Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Couple of Weekend Picks

World Trade Center (Widescreen Edition)
I was going for the patriotic build-up to the 4th of July with this movie last night. Ultimately it will remind you of the courage and goodness deep within the ordinary man, shown in the stalwart love of the husbands and wives for each other, the determination of the rescuers, and in support of the two trapped Port Authority partners for each other. You don't leave this necessarily uplifted as it takes you right back to those dreadful days but it does remind us that love for our country and our countrymen is more than skin deep and a wave of emotion. Highly Recommended. ****

The Book of Jane by Anne Dayton and Mary Vanderbilt
Light and fluffy, this is a retelling of the Book of Job as chick lit. Yep. You heard me. And you're right. It goes skin deep and no further. However, that doesn't mean it isn't an entertaining book. Jane Williams has a glamorous job in NYC, a perfect boyfriend, loving parents and friends, and a much loved dog. She thanks God for her many blessings and then is put to the test of whether she will still be thankful when all these things seemingly vanish as she realized that very little is as it seemed. The parallels to the Book of Job are tenuous once the book is halfway through as Jane's trials seem to dissipate very quickly. However, she does look at the world through new eyes, trying to apply the lessons she's learned. It would be nice if the Christian aspect went a bit deeper than a declared love for God with the occasional prayer of thanks and reference to going to church with the boyfriend, but those are more than you get from most books of this genre so we won't go for perfection on this round. Altogether an enjoyable book and one that won't embarrass you if others pick it up, which can't be said for all chick lit. I actually am going to check the library for the authors' other two books, "Emily Ever After" and "Consider Lily" as these make nice contrasts for all the heavier reading I have been doing lately. Recommended for easy summer reading. ***

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ratatouille Wins Over Even a Restaurant Critic's Heart

Was that chervil Remy was about to toss into the soup?

While a theater full of young kids giggled along with the slapstick hijinks of Ratatouille's animated rodent hero at a recent screening, I sat agog at the film's painstaking re-creations of culinary minutiae.

It wasn't just parsley in Remy's paws. It was, indeed, chervil, the less common herb with smaller leaves whose delicate flavor is ideal for exactly the sort of creamy potage Remy was scurrying to concoct. And he wasn't merely readying to hurl the sprig into the pot. He had crushed it, a technique used to release the herb's aromatic oils and more quickly absorb its flavor into the soup.

Boy, that's specific. But it illustrates the kinds of pains through which Pixar went to accurately mimic Ratatouille's world of French restaurants. And as someone who has spent most of his professional life either working in restaurants or reviewing them, I was mighty impressed. ...
I have to say that I was impressed to see that the Dallas Morning News sent not only their movie critic but a restaurant critic as well to see Ratatouille.

Now I really can't wait ... except that we have opted to see it on the Fourth of July so I'll have to hold out for just a few more days.

To see what the movie critics say, check out Decent Films and Past the Popcorn.
Ratatouille is rated G. Yessiree. And no political mumbo-gumbo snuck into the recipe, either, unlike many other kids’ movies this year. Just good clean fun, and a sophisticated parable about the film business that will sail cleanly over even your teenagers’ heads.

Now, If Only I Ever Went to Starbucks, I'd Know What to Order

Caramel Frappuccino

Creative and expressive, you tend to match your Frappuccino flavor to your mood. And a flavored syrup is always a must!

Via the Mocha Frappachino at The Common Room.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Prayer Works

The Anchoress reports on the resolution to the situation that had an urgent prayer request echoing 'round the world.
Prayer works. At one point, yesterday, we got the kid who was hurting the most out of that house, knowing - of course - that we’d have to bring her back. We worried about the “bringing back” part - what would we be bringing her home to? Buster told me that he was saying to God, “c’mon now, we have people praying all over the world, here - we’ve got three monasteries praying - we’ve put St. Joseph in charge of the father and Mary in charge of the Mother - we’ve corralled prayers from everyone from St. Michael the Archangel to St. Thomas More to St. John Fisher to all the Saints and Blessed Theresa’s and Elizabeth’s and even Kateri Tekakwitha! We roped in Cardinal O’ Connor and JPII - do you really need me to pray, too? It’s not like you don’t know the need!”

At that point the phone rang, with the news that things were straightening out, that things were markedly better and points would be addressed, matters were being handled - that we could take the kid back home without fear.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Do go read it all.

I thought it was interesting that she also confessed:
I was going to shut down comments on this thread, because I know you people and that you’re too generous and you also think much too well of me, and I didn’t want to be reading comments about how “good” we were to help this family. I’m not good. I went kicking and screaming into this saying, “what the hell? Why is this on my plate?” But I’ll let the comments stay open, because you all should have your chance to praise God, from whom all blessings - and all clarity and healing - flow.
Sometimes we are called to cooperate with God's will in extreme circumstances and we are open and willing. Much more of the time though, I think that , like The Anchoress, we are kicking and screaming and howling all the way there. I agree that it would be nice if that wasn't the case. However, it is when we are unwilling and yet cooperate anyway that we are humbled and taught lessons and allowed to see grace in ways that would not happen otherwise. Isn't that called a "teachable moment?"

And I thank God for them ... He knows if he waited around for my willingness, darn little would get done.

Word Among Us Press: a Hidden Treasure

Word Among Us first came to my attention because of their daily devotional which I can highly recommend. However, despite the tempting descriptions/ads about their books always published on the devotional's back cover, I didn't think of looking into their books until I was looking for a Bible study that was based around subject, namely the Holy Spirit, rather than a book of the Bible. I was so pleased with their study that I then ventured on to try Praying with Teresa of Avila. Another winner. (By the way there are quite a few of the "Praying With..." series. If you have a favorite saint, check to see if there is one of these books about him or her.)

Now, I have been fortunate enough to have several review copies of their books sent to me. As I am going through a period of trying to slow down my reading ... and am immersed in Jesus of Nazareth, I have read a couple and the others are stacked by my bed. However, I am going to mention them all as I think they are really good resources should you be looking for something specific and I think that perhaps this press is often overlooked when seeking Catholic materials.

The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, and the Hope for Tomorrow by Mike Aquilina: Quick overview of the trials of the Church and how they were overcome. A good reminder that the Church has always had sinners who drag her down and also the saints provided by God in his faithfulness ... who keep her going and provide our hope for the future. I have read three chapters and reluctantly put it to one side while trying not to read six books at once.

The Rosary Handbook: A Guide For Newcomers, Oldtimers And Those In Between by Mitch Finley: I got this some time ago and read the entire thing. A fairly good guide, especially in some of the ideas for meditation and who to pray for during various mysteries ... and should be helpful to most. I had a few quibbles such as why Finley didn't include any history on the "Fatima prayer" other than providing it and saying to do it if you want and otherwise to skip it. I had a more serious problem with his attitude toward meditation and reflection in the "how to" section.
... Theoretically, the idea is to meditate or reflect upon this mystery while praying an Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. If you can do that, great. If not, don't worry about it. Personally, I suspect that the repetitive nature of the Rosary actually short-circuits conscious reflection reflection on anything -- let alone a mystery of faith -- and acts something like a mantra does in the meditation methods of Zen Buddhism. The Rosary gives the fingers and tongue something to do, so that your mind and heart can "go deep," as it were, in wordless prayer.
I don't know if this puts him behind me or ahead of me, but I find the meditative quality the most worthwhile part of the rosary, as did Pope John Paul II.
The Rosary, a contemplative prayer

12. The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”.(14)

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

Remembering Christ with Mary

13. Mary's contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance (zakar) as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation. The Bible is an account of saving events culminating in Christ himself. These events not only belong to “yesterday”; they are also part of the “today” of salvation. This making present comes about above all in the Liturgy: what God accomplished centuries ago did not only affect the direct witnesses of those events; it continues to affect people in every age with its gift of grace. To some extent this is also true of every other devout approach to those events: to “remember” them in a spirit of faith and love is to be open to the grace which Christ won for us by the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection.
This is still a good book but for the reason above I think I'd give it to people who are beyond the "beginner" stage in the rosary. There is plenty of good material for contemplation and historical information that many practiced rosary sayers may not know or have considered.

The Words Of The Risen Christ: A Bible Study On Jesus' Resurrection by Rich Cleveland: A single subject Bible study and looks like a good 'un ... about Jesus final words after his resurrection, how they affected the disciples, and how we can incorporate them into our own lives. I have looked through this but not used it yet.

Food From Heaven: The Eucharist In Scripture by Jeanne Kun: Part of a different Bible study series called "Keys to the Bible" designed help "unlock" Scripture on various subjects. I have looked through this with great interest but, again, haven't had a chance to do it yet. Tom and I have talked about doing this together.

The Sacrament of Charity
(Sacramentum Caritatas) by Pope Benedict XVI: we all know this one, right? A nice bound book of that document and it has been immensely helpful in following along with our parish's bulletin insert series on it (weekly from May 6 on).

Reading The Bible As God's Own Story
: A Catholic Approach To Bringing Scripture To Life by William S. Kurz, SJ: The author examines the Bible as God's way of looking at the world ... drawing heavily on the writings of two church fathers, St. Irenaeus and St. Athanasius. Another one where I read the first two chapters and definitely will be coming back for more after finishing Jesus of Nazareth.

At any rate, this is surely enough of a sample to show how solid the Word Among Us Press is in selecting authors and subjects. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Those Teachable Moments with Our Kids

by Jim Campbell
Relieving your child of too much pleasure

Faith Themes
God wants our faith, not sacrifice
Abraham's near sacrifice is a great lesson for us

Natural Teachable Moments
  • After your child brings home a noticeably good or bad report card
  • While driving your child to or from an athletic or artistic practice
  • When your child shows interest in a hobby or discipline
The biblical story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac is a frightening one. How could God ask this of him? But the ultimate lesson of the story is that God did not want a child to be sacrificed. He stopped Abraham's sacrifice to show the surrounding culture's practice of sacrificing children was wrong.

This Scripture story points to issues that we, as parents, can consider today. Although our culture does not condone the physical sacrifice of children, it does require more and more from them in order that they are seen as valuable in the world. What expectations do we have of our children? Do we insist on academic or athletic excellence beyond their capacity or interest? Do we insist that our way of doing things is the only way our children should follow? ...
One of the things that I hear parents talk about over and over is how best to guide their children toward a personal relationship with God and how to love their faith, not to mention how to live well in the complicated world we face today. Just to add to the pressure, we'd all like to do this without "preaching" or being ponderous about it. We want those moments to arise naturally. Of course, much of the time these opportunities often arise when we least expect it ... a sudden question that we aren't prepared for, an experience that slips by that we look back on with regret as a "teachable moment" or just those times when we were more awkward at expressing things on the children's level.

Most of us get by just fine but we'd probably get along better if we'd have read a book like this one by Jim Campbell. I admit that when I saw the title I rolled my eyes and thought, "Great, another self-help book." However, this is far from falling into that typical category. It is a simple set of topics, each discussed in three pages following the outline:
  • Faith themes
  • Natural Teachable Moments
  • Starting the Conversation
  • To Help You Listen
  • To Support You: Suggested Bible Reading, What the Church Says about This Topic
  • A Prayer Moment with Your Child
The topics covered are thorough and include such diverse subjects as:
  • Sharing another person's company
  • Seeing prejudice for what it is
  • Making memories
  • Living with a sense of awe and mystery
  • Setting priorities
  • Developing childhood heroes
One of the things that I like best about this is that it almost could be used as a daily guide for parental contemplation. Campbell doesn't talk down to the parents but presents his points naturally and simply in a way that invites our contemplation of the point in our own lives. During that contemplation, we also may see where our own relationships within the family can be expanded beyond boundaries we previously hadn't recognized. As you can tell, I really liked this book.

I think I have just found my new baby shower gift for new parents ... now if the expectant mothers I know can just wait until the August publication date.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two Urgent Prayer Requests

Little Charlie was born last weekend, three months early, weighing 2.5 pounds: Little Charlie is currently undergoing surgery to repair a hole in his stomach. If you have time, please say a little prayer for him to be strengthened so he can get through this.

The Anchoress and her family have been sent to help those in desperate need and she is asking for prayers.
How did we get involved? I have no idea, but there is no walking away from this. We’re storming heaven in prayer for them, trying to turn a Titanic around before it strikes a berg, and now I’m about to make phone calls to see if anything can be done to help. We’re begging God to send his angels, and Christ to stand between the parents and kids and each other as they try to survive one parent who has created a vortex of insanity and another too whipped to save the kids. If you are inclined to pray, please pray for for T and her family. And if you have a spare prayer, one for Diane, who is writhing in pain in an ER with no answers in sight.
More details are at her site.

Dream Date?

A couple of weeks ago, Hannah was going to dinner with a guy she met at a midnight movie (through mutual friends) and then bring him back to the house for a movie here ... before trekking off to another midnight movie. Was it a date? Mmmmm ... a maybe-date.

The movie?

Some guys might be dreading having to endure a chick flick but not this lucky guy ... it was that Russian vampire cult fave Nightwatch. Plenty of violence and heavy metal ...

Of course, they did meet at Shaun of the Dead, both dressed as vampires.

As for the date, no maybe about it these days ... they're an item.

Talk Backwards

Wow. Via Literary Compass.

Once again, I remember one of my favorite Steve Goodman songs.

Sdrawkcab Klat (Talk Backwards)

Hey everybody wherever you are
They've got a new way of talking and it's
Gonna go far; you take the letters in the
Words, turn 'em around; say the last one
First and check out the sound, Talk Backwards

I know what you're thinking; that it sure sound strange
You talked forward so long that it's hard to change
But it's just like metric once you get the drift
You twist your tongue and give your palate
A lift. You take your favorite phrase, read
It in the mirror, practice that about a half
A year, and then sdrawkcab gnikiat mi em ta kool
You're a regular talking bassackwards fool
Talk backwards

Talking backwards is the new sensation,
Talking backwards is sweeping the nation
You amaze your friends when you start to rap
Don't say pass the butter, say rettub eht ssap.
Rettub eht ssap? Rettub eht ssap
And if you're out with a girl and she's a
Little bit shy don't say I love you; say
Uoy evol I. uoy evol I and I always will, Now
See if that doesn't take off the chill
Talk Backwards

Just the otherday I was walking down the street
And there was this little girl I thought I'd
Like to meet. I said excuse me miss but
Sserd taht teg uoy erehw. thgin ta tuo emoc
Yeht srats eki I era hteet ruoy
And I said am I getting through to you yet
She said you're a gent in the first degree
And I love it when you talk backwards to me
Talk backwards

You never can tell, but one of the nights
Those who talk backwards will demand
Their rights. They'll rise up angry
And get a solution in the form of an amendment
To the constitution, that guarantees 'em freedom
Of reverse elocution; and then every T.V. show
That airs will have to be captioned
For the forward impaired
Talk backwards

I Looked for Happiness Everywhere ...

I was reading recently the story of the famous convert of the 19th century, Hermann Cohen,* a brilliant musician, idolized as a the young prodigy of his time in the salons of central Europe: a kind of modern version of the young Francis.

After his conversion he wrote to a friend: "I looked for happiness everywhere: in the elegant life of the salons, in the deafening noise of balls and parties, in accumulating money, in the excitement of gambling, in artistic glory, in friendship with famous people, in the pleasures of the senses. Now I have found happiness, I have an overflowing heart and I want to share it with you. ... You say, 'But I don't believe in Jesus Christ.' I say to you, 'Neither did I and that is why I was unhappy.'"
Reading Fr. Cantalamessa's homily a couple of weeks ago, this quote struck me immediately. It is exactly how I feel, have felt, since I found God. Can anyone explain it until it happens to them? Not really and it sometimes seems unrealistic, unworldly to those around us.

Sometimes people accuse me of not understanding the unhappiness, the sorrow, the rage that is going on in the world. Most recently, I was told to come out of my "trance." It is not a trance. I live in the world right along with everyone else. The news, the blogs, my friends, the daily prayer list ... it is impossible to ignore the evils and sorrows that daily life can bring.

Of course, I do not exude joy all the time ... only the saints are close enough to God to be able to do that and I am so far away from being a saint. But today ... today I feel that wonder and gratitude and joy once again for all I have been given ... for my happiness, a happiness that sustains me through the bad and good, the happiness that is Christ in my life.

I am not participating in our parish's CRHP retreats right now, but if I were giving a witness right now (and I suppose I am doing so right here) this is the song that I would play after speaking. My life has been changed. I have found that happiness.
So Far Away
by Staind

This is my life
Its not what it was before
All these feelings I’ve shared
And these are my dreams
That I’d never lived before
Somebody shake me
Cause I, I must be sleeping

Now that we're here,
It's so far away
All the struggle we thought was in vain
All the mistakes,
One life contained
They all finally start to go away
Now that we're here its so far away
And I feel like I can face the day
I can forgive and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today

These are my words
That I’ve never said before
I think I’m doing ok
And this is the smile
That I’ve never shown before

Somebody shake me
Cause I, I must be sleeping


I'm so afraid of waking
Please don't shake me
Afraid of waking
Please don't shake me
Photo by Hey Jules who also knows that joy.

*Read more about Hermann Cohen here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Oy Veh, Who'd a Thunk It?

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
  • death (6x)
  • dead (3x)
  • kill (2x)
  • murder (1x)

I had no idea I was that violent! Seen in and around various blogs.

Stream of iPod-ishness ... Boggling My Mind

"We forget how much Elvis wanted to be Dean ..."
Bob Dylan, Weather" show of the Theme Time Radio Hour
Dean Martin, that is. Most of us never knew that but I must say, "what good taste Elvis had!" Dylan then went on to play Dino singing "I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine" which Elvis also recorded.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Behind Blue Eyes ...

Tom loves music and passionate discussions happen around our house on the subject (with examples played for emphasis and instruction).

For at least a year he's been talking about having a music blog ... and now it is reality.

Behind Blue Eyes is up and running with:
  • An article about The Who
  • How Ella Fitzgerald's Cole Porter Songbook opened Tom's eyes to great, old music (with a sidebar about Frank Sinatra's class when it came out)
  • A discussion of digital music sales versus hard copy (CD) sales and deep catalog ... this one has a nifty chart which Disputations ought to groove on. This is the subject that got him going enough to make the blog reality.
Stop by and say hello!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Giving and Receiving

I have come across three things that have stuck with me on this subject and am sharing them in the order related ... excerpts only, do go read all at the source.
Many women have told me that my husband’s advice, which I once quoted in a book, has been an eye-opener to them. He said that a wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy. It’s a down-to-earth illustration of a principle: Accept, positively and actively, what is given. Let thanksgiving be the habit of your life.
Elisabeth Elliott, via Quiet Life
If we are so contemptibly selfish that we can't radiate a little happiness and pass on a bit of honest appreciation without trying to screw something out of the other person in return—if our souls are no bigger than sour crab apples, we shall meet with the failure we so richly deserve.

Oh yes, I did want something out of that chap. I wanted something priceless. And I got it. I got the feeling that I had done something for him without his being able to do anything whatever in return for me. That is a feeling that glows and sings in your memory long after the incident has passed.
Dale Carnegie, via Eternity Road where he has much more to say about Christianity and salesmanship
How do you choose to receive what is around you? Do you make yourself a little vulnerable by taking a thing for what it appears to be, or do you immediately start to deconstruct a gift, or a compliment, or a speech, wondering about meanings, motives and manipulations?

We live in a mean, cynical age, and it is so easy to fall into the habit of suspicion and sneers. We don’t even realize, sometimes, that we are stuck there.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Good Vibrations

A few podcasts you might enjoy ...
  • History According to Bob: after a series about the papal Babylonian captivity (all that time in Avignon instead of Rome), Bob now has an episode about the Real Babylonian Captivity. That's right ... the Hebrews. Here's the iTunes link for his podcast. He doesn't leave these up for long and then they get put onto CDs which must be purchased so if you think you might want to listen, don't wait around too long.
  • Premiere Opera Podcast: For everyone who loved Paul Potts, here is a spot with selections from classic operatic performances and stars.
  • NPR's Jazz Profiles: Hosted by Nancy Wilson, this new series only has two episodes so far but both have been very good. The first featurd my favorite Ella Fitzgerald and the second profiled Art Tatum, who I had never heard of but really loved when I heard the songs.
  • Pandora Podcast: Yep, this is by the Pandora who brought us our own personal radio stations with the Music Genome Project (and if you don't know what I mean, just go to their site). This is the nuts and bolts of the elements they used to match various songs and artists as part of the "genome." This is especially fascinating to me as I know so very little about music technique. Episode 1 won't download via iTunes because it is a zip file for some reason so you have to go to the site and download it there. However, you don't have to begin at the beginning. Try episodes 2 and 2 which are about drumming and electric guitars. You'll see what I mean. This is good stuff.

Do You Know a Priest Who is a Great Confessor?

I mean that in the current sense, of course, not in the old sense (as Tom would remind me) of Edward the Confessor, who these days would have been known as Edward the Testifier.

Upper Canada Catholic wants to "publish a list of the best confessors in our own dioceses. Please submit in the comments section the name, parish and (arch)diocese of any priest you feel possesses extraordinary pastoral capacity in the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance/Confession)."

Good idea! He has a list of criteria to consider so go and check it out. I have a couple that I'll be putting in there myself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

More Reaction to Bishop Trautman's Translation Complaints

George Wiegel weighs in with the aptly named article, We are not morons.
Are there clunkers in the new translations? Undoubtedly. But will ICEL’s attempt to restore the sacral vocabulary and linguistic rhythms of the Roman Rite to Catholic worship within the Anglosphere destroy our ability to pray as a community? Please; we’re not morons. I’d even venture the guess that prayers translated with far more fidelity to the Latin originals will be a step toward a deeper, more prayerful encounter with what Bishop Trautman rightly calls “the greatest gift of God, the Eucharist.”
Go read it all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Linked to by Open Book and Dawn Eden on the same day. What an honor ... welcome to their readers!

Open Book's dishing on Bishop Trautman's "John and Mary Catholic" article and Dawn's talking about "offering it up." If you haven't been by their places, do stop by and see what they're saying. Both are always a good read no matter what the subject.

And, if you're new here, do take a look around. Today we've got a few good words from the Pope in Assisi and some movie reviews (and one book review), as well as other varied items.

He's Got a Way with Words ...

This hit me just right today. The Pope was in Assisi (or he still may be, I'm never up to date on his travel plans ...) and gave a great talk.
The Pope added: "Assisi tells us that faithfulness to one's own religious conviction, faithfulness above all to Christ crucified and risen, is not expressed in violence and intolerance, but in sincere respect for the other, in dialogue, in a message that calls out for freedom and reason, in working for peace and for reconciliation.

"It would not be evangelical, nor Franciscan, to be unable to unite acceptance, dialogue and respect for all with the certainty of faith which each Christian, like the saint of Assisi, is called to cultivate, proclaiming Christ as the way, truth and life of mankind, the one and only savior of the world."

Infallibility Is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac. ...

Have y'all discovered The Word: A Colbert Blog for Catholic It-Getters?

All Colbert, all the time. It don't get much better than that.

Do go listen to this snippet about St. Francis of Assisi and then the Pope. Via the also essential Deacon Greg.

A Few Reviews: One Book and a Lot of Movies

EIFELHEIM by Michael Flynn
No wonder so many in St. Blog's were talking up this wonderful science fiction book a while ago (The Curt Jester and Elliot both have much more thorough reviews). Briefly: imagine that in the 14th century a little village in the depths of the Black Forest has an alien space ship crash nearby. The aliens look like giant grasshoppers. Naturally, many of the local peasants think they are demons. Others, however, especially the village priest who was educated in Paris, take into consideration what makes a creature "a man." In other words, what constitutes a soul and therefore makes it incumbent upon us to treat aliens as we would wish to be treated? Flynn does an excellent job of recreating the 14th century mindset so this is not simply a story told with modern sensibilities in a long ago setting. As well, there is a brief modern-day story investigating the village of Eifelheim that seemed fairly superfluous until the very end of the book. Likewise, a seemingly extraneous character, Judy, is the one that gives the long-dead villagers and aliens their final humanity. I immediately requested another of Michael Flynn's books from the library. This did take me a while to finish as it might be called "cerebral science fiction" but it is well worth it, especially to those who enjoy seeing Christianity treated with respect in such a setting.

" In Iran, All Women Are Banned From Men's Sporting Events"
This little movie is a real charmer. A number of Iranian girls attempt to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium dressed as boys in order to watch a qualifying match that will get Iran into the World Cup competition. Several are arrested and the movie largely consists of watching their attempts to escape or talk the guards into letting them go. Ironically, the ostensible reason for keeping women out of the stadium is to protect their delicate sensibilities when the men become overcome by excitement and begin swearing at missed goals and the like. A stadium entryway is tantalizingly close so that several guards are able to watch part of the game and naturally ... swear when goals are missed. No one blinks an eye. Likewise, when one woman engages the head guard in a logical discussion about why the law is nonsensical, he knows she is right but is unable to do anything but hs duty. What was most interesting to me was this look into Iran as this was filmed on location during the actual sporting event. The men are all dressed Western style in shirts and slacks while any women we see are sporting terrible attempts to pass for boys. Interestingly also, while the guards must enforce the law, all the other men we see (with the exception of one father) are largely sympathetic to the girls' attempts to see the match in person. They routinely attempt to help them slip into the stadium or refuse to turn them in. As I said before, this is a small movie but ultimately it is one that is a lot of fun, especially during the scene when one hapless guard has to find a way to get one of the girls into the all-male bathroom.

The team that created Shaun of the Dead have done it again. While parodying movies featuring cops, buddies, and action, they have created a superb example of that very genre. Nicholas Angel is driven to excel and jealous colleagues conspire to have him transferred to a sleepy country hamlet of Sandford where crime extends to missing swans and underage drinking, which is winked at by the locals. He brings his big city attitude in and is confounded at then number of "accidents" that are routinely killing off prominent citizens while never being investigated. His slow and clueless partner longs for the excitement that he watches in action movies. The intrigue deepens and action takes off from there. Brilliantly done and highly recommended, although there are a few gruesome shots (Hannah warned me not to watch the results of the accident in the churchyard and the fate of a villain during a fight at a model of the town was comical but disturbing to me as well). Watch for Timothy Dalton in a fantastic role as the sinister-seeming, smiling main suspect. Be sure to listen to the music playing whenever he is around; it is keyed into movie events beautifully.

  • Scoop:
    Woody Allen wrote tis for Scarlett Johansen who plays a college journalism student who gets tips from a famous dead journalist's ghost about the identity of a serial murderer. The only question is will she fall for him instead? The main suspect is played charmingly by Hugh Jackman. Light, frothy entertainment.

  • My Man Godfrey
    William Powell and Carole Lombarde star in the story of a rich girl who plucks a poor hobo from a shanty town and makes him the family butler. Second only to It Happened One Night in our recent favorites from the time.

  • Harold and Maude
    A strange little movie from the 1970's about a teenage boy with a domineering mother and a fascination with death. He comes across 79-year-old Maude who has a zest for life that revolutionizes his own views. Truly a piece from its time, with an anti-authoritarianism plot that may have been fresh at the time but seems cliched now as Hollywood has done it to death. We also found one aspect to have a large "euwwww" factor but it may not impress everyone that way. Interesting as a curiousity and as a cult movie.

  • It Happened One Night
    Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert star in Frank Capra's comic masterpiece about a headstrong, runaway heiress and the newspaperman who wants to save his career by writing a story about her latest escapade. This is the gold standard that our household measures all other old movies against, and a few new ones as well. If you rent only one old movie this year, make it this one!

  • Sullivan's Travels
    Preston Sturgis' comedy is all about the need for humor in hard times. A pampered movie director feels that the depression going on calls for serious, hard-hitting movies that explain the current social and economic problems to the public. His producers know that hard times call for light-hearted movies to take your mind off your troubles. To prove them wrong and experience those hard times, the director disguises himself as a hobo and takes to the road. After several botched attempts, during one of which he meets Veronica Lake as the romantic interest, he accomplishes his goal accidentally and better than he ever would have thought. At this point the movie takes a darker turn but this is when it is most effective. Especially touching is the scene in the church where the poor black congregation and convicts from a local work farm are laughing at Pluto and Mickey Mouse. Highly recommended although Preston Sturgis is no Frank Capra, however much he wants to be (which is cleverly mentioned early in the movie). Also it was fun to see where "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" came from, which was used by the Coen Brothers in the movie of the same name.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Missing Lost? Synchronised events around Plane Crash

Someone has cleverly put together the video leading up to the Oceanic crash. Very interesting ... it isn't a perfect edit, for example the scenes of Charlie running to the bathroom on the airplane are missing, but still ...

Jelly-Pinched Wolf Returns!

Maybe it's just me but my happiness over the Jelly-Pinched Wolf's new job (a while back) was offset by his lack of blog posts. (Yes, it's all about me!)

He's back, at least for a while, with a review of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which I have yet to watch (got to work myself up to watching scary movies) and a review of an interesting new book.
Get the word out now to all you know--there's a new book out that you must have. If, that is, you enjoy pirates, magic, naval battles, treachery, honour, love--all that sort of thing. 'Tis called, The Voyage to Ruin, and is written by H.L. Trombley.

The book is a series of stories which all serve one main plot--the attempts of Captain Acheron Zeal of Her Majesty's Royal Navy of Camembert (in the world of the Quadra Terrarum) to hunt down the notorious pirate, Captain Franceline Drake, who has waged her own little war against Zeal. But of course, it could never be as simple as this. For another man's fate (and possible that of the whole world) hangs in the balance.

The book is filled with wonderful characters, excitement galore, and exceeding fine prose. This is a new kind of fantasy here, I think; one which at once holds true with the essence of traditional fantasy, while also breaking new ground and maintaining a joyous wit throughout. ...
I'm going to have to look into this ... and you should too. Go read the rest of his review as well as the other offerings there.

The Beatitudes Shown in a Whole New Light

Why did I never think of the Beatitudes this way? It all is so clear once we read it ... obviously that's the advantage of having so many years of study and reflection as Josef Ratzinger does. This is just a tidbit and you really should read what goes before ... and then follow as he takes each of the beatitudes under reflection.
This reflection upon Paul and John has shown us two things. First, the Beatitudes express the meaning of discipleship. They become more concrete an real the more completely the disciple dedicates himself to service in the way that is illustrated for us in the life of Saint Paul. What the Beatitudes mean cannot be expressed in purely theoretical terms; it is proclaimed in the life and suffering, and in the mysterious joy, of the disciple who gives himself over completely to the Lord. This leads to the second point: the Christological character of the Beatitudes. The disciple is bound to the mystery of Christ. His life is immersed in communion with Christ: "It is not longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). The Beatitudes are the transposition of Cross and Resurrection into discipleship. But they apply to the disciple because they were first paradigmatically lived by Christ himself.

This becomes even more evident if we turn now to consider Matthew's version of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3-12). Anyone who reads Matthews' text attentively will realize that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of his figure. He who has no place to lay his head (cf. Mt 8:20) is truly poor; he who can say, "Come to me ... for I am meek and lowly in heart" (cf. Mt 11:28-29) is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God's sake. The Beatitudes display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him. But precisely because of their hidden Christological character, the Beatitudes are also a road map for the Church, which recognizes in them the model of what she herself should be. They are directions for discipleship, directions that concern every individual, even though -- according to the variety of callings -- they do so differently for each person.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Best First Lines of Novels

Fort Stewart has been selecting his favorite first lines from a list of 100 that has been published. Likewise has Claw of the Conciliator.

However, I noticed that the list doesn't include one of my very favorite first lines which is from The Haunting of Hill House I include the entire first paragraph because I believe it is also one of the best ever. (And, yes, I will be including Ms. Jackson's work, both the disturbing and the humorous, in my podcast in the future.)
No live organism can continue for long to exist under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence laid steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

Friday, June 15, 2007

To Abridge or Not to Abridge ...

Just in case you care about the question of abridging the classics ... check out the latest at Forgotten Classics.

Mary Catholic Ponders New Translations, a Bishop's Tantrum, and Efficiency

Recently someone very kindly said that this was a nice place to relax in a Catholic atmosphere. Unfortunately, I'm now going to speak up about a controversial subject. You've been warned. So just move along if you don't want to get riled up ... or just plain don't care, which is fine too...

Translations are tricky things, aren't they?

It is no secret that I have been in favor of the new liturgical translations, purely from the standpoint that the post-Vatican II thinking probably did to the language the same thing that was done to the architecture. Which is to say, they were made so basic and "dumbed down" that we were left without beauty.

I freely admit that this is a large supposition. It was in part based on looking at my New American Bible's language versus some of the older translations. It also was "dumbed down" and left without beauty. Furthermore, as I have been going for over a year to weekly scripture study and the question of accurate translation has arisen, the New American Bible frequently "loses" when compared with other translations and the original text.

However, as I really have no say whatsoever in the matter, I cheered the bishops' approval of a new translation and then largely forgot it.

That is, I forgot until several items popped up recently which I will address in order of occurrence.

The Bishop
Bishop Donald Trautman had an article published in America magazine castigating the accessibility of the new Mass translations.

Please go read it yourself. I was stunned at the sheer lack of professionalism in what looked largely like a condescendingly and poorly written tantrum. I say this because:
  1. Firstly, he is worried about "John and Mary Catholic" and "American English." Isn't this English translation being used everywhere in the English speaking world? What about "Bruce and Sheila Catholic?" (G'day mate!) Or "Tyler and Brittney Catholic?" (See, some of those Catholics are pretty young ... they speak a different kind of English.) Or "Keesha and Darnell Catholic?" (Yep. There are African American Catholics also). Anyway, you see my point.

    How uncharitable of Bp. Trautman to assume that we are stupid, in other words, assume the worst of us, and then insult us by shouting it to the world.

  2. Ironically, the very person complaining about using words that no one understands phrases it in language like this:
    If the language of the liturgy is inaccessible, how can liturgy catechize and convey the reality of the living, risen Son of God in the Eucharist? If the language of the liturgy is a stumbling block to intelligibility and proclaimability, then the lex orandi, lex credendi is severely compromised. If the language of the liturgy does not communicate, how can people fall in love with the greatest gift of God, the Eucharist?
    Inaccessible? Catechize? Didn't he mean "hard" and "teach?" I'm not sure that "proclaimability" even is a word, but a suspicious number of those look mighty hard to understand. I mean to say, there's Latin in there! Could it be that the words he used actually communicated best what he wanted to say ... and that he didn't worry about making it simply understood by the meanest intelligence? That he trusted people to be able to comprehend the article properly? Hmmm ...

  3. Simultaneously, Bp. Trautman supports his statement thusly:
    ... and odd expressions like “What you have charged us to believe will taste sweet to the heart” (Collect for April 21). Does the heart “taste?”
    This makes me feel for the poor bishop who has never listened to modern poetry as it is most commonly contained ... in song lyrics.

    If he missed Rodgers and Hart's "... the conversation - with the flying plates ..." ("What?" I hear him saying, "Do plates fly or converse?"), then perhaps he is thinking of more modern songs.

    Nope. Because here's Kill Hannah's "I want a girl with lips like morphine, Knock me out every time they touch me." And yet, teenagers understand the real meaning. (No actual drug use is being endorsed here, Bishop. Just in case you were worried.)

  4. What annoyed me the most was his exhortation to go speak up. Now there's a fine example from a bishop. I wouldn't like that behavior from a CEO much less someone who is supposed to be able to work on a team and be obedient instead of throwing a tantrum for sympathy from the masses who can't change anything.

    I saw a post by a thoughtful blogger who I respect but who leans in a different direction than I do on many issues. Fair enough. We're together on the things that matter most. However, Bishop Trautman's aforementioned exhortation to "speak up" resulted in this attitude:
    Of all the issues facing the church today – and there are plenty of big, serious ones – why in the world is... who's in charge of this thing? - why are 'they' spending precious time and resources on such a project that will further alienate and distance people from the Mass? We don't need different translations, we need better homilies and more priests! I'm irritated enough to start writing my bishop about this, for all the good that will do. I get cynical and pessimistic as I get irritated.
    Considering how the article was couched, this is a response to be expected. The Bishop's rhetoric simultaneously riles up and depresses people over an issue that they have no control over. That is the way tantrums work. They draw attention and that is the ultimate goal of a tantrum ... to get attention and one's own way.

    However, I think that the above response is possibly forgetting that words and translations do matter. If they matter in everyday life as we all know, then surely they matter when lifting our hearts and souls to God. Surely this is worth hammering out until it is right, rather than convenient "as is."

    If the people and the mysterious "they" have had their hearts drawn closer to God, then the thinking would follow that they will go on to express that love in helping those around them. Indirectly, then, an improved liturgy would logically go on to aid in the "big, serious" things. (Though I am far from admitting that the liturgy is not a "big, serious" thing. Meeting God ... that's big and serious to me.)
To be fair, I do understand the bishop's overall concern. He's afraid that the translators are doing to the liturgy, what that translator did in the picture above.

However, what I am wondering is if the liturgy we have now is the result of that sort of translating.

The blogger trusted Bishop Trautman's word on this. I trust the the translating committee.

So we see the dilemma. Who is right?

That is far as my thinking on the subject went. Until this week.

Comparing Liturgies
The end of our scripture study was different than usual. Our priest had read Bp. Trautman's article. Without talking about the article very much, he wanted to see if the language was too difficult to understand. He then proposed a "liturgical experiment" and handed out sheets of paper. One side had Eucharistic Prayer 1 as we use it now. The other side had the proposed translation of Eucharistic Prayer 1.

Then he read the proposed translation aloud while we read the current side to see how they were different. Afterward, he solicited thoughts from us.

As simple as that.

Yet suddenly everything became unexpectedly clear for me.

This was quite different than having a few sentences compared to each other or phrases pulled out of context for scrutiny. The words rolled over us and I suddenly was awash in phrases that showed me God's majesty, Jesus' sacrifice, my place in it, God's unending love for me ... and I felt gratitude and love in response. This may sound as if I'm overstating it. I'm not. I practically was in tears. That language literally lifted me to God. Meanwhile, I was astounded at the sparseness of the current text that corresponded to what was being read.

Please keep in mind that I am not a fool. I do know that after several months of hearing the language "roll over me" it will become routine. However, the liturgy that we have now stands out for me during Mass in this place or that to call me to God. The proposed liturgy will do so even more if this is any indication.

Mind you, it didn't strike everyone this way. Of the 15-20 people there, three preferred the current version. However, they all used the qualifier, "I am a lawyer" and said that they preferred "efficient language."

Obviously these will be the two attitudes to the proposed change.

Interestingly, one fellow hesitantly said, "But if this new text is mysterious ... isn't that what God and the Mass are? Mysterious?"

Which would seem to be the point to me. That worshiping God and celebrating the Mass are not about efficiency. They are about bringing us to God, lifting our hearts that we might have that veil drawn back for a second or two so that we may truly have a glimpse of heaven.

Think of how many things in our life are not efficient. So many of them are the very things that we treasure most. Preparing a meal and eating it with our families instead of grabbing a sandwich and all going to our rooms. Living as families instead of in communes. The love of a man and woman for each other is obviously terribly inefficient as a way to choose a spouse. As for making love, that most mysterious of all acts which makes husband and wife one on so many levels as well as creating visible evidence of our love (about 9 months later) ... well, I believe science has proven that if all we want is efficiency a test tube or two will suffice.

Let's take it to a more religious level ... the Bible? That's such an inefficient way to communicate, despite all attempted "clear" translations, and difficult to understand on many levels. Jesus' Passion? Sheez, talk about a mystery. Clearly, God is not worried about efficiency. His ways are not ours.

The conversation about efficiency made me think of John 12:1-8. Judas thought very efficiently (for whatever reason).
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.

They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus 2 and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

Then Judas the Iscariot, one (of) his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, "Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days' wages 3 and given to the poor?"

He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.

So Jesus said, "Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me."
I would propose that our priest's liturgical experiment is a good one. I have formatted the text so that you can download it as a pdf. Give it a try. Don't just read it to yourself. Have someone read it aloud while you read along. (If you would like to look beyond what our priest chose, go to Whispered in the Sacristy who is one of those who has been asked to be a “reader” of the new translation of the Mass for Bishop CVG. He has more translations available. We will be reading Eucharistic Prayer II next week after our scripture study.)

Will it convince you that a translation is needed? Not necessarily. But at least you will have your own honest reactions to judge from instead of taking someone else's word for it. That is the place for honest conversation to begin.

No matter what, in the end it really comes down to what wise 94-year-old Phyllis said:
No matter what translation they use, in six months we'll all have accepted it and be on to worrying about the next topic.
Remember the writing and ink spilled over The Da Vinci Code? Yet how often do we see people getting all worked up about it now? It too has passed.

Let's do the experiment, take a deep breath, and remember that this isn't up to us. It also would be a very good idea to say a few prayers for everyone working on this translation that God will guide them in how He wants to be worshiped. As I recall He had quite a lot to say about that in the Old Testament in the building of the arc and the temple. Doubtless He has some very definite opinions about this too. He knows what we need and what will work best in achieving it.

May God's will be done.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

About the disappearing sidebar ...

... if you are using Explorer, it may appear the sidebar has disappeared. Actually, if you scroll way, waaaaay down you will see it there. I'll leave this post at the top until I get the problem figured out ... hopefully later today. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Inspirational and Haunting

Don't miss this quiet, humble Welshman on "Britain's Got Talent" ... I am still haunted by his voice. Via The Anchoress who always can be counted on to point us toward the talented Welsh!

The Embarrassing Problem About Proverbs

I never thought of Proverbs as challenging our concepts of what it means to be "advanced," especially in our society. However, it makes sense. Those who are most bored by "truisms" are those who often are trying to cut corners somehow. Of course, I might be a bit biased on this subject because I absolutely love old sayings and Proverbs is chock full of them.
Let us begin with the embarrassing problem about this book (Proverbs). Almost always, the more intelligent, clever, and original you are, the more bored you are by Proverbs. It tells you nothing you didn't know before. It is a book of platitudes, of old, well-worn truisms. It is, simply, dull.

Yes, that is how the most "advanced" minds see Proverbs. And our nation, our civilization, and our world are today threatened with destruction precisely because of the ideas of those "advanced" minds, because we have departed from the old platitudes. If there is anything out civilization needs in order to survive the threat of moral and spiritual and perhaps physical destruction, it is to return to these "safe," "dull" platitudes. For they are true. They are a road map to life, and we are lost in the woods. ...

Like the Psalms, Proverbs is not meant to be read straight through as if it were a narrative. The book is a toolbench, a library: it is meant to be sampled, browsed through, picked at. It is a collection, assembled bit by bit and meant to be disassembled and used bit by bit. In our age of short attention spans, impatience, and only tiny slices of leisure time, it is an ideal book to dip into for a minute over your morning cup of coffee -- much more useful than the morning paper. As Henry David Thoreau, who despised newspapers, used to say, "Read not the Times; read the eternities." These are the eternities.
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Bible and "Sacred History"

Kreeft here makes an important distinction that often is overlooked in these very concrete days in which we live.
The Bible is "sacred history." That does not mean anything less realistic than secular history, as some modern theologians imply--as if "Bible stories" belonged to the category of myths or fairy tales. Rather, "sacred history" means history from a double point of view, the divine as well as the human. It has two natures. Like Jesus, the Bible is the Word of God in the words of man. Its human nature is not suppressed but fulfilled by its divine nature.

The history of God's chosen nation is full of divinely revealed secrets about national life and death, about the secret of survival and salvation socially as well as individually. No book of social, political, or historical science has ever shown more clearly how nations rise and fall, succeed and fail, by using or refusing their lifeline to God, the source of all life, this-worldly as well as other-worldly and social as well as individual. For Israel's history is the key to the world's. Israel is not God's exception but God's rule, God's paradigm case.
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Frustration, Disapointment, and Life's Problems

I was at a meeting of some very dear friends this weekend. We went around the room and told the good news of our lives and then our prayer requests, which in actuality is where we tell our "bad" news, how we are frustrated, disappointed, or hitting a wall we just can't get over or around.

I love these women so much and have been praying and reflecting on their requests with these quotes echoing in my mind as a response. Believe me, I am not pointing fingers. I was one of that circle and had my own good and bad news (right along with prayer requests). Will these quotes help? I don't know. All I know is I couldn't get them out of my head so am sharing them here.
... One thing that you learn as you progress in the spiritual life is that God is a God of perfect timing. Since he is able to see the "big picture," he knows just when you should move on and when you should stay where you are. And sometimes before you move on he has to "arrange" a thousand different details in order to make that move possible. That arranging takes time.

People who travel frequently on airplanes know just what I mean, because they have experienced the frustration of "circling." Usually this happens near the end of the flight, just when you're most anxious to get off the plane ... you've gone into the dreaded holding pattern... The point is that, despite the frustration of the passengers, and despite the pilot's ability to freely control his aircraft, another entity -- air-traffic control -- has made an over-riding decision to prevent the plane from landing. And there's just nothing that anyone can do about it.

The very same thing often happens to us in life. We can decide what we want to do and where we want to go, but God is still in charge of "air-traffic control." He sees everything on his omniscient radar screen -- the weather, the airport, all the other planes in the area. Sometimes, for reasons he may or may not disclose, he decides that the best thing for us to do is remain in a "holding pattern." While we're busy circling, he's busy clearing obstacles, solving problems and moving people around until things are just right. Then and only then does he permit us to come in for a safe, smooth landing.
Is the Lord going to use you in a great way? Quite probably.

Is he going to prepare you as you expect? Probably not. And if you're not careful, you will look at the trials, the tests, the sudden interruptions, the disappointments ,the sadness, the lost jobs, the failed opportunities, the broken moments, and you will think, He's through with me. He's finished with me. He's finished with me, when in fact He is equipping you.
Charles Swindoll
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.

But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.

You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but he is building up a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity
So often the dreams we have are all about us and our desires and insecurities and vanities. They don't take God's wishes into the slightest account. Everyone has heard stories about unhappy movie stars, drug-addicted rock stars, disgraced public officials, and suicidal authors. All these folks achieved their dreams and yet they all came to the same unfortunate end. Why? One of the reasons is probably that their dreams did not coincide with their real purpose. They wanted something so badly -- maybe it was fame, maybe it was riches, maybe it was power -- but they failed to consider that perhaps this was the last thing they really needed, the last thing God had destined them for. Instead of trying to ascertain God's will through prayer and discernment, they essentially "forced" their key into a lock it was never meant for; they twisted it, struggled with it, pushed and jammed it -- until finally it broke off.

There's no need for that ever to happen to us. God knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows what will give us the greatest pleasure and the most profound happiness. Remember, he's the one who created us -- he's the one who crafted the key -- so he knows best what kind of lock it will fit into.

The Pharisee, the Sinner, and Looking at God

The one example that Benedict allows himself in the chapter "The Kingdom of God" makes me wish that we had an entire book of his thoughts about the various parables. Once again, we already understood the basic differences between the Pharisee who stands publicly praying aloud and the quietly humble tax collector off to the side (Lk 18:9-14). The comparison is so basic that it can't be missed. If that were enough, we have had it pointed out to us in various homilies, I am sure. But which of them considered the story with the clarity with which Benedict ponders it here? This book is definitely good for my humility ...
The Pharisee can boast considerable virtues; he tells God only about himself, and he thinks he is praising God in praising himself. The tax collector knows he has sins, he knows he cannot boast before God, and he prays in full awareness of his debt to grace. Does this mean, then, that the Pharisee represents ethics and the tax collector represents grace without ethics or even in opposition to ethics? The real point is not the question "ethics--yes or no?" but that there are two ways of relating to God and to oneself. The Pharisee does not really look at God at all, but only at himself; he does not really need God, because he does everything right by himself. He has no real relation to God, who is ultimately superfluous--what he does himself is enough. Man makes himself righteous. The tax collector, by contrast, sees himself in the light of God. He has looked toward God, and in the process his eyes have been opened to see himself. So he knows that he needs God and that he lives by God's goodness, which he cannot force God to give him and which he cannot procure for himself. He knows that he needs mercy and so he will learn from God's mercy to become merciful himself, and thereby to become like God. He draws life from being-in-relation, from receiving all as gift; he will always need the gift of goodness, of forgiveness, but in receiving it he will always learn to pass the gift on to others.The grace for which he prays does not dispense him from ethics. It is what makes him truly capable of doing good in the first place. He needs God, and because he recognizes that, he begins through God's goodness to become good himself. Ethics is not denied; it is freed from the constraints of moralism and set in the context of a relationship of love--of relationship to God. And that is how it truly comes into its own.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Blogs

... or at least new to me. Interesting holy cards in one spot and a ton of interesting writing in the other. Check 'em out!
  • Holy Cards for Your Inspiration
  • Asymmetric ... plus he cracks me up. For instance his comment before posting the "500 women in art" YouTube: "I liked it even better than the one where the cat is flushing the toilet."

Tolkien and Evil

... this is a strain in Tolkien I don't quite trust. He seems to have greater confidence in evil than in good.

At the end of Lord of the Rings the triumph of good leads to the destruction of nearly everything good. Lothlorien is abandoned, the Shire is overrun with foulness, and the elves all leave Middle Earth.

It is naive to assume that the triumph of good means good results for all; however, it is equally naive to assume that evil consistently betters good.
I think that this is a rather glum take on the end of Lord of the Rings. True, it is not the shiningly complete victory we would like but neither is it the practically complete triumph of evil that is presented above. Sam finds a good and happy life in the Shire as he helps return it to normalcy. Aaragorn rules with a fair and good hand in the lands over which he has sway. Indeed, it is sad that the Elvish folk leave Middle Earth but, as they themselves point out, it is their time to go. Nothing stays as it is forever. That doesn't mean it is a triumph of evil but merely that it is the way of the world for the order of things to change. It is reflecting the way the world really works in the story. We may not always like the change but we can't see the big picture either. I haven't read The Children of Hurin, in large part because I dislike reading others' attempts to finish deceased authors' unfinished works. There is never any telling where the original author might have taken the tale with further work.

It seems to me that perhaps the above comment is a misunderstanding of Tolkien's completely Catholic view of our world. Please pardon my sketchy theology, but if Satan is prince of this world, then we should not really expect a complete triumph here ... certainly not by our efforts, at any rate. Jesus' victory in procuring our salvation means that we will see triumph in the next world but we are not necessarily promised more here ... as Tolkien points out in the excerpt from a letter below.
I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect "history" to be anything but a long defeat -- though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.
J.R.R. Tolkien
Obviously, this is not a comprehensive treatment of the question that Steven raised above ... just my overall view of it.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Busy Weekend Ahead

This morning we have a wedding to attend (I remembered this morning that I've got no "wedding" wrapping paper and no card ... must dash to Hallmark). This afternoon/evening an engagement party to attend (for which family gathering we all were at a brother-in-law's house for dinner last night). Tomorrow is my CHRP team meeting at brunch after Mass. Thank heavens I signed up to bring bagels and cream cheese. If I have time to go to the grocery store and do some laundry this weekend I'll be doing well (not to mention doing some more story reading and editing for the first chapters of next week's Forgotten Classic).

Busy but good ... the conversation and drink will be flowing (not necessarily in that order!).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Corpus Christi ... The Reality of the Eucharist

For me, Eucharistic chat is all well and good, but it does not make me believe in the Real Presence. What does that is the Eucharist itself - with each encounter, with each breaking of the bread, with each hour of Adoration, Jesus’ Real Presence becomes more undeniable as he reels me in and I flop down before him, a landed grouper, both unable to escape and not wanting to. For me, His Presence in the Eucharist cannot be talked…it must be experienced. A half-hour before the monstrance, an hour before a closed tabernacle in an empty church…nothing compares, nothing instructs so sweetly, or sears me with such unrelenting gentleness. John Paul II wrote every one of his encyclicals while seated before the Tabernacle in his chapel.
This is also my experience of the reality of the Eucharist. The Anchoress has given us a veritable feast for contemplation in preparation of this coming Sunday's Solemnity of Corpus Christi. Included in that, she leads us to a deacon whose site I certainly shall be visiting often in the future.
In 1995, a Gallup poll reported that only 30 percent of Catholics – less than a third -- believe in the Real Presence, that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ. Another 30 percent said it’s just a symbol.

I wish they could see what I've seen.

A few years ago, my wife and I had the good fortune to make a pilgrimage through Italy. One of the stops was in a town called Lanciano.

About 1200 years ago, a priest there had begun to doubt the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Then one morning, during mass, he was stunned to discover that the bread and wine in his hands had become actual flesh and blood.

Today, it’s been preserved in a glass case, on its own altar. You can walk around it and see the host from many different angles. The blood has congealed naturally into five distinct pellets – just like the five wounds of Christ. In 1970, scientists were given permission to take samples and analyze it.

They weren’t prepared for what they found.

The bread is actually myocardial tissue -- tissue from the heart.

And what had been wine is, in fact, type AB blood. The universal recipient blood type.

It has been so perfectly preserved, the investigators ruled out any kind of fraud. They determined it was human, and could not have come from a cadaver, or it would have spoiled.

Instead, the flesh and blood that were hundreds of years old appeared new.

In other words: ageless.
Do go read all of both, as well as The Anchoress' linked posts at the bottom.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Temptation of Jesus: In the Temple

Considering the temptation where the devil attempts to lure Jesus into stepping off the temple roof because the angels will "guard you in all your ways...", Benedict takes us into an unexpected direction. Certainly everyone has reflected upon the devil's excellent knowledge of scripture and his ability to pull it from context and twist it for his own uses. The Pope considers this specifically in terms of this temptation and, once again, surprised me.

I could quote the whole darned book for you but will try to feel satisfied with sharing this couple of excerpts for the moment.

First, about scripture:
... The devil proves to be a Bible expert who can quote the Psalm exactly. The whole conversation of the second temptation takes the form of a dispute between two Bible scholars. Remarking on this passage, Joachim Gnilka says that the devil presents himself here as a theologian. The Russian writer Vladimir Soloviev took up this motif in his short story "The Antichrist." The Antichrist receives an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of Tubingen and is a great Scripture scholar. Soloviev's portray of the Antichrist forcefully expresses his skepticism regarding a certain type of scholarly exegesis current at the time. This is not a rejection of scholarly biblical interpretation as such, but an eminently salutary and necessary warning against its possible aberrations. The fact is that scriptural exegesis can become a tool of the Antichrist. Soloviev is not the first person to tell us that; it is the deeper point of the temptation story itself. The alleged findings of scholarly exegesis have been used to put together the most dreadful books that destroy the figure of Jesus and dismantle the faith. ...

The theological debate between Jesus and the devil is a dispute over the correct interpretation of Scripture, and it is relevant to every period of history. The hermeneutical question lying at the basis of proper scriptural exegesis is this: What picture of God are we working with? The dispute about interpretation is ultimately a dispute about who God is. Yet in practice, the struggle over the image of God, which underlies the debate about valid biblical interpretation, is decided by the picture we form of Christ: Is he, who remained without worldly power, really the Son of God?
Secondly, he returns to the question which Jesus answers when he says, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." I basically knew the reason for that, as does any faithful believer, but look at how eloquently and elegantly Benedict says it.
We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable offending him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves above him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimentally test and grasp. To think like that is to make oneself God. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself too.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)
Completely off-topic:

I have been to Tubingen. It is a delightful university town and you will find darned few American tourists there. Or, I should say, at least you did when we went. It had the nearest castle to where my brother was living at the time so we went to see it. After Pope Benedict was elected we were all delighted to think of him teaching there and wandering in the same streets that we had for that summer day that I remember so fondly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Brown Coats Meeting in the Post Office

How did I know the woman I was standing behind at the Post Office was a Brown Coat (translation: Firefly fan)?

Because she was carefully folding up Jayne's hat to put in a box for shipping. "Jayne's hat!" I cried in delight.

She turned to me with a big grin. "I have a friend who knits these and I'm sending this to my friend in Switzerland. It's perfect!"

Then we rhapsodized over Firefly for a bit, which I will spare you.

Knitting and sci-fi: when worlds collide ...

Here's Jayne wearing the 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. As we can see from my testimony above, all you have to do is say "Jayne's hat" to a Firefly fan and they know exactly what you mean.

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 printed out and kept ...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Temptations of Jesus

The temptations of Jesus is one of the passages that I sometimes slide into when meditating on Jesus' baptism. Naturally I was delighted to read the Pope's thoughts on this same passage. As with all scripture, it is so rich and layered and there is so much that applies to our own daily lives which are lived with the constant temptation to do what we like rather than what God asks of us. Here's just a bit of that section.
Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil -- no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place. It claims, moveover, to speak for true realism: What's real is what is right there in front of us -- power and bread. By comparison, the things of God fade into unreality, into a secondary world that no one really needs.

God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn't he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves? The God question is the fundamental question, and it sets us down right at the crossroads of human existence. What must the savior of the world do or not do? That is the question the temptations of Jesus are about. ...
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Weekend Movies

Rose chose a couple of Hitchcock movies. I wouldn't have chosen either of them ... one worked out very well and the other ... well, it was interesting.

The Family Plot ... one of Hitch's later movies and one that I remember didn't have good reviews when it came out. (Yes, I actually can remember back that far!) Not one of his better movies to be sure, although the plot was just interesting enough to keep us watching to see what happened. Not really recommended though.

Dial M for Murder ... adapted from what the trailers told us was a wildly successful play. A fascinating plot, excellent acting, and Hitch did a lovely job making what was essentially a play on film visually interesting enough that we didn't feel as if we were trapped in one room the entire time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Public Service Announcement

Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering has been hit with a "spam blog" notice. Poor thing, it is completely undeserved. However, until she can work through the system of clearing herself (which may take two days or two weeks), she's been forced "off the air" and your patience is requested (not to mention a few prayers I am sure!).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Jesus' Baptism

This book is so good! I know I've said that before but I just cannot say it enough. As if that weren't enough, last night I was lolling on the couch reading aloud parts to Tom. (Not from this section below, from further ahead in the Tempting of Jesus section.) Astonishingly enough, Tom objected to one concept, saying that he had heard somewhere that such an interpretation meant revisionist thinking.

I was shocked. Shocked!

Tom never (never) has comments like this. I was resisting being annoyed that someone would dare to question The Pope ... and then I remembered that was the entire reason he skirted having the book looked at by the Magisterium. So that people would feel free to talk over the ideas in the book without having The Pope looming in the background.

Obviously his plan is working. How can I be annoyed about that? Well, I can't.

(Also I was pleased because I attributed his conversing about these things to our evening readings together ... though he is less pleased with Beginning to Pray than I hoped. Still, we persevere...)

I became intrigued. "Who said that? I want to read it."

He couldn't remember. But he promised that if he comes across it again he will let me know.

Just a tidbit of some of the book I'm enjoying so much.
A broad current of liberal scholarship has interpreted Jesus' Baptism as a vocational experience. After having led a perfectly normal life in the province of Galilee, at the moment of his Baptism he is said to have had an earth-shattering experience. It was then, we are told, that he became aware of his special relationship to God and his religious mission. This mission, moreover, supposedly originated from the expectation motif then dominant in Israel, creatively reshaped by John, and from the emotional upheaval that the event of his Baptism brought about in Jesus' life. But none of this can be found in the texts. However much scholarly erudition goes into the presentation of this reading, it has to be seen as more akin to a "Jesus novel" than as an actual interpretation of the texts. The texts give us no window into Jesus' inner life -- Jesus stands above our psychologizing (Guardini, Das Wesen des Christentums). But they do enable us to ascertain how Jesus is connected with "Moses and the Prophets"; they do enable us to recognize the intrinsic unity of the trajectory stretching from the first moment of his life to the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus does not appear in the role of a human genius subject to emotional upheavals, who sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds. If that were the case, he would remain just an individual who lived long ago and so would ultimately be separated from us by an unbridgeable gulf. Instead, he stands before us as the "beloved Son." He is, on one hand, the Wholly Other, but by the same token he can become a contemporary of us all, "more interior" to each one of us than we are to ourselves" (Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11).
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)
By the way, Thursday Night Gumbo is beginning to work their way through this book also and is sure to have interesting posts ... beginning with this one.