Friday, February 26, 2010

She speaks eloquently for cat owners everywhere

Truly it is a heroic act to pill a cat, as the often hilarious Crescat illustrates. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I went one better by just ripping it off.

Friday Litany: Litany of the Precious Blood (new version)

The revised version of the litany from last week. I think each has something good to offer for prayer and contemplation. Also found at Catholic Youth Networking.

Litany of the Precious Blood
From the 1991 Enchiridion of Indulgences

Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy
Lord, have mercy

God our 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.

Response: be our salvation.

Blood of Christ, only Son of the Father,
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word,
Blood of Christ, of the new and eternal covenant,
Blood of Christ, that spilled to the ground,
Blood of Christ, that flowed at the scourging,
Blood of Christ, dripping from the thorns,
Blood of Christ, shed on the Cross,
Blood of Christ, the price of our redemption,
Blood of Christ, our only claim to pardon,
Blood of Christ, our blessing cup,
Blood of Christ, in which we are washed,
Blood of Christ, torrent of mercy,
Blood of Christ, that overcomes evil,
Blood of Christ, strength of the martyrs,
Blood of Christ, endurance of the saints,
Blood of Christ, that makes the barren fruitful,
Blood of Christ, protection of the threatened,
Blood of Christ, comfort of the weary,
Blood of Christ, solace of the mourner,
Blood of Christ, hope of the repentant,
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying,
Blood of Christ, our peace and refreshment,
Blood of Christ, our pledge of life,
Blood of Christ, by which we pass to glory,
Blood of Christ, most worthy of honor,

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. Lord, You redeemed us by Your Blood.
R. You have made us a kingdom to serve our God.

Let us pray:
Father, by the blood of Your Son, You have set us free and saved us from death. Continue Your work of love within us, that by constantly celebrating the mystery of our salvation, we may reach the eternal life it promises. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Movies of the Mind for Modern Times - Audiodrama Podcasting

The script called for snow, and it was snowing.

"I wanted light and fluffy," said the director, Fred Greenhalgh. He was talking about the cozily muffled acoustics, not the pretty view. "This is perfect," he said. "Roll 'em!"

Windshield wipers slapping, a car whooshed to a stop at an old schoolhouse in this coastal city, now home to a theater company. Letting the car door slam as he got out, Bill Dufris, playing a cop in Brattleboro, Vt., said, "I'll do my best," and crunched up the wooden steps to a make-believe crime scene.

Overhead, a sea gull screamed. "I could hear that," Mr. Greenhalgh interrupted. "This is supposed to be Vermont." Thinking that inland Brattleboro shouldn't have sea gulls, he called for another take. Mr. Dufris got back in the car, drove around, slammed the door, and delivered his line again: "I'll do my best." Somewhere in the harbor, a foghorn blew.

"Cut!" said Mr. Greenhalgh. His sound man turned off his digital recorder. "The joys of recording on location," Mr. Greenhalgh said. "OK, one more time."

A 26-year-old with blond bangs and a goatee, the director was busy dramatizing a detective story. Not for the screen. For the iPod. The book it was based on—"Open Season" by Archer Mayor—begins with an image: "The snow lay before our headlights like a freshly placed sheet…" But Mr. Greenhalgh had no camera. His job was to translate the book into sound.
An interesting article from the WSJ. Anyone who hangs around with me at Forgotten Classics already knows about them but it is nice to see audiodramas getting some ink in a mainstream publication.

More ghostliness, more denseness, the RIGHT theory and true love ...

... all in a super-fantastic, extra long episode as we finish The Uninvited with a flourish at Forgotten Classics. Plus some news, some comments, and some photos of Hawaii. Get it while it's hot!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Books and Another Show

Catching up with some very good books I've read thus far in 2010.
  • Cleek, The Man of Forty Faces
    I listened to the Librivox recording done by the marvelous Ruth Golding. Cleek is a bad man who goes right for the love of a good woman. As well he is perhaps the cleverest detective I have ever read of, putting M. Poirot's little grey cells to shame while indulging his idiosyncratic love of flowers and nature. This allows for many short, quirky mysteries with the overarching theme of how Cleek hopes to redeem himself enough to approach his true love with honor. A wonderfully entertaining story from the turn of the century of mystery, chivalry, and intrigue. #10

  • Confections of a Closet Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado
    Sandra Bullock's sister finally couldn't take Hollywood any more after running her famous sister's production company for years. She turned to her true passion, baking, and has a wonderful voice in this book about her life as a baker. A thoroughly enjoyable book that holds up standards without judging everyone around her by them, which these days is increasingly rare in the food writing world. Also, this is one of the few baking books that I have read recently to excite my imagination and interest me in trying some of the recipes. I have baked for long enough and read so many baking books that such an achievement is rare indeed.

    On an aesthetic note, we shall return to my pet peeve ... the layout is lovely but the type is huge. Huge. I always suspect that the publishers were trying to achieve a certain number of pages without adding to the content when I see that. Or it is a style and, if so, one that I hope will change soon. #11

  • Genesis: Translation and Commentary by Robert Alter
    I read this a bit every day and was blown away by Alter's translation and notes. Reading both for morning reflection and prayer AND as prep for eventually reading Genesis on my podcast, with commentary from various sources, one of which will be this book. No translation and commentary I have read has so vividly brought alive this scripture. The commentary is cultural and literary rather than religious, just fyi, but that simply enhances it for the reader who already has a religious grounding. The introductory article about scripture from a literary standpoint as well as how modern translation tends to explain rather than accurately translate is almost worth the price of admission alone. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. #12

  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
    Took a flyer on this when I was given a Barnes and Noble gift card and they didn't have a single one of the six current books I was seeking. It carries the reader into the heart of living in Paris with young American Elizabeth Bard who is having an extended affair with a young Parisian who sounds like a truly wonderful fellow. Her attacks of angst over not having a career or achieving enough or that her Parisian dreamboat is too happy can become rather annoying especially considering she is living what most people would call the epitome of a dream. However. She is young. And the entire book is not like that, thank heavens. In the end I found most enjoyable, despite the occasional bouts of angst. Quite a fun, light read, especially the parts about her mother adjusting to the Parisians. #13

  • Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time
    My review is here but the short story is that if you can take some realisitc looks at how what culture was like among the Greeks and Romans in St. Paul's day, then you will have a much better understanding of this apostle's message of love and equality as expressed in his letters. Highly recommended. #14

The Show: WWII in HD
Just when you thought that you could not possibly see (or endure) another World War II documentary, along comes this series which makes the war much more immediate and personal than before. Some of this comes from the fact that almost the entire thing is in color and, although I am sure that it was restored, there is the feel of watching your family's home movies.

The other reason is that we come to know twelve people as we follow them through their part in the fighting that took place. We hear excerpts from letters and diaries of many characters ranging from a celebrated journalist immersed with troops in the Pacific to an army nurse in Africa to an Austrian immigrant who joined before the Pearl Harbor bombing because of his first-hand experiences at the hands of the Nazis. We see and hear how intimately they were affected by all they experienced. In fact, I identified enough with many of these characters that I would be on tenterhooks wondering if some survived, and then release my breath with relief when remembering that this particular person did live because we have seen him speaking in modern times.

Likewise, because the footage was in color and taken by those on hand, both Tom and I have been affected deeply by the sheer carnage and horrible waste of life that was inflicted. Also, I never really understood just how destroyed many of the towns in Europe were until I saw these pieces. Strangely enough, you would think that this would prove depressing but we haven't found it so. It is simply that we now have a greater identification when someone of that generation talks about what it was like to live through those times. Of course, there is also the greater understanding of battlefield conditions and how the men in the field felt.

This is a three DVD set. Highly recommended.

One Blogger's 75 Favorite Blogs

An interesting list from Brandon Vogt at The Thin Veil which has some good stuff to explore. And I don't say that merely because I was surprised and pleased to find Happy Catholic at #16. A lot of work went into this compilation and I appreciate having this delightful resource to dive into.

As well, Brandon nicely expresses my own experience with blog reading.
I must add the caveat, though, that rarely a week goes by when I don't find a new blog to "subscribe" to, while also finding another to "unsubscribe" from. Reading blogs is pretty fluid, rarely stagnant.
I have my own favorites but my general blog reading is a similarly fluid list.

Found via #7 on the list, who is on my own list of daily reading, A Divine Life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quite Possibly the Most Perfect Comeback Ever to Richard Dawkins

When Selfish Gene author Richard Dawkins challenged physicist John Barrow on his formulation of the constants of nature at last summer’s Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship lectures, Barrow laughed and said, “You have a problem with these ideas, Richard, because you’re not really a scientist. You’re a biologist.”

For Barrow, biology is little more than a branch of natural history. “Biologists have a limited, intuitive understanding of complexity. They’re stuck with an inherited conflict from the 19th century, and are only interested in outcomes, in what wins out over others,” he adds. “But outcomes tell you almost nothing about the laws that govern the universe.” For physicists it is the laws of nature themselves that capture and structure the universe—and put brakes on it as well.
Is anyone else laughing as hard as I did over that first paragraph? I can't remember where I saw the link to the article (apologies ...) but I enjoyed it immensely.

You can pass through a keyhole? Prove it!

Mike Flynn is not only one of my favorite science fiction writers, he's a heckuva blogger. I especially enjoyed this post on the Church's stance on not persecuting witches during the so-called Dark Ages because they said magic was superstition ... with this among the examples.
Vincent of Beauvais, to disabuse a woman convinced she was a witch who could pass through keyholes, locked the door and chased her about the room with a stick, while exhorting her to escape through the keyhole. (Now THAT is the scientific spirit, right there!)
He then goes on to point out that during the Age of Science there began quite a persecution of those accused of witchcraft.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekend Joke

This doctor always got really stressed out at work. So every day on his way home, he'd stop and see his friend Dick the bartender. Dick would know the doctor was coming, and he'd have an almond daiquiri ready for him. The doctor would come in and have his almond daiquiri and go home.

One day Dick ran out of almonds, and he thought, "Well, the doctor won't know the difference." So he cut up a hickory nut and made a daiquiri with it.

When the doctor came by, Dick put the drink in front of him.

The doctor took a sip and said, "Is this an almond daiquiri, Dick?"

And Dick said, "No, it's a hickory daiquiri, Doc."

Friday Litany (one day late): Litany of the Precious Blood

One of the six great litanies of the Church, found at Catholic Youth Networking.
Litany of the Precious Blood
From the 1969 Enchiridion of Indulgences
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.

Response: Save us.

Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father,
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God,
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament,
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony,
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging,
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns,
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross,
Blood of Christ, price of our salvation,
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness,
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls,
Blood of Christ, stream of mercy,
Blood of Christ, victor over demons,
Blood of Christ, courage of martyrs,
Blood of Christ, strength of confessors,
Blood of Christ, bringing forth virgins,
Blood of Christ, help of those in peril,
Blood of Christ, relief of the burdened,
Blood of Christ, solace in sorrow,
Blood of Christ, hope of the penitent,
Blood of Christ, consolation of the dying,
Blood of Christ, peace and tenderness of hearts,
Blood of Christ, pledge of eternal life,
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from purgatory,
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor,

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

V. You have redeemed us, O Lord, in Your Blood.
R. And made us, for our God, a kingdom.

Let us pray:
Almighty and eternal God, You have appointed Your only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and willed to be appeased by His Blood. Grant, we beg of You, that we may worthily adore this price of our salvation, and through its power be safeguarded from the evils of the present life, so that we may rejoice in its fruits forever in heaven. Through the same Christ our Lord.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What? Not the Rosary! Noooooooooo ...........

Let me put that remark in a little context.

Following my Lenten "add on" plan of attending daily Mass I went and it was like old home week. Many friends were among the little group of adults around the edges of the school children who had Mass that morning.

I felt light, thinking of what God might do during Lent to change me, but not expecting anything big. More of looking down the highway thing, if that makes sense.

Afterward I turned from a brief chat with a friend, about being left handed which is a funny thing to have a conversation about now that I think of it. And there was my friend Kim. Beaming, waiting for me. Well, nothing wrong with that. Kim and I have a connection (ok, Kim connects with tons of people). She's kind of like a spiritual beacon in some ways, in others she's solid prayer support.

Then she said those fatal words, "Do you have five minutes? We're saying the rosary back there. Do you want to come say the rosary with us?"


I have nothing against the rosary in theory or even as an occasional practice when it seems called for in my prayer life. But not with that group who whips through it so fast that you wonder how anyone can get those words out. And, hey I have lots of other things to do with my time ... you know, like going to work.

"You don't have to," she said, still beaming widely at me, "but I just thought I'd ask ..."

But I knew what it meant. She and I both knew why she was smiling. This was no ordinary request. Going to daily Mass is a good start to Lent but here was God's personal invitation sent via Kim ... to. pray. that. rosary. with. that. group.

Can you feel my foot-dragging reluctance? Can you see me shaking my head, kneeling, praying along? Can you hear me laughing? Especially right after "know well the plans I have in mind for you ..." popped into my head for no particular reason during Mass.

No angels sang. No revelations came. That's not the point. This race is to the slow, steady, and faithful. And I know where I am called to be during Lent. Right after daily Mass. For I know the plan He has for me ... saying the rosary with that little group.

For a conversation about whether God really answers prayers and how one knows, pop over to John Shore's place where there is an interesting discussion going on. Not that this was exactly an answer. More like an invitation I couldn't refuse, but enough about that ...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I now break into the Lenten contemplations to talk about me, Me, ME!

Actually, about Forgotten Classics, but that's really the same thing as we all know.

quelle erksome
has begun a fan group on Ravelry (like Facebook for knitters and crocheters where I have only a slight presence ... again, much like Facebook!). She says that she finds herself, "... every week getting into blistering one-sided debates over plot, characterisation and supposition."

Clearly she isn't the only one because I have found, to my delight, the idea that Stella's grandfather in The Uninvited is talking about putting her into a mental institution began quite an intensive discussion. As well as theories of who is haunting and why, they have been examining women's rights in Britain in the 1930's as well as past and present requirements for being committed to a psychiatric institution. Heavens to Betsy, I can only imagine the depths these folks would have delved into during our reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin if they are getting all this out of The Uninvited.

The group is called Forgotten Yarns (nice word play, right?) and you can get more info and links by clicking through to erksome's place.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

In these days of Lent, I think of the fact that everything that is born in nature needs preparation, even if it is fundamentally hidden. Thus it is for the seed in the earth, so it is for the fetus in the mother's womb, so it is for the known and unknown stars and planets that have lived for infinite generations, and of which we have received news, particularly in the last century.

When we speak of Lent, we speak of preparation so that the life in us can be recovered -- or much more -- so that the life in us can be welcomed. The life of Christ risen, his Spirit which is given to us at Easter, needs to find hospitality in us.

This is the meaning of the silence and the prayers that is recommended by the Church in this time. This is the meaning of fasting, which is closely related to prayer and silence. That our eyes may not be closed, that our senses may not be dulled. This is the meaning of the alms that are asked of us. That our life may not be built on what is secondary and fleeting, but that it may find in Jesus the only richness that does not end, the richness that gives light and weight to every tiny thing. In this way, in our hands, instead of the sad object that will be destroyed, everything becomes an icon of the beauty of the Savior.
Monsignor Massimo Camisasca, via Magnificat
My Lenten experience took a much bigger emphasis than I expected. Perhaps it is because we just finished giving the Beyond Cana retreat where God touched me personally and deeply. He has been continuing that work in these last few days and so when our priest concluded his brief homily with, "These ashes are not cosmetic, they should only be the outward sign of your inward commitment. You should not come for these ashes unless you expect to be very changed at the end of Lent."

I'm paraphrasing but it gave me slight pause. It underlined the deep commitment and seriousness that we should be giving to this process of turning away from our sins and turning toward God. I do have those but also a feeling of leaving myself open to God's will, especially in several key areas of my life. It is funny. I know that such a thing could leave me feeling drifting and vulnerable. Instead, it leaves me feeling free, light, and expectant. Not a bad way to begin Lent at all.

Come Holy Spirit ... fill the hearts of your faithful ...

Let's Talk Lenten Reading

So it seems that God possibly had other things in mind for me?

Our book club is reading The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina and I have found myself really pondering the early fathers' writing as I read a little each morning during my reflection time. This second time round is proving extremely fruitful. Truly, spending some time with the fathers contemplating the trials they faced is a more relevant project than one might expect.

Also, Paul Among the People is a book I just can't put down. It truly places Paul's words in a different context for me as well as gives me much to ponder about our own modern culture in comparison with those long ago days ... and, of course, what it means to seek God under all those circumstances.


Has anyone begun thinking of reading something specifically for Lent?

I have two books in mind. One is This Tremendous Lover, a classic that I received thanks to Aquinas and More's wonderful reading program but to my shame have not delved much into. (I was deflected into reading Robert Alter's incomparable translation and commentary of Genesis ... I have never had scripture come alive for me in the way that translation achieved.)

The other book is a book of meditations designed to facilitate lectio divina during Lent. I received Conversing with God in Lent: Praying the Sunday Mass Readings with Lectio Divina for review and, of course, it is perfectly timed.

I also have two different books with meditations on Jesus' seven last words, which would naturally be very appropriate. The Seven Last Words of Jesus I purchased but haven't read and I received a review copy of Hope from the Cross: Reflections on Jesus' Seven Last Words. Both of these might be good to consider as lectio divina subjects during the weekdays.

Father Dwight Longenecker, whose books Adventures in Orthodoxy and St. Benedict and St. Therese I enjoyed immensely, sent another suggestion to consider. I have read very good reviews of this book around the blogosphere.

The Gargoyle Code

For those who have read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, this looks like a great choice. If you haven't read The Screwtape Letters ... don't wait until Lent to begin. Go get it now!

Here is last year's list with other good suggestions.
I will say that I did read all the books I mentioned for my personal Lenten list and made a few notes for anyone who is interested. Unfortunately, due to the Haloscan changeover all the comments from last year are gone.

That just leaves us more room to make suggestions here ... or to comment upon your own reading plans. Speak up everyone!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Music to Delight the Heart - The Lateral Cut

IT HAS ALWAYS been Dr. Boli’s delight to encourage worthy artistic endeavors, and most especially in the field of music, for which he admits a particular fondness. When a friend of his offered to share some recordings from quite a long time ago, Dr. Boli at once saw the opportunity to give encouragement to old friends like Mr. Victor Herbert, as well as some of these promising young people with their delightful “jazz” music, which so perfectly expresses the spirit of this mechanical age.

Thus today we launch the latest entry in Dr. Boli’s publishing empire, The Lateral Cut, named of course for the process by which sound is etched in a disc for permanent preservation. Beginning with a very modest collection, this new site will gradually build up a library of music rescued from the undeserved oblivion of the decades, much of it recorded by a purely mechanical process whose ingenuity still astonishes Dr. Boli even all these years after his friend Mr. Edison first demonstrated it to him. Think of it as your virtual gramophone on the World-Wide Web.
I was very interested to see Dr. Boli's announcement that his publishing empire is expanding to include music. Knowing the whimsical nature of Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine, I approached The Lateral Cut with curiosity. To my delight I saw that this is a genuine blog about lost music with something about the artists and a link where one can download the music itself. It is an eclectic collection thus far which just makes it more interesting. About the collection, The Lateral Cut blog begins ...
Language speaks to the mind, but music speaks straight to the soul. Yet music, like other arts, is subject to the arbitrary tyrannies of fashion. Much that is thrilling and beautiful has been utterly forgotten. But it lives on in these recordings, which sit neglected in flea markets and junk shops until someone comes along and says, “I’ll give you five dollars for that whole box.”
Check it out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Updated: A Fascinating New Book Placing Paul in Context Among the Cultures of His Time

Received a review copy of Paul Among the People on Thursday before leaving for the Beyond Cana retreat and couldn't quite grasp what it was about.

I took it and found it it both easy to understand (essential for my evening reading when helping with a retreat) and fascinating. Sarah Ruden goes to great pains to put St. Paul's writings in the context of Paul's "modern times" of Greek and Roman culture so we can see just what cultural forces he was referring to when he wrote his letters. By juxtaposing her knowledge of those cultures (which were considerably cruder and more hostile to Christian religious concepts than we would think) and writings of the people (not high-brow philosophers) with Paul's writings and concepts, a new picture emerges of just what was being battled and why Christian concepts would be so welcome and revolutionary.

I never had the negative image of Paul that many seem to have picked up from his writings and which were the reason the author began researching the info that has become the basis of this book. However, it is fascinating nonetheless to see just how foreign those ancient cultures really were when compared to ours and what we think we know. I'm on page 40 but it has been eye opening already.

If you are dubious about the book, take a moment to read her after-notes on the scholarship and sources. It will reassure you. This is not a pop-culture take but a scholarly work that has been brought to our level. Or so it seems to this unschooled reader.

Updated summary now that I'm finished
Overall, this is an excellent resource for putting yourself into the culture to which Paul was speaking. The author brings up the common misconception about Paul (such as homosexuality, misogyny, etc), then addresses the reality of the culture on that issue at the time, then cites many examples to make sure the point is clear, then returns to showing what Paul's words really meant as applied to living in those times. Paul emerges as someone who really wants to communicate that if we love God then we must show that love to each other in treating each other as equals, all worthy of God's love.

Highly recommended but not for the squeamish as some of the subjects tend to be explicit by their very nature.

Thank you for the prayers for our Beyond Cana retreat

We certainly needed them. It figures that the day we receive record snowfall (12.5 inches) was to be the beginning of the retreat. I was so impressed that 9 of the 12 couples were able to make it and also inspired by the devotion of the presenting team to being there. People were battling power outages, snowed-in baby sitters, grandparents braved driving long distances through snow to tend grandchildren. This might not sound like much now but there was a definite battle mentality as we just aren't equipped to deal with that sort of weather. Does Dallas even have a snow plow? I doubt it.

The retreat was a resounding success on so many levels, but the most important naturally being that the nine attending couples went home glowing and with renewed marriages and the tools to help them keep moving forward. As well, there is just nothing like the little blessings that God pours out on the people presenting the retreat, to say nothing of the time we got to spend with our team who we love and respect more ever time we do this.

We got home to find three huge limbs cracked but luckily all of them missed the fence, the power line, and the roof! So there is a mess to clean up but it could have been so much worse that we are not too upset. And, surprise, surprise, evidently our driveway had been full of debris but some kind soul had picked it up and neatly stacked it beside our driveway so we could get in! I didn't know we had neighbors that nice! I'm curious to find out who it is so we can thank them.

So, onward and upward back into everyday life ...

Thursday, February 11, 2010


So, maybe 3 inches so far (?) have fallen.

I stepped outside before driving to work, looking up into the fat, heavy, moist snowflakes falling from the sky. I thought how glorious and creative God is to find such a beautiful way to give us winter precipitation. And how good He is to make us so that we can thrill at its beauty.

Of course, simultaneously comes agonizing from those involved in our parish's Beyond Cana marriage retreat which begins tomorrow in a location that is a 30 minute drive away. Babysitters, icy roads, and attendees are in peril!

Any prayers are, of course, appreciated ... though I feel extremely calm about it all. Of course, we only have to take our dogs to the vet for boarding. I am, naturally, praying for everyone, although right now I seem to be channeling St. John Vianney as what comes to mind is:
God commands you to pray, but he forbids you to worry.
Good advice no matter what the weather!

In related news, especially for those on the East Coast
This Winter Funk Warning announcement from Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER Service has issued a Winter Funk Warning for the counties of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington, Westmoreland, and Yohogania. A Winter Funk Warning means that prolonged inactivity enforced by unusually high amounts of snowfall will cause blue funks, lugubriousness, depression, grumpiness, annoyance, irritability, petulance, sadness, even more lugubriousness, and mental dry rot. Residents are urged to keep themselves entertained with a good book and not do anything stupid.

In which we consider several new haunting theories.

Yep, we continue with The Uninvited at Forgotten Classics.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The 5th Commandment, part 2: The Death Penalty

Continuing to share the series that I am in process of writing and which appear in our parish bulletins each week. Heading bravely into unpopular ground, we take a deeper look at the 5th commandment.
Living our faith in the real world
The Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill.1
Part 2 — The Death Penalty
 Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.
Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord God. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?
Ez 18:23
— • —
It is only natural is to want to remove a murderer from society where they will never harm another person and also to exact punishment. Executing a murderer is an obvious and simple solution. Equally natural is the desire to ignore the Catholic Church’s teaching that, whenever possible, a murderer must be imprisoned rather than killed. On the surface, this does not seem either practical or sympathetic to the victim’s family and friends. As with so many instances, however, this desire tends to be largely emotional. We must look past our emotions to understand the Church’s teachings about the seamless garment of life.

Clearly, the first concern of society is for the common good of its members. Punishing any wrongdoer is necessary both to repair the wrong and to teach the offender to change their ways. The Catechism puts it thus: The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When his punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender.

Note that, while there is a primary goal of righting wrongs, there is always a similar concern for the well being of the offender. Atonement offers not only good to the victim, but also acts as medicine for the offender’s soul.

Obviously it is impossible for a murderer to repair the wrong they have committed. This places a severe strain on the victim’s loved ones for recovery and to extend forgiveness. However, this is the call that Jesus places upon us in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”2 From the Cross itself Jesus gave us the example by forgiving His own murderers, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”3 It is natural to not want to forgive anything so heinous. However, Christ calls us to go beyond what we want and instead do what He commands. It is good not only for the criminal we forgive, but for our own souls as well.

The Church leaves it to individual societies to determine how extreme the punishment must be because some have no other way to protect the general population than the death penalty. Our society has the means to incarcerate a murderer and safeguard the community. Therefore, it is always preferable to give the criminal the opportunity for conversion and the salvation of their soul. To do otherwise is to deny the sacredness of life as well as denying Jesus’ direct command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”4 Which of us, having committed a terrible crime, would not want the opportunity to repent and cry out to Jesus, as did the penitent thief who hung beside him on Calvary?5 This is the same opportunity we are called upon, in turn, to give criminals in rejecting the death penalty in our society.

— • —
Little by little I was led to change my ideas. I was no longer certain that God did not exist. I began to be open to Him, though I did not yet have faith. I tried to believe with my reason, without praying, or praying ever so little! And then, at the end of my first year in prison, a powerful wave of emotion swept over me, causing deep and brutal suffering. Within the space of a few hours, I came into possession of faith, with absolute certainty. I believed, and could no longer understand how I had ever not believed. Grace had come to me. A great joy flooded my soul and above all a deep peace. In a few instants everything had become clear. It was a very strong, sensible joy that I felt. I tend now to try, perhaps excessively, to recapture it; actually, the essential thing is not emotion, but faith.
Light over the Scaffold and Cell 18: The Prison Letters of Jacques Fesch
Jacques Fesch was a young murderer whose conversion on death row
 was so dramatic that the cause for his beatification was opened in 1993.
— • —
1-Ex 20:13; Cf. Deut 5:17. 
2-Matt. 6:12
3-Luke 23:34
4-Matt. 22:39
5-Luke 23:39-43

Catechism of the Catholic Church • Evangelium Vitae (1995 encyclical) by Pope John Paul II • Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

It's All Downhill from Here

A little midweek humor from a favorite of mine, Savage Chickens.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A single glance, a connection made ... Nuit Blanche

A powerful and amazing short film (4 minutes) that you will not soon forget. Watch it as large as your screen will show by clicking the 4 arrows next to the Vimeo logo.

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

Here is the blog post by the group that created the film where you may also see a video about the making of Nuit Blanche.

Ozzie and Sharon Osborne's marriage tip: Persevere

Valentine's Day is coming so talk turns to love and marriage. Also, in our parish the Beyond Cana marriage retreat will begin this Friday. Naturally, this WSJ article about long-lived marriages struck a chord. (Heads up, Tom and I are heavily involved in the presentation this time around and so my blogging will become sparse as we get closer to the weekend.)
Never, ever give up. This tip is really important, so pay attention. Sharon Osbourne says it is how she stayed with husband Ozzy for 28 years and counting.


He also spent years strung out on drugs and alcohol. Never mind the groupies and the near-fatal overdoses. This man set fire to his house, passed out on a freeway median, and once tried to strangle his wife.

Ms. Osbourne, for her part, tried to run him over with a car, smashing his gold records with a hammer and taking out a restraining order. "We became like a soap opera," says Ms. Osbourne, 57, who is her husband's manager.

And yet she stuck by her man. Why? Because she felt he was a good person when sober and that he would kick his addictions one day. And she still believes he is her soul mate. ("Twice recently we've had the same dream on the same night," she says.)

"I went into marriage thinking it was forever. So I was stubborn," says Ms. Osbourne who has three children with her husband.

Mr. Osbourne, who was married once before, finally did sober up "six or seven years" ago, he says, and is very glad his wife stuck it out. "You don't throw in the towel at the first sign of trouble," he says.

And so Mr. Osbourne has made a point of telling his wife he loved her every single day—no matter where he was in the world, no matter how drunk or high. "She sometimes said 'Drop dead' or 'F— off,'" he says. "But at least if you are arguing, you are talking. If you stop talking, it's time to call it a day."
This story covers many good tips from a number of long-lived marriages, among them such famous folk as Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. Yet I believe that for all its tempestuous nature with many examples we definitely do not want to ever follow, the Osbornes have the key to the most important step. Never give up. Never surrender. My favorite moment, however, may be the tip conveyed by author, Ellen Bernstein's sister. No, I'm not going to tell you. Read the article.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me."

I knew the minute I saw her that she had Down Syndrome and nobody else did. I held her and cried. Cried and panned the room to meet eyes with anyone that would tell me she didn't have it. I held her and looked at her like she wasn't my baby and tried to take it in. And all I can remember of these moments is her face. I will never forget my daughter in my arms, opening her eyes over and over...she locked eyes with mine and stared...bore holes into my soul.

Love me. Love me. I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me.
An absolutely honest and beautiful story about a mother whose baby girl is born with Down Syndrome. It is long but very much worth the time. Much thanks to Margaret for sending me the link.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

This 'N That: the Source Edition

From life in person, you know - without that virtual part.Although much of this seems to be ordered over the internet. Which puts us back to using virtual reality to get something real in our hands. Oh well ...

iResQ and Refurbished iPods
Say you've done something like, oh, drop your iPod face down on your tile floor and the glass cracked (cracked in many pieces!). What cha gonna do? Well iResq fixes up iPods and a lot of other things too, such as computers. A new piece of glass? $39 (on sale - do that many people break the glass?) and one day turnaround. The Apple Store sells refurbished iPods for a pretty good price if it isn't worth fixing your iPod.  

UPDATE: iResq was as good as their word. I have never experienced such follow through and I now have "my precious" back. In fact, I now have sent off the famously "washed with the laundry" nano to see if their free diagnosis will find that whatever makes it randomly stop working can be fixed for not too much cash. Yes, I did it the same day that I got back my iPod. That's how good they were.

Dog Treat Warehouse
With three dogs in the house (we didn't plan to have a pack, it just happened somehow) it is no joke when I say that we were spending a fortune buying knotted rawhide dog bones. As well, we were having to scour local sources ... stores just don't offer quantity packs of dog bones all the time. These 8-10" bones are an excellent quality and much less expensive than anything in our local stores. Although where I'm going to stash this giant bag of 30 bones, well, that is a different problem.

Delicious and Wheat Free
A friend's recent discovery that she has wheat allergies sent me looking through recipe archives. I was surprised at just how many recipes are in there that are not dependent on wheat. Of course, they are purely delicious, which is why they are in there in the first place!

The Toffee House
A friend very kindly sent us some of this toffee. I never thought I'd taste toffee better than my mother's but these people did it. Highly recommended. And I like their sense of humor. This was on the little card in the tin:
This toffee came from a recipe that was handed down for generations. (Well, probably. However, we have to admit that it wasn't our family that did the handing down). It's a delicious adaptation of  recipe we found in a magazine. We'd love to impress you with tales of delivering this toffee to the Kings of England or that the Pope has some every morning, but we can't.

All of that aside, we're certain that you'll immediately fall in love wit this tempting confection.
I'll testify to that. You will.

In which we attend a seance, with creepy results!

More of The Uninvited from Forgotten Classics.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

5th Commandment: part 1

Requested by some folks here, my ongoing series written for our parish bulletin, part of our occasional series covering the Ten Commandments. We now begin one that is a tough subject in our modern times. It will be a multi-part look at "you shall not kill" as you might expect. Here is part 1.
Living our faith in the real world
The Fifth Commandment:
You shall not kill.*

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill: and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.
Matthew 5:21-22
2258 “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.” [said Granny Weatherwax]

“It’s a lot more complicated than that…” [said Brother Oats]

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.” [said Granny Weatherwax]

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes…” [said Brother Oats]

“But they starts with thinking about people as things.” [said Granny Weatherwax]

Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
The Hebrew word used in this commandment is ratsach (murder). St. Jerome’s translation of the Hebrew into Latin also used the word “murder” instead of the translation “kill” which we see in the headline above.

This distinction of “you shall not murder” instead of “you shall not kill” is a crucial one. It is what establishes the Catholic Church’s prohibition of taking innocent life. So important is this teaching that mere prohibition is not enough. We are called upon to protect, defend, and nurture life from conception to natural end. Jesus both simplified and expanded upon this teaching when giving the Sermon on the Mount as we see above in the quote from Matthew.

As straightforward as the idea of “not murdering” seems, our society is such that moral and political quagmires are opened every time it arises. Without very careful consideration of the Church’s teachings, the issues this commandment covers are likely to raise modern hackles against what are perceived to be insensitive dictates about just war, euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, stem cell research, and more.

In practically every case where someone objects to Church teachings it is through a laudable desire to express compassion and mercy. Those objections generally are concerned with the “quality-of-life.” However, the great danger of trying to judge the “quality” of another’s life is that when a life is judged to be “not worth living” then action must be taken to solve the problem. The only alternative to life is death. This is especially true as governments and institutions become involved in “life issues.”

Bureaucracies have a great tendency to group and categorize situations without taking the time to look closely at each human being involved. People become equivalent to “things.” Things are easy to dispose of.

The Church, on the other hand, has established her teachings with an eye to “sanctity-of-life.” That is to say, the Church knows life is sacred because God created and maintains it. We come from God, we live in relationship with God, and we return to Him when we die. He alone knows us well enough for judgment.

From the knowledge that life is sacred comes teachings which consistently protect all life and which have been called the “seamless garment” of the Church. The seamless garment of life is a reference from John 19:23 to the seamless robe of Jesus, which his executioners did not tear apart. This is the basis for the fact that Catholics cannot protect any life at the expense of other lives.

Clearly, we will be delving into complicated issues as we explore the Fifth Commandment and how we live our faith as modern Catholics. Different issues relating to this commandment will be examined individually in upcoming bulletin inserts
*Ex 20:13; Cf. Deut 5:17.
Source Materials
• Catechism of the Catholic Church
• Evangelium Vitae (1995 encyclical) by Pope John Paul II
• Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Be the Monster!" But What is Being Unleashed?

Gaga, on the other hand, is advising the world to embrace the inner monster, and this is a much more daring proposition; our objectifying ourselves as sexual beings might be easier to cop to — in any age — than the admission that we each of us house "inner monsters" of ego, selfishness, rage, manipulation or superior disdain. Lady Gaga has assigned herself the role of monster's cheerleader. She says, "Be the monster! I love your monster!" What she does not say — because she cannot yet know — is where the unleashing of millions of pent-up monsters may lead.
The Anchoress at NPR is enjoyable and insightful as always. Go and read. If you enjoy it, show NPR you do ... by hitting "recommend" or leaving a comment.

Urgent Prayer Request

For a young girl who is making a decision about an unplanned pregnancy. She wants to give the baby up for adoption but is being pressured to have an abortion. Lord, move her to stand up against pressure, to make the decision to love the little life inside her, and send her the support she needs to have her baby and to thrive.

Update: no news, but I will post an update when I know it. Thank you so much for all of the prayers, comments, and personal emails ... which I have forwarded to my friend who is in touch with the situation. Keep praying...