Friday, October 30, 2009

On not being afraid of the dark ...

It's a recurring theme in my books that Satan's chief power is the power of the lie. Any lie will do for him. He's equally happy to tell a Satanist that Darkness will conquer, or to tell a Christian that music with a back beat will inevitably lead to demonic possession. The way out is always to repent and submit to Jesus' lordship, not to learn some magic word or technique that will give us power over elemental forces.

That's why Halloween doesn't bother me much.

I don't give away candy, it's true, but that's because middle-aged single men giving candy to children is, like, creepy.
Brandywine Books hits the nail on the head.

Ghosties and Ghoulies

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Scottish Saying
So here's the other thing about this whole experience with Dad and dreadful illness and family coming together and many, many people praying and feeling strange movings of the Holy Spirit coming over them to intercede for my father.

Just in case we thought that only God cares? No. It has become very apparent that, just as before a retreat comes up, the Enemy is irate over the idea of something good happening that can change people's lives for the better; that can send them to eternal bliss with God instead of separate them forever from that light.

I won't go into details other than to say some is silly petty annoyance and some are downright Halloween-worthy encounters. (I have to say, more than I have ever come across for a retreat.) However, the effect of these attempts has been to tip the Enemy's hand. That's clumsy. And what's easy to see is something that can be fought and opposed by prayer, faithful striving to let God shine through, and just plain loving each other while trying to do our best as a family. Which is a beautiful thing to see.

It's a really good reminder as well. That's just how precious an eternal soul is. Just in case we forget or doubt it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Father

My father will be going into hospice probably tomorrow afternoon. This might not sound like good news but it definitely is the best of the options available for his condition. I admire my mother so much for stepping up to support her husband in love and help him make the decisions he is too confused to properly consider right now. She has gone through so much grieving and, of course, will continue to do so but she was a source of quiet strength for Dad today.

A few days ago when he was much less coherent than he is right now, my father was telling me that he'd like an Irish wake. I told him that I'd rather have an Irish welcome home celebration. He somehow latched onto that and this morning when he decided that hospice was the best course, then wanted to get on with planning the party.

So we are throwing ourselves into getting his "welcome home" party planned. Ok, to be totally truthful, my sister has taken charge of that (thank goodness, because my "taking charge" batteries are all run down right now). We are seeing about appetizers from his favorite restaurant (Ocean Zen), with pastries reminiscent of some favorites from his youth, crossing our fingers that the guest list will not have Halloween parties to attend until later in the evening, and suchlike. All this goes on with regular hospital visits and assigned tasks to do with clearing out their home for rental, etc.

This afternoon when my brother and I spent a few hours with Dad, he was telling the most hilarious stories and we were laughing so hard that we could hardly breathe. A prep session, perhaps, for the party.

I am so thankful for all the prayers. I know that they made a huge difference. Although there have been many problems, difficult decisions, and much crying and heart-rending pain, there have also been many examples of love and sacrifice offered up for each other in our little family in service of each other. This morning was the culmination of all that. I prayed for the Holy Spirit to flow and for God's will to be done and I believe that it is, as best we can carry it out. The way suddenly became smoother, as often happens, and various people at peace and in harmony as we worked our way through the day.

Halloween News Tidbit

Controlled studies have measured the effects of sugar consumption on behavior and cognitive performance and failed to find any connection. See for example this meta-analysis. There have even been interesting studies where parents were asked to observe kids behavior. When the parents thought the kids had eaten sugar, they reported changes in behavior--even when the kids had actually been given a placebo. See this article for more on the sugar-hyperactivity myth.
Read it all and get the links at Nutrition Diva.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chaput Tosses Together a Tasty Salad of Politics, American History, and Catholicism: Render Unto Caesar

I am long overdue in reviewing Render Unto Caesar by Charles J. Chaput. It is a brilliant book. Overall it is an examination of how to be Catholic and involved in political life. In the United States, this actually applies to each and every Catholic. How we weigh which candidates to vote for, how we decide which public issues to become involved in, how we even evaluate what the media tells us about the world at large, should all be examined through a lens of Catholic faith.

For me, just as important is Chaput's examination of the history of Catholics in America. He doesn't dwell on the oft-mentioned "persecuted minority" that many Catholic histories mention, but instead focuses on why history teaches us it is important to be involved in government. As Chaput says, "Christian faith is always personal but never private."

It is difficult to be more eloquent than previous reviewers. What I can tell you is that, unlikely as it seems, I read this book in a dead heat in the space of a week. It captivated me with the well-stated, compelling reasoning that is Chaput's hallmark. I also really respect Chaput for his ability to be very even-handed. That is established firmly at the very beginning with the list of what the book is not, which I offer in abbreviated excerpt below.
Let me explain what this book will not do. It will not endorse any political party or candidate. Both major U.S. political parties have plenty of good people in their ranks. Neither party fully represents a Catholic way of thinking about social issues. One of the lessons we need to learn from the last fifty years is that a preferred American "Catholic" party doesn't exist. ...

This book will not feed anyone's nostalgia for a Catholic golden age. The past usually looks better as it fades in the rearview mirror. ... After listening to some ten thousand personal confessions over thirty-seven years of priesthood, I'm very confident that the details of daily life change over time but human nature doesn't. ...

This book will not be an academic study or a work of formal scholarship. ... On the other hand, this book certainly does claim to be a statement of common sense amply supported by history, public record, and fact. ...

Finally, this book doesn't offer any grand theory. It does offer thoughts based on my nineteen years as an American Catholic bishop and my interest in our common history. I believe that our nation's public life, like Christianity itself is meant for everyone, and everyone has a duty to contribute to it. The American experiment depends on the active involvement of all its citizens, not just lobbyists, experts, think tanks, and the mass media. for Catholics, politics--the pursuit of justice and the common good--is part of the history of salvation. No one is a minor actor in that drama. Each person is important ...

... Ultimately I believe that all of us who call ourselves American and Catholic need to recover what it really means to be "Catholic." "We also need to find again the courage to be Catholic Christians first--not in opposition to our country, but to serve its best ideals.
Highly recommended ... oh, and yes, I received the book from the publisher. But I'd tell you to read it even if I didn't.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

For Dad, Who Loves the Fall Leaves


Both are from Visual Thoughts, where DL Ennis has many more gorgeous photos.

St. Dismas, pray for us

Pax of Ariberto from The Lion & the Cardinal

Intercessions
With reverence and love, let us lay before our God the needs of the world: R:Hear us, O God our Savior!

Who I'm Praying for Today
  • Dad, who is extremely close to meeting His Maker.
  • For Mom, who is not ready to let Dad go.
  • For Joanette and her job application ... Lord guide her in the way she should go
  • An end to abortion and a reverence for life in all stages of age and health.
  • Our priests and for vocations
  • Abortion providers, Lord open their eyes and hearts
  • Strength, joy and peace for oppressed Christians in China, Asia, and the Middle East. Also that their oppressors may have their eyes opened to the truth. And for all those oppressed, actually.
  • Plus a whole lot of previous intentions mentioned here and for the intentions mentioned around St. Blog's Parish. Although they are usually mentioned here for only about a week, the prayers continue as these intentions go into my prayer journal.

Something to Laugh About ... Especially if You are a Film School Student

Which means, of course, that I got this from Rose.



Click on the image to enlarge it.

I especially liked Antz and Shrek from the Dreamworks offerings so we really need not have any arguments. But you gotta admit it's pretty funny.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Litany: Reparation to Our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist

Via Knit and Pray.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.

God the Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.

Sacred Host, offered for the salvation of sinners, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, annihilated on the altar for us and by us, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, despised by lukewarm Christians, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, mark of contradiction, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, delivered over to Jews and heretics, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, insulted by blasphemers, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, Bread of angels, given to animals, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, flung into the mud and trampled underfoot, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, dishonored by unfaithful priests, have mercy on us.
Sacred Host, forgotten and abandoned in Thy churches, have mercy on us.

Be merciful unto us,
Pardon us, O Lord.

Be merciful unto us,
Hear us, O Lord.

For the outrageous contempt of this most wonderful Sacrament, we offer Thee our reparation.
For Thine extreme humiliation in Thine admirable Sacrament, we offer Thee our reparation.
For all unworthy Communions, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the irreverences of wicked Christians, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the profanation of Thy sanctuaries, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the holy ciboriums dishonored and carried away by force, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the continual blasphemies of impious men, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the obduracy and treachery of heretics, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the unworthy conversations carried on in Thy holy temples, we offer Thee our reparation.
For the profaners of Thy churches which they have desecrated by their sacrileges, we offer Thee our reparation.

That it may please Thee to increase in all Christians the reverence due to this adorable Mystery, we beseech Thee, hear us.
That it may please Thee to manifest the Sacrament of Thy Love to heretics, we beseech Thee, hear us.
That it may please Thee to grant us the grace to atone for their hatred by our burning love for Thee, we beseech Thee, hear us.
That it may please Thee that the insults of those who outrage Thee may rather be
directed against ourselves, we beseech Thee, hear us.
That it may please Thee graciously to receive this our humble reparation, we beseech Thee, hear us.
That it may please Thee to make our adoration acceptable to Thee, we beseech Thee, hear us.

Pure Host, hear our prayer.
Holy Host, hear our prayer.
Immaculate Host, hear our prayer.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.

V. See, O Lord, our affliction,
R. And give glory to Thy Holy Name.

Let Us Pray
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who dost deign to remain with us in Thy wonderful Sacrament to the end of the world, in order to give to Thy Father, by the memory of Thy Passion, eternal glory, and to give to us the Bread of life everlasting: Grant us the grace to mourn, with a heart full of sorrow, over the injuries which Thou hast received in this adorable Mystery, and over the many sacrileges which are committed by the impious, by heretics and by bad Catholics.

Inflame us with an ardent zeal to repair all these insults to which, in Thine infinite mercy, Thou hast preferred to expose Thyself rather than deprive us of Thy Presence on our altars, Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest one God, world without end. R. Amen.

Sweet Mother ...

Dulce Madre, no te alejes.
Tu vista de mi no apartes.
Ven conmigo a todas partes, y solo(a) nunca me dejes.
Ya que me proteges tanto, como verdadera Madre,
Haz que me bendiga el Padre, el Hijo, y el Espíritu Santo.
Amén.

Sweet Mother, do not part from me.
Do not lose me from your sight.
Accompany me everywhere and never leave me all alone.
Because you protect me like a true Mother,
Obtain for me the blessing of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
If you have not yet come across Mexico Bob then you are missing a real treat. Go read all about this dulce prayer.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feeling God's Love Through the Kindness of Strangers

What a day.

It began with Mom and me talking on the phone and admitting to each other that we'd been walking around crying over everything. Gray and rainy and cold outside with nary a stray sunbeam to lighten the mood. I lost my phone charger. I locked myself out of my hotel room.

Through all this Mom and I trudged on to the hospital to see Dad and found small touches of the miraculous everywhere we turned.

It began with a kind friend who wrote to ask about Dad's progress (not good, by the way). After relating similar experiences (although much worse sounding to me) he then wrote with simple eloquence, "God is merciful. This is how he forms us all to become more like his Son."

I can't tell you how that hit me. Like a reality check and a caress at the same time. It reminded me of how earnestly I had prayed a couple of weeks before to draw closer to Jesus, to be more like Him no matter what it took (and so sorry for the fear behind that prayer, Lord, as always). Prayers being answered, friends sending the word. Beautiful.

At the hospital we rolled into the Step Down unit and Mom cried out delightedly, "JOSEPHINE!" A charming, smiling Asian nurse had been Mom's favorite nurse when Dad was in the Critical Care unit. Today she was Dad's nurse again. For Mom it was like a touch of home and relaxation to find that someone she likes so well was taking care of Dad.

Then on to the palliative care nurse who was genuinely interested in the story of how Mom and Dad met, what their lives were like together and so on. She was able to explain the hospice concept and how it might apply to Dad while, amazingly, remaining just detached enough that we did not worry about it happening soon. She also showed us a great elevator trick for getting around lines since Mom is in a wheelchair because the long hospital halls are too much for her wonky knee.

Getting lunch from a little cafe in the hospital, a complete stranger left his own lunch waiting on the counter while he suddenly appeared out of nowhere at our table with our lunches. A lady from a nearby table stopped on her way out and told us to have a good day, just out of the blue. It left us feeling happy and left me uplifted. Which, as Happy Catholic, I had to share with her that for a Christian those are little pats and hugs from God to tell us He loves us, that He's with us, that we're not alone ... delivered by all those around us. Which she took ok ...

Then later in talking about someone who was experiencing the results of bad behavior and how it just hurt him more than anyone else ... she said, "I suppose God, if you believed in him, doesn't really ever punish anyone. He just lets you go your own way and you reap the consequences of bad decisions."

She is so smart and perceptive. It astounded me that she even brought God into the equation at all. We then had a very short exchange about free will and the fact that love is never true unless it is freely given. (amen!)

When I checked email tonight I had a message from another good friend who has had Dad on his mind for prayers for some time. As this friend has told me more than once, it is NOT his common practice to pray for various fathers of anyone. Today he suddenly thought of praying the Sacred Heart of Jesus novena for Dad to the point where he had to pull over and begin.

Those who read this blog regularly will know that I have a special love for that novena, which I include below.
O Lord Jesus Christ, to your most Sacred Heart I confide this intention. Only look upon me, then do what your love inspires. Let your Sacred Heart decide. I count on you. I trust in you. I throw myself on your mercy. Lord Jesus, you will not fail me.
(Mention your request)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in your love for me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, your kingdom come.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked you for many favors, but I earnestly implore this one. Take it, place it in your open heart. When the Eternal Father looks upon it, he will see it covered with your Precious Blood. It will no longer be my prayer, but yours, Jesus. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Let me not be disappointed. Amen.
The line "When the Eternal Father looks upon it, he will see it covered with your Precious Blood. It will no longer be my prayer, but yours, Jesus" is my favorite. How could my friend's prayers for my father not be Jesus' own prayer?

I am so grateful for the kindness of friends and strangers ... and for the glimpses of the loving God they showed me today. I did not ask for it. I did not expect it. Which makes it even more of a humbling gift to receive.

Thank you, O Lord.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ask Dr. Boli ...

Dr. Boli's most recent addition to the allegorical bestiary features a creature well known to Texans and I couldn't resist printing the entire thing ... his description of the henroaches running management made me laugh out loud.
Dear Dr. Boli,

How come female cockroaches are not called henroaches?

Sincerely yours,
Desperate in Chicago

Dr. Boli is a little surprised by this question, but he supposes that the subtler points of entomology are no longer routinely taught except to specialists. In his youth it was well known that female cockroaches are in fact called henroaches, but the term seems to have been nearly forgotten, in the same way that it is common now for even ornithologists to observe a flock of ducks without remarking that some of them are drakes.

Roaches are capitalistic by nature, and their colonies are run like any well-managed corporation. The cockroaches are the manual labor of the establishment, busy with the ordinary affairs of the company, such as skittering, foraging, and manufacturing small plastic goods for the domestic market. The henroaches, on the other hand, are in the management end of the business. They sit at the small desks which the cockroaches have painstakingly fashioned for them with their mandibles out of bits of wood, writing reports to each other, reading flowcharts, and ordering catered luncheons. Most of the concrete decisions in the colony are made by outside consultants hired from reputable firms at nearly ruinous rates.

Allegorically, the cockroach represents the planet Neptune, which was rather a latecomer to the game, having been discovered at a time when the stock of allegorical representatives had been thoroughly picked over.

Unbelievably ... this photo was shot from a kite

Read all about it in this Macworld article. (via New Advent)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just Checking In for a Sec ...

... my dad is not doing very well right now. He goes in tomorrow for surgery for a port to begin dialysis. Although there are also issues with heart and lungs, helping his kidneys "wake up" is the best chance to help the whole system.

If it works, we shall see how things go from there.

If not, well, then that's bad news.

My poor mom had to absorb all this today, which was the first day we had an overall report from a doctor.

I so appreciate the prayers of everyone in this matter.

This evening Mom mentioned that everyone was so nice and considerate around the hospital. I thought that was probably because for everyone except new parents, we are all in it together with something sad somewhere being visited on someone we love. And we all know that we're in it together. It makes me pray for everyone I see when I walk through there.

Nothing new in terms of revelation, but never a bad thing to remember.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

She's leaving town .... bye, bye

Actually I am leaving town tomorrow to drive to Springfield.

Dad's hospital stay has become more extended than originally thought. If I have learned nothing else from Tom's Dad's extended hospital stay before he died a few years ago, it was that emotional support matters much more than the idea that one can "do" anything in the situation.

This is where they also serve who only sit and wait (if I haven't mangled that quote).

Anyway, I have a few posts that will show up Friday and Saturday and then we shall see how much time, energy, and inspiration I have for more.

Actually, I know I'll have inspiration. Getting a leaky tire looked at this morning turned into an extended wait with not enough to do (no tread on the tires meant new tires, alignment needed, oh and natch the brakes were "metal on metal" in the back ... thank Heavens for that leaky tire!). Plus I grabbed the wrong book ... Mark Shea's vol. 2 of Mary, Mother of the Son. Not that any of his trilogy are ever wrong but I had finished it and meant to grab vol. 3 which I began last night.

Providential. Of course.

I read through the parts I had marked up (lots of those). Pondered. Read through them a second and third time. Then in the middle of mentally complaining yet again about all the time this was taking, all the money this was costing, the lack of a new book to read, the guy next to me using his cell phone ... oh, yeah, and it is gray again outside ... so I was suffering, y'all ... S.U.F.F.E.R.I.N.G.

(I know ... what a whiner, right?)

Then it hit me.

I was suffering.

(Ok, mostly I was annoyed but it counted anyway.)


Glory be to God and thank you!

I had an overflowing bounty to join with Christ's suffering which I could offer up for my father and mother.

What a difference a thought like that can make.

I was not wanting new problems to surface but as the annoyances continued I could honestly say, "thank you" for each one and hold it up to Christ.

Now that the suffering wasn't being wasted, of course, it no longer bothered me nearly as much. In fact, I would smile when something presented itself.

Glory be, how I love being Catholic.

(Oh, and now my nice, safe, overhauled car feels as if I am floating on air when I drive...like new. God's economy, y'all.)

Improvised Music, Improvised Magic, and a Canine Companion (and yes he's magic too)

I first read about Dog Days in a review at SF Site. Luckily the library had a copy although I probably will be buying my own. This book grabbed me by the throat and I couldn't put it down. It's been a long time since I've been kept up turning pages until around midnight ... and I'd forgotten how good it felt to be interested by a compelling story.

Mason's forte is improvisation. His talent makes him a good jazz musician though if he weren't too lazy to practice he could be a great one. Likewise his talent makes him a good improvisational magic practitioner though, again, if he practiced he could be great ... and I'm not talking about pulling rabbits out of a hat. With Lou who is, for lack of a more precise term, a magical dog-ish companion, Mason makes out ok and enjoys his life.

Until, of course, increasingly stronger magical attacks begin on his life. This sends him to consult his mentor, Eli, and we then become introduced to more about this universe's construction of magic and the people who practice it in San Francisco. As we would expect the story builds to the climax of Mason and Lou versus the evil magic user who is perpetrating some truly heinous crimes for a number of very bad reasons.

Levitt knows how to write a story that keeps the reader on the edge of his seat. Even though Mason might sound like a slacker, this story is the beginning of a series. From Mason's reaction to hearing true assessments of his character, lack of ambition, and potential, we can see that there may be changes taking place over time as he reevaluates priorities. Lou is a lovable character, partially because of how fond Mason is of him and that is another point in Mason's favor.

This is something along the lines of the early Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone. Person to person." -- Mother Teresa

On the way to the church, I had seen a man standing on the corner of Farnam and Saddle Creek Road with a cardboard sign that said, “HOMELESS – EVERYTHING HELPS.” Beggars are not uncommon in this half of town, and when I see them, I always think of “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” God gave me a weak spot in my heart for beggars. When I look at them I can’t see anything but Jesus. If I can, I give them what they ask for.

So today I got back in my car and drove to that intersection. The man was still there. I parked in the lot behind him and approached him. He was an older man, a Native American with longer, wispy gray hair, wrinkles, and a few missing teeth. He wore a Colorado Rockies jacket over a thin dark tank-top. He greeted me with a mixture of hope and uncertainty.

“Hi,” I said. “I don’t have any cash with me, but if you’re hungry I’ll buy you dinner across the street.” I gestured to the Don and Millie’s restaurant on the other side of Saddle Creek.

“You want to?” he asked with just a shade of disbelief.

“Yeah, if you’re hungry,” I said. He nodded and folded his sign into a tattered backpack. “Meet me there, ok?” I said. He nodded again and went to cross the street. I drove my car around to the restaurant (not easily – from that corner, it involved two U-turns).

We went inside and I noticed he smelled strongly of alcohol. I asked him what he wanted. He briefly examined the menu, then said “Whatever is cheapest.”

“No, what do you want?” I said. ...
I have a feeling Mother Teresa approved heartily of Brad following his convictions. Go read the entire thing. It makes me remember that it is easy to talk, not so easy to do. But we must all make the effort or no one ever steps out and does an act of kindness for anyone.

The Beauty of Being Used Up

Long ago you founded the earth
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish but you will remain.
They will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like clothes that are changed.
But you neither change, nor have an end.


A beautiful depiction of the constant-renewal of the world and all Creation in it, including you and me. I prayed the psalms and considered the slow lifting of the darkness on this overcast autumn day, the first-turning leaves, from green-to-gold. Summertime has reached its absolute fullness, and -being wholly and fully summer, and incapable of being more of what it is- it leaves us now, and the slow but inexorable winter begins the process of reaching its culmination, of becoming wholly and fully winter, until it can be no more of winter, and so forth.

God arrays himself in the splendor of all of it, wears it out like garments needing changing.

And that is us, as well. If we are to be Christ to each other, to become the presence of God that is Love, Mercy and Justice, to each other, then our whole life is, like winter and summer, the quest to become wholly and fully ourselves, who we were created to be, in Christ, until we cannot be more of what we are.

Does this mean more when I read it because we have had day after day of gray autumnal weather here? Maybe. I love autumn. Does it mean more because my father has taken a turn for the worse and so I naturally turn my thoughts to last things? Maybe. I love my father. Is it because God is asking me to stretch for Him again and take on a new thing? Maybe. It is like all those things He has asked of me, enticing but means putting myself out there more than is strictly comfortable.

All I know is that The Anchoress's thoughts right now are just what I needed to read.

There is more and I think I will be printing it out to ponder and reread slowly, in my own time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For the Girls: Boxer Report

How our baby has grown!

Baby Wash and almost year-old Zoe.
This is probably from late June? Maybe early July?


I think this is from about when you both left to go to school.
Maybe a bit earlier than that.

So in answer to questions about how big Wash has gotten ...


He is now taller than Zoe. Though you can't tell it from this photo.
They were "watching" the game yesterday with us.


And as you may recall, though this is an old photo,
they both are usually much more active.
That hasn't changed a bit, no matter what the age!

3rd Commandment

Requested by at least a couple of people, written for our parish bulletin, part of an occasional series. Edited slightly to include a couple of resources I came across after writing it originally.
Living our faith in the real world
The Third Commandment:
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.90

2168 The third commandment of the Decalogue recalls the holiness of the sabbath: “The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.”92 ...

2172 God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”96 The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.97
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sabbath rest implies that there is an obligation to work on the previous six days (v9). Work is the only justification for rest. The Hebrew word sabat actually means "sabbath" and "rest." But on this day rest acquires a cultic value, for no special sacrifices or rites are prescribed for the sabbath: the whole community, and even animals, render homage to God by ceasing from their labors.
The Navarre Bible, commentary on Exodus 20: 8-11

God rested, not because he was tired. God rested to celebrate, to savor, to delight in, to play, to revel in the creation, to say, "It is good." God rested and declared it holy. In that rest, God is affirming that there is nothing to prove. We are invited to enter that rest. Sabbath is the invitation to rest from the tyranny of pursuit. ...
The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey
==================
This commandment is desperately needed in our modern times, perhaps because it is difficult to think of one that is more commonly ignored.

The key to understanding and observance is to remember that God did not institute the commandments for His own good. He needs nothing. He instituted them out of love for our good.

As human beings we need rest. We need leisure. We need to spend time with our families. Most of all we need to reflect, to read, and perhaps most of all, to cultivate silence in which to meditate upon our relationship with God. These things are essential not only to benefit our families, culture, and society, but they are essential for our souls’ well being.

There is all too much pulling us in a thousand different directions. It takes a determined stand to hold apart even an hour or two to bring things to a halt and rest without worrying about what is next on the “to do” list. Yet the benefits to our souls from this rest are countless. Remember, even God took a day of rest after a busy week of work. He didn’t need it. He knew that we do. Once again, He has gone first and we have only to be determined to follow in His footsteps. Make a serious effort to keep the Sabbath holy, even if only for an hour or two at first. It will make a difference.

Perhaps most interesting is the reminder from The Navarre commentary quoted above that God doesn't prescribe how we take rest, simply that we do so. It is the rest itself which is holy. That is a freeing concept that invites us to self evaluation and prayer to determine just what it is that we need to let go from the week so that we may have renewed vigor when we take it up again the next day. This can be surprisingly difficult to do, as practitioners of keeping the Sabbath will testify. It is at the moment when we are struggling not to turn on the computer or clean out that drawer or write up that report that we discover just how addictive work is to our society and in our own lives.

As we have noted before, it can be helpful to examine our consciences in light of a this consideration. The examination below is offered in that spirit.

Examination of Conscience*: 3rd Commandment
  • Do I set time aside each day for personal prayer to God?
  • Have I missed Mass on Sunday or Holy Days (through own fault without sufficient reason)?
  • Have I committed a sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament?
  • Have I received a sacrament while in the state of mortal sin?
  • Do I habitually come late to and/or leave early from Mass without a good reason?
  • Do I shop, labor, or do business unnecessarily on Sunday or other Holy Days of Obligation?
  • Do I not attend to taking my children to Mass?
  • Do I knowingly eat meat on a forbidden day (or not fasting on a fast day)?
  • Do I eat or drink within one hour of receiving Communion (other than medical need)?
=================
Footnotes
90 Ex 20:8-10; cf. Deut 5:12-15.
92 Ex 31:15.

93 Ex 20:11.
94 Deut 5:15.

95 Cf. Ex 31:16.
96 Ex 31:17; cf. 23:12.

* An examination of conscience is not intended to be a checklist used only in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. The purpose is to help souls know what actions or attitudes are sinful and realize the gravity of committing them. This may help in avoidance or in turning away from sin and towards God and joy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy Birthday. Make a Wish.



I had forgotten all about this video, which I saw a version of at Deacon Greg's. I have done many things that I deeply regret in my life, but am grateful that I never was in a position of having to regret abortion. Believe me, raised in a completely secular way, I would not have thought of it in the way that I do now.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A National Model for Choosing LIfe on College Campuses

Lacy Dodd, a 33-year-old banking professional and mother of one, knows precisely where supporters and opponents of legal abortion can find common ground.

It's on nearly four acres donated by the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C., where Room at the Inn, a Charlotte-based pregnancy resource center, hopes to build the nation's first campus-based maternity and after-care residence for pregnant college students.

[...]

"The great unique thing about our project is that it's nonpartisan, it's an initiative that everyone can support," Dodd told CNS Sept. 29. "Pro-life or pro-choice, if we want women to feel that they have a choice, this is where we can all agree.

"The lack of resources is a huge cause of abortion," she added. "If women feel that they don't have the emotional resources, the financial resources, the educational resources" that they need to choose to give birth, "we can focus on giving them that choice."
This is very timely reading for me personally as I finish editing the final episode of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The last chapter is from Harriet Beecher Stowe and ends with a heartfelt exhortation to Christians to get involved in offering resources to help set slaves free as well as to support freed slaves in their midst, in the cases of those in the North.

As I read it aloud, and am now listening, I cannot but be struck by the fact that her point is directly applicable to the pro-life cause. If every mother who was facing a choice of giving life or having an abortion felt that they had something to fall back on in support while they were pregnant and later, how many would choose life? The change of hearts we need begins on our side in making sure resources are available and then that will help hearts change in those making that huge decision.

Thanks to Tony Rossi for sending me the story. You can hear an interview with Lacy Dodd on Christopher Closeup, the half-hour weekly radio interview produced by the Christophers, to mark Respect Life Month in October.

The radio interview airs Oct. 4, Respect Life Sunday, at 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. EDT on the Catholic Channel (Sirius 159 and XM 117), on the Relevant Radio network at 2:30 p.m. and online as a podcast.

2nd commandment, Part 2

As at least a couple of people have requested, written for our parish bulletin, part of our occasional series.
Living our faith in the real world
The Second Commandment:
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”1 This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”2

God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” The commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
==================
If we really take this concept at face value, as we should since it comes from Our Lord directly, then everything we do should reflect our relationship with God. Difficult as that is to remember in daily living, we can be helped immeasurably if we think of the ten commandments as our guideposts in how to respond to God in love.

Where does that leave us when considering the second commandment in our lives? It may help us to briefly review from the previous insert on the second commandment when we examined why the ancients had a different understanding of this commandment than we do. Names conveyed such an essential reflection of the person themselves that pagans used them in conjuring. God’s people understood this sense from the fact that a change of name reflected a true change of character as well. They understood this so well that when Jesus proclaimed using “I am” which was God’s name alone, they tried to stone him for claiming to be God.

Such reactions to names these days likely would draw accusations of being superstitious to give a mere word such power. Yet, let us reflect for a moment on the fact that names are likely to still contain a great deal of power for us.

Which of us would care to hear someone using our mother’s name as a curse of frustration? How many of us could remain calm if hearing our child’s name used casually to express contempt for someone? We know and love those people and the idea of hearing them used as figures of fun or scorn in casual conversation would rouse us to fiercest anger. At the very least, this helps us understand just how far we are from knowing God as a person who we truly love if we regularly show disrespect for His name or laugh it off when others do so.

Hand in hand with our modern incomprehension of a name being important, goes the concept that to lie using God’s name is a sin. At the least, many people consider this old fashioned. However, let us remember that to call on God’s support in things that are contrary to His nature shows how very little we know or love God. In fact, it brings to light the fact that we are claiming a closeness to God which cannot exist.

Still another way that this commandment can be disobeyed in daily life is if we place responsibility on God for our own actions or use Him as a scapegoat for failures. This is a way of making God’s name exist to serve us rather than acknowledging that quite the contrary is true. Part of our essential job as disciples is to bear witness to God’s greatness, certainly not the other way around.

As when we examined the first commandment, it can be very helpful to examine our consciences in light of a deeper consideration of just what the second commandment really means. The examination below is offered in that spirit.

Examination of Conscience*: 2nd Commandment
  • Do I show disrespect for God’s name by misusing it out of frustration or anger or to look “tough” to others?
  • Have I sworn a false oath or lied, using God’s name to prove my sincerity?
  • Do I hesitate to mention God’s name in appropriate situations, in conversations with friends and family members?
  • Do I fail to keep vows or promises made to God?
  • Do I blame God for our failings?
  • Do I continue to learn about God by paying attention in church, religion class and through paying attention to Catholic periodicals, articles on religion in the secular press and television programs?
==================
Footnotes
1 Mt 22:37; cf. Lk 10:27:”. . . and with all your strength.”
2 Deut 6:4.
* An examination of conscience is not intended to be a checklist used only in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. The purpose is to help souls know what actions or attitudes are sinful and realize the gravity of committing them. This may help in avoidance or in turning away from sin and towards God and joy.

Friday Litany: New Testament Litany of Mary

Since October is the Month of the Rosary, I thought that a litany to Mary would be nice. There are many out there but this one connected with my meditations when saying the rosary. So here we have it.
New Testament Litany of Mary

R: Pray for us.

Mary, Daughter of Sion

Mary, Temple of the Lord

Mary, Ark of the Covenant

Mary, New Eve and Mother of the Living

Mary, Faithful Remnant of Israel


R: Pray that we may hear the Word of God and act on it.

Blessed Mary, ever full of grace

Blessed Mary, you welcomed the Lord into our midst

Blessed Mary, the Holy Spirit came to you and God's Power enveloped you

Blessed Mary, you are favored above all women

Blessed Mary, the Lord has accomplished great things in you

Blessed Mary, you went in haste to render service to Elizabeth

Blessed Mary, you brought forth Him who is our Saviour, Emmanuel, God-with-us

Blessed Mary, you took delight in Jesus' growth in wisdom, age, and grace

Holy Mary, from the compassion you showed at Cana

Holy Mary, from your experience of anguish and loneliness

Holy Mary, from your joy at the resurrection

Holy Mary, from your prayer in the Pentecost Church

Holy Mary, from your life of fidelity

Holy Mary, from your hope in the fulfillment of God's promises

Holy Mary, from your love of God and God's People

R: Lead us to your Son

Mary, Mother of our God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ

Mary, our Mother

Mary, Mother of the Church

Mary, woman of heavenly glory

Mary, woman clothed with the sun

Mary, first among the redeemed

Mary, image of the Church perfected

Mary, sign of hope and consolation

Lord God, our Father,
Receive us.

Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary,
Receive us.

Spirit of Life and Truth and Love,
Receive us.

Let us pray:

Blessed are you,
O Lord our God,
for the great things you have accomplished in Mary,
the Virgin Mother of your Son.
By the power of the Holy Spirit
she is for us a model and sign of faith and hope.
May we come to welcome you as she did,
to treasure all that you send us in love,
and to ponder the Great Mystery,
hidden for ages,
and now made known to us in Jesus the Lord.

All praise be yours,
Almighty Father,
through Jesus Christ your Son,
in the Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2nd Commandment, Part 1

Written for our parish bulletin, here is the latest in our occasional series.
==============
Living your faith in the real world
The Second Commandment:
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

Among all the words of Revelation, there is one which is unique: the revealed name of God. God confides his name to those who believe in him; he reveals himself to them in his personal mystery. The gift of a name belongs to the order of trust and intimacy. “The Lord’s name is holy.” For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it.74

God calls each one by name.87 Everyone’s name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.

The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God’s name will shine forth in splendor. “To him who conquers . . . I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.”88 “Then I looked, and Lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty- four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.”89
2143, 2158, 2159 Catechism of the Catholic Church
----------------------
To the modern mind there is something a bit quaint about this commandment. Yes, we understand that we are not to swear and especially not to swear using God’s name. However, even if we slip our apology often has something less than the ring of complete sincerity. After all, this is just a name. As Shakespeare famously wrote, “A rose by any other name is still a rose.” Names don’t mean much.

However, that was far from the understanding at the time when God gave the Moses this command. In ancient cultures a person’s name was a direct symbol of that person. Names were so important and conveyed such direct symbolism that they were only changed as a reflection that something integral to the person had changed. We see this when Abram becomes Abraham (father of a multitude or many nations”) after God enters into a covenant with him and promises that Abraham shall have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. Jacob wrestles with the angel and his name is changed to Israel (the one who wrestled with God). Perhaps a more familiar name change in the Bible comes when Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter (rock) saying, “you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.”*

If peoples’ names were considered a reflection of their essence, then it would follow that God’s name would reflect who He is in all His holiness. God tells Moses that his name is, “I am.” This reflects His uniqueness, His mystery, and the fact that He doesn’t merely exist; He is, in fact, existence itself.

To use God’s name familiarly and casually in this cultural understanding would be to claim to take on the essence of God Himself. Israel’s neighbors, in fact, routinely used their god’s names in magical conjuring. Invoking God’s name would not only be considered a challenge to authority but also idolatrous. It would be an attempt to harness the power of God for one’s own petty desires, as a man would harness an oxen to plow a field.

Therefore, it becomes much easier to see that in Jesus was claiming to be God when he used His name, saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am.”** The Jews of the time knew exactly what Jesus was claiming for they instantly tried to stone him to death (the penalty for blasphemy).

Take some time to consider all the implications of what it really means to use God’s name for anything except in love. Next we will consider what our new understanding of the second commandment means in everyday life.
----------------------
Footnotes
74 Cf. Zech 2:13; Ps 29:2; 96:2; 113:1-2.
87 Cf. Isa 43:1; Jn 10:3.
88 Rev 2:17.
89 Rev 14:1.
* (Matt. 16:16-18)
** John 8:58

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1st Commandment, part 2

As at least a couple of people have requested, written for our parish bulletin. It is part of a new, occasional series.
Living Our Faith in the Real World
I am the LORD your God:
you shall not have strange gods before me.

All sins are sins against the first Commandment; the first Commandment contains the whole of the Decalogue. For all sin serves some other god, obeys another Commander: the world, or the flesh, or the Devil. So if we obeyed only this one Commandment perfectly, we would need nothing more. St.Augustine says,“Love God and then do what you will.” For if you give your whole heart and will and love to God, then what you will will be all that God wills.

How liberatingly simple is the moral life of the Christian ... only one God, therefore one ultimate object of love and obedience.
Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft
=============
At first glance this is bewilderingly simple. Of course, we know that God is “the Lord our God.” That’s why we’re at Mass every Sunday. Secondly, the idea of having other “gods” sounds archaic to a Christian. That was much more of a problem back in the day of the Old Testament, wasn’t it? Or perhaps this applies more to modern day Wiccans. For us it is again a simple prospect. One more time, we’re at Mass to worship “the Lord our God.”

Yet, perhaps we should take another look. After all, this is the main law that Jesus states for us in Matthew:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”

Jesus gives us the fullest, strongest interpretation possible. This brings us to the question of how we love God. How do we love Him with every fiber of our being? It sounds almost too simple to say that we love God by putting Him first in our lives, especially when life offers so many ways to distract us. That simplicity is what we need to help us keep God first. Each person must pray, study, and contemplate how to love God, just as Jesus modeled for us.

As nice and positive as Jesus' statement sounds, it is more nebulous than it initially appears. It can be almost a relief to consider the negative side of the commandment, “you shall not have strange gods before me.” We must keep in mind that God is talking about anything that replaces our love for Him in our hearts. It need not be a stone statue such as the Old Testament pagans worshipped. We all know in our heart of hearts how many every day things and events conspire to help us ignore God “just this once.”

This is why it can be helpful to use a tool for self-examination. The questions in an Examination of Conscience are designed to help us look at each commandment from different angles, to shake us out of complacency, and to guide us away from sin and toward God. The questions below are offered in that spirit.

Examination of Conscience: First Commandment*
  • Did I doubt or deny that God exists?
  • Did I refuse to believe what God has revealed to us?
  • Did I believe in fortune telling, horoscopes, dreams, the occult, good-luck charms, tarot cards, palmistry, Ouija boards, seances, reincarnation?
  • Did I deny that I was Catholic?
  • Did I leave the Catholic Faith?
  • Did I give time to God each day in prayer?
  • Did I love God with my whole heart?
  • Did I despair of or presume on God's mercy?
  • Did I have false gods in my life that I gave greater attention to than God, like money, profession, drugs, TV, fame, pleasure, property, etc.?
=============
* An examination of conscience is not intended to be a checklist used only in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. The purpose is to help souls know what actions or attitudes are sinful and realize the gravity of committing them. This may help in avoidance or in turning away from sin and towards God and joy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Realizations After an Abortion

What I mainly remember, though, is the dreams. There were three, and they came at unhurried, almost ritual intervals, over the first weeks and months after the abortion.

The first one is the least clear to me now; all I know is that he was a nursing baby. In the second dream, he was maybe a year old, in a once-piece print “footie” pajama, standing up holding onto the railing of his crib and looking straight at me. It was the third one, though, that still haunted me thirteen years later, when I wrote the following poem. It was the one in which he said goodbye:

My ghost son keeps pace with me,
long-legged as I am.
He’s twelve, or would be,
the age he was when he left me
in the third dream, in the subway,
lifting his cool boy’s hand from my shoulder
and crossing the stream.

At the time, these dreams didn’t trigger a flood of grief, as they would have if, for instance, I had lost a wanted pregnancy. What I felt was surprise. Because, first of all, he? How on earth did I know it was a he? But I knew.

It’s a strange fact that I’ve never dreamt the sex of an unborn baby wrong. When one of my sisters or friends was pregnant, I didn’t always dream about it, but when I did,, the girl or boy I had dreamt of always arrived at the end of the nine months. I didn’t see any reason to believe that I’d be right about other people’s pregnancies and wrong about my own. No, he was a boy, all right.

I can’t tell you now whether the realization came slowly, over years, or all at once; whether it arrived piecemeal, through painstaking reasoning, or sudden and complete. All I know is that at some point it dawned on me: If he had a sex, then he also had a face. And a temperament. And maybe a destiny. The die was cast. We comfort ourselves by saying, “I can always have another baby.” But this wasn’t a baby. It was that baby.

I had come upon the objective fact that that “baby,” child, embryo, wasn’t an idea in my mind. It was an individual in my womb.
This wooman's story encapsulates the many conflicting emotions, actions, and realizations that surround the abortion issue today. Do go read it all. (Via The Anchoress)

Looking Good Enough to Eat


Believe it or not, these are each 150 sheets of note paper, though the stem is made with a real twig. They are detailed right down to the seeds, as you can see below. As you may well imagine they are very expensive. (Via The Food Section)

1st commandment, part 1

As at least a couple of people have requested, written for our parish bulletin. It will be part of a new, occasional series.
Living Our Faith in the Real World
I am the LORD your God:
you shall not have strange gods before me.

The first commandment embraces faith, hope, and charity. When we say 'God' we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil. It follows that we must necessarily accept his words and have complete faith in him and acknowledge his authority. He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us? Hence the formula God employs in the Scripture at the beginning and end of his commandments: 'I am the LORD.
2086 Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 1

There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.

Blaise Pascal
================
The first commandment has implications not only for us personally but for society as a whole. If we embrace the goodness, faith, love and charity which the Catechism says are implicit in acknowledging God, then we in turn act as examples of those qualities for those around us. In worshiping those aspects of God, in a sense "copying them" through repeated contemplation and imitation of Him, we can become living examples as the saints have before us. Thus, we can see how "I am the Lord your God" is a positive statement meant for our good.

The negative counterpoint to this is the second half of the commandment, "you shall not have strange gods before me." It is when we turn away from God, when we do not love Him above all things, that we replace Him with other things in a vain attempt to find love and joy. We are then looking inward and risk falling pray to many ills, chief among them pride, which can be deadly.

In fact, if one takes the time to read through the Catechism the sins associated with this commandment read like a modern listing of much that has been wrong with our world through time, up to and including our own society. Here are just a few examples:
  • Despair.
    Man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins.

  • Presumption.
    Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God's almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).

  • Divining.
    All forms of divination are to be rejected ... all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. [The same is true for magic or spiritism.]

  • Tempting God.
    Putting God's goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. ... It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power.

  • Atheism.
    Often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God.
God does not institute the commandments and especially not the first commandment for His own good. We can add nothing to God's perfection through our acknowledgment of Him. He puts these here to bring us to greater joy, to allow us to reach our full potential.

Next we will examine the first commandment in the context of our personal lives.
================
I'm happily haunted by Chesterton's image of the playground fence erected around the children on top of the mountain so that they could play without fear of falling off the side. That's why God gave us his law: not to make us worried but to keep us safe so that we could play the great games of life and love and joy.
Peter Kreeft

Catholic Answers' Christmas Sale

I can't tell you how much I am groovin' on those Mark Shea, Mary Mother of the Son, books.

Catholic Answers has the whole set, second edition with imprimatur, on sale for $29.95! I'm tellin' ya ... some of the best book money I ever spent. Period.

Or, they have some other interesting deals as well if those books don't sound like your cup of tea.

Disclosure

Gee, I only wish I'd have received a Ford or a computer to review.

If anyone would like me to consider luxury items for review, please let me know and I'll be more than happy to give you my full contact information.

I do receive quite a number of review books and generally forget to credit them, although I figure that many of you know that already. However, there are many that I do not mention here as I simply do not mention review books that I dislike ... especially if I requested them. Often I will write to the publisher and tell them why I am not reviewing the book. They generally are happy not to receive the sound drubbing I would delivery.

I must say that other than the product itself, I have never received anything. Oh Catholic marketers, what an opportunity you have been missing!

In the future, I'll try to be more vigilant about noting a review copy although, believe me, that would make no difference whatsoever in whether I mention it or not.

Again, luxury item providers just send word. I'm at your disposal!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meet Ardi, the 4.4-Million-Year-Old Hominid

After 15 years of rumors, researchers made public fossils from a 4.4 million-year-old human forebear they say reveals that our ancestors were more modern than scholars had assumed, widening the evolutionary gulf separating humankind from apes and chimpanzees.

The highlight of the extensive fossil trove was a female skeleton a million years older than the iconic bones of Lucy, the primitive female figure that has long symbolized humankind's beginnings.

The skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus, an ancient fossil dubbed "Ardi," is radically changing our ideas about mankind's origins. Kent State University's C. Owen Lovejoy says Ardi shows our ancestors were more like us and less like chimps. WSJ's Robert Lee Hotz reports.

An international research team led by paleoanthropologist Tim White at the University of California, Berkeley, unveiled on Thursday remains from 36 males, females and young of an ancient prehuman species called Ardipithecus ramidus, unearthed in the Awash region of Ethiopia starting in 1994. The creatures take their scientific name from the word for "root" in the local Afar language. They aren't the oldest known fossils of hominids -- as prehuman species and their relatives are called -- but constitute the most complete set discovered so far.

"It is not a chimp, and it is not human," said Dr. White. "It gives us a new perspective on our origins. We opened a time capsule from a time and place that we knew nothing about."
A fascinating story.

Updated: In the Midst of Hollywood's Rush to Validate Polanski, Rose Can Still Respect One of Her Favorite Directors

Still, some film-world names were notable for their absence from the petition. Director Luc Besson refrained from signing it, noting, in an interview with RTL Soir, "I don't have any opinion on this, but I have a daughter, 13 years old. And if she was violated, nothing would be the same, even 30 years later."
Despite his disclaimer, Besson's comment shows that he does have an opinion. From a fascinating WSJ piece that discusses hypocrisy and how well many petition-signers have declaimed rape in their movies. Rose and I had touched on this whole sorry mess in conversation so I was pleased to see that one of her favorite directors has integrity in this.

Update
Rose adds:
Bye the bye, Roman Polanski has totally directed a movie about a woman who was repeatedly raped by a doctor while a political prisoner. The movie stars Sigorney Weaver and Ben Kingsley and is about one night, years after her release, when Weaver, rape victim, suspects an evening visitor of being her torturer. It's called Death and the Maiden and I actually saw it a few weeks ago and just remembered it. I thought you might be interested.
Kevin Smith, whose movies I haven't seen, also proves that he is an independent thinker.
While most people in the movie business are sticking to the pro-Polanski line, a few have broken away from the herd of independent minds. Notable among them is Kevin Smith, the writer-director of such sexually frank indie films as "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy," who is as far from being a prig as you can get. Yet Mr. Smith tweeted about the Polanski arrest as follows: "Look, I dig 'Rosemary's Baby,' but rape's rape. Do the crime, do the time."
The above WSJ article has an interesting look back at the way Hollywood studios would cover-up crimes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vinegar at the Crucifixion ... Adding My Two Cents' Worth

Most of you will think, "What the?" about this topic.

However, those of us who cruise by The Anchoress's cell at least once a day will have seen her thoughts on why Jesus was given vinegar at the crucifixion, sparked by an article by balsamic vinegar. Comments were vigorous and interesting.

It sparked my own memory of past study that I remember connecting it to Passover and the sacrificial lamb. I didn't have a chance to check it out until this morning. You may know a lot of this already but I thought I'd pass it on anyway because I wanted to mention the significance of the hyssop branch.

Ok, the vinegar and gall was "sour wine" mixed with a narcotic that has been mentioned at The Anchoress's. Every single resource I checked (and I checked seven) said this was common practice for crucifixion victims because the gall was a narcotic to dull pain ... and that Christ rejected it because he was offering it ALL to the Father for us. Talk about humbling.

The sponge. How else were they going to administer the vinegar and gall on a regular basis to men who were high above their heads? This was the point of having the sponge on hand say source or two.

Now, in The Ignatius Study Bible, Book of John, by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch ... here is the part that I thought was, well, though I hate to use the word, "Awesome!

The Scripture, John 19:28-29:
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. when Jesus had received the vinegar; he said, "It is finished"' and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The study notes:
19:28 I thirst: Recalls Ps 22:15 and Ps 69:21. [These would be the Scriptures being fulfilled.]

19:29 vinegar: Sour wine. This was not the narcotic drink that Jesus earlier refused (Mk 15:23) [My comment here: another reference specializing in ancient culture says that this is what the Romans themselves drank. The soldiers were offering him some of their own wine possibly.]

The use of hyssop to lift the sponge to Jesus suggests a connection with the original Passover, when the Israelites used hyssop branches to smear blood on their doorposts as a mark of divine protection (Ex. 12:21-23).
Yet another study points out that the Greek word used for Jesus' pronouncement, "It is finished." is one that victors used to indicate final triumph.

SO, Jesus did not choose to give up his spirit until he had made that final connection with the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb. Which would be why John included that detail. AWESOME. In the true meaning of the word.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together: Keeping the Sabbath

Before our whole relocating process started, my husband and I had been keeping Sabbath for several months.

Since there is no Sunday shopping here,anyway, that wasn't an issue, so we were doing a technology Sabbath. No computer, cell-phone etc. No housework or house "projects". I also tried to have something cooked ahead of time, so meal prep wouldn't be complicated. Sundays were really and truly days of rest, quiet and renewal.

It was *incredible* how wonderful it was! I can hardly wait until our move is finished so we can get back to it. It made such a difference in our lives and mental states.
expat expressing interest in The Power of Pause
It really is interesting to see how events converge to give you a new understanding.

You'd think that with both kids in college, Tom and I would have oodles of free time. Alas, not so. With the challenges of owning a small business (as a fellow business owner told us when we began, you only have to work half a day and you get to pick which twelve hours), our volunteer activities/ministries, and hobbies which have somehow turned into communities that we don't want to let down (such as my podcast), our plates are very full. Originally we looked at our free-er evenings and weekends as time to get that eternal "To Do" list taken care of. After several stress-filled weekends of feeling as if we had no weekend at all, we came to the conclusion which wiser minds than ours already knew ... there is no end to the "To Do" list. Ever.

Gradually we began backing away from commitments as much. Quite a bit of this has consisted of saying "No" to new requests. This takes a surprising amount of steeling oneself to letting others down.

Also, as I have detailed recently, we began enjoying a weekend cocktail hour which quickly became a welcome break in the need to cross items off of our lists.

In writing a series for our parish Sunday bulletin about the ten commandments, I was surprised at the force of feeling I had in the need to follow the third commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. You know us converts. We get pushy.

I began reading The Power of Pause which simply reinforced all those previous events and made them jell into the desire to "keep the Sabbath" as a day of rest.

Tom instantly agreed when I ventured to bring up this idea. That meant a commitment to honing our lists so we could get things done on Saturday. No easy task.

Last weekend was our first Sunday of resting. We didn't have the "no technology" concept as a condition, as expat does, but I already was working toward staying away from the computer on Sundays anyway. Tom delved a bit into reading his favorite sites, but not much. I set aside the iPod for the most part.

It was glorious, people.

Glorious.

We felt as if we were on vacation.

What did we do?

We got up earlier than usual for a Sunday and took the dogs to the dog park. That was an hour of watching God's creation in the dogs and in the nature of White Rock Lake where the park is located. (Note: this is not how Tom would probably think of it.) There was one moment when I was standing in the sunlight by myself, glanced up, and was overcome with wonder at the site of dozens and dozens of dragonflies zipping around overhead. Just in that spot. Amazing.

Later that morning we went to Mass. I don't remember just what sparked it but something was said that suddenly brought a vivid image of those dragonflies to mind. I had to smile. A little nudge, perhaps, that God was present then and now to me, using all things to help pull back that veil between us? That's how it hit me.

The rest of the day, I read for pleasure ... three Emma Lathen mysteries (more about her later, also I was rereading which we know always goes quickly) .... and dipping into a few of those theological review books I'd received (for me, this also is pleasure reading. I know. Go figure). We worked on a crossword puzzle together. And suchlike.

We can't wait for this Sunday. In fact, we already started rearranging our weekend schedule so nothing would interfere with it.

It made me clearly understand expat's comment about not cooking as we had leftovers. I was just too much in "rest" mode.

The other pact that Tom and I made was that if Monday morning at work fell apart, we would not waste time castigating ourselves for taking a day off and beginning the week "behind." We would keep firmly in mind that rest is a good and necessary thing and not regret it. And so we did.

Now, I realize that I am going to be going into crazy-time at work in a few weeks because of an annual, time-intensive project. We will possibly have to reduce keeping the Sabbath to a couple of hours. But we will still not give up that rest, that opportunity for God to touch us further using methods we don't expect. This is probably the method we would have used if we had been devoted to this process when the kids were little. Family games or outings would have been the order of the day ... or some such thing. I haven't thought this aspect through much and I am sure others have very good ideas about it.

At any rate, I highly recommend that we give ourselves the break that God commands. He only has our good in mind, after all.

Notes
I can post those inserts on the ten commandments, if anyone is interested. Keeping in mind, that I'm only up to number four, so it would be occasional. What say you? Yea or nay?

I will be reviewing The Power of Pause, don't worry.

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Devotion to the Guardian Angels goes back to the beginnings of Christianity. Pope Clement X proclaimed the feast a universal celebration in the seventeenth century. The Guardian Angels serve as the messengers of God. The Almighty has allocated a Guardian Angel to each one of us for our protection and for the good of our apostolate...

We have to deal with our Guardian Angels in a familiar way, while at the same time recognizing their superior nature and grace. Though less palpable in their presence than human friends are, their efficacy for our benefit is far greater. Their counsel and suggestions come from God, and penetrate more deeply than any human voice. To reiterate, their capacity for hearing and understanding us is much superior even to that of our most faithful human friend, since their attendance at our side is continuous; they can enter more deeply into our intentions, desires and petitions than can any human being, since angels can reach our imagination directly without recourse to the comprehension of words. They are able to incite images, provoke memories, and make impressions in order to give us direction.
(This post is from last year but still just as good ... new links will be added as I come across them.)

As devoted as I am to the Archangels, I am especially fond of my Guardian Angel. He is always there when I need him and has a wicked sense of humor. Perhaps wicked is not the right word. He must, therefore, have an angelic sense of humor! This is one of my favorite feast days.

For my personal angel stories, as well as some general information, you can read more here, here, and here.

More Guardian Angel Blogging
If you want to hang out with someone whose guardian angel also has a wicked sense of humor and can't resist ribbing her ... check out Jane Lebak's stories at Seven angels, four kids, one family. Here's a little nibble from yesterday. Those two crack me up.
Back in 2005, I said one night to my guardian angel, “If you could have me get rid of one sin, what would it be?”

I wouldn’t call myself a mystic by any means, but I could have sworn I heard the reply, “Only one?”

Along with the distinct sense he was laughing.

Prayer to One's Guardian Angel

Dear Angel,
in his goodness God gave you to me to
guide, protect and enlighten me,
and to being me back to the right way when I go astray.
Encourage me when I am disheartened,
and instruct me when I err in my judgment.
Help me to become more Christlike,
and so some day to be accepted into
the company of Angels and Saints in heaven.
Amen.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Starting Today in the Sidebar ...

Things We've Learned from Horror Films. In honor of Halloween at the end of the month, of course! Other Halloween-ish things will appear there occasionally as well. For example, I have some nice Halloween horoscopes saved up for closer to the end of the month.

Interesting and Thought Provoking Reflections to Use in Adoration

Through the Eucharist God changes us as surely as he changed the elements of bread and wine into himself. He forms us as living stones in the temple of his Church. He builds up a eucharistic culture to replace the culture of death.

Think globally? Act eucharistically. It's the sacrament that renews the earth.

Asking what you can do for your country. Make a good Communion. Make a visit to the tabernacle. Much more will follow.

God will make limitless poetry out of the prose of your life, and he will renew the face of the earth, beginning with your little corner.
It is simply impossible to express what we gain from adoring the Eucharist as I know full well. How do we describe an encounter with God? Yet many Catholics have expressed some facet of it over the thousands of years since Christ gave us Himself in that gift.

Mike Aquilina has chosen 120 wonderful quotations that not only help us rise to meet God but that God uses to push aside the veil between us. Some are short and some are long, some are poetic and some are straight to the point, but all are well chosen. One of the surprising things I found what that Aquilina doesn't just include saints and popes, though they are well represented here as one might expect. I was pleased and interested to find reflections from more modern sources such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Maria Montessori, Conrad Hilton, and George Wiegel.

This book could do double service not only as a source for reflection during adoration but as a daily devotional if one wished. It is much more interesting and thought provoking than the usual quote collections. Also, it is beautifully typeset and organized which is something I always notice, especially in a book that is to be used in prayer. I am sorry to say, careful attention to layout is not something we see very often from small publishers. Servant Books is to be congratulated on this.

Highly recommended.
97 | The Best Prayer

We need not speak so much to pray well. We know the good God is in the holy tabernacle. We open our hearts to him, and delight in his holy presence; that is the best prayer.
--Saint John Vianney