Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Little Reading on the Scandals in the Church

Screaming headlines and gossip on various blogs are not very helpful when considering the revelations of the horrible betrayals by the priests and bishops in the Irish and German Catholic church. There is no doubt that, as was done by some American priests and bishops, great evil was done to the innocent. Frankly, it broke my heart to hear about it then and it breaks my heart again to hear about it. I pray for the victims and I pray for the perpetrators.

However, it is also helpful to consider some facts to help offset the scandal mongering and misunderstandings. I recommend reading these three articles which do not excuse the evil done, but do help put things in proper perspective.
The Anchoress also has many more links available should anyone wish to look further.

For myself, I think the greatest value comes in reading below the links (or most of them) where she reveals some of her personal past and her answer to an embittered young man who feels betrayed into wondering if there is any true Christianity at all.

A fair question, and perhaps the one that most vividly portrays the really big picture on how personal sins are never really only about us. Our personal acts of evil (let's say it like it is, right?) always, always affect others. Those ripples flow into places we cannot possibly foresee and affect not only others, but the faith as a whole. In our personal sins we drive others away from Christ. We cannot always see the ripples but that is not the point, should never be the point. That responsibility can now be seen and it is a rock placed on the shoulders of all the faithful. No wonder we need Christ's grace.

No wonder.

This week is Holy Week when our personal sins, our personal evils, drove Christ through His Passion to save us. What better time to reflect upon personal evils and the hurt they do to others? He calls us to repent that we may believe and have eternal life. Let us look with clear eyes to see the cost.

Holy Week Reflections are Not Showing Up in RSS Feeds

At least, they're not showing up in Google. Just thought I'd mention that for anyone who, like me, depends on their RSS feed to show them ALL!

This is probably because I took old posts, updated and saved for reposting. I'd like to give y'all fresh content each time, but when I read these there is always something new that I need to see. So I figure, tradition isn't a bad thing, especially for Holy Week.

There is a series on Holy Week and a series reflecting on the wedding at Cana and the Passion. For those you actually must drop by ... in person, so to speak.

Friday, March 26, 2010

For every bad thing that anyone says about the internet ...

... there are also times when we are allowed to see the grace and love that can flow when one of our own is hurting.

If we miss the witness that great friendships can be formed and supported this way, then we are reminded. It does matter. It is real.

Invisible but real.

Like prayers.

Like love.

Like God.

We know it is there. We feel it.

I am grateful for my circles of invisible friends.

I was grateful when my dad died and you lifted us up. I am grateful now, when it is plain old everyday life.

Just wanted you to know that.

Friday Litany: Litany for Priests

It is the year of the priesthood, our diocesan newspaper was just all about Dallas priests, and we are coming into a time of the liturgical year when they are busy and tired. Hopefully, in the midst of that they will also be renewed. A long one but a good one, from that wonderful spot to find a litany that hits the spot.
Litany for Priests

Let us pray for the Holy Father:
fill him with courage and grace, Lord.

Cardinals, archbishops, and bishops:
give them a shepherd's heart, Lord.

Diocesan priests:
fill them with your Spirit, Lord.

Priests in religious orders:
perfect them in their calling, Lord.

Priests who are ill:
heal them, Lord.

Priests who are in danger:
deliver them, Lord.

Priests who are weak:
strengthen them, Lord.

Priests who are poor:
relieve them, Lord.

Priests who have lost their zeal:
renew them, Lord.

Priests who are sad:
console them, Lord.

Priests who are worried:
give them peace, Lord.

Priest who are old:
sustain them, Lord.

Priests who are alone:
accompany them, Lord.

Missionary priests:
protect them, Lord.

Priests who are preachers:
enlighten them, Lord.

Priest who direct souls:
instruct them, Lord.

Priests and religious who have died:
bring them to glory, Lord.

For all priests:
give them Your wisdom and knowledge.

For all priests:
give them Your understanding and counsel.

For all priests:
give them reverence and awe of You.

For all priests:
give them patience and love.

For all priests:
give them obedience and kindness.

For all priests:
give them a burning zeal for souls.

For all priests:
give them virtues of faith, hope and love.

For all priests:
give them an intense love for the Eucharist.

For all priests:
give them loyalty to the Holy Father and their Bishops.

For all priests:
give them respect for life and human dignity.

For all priests:
give them integrity and justice.

For all priests:
give them humility and generosity.

For all priests:
give them strength in their labors.

For all priests:
give them peace in their sufferings.

For all priests:
give them great love for the Trinity.

For all priests:
give them great love for Mary.

For all priests:
let them be the light of Christ.

For all priests:
let them be the salt of the earth.

For all priests:
let them practice sacrifice and self-denial.

For all priests:
let them be holy in body, mind and spirit.

For all priests:
let them be men of prayer.

For all priests:
may faith shine forth in them.

For all priests:
may they be concerned for our salvation.

For all priests:
may they be faithful to their priestly vocation.

For all priests:
may their hands bless and heal.

For all priests:
may they burn with love for you.

For all priests:
may all their steps be for the glory of God.

For all priests:
may the Holy Spirit fill them,
and give them His gifts in abundance.

Let us pray.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
hear the prayers we offer for our priests.
Let them know clearly the work that You are calling them to do.
Grant them every grace to answer Your call with courage,
love, and lasting dedication to Your will.
We ask Mary's intercession as their loving mother.

Amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Didn't Know That: Something Interesting About Pope Benedict's Letter to the Irish

I've heard about the pope's letter, people saying that it was too mild, that there should also have been a letter to Germans and others, and so forth.

However, this has been the first time I've read anything that really surprised me. Turns out Pope Benedict has done something very new in that letter and it has slipped past everyone, more or less. Emphasis added is mine.
ROME, March 25, 2010 – Law and grace. Where earthly justice does not reach, the hand of God can. With his letter dated March 19, Benedict XVI has given the Catholics of Ireland an order never before given by a pope of the modern era to an entire national Church.

He told them not only to bring the guilty before the canonical and civil courts, but to put themselves collectively in a state of penance and purification. And not in the privacy of their consciences, but in a public form, before the eyes of all, even of their most implacable and mocking adversaries. Fasting, prayer, reading the Bible, and works of charity on all the Fridays from now until Easter of next year. Frequent sacramental confession. Continual adoration of Jesus – “ himself a victim of injustice and sin” – present in the sacred host, exposed on the altars of the churches. And for all the bishops, priests, and religious, without exception, a special period of “mission,” a long and strict course of spiritual exercises for a radical review of life.

It’s a daring step, this one taken by Pope Benedict. Because not even the prophet Jonah believed any longer that God would forgive Nineveh its sins, in spite of the penitential ashes and sackcloth worn by all, from the king to the lowliest beast of burden. ...
Read all of Sandro Magister's article here.

Cream Filled Oat Bars

Eat 'em up at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Master Thriller, Ross Thomas

His writing is featured this week in a rerun at Forgotten Classics. Warning: explicit language, R-rating.

The Solemnity of the Annunciation

Leonardo da Vinci. The Annunciation.
Detail. c. 1472-1475. Oil and tempera on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

On today's feast the Church celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation and, at the same time, the vocation of Our Lady. It was her faithful response to the angel's message, her fiat, that began the work of redemption...

The setting of this feast day, March 25th, corresponds to Christmas. In addition, there is ancient tradition that the creation of the world and the commencement and conclusion of the Redemption all happened to coincide at the vernal equinox.


As the greatest proof of his love for us, God had his only Son become man to save us from our sins. In this way Jesus merited for us the dignity of becoming children of God. His arrival signalled the fullness of time. St. Paul puts it quite literally that Jesus was born of a woman. (cf The Navarre Bible, Romans and Galatians, note to Gal 4:4) Jesus did not come to earth as a spirit. He truly became man, like one of us. He received his human nature from Our Lady's immaculate womb. Today's feat, therefore, is really in honour of Jesus and Mary. That is why Fr. Luis de Granada has pointed out: It is reasonable to consider, first and foremost, the purity and sanctity of the Woman whom God chose 'ab aeterno' to give form to his humanity.

When God decided to create the first man, he first took care to create a fitting environment for him, which was the Garden of Eden. It makes sense, then, that when god made ready to send his Son, the Christ, he likewise prepared for him a worthy environment, namely, the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin. (Life of Jesus Christ, I)


As we consider the significance of this Solemnity, we find Jesus very closely united to Mary. When the Blessed Virgin said Yes, freely, to the plans revealed to her by the Creator, the divine Word assumed a human nature: a rational soul and a body, which was formed in the most pure womb of Mary. The divine nature and the human were united in a single Person: Jesus Christ, true God and, thenceforth, true Man; the only-begotten and eternal Son of the Father, and from that moment on, as Man, the true son of Mary. ... (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 274)
There is more from this reflection featured in last year's post for this solemnity.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lenten Online Retreat

The Anchoress is retreating from political news and focusing on the end of Lent. Here's a good place to begin.

So How's It Going With Everyone's Lenten Sacrifices?

I've discovered some very good classical music podcasts.
They have just enough DJ-ish explanation to keep things going, but not enough to overshadow the music ... otherwise they'd be disqualified.

I also have found some great BBC classical shows like Discovering Music and The Early Music Show, as well as a couple of interesting BBC jazz shows like Jazz Library and Jazz Record Requests (thank you again Radio Downloader!)

Not to mention my regular favorites The Happy Hour Lounge and Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan.

However, I realized a couple of weeks ago how much I miss those spoken words when I misplaced my editing notes on that episode of Forgotten Classics and had to proof it a second time. Contrary to previous experiences, I didn't complain. I welcomed it! Oh, oh.

All that is to say that I have been struggling to keep from putting my post-Easter plan of one hour a day (to try to control the listening beast) into action now. Rationalizing, don't you know, that I see where the problem is, now I just must work on getting a handle on it.

I saw a few people here and there recently saying things like we give up things for Lent by the grace of God and if we fall, well God gives us grace then too. Or something like that.

It all sounded pretty good until I realized that part of this is about exercising (or taming) my will. If I fall, then I am supposed to get up and try again. And again. And, yes, even again if that is what it takes.

Otherwise it is all an easy thing like letting go of a New Years' resolution. I have to believe that opening that space for God is worth more struggle on my part. (Although, I here proudly report that I still haven't bought a book this year. Whew!)

Now, just to give me something to really look forward to, I received yesterday from SFFaudio, Dimiter by William "the Exorcist" Blatty.

Oh. Yeah.

Here's the skinny
Dimiter opens in the world’s most oppressive and isolated totalitarian state: Albania in the 1970s. A prisoner suspected of being an enemy agent is held by state security. An unsettling presence, though subjected to unimaginable torture he maintains an eerie silence. He escapes—and on the way to freedom, completes a mysterious mission. The prisoner is Dimiter, the American “agent from Hell.”

The scene shifts to Jerusalem, focusing on Hadassah Hospital and a cast of engaging, colorful characters: the brooding Christian Arab police detective, Peter Meral; Dr. Moses Mayo, a troubled but humorous neurologist; Samia, an attractive, sharp-tongued nurse; and assorted American and Israeli functionaries and hospital staff. All become enmeshed in a series of baffling, inexplicable deaths, until events explode in a surprising climax.

Told with unrelenting pace, Dimiter’s compelling, page-turning narrative is haunted by the search for faith and the truths of the human condition. Dimiter is William Peter Blatty’s first full novel since the 1983 publication of Legion.
Click through on the link to hear an excerpt.

As for the adding on part of Lent, I have made it to daily Mass almost every weekday. I have not managed to get into the speed-rosary in the back of the church, but it does make a wonderful background of prayer washing over me as I sit somewhat apart involved in my own communion with Jesus. So I do what I can on that front.

So that's all about me! How about everyone else? What's up with giving up and adding on for you?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Martyrdom — The Same Then and Now

Main Entry: 1mar·tyr
Pronunciation: \ˈmär-tər\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin, from Greek martyr-, martys witness
Date: before 12th century

1 : a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion
2 : a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle
3 : victim; especially : a great or constant sufferer
In discussing Mike Aquilina's Father's of the Church over the last two months, our Catholic women's book club has come back repeatedly to the subject of martyrdom.

Partly the issue has been clouded by the new awareness of Muslim martyrs in our lives. This has led to several talks clarifying the difference between Christian and Muslim martyrs. If only we had thought to go to the dictionary. I believe that the first definition perfectly speaks to the Christian model. The second definition also applies to Christian martyrdom and is stretched in an extreme fashion by some Muslims for their own faith. That distinction is vital. A true Christian martyr does not attack others. They are witnesses to their faith, not inflicting it on others, such as those very misguided people who bomb abortion clinics which is very unChristian behavior indeed.

This naturally led to discussion of whether it is better to stand or to run, prompted by St. Cyprian's example, who having weighed martyrdom versus leading his flock from hiding chose to flee. He is a saint and a father of the church, but his example also led to great division among the priests and faithful under his care.

The question that example raised is that if God is always on the side of life, would He want people embracing martyrdom of the "lions in the arena" type, which seemed an unhealthy thing to seek out.

This also brought up discussion of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who was stoned to death. My personal view of St. Stephen is that an integral part of his personality and youth was his great enthusiasm for the truth of Christ. I can see that, again in my own imaginings, he was proclaiming the truth to all as a knight would defend his king. This view was not embraced by all present but I happen to know a number of teenage boys. To me, this fits. I do not think he sought it out or that most martyrs sought it out. It happened because of circumstances, personality, and the necessity of telling the truth.

I, myself, as one might expect, tend to go for the model that does not seek out martyrdom but does not run away either.

In the end, we came down to two exemplars who actually embody both of the qualities we found necessary. One is that no one should deliberately seek to throw their life away. The second is that when put to the test, one must witness for truth.

One such example is St. Thomas More. He wriggled this way and that to avoid having to come down to a final confrontation with Henry VIII. However, when it was unavoidable, he did not run or move his family to France which he easily could have done. He stayed where he was, continuing to do the best he could under the circumstances, and did not shirk the direct witness he was called to give. He paid with his life.

Another such example, and the one that prompted the entire discussion, was St. Perpetua. There are a few "mothers" of the church included in the end of the book and she is one. An educated noblewoman and recent convert in Carthage around 200 AD, she was arrested, imprisoned, and killed. Adding to the strain was the fact that she was a new mother and naturally very worried about her infant who eventually was smuggled to her in the prison for a time. She wrote an account of her martyrdom. In it is her witness to her pagan father, her love and anxiety over her babe, and a vision she had. I found her vision to be very heartening because it so clearly showed God's grace under such terrible circumstances and that if we are willing to stand and do our part, that He gives the strength for the rest.
"Then my brother said to me: 'Lady sister, you are now in great honor-so great that you may well pray for a vision in which you may be shown whether suffering or release be in store for you.'

And I, knowing myself to have speech of the Lord for whose sake I was suffering, confidently promised, 'Tomorrow I will brig you word.'

And I made petition and this was shown me. I saw a golden ladder of wonderful length reaching up to heaven, but so narrow that only one at a a time could go up; and on the sides of the ladder were fastened all kinds or iron weapons. And at the foot of the ladder was a huge dragon or 'serpent' which lay in wait for those going up and sought to frighten them from making the ascent.

Now the first to go up was Saturus, who had given himself up of his own accord for our sakes, because our faith was of his own building and he had not been present when we were arrested. He reached the top of the ladder, and turning, said to me, 'Perpetua, I wait for you, but take care lest the dragon bite you,' and I said, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, he will not hurt me.'

And the dragon put out his head gently, as if afraid of me, just at the foot of the ladder; and as though I were treading on the first step, I trod on his head. And I went up and saw a large garden, and sitting in the midst a tall man with white hair in the dress of a shepherd, milking sheep; and round about were many thousands clad in white. And he raised his head and looked upon me and said, 'Welcome, child.' And he called me and gave me some curds of the milk he was milking, and I received it in my joined hands and ate; and all that were round about said Amen. At the sound of the word I awoke, still eating something sweet.

And at once I told my brother, and we understood that we must suffer and henceforth began to have no hope in this world.
Note that neither of these two sought out martyrdom. Indeed, they had everything to live for in this world. However, when it came down to witnessing to the truth, they could not deny it. Very important to my mind, is that dragon curled around the bottom of the ladder. Dragons or serpents are often imagery for Satan and I can imagine that the temptation to turn aside from offering a true witness may be our natural fears but also could be very strongly pushed from this source.

Mulling all this over this morning, it came to me that the one essential point we had not boiled it down to was the word "witness." Martyrs are witnesses to the truth. Whether the sort of witness we are likely to encounter in dealing with people in everyday life or the more final sort that people face all the time in other countries (there have been more Christians martyrs in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined or so I have heard ... anyone got facts on that?), we are called to be witnesses and not run away from witnessing what is true. Each of us must weigh what that means in each situation, as with all things, and also in our relationship with God.

I thought at that point to look at the dictionary. Aha.
from Greek martyr-, martys witness
How you are called upon to witness is individual to each of us. Whether we choose to stand or run is also individual and in most cases no one will ever know. Except us. And God.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mudslinging Authors

Oscar Wilde on Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”

Mark Twain: “Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.”

W.H. Auden on Alfred, Lord Tennyson: “There was little about melancholy that he didn’t know; there was little else that he did.”
These are just a few favorites of mine from the remarks that Sherry has gathered together. Note that I don't necessarily agree. I simply find them hilarious. Read the rest at Semicolon.

Via Brandywine Books where there are a few other amusing comments.

This is Why I Print Out Long Blog Posts to Read at My Leisure

“In research on how people read websites we found that 79 percent of our test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word. (Update: a newer study found that users read email newsletters even more abruptly than they read websites.)”
As I have discovered to my sorrow ... so I tend to write long emails with paragraphs of one sentence ... at least people read part of each sentence that way.

Read the whole BRIEF post from Writing, Clear and Simple with some excellent tips on writing emails and for the web.

Worst Family Christmas Ever: The Lion in Winter

Alternate headline:
The Ultimate in Scenery Chewing: There's Another Two Hours I'll Never Get Back

Additional alternate headline:
Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Ugh.

Good actors go 'round in circles for several hours, ending up where they began. It was the original with Katherine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton et al. A waste of time, money, and actors as far as we could tell. Which was a great disappointment.

Great sets and production. I especially enjoyed the many dogs hanging around and the chickens everywhere. That all seemed authentic.

The same two people who recommended this movie also recently strongly recommended Becket. I don't think so ... my time is precious.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Temptation and the Road to Redemption: The Surprising Honesty of "The Good Wife"

Spoilers abound below.

And I'm paraphrasing any dialogue.

As I have said before, we continue to be pleased with The Good Wife. The writers continue to produce interesting, suspenseful courtroom drama each week within a larger story arc of the "good wife" of the cheating, convicted politician.

This week the show rose to new heights while intelligently examining honesty within marriage and religion, in my opinion.

First, in Peter Florrick's attempt to reenter the political ring, he approached an influential African-American pastor for help in winning back the black female vote. What he found was an uncompromising Christian who refused to overlook a man's soul in order to curry political favor. It was refreshing to see Pastor Isaiah not deliver platitudes and not back down.

He told Peter, "Your marriage is in trouble. You don't believe it but it is. You are sleeping in separate bedrooms. You aren't repentant for what you did and your wife knows it." That is when I sat up, pointed at the TV and turned to Tom, saying, "YES! He says he's innocent of the fraud but he's never said he's sorry about the prostitute" (with whom he slept multiple times before being caught.)

To be fair, this isn't the first time I've said this and Tom doubtless is tired of hearing me say it. Now, if I feel that way, just imagine how Alicia Florrick feels. However, I digress.

It was equally refreshing to see Peter respond honestly instead of saying what the pastor would want to hear when asked, "Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save your soul?" Peter said, "I don't even know what that means."

Pastor Isaiah said, "Do you want know what it means?" Peter said, "No!"

Now, that is honest. As is Pastor Isaiah's next question, "Do you want to change?"

That strikes to the heart of the issue. Why would anyone be attracted to faith unless there was something in their own life that they wanted to be changed? Peter's rather confused response leaves the door open for further conversation. As Alicia found when she returned home, things went rather further than Peter probably expected.



What we don't know is if Peter is stringing Pastor Isaiah along, although I'd bet on Pastor Isaiah for knowing when someone is taking him for a ride. As we see later, Peter doesn't seem to be lying. We are told that there are follow-up conversations with the pastor. After Alicia has seen a small cross in Peter's room, she asks, "Are you becoming religious?" He says, "I don't know."

Again, that rings true to me. As does a later conversation when he tells her with increasing enthusiasm that, "I want to change. I want to change inside" while he thumps his heart. Been there. Feel it.

The writers didn't take the easy way out with platitudes and stereotypes. Kudos. Future developments in this area are going to be interesting.


Second, is Alicia's relationship with Will, her boss and former college sweetheart. We know they're attracted to each other although, along the lines of restraint that are the hallmark of the excellent acting on the show, they haven't done more than give us an expression on their faces every so often.

When Will was at his lowest point, you just knew he was going to give in and plant that kiss on her. What was unpredictable was whether she was going to return it, which she did ... the whole time I was saying (more like, shouting aloud), "No, NO! Don't do it. DON'T!"

So I was quite relieved when she broke off and left the building ....

... and quite upset when she was returning ...

... and quite relieved when she didn't find Will ...

... and quite upset when he found out later that she'd returned and went to talk to her about the fact that she'd been ready to pursue the kiss if only he'd been there.

What an emotional roller coaster -- I hated it.

However, it set up a interesting dilemma. Anything that might develop along those lines would be a deliberate decision, not a moment of weakness that she and Will give in to as would have happened this week. It provides a parallel for her decisions to possibly travel the road that Peter did in deliberate unfaithfulness. I like to think that she has too much integrity for that route (and Will too for that matter). It is especially interesting when Peter is pursuing internal change that may lead to personal and marital redemption.

Of course, this is the writers' skill displayed for us in setting up the tension of these conflicting and contrasting character developments.

We do not often get honesty and fine writing like this on television. The two shows I can think of off the top of my head are House, which after six seasons is still a treasure, and Bones, which although much lighter in approach doesn't flinch at examining difficult questions.

Here's hoping for much more of the same from The Good Wife.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stand Up for Life in our Health Care

If you live in the United States and haven’t yet done so (or haven’t done so recently), take action on the health care debate.

Said so perfectly by Steven D. Greydanus at his blog Decent Films that his reward is having me rip it off to present to you.

Now, please don't delay. Do this now.

Friday Litany: Litany for Lent 1

Oh my memory. I see that I am not nearly as regular in my Friday litany postings as I'd like to be. Ah well, it adds a little surprise when I remember, right? Here we go ... from a spot that has many good litanies to offer.
Litany for Lent
Lord Jesus, you have come to save us from our sins.
Lord, have mercy.

You fasted to encourage us to do penance.
Lord, have mercy.

You suffered temptation to give us strength.
Lord, have mercy.

You were transfigured to give us hope.
Lord, have mercy.

You suffered insults to bring us salvation.
Lord, have mercy.

You accepted death to bring us life with you.
Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I say, "Oo." You say, "long."

A music video for tea lovers.

No, really! Go see!

A Flood of Mercy and Joy, with a little bit of Happy Catholic in the mix

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Pat Gohn for her Among Women podcast. Actually, the pleasure was in the lots and lots of talking we both did. Frankly, at this moment, I can't remember just what was in the interview and what was just "between two women" (ha!).

I can't listen until after Easter, but you can hear it now. Three spots to pick it up:
Thanks Pat!

Updated: The Best Part About The Anchoress's Being a Writer ...

... is that she has a notebook from which she sometimes unpacks snippets for us ...
Priest: ‘I think I’ve lost my faith.’
Cardinal Cushing: ‘Don’t flatter yourself; you’re just bored.’ --Sermon
=============
We are not meant to ’succeed’ at Lent, but to fail and know our dependence upon Grace.
=============
Know-it-all-son: I don’t pray; I don’t need to because God knows all.”
Me: But even Jesus prayed…
Even a blog writer winds up with snippets around. Mine are on note cards, jotted in my so-called journal which is really mostly cryptic notes and lists of what I'm reading at the moment. And, of course, quote journals. Lots and lots of quote journals.

UPDATED
I sent Cardinal Cushing's comment to our priest and he responded that he had heard it years ago but a bit better and perhaps a bit kinder. That made me go to Google, where I found this version, which was the one he remembered.
Cardinal Cushing had an interview with a young priest who said to him, 'Your Eminence, I am losing my faith.' The Cardinal said to him, 'Meaning no disrespect to your intellectual attainments, but you and I are too dumb to lose our faith. The great heretics like Martin Luther lose their faith. You and I just get bored!'

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Breaking Point ...

... part 3, which completes this novella, is now up over at Forgotten Classics along with probably the coolest podcast highlight ever.

Also over at Forgotten Classics, though in a separate post is a list of my favorite LibriVox readers ... just in case you want to check on books by sound as well as by content.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Biology Blog for the Non-Specialist: A Life of Life

Finally, an explanation of photosynthesis that makes sense. Perhaps because it is done a bit at a time, very carefully. Here is the piece that began to break it open for me.
The light wave which we rode almost a hundred million miles from the sun has ended its journey by colliding with a tiny molecule inside the cell of the grass, called chlorophyll, where its energy will be harnessed for the plant to use. Light itself is a form of electromagnetic energy, and some organisms are capable of converting that energy into chemical energy which they can use. The chlorophyll molecule itself is embedded in a membrane surrounding a fluid-filled space known as the stroma, somewhat like the skin of a balloon surrounding its air-filled interior. All around us light waves are crashing into the chlorophyll molecules, and the energy carried by these molecules is causing things to happen: molecules are changing shape, being broken, being built, and many tiny hydrogen protons are being moved across the membrane from the outside to the inside.
Go to A Life of Life and read from the beginning. Just read a post a day. There aren't too many and the entries are short. We begin by hurtling with a sunbeam (an electromagnetic light wave) from the sun and slamming into the dim, watery world of a grass cell. I cannot tell you how much I have been enjoying these brief but illuminating posts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This 'N' That: the mega post

Greenville Avenue St. Patrick's Day Parade
I turned on the computer Saturday morning and surveyed the DMN home page that comes up with a sleepy eye before coming alert with a shriek. How could I have forgotten? I don't actually have an objection to the parade itself but we live four blocks (four loooong blocks) away and my grocery store is right next to the parade route which means no parking ... all day long.

Hasty ablutions, quick consulting with Tom who said that if there was no parking he'd drop me off and pick me up, and made it by 8:30 to the Central Market which, blessedly, had security personnel this year turning away anyone but customers. The store was still fairly full of green garbed runners and families as they stocked up for various things but true shoppers were few and far between.

Zoe, Wash, and The Big Morning Walk
We went ahead and walked to the parade with the dogs later that morning. Wash, laid back as always, accepted any and all "drive by" patting. He did not, however, approve of other dogs that he saw. This, evidently, was his parade and sharing with other dogs was not approved. Much barking and lunging ensued periodically.

Zoe, much more intense and skittish, didn't mind the dogs but both longed for and distrusted various hands thrust in her direction. Eventually she relaxed and a good time was had by all. Except that during one of Zoe's skittish episodes, she went one way and I the other ... the result a sprained ankle. Darn. Had to sit around all day after that. Well, if I must, I must ...

It is amazing how many people have Boxers. They all come out of the woodwork when we take Zoe and Wash anywhere, telling many a tale of childhood companions or current canines who are home reclining in luxury on couches.

Floats
Tom liked the interpretive spirit showed in the flag for the Texas Irish Bicycling Team above. See how they have taken the Irish flag, remade it in the Texas flag design and used a shamrock instead of the Lone Star. Nicely done.

I was surprised at how elaborate some of the floats were. Also at how many there were ... the parade just kept going and going and going. My favorite was one that I couldn't figure out the sponsor for until it went past. In the front sat an aged man with a somewhat solemn countenance. The other people on the float weren't throwing beads but were simply waving. It was beautifully decorated with artistic symbols and I wondered if perhaps it was for a local restaurant. Then I saw the sign on the back. Of course. The local Hare Krishna temple from lower Greenville. I liked the spirit that had them joining in the "neighborhood" parade. Albeit a gigantic neighborhood. The news said that 80,000 people attended. Greenville is a long road, but still ...

Watching
Despite what I read in some places, television still has some excellent entertainment value ... yes, even on the plain old networks. One must be discriminating, but, then, when must one not be discriminating?
  • House, M.D.: the last episode, Private Lies, was interesting in our household because the patient was a blogger. The sort of blogger who tells all, and I mean all. Partway in, I told Tom that I could identify too much with her because what I really wanted to know was her daily hits. (so sad, so true...). The true theme for the show was exploring connectedness and privacy. As always they did a nice job of exploring different aspects of these through the various story lines, although I have a very hard time believing that Chase didn't always know that he is adorable. Especially with that soft Australian accent. Most interesting from the blogging aspect was the question of how a blogger treads that thin line between truly blogging and being themselves and turning it into performance art. I would venture to say that anyone who has blogged for long has seen how this could happen. Whether a blogger crosses that line (and it can happen multiple times, back and forth) I think depends on their main purpose in blogging. And even then it can become a difficult issue occasionally.
  • Parenthood: tried the first episode of this. Run far, run fast, but do not waste your time on this. It fell prey to the desire to please everyone by resolving all the issues with a smile and a big hug. When the crusty father went over to give his crying grown son a big hug, we knew nothing was redeemable there. Or perhaps we just know the movie too well. Jason Robards' character never would have given in that fast. It was all too, too fake ...
  • The Good Wife: this series just gets better and better. Now that the husband is home on house arrest, various other subplots are being spun out. That is less interesting, frankly, than the weekly cases that are being tried and the law firm's constant quest for money to keep afloat. The strengths are in the fact that much of the response is underplayed by different characters which leaves us open to interpret and think about issues a bit more than other shows. Parenthood writers could learn a lot from watching how this show handles emotions and plot development.
Reading
  • The Jupiter Myth - Lindsey Davis: Out of new fiction I wandered to my bookshelves and discovered that I hadn't perused Lindsey Davis in some time. The Jupiter Myth was one of her books that I most enjoyed as it combines a look at life in ancient Londinum with a well conceived mystery that is investigated by her wise cracking, cynical detective, Falco. As well, a few old friends from the series are roped into service.#15.
  • Alexandria - Lindsey Davis: Marcus Didius Falco and family are on vacation in Alexandria, cadging lodgings off of his uncle. As a known agent of Emperor Vespasian he gets co-opted to investigate when there is a murder at the great library. This is carried off with the usual flourish of family detail, historical knowledge and pure fun and sass that Lindsey Davis brings to her series. However, the true solution to the murder was almost thrown in as an afterthought which I found most unsatisfactory.#17
  • The Demon and the City - Liz Williams: Much more Demon Zhu Irzh-centric, this is the second book in the series begun in Snake Agent. Detective Inspector Chen is on holiday in Hawaii leaving Demon Zhu Irzh holding the fort when the feng shui goes terribly awry in Singapore. Naturally this means mighty plots are afoot to take over earth ... this time from Heaven (based loosely on Chinese mythology). Also a cracking good yarn. Liz William's twist on Chinese mythology intersecting with our world makes a weird kind of sense for anyone who knows even the littlest bit about their concepts of heaven, hell and the gods. #18
  • How to Disappear Completely - Myke Bartlett. Urban fantasy at its best, this audiobook has hints of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere without being derivative. Quite a feat and one that Myke Bartlett pulls off perfectly. "Part film noir detective story, part fantasy adventure, part East End gangster tale, How to Disappear Completely concerns Theo Braithwaite, a failed actress and worse waitress, becoming involved in an unseen world populated by history's rejects and runaways from a secret society known as The Footmen. A stranger to London, waiting for life to come and find her, she is instead found by a part-time thief called Kilbey Salmon who, along with his rockabilly-obsessed partner, is attempting to eke out a living stealing things that have already been stolen and finding people who don't want to be found." Only available as an audiobook, but truly worth your time. #20
  • The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle: An American detective living in London is approached to find a young woman who disappeared. Although this is a mystery, it is largely an intersection of "what if" the Celtic myth of people being kidnapped into faerie lands were true. Told from the weary detective's point of view, the story takes on also the flavor of his knowing such things are possible but feeling a sense of personal failure over the people who much more legitimately disappeared in his own life (his father, his girlfriend). A quick read, not elaborately detailed, yet still an attention grabber and one that left me thinking about the story when I had to stop and do other things. #21.
  • Night Train from Memphis by Elizabeth Peters: Elizabeth Peters is, I believe, this author's real name. She also writes under Barbara Michaels. The joke inherent in this knowledge is that Barbara Michaels writes romantic mysteries while Elizabeth Peters makes fun of the genre while still writing legitimately romantic mysteries. This is where she gets to have a bit of fun. My favorites of her Elizabeth Peter's series are the Vicky Bliss books. This is the last of the series, as to my everlasting regret Ms. Peters has focused on Amelia Peabody who I find deadly boring except for the very first book of that series.

    This book combines country and western with Egyptology, searching for the lost treasure of Troy, a variant of the English country house murder (carried out on a barge floating down the Nile), and, of course, true love with a scoundrel who has a heart of gold. No wonder I enjoy rereading this book. #23.
  • Precious Dragon by Liz Williams: Williams almost has too many characters doing too much in too many situations here. However, she pulls it off. I love Mrs. Pa's character and enjoyed the discovery of what lies at the bottom level of Hell, although I found the sudden craziness of the Emperor of Heaven rather too much. I still enjoyed it overall though.

    Rereading this I rediscovered that she suddenly develops a linguistic twitch partway into the book. Or perhaps that is simply where it forced its way into my consciousness. At any rate, once you have noticed that she uses "given" every three sentences or so, it becomes so very annoying that it is difficult forcing one's way past it. Where was the editor? Dozing? Or perhaps in love with that phrase. Given that I am not, one might take it as a given that I was unable to force my way through the next book in the series, The Shadow Pavilion. Especially given the fact that not only is Williams using given sometimes three times in a paragraph, she crammed even more characters in more situations into this one. Nope. I'm not going along for that ride. #24
  • Fallen Rain by Barry Eisler: Recommended by Matt. American born, half-Japanese, John Rain is a professional hit man with a strict set of rules for his targets: no women or children, only principles in a dispute. He specializes in "natural causes" deaths and has just pulled one off while giving us a bit of back story. Interestingly as the story goes on through fascinating twists and turns, we are not asked to find John a sympathetic character. We learn more of his story so that his life's work makes more sense but the character does not work to become likable. I like that since he's a hit man ... seems more "real" that way. Although he seems so American in his thinking that i tend to forget he looks Japanese and sometimes have to remind myself and "fix" my mental picture when that is important to the story, as it sometimes is. #25
  • Shapers by Robert Chase: Reread this for the first time since I read it originally. Robert Chse has created a truly innovative alien species and we are thrust into his universe willy nilly along with the protagonist ... who is an amnesiac recovering from a space ship crash. What is his goal? Who is he really? And how do we understand the Shaper species and their human "herds?" Fascinating and says much about what it means to be a human being, as do all his books. I had forgotten just how strong a statement this book makes about the value of life and the power of the human spirit. Highest recommendation, with the warning that it can be a difficult book to grasp. Just go with the flow the first time through.#22
  • The 13th Hour by Richard Doetsch: Can't remember where I found this book reviewed ... possibly SF Site ... but I was intrigued by a book that is written backwards and where the time travel is only within a prescribed amount of time in a person's life. However, it soon became rather tedious to see this poor fellow have to repeatedly work backwards every hour or so. This is nothing that good plotting or good characterization couldn't have overcome. Too bad this book so consistently skimmed the surface on both. #26

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let that be a lesson to you, old chum

He who lives by the RSS feed, sees nothing amusing in the sidebars.

Not only mine, in which amusing content changes every weekday, but that of others. I must admit that, having fallen into the RSS feed habit myself, I have missed for some time seeing the broader horizons.

If I hadn't pulled out of RSS for a moment and wandered over "in person" (so to speak) to martha, martha then I'd never have seen the truly wonderful Batman quote in her sidebar.

Then I never would have gone looking for others.

And then none of us would be sitting here right now laughing at this ...
Robin: Where'd you get a live fish, Batman?

Batman: The true crimefighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin.
You are laughing aren't you? Yeah, me too. Remember, old chum, stop and smell the roses (or view the blogs in their entirety).

Looking Up

This does not really do justice to the full white I see when I look up but it was the only photo I could find online that came close. Our pear trees are in full bloom. (Rose will be happy she isn't here as the scent I barely notice is abhorrent to her.) Truly gorgeous.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

“Look around. You can’t tell who was conceived with wine and roses and who was conceived on a street corner.”

It wasn’t a day for writing. It was a day for processing all that I saw and heard at a United Nations conference the day before. The first session that I attended was conducted by a panel of eight women and one man who were conceived in rape, and in one case, incest. These were the very people whose conception is held out as the ultimate justification for legalized abortion. Executing the child for the father’s crime.
Powerful writing and links from Coming Home in Conceived in Rape: God is My Father.

Bishops Elect Deshotel and Seitz for Dallas

I like it. I like it a lot.

Whispers in the Loggia says both were named as co-auxiliaries to Dallas' Bishop Farrell and I couldn't be happier.

I don't know Bishop Elect Steitz, about whom good stories are being told, but I am very familiar with Bishop Elect Deshotel who used to fill in at St. Thomas Aquinas long ago.

Specifically I can never be grateful enough for his answering the call to the priesthood. It was he who heard my first face-to-face confession during the CRHP retreat that I attended six years ago. I kid you not, I don't remember specific words but I do know that I felt Jesus Himself speaking through him ... kindly, insightfully, and with words of healing. That confession was a key moment for me personally and ultimately the main reason (among so many) that I was called to attend that retreat.
  • Here is the diocese's announcement.
  • Here is the bishop's blog which not only has posts about the bishops-elect but also announces that Dallas will be welcoming home 3,000 new Catholics at Easter. Thanks be to God ...

In which the crew faces more threats from the aliens ...

... Breaking Point, part 2, is up at Forgotten Classics.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's All Downhill from Here

The flowers began to wither under the rigorous interrogation.

Time for some midweek humor to lighten things up. Let us turn to Unhappy Hipsters which Shrine of the Holy Whapping, where I found the link, points out adds "silly captions to pretentious, underbuilt, overdesigned interiors and exteriors ripped from the headlines of modish living magazines." And does a fine job of it too ...


The bathroom had been the source of an acrid odor for months,
but now emitted a strange, vaguely toxic glow. This didn’t bode well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Principle of Subsidiarity

The principle of subsidiarity holds that a larger and greater body should not exercise functions which can be carried out efficiently by one smaller and lesser, but rather the former should support the latter and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the whole community.
This principle has been named to me via three different sources in conversation, reading, and email within the last three days.

Although I felt I understood it in context each time, I figured I'd better be sure I really knew what it meant. I approve of this principle. Although my search for the definition brought up references to Catholic social principles, business, and the European Union ... all three of my original instances were in reference to parish life.

Just in case anyone else out there has been bombarded with subsidiarity, I thought I'd pass this along.

In the desert ...

... it is difficult there, spare and unrelenting. But there is a sort of peace and beauty that comes from having your soul scoured clean by the whirling sands.

The Crescat reminds us that it is still Lent. I need no reminder this year. But in a strange way I am grateful for that scouring. Perhaps I am in the eye of the storm to be experiencing such peace. I realize how very imperfect I am. I realize just how superhuman, how supernatural it was for Christ to undergo what He did in His passion and to do it so perfectly. I realize how grateful I am that we have His example, simultaneously perfectly human and perfectly divine, to follow and not only that of our fellow men, imperfect as we all are.

Is it peaceful here because it is real, because we can see so clearly when stripped away from the extraneous trees and landscape of regular life? I do not know. But I begin to feel an understanding of the desert saints that I never have before.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This 'n' That

Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) is writing and directing a Doc Savage movie!
Sez Rose. Isn't that enough? It was for us ... we both love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Doc Savage. Ok, here's more.

The Great Prayer Project - End Abortion
From my inbox comes this link for what seems an excellent project:
The Great Prayer Project - End Abortion is simply this, starting March 25, 2010, we hope to have one continuous year of prayer to end abortion. The way we plan on achieving this objective is by allowing individuals to sign up for 20 minute time slots and pray for an end to abortion during that time period.
Pulp Fiction in Motion Graphics
More properly, a choice bit of dialogue in type ... perfectly done and hilarious. Remember, we're all about type. However, remember this is from Pulp Fiction. Practically every other word is explicit so don't click through if that's gonna bother you.

It's Like Roy H. Williams Knows My Life
Such as here, where people add up 2 and 2 to get 14.
Violent crime in America declined each year from 1993 to 2004. Then just about the time the iPod became popular in 2005, violent crime began trending upward.

CONCLUSION: iPods cause violent crime. Or at least that was the conclusion of a 2007 report published by The Urban Institute, a research organization based in Washington. (I swear I’m not making this up.)

Bad advertising strategies stem from just such logic: “Since one event precedes another, the first event must be the cause of the second.” This fallacy of logic is so common it has a Latin name: Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc, "after this, therefore, because of this," referring to the mistaken belief that temporal succession implies a causal relation.

Most business owners look around, observe their circumstances and then try to make sense of it all. Their thoughts and plans are guided by what they see. But any scientist will tell you correlation and causation are not the same thing.
Which also can relate somewhat to that iceberg thing I mentioned last week.

He does it again here.
Not once did they ever say, "Wow. Thanks for caring enough to share that with us."

I knew the bands were delusional. I just never realized that I was, too.

Strangely, I never quit advising people. In fact, I made a career of it.

But a good friend told me something that has saved everyone a lot of pain. “Unsolicited advice is abuse,” he said. So I no longer offer unsolicited advice.
Which is a lesson I most definitely am trying to learn.

Read them both. Or listen if you like. I prefer the podcast but it is Lent, after all, and I am still fasting from spoken word podcasts. Which leads to the last bit of this 'n' that for the moment ...

I Read a Lot More Books When I'm Not Listening to Podcasts All the Time
Yes, I know. Obvious. But its fun to rediscover the fun of whipping through a book every day or two. I've also rediscovered the many ways you can prop books in our kitchen for reading while washing dishes, cooking meals, and so forth. That's why I have bookweights in several rooms of the house, not to mention one at work.

Addictive personality? Tell me something I don't know. At least the Dallas Public Library has an excellent selection so we don't go bankrupt. So far I've still managed to keep my resolution of not buying any new books in 2010. It has been touch and go a couple of times but I've held on.

Here is what I'm reading now. Here is what I've read so far this year. My numbering on when I read some of them is a bit erratic as I found some duplicates, but that's not the point really.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Who will reach the Breaking Point?

Part 1 of our new book, Breaking Point by James Gunn, is up at Forgotten Classics. It is a science fiction novella and being read for the SFFaudio Annual Challenge.

Plus a new podcast highlight ... yes, even if I'm not listening to 'em during Lent, I can still dish the dirt on which ones are good to try out.

This Just In: The Language God Talks (on science and religion)

I wasn't aware that best selling author Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War) wrote nonfiction and, more to the point, precisely the sort of nonfiction that I love to read ... about faith and God.

I am intrigued so far by my preliminary dip into this very readable book. Certainly, I'll have to look for his previous books on the subject later, but I am happy now to have the opportunity to read his latest work, described thusly:
"More years ago than I care to reckon up, I met Richard Feynman." So begins THE LANGUAGE GOD TALKS, Herman Wouk's gem on navigating the divide between science and religion. In one rich, compact volume, Wouk draws on stories from his life as well as on key events from the 20th century to address the eternal questions of why we are here, what purpose faith serves, and how scientific fact fits into the picture. He relates wonderful conversations he's had with scientists such as Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, Freeman Dyson, and Steven Weinberg, and brings to life such pivotal moments as the 1969 moon landing and the Challenger disaster.

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More on this work later, I'm sure.

First Friday Fast for an End to Abortion


A twelve-week old fetus baby in the womb.*
It all began here in Dallas -- in our home town, where we raise our families, where we go to church, where we live, and love, and learn, and work.

We are three bloggers who also live in the Dallas area. We are deeply committed to ending abortion in this country. To that end, we have committed ourselves to the following: On each First Friday for the next eleven months, we will fast and pray before the Blessed Sacrament for an end to abortion. This year's commitment will culminate at the annual Dallas March for Life in January of 2009, where we will join our bishop and the faithful of this city in marching to the courthouse where Roe was originally argued.
In addition to unborn babies and their families, I will be including all those who work to end abortion, as well as the souls of those who work for abortion in my intentions. Also included will be solid catechesis for all Catholics as that is a key issue to most of the misunderstandings on both this issue and others in the secular world.

For your reading and information, here is an excellent article Why Conception? by Michael from The Deeps of Time. Highly recommended.

*I used to be among those who believed the secular propaganda that a 12-week-old baby was just "a blob of cells." Even after coming to the truth, I never knew just how vividly untrue that was until seeing this image, via Father Dwight Longenecker, who points out that 89% of abortions take place in the first twelve weeks. No wonder pro-abortion activists protest ultrasounds for mothers who are seeking counseling. This is unmistakably a baby.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Look First to the Iceberg in Your Own Eye ...

... and then you will be able to remove the ice crystal from your brother's eye.*

The Art of Manliness has been running a good series designed to help us boost our resiliency. This is part 4 but it doesn't suffer from being read as a stand alone article.
Have you ever reacted to something with an intensity of emotion that didn’t seem to match the circumstances of the event? The logical part of your mind is telling you that’s it’s not that big of deal, but you still feel really angry/hurt/depressed/anxious, and you can’t seem to turn off the emotion.

These kind of “overreactions” can leave us feeling pretty frustrated. They hurt our relationships and keep us from making progress in our lives. Not only do they lead us to dwell on things longer than we should, but we end up making poor decisions in this emotional state. These kinds of incongruous reactions keep us from responding resiliently to our problems.

So what causes these mismatched reactions? A collision with an iceberg, an iceberg belief to be precise. Water is pouring in your hull, but atop the deck you don’t really understand what has happened. All you know is that you’re sinking-fast.
This article does a great job of helping all of us to begin to identify those iceberg beliefs ("iceberg beliefs are fixed and frozen ideas about the world that we hold deep within us") and learn how to work through them.

*With apologies to Matthew 7:5.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

CSA!

We're getting closer to the first pick up in our share of a local farmer's produce ... read about our CSA subscription at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Monday, March 1, 2010

As seen on a church sign nearby

Thanks to Laura, who travels a different route around town than I do ... and, yes, it is going into my quote journal.
Honk if you love Jesus.
Text while driving if you want to meet Him.