Friday, August 31, 2007

Pro-Life "Youth for Truth" Rally in Aurora, Illinois

Fox Valley Families Against Planned Parenthood is a grassroots coalition of citizens who oppose the Planned Parenthood facility set to open Sept. 18, 2007 at 3051 E. New York St. in Aurora, IL.

We believe that Planned Parenthood is bad for our community, with a long track record of undermining parents, leading young people into unhealthy sexual behavior, and above all taking the lives of unborn babies through abortion.
Thanks to Jane of Building the Ark for the heads up on this. She writes that "the great city of Aurora, Illinois (which is right next door to our town) is scheduled to open the LARGEST abortion facility in the US in just a few weeks with Planned Parenthood as its sponsor. ... I ask for prayers from everyone--even those of you who do not live local to the site. While it is a battle being fought locally, all who stand for life need to support one another in our quest for life. Please consider praying for this situation and for the truth to be seen by our city and our nation-to a culture that loves and respects life-at all ages and stages!"

For those who are close enough to do something more, the rally is tomorrow from 1-3. Join in if you can. Get the scoop here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

God Sends His Messages in Humble Vessels

One of the many lovely cemetery photos taken by Blogging in Paris.

From my friend Don comes this wonderful story.
Something happened this week that reminded me of you and one of your posts awhile ago. I had a business lunch date at a restaurant in Silver Spring, MD. I had gone to confession on my way to the restaurant, and I took a new way across the MD ‘burbs to the place. The drive was lovely—Sligo Creek Parkway. I had driven past it often, and I was always curious about just how much the parkway lived up to the name. As it turned out, it was beautiful. It follows the creek up into Montgomery County; the parklands were thickly forested w/ trails and picnic areas. Just beautiful. We were also enjoying temps in the 70s with no humidity. So the sun roof was open, and old Lyle Lovett was playing in the CD player. I arrived in a fine mood.

My lunch date was late, so I hung around outside. As I waited, a very scruffy older man shuffled up to me. He had bad teeth. His remaining hair was uncombed. He wore an old t-shirt and torn jeans. When he got close, I smiled, and he said, “Your light is shining.” I wasn’t expecting an exchange, and I was kind of distracted. I had no idea what he was talking about—my car’s headlights? I smiled again, and said “Excuse me?” He smiled and repeated, “Your light is shining.” I realized that he was talking about me. I thanked him profusely, and he grinned and wandered off. I was touched, and he efforts seriously brightened a day that was already wonderful. ...

I thought immediately of your posts regarding angels, especially the one about the homeless man on the median. A wonderful lesson: God sends his messages to us in humble vessels. You could go on forever from there.
On the related subject of angels, A. Alve left this comment yesterday on one of my angel posts. It was too good to leave buried there.
A few years ago, I took a one-week vacation in Geneve, Switzerland. I was flying from Lisbon with a stop in Italy. When I planned my return to Lisbon, I booked an early flight from Geneve to Rome and a late flight from Rome to Lisbon. My idea was to spend some hours in Rome to pray at Saint Josemaria's tomb, where I had been 15 years earlier. I had to arrive in Geneve's airport really early and therefore I had to leave the place where I was staying and catch a bus to the airport before sunrise, when it was still really dark. I was travelling alone and I was concerned about my safety. I had to be at the bus-stop, with all my luggage when it was still dark, and that prospect frightened me. The night before I prayed and asked for a safe journey to the airport.

When I arrived at the bus stop, I was relieved to see that there other people there as well, in particular a woman with a long blond hair who had a reassuring and peaceful smile. When my bus arrived, I was happy to see that she took it too. She left the bus before I did, and when she did it, she nodded at me, she smiled and I heard her saying "Bonne prière", which means "Good pray". How could she know what the purpose of my trip was? I had never seen her before, nor had talked to anyone about I was going to do in Rome. Up to now, I have the clear feeling that she was my guardian angel, to whom I had prayed asking for protection. This is one of the happiest memories I have and I wish I could go back in time and experience that moment again. Now I know the face of my guardian angel.

Needless to say that I arrived sound and safe in Rome, where I prayed as I had planned, and in Lisbon.
To make a trilogy of humble vessels, Penni tells the story of how a 3-year-old boy inspired her to make a "Bible flip" that gives her God's answer to her innermost thoughts.
How can this be? This is one of my favorite places to be. I sigh inwardly and make my way out, pushing on the heavy wooden door to go back into the light. Quiet, silent. Disappointing. But even as I leave, I thank God for being with me, even if I can't feel Him. I thank Him for the steadfastness in being with me, even though I can feel no indication He is paying attention.

"At least I hope so," I thought to myself and returned to the clinic for the balance of the afternoon.
For anyone who is interested, my series of posts about angels are here:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wo ai ni.

wo = I 我
ai = love 爱
ni = you 你
Hannah is taking Chinese this year. She wanted Japanese but it was full so, in my opinion, got much the better deal by settling for Chinese. Of course, I have a love of Chinese so you can't go by me. She called to try out the five phrases the teacher taught the class and it was quite a relief to find that my own college memories of the language plus what I'd refreshed/learned from ChinesePod worked!

Even though I know that Chinese never use "wo ai ni" that is how Hannah signs off on her phone calls to us. We'll call it Hanna-ese!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Eucharist and the Church

In my continuing efforts to keep up (which I am failing dismally) in sharing our bulletin inserts about Sacramentum Caritatis, here is #12.
The Eucharist, causal principle (A) of the Church
14. Through the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus draws the faithful into his “hour;” (B) he shows us the bond that he willed to establish between himself and us, between his own person and the Church. Indeed, in the sacrifice of the Cross, Christ gave birth to the Church as his Bride and his body. The Fathers of the Church often meditated on the relationship between Eve’s coming forth from the side of Adam as he slept (cf. Gen 2:21-23) and the coming forth of the new Eve, the Church, from the open side of Christ sleeping in death (C): from Christ’s pierced side, John recounts, there came forth blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34), the symbol of the sacraments (30). A contemplative gaze “upon him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37) leads us to reflect on the causal connection between Christ’s sacrifice, the Eucharist and the Church. The Church “draws her life from the Eucharist” (31). Since the Eucharist makes present Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, we must start by acknowledging that “there is a causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church’s very origins” (32). The Eucharist is Christ who gives himself to us and continually builds us up as his body. Hence, in the striking interplay between the Eucharist which builds up the Church, and the Church herself which “makes” the Eucharist (33), the primary causality (D) is expressed in the first formula: the Church is able to celebrate and adore the mystery of Christ present in the Eucharist precisely because Christ first gave himself to her in the sacrifice of the Cross. The Church’s ability to “make” the Eucharist is completely rooted in Christ’s self-gift to her. Here we can see more clearly the meaning of Saint John’s words: “he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). We too, at every celebration of the Eucharist, confess the primacy of Christ’s gift. The causal influence of the Eucharist at the Church’s origins definitively discloses both the chronological and ontologicalE priority of the fact that it was Christ who loved us “first.” For all eternity he remains the one who loves us first.
The concept that Christ gave birth to the Church in his sacrifice on the Cross is one that the Church Fathers knew well but it is not contemplated much these days. Likewise, the idea of the Church as “the new Eve” is one that is not found frequently, if at all. Quite often these are new and surprising to modern Catholics.

Pope Benedict expands upon these ideas to consider the centrality of the Eucharist in the Church’s existence, especially as rooted in Christ’s self-giving sacrifice for our sakes. The interplay between the Eucharist, the Church, and Christ can be confusing but actually is simply enough presented here. Read over the paragraph slowly and contemplate the life-giving cycle that was established by Christ, all because he loved us first.

(30) Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 3; for an example, see: Saint John Chrysostom, Catechesis 3, 13-19: SC 50, 174-177.
(31) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 1: AAS 95 (2003), 433.
(32) Ibid., 21: AAS 95 (2003), 447.
(33) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 20: AAS 71 (1979), 309-316; Apostolic Letter Dominicae Cenae (24 February 1980), 4: AAS 72 (1980), 119-121.

Explanatory Notes
A - Causal principle: the reason and means by which a thing or reality comes into existance.
B - His “hour”: Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension; His victory over sin and death.
C - Jesus “sleeping” in death: We read texts sometimes very simply — a series of words with meanings: assemble the words, assemble the meanings. The ancients, as well as students of literature and theologians read not only words but the images and symbols of the text. Such reading produces deeper understanding. In the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve, we see a symbol/type foreshadowing Jesus, the reality/archetype. The Old Testament story gives us insight into the new.
D - Primary causality: principle cause.
E - Ontological: ontology is the study of what a thing is and how and why it exists.

This one of a weekly series of excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. You are encouraged to read the entire document. The Vatican link to that document as well as to Pope Benedict’s first encyclical can be found on the website,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Around the House

The Bourne Supremacy
A couple of weeks ago we got around to watching The Bourne Identity, spurred by Rose's having gone to see The Bourne Ultimatum without having seen any other of the trilogy. It was really good and almost made me like Matt Damon. Last night we followed it up with The Bourne Supremacy and I came out of it truly having enjoyed both the movie and Damon's acting. The fact that he is an average looking guy really works in this tale of ... well, if you haven't seen either of the other movies as we hadn't I don't want to spoil it for you. But this is a great follow up and a thinking man's action movie.

Lean, Mean Thirteen
Janet Evanovich's fluff was mindless but hilarious fun for the first few of the series. Actually for about the first eleven of the series. Unlike some I don't mind fluff ... it can be just the ticket for those over-busy days when you just want to relax. However, I finally have tired of the same old thing over and over. I wanted Stephanie to choose between Ranger and Morelli and move things on to something new. However, Evanovich is no dummy. Why do any thinking when the same old thing is raking in the dough? (Except for one's own pride in workmanship, but let's not go there, shall we?) Twelve was ok and Thirteen, which someone is anxiously waiting for me to return to the library, was tired ... very, very tired. Thank goodness Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series has been taking on a few twists and turns toward a new trend ... I still have a new installment of those to look forward to every spring.

Rose's Good Friends
Rose was sidelined due to extreme knee pain, caused by a herniated disk (You know when they say you should choose your ancestors well? She's pretty young but the combo of yoga and kung fu brought her to an early realization of back problems.) At any rate, as she was languishing on the couch last night, at 9:30 we had a ring on the doorbell. Voila, two of her good friends were there with a care package they'd put together at Target ... a hat (Rose's trademark, I might add), a couple of movies, some snacks, and ... best of all ... themselves! They stayed and watched the movies, ate some of the cookies I'd made for a pool party on Saturday (how wise of me to choose a recipe that makes a ton of cookies), and just generally had a wonderful time. Not to mention that Rose was left very happy that her friends had brought the party to her.

Pool Party
This afternoon is a pool party for the Beyond Cana couples' families that attended the last retreat ... and of course for us, the Core Team that presents the whole retreat. (In the winter, we throw a cocktail party for adults.) Because all work and no play makes us very, very dull, don't cha know? Our generous host couple is providing the pool and having someone come to be a lifeguard. There are supposed to be 39 kids in this gang (did I mention we're all Catholic? ha!) and they want a dedicated pair of eyes on the water which I think is very wise. My contribution is a batch of Supremes. I see that I haven't put a recipe up for these and can't believe I haven't yet as they are a really delicious bar cookie with a middle layer of chocolate that makes 64 in a batch and is always a hit. Sometime in the next few days I'll get that recipe up.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Fascinating Look at a Fascinating Book

Most religious readers will reject that explanation [Christopher Hitchens saying that Mother Teresa discovered there is no God], along with any that makes her the author of her own misery — or even defines it as true misery. Martin, responding to the torch-song image of Teresa, counterproposes her as the heroically constant spouse. "Let's say you're married and you fall in love and you believe with all your heart that marriage is a sacrament. And your wife, God forbid, gets a stroke and she's comatose. And you will never experience her love again. It's like loving and caring for a person for 50 years and once in a while you complain to your spiritual director, but you know on the deepest level that she loves you even though she's silent and that what you're doing makes sense. Mother Teresa knew that what she was doing made sense."


I can't express in words — the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me — for the first time in ... years — I have come to love the darkness — for I believe now that it is part of a very, very small part of Jesus' darkness & pain on earth. You have taught me to accept it [as] a 'spiritual side of your work' as you wrote — Today really I felt a deep joy — that Jesus can't go anymore through the agony — but that He wants to go through it in me.
— to Neuner, Circa 1961

There are two responses to trauma: to hold onto it in all its vividness and remain its captive, or without necessarily "conquering" it, to gradually integrate it into the day-by-day. After more than a decade of open-wound agony, Teresa seems to have begun regaining her spiritual equilibrium with the help of a particularly perceptive adviser. The Rev. Joseph Neuner, whom she met in the late 1950s and confided in somewhat later, was already a well-known theologian, and when she turned to him with her "darkness," he seems to have told her the three things she needed to hear: that there was no human remedy for it (that is, she should not feel responsible for affecting it); that feeling Jesus is not the only proof of his being there, and her very craving for God was a "sure sign" of his "hidden presence" in her life; and that the absence was in fact part of the "spiritual side" of her work for Jesus.

This counsel clearly granted Teresa a tremendous sense of release. For all that she had expected and even craved to share in Christ's Passion, she had not anticipated that she might recapitulate the particular moment on the Cross when he asks, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" The idea that rather than a nihilistic vacuum, his felt absence might be the ordeal she had prayed for, that her perseverance in its face might echo his faith unto death on the Cross, that it might indeed be a grace, enhancing the efficacy of her calling, made sense of her pain. Neuner would later write, "It was the redeeming experience of her life when she realized that the night of her heart was the special share she had in Jesus' passion." And she thanked Neuner profusely: "I can't express in words — the gratitude I owe you for your kindness to me — for the first time in ... years — I have come to love the darkness. "
Time magazine looks at Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (to be released Sept. 18) which consists primarily of letters between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years. The letters reveal that she lived a "dark night of the soul" (an absence of any feeling of God being near) for most of her ministry in Calcutta.

A long article but very interesting indeed. It seems to me to echo many elements that I found in Teresa of Avila's writings about such an occurrence. I'm looking forward to reading this book.

Thank You, Yes, I Will Be Seeing This Movie

Queen Elizabeth I: Tell Philip I fear neither him nor his armies.
Spanish Minister: There is a wind coming that will sweep away your pride.
Queen Elizabeth I: I too can command the wind, sir! And I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare!
Check out the trailer.
(Ladies, keep an eye out for Clive Owen. He's never looked better.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

An Amazing Conversion Story

Ok, all conversion stories are amazing merely by the virtue of their being ... conversion stories!

However, this one has Jesus in the Eucharist in such clear terms that you will be blown away. Here's a bit to whet your appetites and then you can go read it all at Historical Christian.
About this time the lady told me that "Jesus is very near" and so I was watching the alter very closely. She then put her arm around me and pointed to the alter and whispered "Jesus is here do you see Him"... Looking at the alter at first I saw no one except the priest but then a sudden awareness took hold and I knew that the Host held high in the priests hands was Jesus and with that realization I also became aware of His great love for me.

And then, with that realization, there came a wave much like a heat wave or a water wave but transparent up from the alter and over near the ceiling and I knew it was going to come crashing down on me. I was afraid so I ducked back into the pew to try and avoid it. But as I fled I felt a wave of love, that I now know was the Holy Spirit, pass over and thru me and I felt this Love completely envelope me.

The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist-2

Bulletin insert #11 from our parish's series of excerpts about Sacramentum Caritatis.
The Holy Spirit and the eucharistic celebration
13. Against this backdrop we can understand the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the eucharistic celebration, particularly with regard to transubstantiation. An awareness of this is clearly evident in the Fathers of the Church. Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Catecheses, states that we “call upon God in his mercy to send his Holy Spirit upon the offerings before us, to transform the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into the blood of Christ. Whatever the Holy Spirit touches is sanctified and completely transformed” (25). Saint John Chrysostom too notes that the priest invokes the Holy Spirit when he celebrates the sacrifice: (26) like Elijah, the minister calls down the Holy Spirit so that “as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed” (27). The spiritual life of the faithful can benefit greatly from a better appreciation of the richness of the anaphora*: along with the words spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, it contains the epiclesis**, the petition to the Father to send down the gift of the Spirit so that the bread and the wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and that “the community as a whole will become ever more the body of Christ” (28). The Spirit invoked by the celebrant upon the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar is the same Spirit who gathers the faithful “into one body” and makes of them a spiritual offering pleasing to the Father (29).
With our understanding of the way the Holy Spirit has been moving in and through the world since Creation, it naturally follows that He would also be the chosen instrument for the creative act of the transformation of bread and wine into the Eucharist, the body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.

While Pope Benedict here traces the Holy Spirit’s involvement in this transformation, the Holy Spirit’s action does not stop here, although one would think that transubstantiation of bread and wine into the living Christ would be more than enough. Even more interesting and involving for us is the fact that, as St. John Chrysostom says, “as grace comes down upon the victim, the souls of all are thereby inflamed.” The Holy Spirit’s power comes upon us, transforms us in ways that are not visible to the eye but are substantial changes to our souls, and sends us forth into the world again to do the Father’s will. A careful reading of the Eucharistic prayers will find a kind of double epiclesis, the transformation not only of the bread and wine, but the transformation of ourselves into the Church, the body of Christ.

We can prepare ourselves for these changes, in part, by being open to doing the Father’s will and by recognizing the power of the Holy Spirit to make us into His gift to the world.
(25) Cat. XXIII, 7: PG 33, 1114ff.
(26) Cf. De Sacerdotio, VI, 4: PG 48, 681.
(27) Ibid., III, 4: PG 48, 642.
(28) Propositio 22.
(29) Cf. Propositio 42: “This eucharistic encounter takes place in the Holy Spirit, who transforms and sanctifies us. He re- awakens in the disciple the firm desire to proclaim boldly to others all that he has heard and experienced, to bring them to the same encounter with Christ. Thus the disciple, sent forth by the Church, becomes open to a mission without frontiers.”
* Anaphora: (Greek, ànaphorá), offering, sacrifice, a word used commonly for the Eucharistic prayer.
** Epiclesis: The name of a prayer that occurs after the words of Institution, in which the celebrant prays that God may send down His Holy Spirit to change this bread and wine into the Body and Blood of His Son.
This is one of a weekly series of excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. You are encouraged to read the entire document. The Vatican link to that document as well as to Pope Benedict’s first encyclical can be found on the website,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Early Happy Birthday to Hannah

Hannah's birthday is tomorrow but she'll be spending the entire day in a retreat so I'm putting up this post of the things she loves best ... nope, not cake ... simply lots and lots o' critters.

Happy birthday and we miss you, Hannah!

That Was Unexpected

Your Score: Phoenician

You scored

You are the Phoenician Alphabet! Teacher of the Greeks and Etruscans, you are the one all languages bow down to. That is, until the Romans decide to wipe out your civilization. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Link: The Which Ancient Language Are You Test written by imipak .

Via Linear B (a.k.a. Books, Words, and Writing).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Weekend? What Weekend?

It was one of those weekends which had every minute packed full of activity.

On Friday, Hannah and her friend Jenny (whose birthdays are only one day apart) threw themselves a party. That decision was made on Wednesday afternoon so I was busy during Friday afternoon grocery shopping, making the cake, and cooking Mexican food (very basic stuff, believe me).

Saturday was our family celebration of Hannah's birthday (which is Wednesday) which necessitated other sorts of shopping. Luckily she didn't really want anything that required me braving the tax-free school shopping crowds that day. As well, we were doing last minute preparations for her to return to school on Sunday (hence the early birthday celebration). We went out to Tong's House for Hannah's favorite duck and then had gala gift opening topped off by a viewing of Hot Fuzz (one of her gifts).

Sunday Tom and I drove Hannah back to A&M at College Station where we were relieved to see that her dorm was a lot better than last year. (This year she's in FHK. Last year she was in Hart. Just for anyone who knows the campus and cares.) She's rooming with a friend and is near a lot of her other friends. All in all, so much better than when we left that new freshman last year who had the abandoned look on her face as we walked away.

Not that I'm not feeling a bit melancholy this morning now that she's gone again ... but this too shall pass.

The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist-1

Continuing my occasional attempts to share our parish's bulletin inserts. This series focuses on excerpts from Sacramentum Caritatis. I believe this is the 10th insert.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
12. With his word and with the elements of bread and wine, the Lord himself has given us the essentials of this new worship. The Church, his Bride, is called to celebrate the eucharistic banquet daily in his memory. She thus makes the redeeming sacrifice of her Bridegroom a part of human history and makes it sacramentally present in every culture. This great mystery is celebrated in the liturgical forms which the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, develops in time and space. (23) We need a renewed awareness of the decisive role played by the Holy Spirit in the evolution of the liturgical form and the deepening understanding of the sacred mysteries. The Paraclete, Christ’s first gift to those who believe, (24) already at work in Creation (cf. Gen 1:2), is fully present throughout the life of the incarnate Word: Jesus Christ is conceived by the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); at the beginning of his public mission, on the banks of the Jordan, he sees the Spirit descend upon him in the form of a dove (cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels); he acts, speaks and rejoices in the Spirit (cf. Lk 10:21), and he can offer himself in the Spirit (cf. Heb 9:14). In the so-called “farewell discourse” reported by John, Jesus clearly relates the gift of his life in the paschal mystery to the gift of the Spirit to his own (cf. Jn 16:7). Once risen, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, he can pour out the Spirit upon them (cf. Jn 20:22), making them sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. Jn 16:13). In the account in Acts, the Spirit descends on the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4) and stirs them to undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all peoples. Thus it is through the working of the Spirit that Christ himself continues to be present and active in his Church, starting with her vital centre which is the Eucharist.
Quite often people will say that relating to the Holy Spirit is one of the the most difficult aspects of growing in our relationship with God. Perhaps that is because He is dificult to personify. We can’t get a good “picture” of Him in our minds. However, as Pope Benedict reminds us, the Holy Spirit is there from the beginning of time flowing through history, through Jesus’ life, through the life of the Church, and even now through our own lives as believers.

Take the time to look through the scriptural references which the Holy Father has given us above and see the Spirit moving through history, affecting lives and moving God’s works into space and time.

Perhaps we might find it fruitful to contemplate this simple prayer in which the Church has given us essential the truth about the Holy Spirit, indeed about God the three persons in one:

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, world without end.

With our participation in the Eucharist and the effort to do God’s will, we too allow the Holy Spirit to be active in the world, which is a world without end.
(23) Cf. Propositio 3.
(24) Cf. Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV.

This is one of a weekly series of excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis. You are encouraged to read the entire document. The Vatican link to that document as well as to Pope Benedict’s first encyclical can be found on the website,

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Medieval crucifix found in Austrian rubbish skip

It was found in 2004 in the lakeside winter resort of Zell am See by a woman combing through a skip filled with the discarded possessions of a neighbor who had just died.
Isn't the photo gorgeous? Get the whole story here. Thanks to Kacie for passing on this interesting tidbit.

And a Good Time Was Had By All

What a great time we had last night. Long-time Happy Catholic reader and dedicated knitter, Terri, was in Dallas and we rendezvoused at Passion Knit (great name, eh?). We spent an hour and a half perusing their wares while talking our heads off (natch!). How is it that you can meet someone and feel within ten minutes that you are talking to an old college buddy or some such long lost friend? At any rate, that's the feeling I had with Terri.

I was lured into buying my first hand-dyed yarn (that means expensive for those who don't know) for a shawl for Tom's mother, which I was assured by my Passion Knit pal would knit up "in a weekend" into an easy, yet elegant shawl. To be fair, she doesn't know what my weekends are like but I am going to be driving with Tom to take Hannah back to A&M on Sunday. That there's prime knitting time, y'all! So maybe I will have a shawl at the end of the weekend ...

We then proceeded to Mariano's for some brisket tacos and margaritas (yes we do know how to have a good time, thank you). And back to our house to show our knitting projects to each other. Although Terri's projects eclipse mine in expertise (and also quantity), I must say that I was proud to be able to introduce her to a very affordable, machine washable yarn (that means cheap for those who don't know), suitable for afghans, etc.

Of course, we never quit talking the entire time.

It was a glorious evening. Thanks Terri!

Reeves and the Motu Proprio That Binds

"Dash it all, Sr. Agatha, I won't --"

"Do be quiet, Willie. I did not travel all this way to listen to your blathering."

"But you can't expect me to --"

"What I expect, Willie, is that you will find a place in your diocese for young Father Thomas here."

I eyed the specimen, who sat perched on the edge of an armchair staring at the wall clock in rapt fascination. I would have said he had unhinged his jaw, the better to concentrate, but he lacked a visible jaw. The overall effect so strongly suggested a daydreaming fish that it was all I could do to refrain from offering him an ant egg.

"He wants some rounding, as I say, and the opportunities do not exist in our diocese. Something musical, perhaps, or the rector of a shrine. You do have shrines here?"

"Oh, rather," I said, my parochial pride a bit stung. "Some jolly fine ones, too. It's just that we're full up with rectors at the mo."

"Well, I'm sure you'll find something suitable." Sr. Agatha rose. "I shall check back in a week. Goodbye, Father Thomas."

"Hm? Ah." Father Thomas unmoored his gaze from the clock and smiled at the room at large.

"I am quite certain you will not disappoint me, Willie. Not this time," Sr. Agatha added, with a look that could make a cardinal deacon feel the sleeves of his rochet were too tight.

Then she left the room, if "left" is the mot juste for someone who moves with the self-possession of a Romanesque abbey.
P.G. Wodehouse fans will recognize the style and the players in this story by the inimitable Disputations. This is classic and hilarious. So far we have Parts I, II, and III. Go, enjoy ...

The Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (part 2)

Continuing the contemplation from Monday of God's name.
It remains true, of course, that God did not simply refuse Moses' request. If we want to understand this curious interplay between name and non-name, we have to be clear about what a name actually is. We could put it very simply by saying that the name creates the possibility of address or invocation. It establishes relationship. When Adam names the animals, what this means is not that he indicates their essential natures, but that he fits them into his human world, put them within reach of his call. Having said this, we are now in a position to understand the positive meaning of the divine name: God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He puts himself within reach of our invocation. He enters into relationship with us and enables us to be in relationship with him. Yet this means that in some sense he hands himself over to our human world. He has made himself accessible and, therefore, vulnerable as well. He assumes the risk of relationship, of communion, with us.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Dignity of Women

With this in mind, we bring our readers to the joyful announcement that the Vatican will honor the twentieth anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem in 2008. The lay faithful everywhere are invited to study the document, meditate on it, create initiatives, and to give thanks for the beauty of God's plan for women revealed therein. Women in North America in particular are asked to consider it in light of one overarching theme: The dignity of woman in a technological and consumeristic society.
Genevieve Kienke, who blogs at feminine-genius, has a wonderful article explaining the creation of a new website, The Dignity of Women. This looks like a wonderful resource and a way to gain insight into a papal document of which I was unaware. C'mon, dig in!

The Lord's Prayer: "Father"

Whoops! I skipped right around this in posting that first part on prayer the other day. I liked these thoughts on the concepts of being children of God.
... There is is a unique sense in which Christ is the "image of God" (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15). The Fathers of the Church therefore say that when God created man "in his image," he looked toward the Christ who was to come, and created man according to the image of the "new Adam," the man who is the criterion of the human. Above all, though Jesus is "the Son" in the strict sense -- he is of one substance with the Father. He wants to draw all of us into his humanity and so into his Sonship, into his total belonging to God.

This gives the concept of being God's children a dynamic quality: We are not ready-made children of God from the start, but are meant to become so increasingly by growing more and more deeply in communion with Jesus. Our sonship turns out to be identical with following Christ. To name God as Father thus becomes a summons to us: to live as a "child," as a son or daughter. "All that is mine is yours (??? check this word)," Jesus says in his high-priestly prayer to the Father (Jn 17:10), and the father says the same thing to the elder brother of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:31). The word father is an invitation to live from our awareness of this reality. Hence, too, the delusion of false emancipation, which marked the beginning of mankind's history of sin, is overcome. Adam, heeding the words of the serpent, wants to become god himself and to shed his need for God. We see that to be God's child is not a matter of dependency, but rather of standing in the relation of love that sustains man's existence and gives it meaning and grandeur.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)

No Time. Must Get to Mass. Holy Day of Obligation ...

    On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption. Thus he solemnly proclaimed that the belief whereby the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the close of her earthly life, was taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven, definitively forms part of the deposit of faith, received from the Apostles. To avoid all that is uncertain the Pope did not state either the manner or the circumstances of time and place in which the Assumption took place -- only the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into the glory of heaven, is the matter of the definition.
Read all about it as well as activities at the link ... first off, though, I gotta get outta here. More later!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Can't Choose Just One ...

TS gives us definitions of temperaments from The Temperament God Gave You. Rita read these out to us during a break at the retreat we gave a few weeks ago. She pointed out that most people are a combination.

I'm going for Choleric and Sanguine ... great, the two most volatile of the bunch. I guess I should feel blessed that I have so much fertile ground available to overcome as I attempt to work my way toward sainthood ...
Spiritual gifts: zeal for souls, fortitude, knowledge.
Spiritual weaknesses: self-will, control, anger, haughtiness, superiority.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Paul.

Spiritual gifts: Joy, mercy, magnanimity, gratitude.
Spiritual weaknesses: self-love, envy, seeking esteem and human respect.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Peter.

Spiritual gifts: Piety, long-suffering, wisdom.
Spiritual weaknesses: timidity, scrupulosity, judgmentalism, despair.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

Spiritual gifts: Peace, understanding, counsel, meekness.
Spiritual weaknesses: sensuality, sloth, complacency.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Thomas Aquinas.

Now, That Is An Unusual Museum

Why not take a virtual vacation to the Museum of Pocket Calculating Devices? It's sure to add up to a good time.

Also Viewed ...

It was action movie weekend around here as Rose not only rented 300 but also ...

The Bourne Identity
She saw The Bourne Ultimatum with friends and thought it would be nice to see where it all started. We all liked it. Not only well plotted and played but the fact that Matt Damon is so ordinary was definitely in character as the assassin who no one would look at twice. We're looking forward to renting the next one in the trilogy. HC rating: **** 9 thumbs up!

The Departed
We have long been fans of the movie that inspired this one, Infernal Affairs. I have reprinted the original review below. See that for a general plot synopsis.

Not being a Martin Scorsese fan I was not interested in watching but Rose had never seen a Scorsese flick and was interested to see what had been done in the remake. What she found was that it was "much more American and not in a good way." In short, Scorsese added a lot of character development that was unnecessary. We think that he may have actually incorporated many elements from Infernal Affairs 2 which shows the two men's advancement through the ranks of their various assigned professions. She also found that he had eliminated one of the most suspenseful scenes (showing the two moles pitted against each other communicating with their bosses during a drug bust) and unnecessarily connected the psychiatrist with the mole in the police department. This means that the original girlfriend was cut which is too bad since she added a subtle cuing to look at the mole's character development when she would bounce different plot ideas off of him for her book, The Man of a 1000 Faces (or some such title -- you get the idea). Basically, Rose found that it was "all junked up" with additions that detracted from the story, including changing the ending in a significant manner that completely changed the strong redemptive nature of the original story.

Interesting feedback, since, as I mentioned, she has never seen a Scorsese film and was willing to accept a different take on the story. If you see the two movies in reverse order you may find that Infernal Affairs is too spare for your taste, however, take a look at the subtleties with which all the character development is accomplished using much less angst and drama.

She then went and rented Infernal Affairs again to see if her original take on the two was justified. She found that it was.

Infernal Affairs (Wu jian dao)
(Hong Kong)
This stylistic, smart movie takes the classic crime plot of police versus criminals and turns it into a tense, exciting battle of wits. Police Superintendent Wong takes his best police cadet, Yan, and has him go undercover to become a mole in the drug-running Triad gang. Unbeknownst to them, the Triad's leader, Sam, is doing the exact same thing with a young gang member, Lau, who has a clean record and will be accepted into police cadet school. After years pass both Lau and Yan have become accepted, valuable members of their respective groups. During a drug bust, both the police and the Triad gang become aware that each has been infiltrated by a mole. In an ironic move, the moles are both so trusted that each is tasked by his superior with discovering who the mole is within his own group. Simultaneously, each is contacted by his real boss and told to discover who the mole is in the other group. What follows is a fascinating plot twist in which each mole struggles to retain his anonymity. while discovering the other's identity. This movie is gripping until the very end and keeps you guessing the entire time. Everything is masterfully brought together in the last ten minutes with a denouement that gives the entire movie unexpected depths.

This movie was so popular in Hong Kong that it inspired two sequels, Infernal Affairs II which actually was a prequel, and Infernal Affairs III which continues the story begun in the original movie. We watched this movie in the original Cantonese with English subtitles. It was fascinating to hear the large quantity of English scattered through regular conversation. “Channel,” “sorry,” “entrance,” “ok,” “bye,” and “sir” are just a few of the words constantly breaking the pattern of Chinese dialogue. HC rating: **** 9 thumbs up! This review originally appeared in Spero News.

Masters of Science Fiction
Rose and I watched the first two episodes of this anthology being shown by ABC on Saturdays. These are some classic science fiction stories adapted for television and featuring excellent acting and directing. It occurred to us that Rose has really never seen true science fiction, thinking that science fiction equates to "Twilight Zone" style shows. These were the real thing and although the end of the second one was unutterably sappy that was the story's fault, not that of the performers. Both had a high level of interest and had us involved in talking about plot as it went along. There are two more scheduled to air and I highly recommend them.

HC rating system: key

Monday, August 13, 2007

"Unequivocally the only movie ever made worth seeing about screaming, half-naked, greased up men."

King Leonidas: The world will know that free men stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many.

So says Nehring the Edge and so say we all. Read his post for a true review. Our impressions are below.

What I liked the most about this movie was the idea that this was how the Spartans would have thought about the legend themselves. Yes, it is inaccurate historically but it is the stuff of legends and, therefore, a certain amount of leniency can be shown (not to mention that it is based on a comic book). The emphasis was on honor, freedom, and love of family and country.

The absolutely beautifully photography only enhanced the feeling of watching a heroic legend being told.

We also liked the fact that the people weren't perfectly beautiful. Yes, all the guys had six-packs unless they were old councilmen but other than that they weren't fashion plates. Likewise the queen was what we called "normally" beautiful. Also she looked as if she worked out and could gut someone with a spear at 50 paces. A true Spartan queen.

HC rating: **** - Nine thumbs up!)

The Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (part 1)

Had someone told me this before? I don't think so and yet, again, this seems one of those very obvious, logical pieces of information that I should know somehow. Thank heavens that Joseph Ratzinger presents these ideas so logically and simply that I can remember and absorb.
But in the world of Moses' time there were many gods. Moses therefore asks the name of this God that will prove his special authority vis-a-vis the gods. In this respect, the idea of the divine name belongs first of all to the polytheistic world, in which this God, too, has to give himself a name. But the God who calls Moses is truly God. and God in the strict and true sense is not plural. God is by essence one. For this reason he cannot enter into the world of the gods as one among many; he cannot have one name among others.

God's answer to Moses is thus at once a refusal and a pledge. He says of himself simply, "I am who I am" -- he is without any qualification. This pledge is a name and a non-name at one and the same time. The Israelites were therefore perfectly right in refusing to utter this self-designation of God, expressed in the word YHWH, so as to avoid degrading it to the level of names of pagan deities. By the same token, recent bible translations were wrong to write out this name -- which Israel always regarded as mysterious and unutterable -- as if it were just any old name. By doing so, they have dragged the mystery of God, which cannot be captured in images or in names lips can utter, down to the level of some familiar item within a common history of religions.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)
More of this will follow tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Does the word 'Christian' make your stomach turn?"

That is the question that was posed by Friendly Christian. Frankly I was surprised that he got only 63 comments. There is are many people who are cynical or hostile towards Christians and usually they are not shy about speaking up ... often with good reason. After all, I used to be one of "them" and the list of complaints my friend Hey Jules thoughtfully sorted is very similar to the one I had myself.

My admittedly unoriginal thought is that we are living in the equivalent of the first century and there are a lot of forces out there who do not paint Christians or Christianity in a very positive light. Movies, television, reporters, and more are intent on pushing an agenda that is decidedly at odds with Christianity.

Also, as we all know, many times we ourselves reinforce the negative images with both hands. Let's face it. We are sinners. Period. That means we fall and sometimes we fall quite ungracefully with plenty of witnesses around. Some of those witnesses take our every action to be representative of Christianity as a whole. That's a fair cop because, warts and all, we are ambassadors of Christ.

So how is one to respond to these complaints? My initial thought is that there is no group of people where one can't pick out at least one member who embarrasses the others by their lack of ability to live up to their common standards. Yet, again, we are supposed to be better than other groups. We are followers of the Son of God after all.

The first century Christians were pointed out by others because of "how they love each other."

How do we do this too? How do we show this love so it shines forth?
How does the kingdom of God grow? Through ambassadors of Christ, believers who have been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through people like St. Lawrence, who are made capable of loving and serving Jesus to limitless degrees!
The first century Christians picked up babies abandoned to die on street corners and adopted them, they took care of the sick in epidemics when everyone else fled, they fed the poor and asked for nothing in return. They showed their love in the way that speaks loudest when you don't have a common language ... actions. They didn't go around talking about it. That was the quick way to martyrdom. They lived it.

We must help provide alternatives and not simply parrot ideals. We have to be active in our love as well as simply want the best. Each person has a different spot where God has placed them to show his love and change the world a little for the better ... whether it is through their family, their friends, or their community at large. We must seek God's will for the place we should be ... and then get in there and do it.

The first century Christians were martyrs. They endured torture and horrible deaths because they loved God so that they couldn't imagine turning their backs on Him.

God must be the center of our lives. He is truth and love. If he is the center of our lives then we too will live from a center of truth and love.

Are we willing to be martyrs ... because we are so in love with God? We can say yes because there is very little likelihood that we will be asked for that ultimate sacrifice. In it's place can we than endure the pinpricks of daily life with love for our neighbor ... the person who cuts us off in traffic, who pushes past us and lets the door slam in our faces, who yells at our child, who reports the old lady down the street to the city for brown grass, who accuses a teenager of scraping their car and then wants the payment in cash?

Remember, loving someone doesn't mean that we have mushy, feel-good emotions but that we have their best interest, their greatest good at heart. It means we act on our will and harness our emotions which often aren't good ones at all. It means saying a prayer for them (and often for ourselves as we struggle), "Lord have mercy on me and bless them" and still being polite or friendly or helpful when they don't care a whit.

Above all we must pray ... for ourselves and for others, for God's grace to carry us through when we can't carry ourselves.

The ultimate answer comes from many places as God uses everything around us to pull us back up again and again. We are to keep trying, never be defeated, and always, always love our neighbor as ourself ... even, and especially, when that means humiliating ourselves by asking forgiveness when we have done the wrong thing.

Am I good at this? Heck no. I wish I was. But eventually I manage to pick myself back up and launch myself into the fray again. That is my job. Whether I do it well or badly depends on how close I am to God. To my shame I am rarely close enough to do it well. But, again, I keep trying to get closer and to do it well enough to make Him proud, to show my love. Thank God for His grace or I'd never get anywhere!

God uses us, imperfect instruments as we all are, to shake up a cynical and hostile world. All we need to do is cooperate by living lives of love as best we can. Often we are unwittingly used by God. We think we are just living our lives while behind the scenes God is busy pulling strings.

Sometimes He uses a yellow sticky note to jolt someone out of cynicism.
As we were wrapping up I grabbed my purse off of the desk, and lying next to it I saw a stack of some broadcast documents and personal papers that belonged to him. On top of the papers was a bright yellow sticky note with the words "PRAY FOR REBECCA" written in large letters. ...
Sometimes He uses a little girl's plea.
"Mommy, can I pleeeeeeeease borrow a dollar?"

This became her standard question. And the first time she asked it, I almost gave my standard answer: No, they'll just use it to buy drugs. It's the answer that was drilled into me during my time in L.A., the answer I hadn't spent much time second guessing until my daughter stood before me in Chicago with her plaintive plea. ...
And sometimes he uses two accountants ... a bad one and a good one.
... So, kneeling at Mass one day, I made God a deal. All He had to do was to get a me a new house as a sign. Then I’d know He was there … and I’d have a new house. ...

Looking Deep Within and Finding a Gem

by St. Teresa of Avila
Let's face it. This is a scary book. First of all, St. Teresa is a Doctor of the Church. For most of us that means her writing is of lofty thoughts about hard-to-understand subjects. It doesn't help that she is consistently described as a "16th-century mystic ... considered one of the most profound spiritual teachers in the history of Christianity." For most people that equals a "too hard for me" message about her writing.

Happily, I am here to tell you that, although all those things are true, The Interior Castle by St. Teresa is also accessible to you and me with many valuable messages about everyday living as well as the loftier goal of knowing one's own soul and God. Consistently, all the members of our book club, who have various levels of previous "difficult" spiritual reading, would show up for monthly meetings with exclamations of surprise about how helpful and inspirational this book was for them.
She complained: “Lord, amid so many ills this comes on top of all the rest.”

A Voice answered her, “Teresa, that is how I treat my friends.”

She retorted, “Ah, my God! That is why you have so few of them!”
Perhaps our surprise was because we forgot the most basic element about this spiritual guide ... the book was written for Teresa's fellow nuns and surely, therefore, had to be able to communicate with people who were all at different spots on the spiritual path as well as many varying levels of intellect. Perhaps also it is because we forgot about Teresa's own basic nature which is not only spiritual but also down-to-earth, humorous and spunky. After all, this is the woman who taught her nuns to dance, ate a gift of game birds on a feast day and, most famously of all, had the above conversation with God after being dumped into flood-like conditions on a difficult journey to establish a convent.

This book's whole purpose is to show us how to get closer to God. Teresa uses the analogy of our soul being a castle with six mansions or dwelling places within, with God living in the very center. She was ordered by her superiors to write about it and her book begins thus:
Today while beseeching our Lord to speak for me because I wasn't able to think of anything to say nor did I know how to begin to carry out this obedience [of writing this book], there came to my mind what I shall now speak about, that which will provide us with a basis to begin with. It is that we consider our soul to be like a castle made entirely out of a diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, must as in heaven there are many dwelling places. for in reflecting upon it carefully, Sisters, we realize that the soul of the just person is nothing else but a paradise where the Lord says He will find his delight. So then, what do you think that abode will be like where a King so powerful, so wise, so pure, so full of all good things takes His delight? I don't find anything comparable to the magnificent beauty of a soul and its marvelous capacity. Indeed, our intellects, however keen, can hardly comprehend it, just as they cannot comprehend God; but He Himself says that He created us in His own image and likeness.
This is lofty sounding indeed but Teresa provides ample practical examples to help the reader grasp her meaning. For instance, she speaks of the beginner as being able to enter the gate of the castle with prayer and reflection, though hindered by many reptiles and vermin which they cannot even recognize. Those reptiles and vermin are our many sins which we can't recognize without help.

Her constant goal is to help us see the enormity and beauty of our souls and how little we recognize what is within our grasp should we even make a small effort. By recognizing things as they are, in other words by recognizing the truth, we than can begin to achieve true humility that leads us to love and serve God increasingly selflessly. Again, this may sound difficult and lofty, however, it is punctuated with Teresa's constant practical advice and reminders. These provide ample opportunities to see oneself a little more clearly all the time. Teresa also places a great importance on the necessity of recognizing that we are in spiritual warfare constantly. We can't blame everything on the devil, naturally, but she reminds us how often our own faulty inclinations leave the way open to be attacked.
I am amused sometimes to see certain souls who think when they are at prayer that they would like to be humiliated and publicly insulted for God, and afterward they would hide a tiny fault if they could; or, if they have not committed one and yet are charged with it -- God deliver us! Well, let anyone who can't bear such a thing be careful not to pay attention to what he has by himself determined -- in his opinion -- to do. As a matter of fact, the determination was not in the will -- for whom there is a true determination of the will it's another matter -- but a work of the imagination; it is in the imagination that the devil produces his wiles and deceits. ...
This is not a book which one can sit down and devour chapter after chapter at a sitting. I found it most fruitful to read a few paragraphs daily which then would sink in over the course of the day. It also is a book that lends itself to repeated readings. I can imagine it becoming a daily companion for spiritual reading and reflection as there is much that I need to hear many times before it really sinks in.

Do not let yourself be intimidated by the high reputation or spiritual goals of this book. If you are looking for spiritual reading you cannot do better than The Interior Castle.

A word about translations:
When I mentioned that we were going to begin reading this book it touched off a spirited series of translation recommendations. Laura H., whose recommendation this book was and who has read it five times, held out for Allison Peers. That is ultimately the translation our group read and no one had any trouble with it at all. So many had also recommended the Kavanaugh translation that I also got that and alternated reading the same sections from both books. I found this a most profitable way to let the message sink in. The Peers translation is a bit more old fashioned in wording and the Kavanaugh much more modern. All translations above are from Kavanaugh for the simple reason that I lent my Peers book to a friend who wanted to begin the book. I can't recommend one over the other. Both had distinct advantages and sometimes one translation would make a point clear that the other did not. However, I believe that is a distinctly personal reaction. It is more important to get this book and begin reading than to get hung up on translations. Either is wonderful and should you like the book enough to contemplate repeated readings you can then indulge in the other translation.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Poetry Thursday

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw -
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime - Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air -
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Mcavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square -
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair -
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair -
But it’s useless to investigate - Mcavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
`It must have been Macavity!’ - but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long-division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place - MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

TS Eliot

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Church Etiquette

Our church usually have problems with cell phones going off during Mass as I've heard can be a problem in other parishes. However, recently someone came in with a cup of Starbucks coffee. Ushers tell the story of the person who came in with a bag of potato chips and sat eating them during Mass.

Obviously our priest has a spot where he can see all the etiquette problems that come up. After putting a polite but small notice in our bulletin for several weeks and then watching someone sit chomping gum throughout Mass (two rows in front of us where we watched in fascination ...), he drafted a new etiquette reminder. Not only did it make me laugh but I really loved the last two paragraphs which remind us that these matters of etiquette aren't merely to make those around us happy (though they will!), but because we are there for a much higher purpose.
  1. Please turn off or silence cell phone and pagers
  2. Please keep a respectful quiet in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist before and after Mass
  3. Please remember appropriate clothing—even/especially during the summer the church should be décolletage-free zone (if you don’t know this word I have one other word for you...Dictionary)
  4. Please for us as adults, do not bring in cups of coffee from the various chains...or, of course, from home
  5. Please remember, except in case of true need, bottles of water are not needed...we probably won’t dehydrate in an hour
  6. Please remember chewing gum by anyone (any age, Catholic or not) is not acceptable ever, at any time, and especially during Mass. Reason? 1. respect 2. one-hour fast prior to Communion
  7. Please refrain from reading the bulletin, e-mails or text messages during Mass
  8. Please NO MP3 devices, iPods, Nano or otherwise…
  9. Please do not come late, scoot out after Communion or rudely leave before the Liturgy is concluded, including the closing hymn
  10. Please participate in the Mass, Body, Mind and Spirit singing, speaking, praying, attending within the heart and in the body.

The question may be asked, “Why?”. The answer, is reverence, respect, participation. Our obligation is NOT bodily presence in the church during the time the Mass is being celebrated; our obligation each Sunday and Holy Day of obligation is active participation in mind, heart and body in the Liturgy, in which the saving mysteries of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ are celebrated in a way that we may enter into them… If that sounds heady well it may be, but that’s how it is, that is our privilege as Catholics to take part in by prayerfully lifting up our minds and hearts and offering ourselves with Jesus Christ at the altar.

Our Lord unites us with Himself, with one another and with the angels and saints, by the Holy Spirit, in the one and only worship of God The Father when we come to Mass—nothing less. God the Father listens to our prayers with loving and unfailing attention; we should be together as a community, in His Presence in exactly the same way. Please don’t take offense but one of our goals together must be the restoration and maintenance of reverence and participation in the Liturgy—our whole and undivided hearts we must give to God. I would be remiss not to remind us all of our duty and our privilege.

The Lord's Prayer: What Prayer Is (part 2)

A continuation from yesterday of the excerpt where Pope Benedict speaks about what we learn about prayer in general through Jesus' teaching of the Our Father, a.k.a. The Lord's Prayer. I especially like the contemplations about "formulaic prayer" as a school.
This is what prayer really is -- being in silent inward communion with God. It requires nourishment, and that is why we need articulated prayer in words, images, or thoughts. The more God is present in us, the more we will really be able to be present to him when we utter the words of our prayers. But the converse is also true: Praying actualizes and deepens our communion of being with God. Our praying can and should arise above all from our heart, from our needs, our hopes, our joys, our sufferings, form our shame over sin, and from our gratitude for the good. It can and should be a wholly personal prayer. But we also constantly need to make use of those prayers that express in words the encounter with God experienced both by the Church as a whole and by individual members of the Church. For without these aids to prayer, our own praying and our image of God become subjective and end up reflecting ourselves more than the living God. In the formulaic prayers that arose first from the faith of Israel and then from the faith of praying members of the Church, we get to know God and ourselves as well. They are a "school of prayer" that transforms and opens up our life.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What is Synesthesia?

You know the word 'anesthesia' which means no sensation; well 'synesthesia' means joined sensation. And what is joined is two, three, or all five senses together. So that my voice, for example, to a synesthete is not just something that they hear, but also something that they see, or smell, or touch.

Music for example is not just a sound and a melody, but it's like a visual fireworks that they see in front of them on a little screen, rather than in the mind's eye.
As per a recent phone conversation where the subject came up, here's the answer about Hannah and her special ability: Also is Kinda Crunchy.

25 Reasons to Buy the New Serenity DVD

2. You love buying new Serenity things, admit it. It makes you tingly. ...

5. Somewhere there is a network executive(s) who is still baffled at the refusal of this property to die, despite his, her, or their best efforts. Buy the DVD with a song in your heart. ...

16. Finally you can see the Fruity Oaty feature without remembering which up-down-sideways buttons to hit to get to the easter egg. ...
And here I thought that I was the only one who insisted on watching the Fruity Oaty ad every time I watched the movie. Pure genius! The entire list is at SerenityStuff (where else?). Via No Blasters.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Amy Welborn's Open Book is being discontinued in favor of new blog, al fresco. Frankly, I can get all the Catholic news and opinions thereon elsewhere. It looks as if this blog will have the type of writing that I enjoyed most at Open Book ... but without having to sift through everything else.

Although it says "al fresco" in the masthead photo, Amy has named her blog "Charlotte was Both."

The Lord's Prayer: What Prayer Is (part 1)

I fell away from reading this book, for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with the book itself. Back into it, I am once again so thankful for the way it spurs me to think in ways that both new and yet seem like something that we already knew. Ratzinger here speaks about what we learn about prayer in general through Jesus' teaching of the Our Father, a.k.a. The Lord's Prayer.
The other false form of prayer the Lord warns us against is the chatter, the verbiage, that smothers the spirit. We re all familiar with the danger of reciting habitual formulas while our mind is somewhere else entirely. We are at our most attentive when we are driven by inmost need to ask God for something or are prompted by a joyful heart to thank him for good things that have happened to us. Most importantly, though, our relationship to God should not be confined to such momentary situations, but should be present as the bedrock of our soul. In order for that to happen, this relation has to be constantly revived and the affairs of our everyday lives have to be constantly related back to it. The more the depths of our souls are directed toward God, the better we will be able to pray. The more prayer is the foundation that upholds our entire existence, the more we will become men of peace. the more we can bear pain, the more we wil be able to understand others and open ourselves to them. this orientation pervasively shaping our whole consciousness, this silent presence of God at the heart of our thinking, our meditating, and our being, is what we mean by "prayer without ceasing." this is ultimately what we mean by love of God, which is at the same time the condition and the driving force between love of neighbor.
Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI)
I will continue this excerpt tomorrow but wanted to break this up so that we can more easily contemplate it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Role of Science Fiction in Questioning Faith

A man born and raised in one religious tradition, if he looks at the far horizons, might well be tempted to leave the faith-- because he sees that things really might not be the way he was taught that they were. How is the worship of Jehovah and different from the absurd worship of the Great God Finuka on planet Ambroy, where the celebrants hop and jump when they pray? Or if the God Apollo is a space-alien who uses his matter control technology to get a date with Leslie Parrish, what does that say about the God we were taught in Sunday School? If the heavens are filled with bug-eyed Martians, where does that leave room for angels? (Because we know there cannot be Eldil on Malacandra, since we know the Barsoomians worship Iss.)

But by the same token, a man born and raised in the modern secular scientific world view, if he looks at the far horizons, might well be tempted to leave that faith-- because he sees that things really might not be the way he was taught that they were. Because if the cosmos is so vast and wonderful and beautiful and intricate, how can it just be a dumb, deadly, machine, winding down to nothing? ...

Again, the same kind of questions can crop up when a young man travels abroad for the first time, or even travels abroad in his imagination by reading books. ...
John C. Wright has a post that is basically a short essay in how to think honestly. Of course, I like it.

We Have a Word For It ... And Here's Why

Matrix • Fingernails and toenails grow from a source called the "nail matrix" and grow out over the "nail bed." The nail itself is called the "nail plate." As well as providing the name for a cool, if violent movie series, matrix has a surprising history. The movie The Matrix series takes its name from computing, where a matrix is an interconnected complex of related elements. But matrix was originally a Latin word meaning "uterus" or "womb," and appeared in that sense in English in 1526. Think matrix, mater, mother. The nail matrix is in this sense the place of origin of the nail, the place where it is born. In The Matrix movies those evil computers have set up artificial wombs where they can breed more humans; lending the name a nice circularity.
Carnal Knowledge by Charles Hodgson

Praying for Those in Mortal Sin

What a vivid description and how this reminded me sharply to pray for those in mortal sin, who I admit I rarely think about at all.

This entire book has been a surprise as Teresa writes about things much more simply than I expected. Initially I was afraid to read this book, figuring it was so far over my head that I'd never understand. That was a conclusion I drew without even cracking it open. Wrong! I can recommend it to anyone, provided they read slowly, absorbing it a bit at a time, not because it is so difficult but because it is so very rich.
Let us take care, Sisters, to beg this mercy of Him and not be careless, for it is a most generous alms to pray for those who are in mortal sin. Suppose we were to see a Christian with his hands fastened behind his back by a strong chain, bound to a post, and dying of hunger, not because of lack of food, for there are very choice dishes beside him, but because he cannot take hold of the food and eat, and even has great loathing for it; and suppose he sees that he is about to breathe his last and die, not just an earthly death but an eternal one. Wouldn't it be a terrible cruelty to stand looking at him and not feed him? Well, then, what if through your prayer the chains could be loosed? The answer is obvious. For the love of God I ask you always to remember in your prayers souls in mortal sin.
Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila

Friday, August 3, 2007

Our Aging Pepper

Thanks to those of you who have emailed or commented asking about our appetite-less dog, Pepper. I finally took him to the vet to be sure that I wasn't just connecting two things that seemed related but really weren't.

The blood work came back showing some elevated levels related to renal distress. In other words, his kidneys aren't happy. He is a big dog (Black Lab/Great Dane mix is the best guess; 110 lbs. now that he has slimmed down some thanks to a diet) and about 8 years old ... anyone who has been around lots of dogs knows that the combination of a big, aging, male dog leads one to think of kidney failure as something to keep your eyes out for. Therefore, I wasn't completely surprised by these results.

This can give one a bit of gastric distress as well ... a.k.a. an upset tummy. Tom went to heroic lengths and gathered a urine sample yesterday on a neighborhood walk (don't ask for details!) and Hannah took it to work today for further analysis. Most probably we are looking at feeding him very high protein food which won't have many byproducts to filter through those distressed kidneys.

And so it goes ...