects of Islam that some Untouchables find disconcerting. Vigneri noted that "there are Dalit men who have seen how some Muslim men treat their wives or view women. They don't want that for their wives and daughters."

While Muslim and Christian leaders in India have had fairly cordial relations thus far, there is real concern that if India turns Islamic, they could impose Sharia law on everyone. Given the experience of non-Muslims in other such states, that could mean an entirely new form of oppression.

Vigneri told me that there are a few things Christians in the West can do to help the Untouchables -- both in their fight against their horrific living conditions and in their spiritual journey:
  1. Spread the word about what's going on in India. "So many Christians tell us, 'I had no idea this was happening.' The Dalits want us to tell the world what they're going through. This is very humbling. We tend to think people want creature comforts. But the Dalits want their stories told."

  2. Pray. "The first thing Christian Dalits ask for is prayer. These people have nothing, but they know the power of prayer."

  3. Stay informed. One of the best ways to keep yourself up-to-date on the struggles of the Untouchables is to visit the Dalit Freedom Network.
India is at a religious crossroads. Within one generation, we'll see some kind of radical shift in the spiritual makeup of that rising nation. Will it become the next bright light for Christianity, or might it join other jihadist states in violence and oppression? Time will tell.

We in the United States tend to live in a self-enclosed world. That's the stereotype of Americans, and that stereotype is too often true (and I'm as guilty as anyone). But as Catholics, we have a spiritual obligation to care for all the world's suffering. By adding the plight of the Dalits to your own prayer intentions and by telling their story, you'll help them in this world and the next.

All the best,


Thursday, October 13, 2005

National Clandestine Service? "Jose"? Is This A Joke?

Because these names sound like something that they'd use for a Saturday Night Live skit.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has announced the creation of a new service to oversee human intelligence, meaning information gathered through people rather than electronic sources, among all federal agencies working in that field.

Officials said Thursday that the director of the new National Clandestine Service will be an agent known only as "Jose" because he remains undercover. He is currently head of the CIA's clandestine unit.

An Experience of Angels

Therese Z. shares an experience she had of "hearing" an angel. It is a simple and yet very powerful story.

She then asks if anybody else has had a similar experience. What sprang to mind does not have to do with angels or a direct communication. However, her reaction as "sort of serenely nonplussed" sparked a memory that I share with my dear friend Stevie.

I was in Adoration at the beginning of a CRHP retreat. A woman was there who was praying with others before going in to tell her story to the group. When it was time to go, she walked by me and I felt a "WHOOSH" hit me in the face. It left me disoriented for a few seconds. Oddly enough I simply thought, "That must be the Holy Spirit" and then returned to prayer. I didn't even think about it again until Stevie, who had been in Adoration at the same time, told me that she had "felt" the Holy Spirit go by when the woman left the room. Suddenly I remembered that "WHOOSH." Truly it must have been the Holy Spirit passing by.

Romantic Tip

Yet Two More

There are two kinds of people in the world:
Object People and Experience People

Object People see love symbolized in gifts, in things: Roses, jewelry, socket wrench sets. Experience people see love expressed in time spent together, in experiences: Dinner, movies, bowling. Neither is better than the other, they're just personal preferences. And, interestingly, neither preference is related to gender.

Why do you need to know this? Because if your partner is an Object Person, and you take her to the best restaurant in town and drop $200 on an elegant experience, she'll still be expecting a gift at the end of the evening. She's not being selfish, she's simply being herself.

Object People love items that have special meaning. Experience People love activities that create special memories.
I never really have thought about this one (perhaps one reason I need this book?) but believe that we are both experience people. Don't get me wrong, gifts are nice too, but not at all in the same way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Something Beautiful is Happening

Be sure to read the 6:45 p.m. update at Kobayashi Maru's as they sit in vigil with his brother who is dying. It is very sad but very holy also. KM is sharing a treasure with us.
INTO Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. O Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit. Holy Mary, pray for me. O Mary, mother of grace, mother of mercy, ...protect me from the enemy, and receive me at the hour of death. St. Joseph, pray for me. St. Joseph, in company with the Blessed Virgin, Your spouse, open to me the [source] of divine mercy.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony [or in my last moment].

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, may I sleep and rest in peace in your holy company.
Lord hear our prayer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Prayers Requested for This Family

At various points throughout the day, I've played DJ, putting on various CDs that my brother likes. If there's beauty to be found in dying, we've found enough today to go on one more step... one more hour... one more breath. We hold each other close in love.
Kobayashi Maru's brother is going home. Pray for him and his family, for their peace and strength in this hard time. Lord hear our prayer.

"Offer It Up." What the Heck Does That Mean?

Jennifer asks what the phrase, "offer it up" means (mentioned in this post). I can understand her question entirely because it certainly mystified me when I first heard it my mother-in-law say it many years ago. She was counseling one of our daughters to "offer up" her annoyance at something. I think that her explanation is the simplest, and therefore possibly the best, that I have ever heard.

It means to offer your suffering to God as a sacrifice.

You can do this with a specific intention. This can be done with small things annoyances (as I did with that woman behind me in line last night in the long, long pharmacy line who was talking so loudly on her cell phone that I couldn't hear the pharmacist when I finally had my turn with him) as well as large (my last root canal!). I often am reminded on a fast day that the hunger I am feeling is perhaps the same hunger that my parents' souls feel without any belief in God, so I will offer my hunger to God as a sacrifice for their conversion. You also can offer it up without any intention at all and give it to God to use as He will. Not only does this put our suffering to good use but, from my own point of view, it certainly gives one a better perspective on putting up with that particular suffering or annoyance.

As the excerpt in the previous post mentions, the point of this is not to be a "victim" but to make a joyful offering.

This post, Holy Mass and Personal Self Sacrifice, also sheds some light on the idea of offering suffering to God.

Romantic Tip 497


There are two kinds of people in the world:
Detail People and Overview People

Detail People focus on the little things; they notice everything. Overview People focus on the big picture; they see general trends. Neither is right or wrong, these are simply character tendencies.

It will be much easier for you to pull romantic surprises if you're a Detail Person and your loved one is an Overview Person. Detail People are good at covering their trail, paying attention to the little things, and acting "normal." The overview partner won't even notice any little slips.

If you're the Overview Person, you'll need to be extra careful when planning surprises. Those detail-oriented partners will notice every unusual phone call, every little chance in your schedule, and that mischievous look on your face!
Me? Details, details, details. Tom won't even let me nudge a gift box to one side, having learned the hard way that I am a really good guesser.

The Eucharist as a Sacrifice

As we participate in the Eucharist, not only do we participate in Christ's sacrifice on Calvary but we are called to share in that sacrifice. Just knowing this should change how we view everything that irks us at Mass. Are you:
  • Suffering mental anguish -- like a crown of thorns is weighted upon your head?
  • Weighed down by worldly concerns -- like the weight of the cross is on you?
  • Feeling powerless -- like you are nailed to a cross?
If we take away a sacrificial attitude toward the Eucharist, we are likely to fail to see the connection between our lives and what we do at Mass. We are apt to sit in judgment, waiting to be entertained (whether we are conservative or liberal, what we want to see differs but the attitude is the same). When we fail to bring a sacrificial attitude to the Eucharist, our participation seems at times to be modeled more after Herod's banquet, where Simone's dance cost the Baptist his head, than after the Last Supper of Our Lord, where there was every indication that partaking in this banquet was likely to cost the disciples their own lives. (Indeed, ten of the twelve were martyred, Judas took his own life, and John survived being boiled alive in a cauldron of oil.) ...

Participation in the Eucharist requires that we die to ourselves and live in Christ. If we want to get the most out of the Eucharist, then sacrifice is the key. This is what has been lost on many of us and if we want to reclaim all the spiritual riches that are available to us we must relearn what it means not only to "offer it up" but indeed to offer ourselves up.

Now I want to be clear that what I am proposing in this book is not the "victim-ism" that was sometimes prevalent in the older spirituality of "offering it up." In every situation we are free to choose how we will respond to an event: we can blame someone else for what is happening, or we can feel powerless and do nothing. It is my contention that neither of these responses is Christ-like. The experience of "offering up" our lives to God needs to be a positive and co-redemptive act. Thankfully, with God's help we are all capable of freely choosing to respond in this fashion.

Resource Spotlight

Catholic Culture has a lot of good resources but the one that I really use consistently is their daily liturgical page. Each one has the Church's saint of the day, along with the saint of the day according to the old calendar which is sometimes quite enlightening. Along with extra links for more information, each saint has a "Things to Do" list at the bottom which have all sorts of different applications to daily life: recipes, crafts, links to more reading, and really good suggestions for ways to relate to the virtues of each saint.

There also is always an overview page for the month as well as one for the liturgical season that the Church is in at that time.

Just Finished

DEJA DEAD by Kathy Reichs

I picked this up because this author's books are supposedly the ones that the new TV show "Bones" is based on. I can see the resemblance though the show is necessarily much tamer. The main character is a woman who is a forensic scientist and, of course, up pops a dismembered body that puts her in mind of one from several years ago. Set in Montreal, there are several policemen whose jurisdiction the various murders fall into and she manages to bully all of them into allowing her to help investigate. (Oh sure, have one best friend fall victim to the murderer and find your own photo in the main suspect's apartment marked with a big X and they're like putty in your hands.)

This was fairly good although I was somewhat hampered by my squeamishness in reading about dismembered body parts, heads, etc. If that sort of thing doesn't bother you then have at it because this was a good book with the main character's life providing lots of room for development in subsequent books.

This was book #97 of the year for me, which even I find rather surprising, especially when you consider how many books I have read anywhere from 50-100 pages of before deciding not to finish it.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Surprised, I Was

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Via Idle Mendacity.

Welcome to Happy Catholic Country!

Like my new slogan? Courtesy of the Slogan Generator which I've seen all over the blogosphere lately.

Thar They Blow!

According to Rose, these are the best analogies for how Tom and I lose our tempers ...

"You're more like 'Old Faithful.' The signs are there and you can see it building up until ... it blows!" (Yes, you could say I'm a regular "venter" but at least I leave the landscape in one piece ... I'm taking solace where I can.)

"Dad is more like Mount Saint Helens. It's all quiet and nice and you barely get enough warning to start running for your life before a giant explosion and lots of lava everywhere." (That's the problem with those nice guys ... when they lose it, they don't mess around!)

Saints - Not Just for Catholics Anymore

My latest article for Spero News, a review of The Lure of Saints: A Protestant Experience Of Catholic Tradition.

Highly recommended for Protestants wishing to understand this Catholic devotion and for Catholics wishing more insight into the Protestant imagination. Read the review to find out a bit more.

UPDATE: Just to help us keep seeing things from each others' perspective, Rick Lugari has a Catholic version/Protestant version joke of the day. Hilarious!

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Condolences to Lee Strong and Family

Lee's mother died today. Eternal rest grant her, O Lord, and peace and comfort to the family she has left behind. My prayers go with them in these days of mourning.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

BlondeStar to the Rescue!

Find out about this valuable service at De Civitate Dei.

Things That Only Happen in Movies

The final ten ...
  1. Plain or even ugly girls can become movie star pretty simply by removing their glasses and rearranging their hair.
  2. Rather than wasting bullets, megalomaniacs prefer to kill their enemies with complicated devices incorporating fuses, pulleys, deadly gases, lasers and man-eating sharks.
  3. All beds have special L-shaped sheets that reach to armpit level on a woman but only up to the waist of the man lying beside her.
  4. Anyone can land a 747 as long as there is someone in the control tower to talk you down.
  5. During all police investigations it will be necessary to visit a strip club at least once.
  6. You can always find a chainsaw when you need one.
  7. Most musical instruments (especially wind instruments and accordions) can be played without moving your fingers.
  8. In Middle America, all gas station attendants have red handkerchiefs hanging out of their back pockets.
  9. All teen house parties have one of every stereotypical subculture present (even people who aren't liked and would never get invited to parties).
  10. Trucks use their horns at random (no hang on, that happens in real life too!).
Via Looking Closer Journal

Friday, October 7, 2005

Coolest Photo of the Week

Sept. 28 - Oct. 5: Supreme Court, Sun and Sculpture
A U.S. Navy F-18 breaks the sound barrier
at the California International Airshow on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2005, in Salinas, Calif.
The cloud built up around the jet as it reached the speed of sound.
(Orville Myers, Monterey County Herald /AP Photo)
From the ABC News Photo Gallery

I Can Dig It

Your Hair Should Be Purple

Intense, thoughtful, and unconventional.
You're always philosophizing and inspiring others with your insights.

Via that feisty redhead, The Anchoress.

Our Lady of the Rosary

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and I was surprised to see only Steven Riddle mentioning it ... and mostly to say why he still respects the rosary even though he doesn't particularly like it.

I am not a devoted rosary sayer, though, ironically enough, I started up again this morning on the way to work, contemplating the Sorrowful Mysteries. Steven wrote a lovely piece (as always) and I will direct anyone who wants more info to Catholic Culture's Liturgical Calendar for today.

UPDATE: The Lady in the Pew has a lovely post about this feast.

Mensa Answer

The answer to yesterday's brain teaser was gotten by 75% of Mensa test takers: "parting" and "prating".

See the First 9 Minutes of Serenity

It’s all free and legal. Universal Pictures wants you to watch this one.

Via Ain't It Cool.

Things That Only Happen in Movies

The third ten ...
  1. Cars will explode instantly when struck by a single bullet.
  2. No matter how savagely a spaceship is attacked, its internal gravity system is never damaged.
  3. If being chased through a city you can usually take cover in a passing St Patrick's Day parade - at any time of the year.
  4. The ventilation system of any building is the perfect hiding place. Nobody will ever think of looking for you in there and you can travel to any other part of the building undetected.
  5. You will survive any battle in any war UNLESS you show someone a picture of your sweetheart back home.
  6. Prostitutes always look like Julia Roberts or Jamie Lee Curtis. They have expensive clothes and nice apartments but no pimps. They are friendly with the shopkeepers in their neighbourhood who don't mind at all what the girl does for a living.
  7. A single match is usually sufficient to light up a room the size of a football stadium.
  8. It is not necessary to say "Hello" or "Goodbye" when beginning a telephone conversation. A disconnected call can always be restored by frantically beating the cradle and saying "Hello? Hello?" repeatedly.
  9. One man shooting at 20 men has a better chance of killing them all than 20 men firing at once (it's called Stallone's Law).
  10. When you turn out the light to go to bed, everything in you room will still be visible, just slightly bluish.
Via Looking Closer Journal

Loving the Will of God

Father, thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven ... We should be disposed to do the Will of God and to love what God does or permits. When we find ourselves in circumstances that are outside of our control, we should look for God's loving presence. If our situation is difficult, humanly speaking, we should pray in a spirit of abandonment: Is that what you want, Lord? ... Then it's what I want also! (J. Escriva, The Way).

These are wonderful opportunities for us to trust more and more in God. The divine Will may present itself to us in the form of suffering, of sickness or the death of a loved one. It may appear to us in the simplest of daily circumstances such as the gradual weakening and aging of the body, an insufficient salary or a professional commitment we cannot get out of. It could appear as some failure due to a simple mistake or misunderstanding. It might manifest itself in the grating personality of a co-worker, the frustration of unrealized ambitions and noble dreams, the acceptance of one's limitations or simply the lifelong struggle to grow in virtue. We may want to say with St. Teresa of Avila:
Give me wealth or poverty,
give me comfort or discomfort,
give me joy or sorrow ...
What do you want to make of me?
What do you want from me, Lord, in this present, actual, concrete situation?

If we accept the divine Will, God will give peace to our soul. We will also avoid useless human suffering, though we will still experience pain. Christ himself wept like one of us...Our cries do not offend God, but move him to compassion...

The Lord wants us to accept his Will in everything. He also wants us to do whatever we can to improve a bad situation, if that is possible. If this is not to be or if we have to be more patient, let us hold onto our Father God's hand with renewed trust. As St. Paul said in the midst of a great trial: With all our affliction, I am overjoyed. (2 Cor 7:4). Nothing can take away our joy.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Poor Little Piglet

Let's help him out. Who's with me?

The Best Airplane Ever, Don't Cha Think?

The Salmon Thirty Salmon

Mysteries of the Kitchen

Mama T points out that she can never buy the right number of bananas (a problem which I share with her). Also she buys bags of lettuce just so she can throw them away later after they have spoiled.

Pffft! Doesn't she know that the proper thing to buy so it can spoil and then be thrown away is cauliflower?

Ten Rules About the Devil

Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 66, the archbishop of Genoa, dedicated his Lenten letter [2001] to combating the fascination of a devil who is charming, shrewd and very real. Those who follow his 10-step program are promised the ability to rebuff offers of forbidden fruit, unlike Adam and Eve or dissenters.

Ten Practical Rules to Resist Satan

Rule one: "Do not forget that the devil exists."

Rule two: "Do not forget that the devil is a tempter."

Rule three: "Do not forget that the devil is very intelligent and astute."

Rule four: "Be (always) vigilant in the eyes and the heart."

Rule five: "Be strong in spirit and virtue."

Rule six: "Tireless prayer."

Rule seven: "Adoring God."

Rule eight: "Listening to God's Words."

Rule nine: "Remembering Christ's victory over temptation. Remembering man's sharing in that victory."

Rule ten: "Be humble and love mortification."

The "King Ranch" Version Ten Commandments

People here in Texas have trouble with all those "shalls" and "shall nots" in the Ten Commandments.

Folks here just aren't used to talking in those terms. So, some folks out in west Texas got together and translated the "King James" into "King Ranch" language:

The Cowboy's Ten Commandments

(posted on the wall at Cross Trails Church in Fairlie, Texas)
  1. Just one God.
  2. Honor yer Ma & Pa.
  3. No tellin' tales or gossipin'.
  4. Git yourself to Sunday meetin'.
  5. Put nothin' before God.
  6. No foolin' around with another fellow's gal.
  7. No killin.'
  8. Watch yer mouth.
  9. Don't take what ain't yers.
  10. Don't be hankerin' for yer buddy's stuff.
Now that's kinda plain an' simple, don't ya think?

Y'all have a good day.
From my inbox. Thanks Deb!

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Things That Only Happen in Movies

The second ten ...
  1. Any police officer about to retire from the force will more often than not die on their last day (especially if their family have planned a party). (Caveat: Detectives can only solve a case after they have been suspended from duty).
  2. Getaway cars never start first go. But all cop cars do. (They will also slide to a dramatic stop in the midst of a crime scene).
  3. If staying in a haunted house, women should investigate any strange noises wearing their most revealing underwear.
  4. On a police stake-out, the action will only ever take place when food is being consumed and scalding hot coffees are perched precariously on the dashboard . . .
  5. All grocery shopping involves the purchase of French loaves which will be placed in open brown paper bags (Caveat: when said bags break, only fruit will spill out).
  6. Cars never need fuel (unless they're involved in a pursuit).
  7. If you are heavily outnumbered in a fight involving martial arts, your opponents will wait patiently to attack you one by one by dancing around you in a threatening manner until you have defeated their predecessor.
  8. If a microphone is turned on it will immediately feedback.
  9. Guns are like disposable razors. If you run out of bullets, just throw the gun away. you will always find another one.
  10. All single women have a cat.
Via Looking Closer Journal

Musing 'Bout Miers

I didn't have much of an opinion about John Roberts. And it didn't matter if I did. Nothing I thought was going to get him into the Supreme Court (or visa versa).

I just don't pay much attention to that sort of thing. I do know that all the conservatives were all atwitter about how much they didn't really trust him because you couldn't tell about his record. Now he's in and its a lovefest as they compare him to Harriet Miers.

So, suddenly there's Harriet Miers. I'd never even heard of her. Except maybe the name sounded a bit familiar (Tom thought so too ... school board? ... city council? ... anyway, one of those kinds of jobs...).

Then I'm reading all about her in story after story in the Dallas Morning News. And what I'm reading doesn't seem to match up with all these upset liberals and conservatives.

Everybody who has ever worked with her seems to like and respect this lady. The conservatives like her. The liberals like her. (When I say Diane Ragsdale likes her ... well, you've got to be from Dallas to understand what an amazing thing that is. She doesn't like anybody who looks like Harriet Miers and lives where she does.) She was the first woman lawyer hired by a big Dallas firm, the first woman partner, the first woman head of the TX Bar Association and on and on.

She seems to do her homework and work with both sides. For heavens' sake, she even brings donuts to church. I bet she'd stay behind to sweep up if they needed a volunteer.

Again, I don't pay much attention to that sort of thing, but if President Bush has known her personally for a long time, he probably knows her character much better than everyone who took one quick look and started screaming. I never completely trust any politician. However, there are a lot of people out there who spend a lot of time talking about how much they trust George Bush. And now most of them are screaming bloody murder. So much for trust, huh?

If you look at the qualifications for the Supreme Court a law degree isn't even required. So it could be much worse. Bush actually could have put in one of his daughters (unless there's an age requirement?).

In the meantime, this looks an awful lot to us like it did when there was all that twittering over Judge Roberts' nomination. Much ado about nothing.

Laugh-Out-Loud Funny

Destined to become a classic.

Via Quiet Life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

You Don't Have to Just Take My Word For It

So here's what I have to say about Serenity:

This is the kind of movie that I have always intended Ender's Game to be (though the plots are not at all similar).

And this is as good a movie as I always hoped Ender's Game would be.

And I'll tell you this right now: If Ender's Game can't be this kind of movie, and this good a movie, then I want it never to be made.

I'd rather just watch Serenity again.
Orson Scott Card weighs in on Serenity.

Things That Only Happen in Movies

The first ten ...
  1. It is always possible to find a parking spot directly outside or opposite the building you are visiting.
  2. When paying for a taxi, don't look at your wallet as you take out a note. Just grab one out at random and hand it over. It will always be the exact fare.
  3. Television news bulletins usually contain a story that affects you personally at the precise moment it's aired.
  4. Creepy music (or satanic chanting) coming from a graveyard should always be closely investigated.
  5. Any lock can be picked with a credit card or paperclip in seconds. UNLESS it's the door to a burning building with a child inside.
  6. If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into will know all the steps.
  7. All bombs are fitted with electronic timing devices with large red digital displays so you know exactly when they are going to explode.
  8. Should you wish to pass yourself off as a German officer, it will not be necessary to learn to speak German. Simply speaking English with a German accent will do. Similarly, when they are alone, all German soldiers prefer to speak English to each other.
  9. Once applied, lipstick will never rub off. Even while scuba diving.
  10. The Eiffel Tower can be seen from any window of any building in Paris.
Via Looking Closer Journal

"This is the sweetest, most justified kidnapping I've ever seen."

Randy: How many kidnappings have you seen?
Catalina: Five or six.
If you've been missing My Name is Earl then you're missing one of the funniest shows I've ever seen. I can't do it justice by trying to summarize the plot but I hafta say that the whole thing about smoking the carrot sticks and also the poisoned cookies had us rolling on the floor.

The first three episodes will be rerun on Saturday night if you want to catch up. Give it a try.

Examining Evil

The world we live in is surrounded by and filled with a deeper reality.

Our faith illuminates this reality as one that exists in superabundance on the spiritual level; it is filled with a myriad of angels and the surging rivers of God’s grace.

It is a reality that is not dulled by the void of space and expanse of the cosmos, but rather is brimming to its very boundaries by the brilliance of the Son of God.

It is a reality where the saints dwell around us, ever waiting to assist the pilgrim Church on her journey, and where the poorest and most despised in our world often radiate glory and praise to God, as Jesus taught.

Still, there is a dark serpent that winds his way through every part of this reality, stinging it with the pain of the absence of God and marring our world with sadness.
This excellent five-part series from The Criterion ranges from the fall of the angels to the fall of man and winds up, of course, with the divine antidote ... the light of the world. Illuminating reading for October what with Halloween and All Saints Day coming.

Monday, October 3, 2005


What if Han Solo's roguish edge hadn't been dulled halfway through the original Star Wars trilogy? What if he had walked the line between smuggler and hero instead of just crossing it at some point?

What if Star Trek's "Wagon Train" to the stars had been less of a secular utopian fantasy of human progress and more like the real old West in the wake of the Civil War? What if the story were told, not from the point of view of the triumphant Federation, or Union, or Alliance, but the disgruntled eyes of the defeated Confederacy, or Independents?

What if, instead of a who's who of alien civilizations variously representing particular aspects of human nature, a sci-fi adventure merely allowed the personalities and behavior of its human characters to be as complicated and varied as that of real people in the real world, from preachers to prostitutes?
Serenity tells the story that Joss Whedon originally was going to take two years to tell in the television show Firefly, which was cancelled in 2002 (was it really that long ago?).

Set 500 years in the future, society is a mixture of "core" planets with all the luxuries and those on "the rim" where life is more like living in a old time Western. The Alliance, the totalitarian government, controls everything in the core and would like to exert the same control over all the planets.

River Tam has been rescued by her brother, Simon, from an Alliance facility where extensive brain tampering has been done on her. They take refuge on a spaceship whose crew will do anything, legal or illegal, to keep fed and in the air. As a survivor from the losing side in the recent civil war, the ship's captain, Mal Reynolds, doesn't mind going against the authorities but has to rethink his decision when the Alliance sends an assassin to track River down. What follows is a fantastic, fast moving adventure crackling with wit. As many movie critics have observed, it is the perfect popcorn movie.

Joss Whedon is a superb storyteller. Just when you start thinking that the movie is winding down to the ending, he cranks it up another notch and careens on to a more intense ride. This is accented with hilarious, throw away lines just when you least expect it (again, think Han Solo).

The other thing to know about Whedon is that he is no respecter of characters. In his TV series (Buffy, Angel, and Firefly) he has proven time and again that just because someone is a major character doesn't mean he won't kill them off at the drop of a hat if it moves the story along ... and sometimes even if it doesn't. That adds a certain amount of tension to any story he is telling and certainly was forcibly brought to mind more than once during this movie. Unpredictability is the watchword.

As in Star Wars, which in my mind is the most comparable model for comparison, there is a major conflict between good and evil. However, where Star Wars painted those themes very broadly (Darth Vader BAD, Luke Skywalker GOOD), Serenity deals with what different men choose to put their faith in and how strong that belief is. Early on, River says that the reason the outlying planets don't like the Alliance, despite the many obvious benefits of to belonging to civilization, is that " We meddle... People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads, and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."

Just how "meddlesome" is shown over and over again while, in counterpoint, Mal Reynolds repeatedly says that he doesn't believe in anything except survival of "me and mine" meaning his crew. Shepherd Book tells him that he must believe in something, that it doesn't matter what but that he must believe. We know this isn't true because it becomes clear that the Reavers believe, and fervently, but in nothing with which any sane person would agree. Watching Mal it is clear also that his actions speak louder than words, although by the end of the movie he does articulate his belief also.

Jeffrey Overstreet has a good extended review that will be of interest to anyone wanting to dig deeper into Joss Whedon's moviemaking psyche. Decent Films' review (link above) also is very good and goes below the surface.

For Firefly fans, Serenity is a must see. It tells us the big secret of why River is being pursued by Alliance agents and why they were poking around in her brain in the first place. Possibly more importantly, it gives us the closure left when the show was so abruptly canceled.

I am such a fan that I honestly couldn't tell if non-fans would like it but my husband thought it was great. He's been forced to sit through a few of the Firefly episodes but is not what you would call a fan at all ... and, as anyone who has ever watched Lost with him can attest, he is not shy about saying if something isn't measuring up.

No power in the 'verse can keep me from talking about this movie a little more indepth so ...




I expected Shepherd to die (having seen trailers of smoking devastation and The Operative saying, "I do [kill children]." But Wash? There is no mercy ... though I did really like the exchange of lines between Zoe and Mal at the end about the ship's readiness to fly because it so obviously was also about Zoe herself:
Mal: Do you think she'll hold together?
Zoe: She's pretty torn up, but she'll fly true.
Also the doubletalk was at the end when River says the storm is really bad and Mal agrees but says they'll get through it to clear sky (or something like that ... as far as I can remember) ... which is about their future.

I expected River to go settle the Reavers' hash and then be the only one there when the blast doors opened again. How about that scene where she was fighting the Reavers? It equaled the end of the Matrix to me. Pure poetry in fighting.

I also expected Mal to come to Mr. Universe with the Reavers' behind him like the mines in Galaxy Quest. That was fun to watch, huh?

Loved Mr. Universe glorying in his geekiness to the point of being so proud of his robot wife ... ultimate geek was his motto (if he ever had one), "Can't stop the signal."

It was interesting that the Reavers all had an uneasy cease fire with each other. I didn't expect to find them hanging thick together in space but that they'd be in hiding from each other. It was as if they had agreed that as long as one didn't turn on the other then they'd hang together.

I guess we're never gonna find out about who Book really was! Darn it! Unless there's a sequel and someone else reveals it.

I was honestly wondering if River wasn't going to be able to turn on that assassin-mode and everyone was going to die in the end ... while nobly sending out the message. Whew!

And I liked that Mal's' mercy in not killing The Operative (although he didn't intend it to be mercy really) was what saved them from being killed when the government broke through.

Nice touch also that when The Operative finally got mad it was because, "innocent people are dying in the air right now!" It was ok when it was him doing the killing because it was for The Cause.

Blogger Spotlight

"This blog is dedicated to the world of bloggers, many of whom exhibit more than mild symptoms of various personality disorders."

This blog has two description lines actually. The first says, "A tribute to Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Alfred Adler by an admiring psycho-therapist." It is a tribute to the mind behind this blog that I actually was interested enough to look up Alfred Adler and find out who the heck he was (turns out he's my favorite of the three but I'd never have known otherwise).

SC&A offers thought provoking opinions about news and current events, laced with the occasional post that examines faith as part of the human condition. Such topics as Islam, abortion, and journalism thus are interspersed with parenting gifted children, Krispy Kremes, and shining shoes for a funeral. All this is delivered with a piercing wit and thorough common sense. Highly recommended daily reading.

Mortification, Part III

Continued from Part I and Part II.
Another area of daily mortification lies in the conscientious carrying out of our duties, the basic material in our struggle for sanctity. Here we find God's Will for us each day. We need to fulfill our duties with hard work, high standards and much love. The mortification which is most pleasing to God is to be found in order, in punctuality, in care for the small details in whatever we do. It has to do with the faithful performance of the most insignificant aspects of our vocation -- even when it hurts. We need to struggle against the temptation to prefer comfort. We persevere in our wok not because we feel like it but because we know it has to be done. When we work in that frame of mind we will work with enthusiasm and joy (J. Escriva). The mother of a family will find a thousand reasons to give her home a warm and cheerful atmosphere. The student will offer up his efforts to study well. In this way, tiredness will become one more offering to the Lord. Let us examine our conduct to see whether we complain about our work, grumbling about something that should be leading us to God.

The third area of our mortifications consists in those sacrifices that we make voluntarily in order to please Our Lord, to make ourselves better souls of prayer, in order to overcome temptation, in order to help our friends come closer to God. We should be looking for ways to help others seek sanctity. Bring out your spirit of mortification in those nice touches of charity, eager to make the way of sanctity in the midst of the world attractive for everyone. Sometimes a smile can be the best proof of a spirit of penance (J. Escriva). Let us resolve to overcome our moods and our weariness with the help of our guardian Angel. A spirit of penance is to be found first of all in taking advantage of many little things -- deeds, renunciations, sacrifices, services rendered and so on -- which we find daily along our way and we then convert into acts of love and contrition, into mortifications. In this way we shall be able to gather a bouquet at the end of each day -- a fine display which we can offer to God (J. Escriva).
I love the idea of gathering a bouquet at the end of each day to give to God. Certainly I have plenty of opportunities along the way. It is just keeping it in mind as I go and fighting the heroic fight to offer that smile when I feel like it least. Funny how such a seemingly small thing can be so very hard isn't it? Sometimes that is the most difficult thing I have done all day though, and sometimes it has taken a great deal of prayer to be able to do it. And that is what makes it the brightest flower in my bouquet for God on those days. Now I just have to remember to do it!