Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Little Weekend Blogging Around

Just a few things I enjoyed from this morning ...

American Bloggers in Rome
John Paul II's big day is tomorrow and the American bloggers are there ... for that and for the blogging conference with the Vatican on Monday. They are mostly too busy to blog, but I enjoyed seeing these early reports from The Crescat and The Anchoress. I am thinking about them and praying for the whole thing off and on as it comes to mind.

La-Z-Boy Multi-Plex
I loved reading the movie descriptions in this WSJ graphic illustrating the article about what to watch at home instead of going to the movies this summer. Though nothing will keep me from Cowboys and Aliens. Except terrible reviews all 'round.

I'll Take a Sofa-Sized Painting, Please ... Interesting Vending Machines From Around the World
Another WSJ article. So sue me. Their Saturday edition rocks. Live crabs, gold, fresh pizza ... there's nothing you can't find in a vending machine.

Again with the WSJ, but these women's hats are fantastic. Ok. Not the bird wings ones so much, but just pretend those are fake and move on. Because these are old hats and we can't change the past. That's a job for Time Cop (see Multi-Plex story above).

Something for the guys here, in this WSJ review. I admit I didn't read it. I just enjoyed looking at the photos of tuxedos over the ages. Here's one we can all enjoy together.

Twisters and Nature
Wild youngsters may end up on the ground when their nests are blown out of trees by violent storms (Caption from Nature Next Door; Photo: Ryan Keene, Creative Commons license)

Nature Next Door, my favorite wildlife blogger, says:
When I ran a wildlife rehabilitation center in Houston, major spring storms always brought a deluge of baby animals. Nests cradling baby birds and squirrels would be blown out of branches, and even cavity-nesting species weren’t safe when the storm was strong enough to uproot entire trees. Permitted wildlife rehabilitators are trained to provide the specialized care and nutrition necessary for wildlings to grow up healthy and be released back into the wild, but it’s always best to reunite offspring with their parents… if possible. As a result, rehabilitators have come up with a variety of creative reunion methods and techniques. After a tornado or hurricane churns through a neighborhood, though, the wild adults, if they survived, may be too disoriented to find their babies.
She's got links for finding wildlife rehabbers and, of course, you know I'll remind people in Dallas and Houston about 911 Wildlife, because Hannah works there!

Now I'm off the computer for a good long time, hopefully most of the day and tomorrow as I have tons to do! Have a good weekend, y'all!

Happy Birthday, Dear Tom!

He's so hard to shop for but at last I found this lovely doodle and piñatas are for birthdays, so it is perfect!

Tom has chosen not to have me make a cake, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because he loves profiteroles so much and never gets them. I have made them before and they are, believe it or not, very simple to make. However, in the interest of a busy weekend, we are lucky to have wonderful whipped-cream filled versions from the Central Market.

This photo is from Oui, Chef, where they are filled with ice cream, but he would tell us that whipped cream is equally as good, isn't it? Oui, chef!

Now I must go wrap gifts!

Weekend Joke

Actually a cartoon, but funny and that's the point. Thanks to xkcd for letting me share it here!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Am I the Only Person Who Kept Forgetting That There Was Going to Be a Royal Wedding?

I've been continually surprised for the last couple of weeks by mentions of Prince William and Kate, dresses, parties, travel to England, and (as lately as this morning) the Google doodle.

I saw the castle, the idealized fairy-tale land look and thought, "Walt Disney's birthday?"

Oh. Right. That wedding.

Didn't they just get engaged?

I didn't mind that they were getting married. They seem like a nice couple (how far that goes in royal marriages, I have no clue).

I just ... kept forgetting and being continually reminded.

At least it must be over by now. So I can go on to being surprised by something else that I don't care enough to even remember.

Though I do approve of her wedding gown.

By means of which GetReligion reminded me that there was a royal wedding. Yes, I'd forgotten ... again ... from the time I saw the Google doodle to when their story showed up in my RSS reader.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Catholic and Real Life Radio 1380

I simply can't believe that I didn't post about being on Real Life Radio 1380 with Leo Brown until afterward!

Yes, that is just how busy I got at work. Dashed out the door and felt lucky to get home and get the dogs quieted down and catch my breath before they called.

Leo Brown is a wonderful interviewer and makes you feel right at home from the first moment. I had a good time, especially as Leo let me go on and on and on ...

I thought that I was told they are connected with a Catholic bookstore although I don't see that mentioned on their website. A friend tells me that the Catholic bookstores in Kentucky, where this show is based, are the best she's ever been to. Does that mean the Catholics in Kentucky read more than in other places? Or go to Catholic bookstores more? It sure makes me want to go to Kentucky!

Tornados, Training, and the Difference that Prayer Makes

... And then the first storm cell made it's presence felt, and we headed into the strong-hold, just like in the movie Thunderheart. And trust me, hearts were thundering in the pantry at this point.

We didn't have time to grab our rosaries, but after years of training, we didn't need them. And that is the point of this post. In the Marines, we trained constantly in peace-time and during war-time. Training is non-stop; "it ain't training, unless it's raining." And when we were in the pantry, the prayer training we had been practicing all these years, paid off. Did our prayers stop the storm? Stop tornadoes from ripping our house apart? I don't know. Many who prayed lost their homes and businesses in Alabama.

No. The praying did what nothing else can do. It provided comfort and courage during the worst storms we have ever lived through. ...
Frank at Why I Am Catholic ... go read it all.

How to Get to "I Do": A Dating Guide for Catholic Women

I remember when I finally took my call to marriage seriously. I had been dating for a few years and was sitting in a restaurant with a girlfriend. She was telling me how she was content to never get married if she couldn't find someone who measured up to her expectations. "I won't settle for less," she said. "It's not worth it to me."

She, like me, was devout. I noticed, however, that her rigidity made it difficult for her to understand the complexities and imperfections of real relationships. She was impatient with people's human weaknesses. On the positive side, she could be serene and prayerful at her best, almost angelic in her purity.

While I would normally have seconded her reticence to settle for a mortal man, I suddenly said, "No! I know God wants me to marry and have kids. I can feel this in my bones. I know that I have to do what he's calling me to do. How could I ignore a call to a vocation. Wouldn't that be wrong? Holding out for perfection won't work, because nobody is perfect."

She looked surprised, but as I explained my commitment to following God's call, her facial expression softened into sympathy. How could she blame me for wanting to fulfill my purpose? A flower bulb is meant to blossom in the spring, and likewise each of us has her own purpose in life.

While it may seem as if I was hit with a lightning bolt or instantly enlightened, this is far from true. I had debated these issues internally and pondered my vocation many times. I also struggled with perfectionism. A spiritual director once urged me to remember that no man is perfect and that living with an imperfect man can be a road to holiness in itself.
Stop for a minute and think about how many self-help books you have seen me review.

I myself am trying to think of even one I've read ... ever. I must have. But darned if I can think of one.

Therefore, when I present to you this "dating guide for Catholic women" you know it must be unusual. Unusually good. Please believe me when I say that I wish I had enough cash to buy a copy for every single Catholic woman I know and give it to them.

Coming to marriage, as I did, as an agnostic, late-twenties young woman, stumbling my way through meeting and dating guys, it seems like a no-brainer. You meet a guy who finally clicks in the right ways. He loves you too. Miracle! And it keeps going so you get married and settle down to finding out what life together is really all about.

That is difficult enough for both men and women in general these days.

However, now that I have two daughters who are young women, know many of their friends, and have many younger, unmarried female friends of my own, I can see that there is a way to make it more difficult. Add being a devout Catholic into the mix. For some reason that adds a whole set of complications that never occurred to me before.

Some women insist on marrying only a Catholic.

Others feel they are failed by their church if the parish singles group isn't providing suitably eligible men.

Most struggle with chastity on some level or other.

That doesn't even count the potential minefield of on-line dating, meeting men from different countries (not to mention different faiths), hostile parents, and all the other hazards of modern dating.

Tom and I have given friends counsel about issues one time or another, when they lamented never finding good men. We feel for them. These are wonderful women. They deserve to meet "Mr. Right" and marry. It can hurt to see them throw obstacles in their own way or focus so much on dating that they forget to live their lives in the meantime. (I hasten to add that this is by no means the case for the majority of our single friends ... and usually only an occasional blip for others.)

Imagine my pleasure and relief when I read How to Get to "I Do" which handles every question and issue with calm, practical commonsense. She dated for ten years before marrying and encountered many of the everyday problems that modern, devout Catholic women run into when trying to find that good man who they will "click" with. This is really a complete guide, covering not only where to meet men but a variety of topics, such as as meeting in a public place for a first date, Catholic places outside parishes to meet people, dating within your means, handling guys who flirt with everyone, and much more.

I was equally pleased to see that she goes past finding and discerning guys to date and delves into issues to consider before committing to marriage, coping with disappointment and betrayal, how to handle remaining single for a long time when you are dying to get married, engagement tips, and planning a wedding.

Obviously this is aimed at Catholics but it seems to me that most Christian women would profit from it as well. I would even recommend it to nonbelievers who share common values with Catholics, such as valuing themselves enough to remain chaste until marriage. (There are such women, although modern news and entertainment would lead you to believe otherwise.) There is plenty of good, solid advice here to be gleaned for many situations that are common to all dating women.

This is a book that I will be recommending to many women, starting close to home. My own daughters can benefit greatly from it.

P.S. I know there are wonderful guys out there who are suffering from similar problems. many of the issues discussed in this book work for both sexes, though some are female-specific. So now, where is their book?

Gilgamesh and Me

When the idea of Easter reading comes up, it is unlikely that the Epic of Gilgamesh is on your list. Surprisingly though, that is the story that springs to mind when I consider how unique Christianity is in comparison with other belief systems.
My "A Free Mind" column at Gilgamesh the King ... it's ancient history, science fiction, and a look at ourselves. By Robert Silverberg so you know its good!

The First Zombie-Proof House

Thanks to Frank at Why I Am Catholic for noticing that there has been a real dearth of zombie news around here lately. I was just thinking about that myself when his email came through with the latest in residential design in case of a zombie apocalypse.

I definitely approve of the concrete and drawbridge (click through to see different angles and the drawbridge at work). However, what about those sunny days when you roll up the metal covering to let the sunshine in?

Who's to say that all the glass isn't going to be a problem? Unless it is super-zombie-proofed glass. They didn't give those details which leaves me feeling rather insecure. I can't argue that you wouldn't be living elegantly, however. It is the latest word in architectural style on the inside as far as I can tell.

The Mystery of Grace: los santos, sacramentals versus sacraments, brujas, ink (tattoos), rockabilly, and hot rods.

And grace, of course.  This urban fantasy by Charles de Lint has it all. Scott Danielson and I talk about that and more at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Deducifying on the Range: Reviewing "Dear Mr. Holmes" by Steve Hockensmith

The Dear Mr. Holmes collection of "Holmes on the Range" stories are about two cow-punching brothers who read Watson's stories about Sherlock Holmes and then use similar deductive techniques to solve mysteries in the Old West. More correctly Old Red solves the mysteries a la Holmes and Big Red writes the stories up a la Watson. Author Steve Hockensmith says in the introduction that he was trying to think of a way to write Holmesian stories in an unusual way when his wife asked him to go hiking. He realized that the Old West and Victorian England were contemporaneous and the setting for these humorous mysteries was born.

I first encountered Old Red and Big Red on the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine podcast where "Dear Dr. Watson" was episode 5. I was immediately taken by this delightful duo, their cowboy lives, and the mystery they solved. Naturally, when I saw Steve Hockensmith offering a free Kindle file for bloggers to review, I snapped it up. These stories didn't disappoint. The settings follow Old Red and Big Red through the varying fortunes typical for cowboys of that time. The mysteries were varied and interesting. Although I was able to solve a couple of them myself, that didn't detract from my enjoyment as a good portion of the stories' value is the characters and environment. There weren't many anachronisms that I could spot, although I believe that "rolling your eyes" is a modern facial expression and even if isn't it would have been described differently back then.

Altogether this was a delightful collection and I highly recommend it.

How to Respond When Someone Pulls Away Because You're Catholic

Hannah and a couple of friends were hanging out at a local bar with folks from the rock climbing center. Hannah and Jenny suddenly did a "Catholic high five!" (yes, they're that goofy and I love it).

A new friend said, "You're Catholic?" and pulled his chair away slightly ... half seriously/half jokingly. At which point Hannah and her two friends asked why he did that thing. The reasons got sillier and sillier, ending with examples from Dante's Inferno.

It made me think of this conversation between director Roland Joffe (who has a movie coming out about Opus Dei founder Josemaria Escriva) and a friend of his. I'd forgotten to highlight it, but now seems a good time because it's going in the quote journal. And because I'm going to try to remember it as a way to defend the faith.
Friend: Oh my God, that’s a Fascist organization! I mean, they slaughtered hundreds of people!

Joffé: They have? Really? How do you know that?

F: Well, even if they haven’t, they’re extremely influential in the Church. I mean, they basically control the Church.

J: How would they control the Church?

F: They control the cardinals and the pope.

J: They hypnotize them? How do they do it?

F: They do it through the cardinals.

J: How many cardinals are in Opus Dei?

F: Hundreds.

J: Well, how many cardinals are there [in the world]?

F: I don’t know, but lots and lots of them are definitely in Opus Dei.

J: Well, I think there may be one or two, or maybe in three.

F: Well, that’s what I’m saying—that’s the way it works. It’s all kept secret.

J: Well, okay. Anything else?

F: Bishops. Lots and lots of bishops. How do you account for all these bishops in Opus Dei?

J: How many bishops are in Opus Dei?

F: Well, I don’t know—thousands of bishops …
My guess as to how many cardinals there are in the Church was around 200. The total number varies depending on various factors, but the closest I found to an actual answer was 183 in 2011 thus far.

There Be Dragons Review ... Simcha Fisher Likes Half of It

Let’s start with the good. The best part was, happily, Charlie Cox, who plays Opus Dei’s founder, Josemaria Escriva. Knowing very little about the actual man, I had none of the mental baggage that can trouble a fan (“That’s not how I pictured Mr. Tumnus!”). The Fr. Josemaria he portrays is a strong, happy, humorous man who is not like other men. When he commands a room with quiet authority, you feel it. Despite the drama that surrounds him, his actions are not hammy or melodramatic. You care about him, and want him to succeed. When he learns to love everyone he meets, you believe it, and you feel glad that you met him, even if only on screen through an actor. There are several original and memorable scenes which demonstrate the humanity, holiness, and appeal of the man.
I concur.

However, even though I saw an incomplete version in January, it looks as if they may not have changed it substantially from what I saw, based on Simcha's review.

Tom and I didn't have any trouble keeping track of the various stories and actually were intrigued by what we learned of the fighting that was going on when Josemaria Escriva was alive. So, depending on what got changed, you could say we liked it better than Simcha did.

I do agree, based on what we saw, that it was not a bad movie but it wasn't a great movie. Definitely worth seeing, but not the best that could be done in terms of making a great film or compelling story. The "hokey" angle was definitely there and I was hoping that it would be smoothed out some. Evidently not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

These Books Just In

I'll be reading and reviewing these later but wanted to give y'all a heads-up as to my "to read" stack grows.
  • Healing Autism Naturally by Becky Cash.
    The title says it all. I am acquainted with author Becky Cash's husband through The Catholic Company so when he brought up this book I was interested in reading it. Especially as the more we talked, the more I could think of several people in my life who have varying degrees of autism. Or so I am told because I know nothing about autism really other than the little bits of information that "everybody knows." And I know how untrustworthy the "everybody knows" information can be. So I'm curious to learn more about this subject.
  • A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy by Edward Sri
    This book is intended to help introduce Catholics to the liturgical translations, as well as to the Mass in its entirety based on biblical roots of words and gestures. It looks fascinating and A Guide to the New Translation of the Mass, the booklet which Sri wrote in question and answer format to address liturgical changes was straight-forward and easy to understand.
  • Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way by Molly Birnbaum
    This is the first book I have received as part of the Amazon Vine Program. A fascinating topic for anyone who is interested in cooking and food in general. Also, I have a long-time acquaintance who lost her sense of smell, but loves to cook. Hearing about her trials in getting her husband to smell food to see if it spoiled and suchlike made me realize how integral smell is to taste.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Package That Can Put a Big Smile on Your Face — UPDATED

That's probably only if really true if you're a certain age.

Because this is the original packaging.

But when I found it at Krogers this weekend it made me smile and not only because this is Hannah's favorite flavor which can be hard to find.

Tom, helping me unload groceries, held up the bag with a broad grin, "Hey! This is classic!"

And so it is.

Both on the inside and the outside.

Evidently these are available for a limited time. Why limited! We want them always!

Sadly, I was informed that Frito Lay is owned by PepsiCo. *sigh*

We all remember that Nestle, Pepsi, Solae, and Kraft Use Cells From Aborted Babies to Test Artificial Flavors. Campbell Soup Rejects Methods, right? I didn't do my homework. So we will savor these last Doritos and not buy any more until they change their ways.

A Free, Unedited Reading of The Most Dangerous Game

Thank you SFFaudio for this recording, which is their episode 105! To add to the enjoyment, it is read by William Coon who is a favorite of mine. You'll enjoy this classic tale.

Friday, April 22, 2011

There is a reason Jesus promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against us.

Because He knew we'd need the encouragement against the strenuous efforts made by Satan, as Jen at Riparians at the Gate reminds us.
... If you are Catholic and you can fog a mirror, you know that our church is a giant jumble of bickering and snippiness.

It is a battlefield. Our Church.




Do not be the infantry and the cavalry taking shots at one another. Fight the real enemy.
As we go through Good Friday, meditating on what Jesus sacrificed for us, what He endured for our sakes, let us stiffen our spines in refusing to give aid and comfort to The Enemy in the continual efforts to tear us into shreds.

The worst of that fight may be internal as we struggle not to rip into those among us who have a different perspective. Usually, for me anyway, internal battles are the worst. That's ok. We've got the best example there is. Follow the battle standard of the crucifix into the fight against the real enemy.

Finding Fatima - Movie Review

This documentary tells the story of Our Lady of Fatima.

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, saw a beautiful lady "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun." The lady told them that she would appear on the 13th day of every month afterwards and asked them to pray the rosary every day. Subsequently, the children learned that this woman was an apparition of the Virgin Mary. As promised, Mary appeared every month and told the children that on October 13 there would be a miracle. By this time crowds were flocking to Fatima for the 13th of every month and October saw record numbers gather. By all descriptions the sun "danced" on that day. The children were also told three secrets, two of which they revealed and one which was kept secret until very recent times.

Finding Fatima is actually more of a docu-drama than a straight documentary. It gives the details of the above events using the commentary of various Fatima experts, dramatic reenactments of eye-witness accounts, the testimony of relatives and friends of the seers and descendants of eye witnesses, and scenes from the movie The 13th Day. The story is told in a fairly straight forward manner and those who are interested in the Fatima story will learn about the events, secrets, and the basilica built upon the site.

As a side note, I will mention that, although I am Catholic, I have never felt attracted to the sites of apparitions of Mary. In my view, we've got God with us everywhere. However, I do know that shrines can be very helpful to many and certainly miracles have occurred at them. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is the full and final revelation of God so there is no public revelation after him (specifically after the last of the apostles died). This does not preclude private revelation to individuals, of the same sort as happened at Fatima. However the Church urges extreme caution be taken in accepting such revelations. After a revelation has finished occuring, the Church will evaluate it but the most "approval" that would occur is that there would be a statement that nothing objectionable was found. Therefore, we may or may not find such private revelations helpful personally once the Church has declared that there is nothing objectionable, such as Lourdes or Fatima or Our Lady of Guadaloupe. However, we are not required to believe them. That is up to each person to discern. (More details may be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) 

Back to the documentary: I learned more about the details of the third secret than I had known before and found the account to match details I already knew. However, I was disappointed that there was a lack of follow-through on some testimony. For example, much is made of the hostile, anti-clerical journalist who witnesses the sun dancing, but he is never mentioned again. We can go to the internet to read his newspaper article detailing that he did, indeed, see the sun dancing but this is the sort of corroborating detail that the documentary should have included.

Likewise, several of the experts allude to "secular" explanations for the miracle of the sun dancing, but we are never told just what those explanations are. It would have strengthened the documentary quality of this piece if such opposing information were included and given context to the experts' refutations.

I was also surprised that there was no mention of Mary's request for the consecration of Russia to her "Immaculate Heart." This has been the source of much speculation over the years and also the source of much controversy. For that very reason, it should have been at least touched upon.

Negative points aside, Finding Fatima is an informative and moving work. I came away with more information than I knew before and with a  desire to pray the rosary more often (as an aside, I go in and out of this meditative form of prayer depending on where I am spiritually and various other factors). It is probably the most informational of the films available and will not disappoint those who want to learn more about Fatima.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Do We Need Holy Week?

The Holy Week recollection of the passion and death of Jesus Christ serves to remind us that it’s not enough to be a “good person” who does not blow up bridges. Jesus is surrounded by “nice” guys who left commerce to follow him — to heal, to give alms, to feed multitudes — and they drink too much to be able to keep him company when he asks. They engage in skirmishes. They run away. One of them betrays him for silver, another — the first of the “good persons,” the one who first pronounces Jesus as Messiah and holds the keys to the kingdom — betrays him with his tongue.
Recognize yourself here?

Me too.

And I'm not proud of it. Let's start with the extreme battle with myself just to go to Mass tonight. Which I know I will benefit from. Which I know will set me up for Good Friday and Easter Sunday in a way that will benefit my soul and, therefore, everyone around me.

Read it all at The Washington Post from The Anchoress.

(She has lots o' Triduum links here.)

I have some things set to go up tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday (Easter!) but am going to try to stay off the blog for a while from now on.

Not only for the good of my soul but also for the preparation of the Easter feast and suchlike.

A blessed Triduum and Easter to you all.

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Lk 22:15).

Thus begins Pope Benedict XVI's homily for Holy Thursday Mass. That caught my attention because it is what goes through my head every time I approach the Eucharist in communion. I always think of Jesus continually saying to each of us, "I eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you..."

The homily continues a few sentences later with this.
... In this eager desire of Jesus we can recognize the desire of God himself – his expectant love for mankind, for his creation. A love which awaits the moment of union, a love which wants to draw mankind to itself and thereby fulfil the desire of all creation, for creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19). Jesus desires us, he awaits us. But what about ourselves? Do we really desire him? Are we anxious to meet him? Do we desire to encounter him, to become one with him, to receive the gifts he offers us in the Holy Eucharist? Or are we indifferent, distracted, busy about other things? From Jesus’ banquet parables we realize that he knows all about empty places at table, invitations refused, lack of interest in him and his closeness. ...
Just having read about the Catholic Phillipines Postponing Earth Day because the largely Catholic Filipinos would rather keep the focus on Good Friday, the point about being distracted really hits me. I think that I read about U.S. churches being urged to tie in their Good Friday homilies with Earth Day. Here's the twist. In the Phillipines, they put off Earth Day so that they could be assured of having proper attention given to it. Meaning that the Filipinos would not take their gaze off of Good Friday.

Would that we could say such a thing or live such a thing with that certainty in the U.S.

I cannot.

Much later, speaking of unity, the Pope continues:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31). Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world. And we know that Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors.
Of course, we are "painfully aware." Think of it though. Jesus prayed for us and prays for us even now. We are not promised that we will not be sifted. Things may not be easy. In fact, we can pretty much count on the fact that things will not be easy. But what matters is not the hardship or the sifting, but that our faith not fail.

There is much to ponder here. Read the entire homily at Whispers in the Loggia.

Blogging Around: The "These Grabbed Me" Edition (Updated)

Mostly funny ... but all good.
  • Referees - The Curt Jester's referee and liturgical signals crack me up (it's funny because it's true). Scroll down for his version, which is really best.

  • Why Do I Love Jesus - B-Movie Catechism's answers ring true and made me laugh. Practically perfect in every way. Complete with movie quotes to kick each one off. As if that ain't enough ... it is like a conversion story to boot.

  • Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson - free audio on LibriVox. This link doesn't go directly to LibriVox because I'm making you go through B-Movie Catechism to get there. The poster alone is worth it. Just trust me.

  • Quo Vadis - free audio from LibriVox. I haven't heard this reader before that I can recall but the book itself is great.

  • Soul Surfer - review at Good News Film Reviews. I've been eyeing reviews of this movie warily, waiting for someone who I trust to evaluate the movie itself over and above the Christian message. Scott Nehring delivers and it looks as if the movie is one I am going to put on my list.

  • Dion: The Wanderer Talks Truth by Dion Dimucci, Mike Aquilina -just got this book in and it intrigues me because I recall hearing Dion speak on an interview show where he talked about his faith. I wish I could remember the name of it, because it seems to me that it wasn't an interviewer who one expected to elicit faith-ish talk. Anyway, it is enough to interest me into putting it on the "to read" stack, especially as I don't believe I've ever seen Mike Aquilina do this style of writing before.

Why We Do Those Things We Do: Reviewing "The Mass" by Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina

Any Catholic knows that the Mass is the heart of our Catholic life and identity. At the most basic, it is communion in the Eucharist, the bread of life which is Christ's body. Everything else that we are comes from that. Most Catholics know the basics of the Mass so well that they could go through them in their sleep.

Therein lies the problem.

In the first place, we may know motions, gestures, liturgical responses, and more, but we often don't know why we are doing these things. If we do understand why, there often is an even deeper meaning that escapes us. If you are a newcomer then you are in the dark about what to do during Mass until you pick it up by watching those "in the know"—who often may not be able to explain why things are taking place.

Secondly, the well-known liturgy of the Mass is going to change in November when the new translations will be put into effect. What is changing and why are key issues to helping everyone get the most out of the new liturgy.

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition is designed to act as a primer about the Mass. It begins with a brief description of the Mass's origins and history, followed by an indepth look at all the steps, from procession through dismissal. The authors are at pains to describe the process on two levels. First come the essentials of what actions are being taken (the priest prays, the people respond, etc.). To that effect, they include photos of the priest during different moments of the Mass. Descriptions are given of who all the roles of those celebrating the Mass, the church furnishings, books used, clothing, vessels and more. On a deeper level, they go into why the actions are being taken, both on symbolic and spiritual levels. The excerpt which closes this review gives  an idea of how skillfully these are blended.

The Mass is also where you may find the changes in the liturgy described and explained to show how they more fully reflect the mysteries in which we are taking place.  Often this is not called to our attention as a change, but is contained within the explanation just before or after the liturgical words. This is done matter-of-factly, without polemics.
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
As you and I acknowledge our sins, we take full responsibility. I have sinned through "my fault"—not someone else's. In order to emphasize the point, we repeat the phrase and intensify it: "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." The prayer gives us a brief summary of the ways we can go wrong—by sins of word or deed, omission or commission. We say we're sorry for all of them.

Moreover, we say we're sorry not just with a word, but with a deed as well, a gesture. Like the tax collector in the story Jesus told, we strike our breast as we make the three-fold acknowledgment of our fault. We hope to go home justified, as the tax collector did. [Luke 18:10-14, referenced earlier in the section.]
I know more than some about the Mass. As a convert of 11 years ago, I dug deep and was fascinated by the symbolism. Reading The Mass, I was reminded of things that I had forgotten and, indeed, learned new information as well. It was inspirational and reminded me of the depths that the Catholic faith has to offer anyone who will take the trouble to look below the surface.

Any regular reader here already knows that I love Mike Aquilina's writing. The Mass is no exception. Aquilina can take the most basic, matter-of-fact information and show us the spiritual element that makes it come alive. It is his touch that we see throughout the book which makes it an inspirational as well as informational work.

Add to Aquilina's writing chops is coauthor Cardinal Donald Wuerl. I was told that his mere presence as coauthor made an imprimatur unnecessary, according to whatever authorities the publisher contacted (seems dicey reasoning to me for future generations who may read this, but there you go, that's what they told me). It results in accuracy and clerical insight as well as spirituality that you can trust underlying the explanation of the Mass.

It is not a perfect book. A few things caught my attention that were small, but noticeable:
  • It seemed to me that some elements were needed for consistency's sake. Several times the text goes to the trouble of informing the people to stand, for example, and yet never instructs on when to sit again. 
  • Although the church furnishings are described, no mention is made of saints' statues, votive candles, stained glass and the like ... all the items that every Catholic church contains, no matter how ancient or modern the architecture.
  • Some variations which are allowed for in various rituals weren't mentioned. I imagine this may have been because they aren't commonly used. For example, our church retains the altar rail which is where communion is given. Practically everyone chooses to kneel for communion. Naturally anyone may stand who chooses to do so. However, altar rail or no, the book makes no mention of protocol for those who may desire to kneel for communion.
Those small things aside,  believe me when I say that this book is one to recommend for anyone who wonders why we "do those things we do" in Mass. Indeed, it would be a good book to read to remind us of just what depth we are offered every time we attend Mass. Highly recommended.

This excerpt will give you an idea of what you may be missing without full understanding.
The Procession
Sometimes, our churches announce the approaching time of Mass by ringing chimes and bells, calling people to worship. The message of the bells is the ancient message of the Psalm: "Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord. ... Enter, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For this is our God, whose people we are" (Psalms 95:1, 6-7). Summoned, the people gather at Church--a word that in the Greek of the New Testament means not a building, but the assembly of God's people. It is the building that takes its name from the congregation, and not the other way around.

Before the Mass can begin, the priest must put on his vestments and make his entrance. Thus, the procession, the entry of the priest and others, may seem like a merely mechanical event: it moves necessary personnel in an orderly way along a prescribed route, from Point A (the sacristy) to Point B (the sanctuary).

But the procession is part of the ritual, and so it is rich in meaning. It symbolizes our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven. We are a pilgrim people, and we're making our way through life to God. We do not travel alone. Like the tribes we read about in the Bible, we move through life as a family, and that family is the Catholic Church.

When we gather as God's family for the Mass, the procession brings the ministers--perhaps the altar servers, lector, and even the choir--and then, finally, the priest into the sanctuary. On their way to the sanctuary, they represent us all. We can see ourselves, by the grace of the Mass, making progress on the way to heaven.

Sometimes the procession is very short and sometimes it's very long and dramatic. Sometimes it is accompanied by a hymn or instrumental music, sometimes by a simple antiphon--a verse from Scripture.

At the head of the procession may be a crucifer, an altar server bearing a cross. This simple, common image reminds us that Jesus is our "leader to salvation...made perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10).

And that's why we've come to the church at the beautiful sound of the bells. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The procession moves, outwardly, at a dignified pace. Inwardly, however, and spiritually, we are hastening to heaven, behind the leader who goes before us: Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and glorified.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reviewing "Bleeder: A Miracle? Or bloody murder?"

Reed Stubblefield is on his way to his brother's cabin in a small Illinois town. He needs time to recuperate from a debilitating injury, he is traumatized by his wife's recent death, and he is writing a book. A little peace and quiet are just what the doctor ordered, right?


Of course, Reed is plunged almost immediately into local controversies. Is the local priest a stigmatic? Can he heal with a touch? Why does a disconnected phone ring? And who is on the other end? Is the local Hispanic community up to no good? When the priest is murdered and Reed is the prime suspect, he must look for answers to these questions and more to find the real murderer.

Bleeder by John J. Desjarlais grabbed me by the throat and I read it in two days.

I liked Reed's skepticism about healing powers and his ambivalence toward religion in general. I also liked his conversations with priests, especially Monsignor DeMarco, who proved reasonable and understanding of Reed's opinions, but who still explained and defended the Catholic faith ... without being defensive.

I liked the way that the varying viewpoints were shown about the recently swelling illegal Hispanic population. Not everyone had a good point, but they all had a point to make. Just as in real life, where sometimes you can't argue with the local bigot down the road as much as you would like to because ... darn it ... there is a kernel of truth at the bottom of their reasoning.

I liked the way that the author skillfully would segue from one scene to another, often via dreams, and leave me thinking we were heading in one direction only to have me realize I was completely wrong a few sentences later.

I like the way that not every single thing was explained at the end, leaving readers free to their own thoughts about cause and effect. I also enjoyed the philosophical conversations that would come up, not lasting too long, but long enough to draw me in and give me something to think about.

I especially liked the way that Aristotle chimed in whenever conversation ran along lines which made Reed's mind turn to him. Author John Desjarlais' paraphrases showed me just how many things Aristotle can be applied to and I came to look forward to the little insertions of commentary.
... But how did he recognize me at the cafe? Are healers mind-readers as well? Was someone playing a trick on me?

The gods, too, are fond of a joke, Aristotle chuckled.
In short, I liked this book. A lot.

I didn't guess the murderer but I rarely do so that was not a surprise. I did have one big overriding question through most of the book. The resolution to that question turned out to be the key to the murderer as well, although I didn't see it until it was explained to me. I did guess a few things but they were nothing which mattered much in the end.

John J. Desjarlais not only has a deft touch with mystery construction and story, but has a distinct gift for sketching characters. We know who we like and dislike, and find that the author often has reasons for those characteristics which affect us one way or the other, without being obvious in his methods.

I will mention that I got interested in Bleeder after seeing a review to the sequel, Viper, by Sarah Reinhard.  After Sarah kindly put me in touch with the author, he sent both books. This is all to say that as soon as I put Bleeder down, I grabbed the advance copy of Viper and began reading. By then I had forgotten that Selena de la Cruz was the main character in the book. However, when I "met" her in Bleeder, I took to her so quickly that I was hoping that she would be the next person we would follow. I was delighted to find out that is the case. Viper takes off at breakneck speed and I'm loving the ride.

Viper isn't out yet but Bleeder is and I urge you to get a copy. Go on! Now!

Stunned and pleased by President Obama's profession of faith

We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. And everybody in this room has weighty responsibilities, from leading churches and denominations, to helping to administer important government programs, to shaping our culture in various ways. And I admit that my plate has been full as well. (Laughter.) The inbox keeps on accumulating. (Laughter.)

"But then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross.

"And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world -- past, present and future -- and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection.

"In the words of the book Isaiah: 'But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.'

"This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this 'Amazing Grace' calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son -- his Son and our Savior.
Read it all at The Baltimore Sun. I found this via GetReligion where they look at how differently the story was covered around the U.S.

I'm not a fan of many of President Obama's policies. I know very little about the man himself. I pray for him as he leads our country. And I suppose a true cynic could say that these words are part of a political move somehow.

I prefer to take the man at his word. It comforts me that as odds as we would be in the same room discussing politics, we would be at one in our Holy Week reflections and self-examination.

Happy Catholic - Kindle version

I have had people asking about whether Happy Catholic would be available as an E-book. I am happy to announce that the publisher just told me that they have uploaded the files and it should be available in 24 hours.


Help yourself!

And ... if you have read the book and enjoyed it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? Every little bit helps! Thank you!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Outer Space, Can Anyone Hear You Pray ... II: Reviewing Infinite Space, Infinite God II

The Ghosts of Kourion by Andrew Seddon:  A grieving professor escapes back in time to live among a doomed people.

Antivenin by Karina Fabian:  Rescue Sister Rita takes on a ship full of venomous snakes in order to save a friend.

An Exercise in Logic by Barton Paul Levenson:  How do you convince an infuriatingly logical race to stop an asteroid?

Cathedral by Tamara Wilhite: A genetically engineered human spends the last of her tortured days righting her wrongs.

Otherworld by Karina Fabian: Does sin really count when it's virtual?

The Battle of the Narthex by Alex Lobdell:  An alien battle in a most unusual setting--tickles the funny bone and touches the heart!

Tenniel by Colleen Drippe':  The battle for souls becomes a battle to the death.

Tin Servants by J Sherer:  In order to serve his people, Paul becomes an android--but can he really care for them as a tin servant?

Basilica by John Rundle:  Caprizo battles machines and thwarts an enemy armada to keep a doomsday weapon from their hands.

Cloned to Kill by D. Mak:  How can a man of peace protect a clone designed to kill?

Frankie Phones Home by Karina Fabian:  A sixteen-year-old alien abductee calls her family on the way back for official First Contact.

Dyads, Ken Pick and Alan Loewen:  Enter the fascinating culture of the Thalendri in a story of intrigue, terrorist and religious tolerance.
Way back in 2008, I reviewed Infinite Space, Infinite God, an anthology of science fiction centered on Catholicism.  In some ways we cannot avoid comparing a second volume to the first. In fact, editors Karina and Robert Fabian do the same in the introduction when they point out that the first anthology had stories centering more on the Church as an institution. In this second book, the stories tended to focus more on individuals and their struggles, using Catholicism as the context through which we view them.

I found Infinite Space, Infinite God II to be a stronger set of stories overall and one that I could recommend unreservedly to non-Catholics because the overall themes ran strongly to a general science fiction theme rather than to faith. This is not to say that the stories don't address faith, but even for nonbelievers there is something interesting to be found in practically every one of them. The stories are imaginative and, although some are light-hearted, all of them lead readers to think about serious issues, as is the case with the best science fiction. I also especially enjoyed the way that each of them featured the Church which has adapted to the future but which never ignores or betrays her mission.

As before, I found each story introduction to be well written and interesting although, as before, I found there was a bit too much revelation about the story or what characters learned for my taste. I read most of them after I read the story as a result. However, this is an issue that I have come across in many anthologies and it is a matter of personal taste.

My favorite stories:
  • The Ghosts of Kourion. This is a bittersweet tale of "what if" combined with time travel. The story's ending will have us all examining our own smallest deeds.

  • Antivenin. I was on the edge of my seat as Sister Rita ran into worse and worse encounters in this "snakes on a spaceship" story. Riveting.

  • Tenniel. A showdown of sorts from which it seems that no one can emerge victorious. And is victory always what we think it is?

  • Dyads. This was my hands-down favorite. Not only was I fascinated by the alien culture, I was captivated by the brilliant translation of the Catholic faith into something that was equally alien but equally true, revealed by God. Also, I was riveted by the conundrums faced by the two faiths in resolving their problems.
I can't say nearly as much as I would like about these stories without giving away plots but these stories equal anything found in other science fiction anthologies. They are practically perfect in every way.

The above link is to Amazon but there are many formats available and Twilight Times Books has links.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Catholic and Girls' Night Potluck Rosary

Don't you just love the idea of a potluck rosary group? Way to make it homey and real when you get together to say the rosary.

I am honored to have been asked to speak to this group of ladies from my parish and am pretty excited about it!

I will have more to say tomorrow I am sure!

Why I Love Jesus

The Curt Jester tagged me with this meme (so exciting! I don't think he's tagged me before ... ). And it is a topic that I am drawn to, naturally. So, here we go, not in order of important but in order of what popped into my head:
The rules:

Those tagged will share 5 things they “love” about Jesus/ Or why they love Jesus Those tagged will tag 5 other bloggers. Those tagged will provide a link in the comments section here with their name so that others can read them.
  1. He's hilarious and when He laughs at me it is really laughing with me ... and I can't help but join in.
  2. He loves me so much that He would have died for me alone.
  3. He loves my enemy as much as He loves me.
  4. When I look at Him then I see the Father.
  5. His Truth is the solid foundation that never fails me ... and I am all about Truth.
I'm tagging:
  1. Aliens in This World
  2. The Practicing Catholic
  3. The Deacon's Bench
  4. Frank at Why I Am Catholic
  5. B-Movie Catechism

St. Bernadette

My motto is fast becoming "better late than never" and here is a prime example. This fine video from Zac Brakefield for TAN books.

Find more videos like this at Catholic Trailers, as well as Zac's discussion of other videos and movies, like the Vatican's top film list.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Congratulations to those on the list of "blogging chosen" for the Vatican blog-meet

The list is posted and I am delighted to see that some of the bloggers I love to read are on there such as The Anchoress, The Crescat, and Lisa Hendey. There are other bloggers I read on that list too but those are the ones I feel really connected to (and whose urls jumped out at me in a quick scan).

It looks like a really diverse list from many different places. Should be interesting for all of them!

I'm not on it, but you know I'm really all right with that. I hear there isn't a hotel room to be had for love nor money ... and I remembered that my passport is expired ... and so on.

I will get to Rome one day, perhaps, but just not right now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Catholic Book Giveaway at Catholic Mom

What makes YOU a happy Catholic?

Share in the comments by midnight on Friday, April 22, and you might win your own copy of Happy Catholic!
Go comment at Catholic Mom to get a chance to win.

Thanks again to Sarah for the wonderful review and to Lisa Hendey for giving me the heads up on this. How fun!

Scholarship Essay Contest for Teens: $1,500 Grand Prize

Theology of the Body for Teens has made its way all over the country, giving teens an authentic sense of self.  This dynamic high school program has opened up a life-giving vision for teens of love and sexuality as God intended them to be, effectively helping to renew a generation of Catholic youth.  Equipped with the truth of God’s design in their male and female identity, many of these teens are preparing to venture out as individuals and adults, able to influence their peers at colleges and universities, and later in their chosen professions.

To assist these motivated and faithful high school students, Ascension Press is sponsoring an essay contest for high school teens.  One young man and one young woman will each win the Grand Prize of $1500, plus a $500 Gift Card to Ascension Press for their parishes or schools.
To find out more, go here at Ascension Press.

A source of joy ... bringing young and old together.

The nurses quickly escorted us back to a private visiting room. They didn't even want to let Cora in. "One of our patients is violent," the nurse said. But as I looked at the assortment of women in the visiting area (most with walkers or wheelchairs), I couldn't imagine what harm might befall us and I stood my ground. "No, I'd like to take her to visit her great grandma. I have permission from her doctor." The nurse shook her head and muttered something about me being willing to put my baby at risk. I smiled politely, hugged Cora a little tighter, and walked past the main visiting area to a private room where we could sit without being "in danger."


I've never heard her laugh like she does when she's visiting my grandma. I don't know what it is… but it is joy. And it is life-giving.
Read it all at Signs of Hope.

Mrs. Darwin sez Happy Catholic is "... pretty compulsively readable."

And she adds a tribute that means a great deal to me.
I can't wait until my girls are a few years older -- Happy Catholic would be great reading for a teen trying to make sense of the shifting patterns of the world.
Thank you, Mrs. D! You may read her whole review here and she also reviews a Gregorian chant cd that sounds wonderful. I especially like that it was recorded during a storm and that you can sometimes hear the rain in the background.

I love it when someone shares the joking that they "hear" from God ...

... since it corresponds all too well to the side of Him that I know too.

From Kevin at Excuse Me Sir But You Dropped Your Cross which I discovered in commenter Fr. Cory Sticha's "followed" blogs list.
One morning at Mass, during the second communion song “Hosea,” I finished my prayer and sat back in my seat. I grabbed the bulletin. On its cover was an image and the poem “Footprints in the Sand.” As I finished reading the poem, I asked God, “What are or were you trying to tell me with this ordeal?” to which the response was “I was with you the entire time, carrying you just like it says in the poem.” Tears of joy poured out of me. I looked at Jean and started laughing uncontrollably. She was perplexed. You see, shortly after the first response came a second one. “…and my back is killing me!” 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Inspirational Christian Stories and Poems

This is an interesting site, from my pal Chris Cash, which has all sorts of stories. They are funny, sad, serious, light-hearted, and more.

Here's a sample.
A Silent Sermon
A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going. After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself at home but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more.

Soon it was cold and dead. Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting. The Pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave, he slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek, “Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday.”

~author unknown~
Check it out!

911 Wildlife's Screech-Owl Webcam

This is a screech-owl in someone's attic ... and it is nesting so it can't be moved. 911 Wildlife cleverly installed a webcam. Fascinating!

Stranger Than Fiction

Science, art, literature, wristwatches, toothbrushing, anarchists, green apples, and motion graphics.

All that and more come up for discussion when Scott and I find traces of the One Reality in the Will Farrell movie, Stranger Than Fiction, on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Get it while it's hot!

"There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still."

In this week's A Free Mind column at Patheos I review a book that you simply must read or reread or listen to ... The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Get it while it's hot ... it makes terrific end of Lent/Holy Week reading!

The Bishop's Hour and Happy Catholic: Today in ... about five minutes!

Some listeners call Bob Dunning a “bleeding heart liberal” while others swear he’s a right-wing conservative. ...

Dunning believes the contradictory assessments of his opinions reflect people’s perceptions of Catholicism itself. “The church’s teachings spread across the political spectrum,” he said in a recent interview with The Herald. “Who decided that being pro-life was a conservative position?” “I’m also against the death penalty,” he added, “which seems to mark me as a liberal.”

The church teaches respect for human life and the dignity of the human person, Dunning observed, yet Catholics can be divided on specific applications church teaching. “To me, being against capital punishment and against abortion under any circumstances is a consistent ethical position, but not all Catholics agree,” he said.
From what I can tell, Bob Dunning is my kind of guy and very probably a happy Catholic.

I'll find out very soon! Sorry for the lack of notice but my days have been crazy, y'all.


But crazy.

Here's more information.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Church is Full of Sinners: This is not new.

Let’s see now: we’ve got a Sunday night series on one of the most corrupt and tawdry families in Church history, the Borgias, with popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests, all part of this big, happy family; we’ve heard non-stop for a decade about abusive priests, (albeit a small minority) and lax bishops who reassigned them; we’ve got front page stories of priests who embezzled money from their parishes; and I saw one not long ago about a priest arrested for DUI.

Yes, all this is scandalous, sinful, sickening, and criminal.

But, it is not new.

Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, brothers are human.

That means, we are sinners.

Granted, when one of us falls, it hurts and shocks more. People rightly expect their spiritual leaders to practice what we preach. When we don’t, we’re hypocrites. And we know what Jesus thought about hypocrites.

But, this is not new.

If you think it worse today than in the past, I ask you to consider the solemn days we will observe next week, Holy Week: Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

Within an hour or so after Jesus had ordained His very first bishops and priests — the twelve apostles — what happened? They fell asleep when He asked them to pray with Him; one betrayed Him for thirty silver coins; one — the first Pope — denied three times even knowing Him; and all but one, the youngest, ran away scared at the time He most needed them. That lonely loyal one, St. John, was there with our blessed Mother at the foot of the cross on a hill called Calvary on a Friday strangely called “good.”

Not a very good start for bishops and priests. Within a few hours after their ordination, 11/12 had abandoned Him. That’s a worse record than even the Mets!
Archbishop Dolan hits one out of the park ... and this is just the beginning of the article. Go read it all.

You too? I thought I was the only one!

Sometimes xkcd scares me. Or we're soul mates. Whichever.

Lino at Large and Happy Catholic: tonight at 7 p.m. (Eastern time)

Lino at Large is a 30 minute radio show which is one of the most popular Catholic podcasts in the country. This fast-paced program geared toward young adults is brought to you by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I remember waaaaay back in 2007 getting to chat with Lino Rulli a few times and it was always fun.

I mean, you've got to love a guy who has a bobblehead in his store. Right?

And I hear he's got 7 Dumb Questions to ask me.

This is gonna be fun.

Or something. (But I'm counting on fun ...)

And we'll probably talk about books. Just a little. One book anyway.

Guess which one?
Yeah, I figured you'd guess.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My perfect wallpaper

How well Rose knows me ... yes, I will be putting this on my laptop.

Not that I'm obsessed with Serenity or Firefly.

Heather Ordover on Happy Catholic: "You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy it."

I'm rather behind on podcast listening.

However, if nothing else I always look at the show notes for episodes that I haven't gotten to yet, to make sure I don't miss what's going on with my pals (yes, that's how I think of them).

I know that Heather Ordover at the CraftLit podcast (a podcast for crafters who like books) is moving and so keep up with that part of her life on the podcast, though I will catch up on the literary part later.

So, I was surprised and gratified to see that she had a link to Happy Catholic. When I listened I was even more gratified.

Heather is talking to knitters and book lovers, certainly not to a faith-based audience. She gave this a tribute that made me grateful (and happy, always happy of course), but which relieved a worry of mine. Because I knew that non-Catholics, heck non-Christians, might get this book. (Let's just start with my own family for that matter.) I have my own point of view, which is valid, of course, but I don't want to trample other people while I'm expressing it. Heather makes me hopeful that I might have been able to pull it off.

There is more, but here is the essence of it:
Just in case you thought this book was for Catholics only, I would like to read a small selection.  On page 43 it says, "Why Do You Think They Call It Willpower, Old Chum?"  And who does she quote to launch her into her little mini-essay here?
Robin:  Self-control is sure tough sometimes, Batman!
Batman: All virtues are, old chum. Indeed, that’s why they’re virtues.
And that's a quote from the Batman TV series.

Remember this is Happy Catholic: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life ... quoting Batman. This is why I love Julie. And her essay is really quite lovely as well. ...

I don't actually think you have to be Catholic to enjoy it. I am not Catholic and I am enjoying it. But part of that is because wisdom is wisdom, you know? And she's drawing wisdom from all sorts of great places and commenting on it and giving us her own particular slant on it.
This is from Episode 204 of CraftLit if you want to listen for yourself. It is the first thing she talks about, for which I am also grateful. Thank you Heather! (For an autographed copy, go here. I include a favorite quote that didn't make it into the book, as well.)

By the way, if you love classic literature and don't listen to CraftLit then drop by and try it out. CraftLit is one of my top five favorite podcasts. I hate to rank them other than that because ... I don't think I can. They're all just that good and CraftLit is one that you won't be sorry you tried.

Now I'm Going to Have to Watch Gold Rush

Thanks to Rose who pointed out this adorable and funny little dance after yesterday's art featured the Gold Rush poster.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I feel the need to say that the interwebs are a wonderful place.

Where else would I get the chance to chat with an author I admire (Steve Hockensmith) about his podcasting of some of his short stories on the Ellery Queen magazine and Alfred Hitchcock magazine podcasts?

While getting a review copy for my Kindle of his new collection of Dear Mr. Holmes, the Holmes on the Range short stories?

All thanks to Tweet and email.

God bless the ether!

By the way, if you haven't come across the Holmes on the Range stories, they are wonderful. A clever pastiche on Holmes because they are written about the cow punching brothers who admire the Holmes stories  they read in the papers. I am listening to the first novel now and loving it.

The Curt Jester: "I simply loved this book."

Nothing could have made me happier!

Unless it was the rest of Jeff's review of Happy Catholic.
Now Julie is a self-confessed book skimmer in that she often will skim through a book and then come back later and re-read it. I am not as much of a book skimmer and certainly did not skim through this book for fear of overlooking a good nugget. It also did not hurt that Julie pulled her quotes from areas and sources I also love. To have a book quoting Alice Cooper (now an Evangelical), Futurama, Firefly, SF Movies, and a vast swath of culture not in the SF realm is certainly to my taste, but her reflections should benefit all.

I simply loved this book. ...
Jeff is a logical and analytical thinker who loves the Church and loves books. Plus I read his blog before I had one of my own. So to say his review gladdened my heart is a huge understatement.

He even included a quote by me that he liked. That put me over the moon!

There is much more so if you are considering buying the book, you may be interested in reading the whole thing. Certainly I will be doing so several more times.

Thank you Jeff!

Food in Science Fiction and Fantasy

That is the latest topic under discussion at SFFaudio where Scott and Jesse welcome guest Luke Burrage. I can't wait to listen to this one. Two of my favorite topics being discussed by three of my favorite people!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Eagle-cam Alert!

Eagles from atop their tree at the fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa.

Oh. my. goodness.

I just went to get the link and the mother was feeding the eaglets!

Also, Hannah tells me that 911 Wildlife is going to have a screech owl cam soon. Can't wait!

Thanks to Cindy J. for the link!

Vatican announces a meeting for bloggers will take place in Rome on the afternoon of Monday, May 2, 2011

No, I'm not kidding.


The Vatican is calling for a bloggers meet. Actually a "new media" meet for the day after Pope John Paul II's beatification.

Whispers in the Loggia has the whole story and the email link for those who would like to attend. Because of space requirements it is being limited to 150 bloggers. If you blog and could swing the trip, then send that email!

It is the first time I've ever seen anything that made me wish I could afford to go to Rome.

I was telling my husband about it and then about an email from a friend who pointed it out and said I should go. He said, "Send an email. Let's see what happens. I'm curious ..."

So I did!

I feel fairly sure this is an event I will simply be reading about on other people's blogs. Which will be exciting enough, believe me.

However, I am also a firm believer that if you don't ask, then you don't get. So, I asked. It is fun to have an exciting possibility to dream about. Even if the dream doesn't come true, it is sometimes enough to have the fun of doing the dreaming.

And, right now, that's fun!

"A scrappy little volume ... seasoned with Julie's own sauce."

The Anchoress highly recommends Happy Catholic and includes two essays with quotes near and dear to my heart.
... a book I am highly recommending to you, not because Julie is a friend, but because it’s a scrappy little volume that serves up morsels from some of the most surprising sources (Alice Cooper? Bender from Futuerama? Hank Hill and H. G. Wells?) and then seasons them with Julie’s own sauce.
When someone of The Anchoress' caliber is enthusiastic then I am both relieved and proud. (Yes, the eternal insecurities come out ... but it keeps me humble and grateful, people ... so it's perfect for Lent, right?)

Go grab a couple more excerpts by reading her review. Thank you Anchoress!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good Vibrations: Exploring What It Means to Do the Right Thing

The Responsibility Project

I already loved this overall concept from Liberty Mutual so this cartoon delighted me on several levels. This engaged every person fully when we watched this at the end of an old TED talks that Tom showed this morning in our creativity meeting. About five minutes but worth the time.

Quick! Who is the Patron Saint of Gaming?

C'mon, I know you know it ...

What's taking you so long?

Maybe it's because, as Thomas L. McDonald tells us, there is none.

Never fear, he goes over the options in a most interesting and entertaining post at State of Play.

The Christopher Awards 2011

The Christophers should be known better ... so let's start there.
The mission of The Christophers is to encourage people of all ages, and from all walks of life, to use their God-given talents to make a positive difference in the world. The mission is best expressed in The Christophers’ motto: “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
One of the ways they do this is with their annual Christopher Awards. This year:
A mother strives to improve the lives of autistic children; an African-American nun establishes greater racial equality within the Catholic Church; two brothers travel around the world to discover the commonality of the human experience. These are just a few of the powerful stories told in the books, films, and TV programs that make up the winners of the 62nd annual Christopher Awards.
Go see who won and why. You're going to find new books to read, movies to see, and heroes you didn't know about.

Happy Catholic: the perfect devotional for the busiest person you know (Shameless Self-Promotion cont.)

Marge: All right, already! Everyone knows [Thomas Edison] accomplished a lot. Maybe because he didn't spend every moment talking about Thomas Edison!

Homer: Oh, that's where you're wrong, Marge. He was a shameless self-promoter.
I believe Rose had this in mind when she mentioned in a recent phone call that she noticed how frequently I mention the book.

Well ... well, yes. I cannot deny it.

And when I am as delighted that another friend whose good opinion matters to me liked the book, then I just can't keep it to myself! Sarah Reinhard, the Snoring Scholar, approves in the way that makes me happiest ... by seeing what I did not and surprising me.
Davis, as she does so often in her other pursuits, reminds us that faith and life cannot be separated. That’s why you find quotes from Alice Cooper and the TV show Joan of Arcadia. It explains the quips from the Simpsons and the dialogues from various movies and novels.

This book isn’t just a good read, though it is that. It’s also the perfect devotional for the busiest person you know. It’s a great resource for the practice of finding faith right in front of your face. It’s an indispensable handbook for a moment with the God who took the time to get down and dirty by becoming one of us.
If you are interested, do go read it all. She was also kind enough to post her review at Amazon and Goodreads. Sarah, thank you! Video Contest - voting

Remember that contest I mentioned a while back?
In an effort to help promote New York’s All Day Confessions event, happening Monday April 18th, The Diocese of Brooklyn in conjunction with both the Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Rockville Centre are launching a grassroots digital campaign called i-Confess. Using both social and digital media, the goal of this campaign is to generate interest in the act of Confession throughout New York State.
The videos are up and the voting has begun.

Go check them out. Be sure to watch them all because you never know when genius is lurking right around the corner!

Reviewing: Murder in the Vatican - The Church Histories of Sherlock Holmes

In this memorable year '95 a curious and incongruous succession of cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation of the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca -- an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope . . .
Dr. John H. Watson, “The Adventure of Black Peter”

I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases.
Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles

You know that I am preoccupied with this case of the two Coptic Patriarchs, which should come to a head to-day.

Sherlock Holmes, “The Retired Colourman”
These are the actual phrases from Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories which prompted Ann Margaret Lewis to begin writing the three novellas which became Murder in the Vatican: the Church Stories of Sherlock Holmes. Herein we discover the truth behind Holmes' allusions above.
  • The Case of Cardinal Tosca: Dr. Watson tells the tale of Pope Leo's request for Sherlock Holmes' assistance investigating the mysterious death of a member of his curia.
  • The Vatican Cameos: Sherlock Holmes helps Pope Leo XIII recover a rare collection of ancient Roman cameos that has vanished en route to Queen Victoria. Told by the Holy Father himself.
  • The Second Coptic Patriarch: Dr. Watson narrates of the time when the famous Father Brown (of G.K. Chesterton's stories) is imprisoned for the murder of a Coptic clerk; Brown’s ex-criminal friend Flambeau seeks the help of Sherlock Holmes to set him free.
It has been many years since I read the Sherlock Holmes stories, which my parents had in two big volumes that contained the entire canon. This book sent me back to them and I learned that I didn't remember them as well as I thought which is not surprising after a long time. Rediscovering them has afforded me a great deal of pleasure.

It is rare that I enjoy knock-off stories or fan fiction and so I generally avoid them. In this case I was drawn in by positive reviews from trusted blog buddy readers like The Curt Jester and Sarah Reinhard.  In so doing, I learned that Murder in the Vatican is an exception to my rule. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I also learned a new word: pastiche. Wikipedia says: In this usage, the term denotes a literary technique employing a generally light-hearted tongue-in-cheek imitation of another's style; although jocular, it is usually respectful.

Murder in the Vatican lives up to that definition on several different levels.

The mysteries themselves were engrossing. The first story was less of a "guess whodunnit" mystery as much as a chase to the finish story. All of the tales used devices of the times but in the case of the last two stories I found myself drawn in and guessing the solution. Wrongly in both cases, but it showed the level of involvement I experienced and the author's skill in spinning a true mystery, complete with misdirection.

The religion or lack of it was genuine. I appreciated Lewis's careful delineation between Watson and Holmes as nonbelievers versus Pope Leo who is featured in the first two stories. Each side acknowledges the other's religious orientation, or lack thereof, and yet is able to deal with each other respectfully without feeling a need to mock different beliefs. This is important in this book since the original promptings were based around faith and readers would be on their alert for any missteps. I especially appreciated Pope Leo's gentle attempts to point out flaws in Holmes' reasoning.

Pope Leo is a fatherly, vibrant figure who lives his faith to the point that he is truly grieved by a ne'er-do-well's deliberate repudiation of the faith just before death.

The repartee is quick witted and plays on two levels so that modern readers can appreciate the tweaking that is being done. Most pastiche-like, as I learned!
Holmes: [Leo XIII] is genuinely pious. He is also imperious, but in a most endearing way.
Watson: Yes, well. I'm used to that.
Overall, the book is a light-hearted tribute to both the Sherlock Holmes stories and the impact that real Christians make in their example ... even on hardened cases like Holmes. Ann Margaret Lewis said the stories are, "meant to be fun and lift your heart for a short time. I had a blast writing it, and I hope you have a blast reading it." Indeed I did. They would lighten my long days when I read a bit of them.

I didn't find it to be a perfect book but the problems I noted were not those that would probably bother most people. Honestly, if I hadn't just read A Study in Scarlet I might not have been as attuned as I was. Interestingly, most of these issues seemed to be concentrated in the first story. I didn't notice them nearly as much in the last two. Whether that is because Lewis' writing "ear" reached a good rhythm as she went (assuming she wrote them in order) or I simply was more engrossed in the last two stories I can't say.

My problems generally lay in some anachronisms, an over-abundance of contractions, and the fact that I tend to dislike stories where well-known figures of the time are brought into them (a personal peeve). However, I will add that although Murder in the Vatican had well-known figures aplenty, Lewis's skill in handling them was such that I actually became fond of them in the stories. That is quite an accomplishment and I tip my deerstalker to Ms. Lewis in appreciation.

I also would like to mention that in our email conversation of these points, the author was as gracious as a lady of Holmes' time would have been. In fact, I probably would have bristled if such points had been made about my writing (being an argumentative type ... let's just say it now). However, Ann Margaret Lewis responded enthusiastically and genuinely so the problems could be addressed.

All in all, I recommend the book to all but the most die-hard Holmes fans who will become aggrieved at slight departures from that which marks the most genuine Arthur Conan Doyle writing.