Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Religion Blog Finalists

The links have been posted for the 2008 Weblog Awards. I'm still feeling slightly gobsmacked but am very interested in delving into the other blogs. As I mentioned I know the Catholic ones well but there are always so many more blogs out there that give us insight. Here are the links ... go, explore!
Note for those dropping in here via RSS feed ... you're missing the sidebar. You know ... the sidebar with the daily quote, the daily horoscope, and the daily observations. They're probably not what you expect. I like to have a good time and a laugh, after all.

Questions and Reflections About Joseph at Christmas

A father writes with a question I'd never stopped to consider.
I don’t see much on Catholic blogs about Joseph. Surely he must be the most famous step-dad. I think modern Catholics could learn a lot from him.

Not all Catholics are married once, forever. Many now are in blended families. Imagine hearing “You’re not my real Dad, I don’t have to do as you say” and knowing that not only is it true, but that you can never hope to compete with Him, either.

Talk about marginalizing a guy. Never quite good enough, but still indispensible (in the Middle East under Roman rule Joseph was utterly necessary to support, raise and protect the Christ child and, of course, Mary on a day-to-day basis). Just quietly sucked it up and went on about his business, I suppose. Seems to have died young, he wasn’t around for the wedding feast at Cana.

Is there anything more written about him after the family gets home from Jerusalem (the second trip, when Jesus ditches his parents so he can hang out with his friends in the temple, causing Mary and Joseph to have what in any other context would be a hilarious “I thought YOU had him” moment)?

Any pointers for modern Catholic stepdads feeling marginalized at Christmas?
There actually is a fair amount written about Joseph on Catholic blogs but it tends to follow the liturgical year's rotation for emphasis on his life.

My own top-of-mind response is that I, personally, love St. Joseph because he is that "go-to" helper for my husband when work isn't going right and he's as frustrated as can be.

I also remember one of our daughters saying, "Poor Joseph. Imagine living with Mary and Jesus ... both without sin and then there's you!"

Certainly I admire his love of Mary (willing to protect her from public shame even before he knew the baby was God's and not another man's), his willingness to do what it took in Bethlehem and Egypt to support his family, and then the fact that he didn't feel he had to speak up all the time (for me that means he was secure, kind of like John Wayne).

Another interesting fact, that you may or may not know, is that under Jewish law adoption was viewed as just as legitimate as being a biological father. They didn't have that "ownership" value that seems to have taken over our society when it comes to babies and adoption.

None of those personal thoughts are necessarily helpful to the father who wrote. Does anyone have a specific answer or place to point?

I also have the following posts from the past which contain food for meditation if not a specific answer. All are invited to ponder St. Joseph as he is revealed therein and see what may be revealed to us in turn.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Movies

  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.
  24. This list doesn't included movies that were rewatched.

Top New Podcasts of 2008 ...

... see my picks at Forgotten Classics.

Top 5 6 Movies of 2008 - Updated Twice for Extra Goodness!

Why 6? Because it's one more than 5. (In no particular order and includes movies I saw for the first time this year, regardless of their original release date. Links are to my reviews.)
  1. Iron Man: superhero origins with conversion, redemption, and Robert Downey Jr. (does it get better than that? no!) ... with awesome Catholic links to boot! I didn't review it so the link in this is to other outstanding reviews and the "Iron Man is the Catholic Batman" discussion ...
  2. Slumdog Millionaire: What does a slumdog know? The answer. With awesome Indian music to boot!
  3. Wall-E: A celebration of what makes life worth living ... with awesome silent movie tribute to boot!
  4. Sunset Blvd.: (scroll down) "The poor dope. He always wanted a pool" With awesome Billy Wilder direction to boot!
  5. Lars and the Real Girl A man, his doll, and responsibility ... with awesome Minnesota accents to boot!
  6. Lady in the Water: 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. With awesome breath-holding abilities at the bottom of that pool to boot!
Update: I thought that surely in the movies list someone would get the "one more than" joke.

2009 viewing assignment: go watch This is Spinal Tap.

Update the Second: Rose pointed out that we saw I Am Legend in 2007. Curses! The date on the review is 12-31-07! So I will merely link to that review. Which is why Joi's reminder of Iron Man made the list. Can't believe I had forgotten that movie!

"I'm just a bagger."

This inspiring story is told from the point of view of inspiring service in business.

I think that those of us who like to hang around here can easily see the larger picture of serving others fully, heart and soul, that makes a difference in people's lives. Even when we think that we are too small.
It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing.
Mother Teresa
Much thanks to Father Joseph Langford for sending me this link ... and pointing out the quote used on the note toward the end of the video.

Former Atheist Explains Conversion - Updated

First he makes me happy, then he makes me laugh. It don't get much better than that folks!

You've got to see The Raving Theist's daily headline.

That reminds me that I just finished reading a conversion story that I heard part of during the Pro-Life March last year from Practicing Catholic herself. Heather has a truly touching and impressively honest story of her reconversion to Catholicism. I also was reminded how our interest in the occult is just a big trap to pull us away from the Truth. In three parts, all of which are listed in the link.

Well, I'll Be Gobsmacked*! Happy Catholic is a 2008 Weblog Awards Finalist!

I'm ... stunned. Also, of course, over the moon. (Just to keep the British slang trend going ... consistency, always consistency!)

I see that I am in exalted company ... Conversion Diary, Standing on My Head, and What Does the Prayer Really Say are the excellent Catholic blogs I know from that list. I am looking forward to exploring the others when the links are up.

As well, I saw The Anchoress's name float by under Best Individual Blogger. And well deserved, too!

Voting is scheduled to begin on January 5, 2009. Rest assured I will keep you informed.

I am sure that I am going to have to pull out the "kiss the egg" campaign for this one ... this little bobsled don't stand a chance. Also, I realize that for a lot of people that is the best part of any awards competition around here!

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

* Much thanks to Brandywine Books for reminding me of the fantastic word gobsmacked. The term "gobsmacked" is a British one, referring to the experience of being so surprised by the unexpected that you feel as if you've been slapped in the face.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Top 5 6: Audiobooks

You can read my list over at Forgotten Classics. All but two are free!

2008 Top 5 6: Blog Discoveries

Why 6? Because it's one more than 5. (In no particular order.)
  1. Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine: a celebration of the absurd, showcasing intelligent humor a la Victorian sensibilities. Yes, it's difficult to describe. Just go read it.

  2. The Silver Key: Self-described as The Silver Key is a place to discuss all things fun and fantastic; mundane existence is hereby banished from these pages. Books, music, movies, role-playing games, and more are all fair game. Indeed. Interesting and intelligently written, I always read Brian Murphy's posts as soon as they are up. His series of thoughts on rereading The Lord of the Rings was especially good.

  3. smitten kitchen: Deb almost always seems interested in recipes that interest me also. I probably have tried more of her recipes than from any other cooking blog except Homesick Texan. Her commentary is that of a cooking pal and her adjustments to recipes are intelligent. For those who enjoy cooking photography, her visuals do as much as the written word to draw one into the recipes. Recent samplings include: pizza with broccoli rabe and roasted onions, gramercy tavern’s gingerbread, braised beef short ribs, potato pancakes and even better grasshopper brownies.

  4. Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering: I didn't actually "discover" this blog in 2008 (to the best of my spotty recollection) but either I have just begun appreciating Sarah's style or she has blossomed into a new blogging style ... or both! Sarah embodies the best of "mom blogging" by combining just enough of her family life with thoughtful reflections and action plans for living better or deepening her spiritual life. It might help that she and I seem to be on the same thinking plane quite often, as witness this recent post about 2009 resolutions. Yeah, me too.

  5. lines and colors: a blog about drawing, sketching, painting, comics, cartoons, webcomics, illustration, digital art, concept art, gallery art, artist tools and techniques, motion graphics, animation, sci-fi and fantasy illustration, paleo art, storyboards, matte painting, 3d graphics and anything else I find visually interesting. If it has lines and/or colors, it's fair game. What he does not say is that you will find some of the best thoughtful writing about art to accompany all the above, as well as copious links and references to take any interests further. I don't know much about art, but I'm learning more, thanks to lines and colors.

  6. Roger Ebert's Journal: I enjoy reading his movie reviews but his journal shows us more of Ebert's broad interests. As he himself pointed out earlier this year, his throat cancer has made him a much better writer simply through sheer necessity. In essence, he has taken up that plaguey habit that many bloggers know well ... of forming his thoughts into articles. It leads to fascinating reading, whether about his love of rice cookers, why Bette Davis's stamp portrait should have included her cigarette, or this piece on a subject close to my heart about why the newspaper industry is failing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Holiday Garb

I'd take new photos (or to be precise, Tom would) but the decorations and the church seem timeless ... these photos are just as accurate as when they were taken a few years ago.


View from the choir loft


A closer view of the altar


Altar details (The angels only come out for Christmas and Easter. They live in the church office otherwise.)


Nativity scene

Santa Was Very Good to Me

Oh so many riches ... Crabtree & Evelyn soap and lotion, the second season of 30 Rock, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog dvd ... and much more.

The two biggies though came from Tom.

The Soda Club fountain jet which allows me to make my favorite orange flavored sparkling water whenever I want. Woohoo! He splurged on a big scale so we have many flavors as well as cola samples to try. The diet root beer was pronounced adequate but with a flavoring amount adjustment needed for the next batch. (I see it all was gone within a few hours anyway.)

The peacock blue Malibu knitting bag is a true luxury as I have canvas tote bags for my knitting. This put a severe test to Tom's tenacity as he managed to track down an actual retailer carrying the bag (the manufacturer doesn't sell these themselves). Talking over the requirements for color and bag model with a cheerful saleswoman on the phone he found that they were sold out. Peacock blue was available but not in the right model. The right model was available but only in Charcoal. He said, "You don't understand. These requirements are exact." She laughed heartily in sympathy and said, "My husband is going through the same thing right now!"

The result is that he very creatively put together a big printout of the bag and we will go to the shop together in a few days to see what is available. That really is the best anyway as I can actually see the bags and it is a new knitting store to discover. So dangerous ... a knitting store. Yet so exciting!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Welcome Lord Jesus Into Our Midst

Adoration of the Shepherds
1535-40, Adoration of the Shepherds
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Isaiah 9:1-6
Thanks be to God!

May He bless you richly and may we recognize the blessings He sends us.
Merry Christmas!

If you are not acquainted with them you may be interested in seeing what readings the Church has for different times of the day during Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

True or False?

  • Sugar makes kids hyperactive.
  • Suicides increase over the holidays.
  • Poinsettias are toxic.
  • You lose most of your body heat through your head.
  • Eating at night makes you fat.
  • You can cure a hangover with…

All false!

I could have sworn the poinsettias and body heat ones were true. For the real scoop, go see Robert Duncan's expose.

Let the joyful news be spread ... my iPod has risen from the dead!

That adventurous little device was turned on last night. I just couldn't take it any more.

There was no reaction until we thought that maybe the battery needed charging. Sure enough, when we plugged it in, the apple appeared, it began charging, and hadn't even lost any of the content. The screen looks fine.


A Few Thoughts on Forgiveness and Grace: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

Brian Muha was brutally slain in Steubenville with his friend Aaron Land in 1999. We were living there at the time and everyone had their eyes on Mrs Muha because from the first moment the story broke - when the boys were still only missing - she called on everyone to forgive those responsible. The amazing thing is that her resolve to forgive was tested when the boys were found shot to death. She did not disappoint us because she went forward, even testifying on the murders behalf to prevent them from getting the death penalty. When she spoke the young men responsible for the murders she said, "my son is now your best friend." She was referring to the fact that the murdered boys would now be praying for the soul of these guys.
Mary at Broken Alabaster has written a moving piece about forgiveness. Please do go read it now before continuing.

She mentions my prayers for the souls of my friend's murderers as a good example. As my promptings in this are have been entirely the result of Christ's grace I felt extremely unworthy to be mentioned.

However, it did make me stop and think back to why I would begin praying for the souls of those persecuting my friend when I first heard of it, before she was killed.

It is because Christ has been working on my heart through the examples of saints and friends. In short, it is because of his workings through the Body of Christ.

I remember distinctly the impression that my gentle, kind friend Norma made immediately after the Twin Towers were destroyed on Sept. 11. I was ranting about vengeance against the terrorists and she didn't say anything but had a troubled look on her face. That look made me stop and examine my own instincts as compared to the example set by Christ.
Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
As distasteful as it was, I had to stop and pray for forgiveness for the terrorists' souls. I did not want to but Norma's example pointed out the right path.

I remember Kathy L's witness during the CRHP retreat I attended. It was instrumental in breaking open my heart for the main reason I was supposed to be there. That reason was forgiveness of certain people. After I faced that reality and took it to confession, I was set free to be so much more of the person that God created me to be.

I remember being interviewed for a jury that was going to consider the death penalty for a confessed murderer. My head said that I was not in favor of the death penalty because of Pope John Paul II's writings on the subject. However, that was the gloss over what my heart had always felt, that the death penalty, an eye for an eye, was the right and proper punishment for murderers. That trial was the impetus that made me realize my inconsistencies and turned me, in part, toward St. Maria Goretti who forgave her murderer upon her deathbed. It made me look at Alessandro Serenelli, her killer, who in old age wrote:
"I'm nearly 80 years old. I'm about to depart.

"Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.

"My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.

"There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.

"When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.

"If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.

"Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I've been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.

"I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life."

Signature, Alessandro Serenelli
(This subject was further expounded upon by Mark Windsor after my friend's murder and I urge you to read his reflections upon evil and our response to it, if you have not already.)

Then I had the immediate example of Immaculee Ilibagiza, with her gentle voice echoing in my ears, about the grace of Jesus allowing her to look into the eyes of killers from the Rwandan genocides and think of the good people they were way down deep, to wonder what happened to them to twist them into such evil. That was quickly followed by young Namrata Nayak's story of forgiving Hindu extremists who bombed her home hoping to kill Christians. (You can find the post with their stories and links here.)

The examples were flooding upon me, though I did not notice their significance at the time. However, at that time was when I heard of my friend's persecution and I began praying for the souls of everyone involved. Everyone.

Immediately following the terrible news, I had the example of a mutual friend, Kathy L (yes the same one from the retreat), who regularly spent much more time with my friend than I had for some time. When a few of us who could get away in the middle of the day met at the church to grieve together, one of the first things out of her mouth was that we must not forget to pray for the murderers. She said, "We are all born with the same innocent souls. What happens to change some people so much?"

This was not a new thought to me by this time but it did embolden me to speak up to encourage friends to at least be willing to ask God for the "willingness to pray for forgiveness."

Now you can see why, upon reading Mary's article, I could see how carefully I was prepared to receive Christ's grace in praying for the souls of the murderers. In a way, it has been a salutory example of how our sins and virtues affect the entire Body of Christ. Without those virtues so clearly on display, I would not have been prepared to be open to praying for those who know not what they did.

In Mary's article, I see yet another example.
"my son is now your best friend."
I have not mentioned that St. Maria Goretti is not the only person I have been asking to pray for everyone involved. I also have turned to Alessandro Serenelli. Who better to intercede for both the victims and the unwilling recipients who committed the crimes?

As well, I think of my friend, Cyndie, who said, "Jeanmarie is in heaven. We have to put her to work." Cyndie was speaking of asking Jeanmarie to pray for Frank, for whom our hearts are breaking. I had not yet taken that final step of thinking of asking her prayers for her killers. Yet again, however, a member of the Body of Christ takes me another step down the road.
St. Maria Goretti,
Alessandro Serenelli,
Jeanmarie, Matthew, and Sydney ...
pray for us.

We pray for strength and peace for Frank and all those who are grieving.
For the souls of their murderers, that the Hounds of Heaven may chase them down and cause a conversion of heart.

I began this by saying that I was unworthy to be mentioned in Mary's piece. True indeed. However, we are all unworthy. If God can use an extremely unworthy example for moving others to a place of realizing the power of forgiveness ... then so be it. I am his to use as he will. It is all his grace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Believe in Christmas Miracles ... The Raving Atheist Becomes The Raving Theist

Seriously. It could be a joke but those who know him say it is the real thing.

So says he himself ...
Christ is the Lord

Three years ago, I promoted and appeared in the atheist documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There,” dedicated to the proposition that Jesus never existed.

And ... he's Catholic. It don't get much better than that.

Pop over and welcome him.

Via Kenneth Hynek.

"I Thirst": A Window on the Heart of God

These thoughts on God's thirst from Mother Teresa's Secret Fire (discussed here) proved to be surprisingly enlightening during this advent, especially when we consider that we are waiting for God to come into the world in the person of Jesus. Here's a nugget to give you an idea of what hit me.
First of all, what does the thirst of Jesus tell us about God? The symbol of thirst is neither complicated nor hard to understand: As the burning desert yearns for water, so God yearns for our love. As a thirsty man longs for water, so God longs for each of us. As a thirsty man seeks after water, so God seeks after us. As a thirsty man thinks only of water, so God thinks constantly of us: "Even thehairs of your head are all numbered" (Lk 12:7). As a thirsty man will give anything in exchange for water, so God gladly gives all he has, and all he is, in exchange for us: his divinity for our humanity, his holiness for our sin, his paradise in exchange for our pain. ...

Since it would be impossible to give an adequate sense of the infinite longing in the heart of God in mere words, or theological descriptions, God chose to communicate this mystery in metaphor -- that of a burning, relentless, divine "thirst."

Mother Teresa was given a symbol to lift up before the poor that was entirely simple, yet many-faceted; simple enough to touch the hearts of the poor, yet deep enough to engage the intellect of scholars. The Holy spirit portrays God's longing in the most accessible language possible -- that of human experience.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

It's My Fault, Because I'm Their Father ...

It's a hard thing to learn that you're not half the father you thought you were.

Nothing ever seems to be good enough for my son though; and my daughter seems to always complain that I love him more. And it's my fault because they're my children.

I think if my kids were to ever end up homeless, living on a street and eating at the shelter, my son would be the one at the table complaining about the quality of the soup and my daughter would be complaining that he had a bigger bowl than she did. And it's my fault because they're my children.
Local sportscaster Dale Hansen writes a surprising column with insights that many parents today might want to read as a cautionary note. He regrets being indulgent with gifts but not giving enough time ... especially when seeing how it affected the adults that his children became.

He is a public personality and so it is also a public apology. If his children are the way he says, and from the latest news I have seen featuring his son, I don't see any reason to doubt it ... then I don't envy the scene at his home for Christmas this year. Sometimes that's what happens when you tell it like it is though.

Pittsburgh news will come next week

I was all set to get down to brass tacks on the whole Pittsburgh thing last Friday ... and then, of course, that was put out of my mind by tragedy.

As this week is Christmas and we are all busy I will beg your indulgence once more. As well, I need a little more recovery time to work up a full head of steam for my enthusiasm once again. All shall be revealed next week! I promise!

Mother Teresa: Choosing to believe despite the darkness

I have long meant to share some of the sections from Mother Teresa's Secret Fire (discussed here) that have really spoken to me. This one is so well put that it essentially sums up Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul. Those who care to read more about that might be interested in this review of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. However, for those who do not wish to delve to that extent, this section of the book is enlightening. Here's a bit.
But before we move on to explore the secrets of Mother Teresa's interior life, we first need to be sure not to misconstrue her "darkness" -- a darkness God allowed her to experience as a share in the inner night of Calcutta's poorest of the poor. Mother Teresa was wounded with the inner wounds of her people; she bled with them and died with them. God was calling her to share the heavy, if forgotten, inner burdens of the poor, not only their material deprivation. She was to be fixed to the hidden inward cross of the poor, and to be riven by the same interior anguish that Jesus himself had undergone.

But painful as her darkness was, theirs was the true night, the darkness that eats away at faith. In Mother Teresa's time, millions of Calcutta's street population drew their dying breath under the dusty feet of passersby, after having spend an entire existence deprived of any human evidence of a loving God. This was a tragedy not of God's making, but man's -- yet one that burdened not man's heart, but God's. This was the ultimate sense of Mother Teresa's dark night, borne in the name of her God and her poor.

But what of reports that suggested that Mother Teresa had undergone a crisis of faith, or worse, that her smile and her devotion to God and neighbor were little more than hypocrisy? Emphatically, Mother Teresa's dark night was not a "crisis of faith," nor did it represent a wavering on her part. Far from being a loss of faith, her letters reveal instead her hard-fought victory of faith, the triumph of faith's light that shines even in the darkness, for "the darkness has not ovecome it" (Jn 1:5).

The same letters that recount her darkness at the feeling level (not at the level of faith) testify, too, to her unshakable belief, even when she no longer sensed God's presence. Her letters reveal a supreme, even heroic exercise of faith at its zenith, free of dependence on circumstance or feelings. She consistently chose to believe, refusing to turn away from a brilliance once beheld, simply because clouds had covered her inner sky. No matter how long the hours of her night, never once did she suspect that the sun existed no more. Even in the deepest night of her inner Calcutta, she kept her course towards the Day Star, and never lost her way. ...

Mother Teresa's trial of faith is not without precedence in Christian tradition, nor without parallels in Scripture. Recall Jesus' challenge to the Canaanite woman, who, after begging that he cure her daughter, was seemingly rebuffed in the harshest terms. In both cases, Jesus used what appeared to be rejection in order to draw out the fullness of their faith, precisely by challenging that faith to the maximum. Jesus gave each one the chance to surmount his challenges one by one and to stand triumphant as a model for the rest of us. His appreciation of the Canaanite woman could have been addressed just as easily, two thousand years later, to Mother Teresa: "O woman, great is your faith!" (Mt 15:28).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So you know how when you're upset and distracted ...

... and you can do something really stupid because your mind is a million miles away?

I do.

So I've been exceedingly careful when driving or walking around stores since yesterday. Don't want to add a car wreck or knocking someone over to the ills of the day.

However, I was off my guard just a little while ago, planning to do some baking, some house cleaning, to be "normal" even when my thoughts and prayers are those million miles away.

That is just about the time that you discover you probably are washing your iPod nano in the pocket of your jeans. Halfway through the cycle so that your front-loading washer won't let you rescue it.


I might get lucky and find it somewhere unexpected.

But I have a feeling that I am going to see just how well this "stress test" of an iPod turns out. And that Jeanmarie is gently laughing at me from up in heaven.

Worth a Thousand Words

Winter Mist, by D.L. Ennis at Visual Thoughts

Spiritual Warfare

A guest post by Mark Windsor. Thank you Mark, for your prayers and support.
“My name is Legion, for we are many.”

We tend to think of spiritual warfare in either grand terms or in Hollywood clichés. On the larger side, we see it as the good versus evil of modern culture war, abortion, defense of marriage, etc. On the cliché side, we get the likes of The Omen or The Exorcism of Emily Rose. These have one significant thing in common – the evil is an abstraction in both cases. It’s at a distance, and in a form we can deal with psychologically.

But there are moments when evil becomes small and exact and free of cliché. It often comes with surprising speed and clarity, unfathomable fear, and leaves great sadness in its wake. It can come in many forms. It might be the whisper of a welcome temptation or the bluntness of a gunshot. It’s at moments like this that evil can be caught in a bright light and seen for what it really is. But we only see it after the fact, after it’s too late. We feel the bullet strike before we hear the shot.

An event like this took place in Julie’s world around 9:00 this morning. A mother, her eight year old son, and four year old daughter, were shot to death in a quiet, unassuming neighborhood of Dallas. But this seemingly random event echoes to my northern suburb, and to wherever you’re sitting right now, reading these words.

Who did it and why are the questions that first spring to mind, and that’s perfectly natural. But a more pertinent question is - “How”? I don’t mean the how of mechanism. The police already know that – it was a series of gunshots. I mean the how of, “how did this happen in such a quiet place?”

It’s senseless to seek the answer in the obvious. This would lead back to cliché and an abstraction of what really happened. “He had a bad childhood.” “His father beat him” “Poverty is the root of all crime.” “He felt a judgment was unfair.” “He was driven to it by the circumstances of his life.” These are the root causes of the politician or those who seek answers in humanism or sociology. They offer us nothing more than the opportunity to turn our backs, walk away, and resume your lives as if nothing had happened.

The how of this ghastly event is far more fundamental to every human being. For our own peace of mind, sometimes for our own psychological well being, we turn away and hide. But this how is really quite simple.


It’s all around us. While it’s true that the law of God is written on every human heart, it’s also true that the baseness of evil is always around us. No human being goes from having the law of God written on their hearts to a terrorizing murderer in one simple step. The evil that he became grew within him over time. Maybe his first temptation was to steal a candy bar from the grocery store just because the thought he could get away with it. Undoubtedly it was something small and long ago. For whatever reason, the temptations kept coming and the will lost the capacity to say no, or even to care. From a first temptation as a child, to this last temptation as an adult, it grew and festered and utterly overcame what was written on his heart by the hand of God himself.

People call this random violence. It’s not random. There’s a pattern. We just can’t see it. This is the nature of evil – to start small and lure men ever so slowly to their doom.

How do you fight evil like this? How do you wage spiritual war against an adversary so cruel?

There is an answer, but it is hard to hear and even harder to live. Who knows what difference it might have made to the man that pulled the trigger if, at just the right moment in his life, someone had spoken to him like Matthew 25:40 really meant something.
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Matthew 25:40
Take Luke 6:32-38 to heart and live it totally – like your salvation depends on it.
For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.

And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.

If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit (is) that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount.

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be merciful, just as (also) your Father is merciful.

"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you."
Luke 6:32-38
This is what Paul meant in Ephesians 6:13-19 – the armor of God isn’t made of Kevlar. Be righteous. Live like righteousness matters. It mattered to Paul. It mattered to Christ.
Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.

In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all (the) flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains, so that I may have the courage to speak as I must.
Ephesians 6:13-19
That is, ultimately the answer – Christ and his Word.

Live your life like Matthew 25:40 really means something. I don't know the people who died today, but I have learned a few things about them in the past eight hours. I may be wrong, but I think they would appreciate that as a testament to their lives.

May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Prayer Request

A dear friend of mine and her two children were found murdered this morning. Please pray for their souls, for her husband, for those of us who are devastated by this terrible news, and ... for the soul of her murderer. May God have mercy on him.

I really cannot write anything right now. I guess that's a sign of how distressed I am, that we all are, when I cannot even think about writing. The beautiful thing is to see how many friends are coming together in different groups saying rosaries for the slain ones and for her husband who is suffering right now in a way that none of us can comprehend. I also am thankful that I heard Immaculee's interviews about forgiveness which I mentioned earlier. It makes it possible for me to pray for the soul of whoever did this terrible thing. St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.

Thank you so much to all those who are praying, whether commenting or not. Mark Windsor very kindly sent me a piece he wrote and it is both eloquent and true. I am posting it as it is a very good reflection on what our priest said last night to a group of us who gathered in mourning, "This is as close to the true face of Evil as we will see in this world."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haunted by a (Pittsburgh) Hoagie

Ever since an email discussion with two Pittsburgh denizens, I have had images of a sausage hoagie floating through my head ... which a visit to Roadfood and then to Sloppy Talk just made worse.

When, oh when might I get to sample this fare that I long for?

More on that later, dear readers ...

When we feel powerless and need inspiration - Updated

I have a dear friend who is undergoing severe persecution right now. I cannot help her. I can only pray for her.

I have been listening to Immaculee Ilibagiza on Christopher Closeup and Personally Speaking (episodes 130 and 131) talk about living through the Rwandan genocide.

I think about the persecution we read of in the Middle East and China.

Then, there are many people who are struggling spiritually right now during Advent. They feel powerless.

I thank God that I am not among any of these. However, all these instances remind me that there is so much sin and suffering in the world and sometimes it seems to great to bear.

Then I remember that it comes down to each person and their relationship with the living God. That how we reflect His love to those around us is what changes the world, person by person.

One of the ways that helps to inspire me and that helps me to remember this can be found here. Yes, I point this out from time to time, but what can I say? It inspires me.

I remember that though I am small, God is great. He can and will work great and unexpected works through us if we let him. Even though we cannot see the great plan he can. In this we trust.
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
Julian of Norwich

There's a woman who is embroidering. Her son, seated on a low stool, sees her work, but in reverse. He sees the knots of the embroidery, the tangled threads. He says, "Mother, what are you doing? I can't make out what you are doing!" Then mother lowers the embroidery hoop and shows the good part of the work. Each color is in place that the various threads form a harmonious design. So, we see the reverse side of the embroidery because we are seated on the low stool.
Saint Pio
While we are remembering all this, it never hurts to call in the angelic cavalry either. If all we can do is to pray, then that is our job and we must treat it seriously.
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


We also must keep in mind that inspiration awaits us sometimes with the very people who are so persecuted. Despite the times that Immaculee wanted to die, she was given the grace to be able to look deep into her persecutors' eyes and forgive them. It is an amazing witness to which I encourage you to listen.

There is also the witness of young Namrata Nayak, whose face was disfigured when Hindi extremists bombed her home, hoping to kill Christians. The Anchoress has the whole story and much more for us. Here is just a bit of Namrata's witness to us.
The world has seen my face destroyed by the fire, now it must come to know my smile full of love and peace…I want to dedicate my life to spreading the Gospel.

[W]e forgive the Hindu radicals who attacked us, who burned our homes…They were out of their minds, they do not know the love of Jesus. For this reason, I now want to study so that when I am older I can tell everyone how much Jesus loves us. This is my future.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today's Pittsburgh Picture

I truly meant to reveal why I've had Pittsburgh on my mind ... but something came up that prevented the requisite amount of blogging time.

Enjoy this photo today and tomorrow I will ... reveal all!

It's All Downhill From Here

A little midweek humor from Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine. I see that I am not alone in my appreciation for Dr. Boli as Will Duquette has posted an appreciation.
Ask Dr. Boli

Dear Dr. Boli: The honey I just bought at a local organic market claims on the label that it came from an “apiary” in Westmoreland County. I thought honey was made by bees rather than apes. What’s going on? —Sincerely, Dr. Carolina Thicket, Curator of Primates, Duck Hollow Museum of Natural History.

Dear Madam: Honey is indeed made by bees, as you were taught from infancy; and an apiary, as you correctly surmised, is an institution devoted to the cultivation of apes. Apes, and especially gibbons, have an instinctive aptitude for tending bees, and are frequently employed for that purpose. It is a happy arrangement for both species, as it is cheaper than employing human attendants for the purpose, and it gives the apes something to do. Dr. Boli is somewhat surprised that a scientist in your position would not be aware of these well-known facts, but he supposes that you are more accustomed to meeting apes after they have paid a visit to the taxidermist, which renders them entirely unfit for tending bees. The advantage of the stuffed ape for museum purposes, of course, is that it tends to be less sticky, the taxidermist having carefully cleaned off the honey before mounting the specimen.

The use of apes in the honey industry is only one of the many ways in which our animal friends are employed to the benefit of humanity. You should ask Dr. Boli about foxholes some day, or perhaps about catamarans.

Away in a Manger ... But Not With This Nativity Scene

David L. Alexander - Man With Black Hat
Amy Welborn
Fr. Dwight Longenecker - Standing On My Head
Joshua Snyder - The Western Confucian
Mark Shea
Julie D. - Happy Catholic
Zippy Catholic
Dawn Eden
Kenneth Hynek
Jeff Miller - Curt Jester
Thomas Peters - American Papist
Jimmy Akin

I am especially concerned about that creepy Jesus figure.
Robert Duncan is blogging again. He was a favorite of mine for a long time and then broke my heart by becoming too busy.

Luckily, he has been back for a few weeks and I now have time to draw your attention to his fine writing. His Photoshop work ... not so much, though I am glad to see that I am a wise man.

Check out this sampling of work and see if you don't agree:

"We were not born into this world in order to die in this way."

Some of us say: “May Allah curse the Jews and the Christians, the offspring of apes and pigs.” Is this the language of progress? Is this the language of enlightenment and tolerance? If you had been born in Rome, you would have been Christian, if you had been born in Tehran, you would have been Shiite, and if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, you would have been Sunni, and so on. How wonderful it would be if all these people could gather in love around the table of humanity.
This is from 2006 and so perhaps I am the last one to see this video of Bahraini intellectual Dhiyaa Al-Musawi. It is still worth watching as a powerful statement from a thinking man who understands the serious problems with the Arab world today. I found it inspirational.

You can see it here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mary Moments Honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe

Many good posts are featured in this round up honoring Mary. My overall collection about Our Lady of Guadalupe is in there as well. Check it out.

Max Vanko Murals in Pittsburgh Church

A series of fascinating murals celebrating the American worker can be seen in Pittsburgh's St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church and also at The Society to Preserve the Millford Murals. You can read more also at Time magazine.

Worth a Thousand Words

Gray Partridge by Remo Savisaar, wildlife photographer extraordinaire

Jack Skellington Visits Las Ramblas

Jack Skellington's Visit to Las Ramblas
from Barcelona Photoblog where he has a full report on the visit

You know I can't resist this one, especially considering our family's fondness for Nightmare Before Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ducking Shoes, Bush Makes Me Like Him Even More

Mostly for this exchange with media afterward, which I got from The Anchoress.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think you can take one guy throwing shoes and say this represents a broad movement in Iraq. You can try to do that if you want to. I don’t think it would be accurate.

QUESTION: Well, then, separately from him —

THE PRESIDENT: That’s exactly what he wanted you to do. Like I answered on your question, what he wanted you to do was to pay attention to him. And sure enough, you did…

[There was a noise on board the plane.]

THE PRESIDENT: The other shoe just dropped. Look, I’m going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven’t heard any good ones yet.

Worth a Thousand Words

Portrait of Louis Pasteur, painted by Albert Edelfelt, 1885

Pittsburgh, O Pittsburgh ... how lovely are thy views

Would that I could see them in person ...

A Wonderful Variation on Striped Sock Yarn

Swinging by Jimmy Beans Wool to pick up another ball of Bunny Hop to finish out my first-ever Christmas-deadline knitting, I found these yarns. Yes, I fell prey to picking out one of the Saturn variety to try out. My first stashing, y'all. I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

Jupiter Natur Color
Regia Galaxy Jupiter has swirls and pools of colour in shades inspired by the patterns of Jupiter's clouds.

Each of the colorways seems to be named after the moons of Saturn and reflect their spirals and ellipses.

Introverts and Extraverts: The Light Bulb Goes On

Then a few years ago Dr. Richard D. Grant taught me the difference between introverts and extraverts.

Introversion and extraversion don't refer to shyness and boldness. They refer only to how you charge your emotional batteries. Introverts gain energy from internal contemplation, centering, and quiet time. Extraverts gain energy from external people, places, and things.


Books are written for introverts. Audiobooks are recorded for extraverts.

Introverts rarely say what they are thinking.
They say only what they have thought. Introverts think to talk.

Extraverts talk to think.
This was a very enlightening way for me to consider the differences between these two personality types. I will be copying part of this into my quote journal as a reminder. Go read ... or listen to ... Roy H. Williams' Monday Morning Memo here.

Twilight Before Christmas

Well, that didn't take long ... and from reading Twilight in 15 Minutes, I have a feeling this is probably about as good as the move.

I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart ...

We all know, I'm not always happy. I know full well that my crosses are so much lighter than those of others and I am grateful for it. Generally, like most people, I soldier on in my own little arena of struggles, and do not dwell on them too much. This is possible because of the joy and optimism that growing closer to God has brought me.

As I said, we know it is not possible to always be happy. Last week the convergence of a number of factors hit me in just the wrong way at the wrong time and I was overcome with sorrow. In fact, I remember a distinctly odd moment of sending a garbled reassurance to Jesus that it wasn't that I lacked faith or trust but I had to get through this moment first ... right before I bent over the kitchen sink and sobbed for a while. I realize that Jesus needs no such reassurance. I was actually clarifying things for myself while giving in to emotional distress.

However, perhaps because of that same garbled emergency message, I had the experience of receiving consolation while giving in to sorrow. In my mind's eye, there was an arm round my shoulders gently patting me, a head tilted against my own, and a murmuring "There, there, Jules. It's ok... ." Notice there were no promises of making everything ok, of me getting to sit back and let someone else take up the problems. I didn't expect that. I also didn't expect such clear consolation and sharing of my moment either, however.

After a good cry cleared my system, I was able to move on through my day. It wasn't miraculously filled with joy. Actually, I was not in the best of moods. However, I was able to overcome the impulse to snap at people, to ignore what I didn't want to face, and to avoid shutting myself off from the world. In short, I was given the grace I needed to fight my battle of the moment. It was enough. By the afternoon I had regained much of my usual optimism.

In the week that followed, the memory of that consolation would occasionally float into my mind and it was warming. I have never had such a clear indicator of "not walking alone." Usually a memory of sorrow does not bring joy but this memory did. The difference was that Jesus was there with me.

Which all brings me to the point that yesterday was Gaudete Sunday, which reminds us to rejoice always in all situations. That memory flooded through me as I was in front of the tabernacle during Mass and it was a cryative time (crying and sensitive ... Rose's term). And joyful.

Yesterday's readings from In Conversation with God just underscored my experience even more.
The world's happiness is a poor and transitory thing. The Christian's happiness is profound and can exist in the midst of difficulties. It is compatible with pain, with illness, with failures and contradictions. our Lord has promised: Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:22) Unless we separate ourselves from its source, nothing and nobody can take away this joyful peace.

To have the certainty that God is our Father and wants all that is best for us gives us a serene and joyful confidence even in the face, sometimes, of unexpected hardships. In those moments which a man without faith would consider to be meaningless and deadly blows of fate, the Christian discovers God, and with Him a much greater good than he seems to have lost. How many obstacles vanish, when in our hearts we place ourselves next to this God of ours, who never abandons us! Jesus' love for his own, for the sick and for the lame is renewed, expressed by different sufferers in different ways. "What's the matter?" he asks; and we reply, "Its my ..." At once there is light, or at least the acceptance of his will, and inner peace. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 249)

We will have difficulties, as everyone always has, but whether they are great or small these contradictions will never be able to destroy our happiness. We have to expect the setback as part and parcel of ordinary life, and we cannot put off being happy until some impossible time arrives in which there are no contradictions, temptations, or sorrows. What is more, we should have no opportunities at all for growing in virtue if we had no obstacles to overcome.

We need a firm foundation for our happiness. It cannot depend exclusively on changeable circumstances like good news, good health, peace and quiet, enough money to bring up the family comfortably and having all the material possessions we would like. All these things are good in themselves if they do not separate us from God, but they are unable to provide us with real happiness.

Our Lord asks us to be happy always. Let each man take care how he builds. For no other foundation can anyone lay other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:11) Only he can be the support of our whole life. There is no sorrow which he cannot alleviate: Do not fear, only believe, he says to us. (Luke 8:50) He knows everything which is going to happen in our lives, including those things that will result from our stupidity and lack of sanctity. But he has the remedy for them all.

Very often, as we are doing now in this time of prayer, we shall have to come to him in the Tabernacle and have a conversation with him which is both serious and intimate. And we shall need to lay bare our soul in Confession, and in personal spiritual direction. There we shall find the source of happiness; and our gratitude will show itself in greater faith, in an ever-increasing hope which banishes all sadness, and in our care for other people. For yet a little, just a very little while, and He that is to come will come, and shall not delay; (Heb 10:37) and with him come peace and joy; with Jesus we find meaning in our life.
This is the cause of our joy. This is what we long to share with others who have not yet found Jesus. "Lift up your heart, lift up your voice; rejoice, again I say, rejoice."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Eyewitness Account from Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

These young sisters dressed as
indigenas peregrinas (Indian pilgrims)
for el Día de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,
celebrated every December 12.

Read this wonderful account at Mexico Cooks! of the feast day celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe right where Juan Diego met Our Lady.

Note to self ...

... when one has been in the habit of always sending Halloween cards to college-bound children's friends, one must not think that just because they are juniors that they will not miss those cards. This evidently results in said child receiving many queries about missing cards.

I still love y'all ... and I am not going to make that same mistake at Valentine's!

Another Reason to Visit Pittsburgh

I love strolling through cemeteries no matter the size but monuments like this one in the Allegheny Cemetery just call out to me. Who would have thought that there would be so many interesting memorials there? Of course, in the summer, it would be that much more inviting for lingering and speculating upon why this gentleman feels he must go on working even now.

Accepting Nominations - Catholic New Media and Innovation Awards

Who is the best in Catholic New Media? Where are the innovators in Catholic evangelization? I want the world to know. So this year I am rolling out the first annual Catholic New Media and Innovation Awards. The purpose is to find and highlight the best in Catholic New Media and acknowledge those using innovate ways to evangelize the faith.

This is something I have wanted to do for some time now. It is my hope that this informal award will bring attention to those working tirelessly and unselfishly to promote the good works of the Catholic Church and share the gifts of our faith.

Here are the rules:
  1. Open Nominations
  2. There are no specific categories. I prefer to keep the nomination field broad and defined only to new media and innovation. It will be fun to see what suggestions people send to us.
  3. Jury Panel = me. The awards are subjective but based on my experience, expertise and input from those who are kind enough to send me their thoughts.
  4. Winning entries will be posted on this blog and will receive a glowing email with congratulations from yours truly. Wow!
OK, so there's no red carpet, banquet, or celebrities fawning over the winners. Just me and my platform to share the good works of generous people. I'll probably announce the winners on a Catholic radio program or perhaps EWTN or Catholic TV if they'll have me. First things first. Send me your nominations. I promise to thoroughly review them and announce the winners in early January.

I set up a special email account for nominations and related correspondence. Please send you suggestions and comments to: awards (at) lovetobecatholic (dot)com

Looking forward to hearing from you.
I got this via email, but you can check it out here also. This will be interesting.

Worth a Thousand Words

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dignitas Personae, the Vatican's New Instruction on Bioethics

Find it here.

That link should take you to the English translation. If it does not, simply scroll down.

Or you can read it LifeSite.

Among the topics covered in the instruction are in vitro fertilization, cloning and stem cell research. I am printing this out and will read it with much interest.

John Allen has a summary and some commentary.

You Spell It Pittsburg. I Spell It Pittsburgh.

Actually I tend to spell it both ways. Then I am embarrassed for spelling it whichever other way I did before.

Now, I find that I am not the only one with Pittsburgh spelling confusion.

Father Pitt has the whole story.

Why have I been spelling Pittsburgh at all?

That, dear readers, is something which I shall reveal in the very near future.

Just What I've Been Wanting for Christmas!

From Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine where it is a toss up as to which is funnier, the advertisements or the Letters to the Editor.

Rest in Peace, Cardinal Dulles

We have received news from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus of the death of Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, the dean of American theologians, and the first American Jesuit named a cardinal, has died this morning at the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University.

I received this email from Father James Martin just now. My first reaction ... "Oh no!" I had no idea of Cardinal Dulles' age or state of health. Looking at the photo in the linked article, I see that he is older than I imagined him from reading his excellent writing. He shall be greatly missed and I pray that his time in Purgatory is short and he is soon enjoying the Beatific Vision (a.k.a. Heaven).

Update: More personal reflections can be found on their blog.

Worth a Thousand Words

Moon Beam, Potawatomie Indian Maiden, 1909, found at Old Picture of the Day

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We Read the Presidential Citizens Medal List With Interest This Year

We were interested in Erwin Morse and Jeffery L. Miller who are the founders of the Honor Flight Network. It transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to the senior veterans – World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.

Of course, everyone on the Presidental Citizens Medal list was worthy of interest but our special interest came because Tom did the Honor Flight website. So we're proud to have a part in this noble venture.

I also was pleased to see Gary Sinise on the list. I was very impressed with a radio interview I heard a while back where he talked about his ongoing efforts to supply Iraqi children with school supplies (and he's a Catholic convert ... so that just makes it better).