Thursday, July 30, 2009

I finally watched that dancing wedding video that everyone has been linking to and talking about

(One last thing before I duck out for Beyond Cana.)

You know the video I mean, I am sure.

I very much fear that I must concur with the dear late queen on this subject.

"We are not amused."

One might rather say that we are actually appalled, although it might perhaps been a fine entrance to the ballroom for one's celebration after the nuptial ceremony. However, as a prequel to the sacrament of marriage, we would eschew such a demonstration in favor of keeping the focus on the sacrament that the couple is about to bestow upon each other. In these occasions, less is more.

QV and HC

Gone Retreatin' (and preppin')

Tomorrow our parish's Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat begins. Tom and I are heavily involved in several aspects of this, both preparatory and presentational. I'll be out of touch until Monday or possibly Tuesday, depending on work, home, and everything.

For those who have sent me an email in the last couple of weeks to which I have not responded, I apologize. Vacation and retreat preparation have taken their toll. I will be linking and responding next week. Promise!

Any prayers offered for the success of the retreat will be much appreciated by everyone involved. Thanks y'all!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To Sit By An Open Window

To sit by an open window of a dark and quiet autumn night and hear in the sounds of distant traffic, the ebb and flow of the ocean (or the rushing water of a stream) is to displace oneself from all that is absolute, solid, identifiable and known, and to seek out the larger space that exists half in-reality and half in-perception. Half in heaven and half on earth. ...
Isn't that restful?

Read it all for a wonderful, meditative reflection from The Anchoress.

Believe it or not, I reference The Anchoress's writing fairly often in conversation. I have some friends who continually say that they don't like reading about politics so they don't read her blog.

I get it. I don't really care about reading about politics either.

However, by eschewing the whole, one misses these leaps that take us to another level spiritually. At least they take me there.

Even when writing about politics, one usually finds a The Anchoress exhibits greater spirit of charity than in the regular political writing. Sometimes she even combines politics and spiritual reflections. I know. Cool, right?

It's easy to skim the political writing in order to find the spiritual gems. Don't skip reading The Anchoress.

Oramus: For You We Pray

The essence of the Christian life is passing along God's love and blessings to those we find in our path. We love those with whom we live and work and play by sharing their daily lives, their joys and their trials. We love the needy in far off places through general prayer, and through contributions to those charities that aid them.

But how do we love and bless those in our own community that we do not know personally: those we see on the street, in the market, at the mall? Those who are well-dressed and well-fed, and in no obvious need? They, too, need the love and blessing of God. Some already have it; but what of those who do not know God? How, as Christians, can we love and bless them?

We Pray.

If asked, they would not accept our help; but through us they may receive the Lord's blessing. And some few might choose to ask what we are doing, and why; and perhaps they will learn to know God themselves.
This site really resonates with me. Perhaps because lately I have found myself looking at the faithful taking Communion while Thomas Merton's words echo through my head:
There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
I do not take credit to myself for the sometimes overwhelming waves of love I feel for all the wide variety of people filing before my eyes. I feel this is the Holy Spirit giving me just a little taste of Jesus' overwhelming love for all of us. It is a glorious thing.

Oramus also put me in mind of The Anchoress's reflection upon praying for strangers which also wound around Merton's statement.

Oramus also has a blog which says there will be occasional posting. I am inclined to think that if all they ever posted was the excellent reminder to anonymously pray for our neighbors then that would be enough. Perhaps, again, because that is what I often find myself doing, all based on that really good prayer which I wrote about some time ago: Lord have mercy on me and bless (name/that person). Praying for our neighbors is an extension of that idea but without the impetus of an annoyance to kick start the process.

I like it.

I like it a lot.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Facts About Overpopulation and Why it is a Myth

Simplified of course. For the facts behind the video, go to Overpopulation is a Myth.

Found at American Papist.

In the News ... Catholic Style

For those who don't get their Catholic news anywhere else (yes, there actually are a few, including Tom).

20 Awesome Prolife Democrats and 2 Tremendous Phonies
Twenty Democrats in the House of Representatives joined all but 9 Republicans last week in voting to defund Planned Parenthood in an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) to the Labor / HHS Appropriations Bill. The Amendment failed, but I'd like to share some information about these prolife Democrats, as well as some info on two betrayers who should have been among their number.
Catholic Key Blog, which I am liking more all the time, has the details.

Vatican defrocks key Medjugorje priest, threatens excommunication
In the decree of the Congregation [see circular 939/2008, dated 8 July 2008, from the Curia of Mostar] it was written that Fr. Vlašić was suspected of "heresy and schism" and accused of "spreading questionable doctrines, manipulation of consciences, suspect mysticism, disobedience to legitimate orders and violations contra sextum (against the sixth commandment, that is). This last accusation relates to an event in 1977 (therefore prior to the "apparitions"), already reported on the page "And the Gospa said, Thanks so much to Father Tomislav; he's guiding you so well." ...

The Holy Father, accepting the request of friar Tomislav Vlasic, O.F.M, member of the province of friars minor of St. Bernardino of Siena (L'Aquila), responsible for conduct harmful to ecclesial communion both in the spheres of doctrine and discipline, and under a censure of interdict, has granted him the favor of reduction to the lay state (amissio status clericalis) and of dismissal from the Order.

In addition, the Holy Father has granted the petitioner, motu proprio, the remission of the censure incurred as well as the favor of dispensation from religious vows and from all the responsibilities connected with sacred ordination, including celibacy.
It's all here. Via New Advent.

Pope confirms visit to Shroud of Turin; new evidence on shroud emerges
A recent study by French scientist Thierry Castex has revealed that on the shroud are traces of words in Aramaic spelled with Hebrew letters.

A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago.

She said that in 1978 a Latin professor in Milan noticed Aramaic writing on the shroud and in 1989 scholars discovered Hebrew characters that probably were portions of the phrase "The king of the Jews."

Castex's recent discovery of the word "found" with another word next to it, which still has to be deciphered, "together may mean 'because found' or 'we found,'" she said.

What is interesting, she said, is that it recalls a passage in the Gospel of St. Luke, "We found this man misleading our people," which was what several Jewish leaders told Pontius Pilate when they asked him to condemn Jesus.

She said it would not be unusual for something to be written on a burial cloth in order to indicate the identity of the deceased.
The whole scoop is here. Again via New Advent.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back in the Groove

Back from the beach but not a lot to report.

We had a great time ... got to visit with Tom's many relatives ... were knocked around by very rough waves ... watched line after line after line of brown pelicans soar majestically overhead on their way to somewhere (I'm tellin' ya, they look just like pterodactyls when soaring overhead) ... got in the habit of doing a morning crossword puzzle (so much so that Tom bought his first app so he could get crosswords on his iTouch) ... ate fresh caught shark ... and I got a pair of flip flops that I love.

Now I am catching up at work and also getting ready for the Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat next weekend (where Tom and I will be the Spiritual Directors ... prayers appreciated!).

So I will be blogging some but it will continue lightly for the rest of the week ... most likely.

A Must-Read Book for Anyone Interested in Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love by Carl Anderson (Author), Eduardo Chavez

Although I usually pay scant attention to Marian apparitions, ever since I first was exposed to the importance of the symbolism in the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I have been interested in her. Briefly, as In Conversation With God (Vol 7: Feast Days, July-December) sums up: The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepayac hill near Mexico City on the 9th of December 1531 to ask for the construction of a church there in her honour. After the miraculous cure of his uncle, Bernardo, this Indian peasant brought to his Bishop some roses that he received from Our Lady as a sign of her request. As the flowers fell from his cloak to the ground before the astonished Prelate, the image of the blessed virgin, which is venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe to this day, was miraculously impressed on the simple garment before their eyes.

For more about the well known aspects of how the symbolism would have spoken to Juan Diego and the Indians, see this post.

However, for the full scoop, you really must read this fascinating book which I was lucky enough to receive thanks to Random House. This book helped me see not only how well Our Lady spoke to the Indians in the past but also how she continues to carry a message of love, unity and hope for us today. Authors Carl Anderson, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the Knights of Columbus, and Father Eduardo Chavez, one of the most renowned experts on the Guadalupe apparitions, trace the history of the apparition and explore her as an important catalyst for modern religious and cultural transformation.

What has impressed me most is how completely every bit of symbolism was tailored to speak to the Indians of the time. Here is an example.
After introducing herself, the Virgin revealed the reason for her appearance:
I want very much that they build my sacred little house here, in which I will show Him, I will exalt Him on making Him manifest, I will give Him to all people in all my personal love, Him that is my compassionate gaze, Him that is my help, Him that is my salvation. Because truly I am your compassionate Mother, yours and that of all the people that live together in this land, and also of all the other various lineages of men, those who love me, those who cry to me, those who seek me, those who trust in me.
The Virgin then explained to Juan Diego how she needed him to deliver her message to Friar Juan de Zumarraga, the head of the church in New Spain.

Within the context of European Catholicism, the first apparition makes poignantly clear the Virgin Mary's universal role as mother and her desire to bring all people closer to God through her loving intercession. Less obvious, though no less significant, is what the Virgin's request for the construction of a chapel would have meant to a learned Indian. For the Aztecs, the temple was more than a religious building and the establishment of a temple was more than a ceremonial religious occasion. So central was religion to Aztec culture that the temple was seen as the foundation of society. Historically, the construction of a new temple marked the inauguration of a new civilization. In fact, the Aztecs built the Templo Mayor in the years immediately following their migration to the Valley of Mexico, and the common Aztec glyph, or pictogram, for a conquered people was the depiction of a temple toppling over, sometimes in flames. Thus the Virgin's commission to Juan Diego was rich in meaning far beyond the construction of a building, and was made richer still by the fact that it had been given to an Indian.
This scholarly but accessible book has so very much more fascinating information that I am going to do a series of excerpts to help give you a sense of the book. I'll list them at the bottom of the review as they are posted. Especially interesting to those who have read much about Our Lady of Guadalupe will be the appendices which include a transcription of Juan Diego's testimony about his encounters with Mary.

My one criticism of the book is that there isn't a good reproduction of the image on the tilma in the book for us to use in considering all the symbolism being explained. The best image is on the cover and is mostly covered by the title and other such information. I encourage you to seek out an image to put with the book so you really appreciate the information being shared by the authors. However, that is one oversight in an otherwise excellent book. I am not quite finished but wanted to get this review out there as it is being published August 4.

Highly recommended.

Additional excerpts:

Monday, July 20, 2009

One Last Thing, On the Way Out the Door ...

Reading Carolina Cannonball's announcement that she will be dropping her "Papist only" consideration of men to date, all I could think was, well it's about time.

If my husband had only dated Catholics I might still be a single agnostic wondering "what's it all about" as I wandered looking for my soul mate. It took marriage to this good man and God's use of our children to bring me to knowledge of Him and then of His Bride, the Church.

For all any single Catholic knows, God's been waiting for you to open your eyes to the fact that your true love is just waiting for conversion in addition to meeting their soul mate. I would think this is true for anyone whose faith is strong, just as is Carolina Cannonball's.

Zoe Has Met the Anti-Christ and It Was in the Kitchen

We couldn't help but notice Zoe's bad habit of hopping up to put her front legs on the kitchen counter and look around for anything tasty. Of course, we've been discouraging her, but the trick has possibly been done for us this morning while we were still abed.

She came racing in past our bed, ears back, tail tucked, to hide in the back of Tom's side of the bathroom. Investigation showed that the bottom of the salad spinner which had been securely lodged atop the dish drainer was now on the floor. Oh yes ... bad dog!

I showed her the instrument of doom later in the morning only to have her back away, nervously saying, "Hey man, let's not do anything we can't take back. Just put the spinner down ... "

I like it when the household utensils stick up for proper behavior.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Going to Galveston

Hence the latest watery theme for the blog.

However, I'll be leaving a few tidbits to pop up for y'all during the week. A few quotes, a little art, some other good blogs you might not know about.

I'll be around some although my challenge to myself is to see how long I can unplug. Which might be a real challenge considering that I have a few book reviews I want to do as well as some writing I promised to someone else. I can hand write all this in a notebook but somehow it never flows the way that typing into a computer does. So we shall see ...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Culture Crash ... Picking Up the Pieces Requires Sacrifice

With the Beyond Cana marriage retreat coming up, naturally marriage is much on my mind. My marriage (thankfully always good, in fact now the best it has ever been), marriages in distress for which I pray, and our culture's problems with marriage in general.

It is therefore very timely that Heather at CraftLit (podcast)brought up this Atlantic Monthly article with a good deal of dismay and not a little bewilderment. Heather is not naive. She understands what makes a good marriage and what makes them fall apart. It is the author's irreverent attitude perhaps that is bewildering. Entitled "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," the subhead reads merrily, "The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?"

It is the ultimate modern viewpoint. Shallow and selfish. The exact opposite of what a good, not to mention sacramental, marriage is all about.

DarwinCatholic makes many of the points that I have already thought of so I will let you read it there. If you don't want to read the entire article, and it is very long, then just go to Darwin's place. He points out the salient parts for you to read.

Luckily, we need not despair because that is not a view that everyone has in the modern world. Here is an excellent piece from the equally excellent Art of Manliness blog: DIY Marriage Counseling. Please do go read it. And, of course, here's a bit to whet your appetite.
As it turns out, this bootstrapping mentality is not such a bad idea. A recent study found that reading research-based articles together as a couple, and applying the advice from those articles to your relationship was just as effective as attending a workshop or seminar.1 If you’re having serious problems in your marriage, you may need to see a therapist, but if you’re marriage simply needs some tuning up, here are some diy basics to read over with your spouse and start applying to your relationship.

Banish the Four Horsemen of Divorce

Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D. has been studying marriages in a lab at the University of Washington for 20 years. While many people think that what makes a happy or unhappy marriage is somewhat mysterious and divorce is hard to predict, he can watch a couple interact for only a few hours and then forecast with 91% accuracy whether or not they’ll end up divorcing. He’s not a fortune teller; he simply looks for telltale signs in the way the couple interacts and handles their disagreements. Those that display what he calls the “four horseman of the apocalypse” have a high likelihood for divorce. If a couple can identify and rectify these behaviors, the marriage can often be saved. So let’s take a look at what the four horsemen are.

Three More Chapters of Uncle Tom's Cabin ...

... for those UTC addicts out there, and they do exist, here is a long 'un with three chapters for you. In which we say goodbye to Eva ... wait, just let me get my hanky out ... ok, let's go ...

By the way, we've got a couple of spots open in our Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat

It was full but as there have been a few who can't make it, as always happens when a couple is trying to arrange a weekend away from home.

If you're interested, the details are here (ignore the "full" notice ... we haven't had a chance to change it yet). This close to the retreat, it is open to nonparishioners as everyone from St. Thomas has had several months to sign up. Tom and I can testify that it has been a wonderful help to our marriage, which was already good to begin with.

Joshua: Staying Faithful to God

Continuing my reading of Joshua (begun here). I like the fact that Joshua has had the same choices in essence that we do still in our modern lives. Listen to God, do what He wants, and live ... or serve other gods and die. Some like Joshua perform spectacular feats while others of us live more anonymously, but it all boils down to that same choice made repeatedly.
... What Joshua has to say is very moving and it contains a message which is virtually the same as the one God gave him when Moses died (cf. 1:1-19)--an invitation to trust in the Lord and do everything his Law lays down. Promises and threats criss-cross in Joshua's insistence that the people must stay faithful to God if they are to retain the land he has given them. It is a very urgent exhortation--for those who heard it, and for Israelites at later times, particularly during the difficult test of the exile.

Joshua's own life was guided by that message. To start with, God gave him his instructions. Then as events unfolded Joshua could see for himself that what God said was indeed true: the Lord scattered enemies in his presence; he gave the people the promised land, and did everything he said he would. Joshua saw for himself that God gave success to those who did his bidding, and this made him keener still to be faithful to the Lord. ...

In the fullest way possible something similar happened with Jesus, whose life was a continuous striving to identify with his Father's will; from his infancy (cf. Lk 2:49) to the cross, what nourished him was doing the will of the One who sent him: "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk 22:42). And thus we see St. Paul placing Christ's example before all Christians: "Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, [...] humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him" (Phil 2:5-6, 8-9). That is also the route that Christ's followers should take--listening to his word and going along with the plans he has for each. Assimilating and putting this message into practice makes life meaningful. And one experiences the effectiveness of God's help, the more one bears witness of it to others.
This finishes my journey through Joshua though I'll be beginning 2nd Peter soon and will share what I find there with y'all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I never would have thought of this but the Senator makes an excellent point

We now record fetal heartbeats at 14 days post-conception. We record fetal brainwaves at 39 days post-conception. And I don’t expect you to answer this, but I do expect you to pay attention to it as you contemplate these big issues. We have this schizophrenic rule of the law where we have defined death as the absence of those, but we refuse to define life as the presence of those.
Sen.Tom Coburn,
speaking to Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor,
confirmation hearing, July 15, 2009
Via The Anchoress.

Literary Monster Mash-ups

Though I don't find myself drawn to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies which began this trend or the above pictured combo, these upcoming titles do make me laugh.
Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter – subtitled She Loved Her Country; She Hated Demons - and I am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas. "Marley was dead. Again," says its publisher Orion. "Will the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future be able to stop the world from drowning under a top-hatted and crinolined zombie horde?"
Who better to have alerted us to this trend than The Daily Kraken who doubtless is delighted at seeing his fellow monsters get their day in the sun.

Nick kindly came by to point out the trailer ... which I absconded with after laughing my head off.

Stir-Fried Spinach

Take a forkful over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Critique in Haiku

Not exactly challenged by Mike Aquilina, nevertheless I was intrigued by his joke that the next step after my short WSJ letter was ... haiku.

Here goes nuttin':
Author shows bad thought
Expecting road map from pope
Truth is in our hearts

From Aaron to Zuzim, It's Covered in This Catholic Concordance

Update: This post has only been showing about half the actual entry. If it didn't make much sense when you first dropped by please give it another look-see.

I am truly impressed by this concordance. The editors' goal was to make it accessible to everyone and it seems as if they hit their goal, since I would be the "everyday Jane" who has never seen a concordance until this one landed on my doorstep. In fact, I had to look up the definition of a concordance to see how well this book did or didn't match expectations: "an alphabetical index of the principal words in a book or the works of an author with their immediate contexts."

Here is an example so you can see how a listing looks. Keep in mind that the main word is indicated with the capital letter that begins the word. You'll see what I mean here...
Job 26:7 over the void, and H the earth upon nothing
Is 33:23 Your tackle H loose; it cannot hold the mast
Gal 3:13 be every one who H on a tree" --
This is a really short listing. The longest one that Tom and I found was for "King" which took 47 pages. Yes, you read that right. 47 pages.

It seems exhaustively researched and will be a true asset for anybody who needs a good way to look up words and cross-references in the Bible. The books and verse references for each word are easy to see and it is actually pretty interesting to find places where a particular word is used frequently that we might not expect. In this way, it opens up the Bible to the casual browser as well as the serious researcher. This is the first and only concordance for the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition of the Bible.
  • An alphabetical listing of every word in the RSV-CE
  • Over 15,000 words and 300,000 entries
  • Entries show context for easy comparison of verses
  • Passages listed for both the first and second editions of the RSV-CE
  • Allows swift location of passages on any topic

It's All Downhill from Here

A little midweek humor instruction, courtesy of Dr. Boli who explains some of the common regulatory signs, which are usually square or rectangular, white in color, with black lettering and red symbols.

Phenakistoscopes Prohibited During Rush Hour
Phenakistoscopes and other distractions cause backups or worse when traffic is heavy. Use phenakistoscopes responsibly, and put them away during rush hour.
Dr. Boli earns my sincere thanks for introducing me to the phenakistoscope, of which I was ignorant until now. I will promptly acquire one so that I may then put it away at the regulated times.

Economics Isn't Jesus's Main Focus: My Letter to the WSJ (and some other good links)

Now there was a surprise when Tom held out this morning's editorial section of The Wall Street Journal. My letter, which I had forgotten, was published. True, it was edited and tidied up some but Tom said it read well and I certainly like a newspaper which has the guts to print Jesus' name in a letter header. Isn't it sad that such a thing can be considered gutsy these days? Tom pointed out that they undoubtedly received more letters on the subject and said that mine was chosen to represent all those viewpoints in the national newspaper with the largest subscription rate in the country.

Gee, I was already proud. Now I'm insufferably proud.

It may have been edited because my opening sentences were rather condemnatory, possibly needlessly so now that I read it over again. Then again it may have been a space issue as there were two long but very interesting letters from much more famous people than I. One was by Lawrence S. Eagleburger (secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush) about nuclear policy. Fascinating and you should go read it.

The other from Wang Baodong (Spokesman, Chinese Embassy, Washington), began:
The Chinese government and people are very much displeased with the Journal's decision to publish Rebiya Kadeer's "The Real Story of the Uighur Riots" (op-ed, July 8), which is full of political lies and separatist rhetoric that are schemed to mislead the American public.
Honestly, after such an opening paragraph that is chock full of its own sort of rhetoric, one simply sits back and prepares to enjoy the show. It was spectacular I must admit. I do encourage you to go read the lengthy missive which is designed to leave one standing at attention, singing the Chinese anthem.

At any rate, here is my letter with the edited material in brackets. As I say, they edited it nicely though I would have wished for a bit more of an intro to the subject. However, let us not look a gift horse in the mouth.
[Tyler Cowden's article, Vaticanomics: The Holy Father Tackles Globalization, does not examine the encyclical in-depth as much as to expose Cowden's own lack of intellectual development.

One is always wise to consider the source and the intended results of a work before excoriating them. Cowden apparently did neither. True enough, Pope Benedict XVI did not set forth the tightly focused global economic plan that Cowden apparently was awaiting as a blueprint for a better future.] True to his master's calling (that would be Jesus Christ, in case Cowden needs a refresher), Pope Benedict instead is calling for a change in men's hearts and minds so that they themselves may reflect their inward spiritual growth outward for positive change in their own societies. This is the goal that has always been set forth for every Christian. Likewise Cowden's sneers about China and India being ignored show his lack of understanding that the pope holds these goals for "all men of good will," meaning the entire world.

Jesus did not preach against slavery or the Roman government's economic plan, and then put forth a blueprint for men to achieve economic gains. He was after something more ethereal and infinitely more precious, men's hearts and souls. Thus Pope Benedict follows in Jesus' footsteps in his encyclical. It is both sad and telling that Cowden expected otherwise. He would do well to read and reflect upon Father Sirico's editorial, "The Pope on Love in Truth," in your own publication, which reminds those who need it that "to this pope's mind, there is no just or moral system without just and moral people."
As I say, there will be no living with me now!

Editorial focus aside, here are some other great articles that I enjoyed this morning:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Creepy ... and Unutterably Sad

My friend Susan sent me the link to this story about a famed conductor who, together with his wife, killed themselves in a Swiss assisted suicide clinic.

The couple's children said Tuesday that the couple died "peacefully and under circumstances of their own choosing" on Friday at a Zurich clinic run by the group Dignitas.

"After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems," said a statement from the couple's son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca.

The statement said Downes, who became Sir Edward when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, had become almost blind and increasingly deaf. His wife, a former dancer, choreographer and television producer, had devoted years to working as his assistant. British newspapers reported that she had been diagnosed with cancer.

Dignitas founder Ludwig A. Minelli said he could not confirm the deaths due to confidentiality rules.

Downes' manager, Jonathan Groves, said he was shocked by the couple's deaths, but called their decision "typically brave and courageous."

"Brave and courageous" ... I do not think that means what he thinks it means. Taking the easy way out would be my assessment.

Brave and courageous is someone like Pope John Paul II who gave and gave and gave of himself for us without counting the cost until he could give no more, until his soul shone like a diamond. Let's face it, none of us seek suffering but equally none of us can avoid it in this life. I think of the graces I have received during those times and then of the good that this mistaken couple may have both given and received should they have chosen courageously to live until their natural end. I pray for their souls, for those in Dignitas, and for their children.

Stunning Photos That Look Like They're Photoshopped But They're Not

We're all so used to photo manipulation these days that we are a somewhat jaded audience. Until one sees the truly stunning effects that can be achieved with real photography. The Fire Dancer above is one such. Check out the others here.

Prayer and Bible Reading: Listening to God

Having recently finished Father McBride's Guide to the Bible and enjoying the focus on salvation history (samples begin here), I thought I would continue by actually finishing two other books I have. I began both these long ago and have dipped into them to do some research, but never have I read them methodically from beginning to end.
I find them to be good companions because Lukefahr states things in a more basic way while Kreeft, as can be his wont, ranges farther afield sometimes.

I have shared some of the Kreeft book before and will be reposting pieces as I encounter them in my reading. Also, of course, I'll be adding in some from Lukefahr.

Here's some of the first from Kreeft to get us started. I identify with this because it is when reading that God often speaks to me the loudest.
Reading the Bible should be a form of prayer. The Bible should be read in God's presence and as the unfolding of His mind. It is not just a book, but God's love letter to you. It is God's revelation, God's mind, operating through your mind and your reading, so your reading is your response to His mind and will. Reading it is aligning your mind and will with God's; therefore it is a fulfillment of the prayer "Thy will be done," which is the most basic and essential key to achieving our whole purpose on earth: holiness and happiness. I challenge every reader to give a good excuse (to God, not to me, or even just to yourself) for not putting aside fifteen minutes a day to use this fundamental aid to fulfilling the meaning of your life.

Both prayer and Bible reading are ways of listening to God. They should blend: our prayer should be biblical and our Bible reading prayerful.

In Catholic theology, the Bible is sacramental: it is a sign that is an occasion for grace. The Bible fits the two classic definitions of a sacrament: (1) a visible sign instituted by Christ to give grace and (2) a sign that effects what it signifies. However, unlike the seven sacraments, it does not work ex opere operato; it does not give grace by itself, but is dependent on our use of it. ...

Though it is not a sacrament, it has power. Its power comes from two wills, God's and ours. It is the Spirit's sword (Eph 6:17) that cuts our very being apart (Heb 4:12), though we must give it an opening by exposing our minds and hearts and wills to its cutting edge. When we do that, God's Kingdom comes to earth. For it first comes to that tiny but crucially important bit of earth that is your mind and will. Then it transforms your life, which your mind and will control. Then, through your life, your world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

SFFaudio's Podcast is Back ... with a story read by J.J. Campanella

As if it weren't enough that my favorite podcast featuring science fiction book talk is back, they are kicking back into gear with a story read by one of the my very favorite narrators.

Way to stage an impressive comeback guys!


Joshua: When the Sun Stood Still

Continuing my readings of Joshua (begun here), I was struck by the commentary upon the battle where, famously, "the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies" (Joshua 10:13).

I appreciate the explanations of using our very limited language and symbols to explain the divine. This can be a stumbling block for dialogue between literalists and scoffers, for one thing, to say nothing of the difficult it may provide for believers studying the word of God. Our priest is always at great pains to underline such circumstances, especially when dealing with the Old Testament.

However, of more interest and enlightenment to me were the thoughts upon "The Lord hearkened to the voice of a man" (Joshua 10:14). These made a connection that was eye opening. I share the entire commentary below.
This was one of the texts used in the famous debate about the relationship of sun to earth in the Galileo case. But as the basis of that whole argument lay a misunderstanding by theologians of the day as regards the nature of the sacred texts. St. Augustine and St. Thomas had already explained the salvific meaning of Holy Writ, a teaching which Leo XIII ws later to sum up in these words: "The sacred writers, or better said, 'the Spirit of God who spoke through them, did not seek to teach men those things (the knowledge of the nature of visible realities) that were of no consequence for their eternal salvation' (St. Augustine, De Gen, ad litt., 2, 9, 20); therefore, the sacred writers, while carrying out something much greater than an investigation of nature, sometimes describe objects and speak about them [...] as the language of the times demanded [...]. Since in ordinary discourse what is given to the sense is normally spoken of first, the sacred writer (as the Angelic Doctor has noted) 'addresses what appears to the senses' (Summa theologiae, I, q. 70, a.1, ad 3), that is, he takes account first of what God himself, in speaking to men, expressed in human terms in order to make himself understood by them" (Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, EB 121).

"The Lord hearkened to the voice of a man" (v. 14). What is really noteworthy is not so muchthe sun's standing still as the fact that God should vary his way of working to obey the words of a man. Meditating on this passage, St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori comments: "It comes as a surprise to hear that God obeyed Joshua when he ordered the sun to stand still on its circuit [...]. but it comes as a greater shock to see how with a few words from the priest God himself descends to the altars and to where ever he is called, putting himself in the priest's hands every time he is called upon to do so" (Notes for Preaching, 1, 1, 3).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Animal Games

A duo of Boxers certainly makes things more interesting. We have many new games we play now. We call them ...

Where Are My Glasses?
Having worn glasses since 4th grade (and, truth to tell, having needed them long before that probably), I am nearsighted. I will, however, take them off for close work like knitting or reading in the evening. It was one such evening last weekend when I left them on the coffee table in the back room and went to talk to Tom for a while.

Returning, I saw they had vanished. Completely. Not another thing from the table had been disturbed, including the beginnings of a wool teddy bear which greatly interests Zoe every time she sees me knitting it.

We searched high. We searched low. It wasn't until we looked at the dog door and then at each other with wild surmise that a possibility outside the house presented itself to us. Yes, indeed. Tom searched the back yard with a flashlight and found my glasses, neatly folded, and nestled in the grass.

Oh, Zoe, that mischievous dog! The few light scratches on the lenses don't even bother me. Such is the value in never remembering to clean your glasses and thus becoming accustomed to ignoring imperfections.

What is That White Stuff in Your Mouth?
Returning from a walk one morning, I was greeted by Wash (now nearly 6 months old!) prancing up to me happily. Except. What was that white thing dangling from his mouth? Toilet paper. Hmmmm.

The toilet paper trail led me from my bedroom door to my side of the bathroom to the shower and, yes, right to the toilet paper roll. It was not unbroken but it was clear that Wash had enjoyed himself immensely with this thoughtful toy just at his level.

It was even more fun that his other new favorite game, "Why is the bathroom rug lying in the living room?"

What is That on the Floor? No, Really. What is That?
Now, very few things can compare to the time that I walked into our back room and saw that Calico, our hunting cat of the time, had deposited a headless squirrel under the rocking chair Tom was occupying. We established that I can scream loudly and Tom can jump many inches in the air from a sitting position.

This morning's session of the game was more mystifying than anything. Eventually I was able to identify part of a small spine attached to some fur and a nice long piece of intestine. The size led us to guess that a mouse met his maker at the same time that at least one of the dogs met their breakfast. I much appreciated being called in as the identifying expert rather than being the one who began the game. That was left to the unfortunate Tom who was innocently walking through the kitchen. He then went to make sure the dog food bowl was topped off.

Tradition and Revolution V

In the final part of this thought provoking essay, Merton discusses true contemplation, God's grace, and theology. Just when we think we can see where he is headed, he throws in a twist at the end which takes us right back to the Church. (Part I is here.)
Tradition and Revolution (cont'd.)

Yet true contemplation is not arrived at by an effort of the mind. On the contrary, a man could easily lose his way in the forest of technical details which concern a professional theologian. But God gives true theologians a hunger born of humility, which cannot be satisfied with formulas and arguments, and which looks for something closer to God than analogy can bring you.

This serene hunger of the spirit penetrates the surface of words and goes beyond the human formulation of mysteries and seeks, in the humiliation of silence, intellectual solitude and interior poverty, the gift of a supernatural apprehension which words cannot truly signify.

Beyond the labor of argument it finds rest in faith and beneath the noise of discourse it apprehends the Truth, not in distinct and clear-cut definitions but in the limpid obscurity of a single intuition that unites all dogmas in one simple Light, shining into the soul directly from God's eternity, without the medium of created concept, without the intervention of symbols or of language or the likenesses of material things.

Here the Truth is One Whom we not only know and possess but by Whom we are known and possessed. Here theology ceases to be a body of abstractions and becomes a Living Reality Who is God Himself. And He reveals Himself to us in our total gift of our lives to Him. Here the light of truth is not something that exists for our intellect but One in Whom and for Whom all minds and spirits exist, and theology does not truly begin to be theology until we have transcended the language and separate concepts of theologians.

That is why St. Thomas put the Summa Theologica aside in weariness before it was finished, saying that it was "all straw."

And yet when the contemplative returns from the depths of his simple experience of God and attempts to communicate it to men, he necessarily comes once again under the control of the theologian and his language is bound to strive after the clarity and distinctness and accuracy that canalize Catholic tradition.

Therefore beware of the contemplative who says that theology is all straw before he has ever bothered to read any.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lord Valentine's Castle: A Wondrous Tale, Wonderfully Told

And then after walking all day through a golden haze of humid warmth that gathered about him like fine wet fleece, Valentine came to a great ridge of outcropping white stone overlooking the city of Pidruid. It was the provincial capital, sprawling and splendid, the biggest city he had come upon since-since?-the biggest in a long while of wandering, at any rate.

There he halted, finding a seat at the edge of the soft, crumbling white ridge, digging his booted feet into the flaking ragged stone, and he sat there staring down at Pidruid, blinking as though newly out of sleep. On this summer day twilight was still some hours away, and the sun hung high to the southwest beyond Pidruid, out over the Great Sea. I will rest here for a while, Valentine thought, and then I will go down into Pidruid and find lodging for the night.

As he rested he heard pebbles tumbling past him from a higher point on the ridge. Unhurriedly he looked back the way he had come. A young herdsman had appeared, a boy with straw-colored hair and a freckled face, leading a train of fifteen or twenty mounts down the hill road. They were fat sleek purple-skinned beasts, obviously well looked after. The boy’s own mount looked older and less plump, a wise and toughened creature.

“Hoy!” he called down to Valentine. “Where are you bound?”

“Pidruid. And you?”

“The same. Bringing these mounts to market. Thirsty work it is, too. Do you have wine?”

“Some,” Valentine said. He tapped the flask at his hip, where a fiercer man might wear a weapon. “Good red mid-country wine. I’ll be sorry to see the last of it.”
That's the beginning of this classic fantasy ... which I have reviewed for SFFaudio. Whether you choose to read or listen, it is not to be missed.

Have I Read "The Shack?"

Why yes, yes I have.

I don't know why I've been asked that so much lately but a lot of people I know must be just getting around to reading it.

In case anyone is interested in my book reviews, they are listed here. I try to keep the list fairly current.

The White Moll: a turn of the century adventure about a plucky heroine fighting crime in New York's seamy underbelly

I think that about says it all.

But if you'd like to read more, here is my review of the Librivox recording of The White Moll. Highly recommended for good, clean, exciting adventure. You can either read it or listen free. Just follow the links. Librivox has the link to the Gutenberg hard copy.

Prompting My First Letter to the WSJ Editor ...

... is this editorial about the Pope's encyclical that clearly doesn't understand a Christian mindset or even what it really means that the Pope is Catholic. He's intelligent enough not to have to worry about that though. Or so he thinks.

I haven't finished the encyclical as I'm reading slowly and marking as I go. Yes, that's how clueless he was. You don't even have to have read it.

Too bad the author didn't read Father Sirico's piece first, in the WSJ's own editorial section.

If the letter is used, I'll let y'all know. If not, I'll share it in full here.

Tradition and Revolution IV

Continuing his discussion of Catholic dogma, Merton now looks at it's true benefit to those who have the grace to explore it to the fullest. (Part I is here.)
Tradition and Revolution (cont'd.)

The first step to contemplation is faith; and faith begins with an assent to Christ teaching through His Church; fides ex auditu, qui vos ausit, me audit. "He that heareth you, heareth Me." And "faith cometh by hearing."

It is not the dry formula of a dogmatic definition by itself that pours light into the mind of a Catholic contemplative, but the assent to the content of that definition deepens and broadens into a vital, personal and incommunicable penetration of the supernatural truth which it expresses -- an understanding that is a gift of the Holy Ghost and which merges into the Wisdom of love, to possess Truth in its infinite Substance, God Himself.

The dogmas of the Catholic faith are not merely symbols or vague rationalizations which we accept as arbitrary points of stimulation around which good moral actions many form or develop -- still less is it true that any idea would serve just as well as those that have been defined, any old pious thought would foment this vague moral life in our souls. The dogmas defined and taught by the Church have a very precise, positive and definite meaning which those who have the grace to do so must explore and penetrate if they would live an integral spiritual life. For the understanding of dogma is the proximate and ordinary way to contemplation.

Everybody who can do so ought to acquire something of a theologians' accuracy and sharpness in appreciating a true sense of dogma. Every Christian ought to have as deep a comprehension of his belief as his state will allow him. And this means that every one ought to breathe the clean atmosphere of orthodox tradition and be able to explain his belief in correct terminology -- and terminology with a content of genuine ideas.
So I'm thinkin' we're looking at more catechesis, whether done through our reading, scripture studies as a group, seeking guidance of spiritual directors, or more along those lines. There are many ways to learn to appreciate and understand the Church's teachings. It is incumbent upon us to pursue them.

We will hear more about where faithful adherence to the Church's dogma takes us in contemplation in Part IV.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Reading

I don't actually make lists for summer reading, though I do tend to notice that my reading gets lighter and more fun. I know, you thought it was already light and fun! Oh, I can do better, believe me.

Right now, I'm having a blast working my way back through my favorite space opera series, set in the Liaden Universe. They have one cliff hanger after another, an imaginative universe, and the series doesn't let you down through the entire storyline.

To give you a brief idea of where these books begin, here's a good summary from an Amazon review by a fan:
Val Con yos'Phelium, Clan Korval, future Delm and Second Speaker, was just doing a routine mission on some backwater planet in the middle of the universe when his life changed. After completing his mission, he encountered a small spitfire of a woman and saved her life, for which she promptly repaid him by bashing his head in. When Val Con woke up, the spitfire dumped him, but Val Con was intrigued, so he followed her and saved her life again. Now Miri Robertson, whose life he had saved twice, was forced to deal with Val Con, honor demanded it. She was intrigued by Val Con, whom she nicknamed "Tough Guy", but definitely didn't want a partner. As a former mercenary and bodyguard, she could handle herself and, as a target for the powerful Juntavas crime ring, she couldn't trust anyone...

However, both Val Con and Miri, both of whom were used to working alone, soon found that they worked well as partners, at least they would if Miri would stop trying to ditch Val Con at every opportunity. Val Con knew that Miri was something special, she made him feel things that he hadn't felt in years, she made him feel alive again. Miri didn't know what was wrong with Val Con, but she knew it had something to do with what he called The Loop, some kind of brain implant that gave him the odds of success on every mission/action he made. As they grew closer together, both Val Con and Miri realized that the Department of the Interior, who had trained Val Con as an agent, must have some ulterior motive in plan. But in order to find out what it was, they had to stay alive...

In order, the books I'm reading are:

I'm not a fan of Conflict of Honors which precedes the above books though, of course, some may be. I am a fan of the two prequels to the above series.
This post was prompted by The Anchoress's summer book reading roundup. She has a ton of good links.

As well, don't miss Tiber River's excellent collection of book lists which are oriented to Catholic reading. In fact, my list of books for Catholics to read is there too. Tiber River is being run by Aquinas and More online Catholic store, which also has a summer reading program to check out.

Tradition and Revolution III

Continuing the essay, Merton takes on the issue of dogma, both in what men think it to be and what it actually is. What he says was doubtless true when the book was written in 1961 but we see his insight even more from the distance of where relativism has moved us almost 50 years hence. (Part I is here.)
Tradition and Revolution (cont'd.)

The notion of dogma terrifies men who do not understand the Church. They cannot conceive that a religious doctrine may be clothed in a clear, definite and authoritative statement without at once becoming static, rigid and inert and losing all its vitality. In their frantic anxiety to escape from any such conception they take refuge in a system of beliefs that is vague and fluid, a system in which truths pass like mists and waver and vary like shadows. They make their own personal selection of ghosts, in this pale, indefinite twilight of the mind. They take good care never to bring these abstractions out into the full brightness of the sun for fear of a full view of their unsubstantiality.

They favor the Catholic mystics with a sort of sympathetic regard, for they believe that these rare men somehow reached the summit of contemplation in defiance of Catholic dogma. Their deep union with God is supposed to have been an escape from the teaching authority of the Church, and an implicit protest against it.

But the truth is that the saints arrived at the deepest and most vital and also the most individual and personal knowledge of God precisely because of the church's teaching authority, precisely through the tradition that it is guarded and fostered by that authority.
We will hear more about where faithful adherence to the Church's dogma takes us in contemplation in Part IV.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Congratulations to CNMC Award Winners!

I see that the Catholic New Media Awards are over and the winners have been announced.. Congratulations to the winners, especially Jen at Conversion Diary who is a favorite of mine and definitely deserved to win the Best Blog by a Woman category.

Interestingly, I see that we have many of the same sorts of results that would come up long ago in the lighter, more fun and interesting award days. One or two big personalities/current favorites win most of the categories, with a few breakaways pulling the award away in some categories.

So no matter whether fun or boring, the cult of personality wins ... but not always. So can we go back to having fun awards? Puhleez?

Also, I don't know what I was thinking to not thank very much those who nominated me and then voted, and also the group who puts on the awards. Though I may have quibbles with their methodology, I fully appreciate their hard work in putting on the awards. I don't want to seem ungrateful; my criticism is meant constructively.

What's a Catholic Blog Doing With a Horoscope in the Sidebar?

Yukking it up, mostly.

I appreciate the many people who care enough to take the time and trouble to write mentioning that belief in horoscopes is against Church teachings. However, I would appreciate it equally, indeed actually much more, if right before sending that email, those same people would actually read the day's horoscope and perhaps click through to the cited sources: The Onion (warning, site can have explicit content) or Dr. Boli.

They would then see that 'tis all in good fun. Not to mention making fun of horoscopes.

Just in case there are any doubts, here is a random sampling. If they don't make you laugh (or smile at the very least) then we do not share the same sense of humor:
  • You'll soon discover three new planets, a dwarf star, and two orbiting satellites—an incredible achievement for someone just trying to peer in on his neighbor.

  • A surprise party looms in your future. Although, technically speaking, the "surprise" has more to do with how few people will show up.

  • You'll stop going with your gut and start listening to your heart, almost instantly ruining your career in public relations.

  • The stars foresee a time of great vagueness and something or other in your future. Also, there will be a chair.

  • Your science-fiction novel will be heralded as a "work of utmost urgency and importance" by critics in a mirror universe this week.

  • A panel of twelve jurors will soon find you guilty of a crime you didn't commit very well.

  • You will lose hours trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, moments after quickly and easily fitting a round peg into a square hole.

  • The stars are sorry, but writing greeting-card messages does not make you a poet. Take comfort in the fact that, since this is America, you'll make the lists anyway.

  • Lady Luck will be on your side this week. Unfortunately for you, Lady Skill, Lady Experience, and Lady Applied Probability Theory won't.

  • The stars are becoming a little upset at your constant pestering about the future. Would it kill you to maybe loosen up a little and live for the moment?

  • A double-inclined plane will—through the application of downward force—drive a wedge between you and your spouse this week.

  • People say you have one of the biggest egos in the world, but what they probably mean is best—one of the best egos in the world.
The true purpose of this post is not to complain, but actually to have something to link to so that I may take the preemptive move of directing people to this explanation before they go to the trouble of writing.

Thank you for your concern!

I thought my post about why I have horoscopes in the sidebar was definitive. Let me say this more bluntly, as it clearly is not definitive for those whose minds are unable to take in more than one concept concerning a subject. I am not endorsing horoscopes. I am explaining why my horoscopes are amusing and a mockery of regular horoscopes. It is not an apologia for the occult as anyone with half a brain can see. Take your soap box elsewhere. Thank you.

Loving Christ and Loving the Church

I probably have had my In Conversation with God books for seven or eight years. Although each entry has three sections and is around 6 (small) pages you would think that I would have absorbed a good bit of it by now so that it is, if not predictable, at least devoid of surprises. Still, on Monday, this paragraph hit me as something brand new. Not that I didn't already understand the sentiment. Just that I hadn't thought of it from this point of view. So I'm sharing it.
Those people who claim to approach Christ whilst leaving his Church to one side, and even causing her harm, may one day get the same surprise as Saint Paul did when he was on his way to Damascus; I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. (Acts 9:5). And, the Venerable Bede reflects that He does not say "why are you persecuting my members, but why are you persecuting me?" For He is still affronted in his Body, which is the Church. Paul did not know until that moment that to persecute the Church was to persecute Jesus himself. when he speaks about the Church later on, he does so in words that describe her as the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27), or simply as Christ (1 Cor 1:13); and he describes the faithful as members of Christ's Body (Rom 12:5). It is not possible to love, follow or listen to Christ, without loving, following or listening to the Church, because she is the presence, at once sacramental and mysterious, of Our Lord, who prolongs his saving mission in the world to the very end of time.
In Conversation with God - Vol. 4 - Ordinary Time, Weeks 13-23

Tradition and Revolution II

Continuing from yesterday, Merton goes on examining the popular concept of revolution as opposed to the revolutionary concept of Christian truth.
Tradition and Revolution (cont'd.)

A revolution is supposed to be a change that turns everything completely around. But the ideology of political revolution will never change anything except appearances. There will be violence, and power will pass from one party to another, but when the smoke clears and the bodies of all the dead men are underground, the situation will be essentially the same as it was before: there will be a minority of strong men in power exploiting all the others for their own ends. There will be the same greed and cruelty and lust and ambition and avarice and hypocrisy as before.

For the revolutions of men change nothing. The only influence that can really upset the injustice and iniquity of men is the power that breathes in Christian tradition, renewing our participation in the Life that is the Light of men.

To those who have no personal experience of this revolutionary aspect of Christian truth, but who see only the outer crust of dead, human conservatism that tends to form around the Church the way barnacles gather on the hull of a ship, all this talk of dynamism sounds foolish.

Each individual Christian and each new age of the Church has to make this rediscovery, this return to the source of Christian life.

It demands a fundamental act of renunciation that accepts the necessity of starting out on the way to God under the guidance of other men. This acceptance can be paid for only by sacrifice, and ultimately only a gift of God can teach us the difference between the dry outer crust of formality which the Church sometimes acquires from the human natures that compose it, and the living inner current of Divine Life which is the only real Catholic tradition.
In Part III Merton will move on to discussing Catholic dogma.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Two (Possibly) Helpful Tips for Dealing with Flies or Mosquitoes

Being as how we live in Texas we've got more than our fair share of these pests.

Tom had been wondering why a local restaurant has these bags of water hanging above their outdoor waiting area. Aha! They repel flies.

I saw the mosquitoes link in the post and that prompted Tom to look further where he found a homemade mosquito trap that we are going to try out. If this works it is brilliant in its simplicity.

"beatification of the great British convert and scholar, Cardinal John Henry Newman, is 'imminent."

Being as how I know I have at least two people who get their Catholic news from this blog (scary, right?), one of whom just told me that and made me feel guilty for not including more breaking Catholic news ... I feel it incumbent upon me to mention this news.
In an interview to be published on Wednesday in the daily Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Saraiva said that among the most important personalities to be beatified "soon" is "the case of Cardinal Newman, a relevant intellectual, and an emblematic figure of conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism."
Read the news release here.

Insanely Busy and Trying Not to Go Insane

Therefore I beg your indulgence on light posting. I have a post or two that I did over the weekend and other than that ... well, I have lots I'd like to write about. But it shall wait until my work and Beyond Cana retreat obligations get sorted out. Oh, right, and bill paying and suchlike.

Not wanting to be the only Catholic blog neglecting the Holy Father's latest encyclical ...

... I direct your attention to Caritas In Veritate, aka Charity in Truth. "Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine" says Pope Benedict in the second paragraph and I am looking forward to reading what he has to say on the subject.

Also, I see that Maureen is working her way through this which I am saving to read until after I have read it. I did see that she says:
Also, it’s pretty clear that Professor Ratzinger expects you to read Populorum Progressio as a key to his encyclical. So here’s a link to that. The year is 1967.
Aaargh. Isn't that just like the dear prof? First the homework. Then the encyclical!

Tradition and Revolution I

Our Catholic women's book club read New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton over Lent. Obviously I am very late in sharing some of it with you. Overall, the book was interesting because I'd never been able to get through one of Merton's books before. This one, a series of essays, which Merton wrote for himself as much as anything, contemplates what holiness means for each of us. Oh, as well as contemplation. That too.

I did not always agree with everything Merton said. Although many tend to view him as a saint, I remind us all that he was not. An interesting writer, yes. Striving for holiness, yes. A saint, no. Infallible, no.

That said, I really enjoyed the way that he was able to set examples forth in defense of Catholicism much of the time. This is something that I believe some who enjoy reading Merton may not realize, considering that when I see him quoted it is often to make an edgy point about orthodoxy in the Church.

I have wanted to share this with y'all for some time and perhaps now is the right time since I am finally getting around to it. I think it is definitely an essay that needs to be read in the times in which we are living.
Tradition and Revolution

The biggest paradox about the Church is that she is at the same time essentially traditional and essentially revolutionary. But that is not as much of a paradox as it seems, because Christian tradition, unlike all others, is a living and perpetual revolution.

Human traditions all tend toward stagnation and decay. They try to perpetuate things that cannot be perpetuated. They cling to objects and values which time destroys without mercy. They are bound up with a contingent and material order of things -- customs, fashions, styles and attitudes -- which inevitably change and give way to something else.

The presence of a strong element of human conservatism in the church should not obscure the fact that Christian tradition, supernatural in its source, is something absolutely opposed to human traditionalism.

The living tradition of Catholicism is like the breath of a physical body. It renews life by repelling stagnation. It is a constant, quiet, peaceful revolution against death.

As the physical act of breathing keeps the spiritual soul united to a material body whose very matter ends always to corrupt and decay, so Catholic tradition keeps the Church alive under the material and social and human elements which will be encrusted upon as long as it is in the world.

The reason why Catholic tradition is a tradition is because there is only one living doctrine in Christianity. The whole truth of Christianity has been fully revealed. It has not yet been fully understood or fully lived. The life of the Church is the Truth of God Himself, breathed out into the Church by His Spirit, and there cannot be any other truth to supersede and replace it.

The only thing that can replace such intense life is a lesser life, a kind of death. The constant human tendency away from God and away from this living tradition can only be counteracted by a return to tradition, a renewal and a deepening of the one unchanging life that was infused into the Church at the beginning.

And yet this tradition must always be a revolution because by its very nature it denies the values and standards to which human passion is so powerfully attached. To those who love money and pleasure and reputation and power this tradition says: "Be poor, go down into the far end of society, take the last place among men, live with those who are despised, love other men and serve them instead of making them serve you. Do not fight them when they push you around, but pray for those that hurt you. Do not look for pleasure, but turn away from things that satisfy your senses and your mind and look for God in hunger and thirst and darkness, through deserts of the spirit in which it seems to be madness to travel. Take upon yourself the burden of Christ's Cross, that is, Christ's humility and poverty and obedience and renunciation, and you will find peace for your souls.

This is the most complete revolution that has ever been preached; in fact, it is the only true revolution, because all the others demand the extermination of somebody else, but this one means the death of the man who, for all practical purposes, you have come to think of as your own self.
Part II is here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Joshua: Why Total Destruction of the Enemy?

Getting back to my basics, I have begun reading Joshua. It was when I was recommending the Navarre Bibles to a friend for their excellent commentary that I realized I had forgotten to read them myself lately. At one time, Rose was reading through the Old Testament using them which gave me the required excuse to purchase a volume here and a volume there. However, I never delved into them myself. I love how the commentaries not only cover the Jewish point of view but also what the Church Fathers have seen as a logical forerunner for Christ and Christian living.

I am supplementing this with my Archaeological Study Bible (which has an adamant "yay Protestant Biblical books choice!" cheering section of the introduction) which I know is deficient in some ways. However, their practically pure archaeological take on things is also eye opening. One must just keep in mind that they may fall short when it comes to Catholic teachings if they happen to comment on those things (which I haven't seen happen yet other than in their stern comments about which books should be in the Bible).

I'll be sharing some eye opening bits with y'all as I go along.

So let's start with this, which suddenly helped me understand the reasoning behind God's orders to raze conquered cities to the ground. Not to mention requiring every person and animal be slaughtered. Never could figure that out and although our weekly scripture studies have gone a long way toward making me see that a loving, merciful God is shown throughout the Old Testament, this issue never squared with that. Certainly I never thought about how that policy might have an inner meaning for me.

But, read on ... for naturally I just wasn't thinking deeply enough. I have italicized the parts that spoke to me but am quoting the entire commentary on this particular verse.
Deuteronomy 7:1-6, 25-26, 13:13-19 and particularly 20:16-18 lays down detailed instructions about the policy of utter destruction (anathema or "ban); Israel is told to obey these instructions to the letter, to avoid being contaminated by the idolatry of the Canaanites. A policy which to us seems quite incomprehensible, savage and inhuman, it needs to be seen inn its historical context and to be set in the framework of the gradual development of divine revelation. Total destruction of the enemy was common practice in antiquity, but the biblical laws about it were very strict; it could actually deter people from ungodly war: if all booty must be destroyed (treasure, livestock, or persons who could be turned into servants or slaves), then there is no point in embarking on war out of greed or for aggrandizement. Even so, we need to bear in mind that this was a temporary law, for that time only, so neither this nor any other passage of Holy Scripture can be used to justify the use of violence or criminal behavior. God's revelation to man was a gradual process culminating in the Incarnation of the Word. The preaching of Jesus is the true reference-point as regards respect for life and for the lawfully held property of others. In the sermon on the mount our Lord said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you maybe sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt 5:44-45).

In mystical writing we find allegorical interpretations of this commandment to the effect that the soul needs to be detached from everything in order to draw closer to God. Thus. St. John of the Cross comments that this order about total destruction is given "so that we may understand that to enter into union with the divine, everything that lives in the soul must die, what is great and small, of much worth or of little, and the soul must remain without lust for it all" (Ascent of Mount Carmel, 1, 11, 8).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

Civil War Women
from Old Picture of the Day
This makes me soooo grateful for modern conveniences like plumbing, stoves, and air conditioning.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Skeptoid: Sarah Palin is Not Stupid ... and He Sticks Up For Bill Maher Too

Skeptoid points out some of the main problems with an ad hominem attack on those you disagree with. Here's a bit. You can listen to this podcast at the link or read the transcript.
Today we're going to delve into the minds of those who actively promote misinformation, political oppression, terror, conspiracies, and anything else that detracts from the public good. What drives them to do so? Are they right in their own minds, or do they know that what they do is wrong? More importantly, what should we know and understand about these people? I'm going to go out on a limb and start with a concept that may seem shockingly politically incorrect to some: I'm going to disagree with the popular perception that Sarah Palin is nuts.

Let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, but first with the understanding that I don't know any more about her than you do; I've never met her either; and I didn't vote for her. Stupid people don't tend to attract contributors, managers, supporters, and electorates. ...
Coincidentally, The Anchoress discusses "Why Do They Hate Sarah Palin?"

Catholic Bible Dictionary, edited by Scott Hahn

INK Ancient forms of ink were made from wood, ivory, or other materials burned to create carbon that was then suspended in a gum or glue solution. Ink is mentioned specifically only in Jer 36:18; 2 Cor 3:3; 2 John 12; and 3 John 13.
I don't know about you, but flipping across this reference had me going to my Bible to find these ink references. This one small entry contains not only Biblical references but archeological information that sent me mentally back to those long ago days. I had never thought about ink, imagined what it would take to make it, or pictured those scribes refilling their supplies. Until I read that entry by chance while looking for something else.

Such is the power of a good reference book. We all know the enjoyable pursuit of idly following one reference to another, having our eye caught and then beginning on a new trail. These days with search engines we find those habits almost lost. However, this Biblical dictionary has been both informing me and provoking thought about faith and the word of God. As well, it has been a valuable reference. I learned all about Ezekiel (and his book) in preparing for attending scripture study on the readings for next Sunday's Mass. I looked into the excellent entry on the Ten Commandments for something I was writing for our church bulletin, as well as delving into the issue of covenant in a related set of writings. This has proven to be an invaluable resource in merely one week of having it in my hands.

There are over 5,000 entries which include key information about books of the Bible, archaeological information, language and imagery, ancient civilizations, sociological info about Biblical life and times, people and places, Church teachings and theology, and detailed maps. Information about books of the Bible always include thorough coverage of an overview, authorship and date, contents, and purpose and themes. These entries may cover many pages but are always clear and easy to understand, within the context of how difficult the subject matter may be.

The layout is easy to read and follow. There are clear sets of subheads to help follow the reasoning presented as well as make it easy to find a particular topic within each entry. The cross-indexing is excellent. I have never failed to find something I was looking for. The scriptural references, as one would expect, are thorough. It is easy to track the reasoning for the entries through the Bible and the Catechism. As well, the book itself is handsome. The jacket image is actually printed on the hardback cover, which impressed me. This is a book that is designed to last and be useful.

In short, this is an impressive reference designed for frequent, easy use. I highly recommend it.

I will leave you with another short entry. Notice how much information is packed into it while still keeping it easy to understand. Especially take note of the last sentence which provides us with good food for thought in considering Jesus' sacrificial role.
HYSSOP A plant noted for its dense leaves and its habit of grown on walls (1 Kgs 4:33; cf. Lev 14:6; Num 19:6; Heb 9:19). Scholars believe that the hyssop in Scripture was the herb we call marjoram. hyssop was used especially in liturgical rites for sprinkling the blood of the Passover on the doorposts in Egypt (Exod 12:21-22; cf Num 19:18; Heb 9:19). Hyssop was used also in the purification of lepers (Lev 14;4-6) and the house of a leper (Lev 14:49-52). John (John 19:29; cf. Matt 27:48; Mark 15:36) makes mention of a branch of hyssop used to offer Jesus a sponge soaked in vinegar. This is probably an allusion to the use of hyssop in the Passover, dipped in the blood of the Paschal lamb.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Envoy Magazine - They Found the Beef

At the conference, we were all given a free Envoy magazine. I used to be a faithful subscriber and then they went away for a while. Upon returning, they sent me a copy and looking through it I thought it was too "basic" for my reading needs. Still good, but I was just past needing that Catholic 101 info.

Imagine my pleased surprise upon looking through this latest edition and finding it seems to be more substantial, "beefier" if you will, than before. It is changing from bimonthly to quarterly but if that means material like that I have been reading then I welcome it.

Although, that layout. Really guys? What if we didn't love Peter Kreeft so much that we would risk eyestrain to read his writing? Please. Help us out here.

Of course, regular readers know that layout is something I'm sensitive to...