Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Aye Carumba! That's A Lot of Hits!

Taking a look at the stats from yesterday's angel-fest, I did a double take. The number of hits doubled my all-time high.

Welcome to anybody who comes back by today for a follow-up ... not so many angels, but hopefully there's still a little something interesting going on.

The Economic Crisis, St. Basil, Aliens, and Greg Farrell's Prediction

Reading The Fathers, a collection of Pope Benedict's homilies about the Church Fathers, I have consistently been struck by how much these of these men's wisdom relates to modern life.

For instance, reading about St. Basil yesterday, this instantly made me think of the economic crisis and the greedy, selfish, thoughtless people whose desire for gain has hurt so many.
In times of famine and disaster, the holy bishop exhorted the faithful with passionate words "not to be more cruel than beasts ... by taking over what people possess in common or by grabbing what belongs to all."
Or as Ellen Ripley paraphrases pithily in Aliens (you didn't know that St. Basil was in there, did you?):
I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them f*****g each other over for a goddamn percentage!
Ah yes. That about sums it up.

Finally, I listened to the Monday morning memo yesterday and it has a fascinating revelation that goes to the point I made when talking about that economic crisis explanation video. This is everybody in Congress's fault. Everybody.
Greg was America’s only reporter in the courtroom for every minute of the trials of Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and Martha Stewart. As an investigative reporter Greg dug deep, full time, year after year. “Roy, the SEC is being set up to take the fall for a series of financial disasters,” he said. “This whole Enron thing is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“What do you mean?”

“The number of publicly traded companies has grown exponentially in recent years, yet the budget for the SEC had been increased by only a small amount. Think of it this way,” Greg said, "Andy and Barney did a pretty good job patrolling Mayberry, but now they’re being told they have to patrol Los Angeles without any additional help, and without any bullets for their guns.”
Go read it all and check out the links.

Worth a Thousand Words

Ptahotep sits before a table to receive offerings. He is dressed in an animal skin.

(Found via Your Daily Art)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thank You, Joan!

Much heartfelt thanks goes to Joan Wester Anderson who not only devoted the time to answering questions (and in a very gentle and loving way, I was impressed to see) but who also had to learn from the ground up about Haloscan and comments boxes. She leapt over many technological hurdles to be with us!

Also, much thanks to those who commented. I read some really wonderful stories and some very thoughtful questions. Check the comments on our introductory post as well as those linked to in the very bottom of that post to see them all.

And, the winner, based on a random drawing ... is Victoria. Victoria, please send your contact information to me (julie at glyphnet dot com) so we can get that autographed book headed your way!

Angelic Blog Tour: Welcome Joan Wester Anderson!

Kept at the top of the blog and updated all day. Scroll to the bottom of this post for links to questions ...

I am proud to welcome Joan Wester Anderson, whose specialty is conveying real "angels among us" stories in her books. She will be hanging out here at Happy Catholic today, which is quite fitting since today is the Feast of the Archangels.

As with Father Martin's blog tour, feel free to ask questions, tell your stories, and get to know Ms. Anderson better. Also, we'll be raffling off a free copy of Angels and Wonders to those who comment or email with questions or stories.

Don't forget: to make it all a little sweeter ... Loyola Press, the founders of our feast tour have a special offer:
  • If you order Joan’s new book, Angels & Wonders, you will save 30%. Just use code 2764. The offer expires on 10-6-08.

  • We will raffle off a free autographed book! Woohoo! We know that I'm all about free books ...
Here are the posts that ran last week in preparation, should anyone want to take a look:
  1. Angels and Wonders excerpt: Warriors
  2. Angels and Wonders excerpt: Mary's Mantle
  3. God Sends His Messages in Humble Vessels
  4. Let's Talk Angels

I will keep this post at the top of the blog all day, with links for questions as they arise. Here are my questions. Check the comments boxes for Joan's answers and (I hope) for other questions and stories from readers.
  1. Question the First: Discerning a "True" Angel Story
  2. Question the Second: Animals in Heaven
  3. Question the Third: Angel Impersonations
  4. Questions From Readers

Questions from Readers About Angels

Delores asks:
Joan, Thanks for visiting Happy Catholic. Why do you think God speaks to us through angels when he could speak to us in many other ways? What is it about angels that grabs our attention?
Andrea writes:
My mother had been sick with cancer and died on January 1,1984. For the following 3 months I dreamed of her every night and then I had a beautiful angel vision. The angel was surrounded by light and wore a pink dress, the angel took my hand and I still feel the tingles, I was crying so. I didn't dream of my mother since then and I believe it was my guardian angel who came to give me comfort of which I feel so blessed. Today I went to my church which is San Giovanni Bosco and on the outside of the basilica there are the two archangels SS. Michele and Gabriele. I live in Rome, Italy.

Question the First: Discerning a "True" Angel Story

You must receive many angel stories from people. I can imagine that some people may be mistaken or indulging in wishful thinking or even deliberately trying to fool you. How do you discern which are truly about angels and which are not?

Joan answers:
This is a great question, Julie, and one that many people ask. When I began writing these stories, I had the same worry: what if people made up stories? How would I know? (And just one "wrong" story can destroy the credibility of everyone else in the book too). ...
Read the rest of her answer in the comments box!

And feel free to join in the conversation.

Question the Second: Animals in Heaven

I was especially moved by the story about the woman who had the miscarriage and then had the vision of her father, the family dogs, and the small blond child all joyfully together in the sunny meadow. I have written about whether animals might be in heaven and was relieved to see that Peter Kreeft, who I trust eminently seems to logically come down on the side of "yes!" (Here is the link to what he says) I have not read all of your books but in those I have read I remember reading often about animal protectors but not anything like this joyful vision of one's family pets cavorting with one's family.

Have you come across other stories like that one with the family pets?

Question the Third: Angel Impersonations

This isn't really a question, but more of an observation.

I was fascinated by the story of the mother who was fervently praying for her daughter's court case to work out all right because one witness wasn't going to testify. The most amazing thing about that story to me was that at the time the mother was praying, the witness got a telephone call from the mother that ordered her to go to the courthouse and tell the truth. Of course, this wouldn't be an interesting story except for the fact that the mother never made a telephone call to anyone during that time. I think the "impersonation" aspect of the story is interesting. And, of course, it shows up in other places, such as when the little girl's father opens the door in the fire. We think of angels as appearing as people we don't know not as impersonating our loved ones ... or even, as you have in another story, our dogs!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Angels and Wonders: Warriors

My favorite angel stories tend to be those that remind us of what warriors they are. Yes, they are constant spiritual warriors. However, sometimes we hear stories that remind us they also can do it "up close and personal."

Here is the last of our series of pre-posts to get us in the right spirit for Joan Wester Anderson's blog tour which will begin here on Monday. This story is from her newest book.

The God Squad
As a “street kid,” Mike DiSanza learned early that life was full of dangers. He was small and slight, with a shaky self-esteem, and he soon developed a strong fear of any kind of physical violence. There was no use praying about his physical safety either; to Mike, God was an aloof deity, interested in rules and punishment, not concerned with an ordinary kid from the Bronx.

By the time Mike graduated from high school, the Vietnam War was under way. “There was no money for college,” he explains, “and since many of my cousins and my brothers had been drafted into the army, I followed.” Perhaps as a soldier he would overcome his fear of violence.

Mike came through Vietnam unscathed—but still anxious. Almost on a lark—and because few job opportunities loomed—he then took the test for the New York City police force along with fifty thousand other applicants. Mike was astonished when he was one of the four hundred hired. Now he would have to get over his fears. But he didn’t. Mike worked as a patrol officer, first in Harlem, later in Manhattan. Due to antiwar sentiment, police officers were under attack by many, and morale was low. This increased Mike’s on-the-job stress. “We were the cops on the front line, the ones who went into situations all alone,” he points out. “I got seasoned real quick, but I continued to be afraid.”

One evening on street patrol, Mike experienced such a deep anxiety attack that he thought he was dying. “My body literally shook as if it would explode,” he says. What was it all about? he asked himself. What was he doing out here in this high-risk environment, where fear tore him apart every night? Just then a young black woman stopped in front of him and grabbed his hand. “Is anything the matter, Officer?” she asked.

Mike didn’t answer, but he held on. “I didn’t want to let go,” he explains. “I felt something wonderful coming from her. I didn’t know it then, but it was the love of Jesus, a love I had never experienced.”

The woman led Mike to a storefront Pentecostal church, where people were singing, dancing, and praising the Lord. Mike thought it wasn’t at all like the “flickering candles in those huge, formal New York cathedrals I’d been used to.” A nameless hunger came over him, and a few nights later, he read the Bible at home for the first time.
He came upon the words of John 3:17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Mike closed the book. “Jesus, whoever you are, help me,” he prayed.

A few weeks later, Mike answered a call for assistance from a fellow officer making an arrest in the subway at Seventy-second and Broadway. Mike ran past one officer still in the parked squad car and continued down the stairs. “The cop was attempting to handcuff the suspect, but he was resisting,” Mike says. “A crowd was growing, and people were trying to rescue the suspect. I worked my way through and helped the cop get him cuffed. But we were surrounded. How were we going to get upstairs?”

The crowd was furious at the arrest. Hands shoved Mike toward the edge of the platform. “Throw him onto the tracks!” someone yelled. Mike felt a blow against the side of his head and heard, with dread, the sound of an approaching train.
“Jesus,” he murmured. “Help.”

Suddenly two large African American men loomed in front of him. “Follow us, Officer,” one said. The other, somehow, made a little opening in the densely packed crowd. Relieved, Mike pushed the prisoner directly behind these two unexpected guardians. The crowd moved back, and with the other officer behind him, Mike and his prisoner followed the two men across the platform and up the stairs.

On the street, however, there was more danger. “Another gang had formed around the patrol car, and the driver was getting nervous,” Mike says. “The black guys had been right ahead of us, running interference all the way.” But now as Mike shoved the prisoner in the car and turned to thank his rescuers, they were nowhere in sight. How could he have missed them?

As the squad car pulled away, everyone sighed in relief. “Thanks, Mike,” the subway officer said. “You did a great job getting us through that crowd.”

“Yeah, thanks to those two big black guys,” Mike answered.

“What guys?”

“The ones that said ‘follow us.’ You saw them. They muscled everyone aside.”

The officer looked puzzled. “I didn’t see anyone but you.”

Mike stopped. He was getting a strange feeling. Just last night, in his ongoing quest to understand the Bible, he had read from Hebrews about “ministering spirits, sent from heaven to help in times of distress.” Could the black men have been angels?

No. Police officers didn’t see angels. Not unless they were having mental breakdowns. But although Mike’s heart had raced during the subway episode, he realized suddenly that he was not as afraid as he ordinarily was. Something was definitely different.

A few weeks later, he was assisting another officer making an arrest. “The suspect broke free and ran,” Mike says. “I tackled him, and we fell into a hole in the street, where the Con Edison crews had been digging. The suspect landed first, and I fell on top of him, making it easy to handcuff him. But the hole was too deep for us to get out. We had to wait for backup.”

When extra officers arrived, they hauled the prisoner out of the hole. Then they grabbed Mike’s hands and pulled him up. “Lucky that you landed on him-—you could have been hurt,” one officer remarked.

“Yeah,” Mike murmured. Again he was filled with anxiety. Would he never be free of it? And then, near the side of the excavation, he saw two large black men wearing Con Edison helmets, smiling at him as he passed. They were the same two—he knew it! But when he looked back, they had vanished.

Over the next few months, Mike spent a lot of time thinking. He was in a unique position, he knew. He had already begun to witness to other police officers, even to people on the street, about how knowing Jesus was changing his life. Maybe God was building his confidence, so he would have both the physical and mental courage to do whatever he was asked to do. But how would he know for sure?

One afternoon Mike went into a restaurant for lunch. He had passed two diners at a table before he realized . . . He turned in amazement. There were the same two black men, both looking directly at him.

Joy flooded his spirit. “I couldn’t help it,” he says. “I winked at them.”

Each man winked back. Mike could hardly keep from laughing out loud. He seated himself, then looked back. The table was empty.

It was the sign he had needed. From that point on, although Mike continued to have occasional anxious moments on the job, he never felt alone. Sometimes he’d sense that he was being prepared for an upcoming dangerous moment. Occasionally he would walk into angry crowds, disarm gunmen, or display sudden strength, all without being injured.

It wasn’t the sort of thing one could put in a police report. But Mike understood. “I knew now that Jesus was right beside me, and would never leave me,” he says. Jesus, and two very heavenly bodyguards.

Worth a Thousand Words

Starry Night Over the Rhone, Vincent Van Gogh
(via Lines and Colors who has a very nice essay about seeing the Van Gogh connections in Arles.)

Welcome Back Mary H!

It has been three long years since the blog, Ever New, was retired. I missed Mary's thoughtful and prayerful attitude as reflected in her excellent writing. Now she's back with Broken Alabaster.

Go read and you'll see why I'm so happy that she's back sharing her insights with us.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Miracles ... In Our Time

The parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of the five thousand, the turning of water into wine - miracles. Miracles? Yet miracles have been part of human culture for thousands of years. From beliefs about the shin bone of a saint to ideas about the nature of creation and the laws of nature, miracles have been a measure of disputes within religion and between religion and rationality from St Augustine in the 4th century to David Hume in the 18th. They have also been used by the corrupt and the powerful to gain their perverse ends. Miracles have been derided and proved to be fraudulent and yet, for many, the miraculous maintain a grip on our imagination, our language and our belief to this day.
BBC's In Our Time is back from their break with a look at miracles. Anne is a Man reviews this episode and says, among other things:
... A lot of fascinating aspects were touched upon, but the subject flows like fine sand between your fingers; it is so difficult to get a grasp.

... this is a weakness that is unlike In Our Time: it was too fragmented. There are glimpses of intelligent and provocative thoughts, but they fleet a bit too easily. Still, this is In Our Time, one of the best podcasts around. But be prepared.
Read his whole review here.

Angels and Wonders: Mary's Mantle

Now to get us all in the mood for angelic conversation on Monday, here is a feature story from Joan Wester Anderson's newest book, chosen for us by the author herself.

Mary’s Mantle
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
—Cecil Frances Alexander, “All Things Bright and Beautiful”

When bombs fell out of the sky on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was not the only city to suffer. Many areas in the Philippine Islands were also hit, including the city of Baguio. Baguio was a place of pine trees and mountains, surrounded by fields and gold mines, where Lolo Joaquin worked as an engineer. Lolo’s family, all devout Catholics, had spent the weekend visiting him at the mining site, and everyone was driving home to Baguio for Mass when they heard the bombs exploding. Terrified, the family turned the car around and sped back to the relative safety of the camp. For the next several months, they and many others, stayed near Itogon at a mission run by Father Alfonso, a Belgian priest and longtime friend.

Lolo had graduated from the Colorado School of Mining and had American friends, so as the Japanese army invaded city after city, he became involved in the resistance movement. He refused to work in the copper mines, knowing the metal would be turned into bullets used against his friends. His wife, Lola, smuggled messages inside loaves of freshly baked bread to American prisoners in concentration camps. But both knew it was just a matter of time before the Japanese made inroads into more distant areas, and discovered their activities.

Early in October 1942, as monsoon season began, word spread that Japanese soldiers were heading in their direction. “We’ll go deeper into the mountains, to Dalupiri,” Father Alfonso told the families that had been staying with him. They could hide among the Benguet tribe, whose kings were sympathetic to their plight.

The journey began early in the day, but Lolo soon realized that, for his family, passage was going to be difficult. Not only were the Joaquins traveling with four young children, but Lola had recently had a miscarriage and was still very weak. As miles passed and the trails became rockier, she often stumbled and fell. Other families tried to help, and Lolo knew that his was holding the rest of them back. With the Japanese on their heels, this could be disastrous for everyone.

“Go on ahead,” he finally told Father Alfonso. “We’ll catch up.”

Father nodded reluctantly. “We’ll send people back to help carry Lola as soon as we can,” he promised. “God go with you.”

“And you.”

Soon their friends were gone. Frightened, everyone looked at one another. “Daddy, it’s starting to rain.” Nine-year-old Patricia glanced anxiously at the sky.

Lolo followed her gaze. Clouds were gathering, and the sun had dropped, leaving a chill in the air. “Come,” he said, lifting baby Sonny into his piggyback sling. “Everything will be all right.”

But it wasn’t long before the wind picked up and rain pelted the little group. Soon everyone was soaked. The baby whimpered, and seven-year-old Teresita jumped as the trees swayed, whispering ominously. Lola grew increasingly exhausted. The monsoons had begun. How could they go on?

Soon the trail became so narrow that it could only accommodate one person at a time. To the right rose the cliff-side, straight up, stony and forbidding. To the left a precipitous chasm dropped to the overflowing river. The rain continued, pounding them as they struggled to stay upright on the slippery bluff. Finally Lolo stopped. “We’ll sit now,” he said calmly, although Patricia had seen the worry on his face before the last of the light faded. “Your mother needs to rest.”

Slowly the family put down their packs and sat against the rocks. It was dark now, Lolo realized. Even worse, somewhere in the last mile or two, he had lost his way. What should he do? His little ones were exhausted—how could they continue across those treacherous cliffs, especially as night fell? But they couldn’t sleep on the mountainside either, not with these heavy rains and soldiers trying to ambush them.

The wind grew wilder, and soon Lolo stood up again. “Perhaps we should crawl,” he suggested. “One hand on the ground and the other on the wall of the mountain for guidance.”

“Why don’t we light a torch, Daddy?” Buddy asked.

“We can’t, son,” Lolo explained. “The enemy might see it and shoot us.”

Teresita began to cry. “I’m scared, Daddy,” she sobbed as thunder rolled across the mountains. “I want to go home!”

“Hush,” he soothed her, patting her with one hand as he held the sobbing baby in the sling. “Stop crying, my little ones. This is not a good place to be caught by darkness and rain, but we must make the best of it. This situation calls for courage, not fear!”

“What can we do?” Lola asked, drawing four-year-old Buddy close to her.

Lolo paused. “We can pray,” he said. “Haven’t we always turned to heaven when things got bad?”

The children nodded. They had all read prayers from books, or recited those they had been taught. Of course they could pray. But now their father threw out his hands and lifted his voice in a way they had never heard before. “Cover us with thy mantle, oh Blessed Mother of God,” he pleaded, “that we may be saved from all evil and temptation, and from all dangers of body and soul!”

It was a wonderful petition. It had power and hope, and their terror seemed to recede, just a little. Lolo felt it, too. “I have an idea,” he said slowly. “It is too dark now to see ahead, but if we go in single file, each taking the hand of the person in front, we will all feel safer.”

Teresita wanted to be brave. But she trembled as the river beneath them roared. “I’m afraid, Daddy.”

Her father grasped her wet hand. “We will say the rosary as we walk, loud, so God can hear it over the storm! Buddy, you lead the way because you are the smallest and closest to the ground. Is everyone ready?”

“Ready.” Slowly the little group moved forward, water streaming into their eyes, clothes plastered to their shivering bodies. They would not make it. One child would trip, and all would lose their balance, plunging to the canyon below. “Hail Mary, full of grace.” Shakily they clung to the familiar biblical phrases, the reassuring cadence, the memory of their father’s impassioned plea. They would not make it. And yet . . .

The journey seemed to last forever. But as they approached a sharp turn in the path, Buddy was the first to see. “Mama! Daddy!” he shouted. “Look!”

The rain had abruptly stopped, the air seemed sweetly fragrant. And before them, as far as they could see, stretched a long line of luminous candles winding around the curve of the mountain and on to a wide plain. But no—not candles. For these lights were bouncing, dancing, twinkling like stars illuminating the heavens.

They were fireflies! Thousands, millions of them, all hovering about three feet from the ground. In their combined greenish glow, Lolo could see the path as bright as day, even the footprints of the refugees who had gone ahead of them.

Awed, Lola dropped to her knees in thanksgiving. The children laughed, catching some of the little insects and wrapping them in their handkerchiefs. “We can use them for lanterns!” Patricia cried, delighted.

Clutching the baby, Lolo stared at the scene, incredulous. In all his life he had never seen such a huge collection of fireflies in the same place, or massed in a precise pattern like this. Fireflies didn’t come during monsoon season. Nor did they hover close to the ground, preferring
instead the tops of trees. Yet here, hip-high, were an incredible number, waiting for his family, enclosing them—like a mantle of protection, he realized suddenly. A queen’s mantle, edged with gold.

There were more miles to go, but now the path seemed enchanted as the blessed fireflies lighted their way to the little village. Finally! They ran the last muddy yards and pounded on Father Alfonso’s door.

“We had given you up for lost!” the astonished priest cried, coming out to embrace them. “How did you do it? How did you cross the mountains in the dark, in this raging storm?” Patricia and Teresita looked up. The deluge had started again.

“Father, we can’t explain it,” Lolo said. “Look behind us and see this miracle for yourself.”

Father looked past Lolo. But there was nothing at all to see. No fireflies, no softened sky—nothing but darkness and streaming water. Lolo understood. “Has it been raining like this all evening, Father?” he asked quietly.

“It has not stopped at all, Mr. Joaquin,” Father Alfonso answered.

The following day, Father Alfonso called a meeting of the tribal elders, some of them over one hundred years old, and showed them the fireflies left in Teresita’s handkerchief. “Have any of you heard of this?” he asked. “Fireflies coming in a storm to light a traveler’s path?”

The elders conferred. They were experts on the ways of nature, and fireflies. There was no possibility of such a thing, they all agreed.

Such a verdict did not matter to the Joaquins. For they had seen, not only with physical eyes but the eyes of faith. Life would be difficult as they struggled to survive in their war-torn land. But they would not be alone. How wonderful were the ways of God!

"Rapunzel! Why aren't you at the fair?"

The book went on to spin the tale of a charmed girl named Rapunzel, who spent her days in the tower sewing dresses with a friend. She loved when the witch came to visit and teach songs, including one that made Rapunzel's hair grow longer. But tension arrived: One day, Rapunzel looked out the window and saw a fair in the village nearby. She wanted to go, but the witch was off tending to her garden and couldn't let her out. Fortunately, a prince riding by in his carriage called up to her, "Rapunzel! Why aren't you at the fair?"

This was not the fairy tale I vaguely recalled from my childhood - the one with the mother who gives up her child, the vindictive witch, the powerless girl trapped high above the ground. This new version was sanitary and safe in a way that modern parents will easily recognize. In an age when some families ban the word "killed" or come up with creative euphemisms to mask the death of goldfish, it's not hard to see why a toy company would reduce Rapunzel's story to its prettiest parts. Real life, presumably, packs enough trauma for children to think about later.
Joanna Weiss talks about the evolution of fairy tales from dark and frightening to whitewash, sanitized "feel good" tales.

Saint Superman, whence I found the link originally (are y'all reading him because he's really great, by the way), talks about what Tom and I often wonder ... has everyone forgotten what it was like to be a kid and experience deliciously scary stories?
When I was ten, I lived in Pan’s Labyrinth, a place filled to the brim with demons and witches, monsters and swords. I hoped my house was haunted, and I prayed for some supernatural thing to happen to me. I wandered in the woods between housing properties at night and at day, looking for some monster, king, or sage, or looking in the dark sky for some flash of alien light. It wasn’t something fearful; I’d read Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins, and I knew that monsters could be fooled, even if they were not to be trifled with or ignored. It was people that scared me.
I know just what he means. I think, too, that people forget another valuable aspect to the dark side of fairy tales. Not only do children not process them as adults do, but the stories provide valuable lessons for children in dealing with problems later in life. When they are being picked on in the school yard, the last one chosen for baseball, or pointed out as a bad example to the whole class, these stories provide a cultural background that life often is not fair, bad things happen to good people, and that the little guy can win if they keep on trying. Do they think of these things consciously? Nope. But those stories are lurking in the back of their minds nonetheless with valuable lessons for life.

Worth a Thousand Words

Rose Window, Santa Maria del Pi Church, Barcelona
from Barcelona Photoblog, of course!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

God Sends His Messages in Humble Vessels

In preparation for Monday's Angelic Blog Tour ... I am rerunning a few of my angel posts. Here's one that is a trifecta of angel stories from friends.


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

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

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

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

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

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

"At least I hope so," I thought to myself and returned to the clinic for the balance of the afternoon.

Rediscovering Catholicism Sounds Like a Fantastic Book

In Rediscovering Catholicism, Kelly has taken the complicated language out without dumbing anything down. He’s given me a resource that can be easily passed along to anyone - and most especially other Catholics.

He gives tips for the tough things - living an authentic life, say - that make sense AND can be put into practice easily, even as he explains other difficult concepts - like mortifications - in a way that made me see, immediately, how to apply them.

He talks of witnessing and salvation with an enthusiasm that’s hard not to catch. This book burns with a fire that comes straight from the Holy Spirit, and the practical advice Kelly gives is perfect for us normal folk. He writes it as a real person, not as someone who assumes that their canonization will take place five minutes after their death.
And it's free!

Read all of Sarah's review and you'll see why she's so enthusiastic.

As for me? Yes, I've ordered my copy.

Catholic Voter's Guide

Let us begin with some wise words from Pope John Paul II.
Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
Christifideles Laici, no. 38
There are numerous places out there to help Catholic voters inform their consciences for the upcoming election.

I would like to direct people to these that cover everything pretty well as far as I can tell.

  • The U.S. Bishops' Faithful Citizenship page that has links to informative pieces as well as a pdf of a scripture study, a novena, and (I find this curious) an iPod giveaway for those signing up on their Faithful Citizenship List. (And, yes, I did sign up ... so I guess it's working to some degree.)

    I would like to suggest that Catholics especially consider the guidelines in the Statement on Responsibilities of Catholics in Public Life when evaluating candidates. Although the bishops certainly direct this at politicians, the name of the document suggests that these guidelines apply to any Catholics in public life ... or who might be opinion leaders. I would think that this applies to bloggers also, especially those who are popular.

  • Joint Statement from Bishop Kevin Farrell and Bishop Kevin Vann to the Faithful of the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth

  • The Catholic Pro-Life Committee has a Civic Action Voter Education Page. The linked documents have been approved by Bishop Farrell for distribution in the churches and organizations of the Diocese of Dallas.

Worth a Thousand Words

Signs and Mysteries: What You Didn't Know About that Fish Symbol

So we all know about why the fish symbol is used by Christians. Don't we? Well, maybe we do ... and maybe we don't. Or at least, maybe we don't know everything about it. As Mike Aquilina is ready and willing to point out. Love these details, don't ya know?
But we have not yet touched on the original and the deepest meaning of the fish. The fish is the primal symbol of the Holy Eucharist. One need not be Catholic to recognize this fact. Erwin Goodenough, an agnostic scholar at Yale University, wrote that the Gospel According to John — which he called “the primitive Gospel” — gives us “the earliest explicit acceptance of the fish as a eucharistic symbol and as a symbol of the Savior who was eaten in the Eucharist.” John does this, in his sixth chapter, by moving immediately from Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes to the Bread of Life discourse, His most famous eucharistic sermon. Jesus is the bread come down from heaven, multiplied for the multitude. At the end of John’s Gospel, we see the figures of fish and bread return as Jesus prepares a lakeside meal for the disciples (Jn 21:9). For the early Christians, all of these events prefigured the life-giving blessing that Jesus bestowed upon the Church. The Protestant scholar of archeology Graydon Snyder concluded: “the fish was, with the bread, the primary symbol for the Eucharist, the meal that developed, maintained, and celebrated the new community of faith.”

No text could make the association as clearly as one particular depiction in Rome’s Catacomb of St. Callistus. There we see two fish on a gravestone, one fish bearing bread, the other bearing a cluster of grapes: the eucharistic bread, the eucharistic wine . . . and the symbolic eucharistic fish.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

From Dark Fun by Mercer's Daughter

I really love those big spider webs. This brings back memories of sitting with my mother on her front porch in the night, watching a large garden spider fix up her web to get ready for the evening's catch. Mercer's Daughter has some wonderful photographs that take me back to time in the country (my favorite place, truth to tell). She's an artist so it isn't surprising that her photographs are great. Check her site out.

All Compline, All the Time

Ok, not really. However, The Anchoress has organized her compline prayer podcast into one handy spot to make it easy for everyone. Check it out!

A Father Faces His Fears and Finds, "I now believe Genevieve is here for everyone. "

On the ninth day, she came home, and I began to realize that my feelings of fear and anxiety had changed in a way that no prenatal screening could ever have predicted.

I now believe Genevieve is here for everyone. I believe Genevieve is taking over the world, one heart at a time — beginning with mine. I believe that what was once our perceived damnation has now become our unexpected salvation.
When Gregg Rogers heard that their baby would have Down syndrome, he was terrified. Until she was born. A life-affirming story that reminds us that what we often fear turns out to be a great blessing. Read or listen to this short essay here at This I Believe.

Signs and Mysteries: Christ is a ... Dolphin?

I must admit that one of the pleasures of this book is finding out completely new and surprising symbolism that never would have occurred to me otherwise. Jesus as a dolphin. Hmmmmmm. But when it is explained, of course, it makes perfect sense and I will never look at a dolphin without remembering this.
Christian sailors likened Jesus Christ to the dolphin. Pastoral images of the lamb were remote from their experience. But they knew countless stories of dolphins as rescuers, guides, and friends. As the dolphins appeared in the ancient legends, so Jesus served in life: rescuer, guide, and friend.

Dolphins appear frequently on the walls of the catacombs. As symbols of Christ, they bear the souls of the saints to glory. Sometimes they appear crushing the head of a sea monster or an octopus, representing Satan. Often, they are shown twisted around a trident or an anchor, suggesting Christ on the Cross. In underground Rome there is even an image of a dolphin with an exposed heart.

The dolphin usually symbolizes Jesus Christ. In some instances, however, the dolphin seems to represent not Christ, but Christians. Thus the dolphin, like the lamb, holds an ambiguous position for the ancients: the lamb can represent Christ as “Lamb of God” — or the Christian as member of the Good Shepherd’s “little flock.” These dolphin-Christians appear sometimes in pairs, both swimming toward a monogram or other symbol of Christ.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In Honor of Padre Pio ...

... with whom I share a birthday ... and whose feast day I see it is today (read about his life at Musings from a Catholic Bookstore) I am rerunning this post.


Padre Pio is one of my favorite saints and I see that I'm in good company. John Allen reports that Italian devotion to Padre Pio is reflected by three Italian hostages who were freed by U.S. Special Forces in Iraq on June 8.
On June 23, all three men, accompanied by their families, made a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo, the chief national shrine to Padre Pio, in order to give thanks to the Capuchin saint ... The three told reporters they had prayed to Padre Pio during their captivity and promised to make this pilgrimage if they survived.

"I'm very devoted to Padre Pio and I prayed often during our imprisonment," Cupertino said. "They too," pointing to Agliana and Stefio, "were united with me in prayer because they know Padre Pio."

In another twist, Cupertino's 10-year-old cousin Carmelina, after going with her parents to San Giovanni Rotondo on May 31, apparently returned home and wrote "freed" on a calendar hanging above the family telephone on the date of June 8 - exactly the day the Italians were liberated. She says the date came to her in a dream.

Worth a Thousand Words

Taken by a brilliant wildlife photographer, Remo Savisaar. Click through on the link to see the sequence of photos and many more at his site.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quick Looks at Movies and Books

How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table by Russ Parsons
"Eat locally, eat seasonally." A simple slogan that is backed up by science and by taste. The farther away from the market something is grown, the longer it must spend getting to us, and what eventually arrives will be less than satisfying. Although we can enjoy a bounty of produce year-round -- apples in June, tomatoes in December, peaches in January -- most of it is lacking in flavor. In order to select wisely, we need to know more. Where and how was the head of lettuce grown? When was it picked and how was it stored? How do you tell if a melon is really ripe? Which corn is sweeter, white or yellow?

Russ Parsons provides the answers to these questions and many others in this indispensable guide to common fruits and vegetables, from asparagus to zucchini. He offers valuable tips on selecting, storing, and preparing produce, along with one hundred delicious recipes. Parsons delivers an entertaining and informative reading experience that is guaranteed to help put better food on the table.
This description may make the book sound clinical but Parsons infuses it with details and personality that make us relate to what he writes about. The argument about whether fat or skinny asparagus are better? Been there. Argued that. To reduce the heat of a pepper remove the ... no, not the seeds ... the ribs, which is where the capsicum is stored. Aha!

For each fruit and veg he provides a very basic preparation method that we might not have considered. Then he goes on to a few more interesting recipes for each. Not too many, but just enough to pique our curiosity and taste buds and make us want to come back for more. Grade: **** 9 thumbs up.

Gumbo Tales: Finding My Place at the New Orleans Table by Sara Roahen
A cocktail is more than a segue to dinner when it's a Sazerac, an anise-laced drink of rye whiskey and bitters indigenous to New Orleans. For Wisconsin native Sara Roahen, a Sazerac is also a fine accompaniment to raw oysters, a looking glass into the cocktail culture of her own family—and one more way to gain a foothold in her beloved adopted city.

Roahen's stories of personal discovery introduce readers to New Orleans' well-known signatures—gumbo, po-boys, red beans and rice—and its lesser-known gems: the pho of its Vietnamese immigrants, the braciolone of its Sicilians, and the ya-ka-mein of its street culture. By eating and cooking her way through a place as unique and unexpected as its infamous turducken, Roahen finds a home. And then Katrina. With humor, poignancy, and hope, she conjures up a city that reveled in its food traditions before the storm—and in many ways has been saved by them since.
What this description perhaps fails to get across is that this is more about falling in love with New Orleans as a place than being a cookbook. In fact, there are no recipes included, although you may find yourself reading it with a pen and paper nearby for note taking on the numerous cookbooks and websites that Roahen mentions. That's what I did. Roahen communicates fully just how intertwined food and place are in this unique US city. I fell in love with New Orleans (doesn't everyone?) during the course of many visits and, to my limited knowledge, this book rings very true. It is a wonderful way to answer the question that Louis Armstrong put, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?" For a more complete review, go to Homesick Texan, which is where I came across this book in the first place. Grade: **** 9 thumbs up.

One Door Away From Heaven by Dean Koontz
“Geneva, even if the girl isn’t making up all this stuff, even if she’s in real danger, you can’t take the law into your hands.”

“There’s lots of law these days,” she interrupted, “but not much justice. Celebrities murder their wives and go free. A mother kills her children, and the news people on TV say she’s the victim and want you to send money to her lawyers. When everything’s upside down like this, what fool just sits back and thinks justice will prevail?”

This was a different woman from the one with whom he had been speaking a moment ago. Her green eyes were flinty now. Her sweet face hardened as he wouldn’t have thought possible.

“If Micky doesn’t do this,” she continued, “that sick b*****d will kill Leilani, and it’ll be as if she never existed, and no one but me and Micky will care what the world lost. You better believe it’ll be a loss, too, because this girl is the right stuff, she’s a shining soul. These days people make heroes out of actors, singers, power-mad politicians. How screwed up are things when that’s what hero has come to mean? I’d trade the whole self-important lot of ‘em for this girl. She’s got more steel in her spine and more true heart than a thousand of those so-called heroes. Have another cookie?"
UFOs, aliens, an empathetic dog, a crippled girl, and a host of supporting characters overcoming past traumas to reach out to others all are combined by Dean Koontz in a book that is the most compelling statement I have ever seen made about the right to life, no matter what one's condition. As always with his novels, few things are what they seem.Two basic plots run parallel before their heroes find themselves coming together to fight off a very evil villain. "What is one door away from heaven," is a question that one character has asked another since her childhood. The answer, along with the overall theme of the book, is enough to make us all examine our lives more carefully ... and be thankful that Koontz's writing reflects his beliefs so honestly. Grade: **** 9 thumbs up ... way up!

On the Waterfront
"Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. Well, they better wise up!"
No one in Hollywood today has the guts to write a priestly role like the one Karl Malden played. Also Marlon Brando give us a fantastic look at someone who was raised without very little moral guidance and now has to find his own way amid much conflicting advice. I got this from the library and then was cooling off on it until Tom and I read the description on the back, which I share with you here:
Marlon Brando gives one of the screen's most electrifying performances as Best Actor in this 1954 Academy Award® winner for Best Film. Ex-fighter Terry Malloy (Brando) could have been a contender but now toils for boss Johnny Friendly on the gang-ridden waterfront. Terry is guilt-stricken however when he lures a rebellious worker to his death. But it takes the love of Edie Doyle, the dead man's sister, to show Terry how low he has fallen. When his crooked brother, Charley the Gent, is brutally murdered for refusing to kill him Terry battles to crush Friendly's underworld empire.
I was glad that I had recently read Good News Film Reviews' tip about spotting crosses and crucifixes right before watching this. You wouldn't think so unless you keep an eye out but there is symbolism all over the place. Truly an excellent drama about redemption. Personally speaking, I'm not sure I'll want to watch it again but am glad I watched it overall. Grade - *** Liked it despite the absence of flubber..."

Sunset Blvd.
"The poor dope. He always wanted a pool."
This movie starts off watching a dead man floating in a pool, with a voice over from the man himself. You then hear this quote and you remember that Billy Wilder's dialogue crackles with verve and multiple layers of meaning. We then flash back to see the story of Joe who is an aspiring screenwriter but on the run from repo men when he dodges into a driveway to throw them off the track. He finds a dilapidated house from the 1920's and Gloria Swanson as the equally dilapidated former silent screen star who lives in the past and is planning her comeback. Joe finds himself lured into becoming her rewrite man and gigolo.

It is an unforgettable film that is a blistering expose of Hollywood which still holds true today. Interestingly many stars of the silent screen had parts in this to add authenticity and Cecil B. DeMille actually played a much more significant role than we would have thought ... and did so with surprising gentleness and charm. Grade: **** 9 thumbs up.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

For those interested in the Liturgy of the Hours ...

... The Anchoress has been podcasting various prayers either in chant or as plain reading. Highly recommended if that is your cup o' tea. I go in and out of it and when I'm "in" these are perfect.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm a Sucker for These Freeze-Frame Improv Projects

This one is in a train station in Osaka, Japan. I especially liked the two policemen checking out a group and the little girl at the end. Via Engrish Brog.

I'm Shocked.


I'm actually surprised that I'm so shocked by this political ad in which Senator Obama responds to Gianna Jessen's appearance in this BornAlive.org ad.

I really thought that I was unshockable in the political posturing arena but live and learn. I supppose I'm shocked because that ad seems to me as if Obama's kicking abortion survivor Gianna Jessen. Or calling her a liar. Or saying that her plea isn't genuine.

I don't like to blog politics, although around this time of the election cycle that becomes a bit more difficult. But I really am genuinely shocked. As I keep saying ... I know, I know.

I suppose they thought by positioning the ad to attack John McCain instead that would keep such impressions from coming through. No dice for me on that. Clearly the the Jessen ad is pointing at supporting McCain instead ... but it is not a McCain ad at all. He'd have done better to ignore the ad altogether rather than give people time to examine the various issues, it seems to me. Especially the one about the bills he voted against...

As The Curt Jester points out:
The truth is that he voted against Illinois' Born Alive Infant Protection Act four times and the last time he voted against a bill identical in wording to the Federal version. What is out of context? His ad quotes a Chicago Tribune article saying "None of those who voted against SB1082 favored infanticide." Well all of those who voted against the bill allowed infanticide and thought a dead baby is a better conclusion than challenging abortion in any way. They made a political calculation that a dead baby was better than any chance no matter how slim that it would affect abortion even if the bill specifically excluded that. For Obama infanticide is alright and truth is "sleazy." Of course Obama also called the NRLC liars for proving that he did vote against the bill identical to the Federal version which was passed 98-0.
If Obama doesn't think that is what those bills are about, he'd better get educated fast.

Pope John Paul I and the Telephone

Yep, I said John Paul I. This tidbit begins with John Paul II but slides backwards ...
... In addition to an ivory-colored telephone that served the private apartments and secretary's office, there was a gray telephone the Pope could use to call the Holy See's departments, and a black one with an outside line. Up until the era of Paul VI, the idea of making a direct telephone call to the Supreme Pontiff was inconceivable. John Paul II, however, sometimes took callas, but only after a three-way filter comprising the general switchboard, Sister Eufrosyna and Msgr. Dziwisz. Poor John Paul I, who to begin with had no idea how the filter worked, always answered everyone who called in the early days. One morning, journalist Bruno Bartoloni from the AFP (Agence France-Presse), who also contributed to Gazette de Venise, wanted to contact his secretary, but got the Pope himself on the line! He was so stupefied that he started off apologizing profusely and offering all sorts of good wishes before taking advantage of the opportunity to conduct a short interview, which naturally enough was a great scoop.

"I'm a PC." Brilliant.

Why Microsoft let the "Mac vs. PC" ads run so long without any answer is a puzzlement. This is the perfect answer in a lot of ways. It pushes back at the PC user stereotype and the sheer variety of people and occupations points out the PC's versatility.

Not to mention, it's entertaining. The geek blogs are already playing "pick out the celebrity." As Tom observed, "The beautiful thing about competition is that we can all sit back and be entertained for a long time." By the way, the person at the beginning is a Microsoft engineer who is a dead ringer for the PC in the Mac ads. That's funny in itself.

Here's a short but different version.

Yes, if you're an ad junky, just one ad is never enough!

By the way, I am a Mac and a PC. We had one lying around work that wasn't being used and it is now my podcasting machine, thanks to Tom. Speaking of Tom, he's a Mac and a PC and a Lennox user and depends on his Palm to help him keep them all straight. No wonder every single person we know (and I mean everyone) calls him whenever they have a computer question.

Tom reminds us, "While it's all good fun, it's not a religion." Some computer fanboys out there need to cool down a little.

Not that I think the people 'round here need reminding about that!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Much thanks to SFFaudio ...

... where Jesse says of The Wonder Stick:
A prehistorical science fiction novel that does everything but invent the wheel. The “wonder-stick” of the title, is a real invention which provided an unparalleled quantum leap in human technology.
Jesse points out that The Wonder Stick is the original revenge of the nerds and then provides a nice musical video accompaniment to set the tone for the book ... you can see it here as well as read his complete review.

Thanks for da props, Jesse!

Solzhenitsyn Was Right

"A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations.

"Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life."

He saw this in 1978. It is so clear today that he was right -- but how many of us saw it then?

Our intellectual elite today has only the courage of bullies. They can jump on individuals who dare to depart from their absurd and contradictory dogmas, calling them vicious names and doing all they can to silence them. But they haven't the courage of their own convictions.
Read the Orson Scott Card's entire column, Nobody Was Listening.

Aaargh, matey!

Friday is talk like a pirate day but now that I have twice written my next entry in the "30 Movies You Might Have Missed" series ... and have them blown away by Blogger ... I'm ready to do a bit more authentic pirate-talkin' than I should. At least around Happy Catholic ...

So perhaps tomorrow I'll give it another try. Aaargh!

Pope John Paul II: Those White Habits He Wore

An amusing tidbit from a book I recently received ... I've been reading these to Tom and thought that y'all might like them too.

And, yes, I realize that I've fallen into that trap of dipping into way too many books at one time. I've got to pick out one and finish it!

In the meantime, enjoy this ... I really never thought about what the Pope must go through to keep those white habits unmarked throughout the day.
According to 12-century ritual, white clothes symbolize innocence and charity, whereas red clothes, which the Pope only wore outdoors, recall the blood of the martyrs, authority and compassion. It was naturally unthinkable for the Holy Father to have the slightest mark on his various white habits, despite the numerous activities that made up his day. As one of his former colleagues confided to me, "At working lunches or official meals, he never ate salad, spaghetti or tagliatelli so as to avert the risk of a fatal drop of vinaigrette or sauce falling on his immaculate capelet. In private, however, he did not hesitate to tie a large napkin around his neck."

Worth a Thousand Words

Taken by D.L. Ennis at Visual Thoughts

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The opposition from the good.

I took a break from my In Conversation with God books for a few months. After reading them for seven years, I finally had gotten a bit tired of that part of my routine. However, I found myself missing them and picked them back up this week. How timely I found this reading from today, what with all the things that it seems we often cannot agree upon as well as the extremely low standards of courtesy held in many places.
It is difficult to understand calumny or persecution -- either open or veiled -- in an era in which one hears so much about tolerance, understanding, fellowship and peace. But the attacks are more difficult to understand when they come from good men, when Christian persecutes, no matter how, another Christian, or a brother his brother. Our Lord prepared his own for the inevitable times when those who would defame, calumniate, or undermine their apostolic work would not be pagans or enemies of Christ, but brothers in the Faith who would think that with these actions they would be doing a service to God. (cf John 16:2). ... It is particularly painful for the Christian to whom it happens. The motives of the calumniators are usually due to human passions that can distort good judgment and complicate the clear intention of men who profess the same faith as those they attack, and who make up the same People of God. There are at times jealousies that supervene, rather than zeal for souls, rash allegations that appear to derive from envy, and make it possible to consider as evil the good being done by others. There can also be a kind of blinkered dogmatism that refuses to recognize for others the right to think in a different way in matters left by God to the free judgment of men. The opposition from the good usually shows itself in antipathy towards some brothers in the Faith, in a more or less masked opposition to their work, and a criticism that is as destructive as it is ill-informed. ...

The moments in which we encounter opposition and difficulties without exaggerating them are particularly propitious for exercising a whole range of virtues: we should pray for those who do evil to us, even without our knowing it, so that they may leave off offending God; we can strive to make amends to the Lord, to be even more apostolic, and to protect with exquisite charity those weaker brothers in the faith who on account of their age, their lack of formation, or the special situations they find themselves in, could sustain a greater harm to their souls. ...
In Conversation with God - Vol. 4 - Ordinary Time, Weeks 13-23

To Think That I Just Discovered This Comic

(Click on the cartoon to enlarge or click through to see it at Wondermark)
Much thanks to David Malki for permission to share these with everyone. Via DarwinCatholic who hit me where I live with the cartoon they shared.

Worth a Thousand Words

Papaveri Rossi by Manuela Valenti

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You know, you think that you're just ranting away in the "relative privacy" of someone's comment boxes and then ...

... you get outed.

And then ...

you get outed again.

Regardless, I stand by my "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!"

You can tell it's serious because of all the exclamation marks. I usually abhor any past one. I'm low-key that way. Can you tell?

How do you get amazing taste in your meals?

Actually, it's pretty easy.

"Ankh if you love Jesus" bumper stickers

Is there anything better than good word play?

No. No, I don't think so.

Just one more reason to check out Signs and Mysteries by Mike Aquilina. No, he's not making the puns, but you'll find the fodder there. (ha!)

Now This is What I Call a Keyboard!

Why have this?

When you could have this?

There's just somethin' about steampunk, isn't there? Ahhh ...

(I must stop here and thank Tony at StarShipSofa podcast for hosting the series of nonfiction segments. In one of those, I was introduced to the whole steampunk concept ... thereby enabling me to get one up on the girls, who hadn't heard of it at all.)

The original steampunk keyboard can be seen here.

If you'd like your own, this enterprising gentleman will be happy to produce one for you.

Though perhaps you will want to wait for him to finish developing ... The Archbishop!

Worth a Thousand Words

Watercolor Study for Del Sol by Belinda Del Pesco

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Why are we doing this again?"

I'm still not sure about how these commercials are biting back at the "PC and Mac" ads but they are highly entertaining if nothing else.

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld get "real."

30 More Movies You Might Have Missed: 16-20

Continuing Saturday's list. In no particular order, just as they occurred to me.

16. Regarding Henry

In one of his best performances, Harrison Ford plays Henry Turner, a top notch lawyer who is selfish and cold in his personal life with his wife and daughter. He goes out for some cigarettes and when displaying his trademark self-centeredness to a convenience store thief, Henry gets shot in the head. As Henry begins to struggle through recovery we see that his personality has undergone a distinct change. He is now human and humane although also slow mentally. Watching him unravel the mystery of why he always paints Ritz crackers as well as adjust to where he does and doesn't fit in at home and at the office are the heart of the story as we also reflect upon true humanity and how the truth often comes in ways we don't expect.

17. Pan's Labyrinth

This definitely is a fairytale for adults. Do not let the kids watch this one.

During the Spanish civil war in 1944, a young girl and her mother move to their new home with the mother's new husband, cruel Captain Vidal. In the midst of a risky pregnancy, the mother can't do much more than rest in bed while the girl, Ofelia, wanders the grounds and countryside. She soon discovers an entire underground world and is guided by the persuasive Faun in his labyrinth. He offers to help her if she'll complete three treacherous tasks. As Ofelia begins her tasks the viewer is left with the question of whether this alternate reality really exists or is imaginary. Del Toro leaves that up to the viewer. I know what I think ... but I've seen the movie! (Warning: the Captain is a extremely violent and cruel character. If you think that he is going to do something terrible, just figure that he will. I didn't watch when violence threatened and didn't miss any important dialogue in the subtitles.)

18. Reign Over Me

Don Cheadle is dissatisfied with his life. His marriage could be better, as could his dental practice in which he is being stalked by a patient. Trudging along through his routine he is surprised to see his college roommate (Adam Sandler) who he lost touch with long ago. Cheadle had heard that his roommate lost his family in the September 11 attacks and it is soon clear that Sandler welcomes his old roommate's friendship precisely because Cheadle never knew his family. Although this movie has the potential to be a real downer as it examines grief from several angles, it does not fall into that trap. Thanks to the strength of friendships and comedy the movie wound up being uplifting.

19. Howl's Moving Castle

19-year-old Sophie has resigned herself to a drab life in her family's hat shop ... until she is cursed by an evil witch to have an 90-year-old body. She leaves home and goes searching for a way to break the spell. In the countryside she comes upon Howl's strange moving castle which walks about on large chicken legs. Howl is the young wizard who owns the castle and Sophie soon becomes part of the household as the housekeeper. As she gets to know the members of the little household, we also see that their land is under attack from flying ships dropping bombs. Not only must Sophie find a way to break the curse upon her, but she soon wants to help the others that she has met along the way. Naturally, Sophie eventually discovers her hidden potential in the magical castle through her honesty, determination, and bravery. This is a complicated story and my summary is extremely simple. It is a pure delight but be prepared to pay attention.

20. The Dish

In 1969, viewing the Apollo moon landing depends on a satellite dish in Australia that is smack dab in the middle of a sheep pasture. Along with everything else, the local technicians must deal with their natural annoyance at having a NASA man foisted upon them to make sure everything goes ok while the locals feel understandable pride at being in the center of an international spotlight. Based on a true story, The Dish brims with understated wit that shows the differing cultural attitudes between Australia and the U.S. while taking us back to the true wonder of what it meant to watch a man walk upon the moon.

Coming Tuesday (hopefully):
Next: 21-25

Good News for Movie Lovers

Jeffrey Overstreet has a new monthly column at Christianity Today, Through a Screen Darkly. Observant readers, with loooong memories, might remember Overstreet's book of the same name which I loved.

Overstreet not only clues us in to The Island, a move that it sounds as if Christians will love (no not that Island with Ewan McGregor ... this is a different Russian movie) but also ... even more excitingly ... tells us about a movie distributor, Film Movement, that offers movies too often missed by American distributors.
He set out to find buried treasure all over the world so he could mail it out to moviegoers, inspiring questions and conversation. "We don't want our movies to be available only in the big cities," he says. "Our movies are available theatrically in cities like New York and L.A., but there are a lot of people who don't have an arthouse theater near them."
Along the way I saw names of several movies in the article that I am going to look for. Read the article and check out the links. Sounds as if we can look forward to some modern forgotten classics being pointed out.

Gov. Palin and Senator Clinton address the nation ... on SNL

Remember folks, this is Saturday Night Live ... it isn't in line with their crudest stuff but if you're easily offended then skip it. I thought it was hilarious. (You have to watch the 30 second ad and then it should start.)

Worth a Thousand Words

A bike called Gazelle by Edward B. Gordon

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Here's How Big Hurricane Ike Is

The reporters in Galveston are just about now venturing outside because there are still dangerous gusts of wind. We have been feeling the effects in Dallas this morning already with rain and the wind getting steadily higher. Not bad yet, but we'll be staying in this afternoon for sure.

That's a danged big storm.

Still keeping all in the path in our prayers. Especially Hannah in College Station...

30 More Movies You Might Have Missed: 11-15

Continuing Wednesday's list. In no particular order, just as they occurred to me.

11. Payback

Porter knows his worth. $70,000. That is the amount that his erstwhile partner, who now works for the syndicate, stole after double crossing and leaving him for dead. And that is the amount Porter wants back. No more, no less. He will do whatever it takes to get it.

So begins the grittiest movie I have ever seen Mel Gibson in. Porter is the anti-heroes "hero" so to speak, a guy who has only one goal and only one redeeming quality, which is his love for Rosie, the requisite hooker with a heart of gold. I suppose he actually could have two redeeming qualities, the second being his stubborn determination to take only the money that was stolen from him. (My full review here.)

12. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Anyone who enjoyed the Wallace and Gromit shorts will enjoy this. Their British sense of humor and timing ... so funny.

Billed as "the world's first vegetarian horror movie," this finds Wallace and Gromit running a pest control service to help the villagers who want to grow prize-winning produce for their annual vegetable competition.

Loaded with ingenious Rube Goldberg inventions, spoofs of old monster movies and classic movies, and their trademark sight gags, this is a treasure for all ages.

13. Bullets Over Broadway

A struggling playwright (John Cusak) is forced to cast a gangster's moll in the star part of his play in order to get it produced in the Roaring 20's New York. The moll is talentless and the playwright soon discovers that one of her assigned bodyguards has more writing talent than he does. Cusak's character soon falls for an aging diva whose attentions just add to the confusion.

A light, slapstick piece, this is one of Woody Allen's best films, perhaps because he isn't in it. It also raises good questions about the artist's debt to the creative muse and the price one pays to create.

14. How to Murder Your Wife

Tom and I both remembered this movie from our childhoods and it was even funnier than I remembered. Jack Lemmon is a cartoonist and the ultimate New York playboy who, in a drunken interlude at a bachelor's party, marries the girl who pops out of the cake. She disappears after he has fantasized about killing her in his comic strip and he soon finds himself on trial for murder.

The movie not only satirizes the proverbial "battle of the sexes" a la 1965 but the stereotypes of many other things as well. It is, literally, laugh out loud funny. A special pleasure is Terry Thomas as Lemmon's valet who is entirely too bloodthirsty for comfort at the idea of murdering Lemmon's wife.

15. Friday Night Lights

Texas, football, Billy Bob Thornton ... 'nuff said.

Well, maybe that's not enough for most people so I will 'splain.

Thornton is the coach of the Odessa, Texas, football team during a season where they have a shot at the championship. The locals are football crazy, especially as their economy has seen better days and this is their one outlet and hope for their children's futures. The fast, gritty, "real", jump-cut documentary-type style helps give a true sense-of-place. We see the coach's struggles on many levels as well as those of the players ... and it is a pretty accurate look at how Texans feel about football.

Coming Monday (hopefully):