Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Questions About Catholicism?

What you think you know about Catholicism may not be the reality of Catholicism.
I can't remember if I've referred y'all to Rafting the Tiber before or not.

Mark Windsor has a good, solid base of posts written about some of the questions that come up when people are looking into the Catholic Church ... whether they are contemplating swimming the Tiber (a.k.a. converting) or just taking a look inside the door to get the real scoop. He has some great information about Mary, the papacy, and more.

Even better, as his blog is fairly new, he is answering questions when they arise as in his most recent post which responds to a bevy of questions from a commenter about what the Church teaches. Mark is taking great care to be accurate, even going to the trouble of applying to the bishop for a Nihil Obstat on a particular post (don't know what that is? go read his latest post).

If you have a question I can't think of a better person in St. Blog's to ask.

Sticking With Prayer

In the end, it was prayer that saved Teresa [of Avila] from herself. This despite the fact that her next twenty years were spent in a state of interior civil war: she could not let go of God or leave the convent, yet she could not let go of her quest to win the love and admiration and praise of others either. Once she resumed her efforts to pray, she did so assiduously, going off to the oratory for an hour or more each day, regardless of how distracted she might be or how empty the experience. She confesses that at times all she could think about was the hour being over and states that it took actual courage for her to devote this time to God, for it was often impossible for her to concentrate. She credits this perseverance in prayer with any growth in virtue that occurred in her over the years. God continued to act within her in spite of her strong personality simply because she gave him time to do so by meeting him in prayer each day.
Can I tell y'all how hopeful this made me feel? I am not a very good pray-er in so many ways. It's easy to talk the talk ... but that walking part. Can't someone else do it? My biggest strides forward lately have been in simply forcing myself to make time to go off by myself and pray. I am thankful that Teresa was open enough to admit that she suffered so much from many of the same problems we all face ... for that gives me hope that God will do much of the work too if I am able to show myself willing by making the time for prayer.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday's Classic Book in a Minute

The Collected Work of Jane Austen
By Jane Austen
Ultra-Condensed by Christina Carlson and Peter da Silva

Female Lead
I secretly love Male Lead. He must never know.

Male Lead
I secretly love Female Lead. She must never know.

(They find out.)


Savage Chickens

It is Savage Chickens' second anniversary. If you're not reading this then you're missing one of the funniest cartoons around. Check it out.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall ...

Funk says, "The practice of humility is to be neither too high nor too low" in this self-estimation. If we see ourselves as more important than we really are, we are guilty of vainglory; if we see ourselves, who have been created in the image of God, as utterly worthless, we are guilty of dejection. The trick is to gaze in the mirror and name with is truly there. In a sense, we are to look at ourselves contemplatively, for as Aquinas reminds us, "Contemplation refers to the actual, simple, looking at the truth." Humility allows us to see ourselves clearly and realistically so that we are not tricked into either self-inflation or self-hatred.

Only when we are humble can we safely follow out our natural urge toward excellence. The two--humility and excellence--are in a sense joined. "Nothing lights the way to a proper understanding of humility more tellingly than this: humility and high-mindedness not only are not mutually exclusive, but actually are neighbors and akin." High-mindedness or excellence is "the striving of the mind toward great things." (Pieper, Four Cardinal Virtues) My urge to be the best I could be was not inherently wrong or sinful--quite the contrary. God made us for himself, and buried deep within this natural longing of ours for higher, better things is thelonging for God. Our striving for great things can be easily derailed by vainglory or even pride, however, if humility--our estimation of ourselves according to truth--is not there to safeguard us.
I like that definition of humility: our estimation of ourselves according to truth. I have seen similar comments before but what opened this one up a little further for me was adding "striving for excellence" into the equation. It is only natural to want to be the best we can be ... as long as we have it balanced by a healthy sense of humility and remember that we are doing all in order to glorify God and not ourselves.

What a Nerve!

If you think that you got the whole story of Frank Abagnale, Jr.'s, escapades watching the movie then think again.

I am about two-thirds of the way through reading Abagnale's book, Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake, and am amazed at what he got away with. For instance, he taught sociology classes at a college one summer. During the classes he'd illustrate the lessons with stories about criminal behavior ... his own if only anyone else had known it. Or then there is the time that he decided having a real "flight crew" (read that a bevy of beautiful stewardesses) around him would add to his believability. I was stunned at the audacity with which he brought that one off. The most incredible so far is the time he talked his way out of jail and then went and robbed a bank. I'm not telling you any of the details that would ruin the book but please believe me when I tell you that I'm running out of adjectives for Abagnale's escapades.

The movie brought off the feel of Abagnale's life of crime but when you pile story upon story it just becomes even more amazing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Blogger finally let me change to the new Blogger. (Think maybe I could have been held up by the fact that I have almost 5,000 posts here?)

I am going to be using the labels feature to help categorize things, such as quotes, excerpts, Bible studies, and more. However, that will require updating the template and I'll be in various stages of disarray for a bit.

Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"Star Wars" Wars

Not really "wars" but definitely there is an interesting conversation going on about Star Wars, origins, and redemption going on in the comments here. Everyone seems to be responding to the excerpt. I do encourage all to go read the linked article. More fodder for discussion surely is there as Mike Resnick takes apart sci-fi movies for their lack of logic and science.

Friday, January 26, 2007

In This House of Brede: Anglican or Catholic?

I started looking into this after some response to the Rumer Godden post raised the question.

My impression was that they were Catholic, no question about it. After all, they were very interested in the papal conclave that happens in the book, going so far as to bring a television in to watch the doings. Also, I see from the Loyola notes that Godden converted to Catholicism partway through living near the abbey and doing the research. That also indicated a Catholic setting.

However, it was brought up that High Anglicans also might be quite interested in the papal election.

So I went to other sources. My fellow Brede-addict, The Anchoress points out:
The Brede nuns are undoubtedly Roman Catholic, which is why they were so interested in the election of the new pope and were so keyed up over the post Vat II changes, masses facing the congregation, etc.

... also, remember the Brede nuns were chased out of England during the reformation, had to go to France and then slowly came back to England. Definitely Roman Catholic. Also, anglicans don't do rosaries.
From Loyola press comes the reminder:
Godden's model for Brede was Stanbrook Abbey, a Catholic Benedictine convent which is in the process of being sold.
Unless something very definitive comes to light, I'm going with Catholic.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

This Displeases Me ...

... yet, dutifully, I will report the findings.
Which Classic Heroine are You?

Wendy Darling

Wendy loves to tell her brothers stories about Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up, and magical Neverland. One night, Peter Pan comes and the three children fly away with him to adventures of Indians, pirates and fairies. But Wendy knows that she cannot stay in Neverland forever, and eventually she must leave Peter and grow up.

Thanks to Jo March (a.k.a. Recovering Dissident Catholic) for this one!

Poetry Thursday

A repeat offering from Rose ... just because I like it.

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.

Not Seeing God

... these experiences of darkness had opened me up to a new way of seeing -- or, more accurately, not seeing God. Benedictine prioress Mary Margaret Funk writes about the three traditional renunciations required of monks: "First, we must renounce our former way of life and move closer to our heart's desire, toward the interior life. Second, we must do the inner work (of asceticism) by renouncing our mindless thoughts ... Third, and finally, we must renounce our own images of God so that we can enter into contemplation of God as God." In other words, we must give up our natural human longing to understand what is beyond our capacity to do so. If we do not, we risk worshiping an idol.
This idea of renouncing our own ideas of God is one that stays with me. We try to understand things, to puzzle out where they fit, how they work, what they look like (even if only in our mental landscape). That is how we are made, of course, part of our essence to think like that.

But God is beyond our comprehension. After reading St. Theresa of Avila's thoughts about the soul's beauty in The Interior Castle, our book club discussion centered a lot on how we don't know our soul's intrinsic beauty and so we ignore it in ignorance. That is why we must work so hard to clear the way to see things and especially our souls clearly.

Thinking of the above quote, which is also similar to something that St. Theresa says in the book, we basically came to the same conclusion as Paula Huston. We will let God show us what of Himself that He will. Our job lies elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Charles Dickens, Master Storyteller

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (a Librivox free audio book)

I know this is news to nobody except me but I just finished listening to this tale of love and hate, evil and redemption, and noble sacrifice in the midst of the French revolution. I mean to say I was literally riveted by the last two chapters and brought to sudden, unexpected tears by the last sentences of the book.

I think I have been overexposed to Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, both through being forced to read them in school and watching seemingly endless movie adaptations. In the midst of all that overexposure I never realized Dickens' ability to slyly imply humor, twist a plot like a pretzel in delightful ways, and, in short, tell a heck of a thumping good story.

I was totally intrigued by the fact that Dickens was giving us a series of contrasts in that way ... nobility versus selfishness, love versus hate, abuse of power over those who are powerless ... and then FLIPS it completely (almost) in the second part of the book. The hated noblemen become the powerless victims, the poor peasants become a bloodthirsty, mindless mob ... Characters who seem so kindly and reasonable and then filled with blood lust and hatred ... someone who was presented as a buffoon who I blew off and then shows unexpected depths. All the contrasts of human nature, the heights and depths to which we can rise or fall ... and he shows that many of us are capable of all of it. Not all of his characters are so changeable but it is a fascinating look at human nature. AND he did it while concocting cliffhangers for the newspaper serials! I have to take my hat off to him. Wow!

What a delightful discovery. I will definitely be reading more Dickens.

What the Hell: Dante Lite, Hell, and Acquiring Virtue

Gregory was convinced, as were his desert-dwelling predecessors, that the Christian life is a life of spiritual warfare on an invisible battlefield. The stakes here are the highest: eternity in the kingdom of heaven or everlasting perdition. Those who can see clearly owe help to those who cannot; souls are at stake, and lack of spiritual vision can be deadly. For Gregory, this meant that the saint and the holy man are absolutely essential to the Christian community: "To lesser mortals blinded by the Fall, they reveal the invisible world which is always very much present." It is the role of these mediators between carnal and the spiritual realms to reveal what they see, no matter how dire the vision and unwelcome the message.
Dante is one of those guides who has been sent to reveal the invisible world. In fact, the power of Dante's Inferno is such that even a prosaic retelling such as Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle has a sobering effect.

I only wish I could say that it's scaring the sin out of me. Alas, I am all too human so my sins are none so easy to banish. However, reading this book definitely is making me consider my own life in a light I hadn't before. Specifically, I recognized something that heretofore I had not considered to be a big deal. Not having read the original book (which I plan on doing), I have to give Niven and Pournelle credit for applying larger sins to specific, modern traits. Here is a vivid example.
"Fortune tellers," Benito said before I could ask. "They tried to see the future by magic." ...

Then I recognized one of the damned.

A little elderly lady, very prim and proper. She'd been a teacher in my nephew's school. Now she walked with her head turned backward, and tears ran down her spine and between her buttocks. I screamed. The damned looked up at me.

"Mrs. Herrnstein! Why?" I shouted.

She looked away. Then she stopped and looked up. Face and back turned toward us. She's always been thin, and I'd never thought of her as particularly feminine. Certainly she wasn't feminine now. "I belong here, Mr. Carpentier," she called. "Please leave. I don't want to be watched."

"You belong here?" I could not see Mrs. Herrnstein with a crystal ball.

"Yes. Whenever I had a pupil who had difficulty learning to read, I used -- I was a bad teacher, Mr. Carpentier."

"You were a good teacher! You taught Hal more in a year than he learned in five!"

"I was a good teacher with good pupils. But I could not be bothered with the ones who weren't so bright. If they had trouble learning to read, I said they had dyslexia."

"Are you here because of bad diagnoses?" This was monstrous!

"Dyslexia is not a diagnosis, Mr. Carpentier. It is a prediction. It is a prediction that says that this child can never learn to read. And with that prediction on his record --- why, strangely enough, none of them ever do. Unless they happen on a teacher who doesn't believe in educationese witchcraft."


"It was witchcraft, Mr. Carpentier. Please go now." She walked on, crying uncontrollably, her face toward us as she walked away. I watched until she was out of sight.
Please note that the authors were pointing out that this teacher deliberately used the "dyslexic" label for any child she had trouble teaching to read, without actually bothering to find out if they had any learning disabilities.

Considering my own life in light of the circle after circle of sins after sins has left me with a much better understanding of those holy saints who constantly referred to themselves as weak and pitiful sinners. It is not a false humility they were applying but their vivid understanding of what sins do to our souls and what the punishment is likely to be if we do not repent and try to correct our faults.

During this consideration, it was quite fortunate that Steven Riddle's ruminations led me to also reflect on how to try to change destructive patterns of recurring sin.
It is these recurrent sins that give me the clues to the particular virtues I need to cultivate to combat them. ...

Self-denial then, is one step, one positive thing that we can assent to, that leads us away from the predominant fault. We can recognize the pattern, recognize the root, make use of the sacraments and pray for the strength to stay away from that fault. Moreover, we would do well in addition to praying against to pray in the presence of what we seek. Looking at Jesus is probably more efficacious in the fight against sin than putting up arms against a sea of troubles. Because no matter what we think, it is not our own opposition that ends them.

... God will give the grace, Jesus will supply the strength and the moment. However, none of this will be efficacious if we do not first seek guidance and understanding about what is tempting us and then (with the strength of the sacraments and Grace) resolutely decide not to give in just this one time. When we do this one-time by one-time, God gradually gives us victory over the sin--often allowing us to go our own way to show just how weak we are on our own. But nevertheless, it is the repeated pattern that will give us the focus and the spirit of clinging to God that will gradually lead us away from our sins.
That "one-time by one-time" really resonated with me. It makes me remember something that I read (and now don't remember where) that I believe a saint said about it being all very well to think about changing our ways but that we must make the effort to forcibly apply our will to the problem. That is our cooperation with Jesus. Sometimes it is all too easy to dismiss sins as small and nonconsequential and, when we continue in our patterns, to say, "Jesus please help me!" while we sit back and wait for ourselves to automatically change.


We must apply the effort. Then if we fail on that particular issue we have at least been fighting instead of sitting back and waiting for change to be dropped in our laps. Yes, I am so very guilty of this.

It is also a matter of keeping in mind that if we keep "glancing at God" to see if we are on the right track we will then be able to apply it to our lives in general. And it is along that path that we will find positive change and growth.
The practice of the virtue of faith in our daily lives adds up to what is commonly known as supernatural outlook. This consists in a way of seeing things, even the most ordinary, apparently quite commonplace things, in relation to God's plan for each person as regards his own salvation and the salvation of many others. It leads us to accustom ourselves to undertake our daily activities as though we were constantly glancing at God to see whether what we are doing is really his Will whether ours is the way He wants us to do things. It leads us to get used to discovering God in people, to recognize him behind what the world calls chance or coincidence, in fact, to see his mark everywhere. (F. Suarez, On being a Priest)
In Conversation With God Vol 3: Ordinary Time, Weeks 1-12
I originally intended this to be a book review and it turned into a quite different reflection. (See here for a partial review.) However, I think that you can see Dante's vision peering through the lens used by these two science fiction writers. It is still a very good read just from a sci-fi point of view. I disagree with their lack of a "hard stance" on souls having earned damnation. They shied away from this and turned it into Purgatory's front steps. However, in the sci-fi realm that is quite acceptable.

I hear that the authors are working on Inferno II which I assume will be about Purgatory. Not only do I eagerly await that book but I hope that perhaps it will make the publishers consider republishing Inferno. It is something that I can quite easily see our book club tackling ... reading "Dante lite" to interest people in the real thing.

  • The Divine Comedy, translated by Longfellow, was just published a few days ago by Librivox as a free audiobook. How's that for timing?
  • One of the other effects of this book was to make me quite annoyed with the fact that no one "on the watchtower" (this would be homilists) do enough to remind us of the reality of Hell. Yeah, maybe Hell and Purgatory are painful just because of our separation from God but maybe, just maybe, all those stories about flames and torments are true. I don't seem to remember Jesus saying, "Oh by the way y'all, this is just symbolic" when he talked about Hell time after time after time. All that is to say, here is a link to the Pertinacious Papist's reflections about Hell, using an essay by Tom Bethell as a springboard.
  • Fascinating reading, after I finished the book, was found in this essay which compares Inferno to Dante's original work. I do not necessarily agree with every conclusion the author draws about the Niven's and Pournelle's modernization of the story (again, for example, I disapprove of their softening of the finality of Hell) but these are very slight differences of opinion between us and I highly recommend it. Note: spoilers necessarily are included, especially about Inferno.
  • Into the Deep has a series about Spiritual Combat which has just begun. It ties in quite nicely with this overall theme.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The New Self-Evident Truths

Shamelessly ripped off from Into the Deep.

Also go read Mark's thoughtful View from Ground Zero.

A Little Useless Information

It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information. -- Oscar Wilde
"Knitting for Britain" became quite competitive [at school]. Who could knit the fastest or make the longest scarf or make the most noise with his needles? A good many of us took up knitting seriously and made socks, sweaters and woolen hats. We would knit in bed after lights out and, some of us, even more surreptitiously, in chapel. Finally, the headmaster had to take steps to limit the activity.
Clinton Trowbridge, "When Knitting Was a Manly Art"

Rumer Godden and In This House of Brede

Jean asked if I had written a review of In This House of Brede. Certainly I should have since it is one of my favorite books and has been since I was a teenager. It makes me smile to think of my atheist mother having that book in our library and me, a searching agnostic for most of my life, reading and rereading it ever since I was in high school. Godden is a truly gifted writer whose prose would make anyone appreciate her storytelling whether religious or not. However, her books are so infused with the search for meaning and holiness that it is difficult to imagine her not having an impact on those who read her works.

In my own particular case, not only was I enthralled with the details of life behind the walls of a cloistered convent, but Godden's many entwining plot strands and mysteries gradually revealed were a delight as well. I don't remember it having a direct impact on my except for the fact that I probably always was fascinated with Catholicism's many devotions ... the mysteries, if you will, of how they practiced their faith.

Godden had a definite talent for looking into the heart of what makes us truly human, both good and bad. She looks unflinchingly at the evil we are capable of and sometimes it hurts just as much as reading Flannery O'Connor although Godden is definitely a British writer to the core and there is nothing in her stories that one could call "grotesque." However, she also knows that one cannot examine the depths without revealing the heights as well and her stories all have light and redemption as the ultimate goal. Specifically here, I am also thinking of my other favorites: China Court: The Hours of a Country House, An Episode of Sparrows (New York Review Children's Collection), The Battle of the Villa Fiorita, and Thursday's Children.

Encountering Godden as I did, when fairly young, I read and reread the books that appealed to me and ignored the others, especially those that seemed to contain too much hurt, such as Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy which is about a prostitute who enters an order of nuns who work with the prostitutes themselves. That probably was a wise, if unknowing, protection at the time. However, now I look at all the literary treasure to be plundered and am excited at the possibilities. Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy is a book I am going to read for the Dante to Dead Man Walking list and just opening its pages and reading the first chapter brought me back to a familiar, well-loved writing style that made me feel at home again.

Most libraries have several if not many of Rumer Godden's books and I encourage you to seek them out.

I have done all this writing and haven't yet reviewed In This House of Brede. Others have already done all the heavy lifting for me so I am going to refer you to them.

Therese Z. at Exultet wrote a wonderful commentary about Godden and In This House of Brede. I am stealing most of it and posting it here.
When I was in seventh grade, I was required to read a book called "The River." In true student fashion, because I had to read it, I loathed it. (The same goes for "A Tale of Two Cities" and "David Copperfield;" I'll have to re-read my way through my high school bibliography again someday....)

The author of "The River" is Rumer Godden (1907-1998), whose books were often peopled with nuns and priests. Several were explicitly about Anglican or Catholic themes, but nearly all were flavored with a yearning towards God. I was surprised that the author of my hated assignment was also the author of some of my favorite light-reading books.

Ms. Godden was fascinated primarily by holiness: in people, in history and in places. She edges around the holiness, at least her child characters do, expressing their desire to know God by concentrating on one piece of religious life: lighting a candle (A Candle for St. Jude), building a garden within sight of a statue of Mary seen through the wall of a bombed-out church (An Episode of Sparrows), making an icon without the slightest idea of what the devotion means (one dear to me, The Kitchen Madonna). One and all the characters have no religious training or example until the story ensues, which I think was symptomatic of England then (and now, sadly), but they learn something of God from these little gifts. Haven't we all been drawn a little closer by a hymn, or a picture, or a movie? Her adult characters seem to move towards God knowing they won't necessarily like the journey, but must undertake it to live.

The first time you read her books, with their characteristic between-wars Englishness, you will be struck by her reverence for religious life. She combines that with a prim, earnest, serious style, with wit and intellect however muted, recalling Barbara Pym and Josephine Tey. All her women are well-bred, well-shod and are genteelly broke. They all are longing starkly for something, and in Ms. Godden's novels, it's love and God.

In her most explicitly religious novel, In This House of Brede, a grown woman finds a vocation to the cloistered religious life and becomes a Benedictine nun. It is a touching and probably quite accurate struggle of a woman, alone after widowhood, rising in business, comfortable in life, growing into the silence and humility and charity necessary to be in community with others seeking to know God. It took me many reads over many years to realize that, superb as her characterization is, and intense as her storyline is (a great deal is revealed about the personal lives of each of the nuns in the convent), what Ms. Godden never seemed to know anything about was the experience of prayer and of receiving the Eucharist. Maybe it's because the nuns in the story are Anglican, which fact startled me because it all sounded so Roman Catholic. This doesn't weaken the book, or any of her books, but when you put one down with a satisfied sigh, you realize only after reflection that she shows no desire to be close to Jesus in prayer and sacrament. I'd be willing to bet that Ms. Godden herself didn't attend church, or if she did, she remained aloof, proper, a little afraid of intensity, too polite to offer her life to the Lord and accept His Life and Love in return. I'm sorry for that: she had the right equipment to write deeply of a deepening faith.

Two other novels are about nuns: Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy and The Black Narcissus. The first is an intense telling of the life of nuns who work with prostitutes and the entry into the convent of one of the prostitutes. The second is about a convent built in India, to help the poor, and its failure (that's revealed in the opening pages, I'm not giving anything away). The second book was made into a medium-lousy movie, if you've seen it, read the book anyway. It's much better.

Ms. Godden, and her sister Jon, are not out of print, but are largely out of mind these days, along with their English sisters. But consider them as an addition to your library pile.
Brede's most vociferous supporter is The Anchoress. She also has some background information on Godden's sources during the writing of the book. I know from reading the forward to the Loyola Press new edition that Godden converted to Catholicism halfway through her two-year stay at those abbeys while research the book.

Also, Canticle of Chiara has a thoughtful and thorough review (in my browser one must scroll all the way to the bottom of the sidebar before the review shows up but it is there).

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Good News for Those of Us Who Have Trouble Reading Chesterton

I happen to know there is more than one of us out there.

Maria Lectrix has begun reading The Everlasting Man. Which, now that I come to think of it, is on my Dante to Dead Man Walking list (Christian classics). Just download from her site or through iTunes (where you can subscribe to all of her feed for the complete set ... six (?) ... of books she is reading to us). Woohoo!

By the way, I think that I am going to have to stop taking on the quarterly reading challenges. That "Dante" list is never going to get tackled if I keep loading on other books, especially when I consider that I am going to keep sliding in cookbooks, mysteries, science fiction and other such reading to lighten the load. Otherwise my reading will become too much of a chore and that never will do!

"You're certainly a funny girl for anybody to meet who's just been up the Amazon for a year."

The Lady Eve

After a year up the Amazon studying snakes, wealthy but naive Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) meets con-artist Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) on a ship. They fall in love but her father disapproves and his valet is suspicious ... with hilarious results.

This is one of a string of old movies I have been forcing on bestowing upon the family. It occurs to me that not having VCRs or cable was actually quite an education in old movies for anyone who liked to watch the Saturday afternoon or Sunday night movies on television as I did. I have more than a speaking acquaintance with a wide variety of classics featuring everything from gangsters to werewolves (will I ever forget Michael Landon in his letter jacket?) to reprobates and schoolgirls marooned on South Pacific islands to King Kong to ... zany Hollywood comedies.

The best thing about Netflix to me is that one can line up a list of these old classics and then not be distracted by the newer, glitzier films as one strolls along the aisles of the movie rental store. Although, as Rose rightfully points out, one also must have heard of the movie first instead of being able to browse and find something that is old and "new." Luckily we have an excellent independent rental location near us. Therefore, when our Netflix gift certificate runs out we will be returning to aisle browsing. Hopefully, this extended exposure to old comedies, westerns, and dramas will help make me remember to go down those aisles as well as the "New" section.

Back to the movie. This is one that Rose, at least, seemed highly dubious about. However, it only took about five minutes and we were all laughing aloud at the clever script and excellent acting. This is a light and frothy comedy that, as with all old movies, also gave us a glimpse into a world long gone.

It also can be occasionally shocking in a quite unintended way. After watching the movie we watched the movie trailer. By this time we were used to Henry Fonda repeating that he hadn't seen a woman since he'd been up the Amazon for a year. It was startling to hear the trailer voice-over announce that he "hadn't seen a white woman" for over a year. We actually gasped ... such a thing never had occurred to us. Then we remembered the valet accepting a flower necklace from one of the native women before leaving. 1941 was certainly a different time and that was an interesting reminder that it isn't always just about our lack of elevator attendants and cocktails before dinner.

HC rating: Nine thumbs up!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Shhh, I'm working on the sequel to Citizen of the Galaxy.

I am:
Robert A. Heinlein
Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Via Brandywine Books.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Well, well, well ... no wonder Jack is back!


We just finished watching the first four hours of 24. As always, what a great ride! I especially like watching the Deep Space Nine doctor as Al-Assad. He hasn't had much to do but I always was fond of Julian so it is nice to see him again.

We all agreed that the family being held hostage were not looking at the big picture. And made a pact then and there that should we wind up in a similar situation the hostages would be ready to give it up for the country. (Luckily I doubt we will ever be in such a situation ... but if we are, that decision has been made! One more thing to cross off my "to do" list.)

I have to say that for someone who was tortured in a Chinese prison Jack found the time to build up a nice assortment of muscle. And he cleans up well (and quick) with quite the professional haircut considering he was in an airplane hangar with a bowl, a pitcher, a mirror and some scissors. But that's Jack ... capable of rising to any occasion no matter how limited the resources.

However, he does seem appropriately mentally tortured which is playing havoc with his ability to hang in there and save the country. I especially liked the scene after he was forced to shoot Curtis where Jack was going to lie by the tree and just sob a little. Heck, the poor guy is released from prison, instantly told he is being given up as a sacrifice to a terrorist, and then sent running into the usual tortuous "24" day. Anyone would need a little crying time to get back to normal.

Until the nuke went off. No one sets off nukes in the U.S. without Jack getting his head back in the game and taking them down.

Podding Around

These podcast can all be found through iTunes.

Geek Survival Guide points out that the best way to ward off telepaths is not the much vaunted tinfoil hat. No, it is to always have a catchy tune running through your mind. To help us even further, Zach plays three catchy tunes to help us out. After all, who can listen to Code Monkey without wanting to hum along? My favorite was the song about the zombie co-workers but I fell in love with that after hearing it used in How to Succeed in Evil.

After a period of adjustment to allow one member to move to Austria, the Into the Deep podcast is again posting new episodes. Their new series is spiritual combat and it is well worth listening to as are the rest of their offerings.

Thanks to the SSFaudio Challenge we now have more classic science fiction stories available on both Podiobooks and Librivox. It has been interesting to watch various podcasters deliver on the challenge. And, of course, gratifying for those of us who like to listen to science fiction.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Inside

It is obvious that I have lived in Texas sufficient years to not appreciate cold weather as much as I thought I did! It has been around freezing or less for several days and that is enough for me.

Perhaps I feel this way because the heat in my office is not working properly. When the maintenance man came in to fix it, I wound up with a stream of cold air coming in which just made things worse. I worked in my parka and felt as one with Bob Cratchit, wishing for a pair of those clever gloves without fingers so I could type with warm hands.

Today, we will be holding this fellow's feet to the fire (if we can find any!) and getting some relief.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"No wonder I had to date an 11th grader when I was a senior."

So says Tom after reading the group emails suddenly being sent by his former classmates at the American School in London. Suddenly life histories are getting much more detailed than he would have thought, with a seemingly endless string of people proudly proclaiming their gay partnership.

The funny thing is, he knows of one old classmate who is living in a gay relationship with someone famous ... and that person simply chatted about children, job, and life in general. Guess she rightly figured that her private life was ... private!

Claw of the Conciliator

Elliot asked if there is anything in particular I prefer about his blog, which explores the intersection of religion, mainly Christianity, with the genres of science fiction and fantasy.

I'll just answer here. No, I love it all. It is rare that Elliot writes something that doesn't provide an interesting and worthwhile link or thought provoking subject. Check it out.

The Retreat

I just wanted to let y'all know that the Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat was a huge success!

Personally, I have never seen any event with so many factors (flu, babysitters backing out, rain and threatened freezing weather, etc.) combining to make it extremely difficult for everyone who had committed to help.

Every single person on the retreat team impressed the heck out of Tom and me with their dedication and determination to overcome all obstacles. There were people leaving sick babies with parents and coming in to do their part before hurrying back to care for their little one. A very sick wife gave her husband her blessings to go and do his part. Rain came down in sheets, making two people's journey take two hours when it normally would have taken 15 minutes. One person's flight home arrived at 7 a.m. instead of the night before ... he joked that there is nothing like sleeping on an airport floor all night to give you a good presentation edge. I could go on and on (and in fact I see that I already have). It was almost like a comedy to see what problem was going to turn up next.

Tom and I weren't personally called upon to jump through fire to be there ... but Hannah and Rose made huge personal sacrifices for us to be there. We left for the retreat on Friday morning and she went back to college on Saturday. Her only hint of feelings was to cuddle with "Mommy" for an hour Thursday night. Rose was the victim of a fender bender on Saturday morning in the rain (no easy thing for a driver of only one month's experience) and refrained from calling because "you were on retreat." (Thank heavens she had access to therapists Ben and Jerry for help in soothing her jangled nerves before we called her at 9 p.m.) Yes, we were very proud of both and so I pass that on.

Every time situations were handled with good humor and grace, thinking only of others. Which is to say that we saw sacrifice being made by everybody for the good of the couples on the retreat and to do God's work. What a privilege to get to see it in action.

I looked at all that and thought how many adversarial conditions we were facing throughout. So I also thought of the great Adversary and how he might be involved in these problems. Naturally that led to thoughts of what a very great blessing from God this retreat must be in people's lives for us to face this much adversity.

Tom pointed out that it showed the huge difference already showing in people's lives and marriages for the team to go to those lengths to make sure it happened. As we both know full well from the difference in our lives after attending Beyond Cana in San Antonio.

We agreed that we are both right on this one.

We got to see the fruit of that determination yesterday morning at Mass. Those couples were glowing. That glow was from personal encounters these couples had with the Holy Spirit in their lives and in their marriage this weekend.

Thank you so much for keeping this event in your prayers. You made this possible by holding us all up to God. And we can't thank you enough.

Please continue to hold this ministry in prayer as our parish continues with it.

A Hell of a Book

I finally scored a copy of Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle that didn't cost a lot. I have been trying to get my hands on a copy of this for over a year after I discovered that this is their take on Dante's Inferno.

It has been out of print for some time so usually copies list for an outrageous sum like $80 and our library doesn't have a copy. It was waiting for me when we returned from the retreat. I read the first couple of chapters before sliding into a nap and it is fascinating so far. I think it might be a good intro to the real thing which I will be reading sometime as it is on my Christian classics list, Dante to Dead Man Walking.

The story so far is great, although you must keep in mind that I am a fan of the Niven-Pournelle collaborations in general. It is from the point of view of a science fiction writer who has been sent to hell and is trying to find his way out. Thus far, he has continually been filtering everything he sees through his sci-fi sensibilities ... maybe it is an alternate universe ... possibly a different planet, etc.

Check out the Amazon comments for further insight if you are interested. I have only begun it.

Meep gives a link to a paper she wrote: Dante's vs. Niven & Pournelle's Inferno. It looks fascinating but I am going to wait until I've read Inferno. Can't wait though!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gone Retreatin'

Off to help with our parish's marriage retreat. Back on Sunday or Monday.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Apple may have the sexy iPhone, but Google has Neil Gaiman’s son.

Via my husband who watches a different part of the blogosphere, as one of the uber-geeky Internet groupies who follow Matt Cutts. No wonder because Cutts is cool enough to really understand Neil Gaiman. (Not that I liked either the Sandman series or Stardust ... but do read Neverwhere and Good Omens which are two of my favorite books. I also would throw American Gods in there).
And if you don’t know who Neil Gaiman is, then I feel sorry for you. But also happy, because you get to read Neil Gaiman for the first time:
- Start with the Sandman series of graphic novels.
- Then get dark and eerie with Neverwhere if you want to know the real secrets of London. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are two of the most delightful villains I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
- Lighten up with the hilarious Good Omens, which Gaiman wrote with Terry Pratchett.
- Round it out with Stardust, which wins my award for “Best use of the word ‘f***‘ in small print, exactly once, in a book.” You’ll have to read it to understand.
On the other hand if you are asking who Matt Cutts is ... he is currently the head of the Google's Webspam team. Yes, that calls for uber-geekdom.

I Knew It ... This Explains Everything

Bill Parcells: 'I've Always Hated Football'

DALLAS—In the last press conference Bill Parcells would give this year after leading the Cowboys through a frustrating 9-7 season and an excruciating first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the hard-nosed coach surprised reporters by revealing that he "was glad to see the season, and with any luck [his] career, come to an end," stating that "I can't remember a time in my life when I haven't hated football."
Enlarge Image Bill Parcells

"Come on—anyone who paid attention to my career must have suspected it," two-time Super Bowl-winner Parcells told stunned members of the press at the Cowboys practice facility Tuesday, reacting to their disbelief with surprise of his own. "When did I ever look like I was enjoying myself? When did you last see me smile on the sidelines or in the locker room? You must have at least wondered why I was always so angry with everyone around me."
The Onion completely cracks me up. And, yet, it all makes sense ...

Books Read in 2007

I have started this year's list. After counting how many books I have read for the last two years, I think I have established that it is a lot.

No need to keep track of that any more so I will be listing them by genres this year which I think will be more interesting and possibly helpful to anyone perusing the list.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Harlan Ellison Connection

I was just listening to StarShipSofa's Harlan Ellison show yesterday. If you haven't ever listened to these two Scottish sci-fi fans then you owe it to yourself to go listen. Each episode focuses on an author (or, more occasionally, a movie) and goes indepth into history, writing, and colorful tales. These two are just a joy to listen to as they are funny and insightful. Their running theme of Ron Hubbard side remarks alone are worth the time spent listening.

So, speaking of colorful tales, the Harlan Ellison show was loaded with them. I was literally laughing out loud in my car as I listened. That made a wonderful lead into this John C. Wright story. I would kill to get to listen to those speeches.

Batman and The Garden of Evil

Click on image to enlarge.
Pure comic genius via Claw of the Conciliator.

Friday, January 5, 2007


My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Exalted Highness Duchess Julianne the Complex of Longer Interval
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Via Her Most Noble Lady Christine the Surprised of Under Yockenthwaite.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Poetry Thursday

The Journey of the Magi

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
-- T. S. Eliot

The Blessing of the Thorns

A modern day parable via A Quiet Catholic. Originally posted for Thanksgiving, it works for any time.
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door.

Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole that from her.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come for the holiday.

Then Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. She has no idea what I’m feeling, thought Sandra with a shudder.

Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?
“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her.

“I....I need an arrangement, “ stammered Sandra.

“For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving “Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this thanksgiving? “

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

Just then the shop door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi, Barbara...let me get your order.” She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

“Want this in a box?” asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

“Yes, please,” Barbara, replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said as she gently tapped her chest. And she left with her order.

“Uh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uh....she just left with no flowers!

“Right, said the clerk, “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra.

“Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”

“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk, “and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.

“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for the good things in my life and never questioned the good things that happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask questions! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”

Just then someone else walked in the shop. “Hey, Phil!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving Special....12 thorny, long-stemmed stems!” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”

“No...I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from “thorny” times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.” Sandra said. “It’s all too...fresh."

“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.

“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.”

It read: “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”
Praise Him for your roses; thank him for your thorns!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

This Might Actually Make Me Check Out Hemingway

One of my very favorite books, Bellwether by Connie Willis, is all about fads throughout history including those in our politically correct times. Among the infuriating trends that the protagonist faces is her local library's tendency to throw out books if they haven't been checked out in the last year. Therefore, whenever she goes to the library she picks out a classic to take home, thereby "saving" it for another year on the library shelves.

I was struck by this and have thought of it often when coming across a classic, but likely little read novel, on the shelves ... wondering if it would come to that in our library. Sadly, truth is imitating fiction, at least in Fairfax, Virginia.
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" may be one of Ernest Hemingway's best-known books, but it isn't exactly flying off the shelves in northern Virginia these days. Precisely nobody has checked out a copy from the Fairfax County Public Library system in the past two years, according to a front-page story in yesterday's Washington Post.

And now the bell may toll for Hemingway. A software program developed by SirsiDynix, an Alabama-based library-technology company, informs librarians of which books are circulating and which ones aren't. If titles remain untouched for two years, they may be discarded--permanently. "We're being very ruthless," boasts library director Sam Clay.
As the WSJ points out, this brings up the ultimate question of whether a library's purpose is to be a cultural storehouse or to reflect public tastes.

I don't know enough to debate the answer to that question. What I do know is that if I ever hear of a similar policy being issued in Dallas, I will be going home every week with a classic to "save."

I received this thoughtful response from a librarian who reminded me that media spin is probably responsible for making it sound as if librarians are gleefully tossing copies of books at the drop of a hat. I thought that y'all would like to consider it as well.
Sadly it is true that when classics do not circulate they often get removed. As computer programs beginning to track every book, it will happen more often. Checking out a classic is a good plan to save it for everyone. Why not read it as well?

I disagree entirely with the attitude of the article however. It implies that Librarians are delighted to see this happen. It is not true. What is true is that the political bodies that fund libraries are interested in only one thing--constantly rising circulation figures which drives us to purchasing more DVD's than books.

I am in charge of a very large Children's Department that serves as an afterschool site for school age children, a coloring and craft center for little ones, as well as a refuge for many mothers from other countries who are trying to adjust to American culture. ( Where else are they going to go that is halfway and sane if they have limited income and no car. The Mall?). The Mayor's office however is totally unimpressed with any of these services. Funding for staff and books has been cut every year since I joined the staff. I have sadly come to the conclusion that these funding bodies are looking for any excuse to cut money to public libraries. Could it be that the young (and not so young) upwardly mobile males that make up most of our political officials simply do not read nor see any reason to do so? And therefore do not see any use for libraries.

Yes the Director is right. If he is not ruthless he will lose his job. Saving the classics may be a matter of campaigning with the Library and the local political body to establish a library policy that it will maintain a classic collection as its core. If the point is made by citizens (not librarians, no one listens to us) the politicians might listen.
She makes a good point about reading the books when we have them checked out ... which any of the interested people in the Dante to Dead Man Walking Project comments would definitely agree with. I will say that I have tried Faulkner enough times to know that I ain't a gonna do it agin ... though I will be happy to save him for someone like Rose who is working her way through classic American authors. If not for the library we would have had to buy the copy of Anna Karenina that she is working her way through now. How would I ever have known that Uncle Tom's Cabin is one of my favorite books if not for our library having it available? We certainly can't afford to buy all the classics that we want to read.

The point about afterschool care made me think of a recent announcement here in Dallas. The Nashers are a family who I applaud for giving the public such wonderful luxuries as sculpture gardens and the like. They own Northpark mall near our house where they display many pieces from their modern art collection. They are going to donate the space and buildout for a public branch of the library to be at the mall. I thought that was a wonderful way to possibly convert nonreaders or, at the very least, people who don't remember to use the library.

It very well may be that the only thing stopping ruthless cutting of library funds in Dallas is that noble organization "Friend of the Library" and wealthy supporters such as the Nashers. If you don't know what the state is of library support in your area this is a good wake up call to check it out and send a letter to your local government about areas needing support. Your librarian will thank you ... and, as a library lover, so will I.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

I Call This Part of My Life ... Reality Check

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
Philo of Alexandria
This is the story of a man who made a couple of bad decisions about money and began the downward slide toward poverty. His wife leaves him, he and his small son become homeless, and one would expect this to be a very depressing tale indeed. However, Chris Gardner, portrayed by Will Smith in a fine and understated display of excellent acting, refuses to quit trying to better himself and his situation. As a result this story is filled with hope, determination, and a wonderful message about what really matters in life.

This movie is full of contrasts. As Gardner lives and works in privileged circles trying to earn a way out of poverty, we see the difference that five dollars can make when someone is really on that ragged edge. He reflects on this often, considering Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (the misspelling is somewhat explained, however without satisfying me as to why it was included ... perhaps reading the book will tell me more).

What is ultimately satisfying about this story is Gardner's character. He doesn't whine, complain, or blame anyone else for his misfortune. He is underappreciated in many instances, yet uncomplainingly shoulders his responsibilities and soldiers onward through frustration and setbacks in the best way that he can.

I would like to give concrete examples yet hesitate to do so as I don't want to reveal too much of the movie. Perhaps most telling were our reactions. Rose came out of it saying that she was thankful she had a home to live in. I came out feeling how truly rich our family is. Our entire family came out of it feeling uplifted and thankful to have seen the movie. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 1, 2007

What is a Happy New Year for Christians?

But, what do most people mean by Happy New Year? Doubtless they mean a year free from illness, pain, trouble or worry; that instead, everyone may smile on you, that you flourish, that you make plenty of money, that the taxman doesn't get you, that you get a rise in salary, that prices fall, and that the news is good every morning. In short, that nothing unpleasant may happen to you. (G. Chevrot, Eigth Beatitudes).

It is good to wish these material good things for ourselves and others so long as they do not make us veer away from our final goal. The new year will being us our share of happiness and our share of trouble, and we don't know how much of each. A good year for a Christian is one in which both joys and sorrows have helped him to love God a little more. It is not a year that comes, supposing it were possible, full of natural happiness that leaves God to one side. A good year is one in which we have served God and our neighbour better, even if, on the human plane, it has been a complete disaster. for example, a good year could be one in which we are attacked by a serious illness that has been latent and unsuspected for many years, provided we know how to use it for our sanctification and that of those close to us.

... Let us resolve to convert our defeats into victories, each time turning to God and starting once again.

And, finally, let us ask Our Lady for the grace to live during this new year with a fighting spirit, as if it were the last that God was going to give us.
In Conversation With God Vol 1: Advent and Christmastide
I know I said I wouldn't post again until tomorrow but this hit me right between the eyes and I couldn't get it out of my head, so I thought I'd share it.

A good year for a Christian is one in which both joys and sorrows have helped him to love God a little more. Obviously this is a no-brainer but sometimes I have to see things put together just the right way to have it sink in. We can't avoid the bad or good. Each is coming our way in the coming year. Indeed. Either can bring us closer to God or take us further away from Him depending on how we approach it. That just make it more imperative that I thank God for helping me through both. And to give me that fighting spirit.

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

All the feasts of Our Lady are great events, because they are opportunities the church gives us to show with deeds that we love Mary. But if I had to choose one from among all her feasts, I would choose today's, the feast of the Divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin ...

When the Blessed Virgin said Yes, freely, to the plans revealed to her by the Creator, the divine Word assumed a human nature, with a rational soul and a body, formed in the most pure womb of Mary. The divine nature and the human were united in a single Person: Jesus Christ, true God and, thenceforth, true man: the only-begotten and Eternal Son of the Father and, from that moment on, as Man, the true son of Mary. This is why Our Lady is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who has united our human nature to himself forever, without any confusion of the two natures. The greatest praise we can give to the Blessed Virgin is to address her loud and clear by the name that expresses her highest dignity: Mother of God.
St. Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God