Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dear Tom!

That is not a photo of my cake but it looks as if chocoholic Tom would like it ... so we'll see how close I can get to reproducing it with Chocolate Buttermilk Cake and Chocolate Malt Frosting.

Happy Birthday to my dear and darling husband!

Thank You St. Francis and St. Anthony!

For your intercessory prayers ...

Unto us a prodigal daughter has been returned ... after over 24 hours disappearance in the wilds of outdoors, after Rose walked the streets for over an hour yesterday seeking and not finding ...

... this morning she opened the door to the garage and in bounded our wayward cat, Truffles, with her tail held high.

As if we hadn't each looked in that garage many times!

However, no matter where that silly cat was, she is home and all is forgiven. Whew!

Superhero Highlight: The Candy Man

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description)

The Candy Man

Power: Causing candy to explode at the touch of his hand
Back-story: As a child, The Candy Man was never allowed to partake in the delectable confections more commonly known as candy (and handsome candy at that). The inner angst caused by the deprivation of such treats caused anger to fester inside of him for years. The Candy Man committed a youthful indiscretion, however, when he gave into a whimsical lark, deciding to finally have his fill of confectionery delights. However, when his hand first touched the colored, candy-coating of a peanut M&M, all the pent up anger of his childhood years surged through him, causing the small, chocolate-covered peanut to explode. After being released from the emergency room, where his third degree hand burns were treated, he realized the awesome power that was now his and committed the next fourteen years to the honing of his skills. Now that his anger had a productive outlet, he was able to finally hold down a day job, but spent his nights as THE CANDY MAN, serving up sweet justice to the city’s most dastardly of villains.

Cover: Overenthusiastic bathroom attendant (and a handsome bathroom attendant at that)

Cover name: Brett Bretterson

Partner: The String

Introduction to partner: After hearing the distressed calls of those that would soon be deprived of *awful candy* The Candy Man entered a neighborhood candy shoppe to foil the thievery attempts of a dangerous pack of sugar-crazed miscreants. The Candy Man threw wave after wave of jelly beans and sour worms at the hooligans until he heard their cowardly cries of retreat. Upon leaving the now charred and battered candy shoppe, a young dentist, picket sign in hand and floss at his side, began to follow him. After countless attempts to rid himself of this young oral hygiene activist, whom he learned was called The String, proved fruitless, The Candy Man decided to use this nuisance to his advantage. After receiving many a free dental checkup, a dynamic duo was formed, and they have been ridding their fair town of evil and plaque ever since.

Archnemesis: Mortimer Matlock, his number one competition in the world of bathroom attending
Next superhero feature coming: Backwards Man.

Worth a Thousand Words

'Chin Chin Kobakama'
Published by Takezirou Hasegawa in 1925.

Just a couple of the many delightful samples of Japanese Crepe Paper Fairy Tales found at BibliOdyssey.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Watch the Skies...

... or more accurately your in-box. Tor Books is promoting their new website with a free audiobook download a week as well as some other nice things. Via Sci Fi Catholic.
Something new is coming.

A science fiction and fantasy site not quite like any you’ve seen before, mixing news, commentary, original stories and art, your own comments and conversations, and more. A place on the net you may find yourself wanting to visit—and participate in—every day.

Once you register, you’ll receive our newsletter and a link to download a digital book, as well as free wallpapers from bestselling and award-winning SF and fantasy authors and artists. And you’ll receive a link to another new book, and new wallpapers, every week. Additionally, you’ll be entered in our Watch The Skies Sweepstakes to win the very cool Asus Galaxy EEE mobile PC.*

Our current free book is Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder. Next week’s book will be Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest.

So sign up. Stay in touch. And watch the skies.

Worth a Thousand Words

From Flickr Doors Pool. Originally uploaded by dicktay2000

Doesn't this look like a storybook doorway?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nick, I lost your email ...

Someone named Nick sent me an email about priests and a prolife site ... and I have lost it.

Please email me again!

More Annhiliation Reviews

March Hare gives it 4 out of 5 golden bookmarks over at Catholic Media Review.

My pal Owen sent an email with his wife's review:
I really enjoyed the book - it was well written, I enjoyed the humour, lots of twists, a good attempt at making the angelic relationships and characters strong... I would rate it as very, very good but not exceptional - as in, I was able to put it down without feeling like I had to tear myself apart.
I concur. If you missed my review, you can read it here.

Juno: The "Indie" Movie for People Who Never Watch Indie Movies

We saw Juno this weekend. It was ok.

Like Little Miss Sunshine (which I enjoyed more than I did Juno) it was a "mainstream" indie-style movie that I imagine seemed unique and fresh to people who don't venture beyond regular Hollywood movies.

The acting was great. The directing was great.

It was the screenplay I objected to ... that Oscar winning screenplay. As Tom pointed out, there were no real conflicts. Everything was solved too easily. Juno spent more time being flip and glib than anything and I found it profoundly annoying until the last third of the movie, when we were finally allowed some sort of insight into various characters.

Yes, it was pro-life. Go team. However, the baby essentially acts as a catalyst to get everyone to examine their relationships.

If you want a better movie, a real indie movie that makes points about people and relationships in a much more real way (albeit without any impending baby), rent Eagle vs. Shark.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Superhero Highlight: The Scrabbler

I love all of these stories but anything that includes the words: "...keeping them preoccupied with her own brand of justice, one that would have made William F. Buckley cry like a little girl" sends it whooshing to the top of my list.

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description)

The Scrabbler

Power: Can make really good words out of leftover Scrabble tiles

Back-story: As a child, The Scrabbler was grossly mistreated at the hands of her evil stepmother, Stella Stairbottom. As the queen of their village, Stella Stairbottom feared that The Scrabbler would one day usurp her power and steal the throne. In order to prevent this, Stella Stairbottom employed the only logical solution: she locked away her not-evil stepdaughter in a tower, with the sparse provisions of Scrabble and a set of dictionaries, and sometimes food. Unbeknownst to the evil stepmother, but knownst to us, The Scrabbler had a fairy godmother. She wasn’t a very good fairy godmother, but she wanted to help The Scrabbler. So after seeing The Scrabbler’s prowess on that rickety old Scrabble board, the fairy godmother bestowed upon her a set of magical Scrabble tiles with the power to draw anyone into a game of Scrabble by entrancing them with their beauty. Unfortunately for her evil stepmother, but fortunately for The Scrabbler, Stella Stairbottom used REALLY old locks, and after eighteen years they fell apart, freeing The Scrabbler. Unsure what to do with her newfound freedom, The Scrabbler decided to use her powers to ensure that no one like Stella Stairbottom ever terrorized the populace again. She spent her days luring criminals into Scrabble games until the local police forces arrived to serve them justice, keeping them preoccupied with her own brand of justice, one that would have made William F. Buckley cry like a little girl.

Cover: Mild-mannered English teacher (and a gorgeous English teacher at that)

Cover name: Ingram Inglebaum

Partners: The Lincolnator, Halfsies

Introduction to partner: Fighting crime is expensive work, so in order to make some cash, (some easy cash, might I add) The Scrabbler would sometimes place a wager on a Scrabble game. In one such instance, The Scrabbler happened to be playing The Lincolnator, who, although a formidable contender in the world of crime-fighting, was no match for The Scrabbler’s skills on the Scrabbler board. As is customary when betting, the Lincolnator began to hand over the agreed-upon sum: a crisp new Hamilton. But the moment the ten-dollar bill touched The Scrabbler’s HAND, a thousand pennies exploded into the air (but didn’t hurt anyone). Upon realizing each other’s awesome power, The Scrabbler and The Lincolnator joined forces, to become a powerful crime-fighting pair, serving justice to the city’s most evil jerkfaces.

Archnemesis: The winner of the national spelling bee, she’s just so darn good at vocabulary
Next superhero feature coming: The Candy Man.

No Coleslaw?

From where you can enjoy all the wacky ways English is misunderstood.

The Endearing Story of Sam the Goose

Sam the goose helps crossing guards shepherd children across the busy intersection of Liberty Grove and Princeton in Rowlett.

Once upon a time, down a two-lane road, past a field with horses and near an elementary school, a big ol' goose lived in a sparkling, blue pond.

Each morning, the goose saw children laughing and talking while walking to school. Two friendly crossing guards helped the children cross a busy intersection to get to class.

He was intrigued, this curious goose. One day in February he left his pond pals, a duck and a swan, and waddled through the grass, past the large rocks, onto the sidewalk, to the intersection. ...
Who would not love this story? Read it all The Dallas Morning News where you can also see the video of Sam working.

Oh the Movies I've Seen

Watched in 2008.
  1. The Village***...quiet and different from Shamyalan's other movies but still a very good look at our connectedness to each other, the importance of each individual's finding their own purpose, and also at how we cannot avoid violence in our lives.

  2. Lady in the Water***...also very different from Shamyalan's other movies but we enjoyed it quite a bit. A fairy story in modern times is how it has been labeled by some but we realized early on that it is urban fantasy a la Neil Gaiman's style of story telling. Again we see the director's common themes of our connectedness to each other and the importance of finding our own purpose in life. This is set against the theme of how it is important to leave behind preconceptions so we can see things for what they really are, as well as conquering fear and self doubt in order to do what we must.

  3. Helvetica***** ... are you a "typomaniac?" If you come out of this movie with a crush on Helvetica, as Hannah's friend Jenny did, then you know that the answer to that question should be yes! This documentary, done on the typeface Helvetica's 50th birthday, manages not only to tell us about this particular typeface but to remind the general viewer that type is now a design element that is all around us. In the various attitudes and feuds of the type designers that are interviewed, one also gets a glimpse of the passion that art arouses. Yes, even those who practice the art of graphic design. We had to wait for over a month to rent this documentary as it was always out every weekend. Which just goes to show how quirky our neighborhood is, full of designers and advertising people.

  4. Moliere**** ... a la Shakespeare in Love but much better done. On the point of his triumphant return to Paris, Moliere flashes back thirteen years to remember a pivotal time in his life. This is a very funny movie on several levels and if one knows his plays it is undoubtedly even funnier. As someone who does not know Moliere's work, I can recommend the movie anyway.

  5. 30Rock - The first season**** ... not a movie but surely logging in all these hours counts for something! Absolutely hilarious and we could kick ourselves for not having watched sooner. Set behind the scenes of a variety show a la Saturday Night Live, this focuses on the writers, actors, and management.

  6. Extras - The first season**** ... again not a movie but a truly funny and sometimes poignant British television series. Focusing on an actor who seems doomed to always be an extra and desperately wants to get a line in a production, this character-driven comedy is funny on many levels. Not the least of that comedy is that each episode features a well-known actor who is shown "behind scenes" with humor deriving from the fact that they are playing against type of their well known public personas. This is when you realize what good sports Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, and Ben Stiller really are. Doubtless I would realize that about British actors Ross Kemp and Les Dennis except I never heard of them before.

  7. Extras Finale movie***-essentially took longer and darker look at the last episode of season 2. A good and thoughtful look at the effects of fame versus standing up for what we believe ... but the funny moments are few and far between.

  8. Avenue Montaigne**** ... subtitled in French ... light comedy about a young waitress, Jessica, seeking her fortune in Paris. This is an area where the elite work and play. She comes into contact with a concert pianist, an actress, and a widower who is selling his art collection in a nearby gallery. Each character has a primary motivation behind their story which we see developed as the waitress carries trays across the street to where they live and work. Although this movie is handled quite differently from Amelie, the main message is quite similar; one must take a risk to gain what one needs from life. My favorite moments, and those which communicate the movie's sweet heart best, is watching Jessica's love for her grandmother shown through her patience. When her grandmother inevitably asks, "Did I ever tell you how I worked at the Ritz?" Jessica always says no and settles back to listen to the story again. Highly enjoyed by the whole family.

  9. Bourne Ultimatum****-finally another movie trilogy with three good movies to its name (Lord of the Rings being the other). This actually is the second half of the second movie. Well done and clever in the way it overlaps with parts from the second movie. An action thriller with "everyman" Matt Damon playing perfectly to the part of self realization at what he has become and what he wants to be instead.

  10. Once**** - quiet little movie about two musicians who meet and inspire each other. Probably gives the best authentic feel for what it is like to musically create something for those of us who never will.

  11. Death at a Funeral** - a so-so movie that has some very funny moments but that probably isn't enough to make you want to watch it.

  12. Across the Universe****-very good interpretations of over 30 Beatles' songs loosely strung together to tell the musical story of the rebellious Sixties nad an American girl and English boy who fall in love. Think "Shakespeare in Love" a la The Beatles, psychedelic scenes, Vietnam war protest and the like. Much more of a plot than I expected and the choreography for the dance scenes was fantastic. I especially enjoyed the Janis Joplin/Jimi Hendrix subplot. A bit long in places and the war scenes could have been trimmed considerably. However, recommended overall.

  13. No Reservations***-American remake of Mostly Martha (my review) is fairly good for the first two-thirds of the movie. However, due to their dropping an essential plot point from the original screenplay, the last third of the movie is left with nowhere original to go and, thus, "goes Hollywood" with a predictable ending. Not a bad movie, just not equal to the original.

  14. Second-Hand Lions****-a much better movie than the trailers would have had us believe. This successfully pulls off what Big Fish left unfinished ... characters that not only tell a very good story, but do so with a sense of growth and development, as well as closure.

  15. Juno*** -my review is here

  16. The Sons of Katie Elder** - this western has the star power but not the script or director to make it a great movie. It is really, really long though ... or maybe it just felt that way.

  17. The Bone Collector****-Denzel Washington is the forensics investigator who is paralyzed and wants to die. Angelina Jolie is the rookie cop with a natural eye for forensics who he pushes into helping investigate serial murders happening around NYC. Yes, there are some plot holes but I liked it anyway.

  18. Sweeney Todd****-The tale of the grief-crazed barber whose insanity turns him to murder. As well as his deluded partner from the pie shop downstairs whose insanity matches that of Todd as she merrily bakes the human remains into pies. This is Tim Burton so the blood is everywhere but this is quite an effective film. Revenge begets nothing but more revenge while redemption comes at the hands of a child.

  19. Guys & Dolls****-from when musicals were really musicals, this Damon Runyan story adaptation about gamblers hits some very high notes especially with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra as the main two characters. Brando can sing much more than you'd think and he adds an edge of evil to the cynical character he plays. Choreography was done by the same person who did it for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. 'Nuff said.

  20. Iron Man****-Really great look at a comic book character who must reform his dissolute, uncaring life and take responsibility for having had his head in the sand while his company has actively hurt others. Robert Downey Jr. is perfect in this dual role of the rakish, devil-may-care playboy and reformed savior of the people.

  21. Lawrence of Arabia****--much better than I thought it'd be. I imagined something like Dr. Zhivago, long and boring and instead of ice ... lots of sand everywhere. There was sand with fantastically beautiful shots of the desert. This was a surprisingly compelling look at the life of an extraordinary man in extraordinary times. O'Toole did a fantastic job of portraying innocence and enthusiasm with a strange twist (how about that lit match thing?) which then turns into an intermittant Messiah-complex. It was sheer pleasure to watch so many great actors portraying the different roles ... especially young Omar Sharif. What a looker!

  22. Lars and the Real Girl****-my review is here.

  23. Wall-E*****--my review is here.
This list doesn't included movies that were rewatched.

Worth a Thousand Words

Lemon Wheel by Duane Keiser

Click the title link to see more of his work.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Approaching Atheists: What Can Christians Do?

This is an interesting project from The Cynical Christian and Jen from "Et Tu?." They very kindly invited me to participate but I have to honestly say that the two sorts of atheists I have encountered have been open-minded (like my friend Toby) or not wanted to talk at all (AT ALL) about God (that would be my mother).

Most of the heavy-duty flack I get comes from those who already are Christian.

The series can be found here at The Cynical Christian. I haven't had a chance to read through everything yet but will be doing so. They may be addressing exactly the sorts of atheists I know.

C'mon and read along with me!

I Just Can't Get Away from Apologetics

Or so it would seem.

I had these thoughts.

Which were responded to by the original thought-provoker in this post.

Which in turn made me notice the definition you see in this book review.

It came up in our scripture study last night. Again. I meant to review a book that I mentioned at that time and that I think is an interesting approach but see that I left it at home. Probably just as well. I need to be working!

For now, I will leave this apologetics advice out there for us to ponder.
Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.
1 Peter, 3:16-17

The Divine Protection Racket?

God may be in control, but I don’t think my prayers providing him with lists of things that need to be prevented and rescued really gets his attention.

So I’m having trouble joining in with prayers for God to protect various people from various things, or prayers asking God to straighten out all kinds of problems which I suppose he could have stopped from happening anyway.

In my desire to have a Christ-shaped spirituality, I’m convinced that Jesus didn’t offer his services to “protect” his disciples from bad things. He seems pretty clear that all kinds of bad things are going to happen to them, and he’ll work with whatever comes along.
This article from The Internet Monk could have been written by Tom. He comments to me often about people's expectations in prayer not matching what Jesus said about it in the Bible. We discuss time and again that prayer is about bringing ourselves internally more in line with God and relationship with Jesus than about changing the externals of our situations. Yes miracles happen, but as with Jesus' example, they act as signs of God's power and presence ... Check out the post. It's a good 'un.

The Shepherd Who Is Led

Who would have thought it? After the glamor and punched-up charisma of John Paul II, many in America had set low expectations for this man who was known mostly by his media caricature, that of “hard-line enforcer.” For six days we watched and listened; we came to know Benedict as a cerebral and soft-spoken man whose body language was endearingly awkward and whose pen seemingly never rested. He is warmer than we expected, and he is braver than we knew. Overwhelmingly, though, Benedict is gentle and exceedingly, edifyingly humble. He is a “Supreme Shepherd” but one who allows himself to be led, and ever led, by the Divine one.
Read all of The Anchoress' wonderful article at Pajamas Media.

The Silver Key

A blog I recently discovered with some great posts. Such as this about Bernard Cornwell:
The cover blurbs on Bernard Cornwell’s books read “Perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today,” and frankly, you’ll get no arguments from me. I've come to love Cornwell, who is in every sense a Man's writer. There's no romance in these books and no literary pretension, so if you're looking for those elements, try something else. On the other hand, if you like bloody battles, cowardice and heroism, grim suffering and cruel murder, oath-making and breaking, hard drinking and mirth, and, most importantly, darned good storytelling, Cornwell's your man. His greatest strength is probably his ability to spin a compelling, fun tale, and he does it with a keen eye for historic accuracy.
Or this about audio books (boy, oh boy, do I agree with this):
To hell with radio. Give me a good audio book any day. While the sap in his gas-guzzling SUV next to me had NPR droning away on the dial, I was listening in on the conversation of Uhtred Ragnarson, true Lord of Bebbanburg, and Danish warlord Ragnar Ragnarsson, as they shouted the joys of "Women and War!" while riding on horseback through Northern England circa 881. While the 20-something chick to my front in her Honda was rotting her brain listening to the vapid Destiny's Child, I was "seeing" the clash of shield walls, bloodied axes and swords, and screaming men. In my mind's eye I was watching viking longships under sail in the open sea, the bright light of morning gleaming off shield bosses and helmets, and smelling and hearing great feasting halls flowing with ale and bursting with loud song and the poems of skalds.

And best of all this experience is "free" of charge....
Or this about Cormac McCarthey's The Road (which I've been afraid of but interested in):
So why read on? Well, as a father with two young children I can sympathize very strongly with the man's plight. His simple love for his boy keeps him going when suicide seems a better option. He carries a gun with two bullets left, and if found by scavenging cannibals, his plan is to use one bullet for his son and the last for himself. He wonders whether he'll have the courage to do so. The boy and his father sustain themselves with each other, and constantly tell each other that they're the good guys, and that they "carry the fire," a small, flickering flame in a world of cruel darkness.
That's not even counting his review of Tolkein and the Great War or his cogent analysis of why Zemeckis' modern adaptation of Beowulf misses the mark. Go enjoy. Just make sure you have plenty of time to dig around all that good reading.

Worth a Thousand Words

Light by Karin Jurick

Click through on the name to see more of her work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Welcome to National Catholic Register Readers

Alerted by a pal, I see that Eric Scheske wrote an article about Literature in the Blogosphere and Happy Catholic was featured which was very gratifying as you can imagine.

You can find a listing of my book reviews here, though there are often other literary conversations that spring up ... such as the comments here with fantastic reading ideas for 13-year-old boys.

Following the Kid and Dog ... Comes the Mouse and Frog

Just because I like the photo ... although it is from 2006 after an Indian monsoon.

Another one from Hannah, who is addicted to cute animal photos as is befitting a Wildlife and Fisheries Management major.

The Boxer Who Adopted the Kid

A paternal dog has adopted an abandoned baby goat as his surrogate child.

Billy the boxer has become the constant companion of the 12-day old kid called Lilly. He sleeps with the goat, licks her clean, and protects her from any dangers at Pennywell Farm wildlife centre at Buckfastleigh, near Totnes, Devon.

Read the whole story here. I'm not surprised as our boxers have always been quite maternal about our kids (even though ours are human). I do have to say though that when they say Billy cleans up the goat's mouth after she eats ... there's a bit of self-interest there. I never knew a boxer to pass up a free meal.

Thanks to Hannah for this one!

Superhero Highlight: Hoborella

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description)


Power: Controls aluminum cans with her mind

Back-story: Once a promising young microbiology student at the local university, Hoborella was drawn to the glow of a nearby trash can fire like moths to the very same trash can fire. She quickly abandoned her plans for microbiological glory and decided to ride the rails across the country and live the glamorous hobo life. Unfortunately, jumping onto a moving train proved to be more difficult for Hoborella than it was on the silver screen. She seemed doomed to a life of bummery, however Bumerella sounds ridiculous, so she kept the name. Hoborella was no quitter though, she decided to give the rails another go. Climbing onto the top of a nearby rail-guard, she waited for the next passing train. As it approached, she leapt from her post and flew through the air, smacking directly into the side of the fourth car from the caboose, which as we all know is where the plutonium is kept. Hoborella ricocheted off the car and into a pile of aluminum cans that some littering fiends had left behind. Since then, Hoborella has been able to control the movement of aluminum cans with her mind. At first she used her newfound power to collect cans she could sell for food money, but after seeing some of her hobo brethren being pelted with cans by a group of young rascals, she realized her powers were put to better use as a guardian of the town.

Cover: Mild-mannered hobo (and a gorgeous hobo at that)

Cover name: Hilda Henderson

Partner: Detective Lemon

Introduction to partner: Hoborella, having found at last, a cozy dumpster for the night, laid her head down to rest on a soft pile of garbage, only to be awoken by the crashing sounds of a stranger falling into her bed. Hoborella quickly recognized her new bedmate as Penelope Pennyworth, the local private. What Hoborella did not know, was that Penelope Pennyworth was secretly Detective Lemon, famed protector of the town (and a gorgeous protector at that). When Penelope Pennyworth enlisted Hoborella in her search for clues by treating to her a delicious brunch (with a slice of cantaloupe at the end), Hoborella did more than simply give clues, but brought Penelope Pennyworth directly to the young ruffians that had been plaguing her city. Together they forever put an end to the can-throwing schemes of the deviants, thus protecting town and hobos alike. Henceforth, they were known as Detective Lemon and Hoborella, the most ass-kicking pair of dames around.

Archnemesis: The Drossinator -- because he continues to take her fireplace.
Next superhero feature coming: The Scrabbler.

Internet? I Don't Need No Stinkin' Internet!*

How many priests are there in Libya?


Thomas J. Olmsted's birthday?
Jan. 21, 1947.
(Who the heck is he? The bishop of Phoenix.)

What does the word "apologetics" really mean?
The science and art of developing and presenting the case for the reasonableness of the Christian faith, by a wide variety of means including facts of experience, history, science, philosophy. The constant objective of apologetics, as well as of the total process of pre-evangelization, is preparation for response to God in faith; its ways and mean,s however, are subject to change in accordance with the various needs of people and different sets of circumstances.

Which decisions by the Supreme Court have had an effect on religion in the United States?

The answer to that one is too lengthy to report here but if you, too, had your copy of the 2008 Catholic Almanac from Our Sunday Visitor then it would be a snap to answer. It makes deeply interesting reading as well.

I have to admit that when I pulled this out of a box of books that Our Sunday Visitor sent me, I had to laugh. The idea of a Catholic almanac seemed ludicrous. However, leafing through it soon shut my mouth. Intending to spend a few minutes looking it over, I looked up to find I had spent more than an hour going through from beginning to end, marveling at the wealth of information at my fingertips. I recognized the simple truth of the review printed on the back cover:
Our Sunday Visitor claims this work is the one and only Catholic resource, and simply the best annual guide to the Catholic Church anywhere. These are bold statements, but accurate--- This excellent work is especially useful for those interested in either the Roman Catholic Church or the Holy See--- It is informative, easy to use, and well written. --American Reference Books Manual
Probably of the most interest to those who have previous years' editions will be the first section which covers news and events from the past year including papal trips, papal documents and announcements, and special reports from international and national news. However, for the rest of us who might need an overall resource other sections contain not only the statistics one might expect but key information about the teachings and doctrine of the Church, summaries of Church history, details about saints canonized during the previous year, a chronology of U.S. Catholic history, descriptions of Eastern churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) and much more.

Truly this is one place that you don't need an internet connection to have the basics about the Catholic Church ready to hand at a moment's notice. Highly recommended.

*With apologies to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
(Cross--posted at Catholic Media Review.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quick Update

Or as quick as it can be from this dial-up connection on an older PC ... which is to say, not very quick at all.

My Dad is doing much better, relatively speaking. He came through most of his tests looking much healthier than any of us suspected. His problems are mostly lung related ... he isn't a smoker, this is just due to various other problems. However, he is now in a rehabilatative therapy facility so that he can get back to the point of going back home. He even has a garden outside his window where we can bring his beloved Corgi, Emma, for daily visits, weather permitting. So that is about as good as anyone could have expected, right down to a room opening up at the last minute at his doctor's preferred facility.

My mother is greatly relieved, needless to say, and we are going forward in a joyful mood.

Much, much thanks for all the prayers. It truly is wonderful to have such a community of friends to lean on.

While waiting at a doctor's office for a form to be signed, I picked up the newspaper (having been cut off from the real world during this visit). I also was greatly joyful reading about Pope Benedict's speeches that said it how it is. And about his visit to Boston. Way to go, Papa! How I love this pope. What a good shepherd we have!

More later, I'm sure ...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Y'all Come Back Now, Y'Hear?

Closed restaurant

On the road to visit my parents ... with limited internet access.
Emails and comments will be answered, just not very quickly.

Superhero Highlight: The Drossinator

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description).

The Drossinator
Power: Has the power to transport the contents of ANY garbage can into ANY other garbage can

Back-story: The Drossinator, an avid stamp collector, had been perusing his stamp collection until the wee hours of the morning. He had become so enveloped in this hobby that he had completely forgotten to take the trash out that night. At next dawn, he realized his grievous error and tried to make amends as quickly as possible. Even with the sky darkened by clouds, then lit up by bolts of electricity, The Drossinator was determined to finish his chores; for otherwise, he would not be allowed to attend the cotillion. Dragging the garbage can, more than half way to the curb, disaster struck… in the form of LIGHTNING! The can was burnt to bits, and The Drossinator thrown to the ground. When he arose he discovered the most peculiar of talents. Somehow, the electricity surging through his body enabled him to teleport objects from a garbage can, to another garbage can. He used his newfound power to play pranks on his fourth-form chums: having them hold trashcans in front of their faces while he threw banana cream pies into other trashcans. His schoolmates, however, were a bit daft and never caught on; thus, this lark of his remained hilarious for many years, without ever getting old. Sadly, he spent his school days on tomfoolery, meaning that he was unprepared for university. Instead, he became a garbage man, realizing that he was the best man for the job.

Cover: Mild-mannered garbage man (and a handsome garbage man at that).

Cover name: Gomer Grasscutter

Partner: Hunky McDreamboat

Introduction to partner: The Drossinator began the morning like any other, collecting garbage from the local neighborhoods. It all seemed quite mundane, when suddenly The Drossinator spied a golden Adonis in his rearview mirror, running after his truck. Taken aback with this young man’s extraordinary good looks and charm, The Drossinator slowed his vehicle. Realizing that the princely young man had been chasing him with a garbage can, The Drossinator seized this opportunity to do good as well as impress this noble lad and used his powers to transport the garbage into his truck. Afterwards, the two went jogging and became firm friends. Realizing that their powers were basically complimentary (the transportation of garbage and extraordinary charm), they had no choice but to join forces and move into a flat together. The Drossinator and Hunky McDreamboat have been inseparable ever since.

Archnemesis: Hoborella, because she is always setting his trash cans on fire.
Next superhero feature coming: Hoborella.

Prayer Request

My father has been quite ill and is now in the cardiac area of the hospital. When he is released in the next couple of days he will be moved to a specialized care facility. If he gets better there he can go back home. Prayers for his health would be much appreciated.

Our family is very indebted to my parents' good friend, Jeannie, who was able to bully my father into going to the emergency room when none of us could prevail. Where would we be without good friends?

In Their Own Words: Pope Benedict XVI and Padre Pio

Questions and Answers
by Pope Benedict XVI
The next question dedicated to the family was made by the parish priest of St. Sylvia. Here, I cannot but fully agree. Furthermore, during the ad limina visits I always speak to bishops about the family, threatened throughout the world in various ways.

The family is threatened in Africa because it is difficult to find the way from "traditional marriage" to "religious marriage," because there is a fear of finality.

Whereas in the West the fear of the child is caused by the fear of losing some part of life, in Africa it is the opposite. Until it is certain that the wife will also bear children, no on dares to enter marriage definitively. Therefore, the number of religious marriages remains relatively small, and even many "good" Christians with an excellent desire to be Christians do not take that final step....
If you ever wanted to ask the pope a question about modern life and living your faith, the chances are that someone already has done it for you. In this book, edited by Michael Dubruiel, we have a collection of questions presented to the pope from 2005 to 2007 by such various groups ranging from children making their first communion and priests from around Italy. In addition to such interesting bits of information as unexpectedly surface in the excerpt above, we see Pope Benedict's considerable range of thinking and ability to link disparate topics into an informative whole.

We also are given food for thought should we care to consider it. For example, in the sample above it is likely that this African view of marriage is quite new to those of us who thought that we already knew all about how marriage was threatened around the world. We are reminded of the scope and range necessary for the universal Church to minister to all of us. We also may ponder the desire of people to control their lives and how it leads to limiting the lives of others, whether marriage partners in Africa or denying children life as happens in the Western world.

The answers are unglossed. When a very complicated question was posed which assumed that the answer was known to all, thereby essentially serving as a statement rather than a question, it filled me with glee to see Pope Benedict answer briefly that he didn't understand the question ... and then make a kindly general statement about the overall topic. Quite often he then goes on to answer the next question by someone else with a comprehensive answer that covers the previous question as well as the most recent one.

Highly recommended.

Words of Light
Inspiration from the letters of Padre Pio
Compiled and introduced by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa [preacher to the papal household]
22 Besides the trial of Spiritual fears and agitations, with just a whiff of desolation, Jesus adds that long and varied trial of physical malaise, using to this end those horrible Cossaks.

Listen to what I had to suffer a few evenings ago from those impure apostates. The night was already advanced; they began their assault with a dreadful noise, and although I saw nothing at the beginning, I understood who was producing this very strange noise; and rather than becoming frightened I prepared myself for the fight by placing a mocking smile on my lips for them. then they appeared under the most abominable forms, and to entice me to lose my resolve they began to treat me courteously. But, thanks be to Heaven, I told them off good and proper, treating them for what they were. When they saw that their efforts were coming to nothing, they hurled themselves at me, they threw me on the ground and struck me again and again, launching pillows, books, chairs into the air, at the same time emitting desperate shrieks and uttering extremely dirty words. Luckily the rooms on either side of where I am, and also those below, are not being used.

I complained to my Guardian Angel about this, who, after having preached a nice little homily to me, added, "Give thanks to Jesus, that he treats you as one chosen to follow him closely up the steep slope of Calvary. I see, soul entrusted to my care by Jesus, with joy and emotion inside me, Jesus' conduct towards you. Do you think that you would be so happy, if you weren't so worn out? I, who in holy charity greatly desire what is best for you, rejoice ever more deeply to see you in this state. Jesus permits the devil these assaults, so that your devotion might make you dear to him, and he wants you to become like him during the anguish in the desert, the garden and the cross. Defend yourself, always drive off these malign insinuations and scorn them; and where your strength is of no use, do not worry, delight of my heart, I am close to you!"
From the section "Satan is a powerful enemy"
I actually had imagined that this book would be a series of complete letters. Instead, we have excerpts from letters. The above sampling is one of the lengthier sections. They are grouped by subject such as "I pray continually" and "I do not wish to ever offend God again." The sections are preceded by a brief commentary from Fr. Cantalamessa which helps put them in context for our contemplation. These excerpts are good for insight into Padre Pio's inner life and also as food for meditation. It is not quite the sort of book that I am attracted to yet I still got a great deal of good from it. It would certainly be a useful book for lectio divina or other contemplative prayer. If you are seeking a book that has concentrated samples of this mystic's life and experiences in Christ then it is definitely recommended.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Max Leibermann, Mein Haus in Wannsee, mit Garten, 1926
Fouund at artnet Magazine; click through on the link for more.

Superhero Highlight: H2WHOA!

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description).

Power: Ability to make water taste bad, like seriously

Back-story: H2Whoa! spent his days waiting tables at a local delicatessen, and thoroughly enjoyed his work, with ONE exception. There was a rather rowdy crowd of ne’er-do-wells who frequented said establishment and ordered naught but water and complimentary bread sticks. H2Whoa! constantly searched for a means of retribution, but his efforts proved fruitless. But it turns out H2Whoa!’s parents were both superheroes, although his own powers had not yet surfaced. On the eve of his seventeenth birthday, however, when it seemed his powers would NEVER come, he picked up a glass of water, saw it start to bubble, but decided to drink it anyway. It tasted HORRIBLE, and he knew that he had a responsibility to use powers well. So H2Whoa! headed straight to the restaurant to exact revenge upon the crowd of cheapskates. It was 3am when he arrived, so he had to wait for several hours, but the payoff was sweet, or more like HORRIBLE TASTING! The no-good group of troublemakers were all served terrible water along with their still-delicious bread sticks. They left with the atrocious aftertaste of justice in their mouths, never to return. However, they also spread word around town of the sub-par service they received and the restaurant went out of business within the year. But it was so worth it. Now H2Whoa! uses his powers to poorly serve only the lowest of the low, the most dreadful of criminals.

Cover: Mild-mannered waiter (and a handsome waiter at that)

Cover name: Wilbur Walterson

Partner: The Klutz

Introduction to partner: While waiting tables one evening, he noticed with despair that some of this more rowdy patrons had left their tables, with no sign that they would return. They had been one of the rudest and demanding tables that H2Whoa! had ever served, and to now see them shirking their responsibilities as restaurant goers by sticking their server with the cost of their food was simply disheartening. “What has happened to the world today, is there nothing good and moral anymore?” he thought to himself. At that moment, he saw his rambunctious patrons fly through the air and lie squarely on the ground. H2Whoa wondered what had caused this fortuitous turn of events to find that the work was none other than that of The Klutz, the clumsiest and most ass-kickin’ superhero in the world (and a gorgeous superhero at that).She had stopped the “dine and ditch” attempt presented before her, and in doing so, helped H2Whoa immensely. In his gratitude and amazement, he proposed that the two join forces and fight crime together. The Klutz agreed, and they became a very powerful duo, until, of course, they added another hero to their team, this hero of course being Ramen Girl.

Archnemesis: H2No, his evil twin who makes water disappear


Next up: The Drossinator

Why Do We Need Apologetics?

This weekend I was listening to a podcast where the speaker said that she wasn't a fan of C.S. Lewis' nonfiction writing because she didn't think apologetics were necessary.
"I am against the idea of Christian apologetics anyway because if Christ is true then why do you have to explain him?"
For those who haven't come across this term before, apologetics quite simply is a systematic defense of something.

Now, some of this can be explained by the fact that this person is a young woman who perhaps has not come across some of the obstacles that the rest of us have encountered in our search for Truth. Perhaps, as happens with many of us, she has encountered apologetics as an excuse to bludgeon the other person with your own beliefs, although her comment doesn't indicate that.

However, I think this is a common enough objection that I thought I'd just post a couple of my thoughts on it. First of all, just because something is true doesn't mean that we don't need someone to explain it. Mathematics, physics, and foreign languages are all true, but they are much easier to understand and apply when we are helped along by a good instructor.

We have a sterling example given to us in the Acts of the Apostles.
Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, "Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route."

So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.

The Spirit said to Philip, "Go and join up with that chariot."

Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?" So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.

This was the scripture passage he was reading: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth."

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, "I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?"

Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.

As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?"

Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him.

When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing.
Acts 8:27-39, New American Bible
That is a case which might not strictly fit in with apologetics as a defense but is definitely consistent with explaining the faith, which would be the ultimate point of a defense. Certainly, that is more the way that I see C.S. Lewis' books about Christianity. I realize they probably were written more with a point than the one I see, but as Lewis himself was brought to believe in Jesus as Truth thanks to his friends' spirited defense of their faith, then one can see why he would want to pass on the favor. I tend to see his books as springing from much the same point as this blog ... being made so joyful by that Truth that one wishes to share it with as many people as possible.

My own personal experience, as any regular readers will know, is that my siblings and I knew about Christianity and Jesus only as it was presented through secular culture, as we were raised by atheists. Our main exposure to faith came through Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, and such movies shown at Easter on television. Had not we been exposed to more indepth explanations of Christianity on some level then we would have been left believing the misconceptions and outright lies that secular culture tells as truth.

As I am discovering, my father is probably not actually an atheist as much as he is a hater of Christians and disbeliever in Jesus Christ. That was made abundantly clear during a conversation I had with him recently. I had to practice apologetics in defending the idea of a personal God of love, especially as made manifest to us in the person of Jesus Christ, when he told me that it was supremely arrogant of people to think that the God who created the universe thought of us as anything more than ants. (I have to say that taking on Happy Catholic using The History Channel as your defense is not very wise ... though I was as loving about it as I could be, it still came down to having to talk about a "personal relationship with God." If you think that wasn't hard, well, think again.) This is simply one of many possible scenarios where one can see that a reasoned, and non-hostile, defense of one's faith can be quite necessary simply to give the Truth a chance to shine upon others.

My own policy is to wait until someone comes to me with a question unless I find that there is a misconception being passed along, usually innocently as was the case when a mention of Catholics "worshiping" saints came up during CraftLit's coverage of Frankenstein. (You find chances to enlighten in the oddest places sometimes!) Much of the time, as with Heather, the person is happy to receive the explanations.

The other use I can make of Lewis' books and one of which I hope this young woman will avail herself later in life when needed, is that his writing turns the mirror upon us when we read it. Every time I read one of his books I see another truth about something I should be considering in my own life of faith. He is supremely insightful in a very simple way that is not condescending.

Something that we all should remember when defending the faith is to do so in a spirit of charity and not to try to win. We personally can do nothing to move men's hearts if they will not let us and, ultimately, it is not us at all anyway. The increase is God's alone though we may be his instruments.

A book that I would highly recommend about apologetics is How Not to Share Your Faith: The Seven Deadly Sins of Catholic Apologetics and Evangelization. I thought I had posted a review, but actually see that I had a series of excerpts. You may read those here:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pope's Message to America - Updated

I like that the Pope is talking to all of us, not just the Catholics. Here is the Vatican site with the complete text of his message to us.

Check out this story from John Allen which looks at the pope's previous comments about America in different books and talks. Very interesting.

I am beginning to get emails with links to places keeping up with the Holy Father on his visit ... I'll list them below and update as info comes in:
Of course, I am sure that all the usual suspects will be covering this as well such as American Papist, Whispering in the Loggia, Amy Welborn at Charlotte was Both and more.

Reading Suggestions Requested

Now this is something that I know y'all can help with. A reader asks:
I’m needing some suggestions for books for my 13-year-old son. He’s gone through Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and now all of Tolkien. He really needs to get out of the fantasy genre and I’m not exactly willing to trust his English teacher on choices. I’ve found some of her suggestions contain language and situations that I don’t approve. I’m sure there must be other parents out there with the same problem.

My son is an advanced reader, but not an enthusiastic one. I did have him read “Night” by Elie Wiesel and he was quite moved by it. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
I am going to think about this question and have suggested that she check Semicolon's place for ideas as she is a dedicated reader and reviewer for younger readers.

Ideas and suggestions?

Worth a Thousand Words

McGregor Public Library Doors from Flickr's Door Pool.

Superhero Highlight: Queen Bee

Continuing the stories of superheroes devised by Hannah and Jenny (more about that can be found here as well as the first description).

The Queen Bee

Power: Having bees follow her

Back-story: One morning, as the Queen Bee was walking to work, she decided to take the scenic route, as it was such a lovely day. Little did she suspect, however, that the field of wildflowers was no ordinary field of wildflowers. THIS field of wildflowers sat above an ancient INDIAN BURIAL GROUND! Naturally, the flowers it produced were extremely evil and magical. The unknowing bees fell victim to the flowers’ treachery, and upon harvesting the evil nectar, became EVIL THEMSELVES. Had the Queen Bee known this, she might have taken a different path, but as fate would have it, she walked through the wildflower field and was stung by a +2 queen bee! And as we all know, +2 queen bees transfer their life force to the recipient of their stings upon their deaths. Verily, The Queen Bee was endowed with the essence of queen beedom and was thereafter presumed by the bee colony to be their illustrious leader. Of course, The Queen Bee is not actually a bee and did not know how to communicate with her new unsolicited army of unholy minions. But despite the lack of communication between themselves and their supposed leader, the malevolent bees loyally followed their new master, awaiting instructions that they will not understand or receive.

Cover: Mild-mannered scrapbook store owner (and a gorgeous scrapbook store owner at that)

Cover name: Stephanie Snellson

Partner: Backwards Man

Introduction to partner: As a result of her new following, The Queen Bee was no longer able to traipse backwards, for fear of the dense cloud of wicked bees behind her. So when she saw Backwards Man involved in high-speed running of the backwards variety, her heart pounded, and she knew this must be her soul-mate. For weeks she observed him from afar and instructed her bees to follow him, which they did not do since they can’t understand her. Finally an opportunity to meet Backwards Man arose when, attempting in vain to walk forwards, he tripped. The Queen Bee gave him her hand to help him up, and her hand in marriage the very next day. The two have fought crime together as an unstoppable duo ever since.

Archnemesis: Karen Krousworth, a crotchety old scrapbooker who visited The Queen Bee’s establishment and was stung by a bee. They are now involved in a lengthy lawsuit.


Next up: H2WHOA!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Resume Makeovers for Job Hunters Over 50

Like other job hunters over 50, Ms. Diaforli figured she was running into the misconceptions that older workers are unproductive, set in their ways and likely to quit after a few years.

Then a friend suggested a makeover – or, more precisely, a résumé makeover.

Ms. Diaforli turned to the Senior Source's employment program, which helps workers 50 and older with job searches.

A counselor at the Dallas nonprofit agency helped make her résumé pop, throwing out wordy explanations of Ms. Diaforli's jobs and replacing them with snappy summaries of her accomplishments.

"The makeover worked wonders," she said. "I got an interview and then my receptionist's job."
This article seemed like a good idea and very useful with some resources listed at the end ... so I am passing it along. It may require free registration.

Superhero Highlight: The Klutz

Hannah and her friend Jenny conceived of a sort of scavenger hunt where each person was a superhero. They then made up each of the superheroes' back stories, set up the hunt each had to go on to defeat their archnemesis, and oversaw the evening. People were showing up in superhero costumes ... it sounds like a lot of fun.

I enjoyed each of the heroes' descriptions so much that I'm going to share them with you a day at a time.

The Klutz

Power: Ability to fall over A LOT

Back-story: The Klutz, despite being a rather successful movie star (and a gorgeous movie star at that), continued to be a very foolish dresser. She often (always, actually) went out wearing a mismatched pair of shoes. This proved problematic to her balance, as The Klutz frequently wore one pump with one flat, or some such ridiculous pairing. Her downfall came when one of her plainer-looking understudies was overcome with the green-eyed monster of jealousy. Realizing that she could not rely on her looks to get anything but a role as an evil old woman, this understudy wisely invested her time in the study of witchcraft. First, she picked up four copies of Harry Potter, but upon the realization that these were not instructional books, returned them for the more informative series: Lord of the Rings. After many a movie marathon, she found a book that actually told her how to cast many various spells, but she could not concentrate very well because she was so distraught over Dumbledore’s fate. So the only spell she could master was one that would cement The Klutz’s mismatched shoes to her feet FOREVER. However, the understudy’s evil scheme backfired when The Klutz’s newfound prowess at falling proved useful in the world of crime-fighting: she tripped many a criminal on the run and thwarted many an evil plot in such a manner. Yes, The Klutz leads a blessed life.

Cover: Mild-mannered movie star

Cover name: Mildred McEntire

Partners: H2Whoa, Ramen Girl

Introduction to partner: The Klutz was ready to relax after a hard day’s film shoot by dining out one fine evening, when she spied CRIME AFOOT. Two no-good-niks at the next table clearly intended to skip out on their check, leaving their bill FULLY UNPAID. Unable to turn a blind eye to the injustices around her, The Klutz quickly leapt up and immediately face-planted squarely in the would-be criminals’ path, foiling their reprehensible scheme. Unwittingly, The Klutz had also fallen in the path of a handsome young waiter searching for his erstwhile customers. H2Whoa!, as she learned he was called, was extremely grateful to The Klutz for preventing his cheapskate diners from running out the bill. H2Whoa! revealed that he had long been searching for a superhero partner with whom to protect the city, and The Klutz immediately agreed to form a crime-fighting duo with him, the likes which had never been seen. They have been fighting crime together ever since.

Archnemesis: Her understudy


Tomorrow's superhero highlight: The Queen Bee

Picky, Picky, Picky

I agree with The Curt Jester about this ad which was pulled at the request of the Washington D.C. Archdiocese:
My own opinion is that it is a somewhat clever ad (quality more YouTubish than polished) that certainly was not meant to be disrespectful and a good way to advertise the Papal Mass. I did like the Pontiff and Driver magazine the man was reading. With so much media that actually engages in Catholic bashing it seems silly to me to get upset over an ad such as this.

Worth a Thousand Words

Watercolor: Dog Bed Squatter by Belinda Del Pesco.

Click through on the link to see more of her wonderful art.

Qu'est-ce que?

For those missing Lost, Rose and I still haven't caught up on the last few episodes and now have a new deadline as it will be coming back in a couple of weeks ...

In the meantime, let's take a look at this which helps remind us just what they are trying to figure out. Via Jeffrey Overstreet.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

Today's visual delights come from Joan in Rome.

The Keyhole ...

... and what's on the other side.

Oh me! She swallowed a bee!

Except in this case it wasn't an old frog, it was our boxer, Daffy.

Rose glanced up in time to see her curiously trying to eat a bee. Daffy didn't eat the bee but she must have stepped on it because shortly thereafter she was limping pitifully, holding one paw off the ground, and then lying down to lick frantically at it. We couldn't see the stinger but later I found the bee on the kitchen windowsill in its death throes.

Daffy was fine within the hour and it gave us a bit of excitement.

Now, that I think of it, there has been a bee theme to my last few days. My mom has a birdbath near her patio door. Every day when the sun has warmed things up a bit we could watch dozens of bees coming to have a drink and then leaving for the hive again. It was almost hypnotizing ...

$3.99 for These Earbuds?

With a good rating on Amazon. Ok, I'm a risk taker (and the price is not so great that it is a real risk) ... I have some coming my way ...

Any Recommendations for This Request?

A reader writes:
I am wondering if you know of a parish around the Arlington, Texas, area with a reputation for having an outstanding high school youth group.
I don't but do y'all have any recommendations?

"And Jesus says to me with great joy ..."

I was sitting in my car yesterday morning praying. Living that joyous sorrow I've been given. "I'm sorry for it, for the hatred and contempt, the cross, the whip, the nails..." And Jesus says to me with great joy, "I'm not! I'm not sorry at all! I did it for you; you're worth it. For I have made you so."

I do not look around, and the world is made new; the world is the same as it ever was. But I, am a new creation, and I look around with new eyes. This is what my God has given me, this is what His church has given me, this is what you have given me. Thank you.
This new convert has been given the grace to truly understand confession and absolution. His conveyance to us of Jesus' joy is very similar to the feeling I had during Holy Thursday. Go read it all at Catholic and Enjoying It.

Two Books That Might Have Been Written to My Specifications

I am not sure just how The Word Among Us knew that I had been needing these two books but they have printed resources that I have long been seeking. The answer, of course, is that I am not the only one who needs them. You just might find the perfect answer to a gift for first communion, a wedding, or a much needed resource for someone contemplating entering the Church.

The Compact Catholic Prayer Book
Prayer Before a Crucifix
Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus, while before your face I humbly kneel and ask you to fix deep in my heart lively faith, ope, and charity; true contrition for my sins; and firm purpose of amendment; while I contemplate with great love and tender grief your five wounds; while I call to mind the words your prophet David said of you, my Jesus: "They pierced my hands and my feet; they numbered all my bones" (see Psalm 22:17).
I have been looking for "the right" Catholic prayer book for a long time and not found one that just suited my needs perfectly until receiving this one. A treasury of traditional prayers, this little book is one that I have been slipping into my "big bag" just in case I need quick reference to the Act of Contrition (yes, I still don't have it memorized) or I stop in for a quick visit to Jesus in the tabernacle and want a prayer or something for contemplation. It has clearly marked sections for Everyday Prayers, Prayer and the Sacraments, Prayers to Mary and the Saints, Classic devotional Prayers, and Prayers for Special Needs. Most of the prayers are traditional while a few are contemporary. The contemporary are clearly marked with the initials of the writer so it is easy to sort out which is which, if one desires to do so. Looking through it, I have found a wealth of prayer assistance that I didn't know existed, such as the many prayers and scriptures available to use before confession. There is also a basic examination of conscience included. The index is an alphabetical list of prayers which I have found very handy as well. Highly recommended.

Mary and the Christian Life by Amy Welborn
Flannery O'Connor, the great American writer who was also a devout Catholic, and who also suffered and died from the immunological disease lupus, once wrote that being sick is like being in a foreign country. This is true of any kind of physical, psychological, or spiritual suffering as well. there are borders, it seems. Maybe even fences and the border patrol.

So how can we help?

Look at Mary.

Be present. Don't hide, don't shut doors, and don't turn away, convinced that there is nothihg you could do or that there is no need for you.

Love, after all, is what John tells us over and over that Jesus is about. Love required, first of all, presence. sometimes our presence can lead to action, but sometimes presence is enough.

Of course, presence is hard. It is horrible to watch someone suffer; it is even worse when our hands are tied. Who wouldn't be tempted to run away? Even if we're not in the situation of the disciples, who literally feared for their lives, remaining with the suffering can make us fear for our lives in another way, as we face our own future, as we face the possibilities of pain that exist for all of us, as we are reminded of the suffering we may have survived in the past.

But given all of that, what is really the alternative to presence? It's running away, denial, closed eyes. It is fear.

We don't know what went through Mary's mind as she watched her Son suffer and die. We can guess, and writers through history have used their imaginations to describe what she might have been feeling. A minor but intriguing theme of some medieval spiritual writing was that as she watched Jesus die, Mary experienced the birth pangs she had been spared thirty-three years before.

But it's hard to say what she felt beyond the normal pain of a mother watching her son unjustly executed and the extraordinary pain of a sword through her heart as she went over and over the angel's promises so long ago.

Jesus said that whenever we encounter suffering, we encounter him (see Matthew 25:31-46). So it stands to reason that when we are present with suffering, we are present at the cross with Mary at our side. We watch her and we learn how to be present, which means how to love, simply and deeply ...
I truly enjoyed Amy Welborn's The Words We Pray and learned a lot from it so it is not surprising that I found a great deal of value in this book about Mary as well. The passage above gives a hint of the theological depth which she makes easily available to us, while showing clearly how Christ's first disciple, his mother, is a prime example of how to follow Him. Likewise, Welborn ties in Mary's life to our own so that we are given many examples of how the trials and joys of everyday life have much to contemplate that brings us closer to Jesus. As we are guided through the Annunciation, the Visitation, and on to Mary's appearance in the Book of Revelations, there are other contemplations on Mary included in appropriate sections. From Hilary of Poitiers to Caryll Houselander, from Thomas Merton to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II, thoughtfully selected hymns and thoughts enrich the journey. As well, each section ends with "On the Devotional Side" which highlights a particular devotion to Mary. We are given not only the devotion itself, but the history and how it has influenced the saints as well as more current people. It is hard to imagine that such a complete resource can be only 150 pages but Welborn has done it beautifully. This is a book that I can use for my own enlightenment as well as being a perfect gift to those who wonder just what it is about Mary that attracts Catholics so. Highly recommended.

A pdf of the first chapter of the book may be downloaded here.