Thursday, November 30, 2006

Poetry Thursday

A bit more Kipling for us this week. This is one I'd never seen before but it deserves to be known better.
by Rudyard Kipling

When Earth's last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it -- lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew!

And those that were good shall be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets' hair;
They shall find real saints to draw from -- Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fantastic Classic Christian Reading Suggestions...

... are to be found in the comments of the Dante to Dead Man Walking Project post. If you have any interest in filling in the gaps in your reading, this is a good place to check out for some excellent advice.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Dante to Dead Man Walking Project

Dante to Dead Man Walking: One Reader's Journey Through the Christian Classics
by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.

Here's the list of books suggested by the author. Books with red titles are not gonna be read by this reader. In some cases I need suggestions, in other cases I have substitutes all lines up.
  1. The Book of Genesis: I did a Bible study of this that was a real eye opener. I never knew there was so much depth to Genesis. What a great book!

  2. The Book of Job: *sigh* ok but I am dreading it. The sadness, the complaining, the moaning ... I'm only going through with reading this one because it's in the Bible. Otherwise, it would be off this list so fast!

  3. The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel by Robert Alter: ok, why not?

  4. The Gospel of Luke: studied this several times.

  5. The Gospel of John: studied this several times.

  6. The Confession by St. Augustine: I have taken three runs at this and always gotten bogged down by the self-pitying chapters about being beaten by tutors and other various problems of growing up. However, I see that Librivox has this coming out soon. That might be the help I need to push me over that hump.

  7. Inferno by Dante Alighieri: can't wait!

  8. Butler's Lives of the Saints by Michael Walsh: can't wait!

  9. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis: several versions of this are available on mp3, one is at Maria Lectrix. No problemo.

  10. The Idea of a University by Ven. John Henry Newman ... at the risk of sounding like Homer Simpson, "Booooring!" C'mon with ideas if you've got some ...

  11. Walden by Henry David Thoreau: *sigh* ok, but I'm not looking forward to it

  12. The Second Inaugural Address by Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln's my hero; can't wait!

  13. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: a classic I've been meaning to read for a long time; can't wait!

  14. The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux: it didn't grab me but, again, everyone can't love every single saint

  15. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams: can't wait!

  16. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton: another one that I've tried to read several times. Chesterton is just too smart for me. However, I think that Librivox is working on this one also so listening to it may be the easier route.

  17. Dubliners by James Joyce: I don't like the whole idea of reading James Joyce but ... what the heck. Ok James, surprise me!

  18. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset: never heard of it before now so why not.

  19. Therese by Francois Mauriac: Based on Steven Riddle's comments, I will go with Tangle of Vipers by the same author instead of Therese.

  20. Death Comes for the Archbishop: this book has been recommended to me many times by people I trust; can't wait!

  21. Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly: my review is here

  22. Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography by Albert Schweitzer: can't wait!

  23. The Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos: can't wait!

  24. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene: an alcoholic priest in Mexico; gee there's so much to love about this story. No wonder I've avoided it like the plague all these years. Look's like it's time to pay the piper; I'll give it a shot

  25. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West: never heard of it before now so why not

  26. Brideshead Revisisted by Evelyn Waugh: aaargh! I'll finally be forced to read this book. All I can say is I hope it isn't another Helena (which I detested and yes I know it's a classic, etc.).

  27. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alex Paton: never heard of it before now; sounds interesting so ok

  28. The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton: Tried twice, hated it. Yes, you heard me. Hated it. However, I will substitute No Man is an Island by Merton which I think I might like better.

  29. Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: no strong feelings one way or the other so why not.

  30. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day: can't wait!

  31. The Family of Man by Edward Steichen: photographs, interesting idea. Why not?

  32. Divine Milieu by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.: can't wait!

  33. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.: a sci-fi classic that I can't remember if I've ever read ... can't wait!

  34. Morte D'Urban by J. F. Powers: never heard of it before now so why not

  35. The Other America by Michael Harrington: the poor in America ... I've only read about this issue until I'm practically blind. I don't think so. I'm open to suggestions for substitutions, preferably fiction.

  36. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis: LOVE C.S. Lewis; can't wait!

  37. The Historic Reality of Christian Culture: A Way to the Renewal of Human Life by Christopher Dawson: no strong feelings one way or the other so why not.

  38. The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor: sure, why not.

  39. Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr.: I've got nothing against King but I just don't care after reading the description. Suggestions? Preferably fiction.

  40. Everything That Rises Must Converge, "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor: dreading it, afraid of O'Connor, but also looking forward to what I might learn ... in a weird way.

  41. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley: I'm kind of interested in Malcolm X after listening to Rose talk about him when studying him in American history.

  42. Silence by Shusaku Endo: no way. If only Schroth hadn't said it was the most depressing book he'd ever read. I don't think so. I'm open to suggestions for substitutions, preferably fiction. This is how much I trust Steven Riddle. I will give it a shot based on his comments and strong recommendation.

  43. A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation by Gustavo Gutierrez: just as I am profoundly disinterested in movements like Opus Dei because I ... well, I just don't care ... I feel the same way about liberation theology. Suggestions for substitutes?

  44. The Fate of the Earth by Jonathan Schell: right, because I've never read anything about how we might blow up the earth before now. I don't think so. I'm open to suggestions for substitutions, preferably fiction.

  45. The Love of Jesus and the Love of Neighbor by Karl Rahner, S.J.: ok, why not.

  46. In Memory of Her: A Feminist Tehological Reconstruction of Chrsitian Origins by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza: the title alone gives me the creeps, much less after reading the description - I don't think so. I'm open to suggestions for substitutions, preferably fiction.

  47. Black Robe by Brian Moore: if Schroth wanted me to read this he shouldn't have mentioned the extensive mutilation and torture spread throughout the book. No thanks. Substitution ideas, preferably fiction? Again, this is how much I trust Steven Riddle. He says it ain't so bad ... so I'll give it a try.

  48. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States by Helen Prejean: oddly enough, probably because of my own internal struggle with this issue, I'm rather interested to see what this book is like.

  49. The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd: Peter Ackroyd's a great author; can't wait!

  50. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time by Robert Ellsberg: one of the first books I bought after becoming Catholic. It took me a while to notice that the saints Ellsberg includes aren't all canonized or even Christian but it's a good book anyway.
Schroth's Extras:
  1. The First Jesuits by John W. O'Malley, S.J. ... this one's been on my "to read" list for a while

  2. History of Christianity by Paul Johnson ... this one's been on my bookshelf for a year; this is just the thing I need to make me pick it up and read it.

Advent Reading

After looking at all the great ideas, our Perpetua & Felicity Book Club went with a dark horse ... a book that was talked about in glowing tones by member Laura H. So we will be reading the first four castles of Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila (translated by Allison Peers).

We won't be meeting until January after all so this will go through Advent, into Christmas and out the other side. Laura says that the beginning especially lends itself towards examination of conscience so that appealed to everyone, as well as the aspect of sinking our teeth into a Doctor of the Church.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI in Turkey

Of course, right now the big Catholic news is Pope Benedict's trip to Turkey and all the reactions for and against.

Spero News has a special spot set up with a slew of great stories and commentary on this if you want a perspective that is not one of the major network or newspaper takes on it.

Gorgeous Hand-Carved Crucifixes

Every crucifix we carry is carved by hand from linden wood. We have a large selection of sizes and styles: small modern pieces with simplified forms and shapes, as well as large chapel crucifixes with a powerful anatomical structure and a natural portrayal of the dying Christ's corporeality.

The body of each work is made with intricate detail. Every piece is unique and some of them feature a crown of thorns that is fashioned from real thorns. Start a family tradition - give your loved ones a crucifix, because it's the most powerful symbol of Christianity today!
Check out the work at It is truly stunning. They have everything from traditional to modern styles. I showed part of a detail shot above so you can get an idea of how detailed the work is but their photos are much better so go take a look.

Don't Mess With My Time

As always, keep in mind that this was written during World War II as a series of letters being written by a senior demon advising his nephew on how best to gain souls. Therefore the perspective is topsy-turvy. For example, "The Enemy" is God and "Our Father" is the devil.
Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend's talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-a-tete with the friend), that throw out him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption "My time is my own." Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Ouch! Guilty as charged and it is odd to me that I never thought about how silly this attitude is until reading about it here. This has been a very good reminder in the past couple of weeks when I've been about to get righteous about interruptions to my plans.

Christian Classics, Finding the Truth, and ... Why I Am Afraid of Flannery O'Connor

Dante to Dead Man Walking: One Reader's Journey Through the Christian Classics
by Raymond A. Schroth, S.J.
But the twenty-first century mind needs Dante's Divine Comedy, specifically its first volume, the Inferno, because Dante's moral vision often contradicts ours and makes us rethink the way we view the world. The Library of Congress lists 2,878 books on Dante, the ninth-largest number on any one person. Critics choosing the books of the millennium for the Times Literary Supplement say that the Inferno is the "greatest of cathedrals, with better gargoyles, and its towers are taller than the world." It "sheds light on every other work of literature written in the West, before and after."
Raymond Schroth makes a compelling case not only for reading Dante but for reading a wide assortment of Christian classic literature from ancient to modern times. Selecting fifty books that raise a moral or religious issue in unforgettable ways, Schroth wrote essays about each to give a sense of both the contents and the reason for inclusion.

I believe I have mentioned before that Rose is working her way through the list of books contained in The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. (Except for nonfiction books, she always hastens to add.) This has led to many things. Because of her enthusiasm about Uncle Tom's Cabin I wound up reading it, which I certainly had never planned on. Not only that, it has become one of my favorites among the Christian classics. That opened the door to giving other classics a chance that I certainly never would have before such as Mr. Blue and Catholics. However, I haven't found myself interested in pursuing the classics for their own sake. There had to be some other purpose as well. Therefore, I was primed to be open to Schroth's Christian classics reading list with supporting essays.

As is the case with most lists, this one does show Schroth's particular interested. In this case, Schroth is a priest in the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. a Jesuit. Therefore, no regular readers will be surprised to learn that his particular penchant is nonfictional social justice books which I find to be an unimaginative and boring aspect of his list. I was quite disappointed that he didn't have better candidates to offer us for the topics of nuclear war, the death penalty, and so forth.
The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, the Odyssey because all life is a journey, the Book of Job because all life is a riddle.
G.K. Chesterton
Steven Riddle has written of his surprise at encountering people who find nonfiction so worthwhile as conveyors of truth that they rarely break into fiction at all. He then writes compellingly of the truth that is communicated on many levels by fiction in a way that often is not possible in nonfiction. (Please do go read, I'll wait ...)

I agree completely. Fiction in the right hands can cut deeper than a sword , right to the bone of truth that is too easily obscured in these days of skewed facts and targeted audiences that we find in much of nonfiction. In fact, that searing truth is one of the reasons I am afraid of Flannery O'Connor. Oh, not of her letters, which I definitely plan to read someday. But her fiction is terrifying to many. In fact, when writing to a pal who is all about literature and not at all interested in Christianity, her response was the O'Connor was "too rough, too gruesome" which we see echoed in the excerpt below. And, yet, O'Connor is all too Christian. (Don't stop at the excerpt, do go read the whole thing.)
Still, something's odd about selling Flannery to Christians. Even when people know about her superior technique and Christian frames, they still usually choke after a story or two. Too rough. Too troubling. They're not hard to read, they'll admit, but still, there's all that weirdness and death.
None of her stories, though, turns out to be as gruesome as common PG-13 fare. She places most of the ugliness off screen. Her stories do not fit in horror categories at all. Her use of the grotesque and ugly doesn't delight in power or shock value. All her stories focus on grace, grace, grace. That's what they're about. Every one of them. Real people wrestling with bodily grace.
And that's what disturbs many readers. They don't want their grace black. It feels like an alien faith to them, and they resist it. O'Connor herself heard this complaint. In her essay "The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South," she argued against that pietism typical of Christian readers: "The reader wants his grace warm and binding, not dark and disruptive."
Here's the rub: her stories might be more palatable to modern Christians if she were just writing shock-jock horror stories. Frank Peretti sells, after all. That sort of writing goes down easier because we don't really believe it. It feels like someone else's world. It's alien enough that we're not truly threatened. But O'Connor's world is too close. And if her picture of dark grace is right, then our typical take on life fails.
In considering the ability of fiction versus nonfiction to tell us the truth, it would seem that I have gone far astray from a mere book review. And, yet, I believe that Raymond Schroth would be pleased with that result. Without his book and my disagreement with some of his choices, I never would have pondered that larger picture. Therefore, it already has begun to do what he intended, which is to open our minds to a larger world. For that, and for his suggestions, many of which I welcome, I am quite grateful. In fact, I am going to begin working my way through most of his list, with suitable substitutions for those I don't agree with. That list and my comments will be posted tomorrow. Substitution suggestions will be welcomed.

Needless to say, this book is highly recommended.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Getting Back to the Bond Essentials

There's no doubt about it, James Bond is back to being a spy instead of a cartoon. This is the James Bond I remember reading about in the Ian Fleming books so long ago. Unsentimental, edgy, stopping at nothing to get the job done.

And yet ... they managed to still keep the movie feeling like the "Bond movie" we expect to see. The opening credits were a brilliant take on the time honored graphics. The opening sequence leading to the credits ... I won't give it away but it was perfectly done. The chase sequence in the beginning was spot-on but nary a space station or huge satellite dish built by a super villain or such thing in sight. In fact, this movie didn't have Q, the quirky inventor of deadly devices, because he wasn't needed. The most that this James Bond needed was a revolver and his quick takes on nearby materials to use. Oh, and maybe the spare defibrillator...

Wait, I take that back. He also needed cell phones. Lots and lots of cell phones. His cell phones. Friends' cell phones. Enemies' cell phones. I never saw so much information gleaned from so many cell phones. But that's ok. How would you get so much product placement in without all those cell phones and computers and automobiles on which to prominently display logos? In fact, the product placement is so shameless that at one point a person says, "That's a nice watch. Rolodex?" "Omega," responds Bond with not so much as a deprecating smile.

However, this Bond movie is worth watching even with all that. This is Bond at the best he has been in a very long time. Welcome back, Mr. Bond.

HC rating: Nine thumbs up.

Persistence in Prayer

If God seems at times to be slow in responding, it is because He is preparing a better gift. he will not deny us. We well know that the long-awaited gift is all the more precious for the delay in its being granted ... Ask, seek, insist. Through this asking and seeking you will be better prepared to receive God's gift when it comes. God withholds what you are not yet ready for. He wants you to have a lively desire for his greatest gifts. All of which is to say, pray always and do not lose heart.
St. Augustine, Sermon 61, 6-7
In Conversation with God,
Vol. Five: Ordinary Time, Weeks 24-34
I think what is difficult to remember from all this, in addition to our innate impatience, is that oftentimes what God is preparing is our own hearts so that what we want is in tune with what He wants. Which definitely makes it worth the wait.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Know Thyself ... From the Inside Out

An Insider's Guide to the Body That Will Make You Healthier and Younger by Michael Roizen, M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
... we want you to think of your body as a home - as your home ... Your bones are the two-by-fours that support and protect the inner structure of your home; your eyes are the windows; your lungs are the ventilation ducts; your brain is the fuse box; your intestines are the plumbing system; your mouth is the food processor; your heart is the water main; your hair is the lawn (some of us have more grass than others); and your fat is all the unnecessary junk you've stored in the attic that your spouse has been nagging you to get rid of. If you can get past the fact that your forehead doesn't have a street number and that a two-story brick Colonial doesn't look all that good in a bathing suit, the similarities are remarkable - so remarkable, in fact, that we believe you can learn about how your body works by thinking about how your house does...

... we want you to take the same approach to basic body maintenance and repairs as you do in your home. You don't call the plumber if you have a little backup in your pipes. You try a plunger, lift the back off the toilet and fiddle with the floating ball, and try to remedy the problem yourself. You don't call the exterminator when you spot a fly in the kitchen. You don't call the electrician if a light bulb burns out. You rely on yourself for maintaining control over how your house ages - because you know that it's less expensive to prevent problems and treat minor ones than let everything deteriorate to the point where your house needs a major overhaul to continue functioning properly.

Ultimately, we want you to get comfortable enough with your own body so that you'll feel confident with basic body maintenance, so that you'll avoid the things that cause the most wear and tear and do the things that best maintain the long-term value of your body...
I wasn't interested in being either healthier or younger when I requested this book from the library. However, I'd heard it was a very easy to understand "how it works" book. No kidding!

I found this book both riveting in the use of simple explanations as well as inspirational in terms of why we should eat a healthier diet and incorporate exercise into daily routine. Using simple analogies, the authors cover every part of the body and explain not only how it works but what it needs for good health. As they mention Each section dispels myths (a good number of which I thought were true) has good illustrations to supplement the written info, and has a "Live Younger Action Plan." The whole "live younger" concept is to get your body's "real age" as good as it can get with moderate exercise, preventive living and a healthy diet. The idea is to make you healthy overall which is what they mean by "live younger." Let's face it, it is a rare American these days whose physical "age" is equal to or less than their birthday. Being overweight or sedentary takes an amazing toll.

They include an easy to remember cheat sheet for both daily exercise and eating guidelines. I, for one, have not been this inspired about physical health since the two day class that I took with Tom after he became diabetic. In fact, for my stretching sessions, Rose is going to begin teaching me yoga ... she is taking a year-long class in school and has the basics down now. That should not only help fulfill my body's need for stretching but also my brain's necessity to learn new things that I wouldn't normally. Oh, and I predict a lot of laughing and time with Rose. Three for the price of one ... not a bad deal at all. Highly recommended.

Here's a sample of one of the self tests that are scattered throughout the book.
Myth or Fact?
You can work out your brain with weights.

Try this self-test: Stand on one leg and close your eyes. The longer you can stand without falling, the younger your brain (fifteen seconds is very good if you are forty-five or older). That balancing act is just one sign of your brain strength. To develop better balance, you should use free weights -- that is, dumbbells and barbells -- because exercising with them works your proprioception (your ability to balance). Weight machines don't have the same effect because the weights re attached to a fixed surface, so you don't develop your balancing abilities as you lift them.
Rose and Tom had fifteen seconds each. I had thirteen seconds.

The Golden Coin of Marriage

He [St. Josemaria Escriva] spoke often of the joys of married life. Nevertheless, he insisted that "marriage isn't just satisfaction for the heart and senses. It's also suffering; it has two sides, like a coin."
On the one hand, there is the joy of knowing that one is loved, the desire and enthusiasm involved in starting a family and taking care of it, the love of husband and wife, the happiness of seeing the children grow up. On the other hand, there are also sorrows and difficulties -- the passing of time that consumes the obdy and threatens the character with the temptation to bitterness, the seemingly monotonous succession of days that are apparently always the same.

We would have a poor idea of marriage and of human affection if we were to think that love and joy come to an end when faced with such difficulties. It is precisely then that our true sentiments come to the surface. Then the tenderness of a person's gift of himself takes root and shows itself in a true and profound affection that is stronger than death.
As he knew from his own childhood, suffering is sometimes unavoidable. The failure of a business, the death of loved ones -- such events are impossible to predict and prepare for. No less wearisome is the daily grind of an underemployed man, working far below his station in life, for far less money than he needs. Still, these are the circumstances of countless ordinary families. To paraphrase the bumper sticker: suffering happens. What we do with that suffering, however, is what makes us either saints or very wretched people. It's our choice, but it's not a solitary matter. When we live in families -- or in any kind of household -- our choice affects all the people around us. We either parlay our suffering into happiness for others or multiply the misery in our own homes. On trying days, the greatest sacrifice might be to smile when we don't feel like smiling. "I've often said," noted St. Josemaria, "that the hardest mortification can be to smile. Well, then, smile!"
Wow. Truer words were never spoken.

Monday, November 20, 2006

From Taye Diggs to Jayne's Hat ... a Photo Essay

Last night Rose and I watched the pilot of Day Break which I taped earlier in the week. Against all my expectations it was pretty good. If I didn't expect it to be too good, why did I tape it? Look at Taye Diggs' photo again ...

I was being driven crazy by the fact that I couldn't place the actor playing the scummy, sleazy cop, Chad. Thank heavens for IMDB ... Adam Baldwin!

No wonder he looked familiar ... and no wonder I couldn't place him. Somehow Chad and Jayne from Firefly just don't equate. Yeah, Jayne also was scummy and sleazy but you expected it and he was upfront about it in a refreshing way.

Rose was equally astounded and then told me, "Anna has found a pattern for Jayne's hat. That's why she wants to learn how to knit."

Not this hat ...

... but this hat which was so incredibly goofy but which bad-a** Jayne wore through an entire episode because his mother made it and mailed it to him. All you have to do is say "Jayne's hat" to Firefly fans and they know exactly what you mean.

Word is that Jayne's hat also was in Serenity if you are looking at the right time. I missed it ... guess I'll have to watch it again to see (tough duty, but someone's gotta do it...)

Turns out that there is more than one pattern out there for this hat and you'll also find photos of Serenity/Firefly fans wearing Jayne's hat to various conventions. You know, for a show that only aired 9 episodes it sure developed a hard core cult following.

Here's the pattern, which I will be printing out and keeping ... though from examining the photos I am fairly sure that Jayne's hat has orange ear flaps. I'm going to have to watch the episode again to check this out (again, someone's gotta do this tough duty and for my knitting I count it worthwhile...)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Not Your Father's Bond

You know Casino Royale wants to be a different breed of Bond movie when Daniel Craig's 007 indulges his famous thirst for a martini. "Shaken or stirred?" asks the barkeep. "Do I look like I give a damn?" snarls the special agent. And there you have it. This isn't your father's Bond, and he's not shy about letting you know.
More grit and less cartoon? Yeah, I think I can handle it. Looks like our Thanksgiving weekend movie has been chosen ...

Serving Others as an Offering to God

A love for the world enables laypeople to live and work with "naturalness" in any circumstance, without a distinctive dress or manner. All that should set them apart is their rectitude and their charity. If we must be set apart in some other way, let it be in the excellence of the work we do -- in the service of others, as an offering to God. Secularity means behaving in a way that is consistent with our place in life, which is the very place where God has called us.

It would be unnatural for us to draw attention to ourselves with public displays of piety, just as it would be unnatural for my wife and me to draw attention to ourselves with excessive public displays of affection. My affective reserve -- whether in piety or in kissing -- does not mean I am ashamed of my status as a Christian or as a man married to Kimberly. Nor does it mean I am observing any kind of excessive secrecy. It is merely the reserve that's proper for the world -- or at least for the particular corner of the world where I live.

In a similar way, our homes need not be decorated like medieval churches in order to be sanctified. They should be identifiably Christian, of course, but they should also be distinctively homes and not cathedrals.

Nevertheless, secularity, like any good thing, can be overdone. In our zeal to laicize our piety, we shouldn't leave people guessing whether we're Christians...

"Live as the others around you live," St. Josemaria said, "with naturalness, but 'supernauralizing' every moment of your day."
We had a newly ordained priest assisting our pastor many years ago. In his zeal, he couldn't talk to anyone about anything, even something as simple as the weather, without telling a "real life" story that would link the conversation to Jesus. It was painful to watch him talk to children especially. They would come up to him and try to talk to him and his tone would grow patronizing and he would answer questions like, "Did you play baseball when you were little?" with something like, "Yes, I did and God likes to see us growing strong ... as long as we play it like good Christians."

He left our parish after a short time ... our pastor had even less taste for such platitudes than our family did. However, I never forgot the sterling example he provided of what not to do, and which we are reminded of so well in the excerpt above.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I've Never Been Into Pinup Calendars ...

... but I would make an exception for this one! Via American Papist.

The 2006 Weblog Awards - Nominations Open

This has to be the most comprehensive blog awards ever ... just take a look at those categories. I found several very good blogs through the nominees' and winners' links last year so I'll let y'all know when they've sorted through everything and have the voting open.

I seem to remember that last year The Anchoress was nominated and also Flos Carmeli. And if not, well, they should have been!

My Signal Graces Today

I can't remember where I read about "signal graces" and now that I have gone looking around the internet I can't find a definition. As I understand it signal graces are sent by God to help us to make the right decisions in life. And my understanding is that they often appear in threes. I often think of them as those little markers to help keep us on the right path ... and I need three just to get my attention!

I've been so busy lately making hay while the sun shines on our little graphics farm that I haven't had the brain power to read anything but fluff. Now, I do try to make it good fluff, which is why I'm in the middle of Grace Will Lead Me Home, which is the third in Katherine Valentine's series of the Mitford gone Catholic books.

[Signal the first] This morning I was struck by one of the characters who began to pray about someone's car trouble, saying that there was no detail of life that God doesn't care about. Of course, I know this, but knowing and living something can be very different. I took it to heart, thinking of how tired and stressed I felt ... knowing that I can't be perfect but not wanting to take it out on those around me ... trying to live in the here-and-now instead of worrying about not making the deadline after Thanksgiving, about possibly having to work on Thanksgiving weekend when Hannah will be home for the first time since going to college ... and all that jazz.

Thinking back now, it strikes me that on the way to drop off Rose and the carpool gang at school I asked my guardian angel to give me some tips, give me a lift ... help me through the day.

As always, after they were dropped off, I turned on today's episode from pray-as-you-go. My mind kept drifting and I had to keep turning it back so I'd actually focus on the prayer instead of the long list of things that kept popping to the fore. I'm certainly glad I made the effort because [Signal the second] the final words told me to talk to Jesus, to tell Him whatever was on my mind, whatever was making me happy or worried. I suddenly thought of what I had read earlier and thought of all that work, stress, worry. So I told Him all those little details ... and asked for grace to live in the moment more. And then I moved on with my day.

Suddenly, my day was going better. An extra person had a lull and was able to help with some of the catching up ... I am not so tired now and the stress is gone ... not a small part of which I attribute to anybody who has seen my mention in the prayer request list and offered a prayer (which I so appreciate).

So I had a few minutes at lunch and was crusing a few blogs (man cannot live by work alone you know!) and [Signal the third] saw what Owen wrote.
... I can't tell you about the nature of it but know this, if you are needing a reminder that God cares for you in the smallest of details, please, let this be that reminder.
Eureka! That was the tap on the head that pulled it all together for me ... and I could see in my mind's eye the humorous smile that God was giving me with this one.

Once again I am so thankful for a God who cares about the smallest details and will go to such lengths just to get me to come to Him with my needs. Not to mention my guardian angel who is always with me and always looking upon God ... here to help us along.

Now ... I'm back to that hay field. This big project should be over in a couple more weeks ... I have numerous commentaries about books, tv, movies, etc. but they'll have to wait ...

Poetry Thursday

We pause in the weekly presentation of Rose's poetry to present one of her very favorite poems by another author.

The Female of the Species
By Rudyard Kipling

WHEN the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws.
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husbands, each confirms the other's tale—
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations—worm and savage otherwise,—
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger—Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue—to the scandal of The Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity—must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions—not in these her honour dwells—
She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—
He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges—even so the she-bear fights,
Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons—even so the cobra bites,
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
And the victim writhes in anguish—like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of Abstract Justice—which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern—shall enthral but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Infinite Greatness Through Small Things

The smallest tasks can take on infinite value when we offer them to God, when we carry them out as works of God. Holy ambition strives for greatness even in little things, but it is content with the earthly results that God wills or permits.

Thus, we can live with holy ambition even if our professional prospects are few. In holy ambition, there is none of the anxiety, disappointment, and dissatisfaction that cling to men and women as they strive to climb the corporate or social ladder. Holy ambition hopes for great things, but contents itself with whatever God wills. St. Josemaria urged Christians: "Do not lose that holy ambition of yours to lead the whole world to God, but ... remember that you too have to be obedient and work away at that obscure job, which does not seem at all brilliant, for as long as God asks nothing else of you. He has His own times and paths."
The Bible is full of examples of this very thing, culminating in the Holy Family's example. God uses holy garbagemen, store clerks, toll road workers, etc. just as much as He ever did a carpenter and housewife from an obscure town. The question is, as I suppose it always is, can we be holy in our places through the small things as were Mary, Joseph and Jesus?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Belated Veteran's Day Tribute

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.
Father Joe said it first (and on time) but I had to repost this here because is is just so darned true. He also has some great images so do go take a look.

This shows better than I can say just why our soldiers and veterans are so worthy of our thanks and pride. I look at this and think of my brother who has said several times, with becoming modesty, that he really just wanted to help other people.

This moving photograph shows Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, superintendent of the 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, holding an injured Iraqi girl. The picture was taken in October 2006, while Sgt. Gebhardt was deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq. According to the Air Force Print News, the infant girl Sgt. Gebhardt held in his arms "received extensive gunshot injuries to her head when insurgents attacked her family killing both of her parents and many of her siblings."

Sgt. Gebhardt is now back home in Wichita, Kansas, with his wife and two children. An Air Force Link article about the sudden fame he gained as the subject of this photograph reported that:
The chief had a knack for comforting [the injured Iraqi girl] and they often would catch a cat nap together in a chair.

"I got as much enjoyment out of it as the baby did," he said. "I reflected on my own family and life and thought about how lucky I have been."

While deployed to Iraq, the chief tried to help out any way he could. He figured holding a baby that needed comforting that would free up one more set of arms that could be providing care to more critical patients.

"I pray for the best for the Iraqi children," he said. "I can't tell the difference between their kids and our kids. The Iraqi parents have the same care and compassion for their children as any American."
Source: Snopes
I haven't said it enough because none of us really can but to our veterans as well as those serving now ... thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A Sweet Story of Love for Christmas


This is a charming book about a grandmother's love for her grandchildren told from the children's point of view. The children experience the annual magic of having "Christmas turtles," (the candy) show up in the freezer. Is it made by elves? By Santa? As it turns out, the candy is made by Grandmother and as the children watch how it is made they come to realize how much she loves them. The book comes with a recipe and a wooden spoon so you can get to work on your own holiday turtle tradition after reading it.

I happen to know that if we had this book when the girls were younger we'd have been making Christmas turtles every year. As it is, a certain young lady of my acquaintance will be receiving this book for Christmas (get that apron on, Little John!).

Highly recommended.

Let's Get Real

It's the little things that count, even for God. For in our attention to little things, we imitate Him most perfectly. Our God is the master of the universe, whose mind and power are evident in the formation of the Himalayas, but also in the movement of subatomic particles. And He doesn't move mountains without moving a whole lot of electrons in the process!

Thus, there is a hidden grandeur in the most ordinary things. St. Josemaria saw this, and he had little patience for those would-be saints with romantic inclinations who saw ordinary life as merely an obstacle to true greatness. He called this attitude "mystical wishful thinking." We should not sit around whining: "If only I hadn't married; if only I had a different job or qualification; if only I were in better health; if only I were younger; if only I were older." Instead, St. Josemaria said, we should "Turn to the most material and immediate reality" -- and get to work.
The desire to wish "if only" is one that is so easy to fall prey to. If you have as active an imagination as I do it can slow you down to doing nothing. I think that some of the best advice I ever read (and followed) was to rein in my imagination and focus on the here and now instead of indulging my imagination thinking about possible bad things that could happen or wishing my life away on things that were highly unlikely to occur.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Advent Reading Suggestions?

Yes, it's a bit early to be thinking of this. However, I am trying to think of something for our Catholic women's book club to read during December. I have some ideas but am specifically looking for something:
  • Short enough to be read in a month.
  • Widely available so everyone can pick it up from a major bookstore ... or something that we can access online.
  • Suitable for Advent reading
We may wind up simply beginning a larger work that will be discussed over a few months but I thought I'd see what ideas anyone out there has.

By the way, if any local readers are interested in coming to this book club, they are welcome. Just email me for the information (julie [at] glyphnet [dot] com).

Weekend Reflection: Raising a Child

Sent by my dear friend Cyndie who knows, as do I, that truer words were never spoken.
The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140 for a middle income family. Talk about sticker shock! That doesn't even touch college tuition.

But $160,140 isn't so bad if you break it down. It translates into:
  • $8,896.66 a year,
  • $741.38 a month, or
  • $171.08 a week.
  • That's a mere $24.24 a day
  • Just over a dollar an hour.
Still, you might think the best financial advice is don't have children if you want to be "rich." Actually, it is just the opposite. What do you get for your $160,140?
  • Naming rights. First, middle, and last!
  • Glimpses of God every day.
  • Giggles under the covers every night
  • More love than your heart can hold.
  • Butterfly kisses and Velcro hugs.
  • Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds, and warm cookies.
  • A hand to hold, usually covered with jelly or chocolate.
  • A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites.
  • Someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.
For $160,140, you never have to grow up. You get to:
  • *finger-paint,
  • carve pumpkins,
  • play hide-and-seek,
  • catch lightning bugs, and
  • never stop believing in Santa Claus.
You have an excuse to:
  • keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh,
  • watching Saturday morning cartoons,
  • going to Disney movies, and
  • wishing on stars.
  • You get to frame rainbows, hearts, and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, hand prints set in clay for Mother's Day, and cards with backward letters for Father's Day.
For $160,140, there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for:
  • retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof,
  • taking the training wheels off a bike,
  • removing a splinter,
  • filling a wading pool,
  • coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.
You get a front row seat to history to witness the:
  • first step,
  • first word,
  • first bra,
  • first date, and
  • first time behind the wheel.
You get to be immortal. You get another branch added to your family tree, and if you're lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren and great grandchildren. You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications, and human sexuality that no college can match.

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits,

So, one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.

That is quite a deal for the price.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Kent Brockman here ...

... with the best one line election summary yet. Via Dom.

Poetry Thursday


Walking contradictions
Never making sense
"Because I said so"
In their defense
The statement spreads all over
Appearing like a cancer
Weren't they ever told?
"Because" isn't an answer!
Rose Davis
I read this and looked at Rose who hastened to say, "You never used that answer ..."

Dang right we never did ... for that very reason.

Screwtape on Pleasure

Our Catholic women's book club is reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I read this long ago when I was in high school and, although I recognized it as being very cleverly written, since I wasn't a Christian the full meaning was appreciated but not felt If you know what I mean.

I am now struck by Lewis' depth of perception and really think that all Christians should read this book every year or two as it is so full of good insights about how to live our every day lives as Christians.

In the following excerpt, keep in mind that this was written during World War II as a series of letters being written by a senior demon advising his nephew on how best to gain souls. Therefore the perspective is topsy-turvy. For example, "The Enemy" is God and "Our Father" is the devil.
... Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produces, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it's better style. To get the man's soul and give him nothing in return -- that is what really gladdens Our Father's heart...

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Secretary of Defense ... Gig 'Em!

Robert M. Gates, 63, a national security veteran, family friend and currently president of Texas A&M University, would be nominated to replace Rumsfeld.
My reporter in the field got first hand information on this in the form of an email from Gates.
By the time you read this, the President of the United States will have announced that he will nominate me to be the next Secretary of Defense. I am deeply honored, but also deeply saddened.

As most of you know, almost two years ago I declined an opportunity to become the first Director of National Intelligence. I did so principally because of my love for Texas A&M and because much of the program we had initiated to take A&M to a new level of excellence had only just started...

Mac and PC Ads

I keep meaning to bring this ad campaign up.

They're pretty entertaining and make the point in a low key way ... looks like Mac is finding a way to capitalize on iPod's coolness. These are some of the very few ads that we will back up the VCR to watch when we're fast forwarding past commercial breaks ... and we watch everything on tape ya know.

And, as long time Mac users, we knew they were cool the whole time ...

Meanwhile, Try These Cream Biscuits

You can get this essential and simple recipe, right here.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Nathan Fillion Watch

Hey, I'm busy, not dead. There's alway time to keep an eye out for Nathan Fillion*.

Fillion will be on Lost this week. Word is that Kate has a husband in her past ...

Also, he's an upcoming guest reader in the Seventh Son: Book Two. I have just finished Book One and can highly recommend it.

*Any Firefly and Serenity fans know Fillion as Captain Mal Reynolds.

Find a Penny, Pick It Up

I have seen this modern day parable/reminder around before, most recently at A Wing and a Prayer. Corny as it seems, it has been some time since I've seen a penny lying on the ground without "getting the message" and that usually lightens my day. So I'm passing it along to y'all.
You always hear the usual stories of pennies on the sidewalk being good luck, gifts from angels, etc. This is the first time I've ever heard this twist on the story. Gives you something to think about.

Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the waterway and cars costing more than her house. The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live.

The husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so she was enjoying herself immensely!

As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband. He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment. Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped and a few cigarette butts.

Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure! How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer! She causally mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?

"Look at it," he said. "Read what it says."

She read the words, "United States of America."

"No, not that; read further."

"One cent?"

"No, keep reading."

"In God we Trust?"



"And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States' coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him.

"Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS still in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me.

"Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!"

When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change.

I read the words, "In God We Trust," and had to laugh. Yes, God, I get the message.

It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful!

And, God is patient.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Dorsetville = Mitford - Sappiness + Catholicism

by Katherine Valentine

Most people know of the books about Father Tim set in the tiny mountain town of Mitford by Jan Karon. Featuring a lovably eccentric crew of regular characters, they explore faith as Father Tim goes about ministering to his little Episcopalian flock through the trials and joys of daily life. However, they are something of a guilty pleasure for me as the level of sappiness is enough to put a diabetic into sugar shock and there is a definite air of unreality since every other person in town seems to have a lot of money tucked away ... so handy in case of emergencies. This doesn't keep me from reading these books as I have grown quite fond of Father Tim and environs. It simply propels me to seek out possible alternatives. (The first book in the Mitford series is At Home In Mitford.)

The Anchoress pointed me toward this book by Katherine Valentine as a Catholic alternative to the Mitford books. I was delighted and partway through the second chapter when Steven Riddle sounded a warning about the soundness of the Catholicism contained therein ... which he later retracted for reasons you can read here. His warning to remain vigilant was largely unnecessary for me. Expanding on Fr. B's wise advice in RCIA ("don't get your theology from movies or television") I quickly learned that one must be discerning about reading a new author no matter how "Catholic" the comments trumpeted on the book jacket. As a new Catholic I eagerly went to the bookstore and became more and more shocked as I looked over the books by Garry Wills, Sr. Joan Chittister, et al, and discovered that there was a loudly dissenting arm of the Church that I had struggled so much to enter in full faithfulness.

At any rate, I plucked this book from the "return to library" stack where I had deposited it upon reading Steven's first warning (I simply don't have time to spend reading junk) and began reading again. I am certainly glad that I did.

Set in the small town of Dorsetville, where residents have fallen on hard times since the wool mill closed, we see Father James struggling with a very modern problem. The bishop plans to close the church right after Easter because it can't support itself any more and has a huge burden of debt. This will leave the many elderly and needy parishioners without any nearby support. Meanwhile, we are introduced to locals with a variety of problems ranging from a teenager suspended from school because of computer hijinks to a young family fighting cancer.

Valentine's writing is less sentimental than Karon's and the characters, though with the requisite eccentric folks included, include many who are simply real people struggling with the same often overwhelming problems that many of us face. I particularly enjoyed the way that one woman found God's message of hope while praying in the church. It echoed the real life stories that I have heard time and again from trusted friends. Another point I appreciated is Valentine's inclusion of real angels at one point, as well as the reactions of the person who saw them. She is not afraid to use all the methods that God speaks to people in her work and it is handled quite well.

Valentine also painted a realistic scenario with the seemingly insurmountable plight of Father James in trying to figure out how to save the church or provide realistic alternatives for his flock. His realization that he has strayed from trust in God to trying to do everything himself is one that is echoed in various ways by other characters throughout the book. When reading Valentine's afterward and her reasons for writing the book it becomes even more understandable that that specific message is true to life.

However, I did look in vain for any mention of the one thing that sets a Catholic church and, indeed, the Catholic faith apart from others. There were a few mentions of the Mass but none that I could see of the Eucharist. When Father James reinstates morning Mass it is done to return the old folks' much needed routine and give them a sense of purpose in their lives. There is no mention of that touch of grace provided by receiving the Eucharist at the Mass. Similarly, when he goes to visit a cancer patient, Father James does not take him the Eucharist. He simply goes to visit and winds up cleaning the kitchen. And so it goes throughout the book. I realize this is straining at a gnat for some. However, all true Catholicism comes from that one central point which is the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus present in the Eucharist. Any Catholics as devout as those portrayed would not ignore that fact even if it were to be portrayed in a fleeting thought. In this way, Valentine does lean more toward portraying the trappings of Catholicism (rosary, statues, etc.) in a sort of Episcopalianism as Steven Riddle mentioned.

The above mentioned problem is not at all reason to avoid the book. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed it and stayed up much too late for several nights in a row, racing to see the conclusion. Valentine handles her plotlines and characters very well indeed. Before I finished I had requested the sequel from the library. Highly recommended.

Sure, you can use a tennis ball on a string ...

... but that solution has a distinct lack of lasers. Thanks to Tom for this little bit of geek heaven.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Gargoyle Central: Look to the Skies

Anyone who has been to my house knows that I love gargoyles. Our living room table sports a gargoyle engrossed in a book, a Green Man hangs on a connecting wall and our guest bathroom has a little gargoyle keeping away the bad spirits in there.

Naturally I was delighted to find Monster Walks which highlights some good gargoyle walks in New York. Not that I'll be there any time soon but I thoroughly enjoyed the photos.

As happened after reading The Cloudspotter's Guide, this is another reminder to me that we look down too much and forget to look up. I can't tell you how often lately I have been enjoying the various cloudscapes as they have scudded across the skies on an otherwise unremarkable morning. There is not much chance of spying gargoyles in Dallas but you can be sure I'll be glancing upwards more often just in case.

I found this site via this delightful Dallas Morning News article (free registration required) which also informed me that:
A gargoyle is a drainpipe, even a plain one, its name taken from the French word gargouille, meaning throat. In common usage, people refer to any ornamental architectural carving as a gargoyle.
Interesting. Maybe "gargle" came from gargouille also?

Thursday, November 2, 2006

If There Was No Purgatory, We'd Have to Invent It

So often Heaven is spoken of in Scriptures as being a great feast. I like to think of that. All of us hallooing down the table to friends who we just have seen, everybody as happy as they could possibly be, having a wonderful time at this blowout celebration.

But before the celebration, we have to clean up (yes, behind the ears too), put on our finest clothes and properly adorn ourselves ... and that is where purgatory comes in, as our dear Papa points out to us.
I would go so far as to say that if there was no purgatory, then we would have to invent it, for who would dare say of himself that he was able to stand directly before God. And yet we don't want to be, to use an image from Scripture, "a post that turned out wrong," that has to be thrown away; we want to be able to be put right. Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.
Pope Benedict XVI

Jack, the Depressed Pumpkin

Father Roderick has put together a really wonderful Halloween movie. And, being the good movie maker that he is, Fr. R. made sure it can be viewed beyond Halloween ... even on to All Souls Day!
The movie stars Jack, a pumpkin with a severe Halloween depression. He visits a shrink, but the nightmares keep coming back, despite the tranquilizers. Jack ends up in the gutter after a night of booze, drugs and partying. Who can help him?
Via The Curt Jester.

Poetry Thursday

Again, an offering from Rose.

Because Rudyard Kipling grew up in the Far East
That is what he wrote about until he was deceased
For the smog of London never did look quite so fine
When he thought back to the jungles of Indian design.

But his poetry would speak about whatever he could see
And what he would say never left a mystery
For what he said, he said quite plainly, stating all in black and white
Which is why some critics said that he never got it right.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

This is Just Too Funny!

I have been fairly disinterested in John Kerry's latest gaffe. This made me laugh out loud though. Get it at Cafe Press.

Bridget and Rick pointed me toward this which is drop dead funny ... the blogger and his readers were puzzling over whether it was real or not and finally decided it was real. It certainly seems like something my brother and his pals would get in on humor-wise.

Some Good History Podcasts

These podcasts are like having that favorite professor talk to you, the one who was so passionate about his specialty that class was a pleasure instead of a chore.

History can smash and bash the politics of today. Much of what we think are new events have occured over and over again, though often in different ways and with different outcomes. My History Can Beat Up Your Politics is a podcast that examines the historical foundation behind today's politics and provides layers and layers of historical insight to help you better understand current events.
This speaker is an expert at raising a current area of political contention and then going back over American history to look at what the historical record shows is a real trend or possibility. He manages to do so without taking one side or the other and the analysis is so clear it makes even thorny issues such as immigration much easier to understand.

Professor Bob Packett has been teaching history for thirty-one years. His passion for history permeates his entire life, from the thousands of primary resource materials in his personal library, to his collection of historical artifacts.

Professor Bob loves to tell stories of the real people behind the often sterile descriptions found in history texts. His conversational style, filled with anecdotes, quips, and humor, will bring to life the characters of history.
Bob usually has several series going at once. Lately I have heard several biographies of important Russian rulers, key events in the French Revolution, and, events from the life of Alexander the Great, bios of notable Egyptian rulers ... as well as the stray pirate biography thrown in here or there just for the heck of it. Bob makes it all fun to listen to.

Once or twice a week Matt takes a topic that happened on that day in history (as you'd expect) and discusses the events that surrounded a key situation or person. I have learned about people that I never heard of (such as George Pullman, Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky or Colonel Petrov) and gotten the low down on events that I knew a bit about but never really thought about before (surrender at Yorktown or the first Liberty ships being launched). Matt set the gold standard in history podcasting as you will hear him mentioned time and again on other podcasts. Each episode is fairly short, around 6 minutes, but is well researched and presented without bias. He has four different intros of famous historical sound clips that he varies and I never fail to feel a thrill when I hear Ronald Reagan saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Today is a Holy Day of Obligation

College Catholic points out that Stephen Colbert sums it up like this, "Tomorrow is all Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation and if you’re Roman Catholic and you don’t go to Mass you’ll go to Hell."

Or as it is so well put in The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living:
This feast is a Holy Day of Obligation, which means you are obliged to go to Mass. Yes, skipping church today is in fact a mortal sin -- and one of the dullest in the book. Can you imagine being damned for blowing off the twenty-six-minute lturgy at your parish? You'd be the laughing stock of hell. Personally, we believe in making each of our mortal sins count; each one had better be worth the risk to our souls, the trip to Confession, the time spent purging our sins by reliving Groundhos Day over and over again. You get the idea.
Besides all that, you can't foresee what graces you might gain from going ... aside from being with the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist, which is good enough in and of itself.

Is it a pain to work that mass time into your weekday schedule? Not only yes, but hell yes (for me anyway) ... but it isn't about what is convenient in the end. It is about doing what God asks and that is little enough considering all He does for us each and every day.

Solemnity of All Saints

Korean Martyrs
We remember in a special way that sanctity is accessible to everyone in their various jobs and situations, and that to help us reach this goal we ought to put into practice the dogma of the Communion of Saints. The Church invites us to raise our hearts and minds to the immense multitude of men and women from all walks of life who followed Christ here on earth and are already enjoying his presence in Heaven. This feast has been celebrated since the eighth century.
Last year, Jean at Catholic Fire expressed gratitude to her favorite saints for their help on the way by listing them with a few of the traits she admires most. I'm going to do it again this year ... here's my list.
  1. St. Augustine - his life long search for truth, his defense of the truth once he found it

  2. St. Martha - her practicality, she was such a good friend to Jesus

  3. St. Paul - his stubborn adherence to doing the right thing and honesty in admitting when he failed

  4. St. Peter - his sheer humanity, his true love of Jesus

  5. St. Joseph - obedience in following God's will when reason had to be saying otherwise, his love and care for his family

  6. St. Teresa of Avila - her sassiness, perseverance, obedience, and sheer intelligence

  7. St. Pio - his obedience, his laughter and humor, his humility

  8. St. Catherine of Siena - her determination in the face of amazing obstacles, her letter writing to make others face the truth, and she also was pretty sassy

  9. St. John Vianney - his love of the Eucharist, determination, battling with the devil, humble - ordained in spite of severe misgivings over his intellect and sent off to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.

  10. Blessed Solanus Casey - obedient, humble, with a true love of Jesus and of serving others - also ordained in spite of severe misgivings over his intellect and was the porter (door keeper) of his order.