Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

"If I didn't know there is a God before, I know it now."

These were the words of Rose's friend, Mary, in a phone call Rose got at one a.m. this morning, several hours after the sort of accident that every parent dreads to hear once their child begins driving.

In swerving to avoid a mattress that flew at her in traffic, her car spun and flipped and wound up on its side heading straight for a concrete barrier. Thanks both to American engineering and to God Mary is unharmed except for some bruises and aches. I am not going to go into all the details but there is no question in anyone's mind who hears this story that there was Divine intervention.

My heart is full of thankfulness not only because Mary survived unharmed but because she had no passenger in the front seat. That part of the car was crushed and if anyone had survived they would have been severely injured. Rose and Mary carpool all the time. All the time. In fact, it is so unusual for Mary and Rose to take separate cars that we had to stop and reconstruct just why they weren't together in the car.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow ...

Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm Not One for Sweet Cards ...

... I prefer the funny ones.

But this one from Ron Rolling touched me. I think that y'all will like it too. Thanks Ron!

From My Morning Reading: Why Jesus Was More Than A Good Teacher

At the end of his commentary about Nicodemus' night visit to Christ, Sheen makes a point that I don't recall having seen made in just this way.
If there is anything that every good teacher wants, it is a long life in which to make his teaching known, and to gain wisdom and experience. Death is always a tragedy to a great teacher. When Socrates was given the hemlock juice, his message was cut off once and for all. Death was a stumbling block to Buddha and his teaching of the eight-fold way. The last breath of Lao-tze rang down the curtain on his doctrine concerning the Tao or "doing nothing," as against aggressive self-determination. Socrates had taught that sin was due to ignorance and that, therefore, knowledge would make a good and perfect world. The Eastern teachers were concerned about man being caught up in some great wheel of fate. Hence the recommendation of Buddha that men be taught to crush their desires and thus find peace. When Buddha died at eighty, he pointed not to himself but to the law he had given. Confucius' death stopped his moralizing s about how to perfect a State by means of kindly reciprocal relations between prince and subject, father and son, brothers, husband and wife, friend and friend.

Our Blessed Lord in His talk with Nicodemus proclaimed Himself the Light of the World. But the most astounding part of His teaching was that He said no one would understand His teaching while He was alive and that His Death and Resurrection would be essential to understanding it. No other teacher in the world ever said that it would take a violent death to clarify his taeachings. Here was a Teacher Who made His teachings so secondary that He could say that the only way that He would ever draw men to Himself would be not by His doctrine, not by what He said, but by His Crucifixion.
When you have lifted up the Son of Man you will know that I am what I am. John 8:28)
He did not say that it would even be His teaching that they would understand; it would be rather His Personality that they would grasp. Only then would they know, after they had put Him to death, that He spoke the Truth. His death, then, instead of being the last of a series of failures, would be a glorious success, the climax of His mission on earth.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

An Alphabet that Will Make You Smile

Ok, actually it is type treatments ... but let's not get too technical. Just enjoy.

Via The Art Department..

Speaking of Faith is Looking for Catholics' Personal Experiences with the Church

Pope Benedict XVI will be making his first papal visit to the U.S. in April, to help revitalize and strengthen the U.S. church. He will be stopping in Washington D.C. and New York City to offer mass at Nationals Park and Yankee Stadium, visit the White House, and address the United Nations.

We're using the occasion as an opportunity to start a broad-ranging conversation about the rich tradition of Roman Catholicism -- its history, trajectory, and the contemporary issues Catholics are wrestling with. Although we often hear news stories about the Catholic Church, diverse practitioners of the faith have had little voice in telling their stories.

If you are or were Catholic, we'd like to hear your perspectives on what anchors and unsettles you in this vast tradition. We're also interested in the hopes and concerns you have for the church, now and into the future. ...

What do you take solace in and find beautiful about this faith of nearly two millennia and more than 1.3 billion members spanning all the cultures of the globe? What hopes, questions, and concerns are on your mind as you ponder the state of the Catholic Church and its future? ...
Speaking of Faith is a very good look at all sorts of religion, although I don't listen to every podcast. This is your chance to make the faithful Catholic voice heard on a bigger stage. (Via Mark Shea.)

Great American Meatout ... Where Have These People Been?

We've had that for ages ... literally! It's called Friday for Catholics, people.

If you want to find out how the secular world is catching up, you can read it here.

Worth a Thousand Words

Taft at City College - Prof. Schuyler
from the extremely nifty Library of Congress photostream at Flickr.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Camellia Bush by Duane Keiser

Prayer Request

For this new widow's peace and for the soul of her husband. As well, please go by and leave her a comment of condolence.

When Some People Would Reach for the Bottle ...

I, on the other hand, head straight to the bookstore. (I may have mentioned this before...). I have noticed this for a while, beginning with when Tom had a series of back surgeries many years ago when the girls were tiny. I came out of that with several large, expensive cookbooks that I really had no interest in after the strain of the situation was over.

This tendency made itself very obvious yesterday when some family stuff came up and I felt under a certain amount of stress. I had to literally fight myself out of driving straight to a bookstore. Sometimes I can get away with just walking around looking at books and not find anything to buy. I have a feeling that I'd have been buying something whether I liked it or not yesterday ... heck, in a real emergency, I can even make do with Target's book area.

As a tipple goes, that's not too bad I suppose. But if you have a lot of stress in your life, you can spend a lot of money and wind up with some terrible books!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

This is an instance where we do need some words. Check out the link above to see why the camellia bud (not flower) is often used in tea ceremonies.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thank You, God, For Not Accepting the Summa Mamas Sacrifice

They offered up their blog to God ... and He gave it back to us. Whew!

As a consequence, we have their Easter Egg shoe parade to brighten our eyes and hearts.

Welcome back, Mama T and Smock Mama. You haven't been gone long, but I missed you the whole time.

A Little Useless Information

It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information. - Oscar Wilde


Lewis Carroll • Tiberius • Prince Charles • Paul Klee
Gary Sobers • George VI • Paul McCartney • Bob Dylan
Albert Einstein • Nietzsche • M.C. Escher • Bill Clinton
Bill Gates • Fidel Castro • Queen Victoria • H. G. Wells
Cole Porter • Pelé • Phil Collins • Elizabeth II

Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott

And Happy Catholic.

Worth a Thousand Words

Portel del Angel via Barcelona Photoblog

Blogathon for LIfe

Susan Brennan has come up with an interesting way for bloggers to support the culture of life in New Jersey.
Good Counsel Homes, Inc. is a non-profit organization that serves pregnant women throughout the State of New Jersey and New York by providing much needed services including shelter, food, medical care, education, job skills, social skills, counseling, parenting, nutrition and computer classes. Good Counsel Homes currently has five homes and is in the process of opening a new home in South Jersey. ...

I am inviting you to sponsor the walkathon through your blog. Doing so is free and can be achieved by a simple post, but you are welcome to blog about it as much as you want. In fact, I am immensely excited to see the posts that this Blogathon may generate. If you agree, I will set up a web page assigned exclusively to your blog... Your blog name (however you wish it to appear) will be on our walkathon t-shirt.
Susan is organizing the May 31 walkathon and you can see more about it here. If you have a blog, pass the word and help raise this money for this very necessary project.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Let's Show a Little Pug-Love

My good friend, Hey Jules taught me that pugs are adorable and lovable as I have watched her adopt her two little dogs and post photos of their hijinks over time.

Now, she is putting out a plea on behalf of Midwest Pug Rescue which is need of financial aid.
As many of you know, Petee came to live with me through this wonderful organization. They take in any and all abandoned pugs and give them the required care to enter back into society as a healthy and happy pug. To do so requires an ongoing source of income and they just don’t have the sources to always meet these huge financial needs.

Between the rising vet bills and the rise in abandoned dogs, they are quickly approaching the breaking point.
Even five dollars can help make a difference. If this speaks to your heart, do go drop a few dollars in the pot to help this cause.

Worth a Thousand Words

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Today We're Coloring Easter Eggs

Some Easter Colors by Qiang-Huang

We like to get creative with it. Do you like this panda egg that Tom did?

No, I kid. It's from Mental Floss where they have six amazing examples of elaborately decorated eggs.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Welcome Home, John C. Wright...Updated

I was raised Lutheran, and drank in anticatholicism with my mother's milk, so I assure you I am aware of most or all the objections, subtle and obvious, which you consciences in good faith might raise. The shock that came to me when I looked into Catholicism is that the Catholics do not teach what my teachers told me they teach.
I have wondered for some time if John C. Wright, science fiction writer and a former atheist, were Catholic. His remarks often gave off a Catholic vibe but I figured if he were Catholic that he'd have mentioned it before now.

Now I am thrilled to find out that after three years of consideration he will be entering the Catholic Church this Easter. I especially enjoyed reading his reassurances to Protestant, pagan, and atheist friends which shows just how thoroughly he did consider it all. Do go read.

Congratulations and welcome home!

Anyone reading the comments on Wright's post may have noticed another favorite science fiction author (of mine, anyway) in the comments ... who confirmed that Michael Flynn is indeed Catholic. I suspected as much after reading Eifelheim ... that consideration of what creatures have souls was practically channeling some of the great thinkers of the Church, if they had been thinking about large, insectoid aliens who crash landed near them.

O My People ... Tonight is the Veneration of the Cross

If you haven't gone before, I highly recommend it. here is what I wrote last year.

And here is what Practicing Catholic wrote about it from this year. She has much of what Fr. L. talked about which was simple and yet devastating ... and true.

I will simply add that this year they chanted all the liturgy, not just the Gospel. I must say that when the young man chanting the first reading and the responsorial approached the lecturn, he was a vision to behold. I nudged Rose and she got a big smile on her face. Of course, he had a gorgeous voice so both our eyes and ears were pleased. I even recovered enough to meditate on the readings being chanted. Which may have been a miracle.

One of the things that really struck me last night during the long and beautiful recitation of the prayers, was that all the time that I was wondering what was the truth, was there really a God and how did one know it ... the Church had been praying for me all along. I was wonderstruck and grateful.

Seriously, toward the end of the service, I felt as if I had been drenched in the day, simply soaked it up until I could hold no more. It was a truly wonderful way to go into this empty day of Holy Saturday. I am truly looking forward to the joy of Easter morning. (The vigil service is just too long for me ... I go with the women to the tomb on Easter day. Or maybe with Peter? He wasn't up so early ...)

A Couple of Things from Holy Thursday

Yes, I know I said I was checking out. But I just wanted to share a couple of things.

I have written before about what happens during the Mass on Holy Thursday and also of the feelings I have had.

This year was very different for me in a couple of ways.

First, I was fixing dinner and rather absent mindedly realizing that I hadn't tried that hard during Lent. Not quite "wasted" it but close enough. I tossed off an off-handed prayer (yeah, the kind that always boomerang ... God is just waiting for me to ask) that he do what I needed to bring me closer to him.

Not ten minutes later the phone rang. It was my mother-in-law asking to be taken to Mass that evening. First of all, I know it sounds shameful that we already hadn't planned to take her, but she had taken to always having something "wrong" whenever it we'd call to say that we were coming on Sunday morning. Quite often, because of her short-term memory loss and the routine of her assisted living home she doesn't even realize what day it is. So I'd kind of mentally scratched her off the list of people to check.

No problem. We would set our routine into high-gear and get her. Then she asked about Stations of the Cross for Good Friday. Rose knew that they would be at 3:00. Of course, the time that has been commemorated always as the time that Christ died. I had planned to spend that hour in quiet meditation and prayer. For the first time ever, I'd actually remembered to try to do something at that time. I had been mentally patting myself on the back.

The Stations of the Cross. I'd had one or two experiences with them a long time ago. Maybe I was Christian then? Maybe not. What I remembered was a lot of up and down kneeling and sore legs the next day. It had left me with a permanent bad taste in my mouth. Although I always find myself attracted to written (and spoken ... thank you Laura H.) meditations for the Stations. I have a permanent bad attitude about attending the Stations of the Cross.

Now my mother-in-law was determined to go. And I mentally looked up at heaven and shook my fist at God. Oh, thank you sooo much! And mentally, I could hear the gentle, amused laughter and "You asked. I'm just answering."

I also realized during Mass that I was remembering those previous sad reflections and trying to force some sort of feeling. Just the sort of thing that I would instantly tell anyone else not to do. Whenever I caught myself I would then force relaxation and ask God for just a word to take away. I had resigned myself to my first-ever intellectual experience of Holy Thursday. Then I realized that the priest's entire homily, excellent as always, was about service to other. How in experiencing Jesus' service to us and his love, we must show it to others. And I thought of my mother-in-law. Who was asking for my service, not only in the Holy Thursday Mass but for Stations of the Cross and in other ways as well. I realized that I had fallen into a habit of begrudging service more often than forcing past it and looking for the big picture. I had gotten lazy and I had gotten small minded about it.

Well, that was a word spoken to my heart for sure. One that I would use to shake myself into new awareness. Toward the end, another sentence refined this point for me. "We are called to have our eyes opened and our hearts set afire."

Which was just what that earlier realization made me eager to do.

Nice going, Father L., preaching a homily straight to me.

Of course, you know that made me relax, thinking I had gotten the "goods" so to speak from that Mass. Then during my time kneeling after Communion and through the rest of the Mass, my heart was set afire. I thought of how Jesus says, " I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you ..." (Luke 22:15). I almost always think of that when I am kneeling waiting for the Eucharist.

Then the dismissal prayer (can't find the text right now) said something like, "May this Eucharist bring us to fullness of life and joy..."

Which was when I began brimming with exactly that. A realization of how rich and full my life was after I let Jesus take charge of it. How I was truly more "myself" than I had ever been and that I knew I would just become more and more so if I kept striving. What I felt was gratitude but most of all what I felt was pure, overwhelming joy and happiness. Which I somehow felt that Jesus was feeling underneath all the pain and agony and suffering that he knew was coming ... a deep joy at being able to bring this to us and to share it with us. (Which resonated even more this morning when I was posting the Good Friday meditation and felt a shocked recognition ... for the first time I understood that joy which is written about there.)

Which brought me to love. How can I not love Him for that? And that was what I felt more than all the others. Love.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Outta Here Until After Easter

I do have a few prepared meditations that I'll post over the next couple of days ... but essentially I'm gone until after Easter.

Have a blessed Triduum* and a wonderful Easter Sunday.

*The Easter Triduum begins on Holy Thursday with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the passion of the Lord on Holy Saturday, reaches its high point in the Easter vigil, and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.

The Season of Lent ends on Thursday of Holy Week. Then the Church remembers the death and resurrection of Jesus during the Easter Triduum. These three days are the most important time of the Church year.

6 Little Books That Pack a Big Punch

These small books would make good gifts for the various events that happen in the spring ... First Communion, entering the Church, weddings, baptisms, etc. ... it just depends on the occasion. In fact, I have several of these earmarked for various friends in the near future.

What Catholics Believe
A Pocket Catechism for Kids
by Mike Aquilina and Father Kris Stubna
These differ only in the increased complexity of information offered in the first books. Both are in question and answer format and offer very simple but clear answers to likely questions about Church teachings. Each also has a section of traditional prayers, a guide to making a good confession, and an explanation of the Mass. Both of these are small enough to easily slip into a pocket or purse. Not to mention that they are handy to have around for quick answers that one might run across ... for instance we were all at a loss when trying to remember the theological versus cardinal virtues the other day (yes, that's the sort of home we have ... don't ask!)

Meditations from the Oratory: Praying the Creed
by Father Benedict Groeschel
This is a series of meditations that are fairly short but quite powerful. Designed to be weekly meditations used by a group, these could also be used by an individual. For instance, I am planning to do one each Sunday. Each begins with a substantial Scripture reading, goes on to a brief meditation, followed by a quotation which is usually from a saint or church document such as the Catechism. A quiet time is then followed by a few questions to consider and then prayer closes the session. All of this, naturally, follows the framework of the Creed.

Praying in the Presence of Our Lord: with St. Thomas Aquinas
by Mike Aquilina
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote superlative poems in praise of the Eucharist. Mike Aquilina gives us both the Latin and also beautiful English translations while providing seven meditations for each. These focus on helping us pray as St. Thomas prayed, in the presence of the Eucharist. Needless to say these will be helpful for any meditative time but especially during Adoration.

Living the Mysteries: A Guide for Unfinished Christians
by Mike Aquilina and Scott Hahn
This devotional takes us through key teachings of eight of the Church Fathers. The focus flows from understanding mysteries and revelation through individual sacraments. Each of the 50 meditations has a brief introduction, the writing of the Church Father for that week, a few key sentences to "Take to Prayer" throughout the day, a phrase recommended for memorization, and a thought about applying this teaching to real life. This is the only devotional style book that Tom has ever been interested in reading which says something about its accessibility.

A Prayer Book for Catholic Families
This is a resource I really wish I'd had when the kids were younger and I was wondering how to integrate prayer into our family life. Simply written but amazingly thorough, this book doesn't just present prayers, it describes key parts of Catholic devotion. This includes the order and liturgy of the Mass, simple Morning and Evening Prayer as an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours, the Stations of the Cross and Devotions to Mary. Although the cover looks more oriented toward those with children, this also would be a good book to give a new convert or as a practical wedding gift.

You Keep Using Those Equations. I Don't Think They Mean What You Think They Do...

"New derivation of equations governing the greenhouse effect reveals "runaway warming" impossible

Miklós Zágoni isn't just a physicist and environmental researcher. He is also a global warming activist and Hungary's most outspoken supporter of the Kyoto Protocol. Or was.

That was until he learned the details of a new theory of the greenhouse effect, one that not only gave far more accurate climate predictions here on Earth, but Mars too. The theory was developed by another Hungarian scientist, Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist with 30 years of experience and a former researcher with NASA's Langley Research Center. [...]

Miskolczi's story reads like a book. Looking at a series of differential equations for the greenhouse effect, he noticed the solution -- originally done in 1922 by Arthur Milne, but still used by climate researchers today -- ignored boundary conditions by assuming an "infinitely thick" atmosphere. Similar assumptions are common when solving differential equations; they simplify the calculations and often result in a result that still very closely matches reality. But not always.

So Miskolczi re-derived the solution, this time using the proper boundary conditions for an atmosphere that is not infinite. His result included a new term, which acts as a negative feedback to counter the positive forcing. At low levels, the new term means a small difference ... but as greenhouse gases rise, the negative feedback predominates, forcing values back down. "

NASA refused to publish his results. He's resigned from NASA, saying, "My idea of the freedom of science cannot coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climate change related scientific results."
I noticed this defection from the Global Warming camp at The Common Room.

It made me think again about the movie Expelled ... possibly because of Jay Rogers' comments which are just about a review in themselves. His actual review can be read here. I am getting more and more interested in this movie.

My Favorite of the Many Views of Abbey Road

That's no surprise is it? To see the others as well as the famous original album cover to which they all pay tribute, check out Mental Floss.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Believe That There Is Absolutely Nothing He Can't Turn Into A Chart ...

... or graph ... or table. Some funny stuff is going on at Disputations.

Good Friday Notes

Divine Mercy Novena ... Salve Regina reminds us that today is the day to begin your novena. More details at her place.

Chanting the Passion Narrative according to Saint John ... Paraclete Press makes it possible to continue a tradition that began in the eighth century with their hosting of the Gregorian chant by monastic members of the Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola. Our church did this last year and will do it again this year. I can attest that it was truly wonderful. If you don't have such a tradition at your church, this is a good alternative.

Worth a Thousand Words

I Blame It All on Hypnotoad and The Egg

They really didn't put their hearts into it ... I must have a very stern talk with them before next year's Catholic Blog Awards!

Congratulations to all the winners, who you can see here.

Rose Was in the First Test Audience to See Will Smith's New Movie "Hancock"

A friend got two tickets to an unnamed movie screening so they were pretty sure they'd be lucky to see anything as "good" as a Will Farrell movie. Imagine their delight when they were treated to Hancock, the Will Smith movie coming out this summer. Some of the main action scenes were still unfinished enough that they weren't done, which just added to that "insider" feel. Afterward they filled out a questionnaire ... also fun.

Her review? Very good and with an original take on the superhero theme. But I think we can see that from the trailer. Just seeing it made me ready to watch this movie now!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome Back, Maureen!

For those of us who have sorely missed Maureen's humor, the good news is that she's baaaaaaaack! Her opening story, " Disbelief in Jesus Not a Hindrance to Being a Faithful Christian, Say Catholics" ... go thou and read.

Thanks to Rick Lugari for the heads-up on this exciting news!

Worth a Thousand Words: For Babar Lovers

A Catholic Revert's Advice

What I found so difficult was to turn everything over to Him. To really turn my will over to His.

After I did that, the rest was relatively downhill. No, it was not a smooth hill with a comfortable slope and a smooth surface. It was more like a broken ridgeline on the Moon or something. Lots of boulders, and ravines that require some uphill climbs. Nevertheless the trend is downhill and as long as I keep turning to God, His grace draws me on like gravity.

The step I first took, which I here recommend to you, was so simple and easy it took me forever to think of it.

So I wanted to trust Him and have faith, but couldn’t take that final step. Finally, I told Him that I was willing for Him to change my heart for me. I was willing to let HIM give me the will and strength to turn back. With that, though the struggle was still long and hard, I had in fact turned the corner. I might still relapse, of course. But now it would take an act of will on my part.

As for the rest, our response to God’s grace includes doing everything we can while trusting the ultimate guidance of our journey to Him.
This post began as a comment over at Darwin Catholic and then turned into a post. Go read. It is chock-full of good advice for those returning or who are here to welcome him back.

In Related News ...
If you are entering the Church this Easter, there is a nifty badge awaiting your blog.

Peeps or Bunnies

Meredith wants to know and she has a handy poll to use.

Battle of the Breviaries

Christian Prayer or Daily Prayer?

Meg has been very kindly giving us tables, photos, and more to help compare the two resources. I really, really ... really ... like the Daily Prayer book.

I'm linking to the last post in the series so that you have links to all four posts.

The youngest child can’t zipper his jacket and tells you, “It crashed!”

Just one of the 25 signs you are a Geek Parent.

I'm not gonna tell you how many of those signs I knew ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

You Won't Believe the Strange Jolt I Got When I Saw This Cover at Amazon

Just go look ... right here ...

... I'll wait.

Why was I jolted?

Because I designed it. (Not the illustration, but the look, type, etc.)

Yep. Me.

More about all that later ... but what a thrill!

While You're Out There Crusin' St. Blog's ...

... voting ends at noon today, so 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 in the Best Overall Catholic Blog category.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Pi Day

Just don't make that a meat pie, since it's Lent.

Many interesting and amusing facts about pi may be found at Mental Floss whence came the above photo.

Worth a Thousand Words

Red Velvet Cake by Duane Keiser

It seemed quite appropriate to use this painting today as I have finally posted Cheryl's Red Velvet Cake recipe. Check it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Curt Jester Turns to Negative Campaign in Attempt to Swing Votes - Updated

It is with great sadness that we note The Curt Jester is, alas, so very insecure that he is resorting to negative publicity in his campaign to win the humor category. (Also with great hilarity that we read his customary humor ... how does he do it?)

As I have too much dignity (and not nearly enough cleverness) to respond on his charges, I will simply turn to that which has stood us in good stead before.


Now, listen carefully and go vote for Happy Catholic in the 2008 Catholic Blog Awards.

You may then turn off your computer ... you will remember nothing of this later ...


I see that the blog awards has posted the top ten in each category so far.

Heavens to Betsy ... Happy Catholic is up there for Best Overall Catholic Blog. This calls for drastic measures. C'mon people, concentrate your votes ... go kiss the egg!

Let's go all da way with our little Jamaican bobsled of a blog here ...

A Beautiful Recitation of the Stations of the Cross

Laura H. has given us a real treasure just in time for Holy Week with this recitation.

She has a beautiful voice (she's a singer after all) and this is something that I will be listening to again and again. Do go listen and download it for your own meditation.

Anyone Been Watching New Amsterdam?

John Amsterdam is a homicide detective who really has seen it all. He's 400 years old, thanks to having saved a native girl from a fate worse than death ... or maybe it was from death itself. She rewarded him, if it can be called that, by putting a spell on him so that he would live until he meets his true love. This results in an understandably brooding man who views death as a gift that he would like to earn. His current homicide cases usually remind him of a past part of his life. They are well handled and serve to lift the series above the standard show. Most interesting of all, the show consistently reminds us that immortality is a hollow gift and one of which most of us would tire. This is a message quite at odds with what we often see in modern thinking.

This reminds us most of Moonlight, in which a man, turned vampire against his will, wants nothing more than to be human again. It consistently reminds us that to be human with all the accompanying pain is still better than a false "superiority." New Amsterdam, however, has more depths to plumb and is the better show.

Bye, Bye, Eli ...

By the way, the troublesome gaping loopholes and stubborn insistence on taking what seemed to us to be the wrong side in practically every legal case got to us a while back. No more Eli Stone and we are the happier for it.

Worth a Thousand Words

Golden Street found at Flickr's Cream of the Crop.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Music to Skate By

I think this is the sort of playfulness that delights God. I know it delighted me. Via Standing on My Head.

Talk About Being Single Minded

I saw a headline saying Hooray Once More for Lefties and had to read it three times before I figured out it wasn't about left-handed people (which would be me, ya know ... and quite obviously it's all about me!).

Worth a Thousand Words

Sinai Archangel Gabriel icon, by Heather Williams Durka (click through on the link to see more of her beautiful art).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sacrament of Confession ... Reconciliation ... Penance

Monica asked for a quick refresher on confession. I thought I had a few things about confession posted but now realize that I have just had a few good quotes and comments of my own. Here is a more basic all-in-one guide.

No matter what you call it, this sacrament is one of the most misunderstood as well as one of the most freeing. (For the basics about what a sacrament is, check out The Raft on the Tiber, where Mark is beginning an indepth discussion ... I am looking forward to his posts.)

Here are the very basics:
  1. Examine your conscience - what sins have you committed since your last good confession.
  2. Be sincerely sorry for your sins.
  3. Confess your sins to the priest.
  4. Make certain that you confess all your mortal sins and the number of them.
  5. After your confession, do the penance the priest gives to you.
  6. Pray daily for the strength to avoid the occasion of sin, especially for those sins you were just absolved from.
More than anything confession calls for a good, honest examination of conscience. The priest who taught our RCIA class told us that we shouldn't make "laundry lists" of sins but truly see what in our lives is truly keeping us away from God, acting as a separation from him.

If you want a guide to examination of conscience Fathers Know Best has probably the most thorough I've ever seen. Catholic Online has a good one that also includes an overall guide to confession which I recommend reading over if you are nervous or it has been a while.

I will often spend the week before confession asking God to show me what I do unawares that grieves him most. Then I spend the rest of the week ducking because those prayers are always answered right away. If I have slid into a lack of humility, suddenly I find myself "showing off" or something similar and then being embarrassed. If my bad temper has been growing unbeknownst to me, I suddenly am biting everyone's heads off in the most public and (again) embarrassing way possible. You get the picture.

In short, He shows me without hesitation what I need to repent of, to confess, and to receive extra grace for aid in my struggles.
The examination of conscience is one of the most decisive moments in a person's life. It places each individual before the truth of his or her own life. Thus, we discover the distance that separates our deeds from the ideal that we had set for ourselves.
John Paul II, Go in Peace
Another thing that I try to remember is to pray for the priest hearing my confession. I usually do this when I am in line waiting my turn. I pray for my own openness in truly hearing what I need to, for his openness in letting the Holy Spirit flow through and enlightening me. I can't tell you how many times the priest has taken a very unexpected turn of advice that has opened my eyes.
... The use of too many words frequently denotes a desire, whether conscious or not, to flee from direct and full sincerity. So as not to fall into this we need to make a good examination of conscience.

Concise: Confession with few words, just the words that are needed to say humbly what we have done or have failed to do, without any unnecessary elaboration or adornment.

Concrete: Confession without digression, without generalities. The penitent will suitably indicate his situation, and also the time that has elapsed since his last Confession and the difficulties he finds in leading a Christian life (Paul VI). He declares his sins and the surrounding circumstances that have a bearing on his faults so that the confessor can judge, absolve and heal.

Clear: A Confession where we make ourselves understood, declaring the precise nature of the fault, manifesting our wretchedness with the necessary modesty and delicacy.

Complete: Integral Confession, without leaving anything out through a false sense of shame so as not to appear bad in the confessor's eyes.
It is a big struggle to confess my sins fairly baldly and just let it lie. If the priest has any questions, he'll ask them. Otherwise, God (and all the angels and saints, as someone once reminded me) already has watched me "in the act" so I just have to let it go. In other words, no excuses. Confess and live with it.

The priest instructing us also mentioned that people sometimes worry because they are confessing "the same old sins over and over." As he said, "We don't want to go around finding new ways to sin, do we?" We all have inclinations to various sins that we most likely will battle against for our entire time in this earthly "boot camp." Some we will overcome. Others we will not. We must measure our progress in terms of getting back up repeatedly to continue the battle.
Those confessionals scattered about the world where men declare their sins don't speak of the severity of God. Rather do they speak of his mercy. And all those who approach the confessional, sometimes after many years weighed down with mortal sins, in the moment of getting rid of this intolerable burden, find at last a longed-for relief. they find joy and tranquility of conscience which, outside Confession, they will never be able to find anywhere.
John Paul II, quoted in In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmastide
There is nothing like the feeling of lightness and relief from a truly good confession.

I encourage you to take advantage of this gift which the Church offers to us so freely. Lent is still here. Go before Easter.

Heather mentions something that I completely forgot to include, but which I think of often to give myself that extra boost to get to confession.
Confession also has enormous healing powers. So even if I am free of mortal sins, I often find Confession very powerful and valuable. Sometimes, you just need an extra boost of grace to keep flying true!

Also, because Confession brings us into a state of grace, it makes our souls more receptive of the graces we receive from all the other Sacraments. Without Confession, the other Sacraments are limited in their power, and even harmful--all because of sin that we can't or won't have cleansed by Confession.
I remember going to confession for a specific purpose and then being dumbfounded when the priest informed me that it wasn't a sin at all. "What?" I said. "You're kidding!" He assured me he wasn't and then, when I couldn't think of anything else, asked me what I struggled with the most so that I could receive the grace to battle against it more effectively. Quite often when I just can't stand to deal with a particular sin any more I remember that I can get a strengthening dose of grace as well as absolution from confession. And I hustle to church.

Worth a Thousand Words

Purple Flowers Fantasy taken by Barcelona Photoblog.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

'Tis the Season for Conversion Stories ...

... or so it would seem to me. As we come closer to the Easter Vigil when the catachumens will be confirmed in the Catholic Church, after those long months of preparation in RCIA, we begin to see their stories popping up here and there.

Here is a bit of Heather's story, posted by Sarah. Go check out the whole post and then demand part 2 (not that it's all about what I want to read or anything ...)
When Sarah and Prince Charming invited us to their second daughter’s baptism, we were happy to attend, and with my camera in hand, I was seeing the Mass unfold in a whole new way. Maybe it was that camera being like another set of eyes with which to see the Mass, or maybe it was the sheer emotion of the baptism (babies…oooh how sweet), but something moved in me that day…The same “thing” that had been there when I went to Mass with Carrie and the same “thing” that I felt when I went to Mass with my Knight so early in our relationship. That “thing,” I came to discover was none other than the Holy Spirit.

Worth a Thousand Words

One of the Anthropomorphic Trade Cards featured at BibliOdyssey. You can see the entire Victorian trade card collection here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Denying Discussion -- UPDATED Yet Again

Scroll down to "Updated Yet Again" info.

Leticia at Catholic Media Review found this interesting trailer for Expelled, a docu-drama that looks at how scientists who espouse intelligent design are discriminated against.

What I find interesting, in reading Brett McCracken's review is that this seems to be not as much about defending intelligent design as defending the right to discuss it at all. (Jeffrey Overstreet showed me the way to the review.)

It is only natural for this to bring up a discussion of intelligent design in general. We had quite the conversation about that around here a while ago which overflowed into other places. Steven Riddle, a Catholic and scientist, at Flos Carmeli wrote what basically is my point of view (so glad he did that!). I am putting a bit of it below, but please do go over and read the whole thing before commenting here one way or the other. Just so we're all on the same page, ya know ...
Scientists who attack intelligent design as "not science" are not being entirely true to themselves. It would be equally valid to attack neo-darwinism. Neo-darwinism is the philosophical construct that grew up around Darwin's original proposal of evolutionary theory. While neodarwinism added some aspects to the theory as a whole (for example allopatric speciation), it also set on top of evolution an interpretive framework. Although the scientists using it would probably think of it as value neutral, it is not. Neo-darwinism assumes as its underpinning the absolute randomness of everything that happens in the natural world and in the mixing of genes. But absolute randomness is, in fact, an axiom, an expectation and it is improvable. Moreover, it is loaded with a philosophical bias that makes the theory including it untestable. ...

The objection to intelligent design is not that it is bad science (although this is what scientists might tell you) it is that it contravenes a necessary assumption of science and the way science works to make a special exception for a sensitive case. The objection to intelligent design is that it is a philosophical assumption that poses as a theory. It offers nothing that evolution does not offer already. It is simply the theistic side of the coin. Atheists (Dawkins among them) argue that evolution proceeds in a random fashion (a point they cannot prove with any evidence whatsoever) and theists say that it proceeds by design. In either case the mechanism is as Darwin originally suggested--natural occurrences acting upon a population.

So, intelligent design is not a scientific theory, it is a philosophical construct. Evolution IS a scientific theory that must carefully be teased apart from a philosophical assumption of "no intervention." Proper teaching of evolution would require a very careful statement that we can assume nothing about how the mechanism proceeds. What appears random may be random but we cannot prove randomness. What we assume to be guided could be guided, but we can even less assume that.
Updated Yet Again
Jonathan got to see it at a pre-release screening this week. He says it's very well done, but can't really say much else because they asked people not to review it yet. Suffice it to say that he used the expression, "gave the Darwinists enough rope to hang themselves."
So says Amanda Witt at Wittingshire. She also gives us the links to Expelled's site as well as to where Thinking Christian is keeping an eye on the whole thing.

Meanwhile, in these very comments boxes, there is some interesting discussion coming from Catholic scientists ... I like to see what everyone says even though I am barely up to the discussion. Check it out.

It's First Friday!

Which I remembered yesterday. Fasting for the unborn babies, their parents, and for the change of heart of abortion providers.

Here's the main statement (which I still haven't updated ... sorry!): It Began Here, Let It End Here

I am insanely busy at work right now with things that need quick response so won't be able to make it to adoration ...

Another Latin Pronunciation Bleg

We're coming to the end of China Court so there won't be too many more of these. I really appreciate the help, y'all!
Noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat nobis ...

(May He grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Shoji taken by Kyoto Photo.

Did You Want a Twist of Faith in That Science Fiction?

My recent reviews of Infinite Space, Infinite God and Seven Archangels: Annihilation made me remember a few other books of that category which also give us food for reflection about faith. You can find my reviews here:
Here is an ongoing conversation about science fiction with a Catholic twist and this is an interesting list of books which are explicitly "Christian", have Christian characters, or deal with Christian themes, have been recommended by at least ten members of Christian Fandom

I know there was a fairly comprehensive list with comments about how the faith was portrayed at a Catholic science fiction blog somewhere in the past ... but I couldn't find it. I bet someone out there knows (the Curt Jester? Scott Danielson?).


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's All Downhill From Here

I'm so busy I can't do anything but provide something to make you smile.

Inspired by Siggy's whole latte art display, I found this food art. Go take a look ... I bet you'll smile at least once.

Worth a Thousand Words

One of the Fugitive Beauties of Hexandria. See more at BibliOdyssey.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

In Outer Space, Can Anyone Hear You Pray?

Infinite Space, Infinite God
edited by Karina and Robert Fabian

Science fiction has always explored human nature in a variety of imaginative settings and situations. Infinite Space, Infinite God stretches a bit further and examines the human soul. This science fiction anthology's theme is Catholicism and outer space. In one guise or another, each story raises an element of spirituality, faith, and worship for our consideration.

The editors have grouped the stories in various categories such as humanity, evangelism, mission, and souls. The commentary provided for each category is insightful and well written. The only complaint one might have is that each story's plot is slightly revealed therein. Those who wish to let the stories unfold without preconception would do well to read the editors' section comments after finishing the stories. Whichever method one uses, the comments provide good food for thought and should not be missed.

It has been a very long time since I have read a science fiction anthology and this one reminded me of the pleasure to be had in sampling a variety of writers' work this way. Especially thought-provoking for me were:
  • Hopkin's Well in which a soldier encounters settlers on Mars who force im to consider what constitutes a soul
  • Brother Jubal and the Womb of Silence where a monk who seeks the ultimate solitude for contemplation has a mystic experience that leads him to the exact opposite of what he expects.
  • Far Traveler where a secret project sends a man back to witness an event in Jesus' time that has unexpected repercussions in the future.
  • Cruel and Unusual Punishment in which a terrorist chooses a punishment called "the light" instead of the death penalty and discovers that hey may not have chosen the lesser of two evils.
No anthology is without its weak stories and this one is no exception. A few are included that treat faith and Catholicism both obviously and unimaginatively, leaving the reader with no maneuvering room for their own thoughts o a subject. Thankfully, there are very few of these and the other stories are so good that the reader can quickly move on.

This book would be a good one to consider for Easter reading, when new possibilities and new life in Christ is vividly with us. This is not available in regular book stores but check the link above to order it from Amazon.

Vote Early and Vote Often

Well, voting often really isn't possible ... just dreaming there. The voting is open at The Catholic Blog Awards. You can only vote once so choose carefully.

Happy Catholic was nominated for Best Individual Catholic Blog, Best Overall Catholic Blog, Funniest Catholic Blog, and Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog. Y'all are so very kind! And you've made me so very happy. (If only there was a category for that.)

And I see that Catholic Media Review, of which I am a member, was nominated for Best Group Blog, Best Insider Catholic News Blog, and Most Informative & Insightful Catholic Blog. Sweet!

Do go take a look at the nominees. There are a ton of good blogs nominated and you're sure to find a new one that you can't live without (the story of my life, just look at my sidebar!).

It's tough in any category because of all the competition (which is a good thing ... I'm a capitalist y'all!). Because of my fondness for tradition and for my Jamaican bobsled team, I'm gonna revive the regular awards campaign.

C'mon ... kiss the egg!

(And if you don't know what that means
then hie thee to a rental store and catch up on Cool Runnings)

Now get over there and vote!

Worth a Thousand Words

Monday, March 3, 2008

True Love Has Never Been More Awkward

... a funny, fractured romance between two total misfits woven into an all-consuming quest for revenge and shot through with the strange, sweet hilarity of the human condition. When Lily, a lonely, oddball fast-food waitress and hopeless romantic, and Jarrod, another lonely oddball and video game clerk who has spent the last decade plotting revenge against a bully from high school, connect at a "dress as your favorite animal" party, it's a match seemingly made in outcast heaven. ...
Eagle Vs. Shark is the sweet story of two losers, one who is free to be herself, and the other who continually tries to live up to his father's expectations. Both come from families that are populated completely with what most would call losers also. However, as is often the case, no one seems to recognize this. Lily's relationship with her brother is loving and full of games they play to amuse themselves. Jarrod's family is haunted by the memory of a dead brother who Jarrod feels he can never match.

There is occasional animation included that points up key parts. It is simple, but very well done and adds an odd charm all its own to the overall movie.

This is an extremely low key movie, that makes one think of The Castle, if any of the characters from that quirky family took themselves a bit too seriously. We all recognize the types that Lily and Jarrod represent and perhaps that recognition helps make the movie resonate more with us. If one looks for a deeper meaning than mere entertainment here, the overall message would be that one need not be anywhere close to perfect to desire and deserve love ... and to find it. More than anything, this movie is quirky, funny, and (one simply cannot escape the word) sweet.

Note: The "R" rating is for language, some sexuality, and brief animated violence. What we noticed was the sexuality though it is indeed brief and not explicit.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Papa in Pink

Actually those are rose colored vestments. This and other special signs of joy such as the use of flowers on the altar are permitted on this day to encourage the faithful in their course through the season of penance.

Thank you, I'll take that encouragement! Deacon Greg has more info and links about this Sunday midway through Lent, technically named Laetare Sunday. I like seeing those rose colored vestments, though our priest always says that he feels like a gumdrop wearing them.