Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent 2010

I am not sure that Advent is the forgotten liturgical season around the Catholic blogosphere, however, Marcel LeJeune at Aggie Catholics has a point when he says we have forgotten how to celebrate.

He has a good reflection on the season along with suggestions for celebration ... as well as a crackerjack list of links to other places where you can find information.

Fifteen Novels in Fifteen Minutes

I was tagged for this on Facebook (which I actually remembered to visit today), but it is too good to just leave there. Influenced is harder than "liked" ... but here we go ...

The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. List, in no particular order) fifteen authors (poets included) who've influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.
  1. Rumer Godden
  2. Agatha Christie (nonfiction)
  3. Harriett Beecher Stowe
  4. Robert Alter (his OT translations)
  5. Flannery O'Conner (The Habit of Being)
  6. Dean Koontz
  7. CS Lewis
  8. Shirley Jackson
  9. Samuel Shellabarger
  10. Fulton Sheen
  11. Francis Fernandez (author of the In Conversation with God series)
  12. Nathaniel Hawthorne
  13. Robert R. Chase
  14. Charlotte Bronte
  15. M.F.K. Fisher
You're supposed to tag fifteen people but I decline that part. Not that I wouldn't like to see what Jeff Miller, Stephen Riddle, Will Duquette, and Maureen (Aliens in this World) would pick. I'm just sayin' ...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Comes ... and With It Comes the New Church Year

Everybody knows, even those of us who have lived most unadventurously, what it is to plod on for miles, it seems, eagerly straining your eyes toward the lights that, somehow, mean home. How difficult it is, when you are doing that to judge distances! In pitch darkness, it might be a couple of miles to your destination, it might be a few hundred yards. So it was, I think, with the Hebrew prophets, as they looked forward to the redemption of their people. They could not have told you, within a hundred years, within five hundred years, when it was the deliverance would come. They only knew that, some time, the stock of David would burgeon anew; some time, a key would be found to fit the door of their prison house; some time, the light that only shows, now, like a will-o'-the-wisp on the horizon would broaden out, at last into the perfect day.

This attitude of expectation is one which the Church wants to encourage in us, her children, permanently. She sees it as an essential part of our Christian drill that we should still be looking forward; getting on for two thousand years, now, since the first Christmas Day came and went, and we must still be looking forward. So she encourages us, during advent, t take the shepherd-folk for our guides, and imagine ourselves traveling with them at dead of night, straining our eyes towards that chink of light which streams out, we know, from the cave at Bethlehem.
R.A. Knox, Sermon on Advent 1947
quoted in In Conversation with God, Vol. 1, Francis Fernandez
With Advent the liturgical year begins in the Western churches. Before Christmas we spend time in contemplation and preparation for the coming of Christ on three levels: as memorial of his incarnation as the babe in Bethlehem, to his coming with grace in our souls, and in looking forward to when he comes as the Judge at the end of time.

Those who celebrate Advent do so with various private devotions during this time. Some read a specific book to think about, some go to regular adoration, some try to avoid excessive focus on Christmas preparations, and such things. I am going to try to attend daily Mass several times a week. Among other things, such as continuing to read a chapter a day of Eric Sammons' Who is Jesus Christ? which I am finding to be a really terrific book.

Jen at Conversion Diary asked for ideas and has A Cornucopia of Ideas for Celebrating Advent for those considering a devotion.

Owen has a drawing in praise of nascent life which I like very much and which you may too.

Pope Benedict's Advent launching observance is perfect and one which Whispers in the Loggia summed up nicely: In Rome and across the Catholic world, at B16's behest tonight sees a first-of-its-kind observance: a global Vigil for All Nascent Human Life, which the pontiff marked at First Vespers in St Peter's and many local churches have planned special commemorations of on relatively short notice. He also has the Pope's prayer for life and some other good things listed there.

I like this Advent Litany which may be helpful as we school ourselves to wait in patience to wait for Our Lord and contemplate what that means.
Advent Litany

Lord Jesus, you are the light of the world.
Come, Lord Jesus.

You are light in our darkness.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Son of God, save us from our sins.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Son of Mary, deepen our love.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Bring hope into the lives of all people.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Give your peace to all nations.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Be the joy of all who love you.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Bring unity among all who believe in you.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Bless us as we gather here in your name.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Lord Jesus, stay with us always.
Come, Lord Jesus.

Let us pray:

May Christ give us his peace and joy,
and let us share them with others.
All peace and glory are his for ever.

Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

From the InBox: CyberMonday Sale for Gryphon Rampant

As you may know I offer prints of my art through a third party vendor. I wanted to let you know that everything at our Print Gallery is on sale until midnight Monday, November 29. Now is a great time to shop for Christmas at 30% off. You choose the size, paper, mat and frame all at a great savings. This is the largest sale my print vendor offers, take advantage of it while you can.

Use discount code: CYBERDEAL

Check out both galleries:
The Art of Faith
The Communion of Saints

And don't forget our poster clearance sale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Very, Very, Very, Very Busy

Cooking.

The menu? Same as every Thanksgiving and you can read about it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

And also I'm braving airport traffic to pick up Rose this morning. She was up soooooo early in order to catch the L (or whatever it is) to O'Hare, in plenty of time for the lines, full body scans and whatever other assorted trials await her.

So I'm outta here to have a round of real, hands-on life!

For which I am very, very, very, very thankful.

While we're counting what I'm thankful for ... and there is so very much, beginning with God's revelation to me that He is indeed a real person who cares about me, personally ... know that I am very thankful for the community of friends I'd never have met without the dear ol' interwebs. That is to say, you! :-)

I'll be back after Thanksgiving (possibly before, but we will let that be a delightful surprise should it occur).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

But What Does the Pope Really Think?

I have just been reading David Scott's review of Light of the World, which is the first one I've seen from someone I trust (David wrote my favorite book about Mother Teresa and recently was named editor in chief for CNA and EWTN News).

We all know that the Pope answers the hard questions about faith in a thoughtful manner that provokes us to think more deeply ourselves. That much I already knew from Jesus of Nazareth and reading another Seewald/Ratzinger collaboration Salt of the Earth. I expect to be enlightened and challenged.

What I did not expect was the surprisingly endearing confession that the Pope is glad he's in good health because he hates exercise. (hey, me too!) Or that he turns to the saints often, “I am friends with Augustine, with Bonaventure, with Thomas Aquinas.” (hey, that's what I say!)

In other words, we get to see the human man that goes with the heart and intellect we know.

A great review that does a lot to give an overview which makes me impatient to get that book in my hands. Go read it.

In which we encounter the "begots" and begin Noah's story.

More of Robert Alter's Genesis comin' atcha! Chapters 5-7 to be precise. Plus a great Christmas music and fact podcast (click through just to get the link to that if nothing else). And what does Yunbin, our Korean correspondent have to say about hearing this translation? All that and more are awaiting you with Episode 142 of Forgotten Classics.

Has Anyone Else Noticed What a Crackerjack Job The Anchoress is Doing At Patheos-Catholic?

I've been receiving a steady flow of notices about new columnists and seen a variety of interesting articles. Seems as if the Patheos gang is getting their money's worth on The Anchoress because it has really turned into an interesting spot to spend some quality Catholic reading time (and nobody has asked me to say this ... I'm just sayin' what I'm seein' ...)

The latest columnist is Tim Muldoon whose writing I know I've seen somewhere but can't pin down right at the moment. He's beginning a column titled Culture at the Crossroads today.
The notion of culture itself is at a crossroads. For if culture -- like its cognate word "cultivate" -- is about a certain way of growing, then the obvious questions are about who's doing the sowing, what the seeds are, and what's going to be harvested from them. What's the point of culture? And how is it different from any number of historical attempts to control people, like the absurd Chinese operas that emerged during the horror of the Cultural Revolution, inculcating revolutionary propaganda? (See the fine film Mao's Last Dancer for one dancer's story of escaping from that reality.)

This column proposes that culture is the ongoing conversation of peoples reaching for the transcendent: questions like "what changes, and what remains the same?" and "how shall we live?" -- the kinds of questions, in short, that we raise today much like our ancestors of three millennia past, and whose answers, far from being irrelevant and arcane, are as challenging to us today as they were when they were first written.
And there's some T.S. Eliot later on. Go check it out.

Book Giveaway: Light of the World

You've been hearing about one small aspect of the new book of questions and answers between Pete Seewald and Pope Benedict.

There is a contest on Facebook to win free copies.
Don’t miss your chance to get a free copy of the Pope’s groundbreaking new book!

Never has a pope, in a book-length interview, dealt so directly with such wide-ranging and controversial issues as Pope Benedict XVI does in “Light of the World.” Taken from a week-long series of interviews with veteran journalist Peter Seewald, this history-making book tackles head-on some of the greatest issues facing the world of our time. Benedict XVI is candid about the problems and the solutions.

They’ll be giving away 3 copies a day beginning November 23, 2010 and it will run until 11:59 pm on December 3, 2010.

Now Here's a Movie I'm Interested In Seeing

Daniel Craig in Western gear. Mmmmm, mmmm, mighty fine. Just in case you haven't seen the trailer or heard of it, I will just let it unfold without mentioning the name.



I have no idea what this will be like but I loved Eifelheim and this may work just as well albeit in a different medium.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Pope, Condom Comments, Etc.

I will be getting my copy of the new book which has had excerpts picked to make it sound as if Pope Benedict is approving of condom use. I would have to read this for myself in context before I could comment.

My favorite comment and the one that resonates with me is this from Jen at Riparians at the Gate:
What I see in the holy father’s newly-famous comment is this:  There’s the prodigal son, and he’s starting to look around at the pods the pigs are eating, and wonder if there isn’t a better way.

Is he back in his father’s arms yet?  No.  But his father is standing on that hill looking out already, cheering on every tiny little thing that is one baby step on the path to reconciliation.

The holy father is not speaking about some hypothetical archetype of man.  He’s got the internet in an uproar because he’s peering in at the details of a real life, of a real person living today in our world.  Salvation works itself out in ordinary life.  For a man mired in male prostitution, this might be what that first awakening looks like.
However, there are lots of pages from people who I trust with many links which you may care to peruse.

When Blog Meets Go Wrong: "You'll probably need this. Aim carefully. That's all the ammo you have."

Theocoid recounts our get together last week and shows that he has a talent for more than code and theological blogging. I can't resist putting it all here ... he really should be writing novels.
We missed our initial meeting as my flight out of Boise left almost two hours late. However, we rescheduled for the evening just before I left. Julie sent me directions to an out-of-the-way eatery deep in the heart of Dallas, with the instruction that I to make sure no one followed. "Oh yes," she added, "have a newspaper under your left arm, and wear an Aggies ballcap so we can recognize you."

After a long week of work, I was feeling a little punchy anyway, so cruising the back streets of Dallas did little to improve my spirits. I found the diner, an odd little Tex-Mex joint with a broken neon sign that blinked "Jo s ats." I entered and was seated at a booth in a corner. I ordered a beer and waited a good 20 minutes before I noticed that written on the coaster in ink were the words, "Flip over." On the backside, was a note: "Go out the back, and we'll pick you up in the alley."

I finished my beer and made my way to the rear exit. As I did, a set of headlights flicked on, a Buick sedan glided up, and a door opened. "Get in."

I looked up and down the alley, then ducked in just, my foot just barely leaving the pavement before the vehicle pulled off.

"Did anyone see you leave?"

"No," I said, "Hey, what's this all about?"

"Too much to explain right now. Are you packing any heat?"

"No, unless you're talking about the Icy Hot I use for my strained back."

"You're a smart guy. Smart guys don't live long in this neck of the woods."

Tom drove. I noticed that the panel under the steering column had been ripped out, and some wires were spliced together haphazardly. Julie handed back something heavy and cold.

"You'll probably need this. Aim carefully. That's all the ammo you have."

"So what's up? I thought we were just getting together for a nice meal and some chat."

"Yeah, well, that was until we got this new job, you see? It was supposed to be simple... a little marketing piece with some product listings, four colors, a slam dunk in InDesign. And then, the scope creep. A tweak to the margins here, an extra column to a table there, and now we're looking at a 2500-page monstrosity with nested tables, custom layouts on every page, and a ransom-letter type style. I snapped. There's no going back."
I laughed, I cried, I wished my life was really this exciting.

Have You Read This? Well, HAVE YOU?

From Theocoid ...  here we go.

P.S. About half of these are NOT really classics but just popular modern books. Give me a list of 100 that have already stood the test of time and I'll be much more interested. Mitch Albom? Really?

UPDATE: Melanie Bettanelli commented on the Facebook version of this that she had actually seen it loosely linked originally with a list from the Guardian when she did a vain attempt to track it back to the BBC. Either way, it is still rather a fun list to look at.
Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here...

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety, underline the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

  9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (but I"m working on it)

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy          

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan     

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel       

52 Dune - Frank Herbert             

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy     

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson (This is NOT a classic and is mean spirited enough to make it never become one in my book ... stick to his history-ish books, not the travel guides)

75 Ulysses - James Joyce         

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare  

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
UPDATE
Dr. Boli (from whom I am honored to have received a comment) shows us a different way.
The fundamental flaw of the list is that there seems to be no way to construe the word "classic" so that it includes Dan Brown. However, we may find another use for the list. Copy it again, and this time bold all the titles that nothing short of a substantial payment, cash on the barrel, would ever induce you to read. Give reasons.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Opt-Out Day ... Play Russian Roulette on Your Own Time Please UPDATED

Sorry, I have had this rant building for some time ... and here it comes ...

I have been reading more and more incredulously the protests about full body scans at airports, the tantrums thrown by people who then tape them to show everyone, and now comes "Opt-Out Day" ... which just seems like another way for a great many immature people to force their childish protests on the rest of the flying public.

For those who don't already know what this is about, this column from Eric Felten at the Wall Street Journal makes it clear.

In fact, it is his column that was the last straw for me.
 
Everyone is blaming the government.

What about blaming the terrorists?

They are the ones who are trying to kill you. By blowing up your plane.

They would be thrilled to kill my daughter when she flies home for the holidays.

They'd love to kill my sister, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who are frequent fliers.

We are at war. What I see is a lot of people who would have argued with the government about their ration cards during WWII instead of pitching in to win the war.

Think of the lengths terrorists are willing to go to in order to achieve their goal. Those explosive breast implants are real, not a joke. Only the scans can stop those.

Flying is not a "right."

Flying is not necessary. If you don't like the new rules then walk, ride a bus, drive, take a train, take a boat, or stay at home.

Got privacy or body issues with the scan? It still seems better than forcing the TSA to search you. Yes. Forcing. They don't want to grope you. They want to keep your plane from being blown up. How are you with that?

Don't like the scan because of radiation? The last I heard from a doctor on the news, you will get more radiation from being in the plane than going through the scan.

If you want to go one-on-one with the terrorists, that is your right. But do it where you won't take a lot of other people with you.

And otherwise ... just shut up about it.

UPDATES
Naturally, SNL has chimed in on this issue ... a coupla times.

Here's a clip you can watch about the pat downs that was sent by Frank ... I stopped 2/3 of the way through because, as happens so often, they just kept going and going.

Here's a transcript (couldn't find a clip) of a skit that Hannah remembered about racial profiling.
Saturday Night Live Transcripts

Season 28: Episode 2

02b: Sarah Michelle Gellar / Faith Hill

Trans American Airlines

Captain.....Chris Parnell
Stewardess #1.....Amy Poehler
Employee #1.....Will Forte
Stewardess #2.....Maya Rudolph
Employee #2.....Tracy Morgan

[ SUPER: "A Message From The Men And Women Of Trans American Airlines" ]

Captain: September 11th, 2001 changed a lot of things about the way we live.

Stewardess #1: But, if you've traveled by air recently, you know that new security procedures at most airlines can make flying a frustrating and unpleasant experience.

Employee #1: But at Trans American, we don't believe that endless lines, early check-in requirements, or confiscating tweezers are the best way to prevent terrorism.

Captain: At Trans American, we have a better idea. We screen our passengers with a system we call "Racial Profiling".

Stewardess #1: You see, unlike other airlines, we at Trans American have noticed that airline hijackers always seem to be Islamic males, age 15 to 45, of Middle Eastern descent.

Employee #2: That's why, at Trans American, any passenger who fits that description is put through the industry's most exhaustive secuity check - including sodium-pentathol interrogation, strip search, and full body cavity exam.

Stewardess: Any passenger who doesn't, we leave the hell alone. That's a promise.

Stewardess #2: Some of our competitors take issue with our policies, and even say that, if you allow racial profiling, the terrorists have won. But we don't agree. I mean, why would terrorists want racial profiling? That's how you catch them.

Captain: Rest assured, at Trans American, we have no intention of changing the system that's given us the best security record in the industry. Fly with us, and you'll see why. And, by the way, you can bring your tweezers.

Voiceover: Trans American Airlines. Security. Reliability. Racial profiling.

SECOND UPDATE
I believe that both sides have expressed themselves fully. Comments are now closed.

What's Goin' On: The Dishwasher

Looking back, I see that it has been almost two years that we have been doing without the dishwasher.

As nearly as we can recall it began because the dishwasher was making an odd screeching sound and I did not want to pay the $75 service call to have a repairman come out just to tell me (as I darkly suspected) that buying a new one would be as cost effective as repairing it.

That had been happening a lot to us around that time.

However, we have another problem around the house right now (all this dust, where is it coming from?) and Tom's dark suspicions are that we will have to shell out some big bucks for something to do with ductwork.

If that's the case, I pronounced $75 a small price to pay to get the real story on possibly stopping washing dishes by hand. The charms had passed and I was tired. Perhaps it was because with Hannah home I was handwashing for three instead of two and that was my tipping point.

Whatever the reason, we really couldn't recall the problem. So I ran a trial load to see what the problem was.

Problem? What problem?

Other than the heating element not working, which was a previously known factor, there is nary a screech and everything is getting washed just fine.

I have a real feeling of luxury every time I wash the dishes and there are so few things to clean ... just the pots and pans? That's all?

So, Rose, your homecoming will be more joyous than you thought. There are not nearly as many dirty dishes to wash!

Getting to Know You ... Theocoid Up Close

We had a delightful dinner with Bill B. (a.k.a. Theocoid) last night. I think that he is among my oldest blogging acquaintances. So, naturally, I was thrilled that he was going to be in town for a meeting, giving us the chance to have an actual face-to-face discussion over some Tex-Mex.

It is always wonderful to meet someone with whom you "click" and Bill was one such person. He and Tom talked web code, formatting code, and the like. When the talk turned to Catholic podcasters we have in common (yes, Into the Deep, I'm lookin' at you ... I listened before they faded, Bill actually knows two of the guys) and other such faith-ish things then it was my turn to jabber. But we could all join in equally about kids, dogs, and life in general.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and we are hoping that Bill will have some other trips in the future so we can continue the conversation!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Send Supplies to Iraqi Christians

Frank at Why I Am Catholic is putting action alongside our prayers for our embattled brothers and sisters. He's found a way to send donations that will be used for food, shelter, and clothing. Go and read and then take the action that seems best to you.

Advent Reading ... #2

Obviously events overcame me yesterday so I didn't get a chance to post another good Advent reading choice. C'est la vie!

Today, however, I bring you a book that I haven't yet finished because I am finding myself almost forced to read it slowly and meditatively in order to consider the wealth of information.

Who is Jesus Christ? by Eric Sammons takes an interesting tack in answering the question that Jesus him self put to the disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" We all have our favorite and comfortable concepts about Jesus. They are not necessarily wrong but they also are not all that Jesus Christ is. It is in contemplating those areas outside our comfort zones that we most often meet God. Or so it seems in my experience.

Sammons takes each of the labels put on Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew and devotes a chapter to considering whether it is the result and/or fulfillment of incomplete perception, role, Old Testament prophecies and figures, or son.

These chapters are fairly brief but cover quite a bit of ground as we are shown the reason for each perception, whether it is really true (and if so, how true), and ultimately how this aids our understanding of Jesus Christ. For example, the chapter titled Carpenter's Son discusses our natural desires to know all about the person we love, the result of that desire in generating some of the legends about Jesus performing miracles as a boy, the fact that if those legends were true the townspeople wouldn't have been amazed at his wisdom when Jesus returned to Nazareth to preach, the truths about Messiah's wisdom revealed in Psalms and elsewhere, Christ's complete embrace of the ordinary life, and his restoration of the world through his sacrifice.

That is not even all that is covered in those eight pages. One might think that this crowds too much information into each discussion but it really doesn't. Sammons' writing flows so naturally that each conclusion leads organically to the next and we are carried on the logical track to the final consideration and couple of thought-provoking questions that are provided.

As I mentioned, I am reading this slowly, a chapter a morning and I then find myself considering various aspects of the chapter through the day. That is a perfect way to await Our Lord, by thinking about the way he reveals himself to us and getting to know him better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advent Reading ...

The Anchoress has a wonderful looking list of Advent reading suggestions. (Good Heavens, she not only has a list but she's already updated it!)

I must say that, like Thanksgiving, the idea that Advent will begin soon has crept up on me ... where, oh where, has the time gone?

How soon? November 28.

I know!

I do have some reading ideas which all seem to revolve around the idea of patience, waiting, meditation upon God, and absorbing things a little at a time. That all seems to work for Advent which is to help us prepare spiritually for the coming of the savior.

My first suggestion is a book I wrote about recently, Praying with Saint Matthew's Gospel. Read all about it in my short review, but this bit gives the essence of why I thought of this book for Advent reading.
Magnificat gives us a line by line meditation on Saint Matthew's Gospel that I have found to be thought provoking and fruitful. In a sense it is like a directed form of lectio divina. Twenty-four different authors each take different sections of the gospel and provide commentary that often takes me in a direction I never considered before.
Tomorrow, a book that I haven't finished but that I can already tell is a good 'un.

In which Adam and Eve give in to temptation and suffer the consequences.

Chapters 3 and 4 of Robert Alter's translation of Genesis are now up at Forgotten Classics.

Rose Has Edited a "Crash the Superbowl" Contest Entry.

Rose sez:
I edited a Doritos commercial that a producer friend of mine at Columbia shot. I think it's pretty good and right now it is submitted to the Crash the Superbowl online contest. The winner is played during the Superbowl! ...and wins a lot of money...

So, having views betters our chances of making it to the final round.

Once you skip the intro, the video will pop up.
I watched this over Tom's shoulder this morning, only knowing that it was directed by a friend of Rose's who is attending Columbia. I liked it.

Did Tom tell me Rose edited it? No.

(sigh)

Upon opening my email I saw the message above. Swing by and take a look.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Which Bars Make the Grade When You Request Something Off-Menu?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not the ones that advertise their bars the most.

So far these listings are only for Dallas and Springfield (MO) which is where I've had the opportunity to "test" bars. I'll add to it as new opportunities arise!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NY Giants-20, Dallas Cowboys-33 ... YEAH, READ IT - 33!

I. am. stunned.

And happy.

VERY. VERY. HAPPY.

Go Cowboys!

(And thank you, Jason Garrett.)

Now, Jerry, let's talk. When are we getting a new kicker? Seriously, c'mon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bill Bryson Does Not Always Equal Snark ...

... but it's a rare occurrance as all too often his attempts at humor fall into that mean-spirited vein.


As Darwin points out in a well put post. My comments? In his comments box. Along with the title of the one nonsnarky book of Bryson's I've read. Which was excellent. Go and read.

Unstoppable

Denzel Washington and Chris Pine versus runaway train. That’s enough, isn’t it? How much more do you need?
Exactly. What Decent Films said.

I've been drawn to the ads just by the two stars and secretly expecting to be disappointed. SO. VERY. HAPPY. to hear otherwise.

Not enough for you? Go read the review.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's Goin' On: Conan's Premiere Opening

Not having cable and also lacking a predilection for staying up late, I am not going to be watching Conan's new show. However, I really found his desk washing ad funny.



So when a friend told me about his opening bit, I watched ... and laughed. You will too.

Pat Gohn Gives Us the Good Word

Pat Gohn has been writing some very good columns for Patheos and I have been neglecting to let y'all know.

No more!

She now has a regular column over there, A Word In Season. The description says:
This new weekly column will celebrate the richness of the times and seasons in the Church. Its purpose is to explore themes related to the liturgical year including prayer and scripture, the lives of the saints, the Catechism, and the deep history of Catholic Tradition. In the coming year, it will also look at the changes coming to the Roman Missal.
However, I'll tell you that it is going to have a whole lot more than that. I have the pleasure of having met Pat and talked to her upon occasion. She is an excellent writer who knows and loves the Church and her passion is catechesis. Put all that together and it makes compelling reading.

Don't believe me? Go read her first column, How Good It Is!. You'll see.

Veteran's Day Tribute

Photo credit: Kate Gardiner
It is the VETERAN, not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN,
who salutes the Flag,

It is the veteran,
who serves under the Flag
The above is seen everywhere and I haven't seen where it should be ultimately credited, but it says just what I feel.
  • Slashfood has a list and links to restaurants giving veterans free meals or food deals today.
  • Recta Ratio comments on the day and how our lack of true celebration is a commentary in itself on our culture.

For me, nothing says it better than this, also pulled from 2006, which shows just why our soldiers and veterans are so worthy of our thanks and pride. I look at this and think of my brother who has said several times, with becoming modesty, that he really just wanted to help other people.


This moving photograph shows Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, superintendent of the 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, holding an injured Iraqi girl. The picture was taken in October 2006, while Sgt. Gebhardt was deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq. According to the Air Force Print News, the infant girl Sgt. Gebhardt held in his arms "received extensive gunshot injuries to her head when insurgents attacked her family killing both of her parents and many of her siblings."

Sgt. Gebhardt is now back home in Wichita, Kansas, with his wife and two children. An Air Force Link article about the sudden fame he gained as the subject of this photograph reported that:
The chief had a knack for comforting [the injured Iraqi girl] and they often would catch a cat nap together in a chair.

"I got as much enjoyment out of it as the baby did," he said. "I reflected on my own family and life and thought about how lucky I have been."

While deployed to Iraq, the chief tried to help out any way he could. He figured holding a baby that needed comforting that would free up one more set of arms that could be providing care to more critical patients.

"I pray for the best for the Iraqi children," he said. "I can't tell the difference between their kids and our kids. The Iraqi parents have the same care and compassion for their children as any American."
Source: Snopes
I haven't said it enough because none of us really can but to our veterans as well as those serving now ... thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's Goin' On: Louis L'Amour's Short Stories

I have been on a short story jag since getting the Kindle. As I've mentioned, I find that format a big improvement over hulking "best of" collections for science fiction, mysteries, and fantasy. Browsing the Kindle store, I came across Louis L'Amour who I have never cottoned to much in novel-long format.

Truth to tell, I have never given him much of a chance. I had a period of reading Zane Grey when I was in junior high. I still love Gwen Bristow, several of whose books are set in the Old West. But Louis L'Amour ... maybe it was his name? I don't know ...

One of the Kindle's best features is the ability to download samples. The Louis L'Amour short story collection I sampled (the first of seven or eight I saw available) contained two stories in their entirety. It worked. I can't explain it but these simply told but human stories grabbed me, interested me in the fate of the protagonists, and had me trying to work out how the inevitable ending would come about. That was the interesting thing ... you knew how the stories would end up. It was how L'Amour got there that was riveting.

What a wonderful surprise it was to discover a new author. Even better, one who has a large library of books for me to explore. I'm still not sure about the novels, but I am sure the short stories will suck me into reading the longer format eventually.

I know that L'Amour has a huge fan base and nothing makes that more evident than the price of those Kindle collections. Not the usual $9.99 for a current book. No, these are all $14.99. Nothing testifies to popularity like a long-dead author's works holding an above-market value.

I put that collection in my wish list so I can find it later. I have several short story collections to finish up. Then, the next one I buy ... is gonna take me to the wild West.

"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." — Tertullian

"Since Tuesday evening, there have been 13 bombs and two mortar attacks on homes and shops of Christians in which a total of six people were killed and 33 injured," a defense ministry official said. "A church was also damaged."

An interior ministry official earlier gave a casualty toll of three dead in 12 of the attacks across the Iraqi capital early on Wednesday.

The attacks come less than two weeks after 44 Christian worshipers, two priests and seven security personnel died in the seizure of a Baghdad cathedral by Islamist gunmen and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.

On November 3, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the cathedral hostage-taking and warned it would step up attacks on Christians.
God bless and protect our brothers and sisters who are in such fear and danger now.

(Via David Scott of Catholic News Agency and EWTN News where they are keeping a close eye on proceedings and related stories, such as the general assembly of Interpol being addressed by a Vatican archbishop.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Everywhere I Look, I See ... Exorcists

What's Goin' On: Outsourced


We find this comedy about an American manager who has been sent to India to manage his company's novelty business telephone room pretty amusing. Although the novelty items for sale are highly sexualized and crude ... which is not very amusing ... there is a sweetness and innocence about many of the cultural misconceptions and miscommunications. As Tom said, it is that innocence that makes the best comedy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's Goin' On: Sherlock Holmes Updated on BBC

We've really been enjoying the first two episodes of the updated Sherlock Holmes on Masterpiece Theatre. As we've been taping it and then watching later, I haven't seen the third and last installment in this mini-series. Yes it has its problems here and there, but overall I think it is very true to the spirit of Holmes and Watson as Doyle wrote them. I can forgive a great deal when the entertainment is as good as this.

I tend to agree with Hannah who said, after we finished the second episode, that she preferred this series to the recent movie Sherlock Holmes (you know, the one with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law). There is a very similar spirit shared between the series and the movie, but on the whole, I prefer the series. And I hope there are more to come in the future.

In which we witness creation, from near and from afar

Finally, we are down to reading the actual text of Genesis ... the first two chapters. With commentary and translation by Robert Alter and more commentary from some sources I found. At Forgotten Classics.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

God Speaks. But What Has To Happen Before We Listen?

... God spoke through Mozart and Bach, through Caravaggio and Monet, through Shakespeare and John Donne, through St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope John Paul II. He speaks in many languages: mathematics, chemistry, biology, astronomy; paint, paper, film; stone, wood, and metal; the bloom of a rose and the fall of a leaf.

But has ever he spoken to me?

Ah yes, but he had to use a language he only reserves for his hardest cases: the language of pain and suffering. Pain, as C.S. Lewis says, is God’s megaphone. Make no mistake, Our Lord does not cause our suffering, but he uses it to reach us.
Thomas L. McDonald opens up so that we may have a chance to hear also. A beautiful piece, honestly written.

Weekend Joke

From Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine, I have lifted this fascinating commentary on how to attract cardinals to your backyard. Click through to his blog to see a photo of the little fellow you can attract using the techniques below.
Dear Dr. Boli: In light of the pope’s recent creation of new cardinals, perhaps this would be an appropriate time to ask: how can I attract cardinals to my garden? —Regards, Miss Jane C., North Carolina.

Dear Madam: The Cardinal or Cardinal Grosbeak (Cardinalis cardinalis) is generally a solitary bird, and thus difficult to attract in great numbers. Occasionally, however, certain extraordinary circumstances can impel cardinals to gather in a large flock, known to ornithologists as a “conclave.” A conclave of cardinals is one of nature’s most colorful sights, and it would be well worth your trouble to reproduce in your own back yard the circumstances that bring cardinals together in conclaves.

The gathering is normally touched off by a prominent obituary, and you may be able to bribe the editor of your local broadsheet to insert such an item for the price of a reuben sandwich. The obituary is not enough, however: cardinals have certain expectations when they gather in conclaves, and if you do not meet those expectations the cardinals will simply pack up and go home.

Foremost among these expectations is good catering. The St. Louis subspecies may be content with hot dogs and nachos, but most other varieties require daintier fare. A professional caterer will be able to advise you on selections of foodstuffs, but a good basic list would include sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and torta alla Monferrina.

Cardinals also require adequate press coverage for their conclaves, or they will quickly show signs of boredom and soon after depart for some more public location.

Incidentally, the supposed power of the pope to “create” cardinals is the subject of one of the interesting differences between Catholic and Protestant theology. Catholics believe that the Holy Father is ornithologically infallible and can create cardinals at will, whereas Protestants hold that only God has such creative power. (Certain Anglican theologians hold that the pope does have the power to create cardinals, but that such power is territorially limited in extent.) Your backyard bird feeder is thus one of the chief battlegrounds in the great contest between the separated branches of the Christian faith.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To the many people to whom I owe responses via email ...

... please bear with me. This big catalog is not exactly eating my soul, but it is eating up any extra time for the fun things in life ... like answering emails.

I promise I will answer. Eventually. :-)

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints' Day: We Should All Desire to Be Saints

Today is All Saints' Day, when the Church commemorates all saints, whether known or unknown.

It is almost impossible to contemplate the saints without considering that among the ranks of martyrs there could be almost 40 new saints in Heaven today from the Syrian Catholic cathedral in central Bagdad where armed militants seeking the release of jailed Al-Qaeda members killed at least a fourth of the congregation. Were they martyrs for the faith? I don't know. I will be praying for them on All Souls' Day tomorrow.

In broader meditation on the subject of saints, I repost this for today's feast of All Saints' Day because I didn't remember it and found it a good meditation.
Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.

“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic.

Lax stopped him in his tracks.

“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”

Merton was dumbfounded.

“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”
I read this earlier in the week. It really made an impression and kept returning to my mind.

Yes, the goal is to get to Heaven, but didn't I expect a stopover in Purgatory? Didn't everyone I talked to laugh somewhat about how long they'd be stuck there too?

It struck me that what this attitude reflects is not aiming for Heaven, but settling for Purgatory. We should be happy that Purgatory is there like the net under tightrope walkers, to catch us if we fall short. But we should be aiming for, and expecting, to achieve our greatest potential ... that for which God created each and every one of us. That with His grace and our cooperation we can each be a saint.

St. Teresa of Avila crossed my mind. St. John of the Cross. You know where I'm going with this right? Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (a.k.a. Mother Teresa). The dark night of the soul. I know that these saints thought it worthwhile but I'm not into signing up for that duty.

I then thought of my grandfather, Raymond. A wonderful man, always happy and cheerful, willing to work hard to help anyone who needed it ... an anonymous saint to the Church but one to all who knew him. No dark night of the soul there. Yet, I'm sure he skipped right over Purgatory. Would I be willing to follow his example? Of course.

I thought of my patron, Saint Martha (you know, of the "Mary has chosen the better part" story). The last time we see her serving is notably different from the first. Mary is washing Jesus' feet and Martha is mentioned as serving in the background. To me that says she has learned the lesson Jesus gave her about "the better part." Would I be willing to follow her example? Natch.

My glance fell on a book I recently received about Solanus Casey, a favorite of mine because he was a humble porter whose holiness shown through to the people of Detroit. Similar to St. John Vianney, another favorite of mine (yes, I have lots of favorites), in that both found studies difficult and consequently were not thought much of by their orders.

Of course, it was borne in upon me yet again that we have so many examples of all the different sorts of saints God makes to suit each time and place. Why I would feel that it necessarily requires a "dark night of the soul" I don't know ... how silly of me!

The culmination of all this thinking took place last night while I was waiting for the Vigil Mass to begin. I was saying the rosary (more about that in another post) and kept coming back to the subject of saints. I got a growing feeling of excitement and anticipation at the unknown future when we completely give ourselves over to God ... when we desire to become a saint. Nothing new here intellectually that's sure, but for me it is that sense of possibilities, of waiting for a surprise ... and that is always what we discover when God is involved.

I'm not settling any more. I'm aiming higher.

Isn't this gorgeous? There's more where that came from ... Recta Ratio.

    Name Your Favorite Saint, Get a Free Book From Paraclete Press

    Today is the day we remember the Saints - that "great cloud of witnesses" whose lives and stories encourage our faith. 

    In celebration, we invite you to:

    1. Place an order for $30 or more on our website - 
    today and tomorrow only - Nov. 1st and 2nd.

    2. At checkout in the specified box, tell us:
    Who your favorite Saint is AND which Paraclete book about a Saint you would like us to add to your order for FREE. (click here for a list of our books about the Saints!)

    Happy All Saints Day!
    From all of us at Paraclete Press
    Now that's what I call putting your money where your mouth is! Head over to Paraclete Press to take advantage of this saintly bargain.