Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The 2008 Bloggies

If you want to get an overview of some of the big, wide blogosphere go check out the blogs nominated in the many dizzying categories.

I see that Ree from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman is up for best writing and also for cooking (well, that would be her cooking blog spin-off). This has prompted her to very thoughtfully put together a guide to all her Black Heels to Tractor Wheels posts, which I tune in for each week. This is the ongoing story of how she met Marlboro Man. Though I already know the ultimate result she still keeps me hanging on each installment's twists and turns. Clearly she deserves your vote for "best writing" ... go check it out and you'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Elizabeth Ficocelli will be on Fr. Benedict Groeschel's "Sunday Night Live"

Remember that book, Lourdes: Font of Faith, Hope and Charity?

No? Well, I haven't mentioned it much here, except to link to The Anchoress' excellent review. However, being about a third of the way into it I will tell you that, despite my expectations, this is a very interesting book about St. Bernadette and Lourdes. I only say "despite my expectations" because I've never been very interested in Lourdes. Ok. Not interested. At all. However, author Elizabeth Ficocelli grabbed my interest in the first chapter and has surprised me by keeping that interest as I progress through the book.

More about that after I finish. However if you are interested in hearing more from Ms. Ficocelli's own mouth, tune in on Feb. 10 to "Sunday Night Live" and get the scoop for yourself. Me? I don't have cable but I'll be reading along ... (ha!)

Catholic Writers' Conference Online

Can't believe I keep forgetting to mention this as I think it is a very interesting idea.
The Catholic Writers' Conference Online will be held May 2-9, 2008 here on this Web site. This will be a week-long conference done via forums and live chats and will cover all areas of writing--from characterization to query letter, magazine articles to marketing your books. We're looking for Catholic writers, editors and publishers and those who support quality writing.

How does an on-line conference work? Presenters will have an informational handout posted on the website. (It could be an outline of a lecture or an entire e-book, whatever they wish to provide.) Then they will choose whether to conduct their workshop via forum or live chat or both. ...
Get the whole scoop here.

Worth a Thousand Words

Ptolemy's World Map (from Wikipedia)
Just one of a wonderful group of images at BibiliOdyssey. Go check it out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Cut to the Bone by Peter Callesen.

Cut to the Bone Detail by Peter Callesen.

Click on the titles above to go to Mr. Callesen's site and see many more pieces of fine papercut art.

A Fool for Christ ...

25 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, 26 go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors 28 do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 29
So be perfect, 30 just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

That's a hard teaching you know.

Sit and think about it for a while. I have been thinking about it lately.

It's easy to say that you are praying for your enemies. However, notice that praying is the last thing that Jesus asks of us. First and foremost he espouses movement. Doing. Showing with actions. Living it.

He is telling us to be saps, suckers, idiots ... fools. And to let the world think of us as such.

Just as with his teaching about the Eucharist, he doesn't call us back and say, "Oh, well, I didn't mean it literally." No, he lets that sit right where it is. As an order.

It isn't easy being a fool for Christ.

Who can really do such a thing? That's why the saints are ... well, saints ... and we aren't. We haven't learned to be foolish enough. We keep applying the world's reasoning and justification and common sense and practicality.

None of which has any mention at all in what Christ tells us, no, orders us to do.

I wish I were better at it. But, I'm not. The best I can do is to pick myself up every time I fall down and to try again. Which I guess is all that any of us can do.

It is easy to lose sight of this hard and sacrificial teaching in the midst of every day life. I guess that's why I have been thinking about it ... because life is not what we think it and I need to be reminded of the foolishness of God's call in the world.

Ooooo, those melting British tones!

What fun it was talking with Fausta and Siggy about ... well, everything! Food, faith, our mutual admiration for the greatness that is The Anchoress, community and communion of minds and souls ...

Yep, we dug deep and we also coasted shallowly talking about food fads from the 50's. Remember Trader Vic's and all those jello concoctions your grandmother made (at least mine did)?

And Siggy's voice. Dang it. Now I am gonna hafta make him some of those Cinnamon Buns from Heaven! Though I reserve the right to make him come and get them ... when's your next tour in Dallas, Siggy?

Didn't catch the live feed?

Catch the podcast here at iTunes. (And here to think that I thought all they talked about was politics ... I'm subscribing y'all!)

Siggy thoughtfully posted his wonderful post about "Ice Cream Emergency." Go read about it and if you have children think about trying it out. It is a delightful blend of innocence and indulgence in a "forbidden fruit!" (Siggy talks about the podcast some and his reposting is toward the bottom.)

This sounds similar to the idea I read of a long while back and actually remembered to do a couple of times ... when strawberries are in season, have an entire meal that is just strawberry shortcake. Mmmmmm ... now those are some good memories.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blog Talk Radio: Siggy, and Fausta and ... Me!

The three of us will be on Fausta's blog radio show (see above for Fausta and my photos) ... no Siggy isn't in that picture.

He's here ...

He heard we're going to talk about food and that I might mention Cinnamon Buns from Heaven so he's hurrying on over.

And we'll talk about a whole lot more I'm sure.

It will be tomorrow, Jan. 25, at 11 a.m. (10 a.m. Central time). Chat will be open at 10:45 (that's Eastern time) and the call in number is 646-652-2639.

The link for Blog Talk Radio is here at Fausta's.

(Images stolen from Fausta's blog.)

Looking for Isa [Jesus] in the Muslim World

Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ
by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen
[Mustafa, a radical Islamic terrorist, has been assigned by his sheik to write a book revealing the distortions of the Christian faith. To do this he has had to read the Bible.]

For the last several days Mustafa had decided to concentrate on the prophecies in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and the Injil that referenced the Prophet Muhammad. Though he couldn't find the name Muhammad in the Holy Book, there were twenty-six texts that supposedly pointed to him. Eagerly he had read the first one, Genesis 49:10: "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to Shiloh." Al-Haqq had said that "Shiloh" was Muhammad, but when Mustafa had investigated to prove this linguistically and rhetorically and legally, he'd concluded that Isa the Christ clearly fulfilled the prophecy much more than Muhammad did.

He had turned to Deuteronomy 18:15: "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to hm." Al-Haqq had explained that Isaac's sons and Ishmael's sons were brothers, and thus Muhammad was a brother of Isaac's sons. But when he'd referenced the Quran, it said that the prophet would be from the Arab people and speak Arabic. The Torah text spoke of a prophet form the Hebrews who spoke Hebrew. If this prophet was Muhammad, then I would distrust the Quran. That was a dangerous thought.

Mustafa had exhausted himself with study and concluded that none of the twenty-six texts spoke of Muhammad. And now he stared at this verse from sura "The Table" of the Quran: "People of the Book, you will attain nothing until you observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which is revealed from your Lord." The Quran affirmed the authority of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. He turned to sura 3:84 and read: "Say: 'We believe in God and what is revealed to us; in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, to Isaac and Jacob and the tribes; and in that which their Lord gave Moses and Jesus and the prophets. We discriminate against none of them. To Him we have surrendered ourselves.'" But how could the Christian God be the same as Allah? He'd read in the Gospels: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Allah commanded exactly the opposite in the Quran. In the sura "Repentance," God commanded: "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them." It was impossible that the two Gods were one and the same. It was impossible that the two books, the Holy Bible and Quran, were both right. While the two books agreed on some things, the differences were startling. One of them had to be wrong.

The prayer time was over and the flow of activity on the street was back to normal. But now Mustafa knew what he had to do--pray. Allah, God, which is the real book? Show me which book is right?

A peace washed over him, and Mustafa felt confident that God would reveal the truth.
Mustafa is just one of the people we travel with as we see various encounters with Christianity deep within the world of Islam. Some encounter Jesus (Isa as he is called in the Quran) through reading the Bible. Others find him in the stories told them by friends who are eager to share a new knowledge of God as a loving father, instead of the stern God as commonly communicated in Islam. These believers run the gamut of personalities, from a young girl who is cast off by her family for her Christianity to a Christian couple who return to their country following God's call to minister to native Christians to a highly influential government official who must keep his Christian faith hidden. We are shown just what it means to claim faith in Jesus in a place where religious ecumenism is given lip service but where hate crimes against Christians are given a blind eye by authorities.

Anyone who has read a book by Brother Andrew will recognize a familiar pattern. I first read his book Gods Smuggler when I was lent a copy in high school. It was the compelling story of Brother Andrew's efforts to smuggle Bibles to persecuted Christians in countries under Soviet control. I found it so compelling that I have remembered it to this day and eagerly accepted this review copy based on that memory.

As former Communist countries became free for religious practice, Brother Andrew turned his ministry to countries where Christians are still persecuted and where even owning a Bible will bring them under attack. This book does not show us much of Brother Andrew, however, but focuses on the stories of a group of persecuted Christians in an Islamic country. We follow them over quite a bit of time and get a a good feel for the daily crosses that a Christian experiences under Islam.

Despite the opportunity to show only one extreme, the book authors take pains to stress all sides of Islam's and Christianity's coexistence. For example, when Brother Andrew makes one of his infrequent visits there is a particular university professor who always invites him to visit so that they may contrast and compare their faiths. If Islam were practiced with the attention to kindness that this professor proclaims as the Islamic ideal, our view of Islam would indeed be different than it is today. Another positive fruit of the persecution is that all denominations of Christianity cooperate as fully as possible in order to find ways to exist at all.

One of my favorite sections of the book was when a Protestant lay worker seeks a Catholic priest's advice for how to find a substitute for the daily Islamic prayer structure that some recent converts are desperately missing. The priest suggest a simple adaptation of the liturgy of the hours. He also overlays it with meditations adapted t0 the liturgical year so that they have a way to key their faith into the Islamic calendar, which the men will miss as well. This is not only a wonderful look at ecumenism but at the ways in which Christian faith are adapted within a particular culture. While I read this I found myself thinking of the first century Christians working with both their new found faith and the Roman liturgical calendar.

The book ends with a section called "How Shall We Respond?" which has many insightful commentaries about the reality of the need for Christians to meet the challenges that Islam presents. It is presented in a way that puts a human face on our brothers and sisters who are separated from us by their Islamic faith. Regular readers may recall that this book was the last of a trio that gave me a new prayer resolution. I believe that this eye opening book will do that for many and highly recommend it.

Interestingly, after finishing this book, I began reading George Wiegel's newest, Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism, which is much more intellectually based than Secret Believers. I had seen this book highly praised in many places and expected to enjoy it. However, what I did not expect was that so many of his excerpts from books about Islam would resonate so deeply as being true because I just had read about that very reality as experienced by the persecuted Christians in this book. Readers may want to consider reading these two books together for that very reason.
Although Muslims like to enumerate the 99 names of God, missing from the list, but central to the Jewish and even more so to the Christian concept of God, is "Father"--i.e. a personal God capable of a reciprocal and loving relationship with men. The one God of the Qur'an, the God Who demands submission, is a distant God; to call him "Father would be an anthropomorphic sacrilege. The Muslim God is utterly impassive; to ascribe loving feeling to Him would be suspect.

Worth a Thousand Words

Portraits by Shari Lerner.
I met Shari Lerner last night and she graciously gave me permission to show her portraits here. However, these are just bits of them as the large image can't be downloaded ... so be sure to go there and click on the photos to see the whole thing!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Tiny Crab from Flickr's Cream of the Crop.

Why did Heath Ledger's death hit our family so hard?

This is the question we were asking ourselves last night. It is nothing new for a young artist to make tragic mistakes and die young. We have countless examples from past years of that very thing. However, usually we are sorry to hear it, shrug our shoulders and move on to the next thing.

When Rose got a phone call from a friend last night and responded in such obviously shocked tones, I had to ask what had happened. I was stunned. The last time I remember feeling this sort of shock was when Princess Diana died. I was making dinner and then in the middle of it would suddenly remember Ledger's death and feel that shock again.


That is the question. Do I feel silly even posting this? Yes. No question. But after all what is a blog for if not to ruminate about the things that puzzle us?

It is not as if I am a big Heath Ledger fan. I would never see a movie simply because he was in it. I didn't ever understand why people thought he was so "cute."

However, I respected his acting. His obvious skill showed with each new movie. I noted the plaudits from Brokeback Mountain, though I will never see it. For me, his skill showed in The Lords of Dogtown where I didn't even recognize him until I was informed of which character he played about halfway through the movie. It also shone in The Brothers Grimm where he went against type to play his character.

Perhaps it is because he seemed mature beyond his years. If you had asked I would have said he was perhaps 33 or 34. Another shock was to find that he was only 28.

Feeling extremely silly, I mentioned to Tom how shocked I was. He told me that hearing the news had given him a strange shock also. Which was both reassuring and surprising because if anyone really didn't care one way or the other about Heath Ledger, it was Tom.

"I don't know why," he said. "Maybe because he seemed older than his years, we never heard about anything but his movies ... he seemed to have it all together."

Maybe that's it.

He seemed to have it all together.

What is becoming obvious from reports is that Heath Ledger, like most people, had problems that he struggled with, and didn't "have it all together."

Like Owen Wilson, who also seemed so balanced and sunny and who shocked everyone with a suicide attempt recently.

I learned during CRHP formation that quite ordinary seeming people often have unexpected depths, tragedies, traumas, and demons to wrestle. However, that is an easy thing to forget as time goes by and our own affairs absorb us, often taking on an importance that is not warranted if we are not careful. Recently an acquaintance shared some of her history with Tom and me and we were reminded again at the enormity of what some must overcome simply to go on living a normal life.

Rose watched A Knight's Tale last night and I joined her halfway through. It was our way of mourning the loss of that talented young actor who obviously touched us in a personal way without our ever realizing it until he was gone.

I don't know why Heath Ledger's death hit our family so hard.

I may never know. Sometimes there are no answers to our questions.

We are praying for his soul and for the peace of his family and friends who mourn him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Veggie Time by Qiang Huang.

Name a Character in Jeffrey Overstreet's

I can’t call her “the Dispenser.” People will think of Pez.

She needs a name, or rather, a title.
Go to Jeffrey's to read the description of this villainous character and then see if you can name her and get a free copy of the book. We know its a book you'll enjoy because he wrote one of my favorite books of last year (Auralia's Colors ... my review here ... scroll down a bit).

Reports from another blogger about the Liturgy of the Hours

I mentioned last week that Jen from Et Tu had begun praying the Liturgy of the Hours and was reporting her experience.

She's not the only one. Will from The View from the Foothills, another new convert, also has begun praying the Liturgy of the Hours. He tells us his motivation, the mechanics, and so what (it's a positive "so what"). It is interesting to contrast their two experiences.

God Bless Cardinal Mahoney

Now there's something that you don't hear every day.

However, it seems well warranted, according to Will's report from Los Angeles. Go read it all.

Today is a Day of Penance

In all the dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion, and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass "For Peace and Justice" (no. 21 of the "Masses for Various Needs") should be celebrated with violet vestments as an appropriate liturgical observance for this day.
Well, well, well. It was quite a shock to come across this in my Magnificat this morning (the link above goes to the posted document at the USCCB).

Perhaps a day of fasting is better when it is sprung on you ... but also perhaps, for all those people not looking at their Magnificat this morning and who have no clue of this day of penance ... it would have been nice if we'd have had a mention during the homily which centered around personal involvement in the struggle against abortion. Or perhaps even a special mention in the announcements after Mass. I don't remember seeing one in the bulletin though I could have missed it.

When searching around I see that some parishes and dioceses had the forethought to mention it specifically. That must be nice ...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Connecting the Dots Between Contraception and Abortion

Catholic Mom reports that her priest pulled off the gloves and told them how the cow ate the cabbage (am I mixing it up enough for y'all?). Go read.

She reminds us also that the march in Washington happens tomorrow ... I happen to know that two of Hannah's friends, Katy and Daniel, will be there. Let's all lift the marchers in prayer.

I must add that Daniel awes me by regularly reading HC despite the continued good natured scorn of friends and family over his uncoolness. Thank you Daniel! (Of course, I'm a Daniel-fan as is anyone who knows him.)

"On that day we were the point of the spear..."

When you stand in front of an abortion mill, you see the culture wars from a different perspective. Two women walked in while we were there. Two. Suddenly, abortion is more tangible. The statistic evaporates, and you’re left with nothing but tragedy. You see the Sidewalk counselors approach someone that doesn’t want to listen, and it’s no longer a story on the news or something we talk about on the internet. Your heart pulls harder. From your lips comes, “…pray for us now and at the hour of our death,” while your head is saying in the background, “Please, oh please, Lord, let them hear.” But they walk on.
Mark Windsor at Raft on the Tiber writes beautifully and movingly about praying the rosary in front of the Fairmount Women's Clinic this weekend. Read it all.

Runner Up? Its a Winner to Me ...

She'd been strangled with a rosary-not a run-of-the-mill rosary like you might get at a Catholic bookstore where Hail Marys are two for a quarter and indulgences are included on the back flap of the May issue of "Nuns and Roses" magazine, but a fancy heirloom rosary with pearls, rubies, and a solid gold cross, a rosary with attitude, the kind of rosary that said, "Get your Jehovah's Witness butt off my front porch."

Mark Schweizer, Hopkinsville, KY
The runner up in the Detective category of 2007 entries in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. See all the winners here.

For those not in the know, the contest is an "international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. ... Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that Charles Schulz' beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, 'It was a dark and stormy night.'"

Impressions from the Dallas March for Life

Source: Texans for Life Coalition.
(Moral: wear a purple parka and you'll get photographed.)

First of all, I was so happy to get to meet Mark Windsor in person (and his lovely daughters and their friend), as well as Heather ... who I also wound up sitting next to in Mass that afternoon. Also, I am always happy to get to spend time with Laura and it was nice for the rest of us newbies that Laura knew the drill, having been to the March for Life several times.

What Moved Me
  • How hard-faced were the "Clinic Support" people were who waited outside the abortion clinic where we prayed the rosary first thing in the morning. They are now on my heart in prayer.
  • Watching the women come in for their abortions, I suddenly would flash on little Hannah and Rose playing together, being silly and having fun ... my heart would ache for that little person that each of these mothers was murdering in their ignorance and would never know. Thinking back on all my years of similar ignorance, I am grateful for God's grace that I was never in a position to seek out an abortion ... seriously, but for His grace, there could have been I.
  • During the Mass there was a memorial of roses for the years since the Roe versus Wade ruling. One at a time, a person for each year came up, put a rose on a table before the altar, and a deep bell rang out. I thought of the statistic that says we are now missing one out of four of the children that should be here. It was unexpectedly moving.
  • The enthusiasm of the marchers, especially those from groups I never would have thought of ... especially a group of young Hispanic guys with banners who seemed way too cool to be doing this ... it did my heart good.
  • I was carrying a bunch of four red daisies which is what I had found in my attempt to get red carnations for our "how do I know you" joke that just kept going and going. Later on I realized that I personally knew the mothers of four babies that were aborted and so I carried that bunch of flowers for them. Which I will do next year as well ... that's the thing about being Catholic, symbolism is where its at!
What Shocked Me
  • How few people were there. The people speaking at the march said that this was the biggest crowd ever and it was possibly a thousand people. I have been guilty of thinking that all the passionate protesters have been "covering" the march for those like me who "support them in prayer." Hmmm ... having done this March, I now believe that while support in prayer is a necessary thing, it is not enough.
  • As far as I could see our parish didn't even have a mention of the protest march in the weekly bulletin. I know that our pro-life group is undergoing a transition and is not very strong, but I would have thought that some sort of reminder would have been published.
  • Certain people who I didn't see who talk up their pro-life support, attend the bishop's pro-life dinner ... but weren't at the march. I couldn't fathom that if this was as important as they say that they wouldn't have shown up. Granted, again, this was my first time and it is easy to toss judgments around but actions speak louder than words.
  • The deacon who gave the homily at our parish later that afternoon mentioned the march. He then said that he and his wife weren't there. He talked about their monthly prayer support at a local abortion clinic instead. The implication that I received was that the march in protest wasn't as important as the regular assistance. I understand what he was getting at because one-on-one is vital to helping individuals decide to choose life. In fact, that is something that I probably will be looking into assisting with. However, I don't think that one can avoid the necessity of public protest because it speaks to the lawmakers on a completely different level.
If every person who felt strongly that abortion is wrong didn't wait for someone else to do it put aside that one Saturday and braved the cold ... would 10,000 people have shown up instead of 1,000? (Please keep in mind, that I know full well, I am one of those "can't someone else do it?" people ... and still would be were it not for Mark Windsor's initiative in It Started Here, Let It End Here).

If every large city had 10,000 people peacefully marching in protest once a year, wouldn't it make the news? Here in Dallas, two of the four television stations showed the march on their news. Fox News had a solid hour of news and didn't give it a two-second mention. (By the way, Heather and I were on channel 8 news when they showed crowds walking ... as always I was talking ...) Wouldn't then the lawmakers take notice?

Actions speak louder than words. I believe that we need to reevaluate our actions in light of our words (and I'm preaching to myself as well here) ... what do we believe and what do we act upon?

Food for thought, especially with Lent not too far away.

For the Future
Now that I've done this and been thinking about it for a couple of days, there is no way I can't continue this ... what would you call it ... apostolate? Anyway, I'm in for another year of It Started Here. Let It End Here. I know Mark is in. Who else?

I will be making a special effort to spend an hour in front of the Eucharist on each First Friday also. I largely blew off that part last year due to work. However, my schedule is much more amenable than most to rearranging and I'm not gonna "let someone else do it" on that front.

I am going to investigate what the sidewalk counselor on our bus meant when she said that an hour a month of volunteering to pray at a clinic can be a big help. For instance, does this really mean just an hour, locations, etc. But I am going to make much more of an effort to put my money time where my mouth is.

Washington March for Life
Thoms at American Papist has the links, photos, and news.

Worth a Thousand Words

Modernist Balcony taken by Barcelona Photoblog.

Friday, January 18, 2008

An Experiment with Prayer

Jen at Et Tu is experimenting with the Liturgy of the Hours. Unlike most of us, she's right out there and reporting results as she goes.

What she's finding is interesting. She's not receiving direct answers to prayer as much as answers to the way her life is lived daily ... which, in a way, is one big answer to prayer!

Here is her plan, day one, and day two.

Don't stop at those, which are the basic essentials to following the action. There is more, much more in some other posts as well. Go scroll around and I think you'll be interested in what you find.

Not Sure What This Means ...

... but it is interesting.

Found at Bluegrass Report by Tom. (My next question is, what was he doing hanging around there? Not being a "political animal" and all that ...)

Calloo, Callay, O Frabjous Day ...

I'm smiling because...
  • Tom is going to the March for Life with me tomorrow. Woohoo! That puts a whole new spin on the day.

  • Rose finally scored Helvetica at the movie store. (Not that she cares ... but Tom and I do!) That darned thing has been rented every time we've been there for the past month. Can you tell our neighborhood is full of advertising people and artists? Remember, "Friends don't let friends use Arial."

  • Tom's mom gave me a Borders gift certificate for Christmas and they've got a whole bunch of the Culinaria books on sale for $10 each. In a way this makes one think of an updating of the Time Life Foods of the World series (reviewed here) although these are done with less of each writer's personality and more continuity between volumes. These books look at the cuisines of countries in depth. When I say "in depth" think about 450 pages, oversized, covering every aspect of culture that relates to food. In short, a foodie's dream. Until now only the hardbacks have been available and they are huge. I mean to say, you don't want to fall asleep reading one because you'd be crushed to death when it fell on you. Sadly, I heard that the original company went out of business but that means the series was picked up by another printer and is being republished in paperback. It is still high quality printing on heavy paper and still huge but at least you can read it on bed without being injured.

  • We have our tickets to Ella ... 'nuff said.

Book reports
  1. Secret Believers by Brother Andrew**** ... I plan an indepth review of this book. A look at Muslims who convert to Christianity and the troubles they face, from many angles. Eye opening, touching, and inspirational. Highly recommended.

  2. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill ** ... Steven Riddle loved it but I was hit with the "horror" aspect and had to skim a good part of the book. Well done but rather predictable, except for the extreme-ness (is that a word?) of the horror.

  3. The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket by Trevor Corson *** ... you will believe that sushi can be interesting! Which I wouldn't have before hearing a Barnes and Noble podcast interviewing this author ... so I got it from the library. A thoroughly entertaining read that shows not only the history of sushi but takes us through a sushi chef class with all the students. Very good indeed.

  4. Finder by Emma Bull*** ... quite enjoyable story of "Orient" a guy with the innate talent of finding things that have been lost. He lives in the Bordertown between our world and Faerie (which I believe is a storyline established by another author that has been borrowed and built upon by other like-minded authors. Orient gets sucked into an investigation of murder, a drug ring, and a mysterious virus which may claim the life of his partner if he can't find the answers everyone needs.

  5. The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones**** ... much like Julia Child's "My Life in France" (reviewed here) this is a nostalgic journey in the way America cooked from the past to present. Judith Jones is the famous Knopf editor whose love of food and cooking allowed her to sniff out such great food writers as Julia Child, James Beard, Marion Cunningham, Irene Kuo, Marcella Hazen and many more. Not only is this a wonderful look at Jones' life and the foodways of America, but her thinking on food is quite firmly stated ... and delightfully sane and common-sensical it is. Highly recommended.

  6. 65 Below by Basil Sands*** ... an audiobook action, adventure story in Alaska involving Korean terrorists joining forces with Muslim terrorists. The plot is stumbled upon at different ends by a female policeman and a former Marine who just happen to share a romantic past. Its easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, action is plentiful, and there is plenty of evidence that being a romantic doesn't make a certain Marine any less of a man. A lot of fun.

  7. Karl's Last Flight by Basil Sands*** ... another audiobook by the author of 65 Below, this one was earlier and is less developed plotwise. Also quite enjoyable.

  8. Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword by Tee Morris*** ... Tee Morris is famous in Podiobook/audiobook/podcast circles for having the first podcast book, Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana. This book, however, brings fantasy to gangland Chicago when dwarf warrior Billibub Baddings inadvertently gets brought to our world via a time warp (or some such device). He adapts well and becomes a private investigator. Told in a noirish style that is firmly rooted in humor, this is a good time all 'round for listeners.

  9. 7th Son: Destruction by J.C. Hutchins**** ... yet another audiobook, this is the final book of the 7th Son trilogy. I am a big fan of the entire series which has the seven "John Smith" in a game of wits trying to overtake John Alpha before he takes over the world ... or at least the United States.

Worth a Thousand Words

Three Little Pigs (of course!) taken by Barcelona Photoblog.

The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, 3

The third of the three-part article from our church bulletin inserts about Lectio Divina. (The first part is here.)
Accepting the Embrace of God
The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina
by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.*

CHOOSE a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. Many Christians use in their daily lectio divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text: the amount of text “covered” is in God’s hands, not yours.

PLACE YOURSELF in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; other have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.

THEN TURN to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect lightening or ecstasies. In lectio divina God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.

NEXT TAKE the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas. Do not be afraid of “distractions.” Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself which, when they rise up during lectio divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner pondering, this rumination, to invite you into dialogue with God.

THEN, SPEAK to God. Whether you use words or ideas or images or all three is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. And give to Him what you have discovered in yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience yourself as the priest that you are. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened. Give to God what you have found within your heart.

FINALLY, SIMPLY rest in God’s embrace. And when He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

SOMETIMES IN lectio divina one will return several times to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of the word or phrase that God has given, or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for lectio divina. It is not necessary to anxiously assess the quality of one’s lectio divina as if one were “performing” or seeking some goal: lectio divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

LECTIO DIVINA is an ancient spiritual art that is being rediscovered in our day. It is a way of allowing the Scriptures to become again what God intended that they should be - a means of uniting us to Himself. In lectio divina we discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm. We experience God in a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, in the movement from practice into contemplation and back again into spiritual practice.

LECTIO DIVINA teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In lectio divina we dare to believe that our loving Father continues to extend His embrace to us today. And His embrace is real. In His word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a word which He gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to Him in the Scriptures.

FINALLY, lectio divina teaches us about ourselves. In lectio divina we discover that there is no place in our hearts, no interior corner or closet that cannot be opened and offered to God. God teaches us in lectio divina what it means to be members of His royal priesthood - a people called to consecrate all of our memories, our hopes and our dreams to Christ.
* The author considers this article to be in the Public Domain. This article may therefore be downloaded, reproduced and distributed without special permission from the author. You may find the original article here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Coming in May: He Lives An Unusual Life ...

We all know that I'm a huge fan of the unusual blend of horror and spirituality that are the Odd Thomas books, don't we? (Read my commentary on the series.) Anyone who joins me in that fandom will rejoice to see that Dean Koontz has been channeling Odd Thomas again.

Via Unhurried Catholic.

Name 20 films that portray Christianity in a positive light.

That was the challenge that Steven Greydanus took on and that Jeffrey Overstreet blogged about ... and which he graciously guest blogged over at Catholic Media Review.

As you can imagine, the comments have been varied and interesting.

My addition to the list?

I Am Legend.

Check it out.


Drat you, Brian St. Paul, for telling me about The Library of Congress collection at Flickr. As if I didn't have enough to waste my time on.

But they do have some fantastic photos, y'all ...

Grand Grocery Co., 1924, Lincoln, Nebraska
From The Library of Congress collection on Flickr.

"Having resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die" -- Malachy McCourt

What upset me more than anything is that for the first time in my life, I was actively hating someone. I’ve never hated anyone - not even people who have done me physical and spiritual harm. But I was hating this fellow. And hating him even more for “making me” hate him.

Which, of course, he could not do. No one can “make” you hate; I simply allowed hate in; I welcomed it in, gave it an honored chair and fed it. And fed it. And it was incredibly destructive and oppressive - to me, mostly - but it did nothing good for anyone who had to be around me if the subject had my head. My whole family, and a few friends, have had to endure watching me give myself over to this resentment, allowing it to have its way with me, and to own me, body and soul.
The Anchoress tells a story that we all can relate to ... one of resenting the treatment of a loved one, struggling with hate, feeling powerless in its grip, and, finally, of having loved ones become God's prophets ... called not to make us comfortable with our wrongdoing but to set us straight, even if it makes us uncomfortable. A truthful and fantastic story, and one not to be missed.

If only I could say that I did not related to that story. The one personal addition I will make is that when attending my CRHP retreat several years ago, I walked into the church with the group for Mass, saw that many of them had loved ones who had risen early and come in support of them. Instantly I thought of Tom (not there because he was home taking care of our girls ... and I knew this intellectually). I was filled with a resentment and hate of him for not being there that I could literally feel. It began at the top of my head and poured down my body as boiling hot, acidic liquid. I can't explain this except to say that I felt it. I also knew that it was deadly and would undo all the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit thus far. I could hold onto that hateful resentment or I could consciously reject it. I thought, "No! I'm not doing this," and pushed it away. Period. That feeling was instantly gone. The blessing of all that is that I recognized what was happening and rejected it so quickly. Truly, it was another miracle of that retreat because that would not have been my usual reaction.

I try to remember that feeling, which I have never had again, whenever I am subject to recurring fits of self pity, resentment, or ... yes ... hatred. It is a good reminder of what those feelings do to our souls when we indulge in them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Clouds of Witness and Rays of Light

I meant to link to this amazing story last week and then thought that surely I'd see it making the rounds. But not so.

Therefore, I am very happy to tempt you into reading a miraculous story with which to begin the year ...
While visiting my friend in Dallas this past week, she asked me if I would mind going over to the house of a friend of hers who was out of town and has been having some troubles, and praying there for him. Though my friend is an Evangelical, her friend is a Catholic, so I asked her if she would mind if we went by his parish first for some holy water to sprinkle around, and she said she wouldn’t, so we did.

When we got to the house, we went in, and I noticed that it seemed very dark and cold inside. I told my friend that I wanted to start by the front door, and gradually work my way through every room in the house, praying and sprinkling holy water as we went. We walked over to the door and turned to face the room, and I crossed myself in preparation to pray.

The moment I began praying, I felt a sense of very heavy, dark oppression come over me – and at the same moment, my friend sank down to her knees. I wondered if she felt it, too, but said nothing and continued to pray. We slowly worked our way through each room, praying and sprinkling holy water, but the heavy, dark oppressiveness remained. Finally we had gone through every room, so I returned to the front door and faced the room again. I had prayed everything I could think of, but the darkness and heaviness was still there.
Now, go read the rest at Historical Christian.

Bach's Music Converting Asians to Christianity

For years, Richter observed with growing fascination how in his Gothic sanctuary, Japanese musicologist Keisuke Maruyama studied the influence of the weekday pericopes (prescribed readings) in the early 18th-century Lutheran lectionary cycle on Bach’s cantatas. When he had finished, he told the clergyman: “It is not enough to read Christian texts. I want to be a Christian myself. Please baptize me.”

But this scholar’s conversion could have been attributed to the impact of pericopes’ biblical texts on Maruyama. Why, though, would a fugue have such evangelistic powers as it did on the Japanese organist in Minnesota? Why would even listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which contain no lyrics, arouse someone’s interest in Christianity? This happened when Masashi Yasuda, a former agnostic, heard a CD with Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s rendering of this complex Clavier-Übung, or keyboard study. Still, Yasuda’s spiritual journey began precisely with these variations. He is now a Jesuit priest teaching systematic theology at Sophia University in Tokyo.
Fascinating ... read the whole story here. Via Brandywine Books.

Worth a Thousand Words

Strawberry Eclair by Duane Keiser

The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, 2

The second of the three-part article from our church bulletin inserts about Lectio Divina. (The first part is here.)
Accepting the Embrace of God
The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina
by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.*

IF WE are to practice lectio divina effectively, we must travel back in time to an understanding that today is in danger of being almost completely lost. In the Christian past the words action (or practice, from the Greek praktikos) and contemplation did not describe different kinds of Christians engaging (or not engaging) in different forms of prayer and apostolates. Practice and contemplation were understood as the two poles of our underlying, ongoing spiritual rhythm: a gentle oscillation back and forth between spiritual “activity” with regard to God and “receptivity.”

PRACTICE - spiritual “activity” - referred in ancient times to our active cooperation with God’s grace in rooting out vices and allowing the virtues to flourish. The direction of spiritual activity was not outward in the sense of an apostolate, but inward - down into the depths of the soul where the Spirit of God is constantly transforming us, refashioning us in God’s image. The active life is thus coming to see who we truly are and allowing ourselves to be remade into what God intends us to become.

IN THE early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways. First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation - God in “the many.” Second was theologia, the contemplation of God in Himself without images or words - God as “The One.” From this perspective lectio divina serves as a training-ground for the contemplation of God in His creation.

IN CONTEMPLATION we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be, that is to rest in the presence of our loving Father. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God’s presence, an experience that naturally alternates (if we let it!) with our spiritual practice.

IN ANCIENT times contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God’s recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in his embrace. This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation.

HOW DIFFERENT this ancient understanding is from our modern approach! Instead of recognizing that we all gently oscillate back and forth between spiritual activity and receptivity, between practice and contemplation, we today tend to set contemplation before ourselves as a goal - something we imagine we can achieve through some spiritual technique. We must be willing to sacrifice our “goal-oriented” approach if we are to practice lectio divina, because lectio divina has no other goal than spending time with God through the medium of His word. The amount of time we spend in any aspect of lectio divina, whether it be rumination, consecration or contemplation depends on God’s Spirit, not on us. Lectio divina teaches us to savor and delight in all the different flavors of God’s presence, whether they be active or receptive modes of experiencing Him.

IN lectio divina we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix - an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Himself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles. In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God’s presence - many different ways of praying.
Coming next week:
Part 3. The Practice of Lectio Divina
* The author considers this article to be in the Public Domain. This article may therefore be downloaded, reproduced and distributed without special permission from the author. You may find the original article here.

Part Three is here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Who Would You Sit Next To?

Fly With Me podcast (done by an airline pilot) posed this question.
I've always kind of played a little game in my mind -- you know like those little parlor games you play where you ask people what books they would want on a deserted island, or where you ask "If you could invite five famous people to dinner living or dead, who would it be"? Well I always though it would be more telling to ask "If you could sit in first class next to anyone -- currently living -- who would that be? And what would you say to them?" This question has the advantage that it could really happen. You might realistically, in your lifetime, have that happen.
He chose Kurt Vonnegut, by which you may surmise that I'm a bit behind in my listening as this was a tribute to Vonnegut's writing.

I've been turning that question over in my mind ... who would I choose? Someone sprang to mind quickly, perhaps prompted by the pilot's choice and something a commenter recently said. So I also thought about actors, statesmen, great thinkers. No one satisfied like that first choice.

I choose Ray Bradbury.

Who would you choose?

A Noble Chore

The table has been cleared, and the last of your dinner guests has been ushered out into the night. The previous days' tumult of planning, shopping, and cooking has yielded another evening to remember--and a sink full of sauce-smeared plates and grease-smudged stemware. In the prostprandial hush, you calmly take stock of the task at hand and begin your labor. Working unhurriedly from the top of the pile, your hands gripping the soapy sponge, you work rhythmically as your body warms to the task and your mind, stoked by food and conversation, quiets itself. Call us old-fashioned, ascetic, or even slightly masochistic, but there's something about hand-washing dishes that we find, well, cleansing
#36 of Saveur's 10th Annual Top 100 list
--David Sax, January Saveur
This struck a chord with me. Our dishwasher broke a couple of weeks ago and the cheapest way to go was to start washing everything by hand.

I have a fondness for washing dishes by hand. Some of this may be linked to my uncanny ability to stack an incredible number of things in the dish drainer ... how often do I get to exercise this skill to the acclaim and amazement of my family? Not that often.

It also provides the equally intangible enjoyment of chatting with anyone who happens to stop off and dry a few glasses (this happens much more often than you'd think), let one's mind idly wander on any number of subjects which one might perhaps interlace with a prayer here and there, listen to music or a story ... or whatever.

Perhaps it is the regularity of this enforced task. Dishes, after all must be washed frequently or there is nothing to put our dinner upon. It provides at least twice a day (more on weekends!) during which conversation, pondering, or listening are the only options. Despite the work, which is admittedly light, in its own way dishwashing is restful.

Worth a Thousand Words

Featuring Stacy, a contestant in Miss Mustang 2008
from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Stacey, Miss Arizona! Stacey’s favorite color is turquoise and she enjoys eating native grasses from her host family’s flower beds. If she wins the crown tonight, she hopes to use her exposure to further the cause of women’s rights, both in the equine kingdom and beyond. Welcome, Stacey!
Do go see all the candidates. A lovelier group of ladies you will not encounter elsewhere.

The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina, 1

I promised a while back to share some of the things that had helped me to develop a regular prayer time and to reflect more. This is the first of three bulletin inserts that ran recently about Lectio Divina.

You can go to the link at the end to get the entire article, or read it broken up into three parts as it will be presented via the bulletins as I post them.

I have read these several times and keep them by my Bible for quick glances if I get off track.
Accepting the Embrace of God
The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina
by Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.*

A VERY ANCIENT art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina - a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God. This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, and is one of the precious treasures of Benedictine monastics and oblates. Together with the Liturgy and daily manual labor, time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables us to discover in our daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of his Son Jesus Christ.

Lectio - reading/listening
THE ART of lectio divina begins with cultivating the ability to listen deeply, to hear “with the ear of our hearts” as St. Benedict encourages us in the Prologue to the Rule. When we read the Scriptures we should try to imitate the prophet Elijah. We should allow ourselves to become women and men who are able to listen for the still, small voice of God (I Kings 19:12); the “faint murmuring sound” which is God’s word for us, God’s voice touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an “atunement” to the presence of God in that special part of God’s creation which is the Scriptures.

THE CRY of the prophets to ancient Israel was the joy-filled command to “Listen!” “Sh’ma Israel: Hear, O Israel!” In lectio divina we, too, heed that command and turn to the Scriptures, knowing that we must “hear” - listen - to the voice of God, which often speaks very softly. In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to be silent. We must learn to love silence. If we are constantly speaking or if we are surrounded with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds. The practice of lectio divina, therefore, requires that we first quiet down in order to hear God’s word to us. This is the first step of lectio divina, appropriately called lectio - reading.

THE READING or listening which is the first step in lectio divina is very different from the speed reading which modern Christians apply to newspapers, books and even to the Bible. Lectio is reverential listening; listening both in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally - not loudly, but intimately. In lectio we read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God’s word for us this day.

Meditatio - meditation
ONCE WE have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and “ruminate” on it. The image of the ruminant animal quietly chewing its cud was used in antiquity as a symbol of the Christian pondering the Word of God. Christians have always seen a scriptural invitation to lectio divina in the example of the Virgin Mary “pondering in her heart” what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word - that is, memorize it - and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. This is the second step or stage in lectio divina - meditatio. Through meditatio we allow God’s word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.

Oratio - prayer
THE THIRD step in lectio divina is oratio - prayer: prayer understood both as dialogue with God, that is, as loving conversation with the One who has invited us into His embrace; and as consecration, prayer as the priestly offering to God of parts of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In this consecration-prayer we allow the word that we have taken in and on which we are pondering to touch and change our deepest selves. Just as a priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist, God invites us in lectio divina to hold up our most difficult and pain-filled experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the healing word or phrase He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, this consecration-prayer, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.

Contemplatio - contemplation
FINALLY, WE simply rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. No one who has ever been in love needs to be reminded that there are moments in loving relationships when words are unnecessary. It is the same in our relationship with God. Wordless, quiet rest in the presence of the One Who loves us has a name in the Christian tradition - contemplatio, contemplation. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.
Coming next week:
Part 2. The Underlying Rhythm of Lectio Divina
* The author considers this article to be in the Public Domain. This article may therefore be downloaded, reproduced and distributed without special permission from the author. You may find the original article here.

Part two is here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

What's Wrong With Porn?

Marcel LeJeune at Mary's Aggies has a very good post with both positives about sexuality and then discussion about how pornography makes us less human. Check it out.

Worth a Thousand Words

Dutch painter (b. 1634, Rotterdam, d. 1682, Amsterdam)

Why are the wicked joyous?

St. Ambrose had a very good answer to this question.
Perhaps you say, Why are the wicked joyous? why do they live in luxury? why do they not toil with me? It is because they who have not put down their names to strive for the crown are not bound to undergo the labors of the contest. They who have not gone down into the race-course do not anoint themselves with oil nor get covered with dust. For those whom glory awaits trouble is at hand. The perfumed spectators are wont to look on, not to join in the struggle, nor to endure the sun, the heat, the dust, and the showers. ...
As Tom points out, this turns the whole "gospel of prosperity" on its head. We are working for the bigger reward than ease in this life. Its nice if it comes along, but that's not the point at all. It is about our immortal souls.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Starfish on Pebbles found at Flickr's Cream of the Crop

The Arkangel Complete Shakespeare

I don't remember where I saw the Arkangel recordings of Shakespeare mentioned. It sent me to our library, which luckily has quite a few of the plays. I listened only to the beginning of Gentlemen from Verona, before deciding that I needed to begin with something a bit more familiar to get my "ear" accustomed again to the cadence of Shakespearean speech. However, even that brief encounter made me eager for more. Both the acting and the sound production were wonderful. It was sheer genius to have the opening scene over cocktails in a piano bar (or so it sounded). It clearly took me into the scene in an unexpected way.

I am now waiting impatiently for the library to get Macbeth to me.
That story is much more familiar and I will have a better chance at absorbing it all.

Imagine my delight then when Thomas McDonald, the guest blogger who gave us yesterday's review of Bioshock, presented me with this thoughtful and complete review of the entire Arkangel series for Catholic Media Review.

Sit back, read, and enjoy. Then take thee to a library (or store) and begin enjoying Shakespeare in a whole new way! Thank you Thomas!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Grange painted by Belinda Del Pesco

Fr. James Martin's Response to Joyce Behar's Anti-Catholicism

Foolish as it would be to look for deep theological insight from "The View," Joy Behar's recent statements on Catholic saints (a) not existing any longer and (b) needing medication, was about as close as you could come to a nice Youtubable, public display of anti-Catholicism, for any who doubt it still exists.
Martin, editor of America magazine, has a good article responding to Joy Behar of The View who recently went on a public anti-Catholic screed. Do go read his responses to each of Behar's embarrassing examples of ignorance of the faith she is attacking. I also like his points about why he's not worried and the implied charity of Mother Teresa probably already praying for Behar.

In addition to pointing out the problems with such impromptu examples of anti-Catholicism being the last acceptable prejudice, we should also remember to extend charity to such offenders by forgiving them and praying for them. Mother Teresa, pray with us and for us, as we pray for Joy Behar.

Bioshock Review

Rapture’s collapse is an object lesson in what happens when bioethics break down. The city is undone by genetic tampering, as people attempt to turn themselves into Gods with gene modifying drugs. God’s work is imperfect, people are told, so science must step in to improve it. At the top of the crumbling pyramid is Ryan, with his Godlike delusions and warped philosophy. He sees Rapture as a New Eden. Indeed, two of the gameplay elements are “ADAM”, a mutagen which allows people to modify their genetic structure to enhance certain powers, and “EVE,” the fuel for these genetic mutations. In order to get through Rapture, your character needs to become one of these mutants without sinking too far into madness. It’s a dangerous balance, and in the end only love is able to bring you back, if you choose the path of love.
Guest blogger Thomas L. McDonald, Editor-at-Large of Games Magazine, delivers a fascinating review of Bioshock over at Catholic Media Review. It takes into account societal standards and concerns as reflected in this game ... really good stuff, y'all!

If you have a child wanting to play this game (or already playing it) and want to know more about the content, this review is invaluable. Or if you just are in interested in playing it yourself check it out. It sounds darned good!

Long Handled Spoons

This puts me in mind of Dante. I am very slowly wending my way through Purgatorio now. The lessons learned by those in hell and purgatory are reflected in this simple moral fable. Thanks to Cyndie for sending it to me!
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, 'Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.'

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, 'You have seen Hell.'

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, 'I don't understand.'

It is simple,' said the Lord. 'It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.'

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

By Sun and By Candlelight

Life before modern technology was full of hard stops: the work day ended at sunset -- if you didn't finish laundry during the day there was no going back outside to the washboard at 9:00 at night; the work day began at dawn -- if you got breakfast on the table an hour late that was precious time cut out of you and your family's very finite workday; even finances had hard stops -- when you spent your last dollar there were no tempting "0% interest for six months!" credit card offers waiting in your mailbox. And with a life full of hard stops, even the most disorganized, scattered people must have been forced to have some kind of routine, and to limit their to-do lists. Even people as inept at time management as I am must have been gently reminded to get to a stopping point and wind down their projects each day as the sunlight began its slow retreat from the sky.
Jen at Et Tu has a thoughful, insightful post about borrowing hours and merely making ourselves more frantic. Well worth a read whether you have resolved to change your time management for the New Year or not.

"Among the nations, I will praise you ..."

(from Psalm 57)

This is a theme that has resonated with me lately. Of course, since we just had the Feast of the Epiphany (the three wise men) the liturgical emphasis naturally is about Jesus being here for all people, everywhere.

However, I felt this even more strongly having recently read books about the faithful in China and Africa. Granted, both are vastly different books but both also bring forth clearly the struggle and suffering these people go through both in their lives and to practice their faith. Compounding that emphasis is the fact that I recently received and have almost finished Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ which added the Middle East in a real and haunting way to my vision of the struggling church.
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:34
How privileged we are to live here where the worst we usually have to complain about in practicing our faith is that a church isn't playing the sort of music we prefer. Yes, I know there can be worse abuses but let's be honest here. They occur on a very small scale compared to the struggles of those in other countries where they often do not know if anyone else knows of their plight.

While pondering this in prayer yesterday, I read the line that is the headline for this post. It stuck with me. Then I read that bit of Mark above. I have always had a fellow feeling for Chinese Christians because of my great general interest in China but this was rapidly becoming a greater concern.

I thought about a meeting the night before where my friend Monette had happily been reporting that a couple on the verge of divorce was back together again, working through their problems. This is the second couple she had brought to us for prayer who had been able to see a way toward saving their marriage. We were teasing and saying that she would become the saint of troubled marriages. She said, "It was that novena I said. I'm telling you, it worked both times!"

I remembered that statement and thought about the fact that I used to say novenas and had fallen out of the habit. Maybe it was time for a novena to kick start me into remembering these far away brothers and sisters in Christ. I looked over to my table where I had stacks of books, thinking that I should dig out that rosary book, look for something to say. "No, later," I told myself. "After prayer."

But I would find myself compulsively looking over at that table, find myself wondering what it was that I felt I should look for right now and then remember ... that book of novenas. Time for that later. It was the strangest thing y'all.

Not as strange as a bit later, when I am not kidding, I found myself standing in front of that table reaching toward those books. I didn't remember getting up or even thinking about it. I just was suddenly standing there.

Ok, this wasn't going to go away. I would find the book and then do it later.

I sat down, book in hand, and thought that I might as well go ahead and see what novena would be a good one. If this wasn't going to go away, I would take care of it and then talk more personally to God. (Yes, because I'm dense, I know!)

I flipped the novena book open at random ... to St. Francis Xavier. Patron of foreign missions. I began laughing. Message received. This is the novena that I began yesterday.
The Miraculous Novena of Grace
Most amiable and most loving Saint Francis Xavier, in union with you I reverently adore the Divine Majesty. I rejoice exceedingly on account of the marvelous gifts which God bestowed upon you. I thank God for the special graces he gave you during your life on earth and for the great glory that came to you after your death. I implore you to obtain for me, through your powerful intercession, the greatest of all blessings, that of living and dying inthe state of grace. I also beg of you to secure for me the special favor I ask in this novena. In asking this favor, I am fully resigned to the Divine Will. I pray and desire only to obtain that which is most conducive to the greater glory of God and the greater good of my soul. amen

(here you may mention the grace, spiritual or temporal, that you wish to obtain.)
For joy, peace, and support of oppressed Christians
in China, the Middle East, and Africa.
Also for their oppressors--forgiveness and opened eyes to the truth.

(Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Glory Be.)
I didn't post this yesterday. I felt that surely everyone had had enough of my personal prayer life. Certainly I felt embarrassed about the mystical tinge I'd be exhibiting if I told it. I'd already let that particular bit of my life hang out there for all to see. No need to dwell on it again. I could just post the novena. We didn't need all that explanation.

Did we?

No, no we didn't.

Except, knowing that I felt I should post this experience but that embarrassment was bugging me to death ... of course, this is just a sample of what was laid on me this morning:
The Lord is my light and my help;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
before whom shall I shrink? (Psalm 26:1)

Go upon to a high mountain,/ Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice,/ Jerusalem, the herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! (Isaiah 40:9-10)

Fear not, I am with you. (Is 41:10)

Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid! (Mk 6:50).
Now, granted, we all know that anyone with something on their mind will take special notice of those readings all together. However, I thought that I'd go ahead and heed what I was feeling here.

However, just in case I felt I was reading into things, our Deacon sent out a copy of a letter he'd received yesterday. It was from the priest at the parish that our church had taken the Christ Renews His Parish retreats to in the Fall. I read it this morning. In part, he said:
The spirit is burning within us only because the parishioners of St. Tomas Aquinas Catholic Church were willing to carry this flame of love and knowledge to our parish.
Right between the eyes with the holy 2x4!

OK! I get it!

And so do you ... the whole story.