Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Zombies, Zombies Everywhere ...

... and not a brain in sight!

I've never been a real zombie fan. Too much blood and guts everywhere (literally). However, these two examples are too good to pass up.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Shaun and his best friend are a couple of slackers. A good evening is one that ends at the pub and every evening ends at the pub. Shaun's girlfriend is less than pleased with this lack of initiative, especially after celebrating their third anniversary ... at the pub. She breaks up with Shaun who is so distraught that he doesn't notice all there is a zombie epidemic all around them. This leads to some hilarious scenes, such as when Shaun and his friend first encounter zombies and think they are drunks. Shaun takes the lead in rescuing his mum and ex-girlfriend to take them to the safest place he can think of ... the pub. I was anxious to see this from the first moment I heard the premise, yet put it off for fear of the "R" rating (for zombie violence ... yes, that's actually what it says). There is plenty of warning for any such scenes and much of it is so fake that it doesn't matter. The directors are really good at combining our awareness that this is a zombie movie with Shaun's general cluelessness to provide many very funny jump scenes as well. HC rating: nine thumbs up!

WORLD WAR Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
It goes by many names: “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The WalkingPlague,” as well as newer and more “hip” titles such as “World War Z” or “Z War One.” I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable “Z War Two.” For me, it will always be “The Zombie War,” and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word zombie, they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that almost caused our extinction. Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book.

This record of the greatest conflict in human history owes its genesis to a much smaller, much more personal conflict between me and the chairperson of the United Nation’s Postwar Commission Report. My initialwork for the Commission could be described as nothing short of a labor of love. My travel stipend, my security access, my battery of translators, both human and electronic, as well as my small, but nearly priceless voice-activated transcription “pal” (the greatest gift the world’s slowest typist could ask for), all spoke to the respect and value my work was afforded on this project. So, needless to say, it came as a shock when I found almost half of that work deleted from the report’s final edition. ...
World War Z (WWZ) is the book that began the zombie invasion of publishing. You may thank or curse Max Brooks, depending on your feeling about the genre. Actually, WWZ is the follow-up to Brooks' 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Where that book was a twist on more practical manuals, however, WWZ is a much more serious novel than one might expect.

In this "future history" a reporter travels the world to interview key individuals who fought in the zombie wars after a virus surfaces that sweeps over populations in an epidemic, leaving huge numbers of zombies roaming the earth. The clever premise provides much food for thought about how individuals and governments respond to unexpected emergencies ... or fail to respond. Brooks uses this vehicle not only to tell an excellent story but to skewer both governmental policies and lambast the powerful who take advantage of any situation for their own gain. This is a real page turner that resulted in many late nights as I watched civilization collapse and wondered what was found that allowed victory over the zombie hordes.

First Friday is This Week

Just a reminder for anyone who is joining us in our prayer and fasting for an end to abortion.

Rafting the Tiber has a First Friday introduction and First Friday Devotional Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for anyone who is interested. A great resource whether or not you are joining in this effort so check it out.

The Trinity, Part III - The Understanding of Unity

Icon of the Old Testament Trinity, c. 1410, Andrei Rublev
The Eastern vision of the Trinity is above all, then, a call to unity. At first sight, this could appear to contrast with what we know of Greek and Latin theologies. It is well known that in discussions of the Trinity, the Greeks and Latins went in opposite directions: the Greeks began with the divine Persons, that is, from plurality, and proceeded to nature and thus to unity; the Latins, on the other hand, began with nature, or divine unity, and with the Greeks, plurality led to unity. In the Latin vision, this characterization is clearly confirmed by the fact that the treatment of divine unity in Western theology -- the De Deo uno ("concerning the oneness of God") -- precedes the treatment of divine plurality, the De Deo trino ("concerning the triune nature of God")...

The different visions of the Trinity are reflected in the way the church is seen in the East and in the West. This is worth emphasizing, because it can help reinforce the desire and necessity for full unity between them. For those in the East, the plurality of the churches is an assumption that is taken for granted. The problem, or challenge,is how to ensure an effective and efficacious unity undergirding the autonomy of the individual churches. It is just the opposite for the Catholic Church" unity is the strongest and most obvious assumption, guaranteed by the exercise of the primacy by Peter's successor. The problem, or challenge, is how to allow the required room for diversity, i.e., for the pluralism and autonomy of the local churches. In the East, pluralism is the departure point and unity is the goal; for the West, unity is the departure point and plurality is the goal. The same is true of their respective trinitarian doctrines: the pitfall for the Latins to avoid has always been Monarchianism, i.e., excessive insistence on unity; for the Greeks, on the contrary, it has been tritheism, i.e., excessive insistence on distinction. The call to unity for the two "sister" churches arises from the very profundity of the mystery that we both venerate. In a fully achieved unity, each church would conform and make the other whole, preserving both from the risk to which each is exposed.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Trinity, Part II - Profound Peace and Unity

Icon of the Old Testament Trinity, c. 1410, Andrei Rublev
... all three are wearing blue garments as a sign of the divine nature they have in common. But on top of or underneath the blue garments, each one has a distincitive color: the Father, the angel to the left, has an indefinable color almost of pure light as a sign of his invisibility and inaccessibility. The Son, in the center, is wearing a dark tunic as a sign of the humanity with which he has clothed himself. The Holy Spirit, the angel to the right, wears a green mantle as a sign of life, since he is "the one who gives life." ...

One thing is especially striking as we contemplate Rublev's icon: the profound peace and unity that emanate from the whole. A silent cry comes forth from the icon: "Be one as we are one." The saint for whose monastery the icon was painted, St. Sergius of Radonezh, is known in Russian history for having brought unity among warring chieftains and for having thus made possible the liberation of Russia from the Tartars, who had invaded it. His motto was that "through the contemplation of the most Holy Trinity we can overcome the hateful divisions of this world."

Monday, February 26, 2007

New Blogs

I was saddened by the news that Catholic Ragemonkey is closing up shop.

Obviously they can never be replaced, but to help salve the pain here are a few new blogs.
Also, here's a worthwhile looking charity ... check it out.
I am a fellow Catholic living in Southern California and I recently came upon your blog. I'm writing to you because over the past year or so I have created and now manage a not-for-profit website that helps people find local charities that accept clothing donations. Here is a link to the site... Make sure to read the "About Us" section as it describes the inspiration behind the site.

"The cross is not negotiable, sweetheart..."

Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality by Raymond Arroyo
The apostles were dodos, dummies. But all the smart people in the world at the time wouldn't take chances. That is the same problem we have today. The world is looking for intellectuals and the Lord is looking for dummies. That's why I'm here.
Mother Angelica is known for her down-to-earth common sense. Flipping through this little book of excerpts and sayings I was not immediately taken with what I saw. Frankly, it seemed too basic, too ordinary, to be of much interest.

When I turned to the beginning and began to read it as a regular book, however, all the quotes began to hang together and a surprisingly coherent message arose that was not at all ordinary. Partially, this is due to Raymond Arroyo's groupings of these various sayings and insights into categories such as Eternal Perspectives, Living in the Present Moment, Everyday Holiness, Overcoming Faults, and so on. Most of the message, naturally, comes from Mother Angelica's single mindedness in understanding of how to find God's will and live it in everyday life.

As I read quote after quote, I was drawn into a great appreciation for the concept of living in the present moment which is one of the main themes of Mother Angelica's teachings. Drawn from the work of Brother Lawrence, this has become a central way that she practices living God's will ...
We have to ask God: What are You calling me to do now, in this Present Moment? Not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now. God's will is manifested to us in the duties and experiences of the Present Moment. We have only to accept them and try to be like Jesus in them.
I have seen this concept before but never in such practical applications as given in this book. It is something that I found myself remembering throughout the weekend as I was caught up in an angry memory or dreaming of something that I needed to do in a day or two. The present moment would pop into my mind and I'd shake myself and move on. It is rare to find quotations that can help improve my life at all, much less so quickly.

Naturally, there is more in this little book than the concept of the present moment and most readers will find something of value. Part of Mother Angelica's charm is the afore mentioned practicality. I appreciated knowing that despite her faith in God (and all she has accomplished as a result), Mother Angelica is never far from the Maalox bottle that soothes her nervous stomach. Reading about her impatient nature and quick temper, I felt more than a twinge of recognition as well as reinforcement that we can reach for the highest goals if we step out on faith.

This week's daily quotes will be coming from this book.

Highly recommended.

The Trinity, Part I - In Eastern Spirituality

Icon of the Old Testament Trinity, c. 1410, Andrei Rublev
To get to the heart of Eastern and Western spirituality, we can take as our starting point the artistic representation of the Trinity that is the most typical for each of the two churches.

For the Orthodox Church, that would certainly be Rublev's icon of the Trinity...

One thing should be said immediately about this icon. It does not purport to directly represent the Trinity, which is, by definition, invisible and ineffable. Attempting to do so would be contrary to all the canons of Byzantine ecclesiastical iconography. Instead, it depicts the three angels who appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre (see Genesis 18:1-15). In that tradition, before and after Rublev, Abraham, Sarah, the calf and an oak tree often appear. This episode, in fact, is read by the patristic tradition as an early prefigurement of the Trinity. The icon is one of the artistic forms that follow a spiritual reading of the Bible. It is, thus, not the atemporal Trinity that is represented, but the Trinity in salvation history.

All the experts agree that Rublev's icon is the zenith of all iconographic art in terms of its power for theological synthesis, its richness of symbols, and its artistic beauty. It conveys the very rhythm of trinitarian life. Unceasing motion and superhuman stillness, transcendence and condescendence, are simultaneously represented.

The dogma of the unity and trinity of God is expressed by the fact that the three Persons represented are distinct but closely resemble each other. They are contained within a circle that highlights their unity. They are contained within a circle that highlights their unity, but their diverse motions and postures speak of their differences.
I know so little about looking at art that this was a revelation not only for the concept of the Trinity but also for the way to examine what the artist was communicating. More to come in Part II.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Radio Days

I'm going to be interviewed on "The Catholic Guy," hosted by Lino Rulli, to discuss Happy Catholic live around 5:00 ET (which is 4:00 to me). It airs on The Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, 159.

I think they have a blogger a day on there ... now if only I had it so I could hear what some of my favorite bloggers sound like!

However, I ask you ladies ... he bemoans his lack of a girl friend and then grows a Fu Manchu mustache. So which is cuter? Hmmm?



I vote for ... pre Fu Manchu. But I'm not in the market ... eligible girls, speak up!

What is Better Than Prayer and Fasting?

Of the three marks of Lent — prayer, fasting and almsgiving — almsgiving is surely the most neglected.

And yet, in the only place where the Bible brings all three together, the inspired author puts the emphasis firmly on the last: “Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness … It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life” (Tob 12:8-9).

Why is almsgiving better than prayer and fasting? Because it is prayer, and it involves fasting. Almsgiving is a form of prayer because it is “giving to God” — and not mere philanthropy. It is a form of fasting because it demands sacrificial giving — not just giving something, but giving up something, giving till it hurts.
Ouch.

Busted.

By Mike Aquilina of all people.

I give a lot of time. Does that count?

Go read it all. Excellent as is everything that Mike writes.

Lent: Fade to Gray

Lent begins with the color gray -- the color of ashes, of penance, of weakness. Gray is also the color of dullness. Sometimes it seems the best description of our everyday routine. Some days it seems our whole life is gray.

By this we are not talking about sin or guilt. Sin is an action resulting form my free decision that separates me from God. However, when I truly recognize my sin, it opens me to God's love. Grave sin is healed by great mercy. Betrayal is redeemed by faithful love.

The problem is located somewhere between great sin and great love, in the vast haze of imperfect friendships, unfulfilled promises, incomplete victories, plans delayed to infinity. It is a constant, omnipresent weakness, an endles scapacity for mediocrity. Our dreams rarely come true -- and when they do, they are just a pale shadow of what we expected. Our loves and friendships, though intense and full of promise, are also fragile and full of deception. How many times have we caught ourselves trying to possess or to manipulate other people? How many times have our prayers for others been nothing more than showing off for ourselves? What scares us the most is the suspicion that this is all it means to be human.

But the color of Lent is not gray; it's violet -- purple. Purple is the color of repentance and conversion. The intensity of purple also signifies the perssistent love of God, who is rejected by man but does not give up. He sacrificed himself as a man in order to redeem man. He became man so that I don't have to be afraid to be human.

This means that the way to get out of the gray is not to be afraid of it. If we accept our life, our loves and friendships and our work for what they are, and if we have the courage to receive them with all talent and energy, then past the haze of mediocrity, boredom, and even suffering, I will see Christ. Christ's humanity is not a limitation or an embarrassment; it is the way in which God chose to save his creatures. His cross is not a failure; it is his victory and hope for us. Christ is the Son who became man so that "the Father may see and love in us what he sees and loves in Christ." Thanks to him I don't have to be afraid of my weaknesses and limitations. As long as I don't give up, I am on the road to him.
Father Jacek Buda, O.P. (Magnificat)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why Do Catholics Fast?

Fasting has its health benefits, but it’s not the same as dieting. Fasting is something spiritual and far more positive. Fasting is a spiritual feast. It does for the soul what food does for the body.

The Bible spells out specific spiritual benefits of fasting. It produces humility (Ps 69:10). It shows our sorrow for our sins (1 Sam 7:6). It clears a path to God (Dan 9:3). It is a means of discerning God’s will (Ezr 8:21) and a powerful method of prayer (8:23). It’s a mark of true conversion (Jl 2:12). ...
The second of Mike Aquilina's wonderful series to launch us into a fruitful Lent. Don't miss it.

Lent: What to Give Up

Here's what to give up this Lent: the doubt that "I can never get closer to God because I'm too sinful, too flawed, too weak." This is a lethal attitude, for it is based on the false presumption that we can possess something of our own -- that does not come from God -- by which we can please God. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only what is from God can please God. But as long as such error persists, we estrange ourselves from God. Lent is not about lamenting our inadequacy. Rather, it is a graced moment to receive from God what he is eager to give us so that we can live the friendship with him that he desires...
Peter John Cameron, O.P. (Magnificat-March 2007)
This makes me think of what a friend said in our shared prayer before the book club the other night. Asking God to make our hearts open that we might receive what He would give us having during this Lenten season.

What is getting between me and what God would have me receive from Him? There are all too many things. I can start on something small. By the time that Lent is over it won't seem small. I will be all too glad to see the end of that Lenten sacrifice coming up. Which just goes to show how many small things I put in between God and me. It is a good reminder.

May God use my small sacrifice for good ... the good of others and of my soul.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Love for Sinners

A new blog dedicated exclusively to finding ways to live out Christ's command:
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you....If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same." - Luke 6:27-33:
Excellent timing I'd say. Jeremy is looking for others who would like to contribute posts. His email is on the blog. Check it out.

DarwinCatholic + Dallas = One Very Happy Catholic

Woohoo!

The Darwins are planning a trip to Dallas for the weekend after next ... and we get to meet them ... and feed them ... and ply them with Tom's margaritas!

This is gonna be so much fun!

Giving Up, Adding On, ... or Both?

Catholic School Student: Sister Hill? I really like going to church. Does that mean I can give it up for Lent?

Peggy: Well, now... I don't think God would like that very much, but you've caught him in a loophole. Good for you!
King of the Hill
Ok, time to 'fess up. Who's doing what for Lent? I'll go first ... like St. Therese of Lisieux, I want it all (though, let's face it, this all isn't exactly like when she reached into that toy basket).

Giving up: sweets. (As Laura H. said, "Does it sting?" Yes, thanks for asking, it does and it certainly will.)

Adding on: Regular prayer times using Magnificat. So we're talkin' 4 times a day. Once upon a time, I used to do this and it was quite fruitful. Why did I quit? I don't know ... but it's time to get back into the habit of making time for those regular conversations with God.

A Little of Both: More silence in my life. Which involves pulling back from some things (not so many podcasts maybe, no using the computer on the weekends and less in the evenings) and deliberately adding times with less noise.

Lent: Are You Ready to Rumble?

Fasting. No one likes it. Even people who don't care about food too much (like Hannah) don't like it. And no wonder. We get hungry, we get cranky, we're uncomfortable ... darned uncomfortable. I never thought about it more deeply than that, other than to psych myself into the zone by offering it up for someone in grave need.

Then I read this which made me think about fasting in a very different way. I thought I'd share it.
Lenten Fasting
Jesus fasted simply because he wanted to, as the gospel clearly says. But why? Because hunger never comes alone; hunger usually touches us very deeply, not just physically but deep in our heart. Hunger in a sense wounds us; it undermines something in us which up to that moment had been inviolable. It causes a kind of vaccuum, tears open an old wound, and even at times leads to dizziness. Precisely for that reason fasting and hunger can change something in us, can even bring about a genuine transformation.

Whatever is thus touched or kindled is not always honorable or satisfying ... In order to be able to test us the devil has to take advantage of our weaknesses, both our physical and spiritual weakness, the hunger which torments us and makes us afraid of losing our life.

For along with hunger other desires and temptations immediately surface as well, even in the case of Jesus: the seductive challenge of easy success, the desire for eearthly fame, the hunger for power in this world, sensuality in all its forms. Fasting half opens the door we so often want to keep shut, even with a double lock. For immediately after the first hunger and the first desire, the other hunger and those other desires surface as well, desires which seek -- with equal bitterness and equal power to disturb us -- to take possession of our heart. No one ever fasts with impunity ...

However, Jesus had come for this very purpose. Not to crush all desires and temptations, nor to conquer them honorably. The contrary is true ... Our fasting even today risks opening the door to the excitement of the desires it threatens to unleash, a door which looks out on the other shore of our desires, not on their dark but on their light side: God within us; God who desires to be loved; God who hungers for us and we for him, passionately.
Father Andre Louf, O.C.S.O. (Magnificat)
I do have one practical piece of advice to offer ... hunger comes in "waves" so if you suddenly feel those pangs, quite often you can remember that and when you come to think of it again then the hunger has receded. That helps me anyway.

Prayer: The Basics

In prayer we talk to God, and He talks to us. As in any relationship, this conversation takes many forms. Think of all the ways a husband and wife communicate: formal marriage vows, casual chat, winks across a crowded room, affectionate caresses, and phrases they never tire of repeating ...

... When we look at all prayer as conversation, it can change the way we go about it. Thinking of prayer as conversation can help us also to overcome obstacles — such as distractions, dryness, inability to focus — because all these things also come up in human conversation.
A simply fantastic article about prayer by Mike Aquilina. He approaches everything so clearly that, whatever our individual problems may be in approaching this conversation with God, we can see our way clearly (or at least I can see the path better now!).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We Have a Word For It ... and Thank Goodness

St. Paul, Minnesota

Before it acquired its present name, this city was called Pig's Eye, after a well-known local trader named Pierre "Pig's Eye" Parrant. It was later named St. Paul after the church of the same name, erected onthe site by Father Lucian Galtier in 1841.
The Word Origin Calendar
Talk about dodging a bullet. Thank heavens Fr. Galtier came along and gave the proud Pig's Eye-ians a new name to call home...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Are We Ready for The Year of the Pig?


Slashfood offers this quick recap for this Chinese year.
Everyone knows it's the Year of the Pig, but did you also know that it's the year of the golden pig? The Pig (sometimes referred to as "boar") is a symbol of sincerity, honesty, and patience -- an all around "nice" person. We won't go into all the deep details behind Chinese astrology, but we will say that because the year of the Golden Pig only comes every 600 years, it's pretty special -- we're talking about the difference between plain old pork and Nueske bacon! People are expecting prosperity in Year 4704, and anyone born this year is sure to be wealthy in the future.

Glimpsing Glory Through Art

I've always had this sense that there is another language I once knew, a joy that was mine before I was born. When I get a glimpse of that glory through art, I can feel the memory of it pressing against the back of my mind, and the longing for that peace and resolution wells up inside me. I can't quite grasp it. I can't speak my native language. Not yet ... but I'm learning.

If I do the difficult thing and pull myself away from art that is merely entertaining and start searching for those currents of truth that reside within beauty and mystery, I will be drawn off the path of familiarity and comfort. The reality of God is not bound to a particular earthly language, country or style. His spirit can speak through anything. But He is far more likely to be encountered in those things that are excellent rather than shoddy, particular rather than general, authentic rather than derivative. I will find myself investigating art and expression that never played for audiences in this country -- art that waits overlooked on the shelves of foreign and independent films at the video store. And I will be changed, concerns with cares and disciplines that make no sense to Hollywood movie publicists.

It could be a lonely road. But it's a road that leads farther up, farther in, to greater majesty and transforming truth.
Through a Screen Darkly by Jeffrey Overstreet
Not exactly what you'd expect from a book about movies is it?

I never thought about my passion for movies as a passion for art. However, I have learned from reading Overstreet's reviews over the years that he can pull your thinking to a new place. I have never forgotten that it was his review of Hero that made me even consider watching it. His ability to communicate some of the intangible qualities in that movie, now one of my favorites, was what made me eager to read his book.

This is a masterful work by a noted film critic about bringing a spirit of discernment to the world of film. Overstreet invites us to consider how film as an art form affects one's soul and ultimately can be a work of God, even when it may go against what many define as "Christian."

This is the first book I ever read of this sort and I have to say that it remains a big influence in my movie viewing. I will never forget the sense of shock I felt upon reading that Finding Nemo had a deeper message. An excellent work that helps us learn discernment in our daily lives toward any sort of story telling. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Catholic Blog Award Results

And the results are in!

Hearty congratulations to all those who won!

Happy Catholic didn't win anything and that matches perfectly with my expectations. (I definitely should add here that, a la Sally Fields, it is perfectly lovely to be nominated ... that is like an award in itself!)

It is interesting to see that a wide open field still resulted in the usual suspects generally winning. Tom and I were wondering if "splitting the vote" between so many blogs in each category would have that result. Evidently so.

However, we got to look at a wide variety of blogs in St. Blog's Parish and that's definitely a good thing ... so I would say we are all winners on that score.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Announcement: It Started Here. Let It End Here.

A Joint Statement
By Catholic bloggers of the Dallas area

Is there a phrase more infamous than "Roe versus Wade"?

The principal people involved in this most infamous legal case were from Dallas. "Roe" is a pseudonym for Dallas resident Norma McCorvey. Henry Wade was the Dallas district attorney who filed the original charges in the case.

It all began here in Dallas - in our home town, where we raise our families, where we go to church, where we live, and love, and learn, and work.

We are three bloggers who also live in the Dallas area. We are deeply committed to ending abortion in this country. To that end, we have committed ourselves to the following: On each First Friday for the next eleven months, we will fast and pray before the Blessed Sacrament for an end to abortion. This will culminate at the annual Dallas March for Life in January of 2008, where we will join our bishop and the faithful of this city in marching to the courthouse where Roe was originally argued.

We ask anyone reading these words to join us. Fast and pray with us each First Friday, no matter how far removed you are from Dallas. Spend some time in Eucharistic adoration, and implore Christ to end this curse. We especially ask other Dallas area bloggers and residents to join us, at least in spirit. If you would rather not fast, then pray for those of us that do.

We will not win this battle in the courts. We will not win this battle in the media. We will not win this battle in any earthly way. We will only win through prayer, fasting, and devotion to Christ.

It started here. Let it end here.

Jesus, we trust in you.

Mark Windsor - Rafting the Tiber
Julie D. - Happy Catholic
Laura H. - ... and if not ...
------------------------------
Dallas bloggers also joining the battle:
I wanted to mention that this is Mike Windsor's inspiration and I appreciate him contacting me about it.

They Have a Word for It ... And We Don't

Bilita Mpash (Bantu)
This denotes blissful dreams. In English, we have nightmares but no word for waking feeling happy. In Bantu, the word is further defines as a "lengendary, blissful state where all is forgiven and forgotten." The Afro-American equivalent for bilita mpash is "beluthathatchee," believed to be traced to Afro-American slang from its Bantu roots.
I had one of these dreams just last week. The sort of dream that whenever I remembered it during the day I hugged it to myself and felt ... yes ... blissful is the right word. Sadly, I have much more experience with nightmares. Bilita mpash are few and far between ... and the more treasured because of it.

I am never going to be able to incorporate this word into my vocabulary because I can't say it ... but I'll remember that there is a word for those great dreams.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Reading" on the Road

Addison asks:
.... on a personal note, i am looking for some books on tape/CD/Ipod for all of my long car rides with no one but St. Chris to talk to (and we do get to talking) but i rarely find anything other than mysteries, grisham, king, clancey. I really want to find something worthwhile to "read" any recomendations?
Check out my sidebar in the Blogroll under "Tell Me a Story" for lots of free options.

Specifically I'd recommend Librivox for everything from Dickens to Twain to Kipling ... and more.

Also check Podiobooks. Try Seventh Son (book 1), Earthcore, or Shadow Magic for books that I've enjoyed. Although those are more along the lines of the popular books you mentioned.

Not a book, but thoroughly enjoyable is the Black Jack Justice series from Decoder Ring Theater. I don't care for the Red Panda episodes but Black Jack Justice is a "noir-style" production that is really humorous. Rose even listens ... so give it a try.

And, have a good trip!

FDA Issues Salmonella Warning for Peter Pan Peanut Butter

ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE:CAG) told consumers to discard certain jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter after the spread was linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened almost 300 people nationwide.

Lids of jars with a product code beginning '2111' can be returned to ConAgra for a refund, the company said.

The salmonella outbreak, which federal health officials said Wednesday has sickened 288 people in 39 states since August, was linked to tainted peanut butter produced by ConAgra at a plant in Sylvester, Ga. How salmonella got into peanut butter is still under investigation, said Dr. Mike Lynch, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention...
Read it all here.

Sheez, I Go One Day Without Reminding People to Kiss the Egg ...

... and look what happens.

We get The Curt Jester's negative campaign (reminding us of just how sidesplittingly funny he really is) ... well, I was never going to be the funniest blog anyway. Way too many truly funny blogs out there.

Then, we've got Father Joe who has managed to get both the Pope and the devil (oh, that reverse psychology!) stumping the vote for him. Though I'll never be nominated in the "clergy blog" category ... so all I have to mourn there is that he got the biggest names out pushing his vote. It is pretty clear that he should have been in the funniest blog category as well ...

Where does all that leave me?


If you don't kiss da egg now, mon, you're kissing my chances goodbye!

Just a day left (voting ends at noon on Friday) and then I'll quit flogging the vote. Now that's something to be grateful for, right? In your joy and gratitude, go vote, and then I'll shaddup!

Waffling? Have Some Stephen Colbert Ice Cream

"I'm not afraid to say it. Dessert has a well-known liberal agenda. What I hope to do with this ice cream is bring some balance back to the freezer case."
Stephen Colbert
The vanilla ice cream will have fudge-covered waffle cone pieces and caramel. Via Slashfood.

Poetry Thursday: Screwtape II

Rose's summary of The Screwtape Letters in five poems. Today, the second poem.
Oh my dear Wormwood, what you say is naïve.
A war doesn’t hurt but helps people believe!

Now they have causes for which they can fight
And the Enemy doesn’t care if they’re right.

“As long as they try.” That’s what He’ll say.
So take great care how you catch your prey.

Make him fear for the future and long for the past
And not in the least, though it comes last

Make him hate the Germans with such a passion
That it goes far beyond whatever’s in fashion

Most of his friends hate ideas not the man.
They’ll help out an injured German if they can.

Let it not be for him but for woman and child
That his pure beliefs are so horribly defiled.

It it’s his own enemy he must forgive,
But he only hates so the weak can live.

So just do what I say and you’ll be in great shape.
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

True Love

Thanks to Alex for this.
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.
--------------
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.

So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."
Rebecca- age 8
--------------
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Billy - age 4
--------------
"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
Karl - age 5
--------------
"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
Chrissy - age 6
--------------
"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
Terri - age 4
--------------
"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7
--------------
"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.

My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
Emily - age 8
--------------
"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
Bobby - age 7
--------------
"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"
Nikka - age 6
--------------
"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day."
Noelle - age 7
--------------
"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
Tommy - age 6
--------------
"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.

He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."
Cindy - age 8
--------------
"My mommy loves me more than anybody
You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
Clare - age 6
--------------
"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."
Elaine-age 5
--------------
"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt."
Chris - age 7
--------------
"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
Mary Ann - age 4
--------------
"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
Lauren - age 4
--------------
"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." (what an image)
Karen - age 7
--------------
"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."
Jessica - age 8
--------------
And the final one -- Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.

The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.

The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,

"Nothing, I just helped him cry"

Valentine's Day: Do You Have the Proper Software Installed?

Thanks to Marcia for this one.
Tech Support: Yes, ... how can I help you?

Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can you guide me though the process?

Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running ?

Customer: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?

Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program not run on external components ." What should I do?

Tech Support: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer: So, what should I do?

Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer: Okay, done.

Tech Support: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self- Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

Customer: Thank you, God.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Best Sports Movies?

I've seen people around the blogosphere saying that Hoosiers is the best sports movie ever.

I haven't seen a lot of sports movies. I knew it had Gene Hackman so that gave the "best sports movie ever" some more credibility. I knew it was about basketball in Indiana, which I discovered from watching the movie is like saying it is about football in Texas.

We were underwhelmed.

It was a fine movie with some good moments. However, it was merely "fine." Not "great." Certainly not "best sports movie ever."

Now, I am slightly hampered in recommending the "best sports movie ever" by the fact that, as I said, I haven't seen tons of sports movies. For instance, sometime I will get around to watching Cinderella Man. Not being a Russell Crowe fan, that may take a while. Also, there are lots of movies that showed up under IMDB's sports movie list which we didn't think were really about the sports as much as other things.

However, we were able to come up with this list of movies that if not "the best ever" certainly were enjoyed more in our household than Hoosiers.
  1. Miracle
    American underdogs beating the Russian hockey kings in the Olympics ... it don't get much better than that.

  2. Friday Night Lights
    Texas, football, Billy Bob Thornton ... 'nuff said.

  3. Remember the Titans
    football, overcoming segregation, Denzel Washington, killer soundtrack ... once more, 'nuff said.

  4. Seabiscuit
    the little horse that could ... and Toby Maguire too.

  5. Shaolin Soccer
    a strange but funny blend of soccer, shaolin kung fu, and pop culture references ... all with hilariously bad translations every so often.

  6. Rocky
    I have to tell you? It's Rocky. Period.

And While You're Out There ...

... cruising around St. Blogs' ... don't forget to ... (yes, you know what I'm going to say don't you?) ...


C'mon, say it with me...

You still got to go kiss the egg ... for this little Jamaican bobsled.

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

TIT FOR TAT
This phrase was generated from the original uses of the two key words, "tit" and "tat," both meaning "a light hit." The reference was to retaliation, as in replying to a hit by hitting back.
The Word Origin Calendar

Sunday, February 11, 2007

HPV Vaccine: Medical Cost versus Benefit Modeling

This was too good to leave in my comments box. Thanks to the commenter for leaving this comprehensive information which is a post in itself.
In medical cost vs. benefit modeling (which strongly informs national medical public policy making and far too strongly informs the medical policies of HMOs), the most critical component is a value called "cost per life year gained."

If the cost per life year gained is under $50,000, that is generally considered a decent investment by US medical policy makers. If "cost per life year" gained is over $100,000, that is generally considered a wasteful medical policy because that money could surely be put to much better use elsewhere. Yes, this is cruel and heartless to some degree, but wide scale medical cost allocations do need to be made and, more relevantly, are continually made using these cost plus risk vs. benefit analyses. Think HMOs. Now consider why pap smears, blood tests and urine tests aren't recommended every month for everyone. Testing monthly could definitely save more than a few lives, and there is no measurable associated medical risk. But the cost would be astronomical versus the benefit over the entire US population when comparing these monthly tests to other therapies, procedures and medicines.

Now on to GARDASIL. By the time you pay doctors a small fee to inventory and deliver GARDASIL in three doses, you are talking about paying about $500 for this vaccine. And because even in the best case scenario GARDASIL can confer protection against only 70% of cervical cancer cases, GARDASIL cannot ever obsolete the HPV screening test that today is a major component of most US women's annually recommended pap smears. These tests screen for 36 nasty strains of HPV, while GARDASIL confers protection against just four strains of HPV.

Now let's consider GARDASIL's best case scenario at the moment -- about $500 per vaccine, 100% lifetime protection against all four HPV strains (we currently have no evidence for any protection over five years), and no risk of any medical complications for any subset of the population (Merck's GARADSIL studies were too small and short to make this determination for adults, these studies used potentially dangerous alum injections as their "placebo control" and GARDASIL was hardly even tested on little kids). Now, using these best case scenario assumptions for GARDASIL, let's compare the projected situation of a woman who gets a yearly HPV screening test starting at age 18 to a woman who gets a yearly HPV screening test starting at age 18 plus the three GARDASIL injections at age 11 to 12. Even if you include all of the potential medical cost savings from the projected reduction in genital wart and HPV dysplasia removal procedures and expensive cervical cancer procedures, medicines and therapies plus all of the indirect medical costs associated with all these ailments and net all of these savings against GARDASIL's costs, the best case numbers for these analyses come out to well over $200,000 per life year gained -- no matter how far the hopeful pro-GARDASIL assumptions that underpin these projections are tweaked in GARDASIL's favor.

Several studies have been done, and they have been published in several prestigious medical journals:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.290.6.781
http://tinyurl.com/2ovy95
http://tinyurl.com/2tbuma

None of these studies even so much as consider a strategy of GARDASIL plus a regimen of annual HPV screenings starting at age 18 to be worth mentioning (except to note how ridiculously expensive this would be compared to other currently recommended life extending procedures, medicines and therapies) because the cost per life year gained is simply far too high. What these studies instead show is that a regimen of GARDASIL plus delayed (to age 21, 22, 23, 25 or 27) biennial or triennial HPV screening tests may -- depending on what hopeful assumptions about GARDASIL's long term efficacy and risks are used -- hopefully result in a modest cost per life year savings compared to annual HPV screening tests starting at age 18.

If you don't believe me about this, just ask any responsible OB-GYN or medical model expert. Now, why do I think all of this is problematic?

1) Nobody is coming clean (except to the small segment of the US population that understands medical modeling) that the push for widespread mandatory HPV vaccination is based on assuming that we can use the partial protection against cervical cancer that these vaccines hopefully confer for hopefully a long, long time period to back off from recommending annual HPV screening tests starting at age 18 -- in order to save money, not lives.

2) Even in the best case scenario, the net effect is to give billions in tax dollars to Merck so HMOs and PPOs can save billions on HPV screening tests in the future.

3) These studies don't consider any potential costs associated with any potential GARDASIL risks. Even the slightest direct or indirect medical costs associated with any potential GARDASIL risks increase the cost per life year gained TREMENDOUSLY and can even easily change the entire analysis to cost per life year lost. Remember that unlike most medicines and therapies, vaccines are administered to a huge number of otherwise healthy people -- and, at least in this case, 99.99% of whom would never contract cervical cancer even without its protection.

4) These studies don't take in account the fact that better and more regular HPV screening tests have reduced the US cervical cancer rate by about 25% a decade over the last three decades and that there is no reason to believe that this trend would not continue in the future, especially if we used a small portion of the money we are planning on spending on GARDASIL to promote free annual HPV screening tests for all low income uninsured US women.

5) The studies assume that any constant cervical cancer death rate (rather than the downward trending cervical cancer death rate we have today) that results in a reduced cost per life year gained equates to sound medical public policy.

As I said before, if any of you don't believe me about this, please simply ask your OB-GYN how the $500 cost of GARDASIL can be justified on a cost per life year gained basis if we don't delay the onset of HPV screening tests and back off from annual HPV screening tests to biennial or triennial HPV screening tests.

The recommendations are already in: http://tinyurl.com/33p9q6

The USPSTF strongly recommends ... beginning screening within 3 years of onset of sexual activity or age 21 (whichever comes first) and screening at least every 3 years ...

Friday, February 9, 2007

We Finally Watched House from a Couple of Weeks Ago

I was curious to see exactly what was said by everyone because I'd seen people swearing off the show due to the pro-abortion stance, which, to be honest, is only to be expected these days in medical shows.

We were both pleased and disappointed.

We were pleased by the fact that while House was spouting his nihilistic viewpoints forged by suffering, there was a counterpoint of showing that life, however worthless it might seem to someone else, is always sacred. While House was doing his best to be "compassionate" in his own warped view by bludgeoning the girl into aligning with his idea of what was best, Cameron listened to the homeless man's desire to have his death mean something. Even though she didn't agree with what he thought about how to make sure he was remembered (by dying naturally, pain and all), she honored his wishes and his life by sitting with him until the end. The tenderness with which she cared for his body afterwards was well shown. She cared. He had mattered even if in the eyes of the world he was meaningless. He was a human being and he had mattered even if, as he told her, he had no family, friends, or job. His life was sacred.

We were displeased not so much by House's pro-abortion message (to be expected and he has said as much before on the show) but as by the girl's lack of defense. If she truly was a student of comparative religion one would have expected she would have examined her faith along the way in the light of what she learned about other beliefs. Therefore, we would have thought that she might muster up a slightly better defense theologically. Certainly in such an environment one would have expected that she would have had to defend her faith against all comers. Let's get real. That's how it is these days, especially in college.

However, on one level it rang quite true for me in terms of the unexamined faith of someone who never has been put to a hard test in life up to that point. The oft-repeated phrases that haven't been given sufficient thought ("life is sacred") suddenly have hard meaning put against them as a measure. These tests of faith come when we are vulnerable and often mistakes are made along the way, especially if we put our faith in someone who is a weak reed. Certainly there is not much more of a weak reed than House to lean on. In that context, her choice became logical ... quite regrettable as this was the writers' chance to be truly counter-cultural ... but logical. And logic and reason what House was pushing all along ...

In the end, it came down to supposed success for getting her to "talk about it so she can heal." However, the irony is that House himself, while bowing to the pressure of doing this and succeeding, pointed out that there is no panacea in "talking about it." He did and it helped him not a whit.

Obviously the writers were more interested in putting pressure on House to delve deeper and connect with someone despite the fact that he resisted the entire time. Yet, I still find it interesting that while House was pressuring the girl to discard an unborn life, they took the time to deliberately show the counterpoint that life is sacred.

Actual Worship Faux Pas

From The Curt Jester's continuation of Ironic Catholic's list comes these two comments from plantlady in the comments box that were just too funny not to pull out and share.

I volunteer at a facility for the elderly. The following are true happenings in its chapel:

1. If you ride your electrified scooter up the aisle to receive Holy Communion, remember to brake BEFORE you reach the priest. (A lady actually drove into Father, who lost his footing and quickly handed me the chalice so he wouldn't drop it!)

2. Remember to put on underwear. (As an elderly gentleman returned from receiving Communion, his pants fell down. Of course, he bent over to pull them up. After Mass, Father remarked that that was the first time he had ever been mooned on Easter!)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

A Brief Reflection on Jeremiah 17:7-8

In Scripture study we look at the Mass readings for the upcoming Sunday. The first reading was from Jeremiah:
5
Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6
He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth.
7
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.
8
He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.
Source
It occurred to me, reading over verses 7-8, God does not promise us that life will be easy if we trust in Him. The heat will come. The year of drought will come. What God promises is that we will flourish despite hardships. That He will be with us.

A simple realization, I know. Those verses from Jeremiah just seemed so real to me. Because that is truly what life is like. That is the difference that having God makes.

Poetry Thursday: Screwtape I

Rose's summary of The Screwtape Letters in five poems. Today, the first poem.
Oh my dear Wormwood, how can it be true?
The patient’s a Christian all because of you!

Now listen quite closely to the advice I give,
Devoutly religious is no way to live.

Make him look at his neighbor, not at the priest.
Make him wonder why her shirt is creased.

He knows for a fact that the woman’s a sinner.
Why she was the topic of yesterday’s dinner!

And if she really is as bad as they say,
Why, your task is so simple, it’s mere child’s play!

Never let him consider that he’s just the same,
For he knows deep down he’s never to blame.

So just do what I say and you’ll be in great shape.
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

They Have a Word for It ... And We Don't

Sekken
There is a Japanese word, "sekken", I would like to understand better. It is used to name the otherwise nameless social consensus, that is held to control Japanese public life...

A Japanese friend, who is irreverent towards her own culture, explained “sekken” to be the power that moves a large school of fish this way and that, as if they were a single organism. It is “the power that can move the entire school into the astute fisherman’s net”. She experienced it once herself, in a small way, when she wrote something controversial that happened to be true. She found herself in the position of the lone fish, who has somehow missed the tribal instruction to turn a sharp left.

Worship Faux Pas

Ironic Catholic has a hilarious list (funny because it's true!) of worship faux pas and how to avoid them. My favorite:
4. If you come to Mass tired, don't slump disrespectfully. Depend on the skills that got you through high school. At least hold your head in your hands in such a way that you look reverential.
Tom's favorite:
10. When all else fails, remember the secret Catholic motto: "I can sing quieter than you can sing."
My contribution would be: If you are kneeling in prayer avoid breathing down the neck of the person in the pew in front of you (discreet throat clearing is allowed so the person knows you're there and might lean forward slightly.)

This has spread like wildfire so be sure to check IC's comments boxes for other good additions, as well as her links at the end of the post to other bloggers who have taken up the list.

Three Things I Learned When Debating the HPV Vaccine Issue

1.
Essentially this issue boils down to whether you trust the government to have your best interests at heart in protecting you and your family.

I was stunned at how many people have such a great trust in this that they were willing to wave aside a possible money trail between Gov. Perry and Merck. I am not. People are people, profit is profit, and corruption is ever with us, sadly enough. Shouldn't the "smoke" be investigated to see if it is a dust cloud or a real fire before we put our children's health in the mix? I say yes.

I have discovered that I do not trust the FDA not to be influenced by pressures that may not include my family's best interests. Vioxx. Fen-phen. Rezulin. Remember those? I do.

I do not trust Gov. Perry to not be pandering to some special interests group or interested in money. I do not trust him to care more about my children's health ... or mine ... than I do. Or even as much as I do.

So there you go.

2.
We are a nation of the fearful. I had heard that before but it never struck home as these conversations made it do. We have forgotten how hard life can really be and really is for people in most other places in the world. We have it easier than any generation in history and we spend all our time being afraid ... of suffering, of disease, of death.

Is natural to be afraid of those things. Our desire for the quick fix, the safe bet, the sure thing has led us to stop thinking for ourselves and often simply parrot the ideology of either the Pilgrims or the Park Rangers (mentioned in Right to Be Wrong, linked to below). We are trading our freedoms at an alarming rate for governmental promises of protection and safeguards. Our ancestors would have laughed at us. They would be right to do so.

3.
I was reminded that the principles written about in The Right to Be Wrong apply to all facets of life today and not simply with religion. It has been a pleasure to debate various items with the courteous, reasonable people even as they have disagreed with me over the last day. It has made me think, made me investigate the issue more deeply, and made me examine the other point of view.

That old phrase, "agree to disagree" has never had more meaning. I can respect them while still not agreeing with them. In short, the people with whom I have been disagreeing have the right to be wrong. And I appreciate them respecting my right to be wrong too.

Real Transformation

Her [Edith Stein's] contemplative practice led to her firm belief in the traditional Christian doctrine of deification. If we are not being transformed along the way, she was convinced, then all our preaching and service is in vain. She was careful to point out the difference between "leading the self-satisfied existence of the 'good Catholic' who 'does his duty,' ' reads the right newspaper,' and 'votes correctly' -- and then does just as he pleases" and becoming a new man in Christ. The beginning of real transformation precipitates a difficult but lifesaving crisis: "If, up to now, a person has been more or less contented with himself, the time for that is over. He will do what he can to change the unpleasant things he finds in himself, but he will discover quite a bit that can't be called beautiful and yet will be nearly impossible to change. As a result he will slowly become small and humble, increasingly patient and tolerant toward the specks in his brothers' eyes."
This really hits the mark for me in terms of forcing our dependence of God and also being able to see ourselves for who we really are.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Bleg - God's Ball of Yarn

I'm trying to find a post that I thought I had bookmarked but obviously didn't ... the blogger wrote not too long ago about their mother (or mother in law) knitting ... and ended with a reflection about God's ball of yarn.

Can anyone help me out with that? Thanks!

St. Dorothy's Day

Saint Dorothy
(via
The Lion and the Cardinal)
Dorothy was born in Caesarea, where her Christian parents had fled to escape the persecutions taking place in Rome. The Roman emperor Diocletian stepped up his harassment of the Christian communities around the time that Dorothy was a young woman of marriageable age. When marriage to the roman prefect Fabricius was arranged for her, Dorothy refused, saying that she wanted to remain a virgin. To compound her insults to the Roman authorities, she also refused to take part in the ceremonies to the old gods. She was thrown into prison [where she was was tortured]...

Along the route to her place of execution, Dorothy met a young clerk in the legal network, named Theophilus, who made fun of her belief that when she was dead, she would be transported to a heavenly garden filled with flowers and fruit. "Send me fruit and flowers, then, when you are dead," he mocked. In one version, the young man watched Dorothy kneel down before she was executed, and while she was praying there, an angel appeared to him carrying three roses and three apples. In another version, after her death a strange boy appeared at Theophilus's door in the dead of winter, carring a basket with three red roses and three red apples.

Theophilus was converted and later martyred by being beheaded, after which his body was thrown to wild animals...

DEVOTIONAL PRACTICE
During the winter months, place on your altar or in a special area in your home three apples and three roses., See them as reminders of the eternal garden that exists within you even in the dead of winter. Thank God for allowing you to have faith in this vision.
St. Dorothy is Rose's patron saint. I can't believe that we almost forgot St. Dorothy's day until I saw the post at The Lion and the Cardinal.

Rose likes the suggested devotional practice. Rather than bear the expense of the roses all through the winter, she has reached a nice compromise of putting three red roses and three red apples on a special table on the first and last days of winter, and on Dorothy's saint day. She will certainly be surprised when I show up at home with the roses.

We put the apples and roses the "Mary" table. This is an end table in our living room where we have a cross, a statue of Mary, a statue of the holy family, and a little jar containing the dried rose petals from our "miraculous rose." Why? Because of those dried rose petals. They are our physical evidence of the miraculous and it is only right for this memorial to Dorothy to be placed there alongside them.

Undeserved Love

Undeserved love also brings with it the possibility of being shamed. From the great chasm that lies between what we are and what those who love us think we are rises up a fruitful and challenging embarrassment, especially when it is they who glimpse our true calling long before we ourselves can see it. The German philosopher Nicolai Hartmann says that someone who is loved this way is "pushed beyond himself." In this sense, love becomes a clarion call to transformation -- the transformation of human nature made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.

This aspect of love -- that it urges us to be better than we are, to grow into what God intended us to be -- explains how the person who loves us most can also be our best critic. It is because he or she wants our life to be truly good. Thus, the true lover forgives rather than excuses our human failings. The distinction is an important one. In excusing, he pretends that something bad did not happen after all. In forgiving, he affirms that it did indeed happen and that he hopes and prays we will come to recognize this fact and repent.
I never thought of that concept before ... that someone who is undeservedly loved is pushed beyond himself. But that is exactly what God does with us. Fascinating ... and humbling.

Monday, February 5, 2007

I Never Thought I'd Be a Conscientious Objecter

Updated resources below.
*Alliance Teacher: And now, everyone can enjoy enlightenment and the comfort of true civilization....

Pupil: Why were the Independents even fighting us? Why weren't they looking to be more civilized?

Alliance Teacher: So with so much social and medical advances we can bring to the Independents, why would they fight so hard against us?

River: We meddle.

Alliance Teacher: River?

River: People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don't run. Don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome.

Alliance Teacher: River, we're not telling people what to think. We're just trying to show them how. (Stabs River in the forehead with pen)
In my cowardly way I always was secretly relieved that my girls were too old for me to have to worry about what to do when I heard about certain vaccines for children that were made using aborted babies (ugh!).

However, here comes a different vaccine with different issues attached ... that requires us to take a stand.
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry – usually a hero to social conservatives – surprised many of them Friday by making Texas the first state to mandate a vaccine for sixth-grade girls to prevent a sexually transmitted infection that leads to most kinds of cervical cancer.
It so happens that not too long ago I had printed out Catholic Medical Weekly's evenhanded and informative article about this virus. I even read various portions aloud to Tom and Rose, with this being the money quote for us. (I have edited the layout to make it easier to read.)
Why isn’t it a swell idea?

First. The vaccine does not remove the need for Pap smears nor will it do anything for a lady already infected.

Second, it doesn’t do anything about other sexually transmitted diseases, although it’s easy to imagine a 12 year old (remember, that’s the target audience) who thinks it does. For that matter, I can easily imagine a 20 year old who might think it does, but that’s neither here nor there.

Thirdly, there are concerns that the FDA has "fast-tracked" licensure of Gardasil, without adequate study of its safety in little girls.[5]

Fourth, and most importantly, no one knows what effect universal vaccination of 9 year olds might have on adolescent tendency to have sex. However, the data of the past forty years of social experimentation suggest that it would tend to increase sexual activity. That’s been the outcome of all the other experiments on early immersion of young children into the fetid world of “sex ed” and teenage contraception, and there’s no reason this should have a different effect.

Regarding the morality of the vaccine itself, its manufacture does not involve aborted babies[6]. So the moral problems attached to, say varicella or rubella vaccines do not apply here.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. You don’t get it if the person next to you coughs, and you don’t get it from a water fountain or a toilet seat. Requiring HPV immunizations for young girls (and that is what ACIP “recommendations” amount to: requirements) is, in my view, no different from requiring that all school age girls be put on contraception....
I encourage anyone with daughters to go read the full article as it gives very good information about the vaccine and the issues involved. No matter what your thoughts on the main issues it is important to be fully informed when you make decisions about this vaccine.

It is important to keep in mind also, that although this vaccine is being trumpeted as the answer to avoiding cervical cancer, it is vital to recognize what it really does. The vaccine may reduce the incidence of infection with the HPV virus and does not necessarily prevent cervical cancer.

I have had grave misgivings from the time that the FDA changed policies to allow fast tracking of drug clearances and this just seems to prove my point. Our society at this time seems to be governed by knee-jerk reactions and policy mandates made based on public opinion and incomplete research. I object on those grounds, much less on those outlined in CMW's article.

I am not sure whether this requirement will be imposed as a retroactive measure on girls over the age of 12 such as my own high school and college age daughters. Governor Perry does allow an "out" for objectors.
In his executive order, Mr. Perry said girls must receive the human papillomavirus vaccine before school starts in September 2008. While noting that parents may opt out of the vaccine for conscience or religious reasons, he said it "provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer."
Talking about the legislation yesterday, I told Rose that I do object. Without missing a beat she said, "I don't need you to object. I object on my own behalf. They can forget it." (A proud mom moment there.) I will be sending article links on to Hannah so she can see the facts behind the spin.

* I knew I was missing some TV quote to set this whole post off ... and just couldn't think of which one. Thanks to Tim for stepping up on this one!


UPDATE - way more than you wanted to know about what I was thinking

A good friend challenged me on some of the material and also was surprised that one of the reasons I didn't like the idea of the vaccine was the possibility of the effect on adolescents' tendency to have sex (as mentioned in the excerpt above).

I guess I should have qualified it more ... mostly because I hear through Hannah and Rose how much misinformation they are told by friends "is absolutely true" and most of the time it is about half-true if that.

So I looked at this and thought of the girls who come into their freshman year of high school pregnant because "everybody knows" that you can't get pregnant when you're on the pill or using condoms or without full penetration ... or whatever the myth is that they've been told. And this just looked like a silver bullet for people to start saying that it works on all STDs.

Another objection of mine is the money trail from Merck to Perry mentioned in the DMN article, but I didn't get into that ...

It also annoys the heck out of me that one of Perry's main justifications was "but I talked to my wife about it" .... does she think with her ovaries? And is he unable to think on this issue because he doesn't have any? Sheez! (Don't blame me, I voted for "one tough grandma!")

Also I guess that I was responding to my extreme dislike recently of having a "nanny" government mentality everywhere. Cities than ban transfats, people who want to ban smoking in all public places in Texas, etc. I just saw this as one more thing that "the man" is sticking to us. It comes down to trusting us to make intelligent decisions ourselves ... OR letting us choose how to go to hell in our own way.

Talking to the girls about "the old days" when I was growing up I also have seen the contrast between "live-and-let-live" back then and an extremely narrow-minded, intolerant judgement meted out by individuals and governments. So I react to that as well ...

However, I didn't feel like writing about it that way. Lazy ya know.

Actually it was good that my friend pushed me on this because I went looking for more information and found 10 things you might not know about Gardasil (see Other Resources above for the link). Interesting if for no other reason than giving us other questions to ask ... and I'd never have found it if not for my friend making me smarten up! Good on her!

Other resources to check - updated:
  • Catholic Mom has been addressing this issue for some time.
  • American Papist is doing full coverage as well with many links to different resources.
  • Dr. Melissa Clouthier has another look at this issue and also brings good questions to mind.
  • A letter to the editor in our newspaper this morning brought up the fact that thalomide was thought perfectly safe and, therefore, was prescribed to women for morning sickness ... an uncomfortable situation to be sure but one that most people can get through on their own while just feeling terrible. The now-infamous result was to mutate the next generation in a terrible way. Tom points out that this was a problem was visited upon British children but not Americans because the FDA was still testing the drug ... back in their cautious days for which I am thankful. An interesting comparison to be sure.
  • Rev. Thomas Euteneuer has a good column about this issue. (Thanks to Georgette for this ... I still miss her blog.)
  • 10 things You Might Not Know About Gardasil looks into the HPV vaccine for a whole slew of different reasons and backs up their questions with info from Merck and the FDA.
  • I really don't think of myself as being part of the "religious right" (which I realize may make some laugh, especially with a blog name like Happy Catholic). However, having excerpted something which mentions a possible increase of sexual activity for minors seems to have put that particular topic top of mind for most readers, despite the other more pressing misgivings mentioned in this post and the update above. My attention was politely directed to a post which discusses the fact that mandatory vaccination requirements allow availability to the less fortunate and keep costs down. I would have found this more convincing had there been more facts to back up the basic premises and less time spent lambasting those with which the author took umbrage, namely the abstinence movement and the religious right. However, be that as it may, the core arguments are valid for those who believe the vaccine is safe and you can read it for yourself here: Rejecting Vaccine "Choice". (If anyone can provide me with a post but that has some solid documentation and less polemics to sort through ... let me know and I'll put it here ...)
  • Medical Cost versus Benefit Modeling: from a commenter comes excellent, unemotional information about how to evaluate this vaccine ... and links to recommendations already made in professional medical journals.

Faith is Hard

Only then did I discover the truth: religious faith is not comforting, as atheists so often accuse, but hard. Hence, its status as a virtue. In order to keep it, we must nourish it and protect it; otherwise it will be blown away by the changing winds of fashion. More, we must never forget that this virtue is a theological one, which means that it comes through grace. Sometimes keeping faith means nothing more than clinging with the desperate need of a trusting child.
Amen to that! I never had characterized it to myself in that way until reading this passage. I was raised with the understanding that religious believers were clinging to false hope because they couldn't take real life, they needed the easy answers. On the other side of the equation, as it were, I know that living one's faith is a challenge that never ends ... luckily it is an interesting, exciting ride ... even when one is not having the best of times it is never boring.