Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More New Liturgical Info: "Stop Holding Hands"

We know what this is about, right? Holding hands during the Our Father. Our family prefers to discreetly hold our own hands ... in other words, we fold our hands in prayer and leave each other alone. If someone insists on grabbing my hand, I'll allow it. But, I don't like it.

Neither does Bishop Foys of Covington who has issued a decree clarifying the proper gestures and postures for Mass and says, among other things:
Special note should also be made concerning the gesture for the Our Father. Only the priest is given the instruction to “extend” his hands. Neither the deacon nor the lay faithful are instructed to do this. No gesture is prescribed for the lay faithful in the Roman Missal; nor the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore the extending or holding of hands by the faithful should not be performed.
This comes via Deacon Greg at The Deacon's Bench who has more pull quotes and a link to the overall decree.

To be fair, I have always known that you really aren't supposed to be doing this. I just didn't bring it up. Trying to keep the peace and all that jazz. But since it's been brought up ... I'll pass it along.

Vietnamese Coffee, Anyone?

It's over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blogging Around: Seasonal Stuff

New Liturgy
Gift Giving
  • Dr. Boli's Encyclopedia of Misinformation -- is now an actual book! If you've seen my sidebar, you know how amusing and clever this book is. It is surprisingly inexpensive.
  • xkcd has posters, shirts, mugs, and a book -- you could hardly miss with getting something from here for the geek in your life. Or even just the comic lover.
  • Happy Catholic - the book! I'd be remiss if I didn't remind everyone that there's a great book you can give friends and family. Buy it from your Catholic book store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or ... get an autographed copy from me that has an extra quote that didn't make it into the book.
This 'N' That

New Liturgy - not that hard and I had a few "aha" moments thanks to the new wording.

We didn't have much trouble with the new liturgy although we were probably helped by our deacon's homily, which pointed out that the correct response to "the Lord be with you" was "and with your spirit" ... AND that it happens five times in the liturgy.

There was some stumbling, but not much.

Our favorite of the local news stations, Channel 8, was there during the Mass we attended, and did a story on the new liturgy. You can see quite a bit of our church here ... and also, quite a bit of our Church. I was surprised because I knew practically everyone shown in the video. Rose is in it for a bit, although blurred in the background. On our big tv screen, Tom and Rose said they saw me in the very last shot in the pews, albeit quickly and far away.

You can see it here, if you are interested.

Snapshot: Walking to Work

My car has been in the shop for a few days, having some repairs done to a door after a slight accident.

Tom decided to walk to work at one point in the complicated process of getting three people to work, errands done, and so forth ... with two cars.

He liked it so well that he walked home again that evening.

We realized that we actually only live one mile from work. We'd never thought about walking because you've got to cross a six-lane highway (though, to be fair, it does have a stoplight so we can get across).

I began walking, too, though usually once a day, with Rose picking me up or dropping me off, depending on what other errands had to be run.

It is invigorating. It connects us to the weather, the topography, the world around us.

I imagine that we'll continue it on days when it isn't pouring rain or when the morning temperature isn't 90 by 9 a.m. (yes, it happens).

I also realized that I usually say my world is lived in a 5-mile radius, but that our church, work, the grocery store, library, bank, and Target are all within one mile or less.

No wonder I can duplicate that small town feeling inside of a big city like Dallas.

I like it that way.

And I'll probably be walking to many more of those places in the future.

Chinese Pork with Eggplant and Rice Sticks

Turn Rose loose with a lot of eggplant from our CSA and a recommendation that my Cooking Light cookbooks usually include lots of vegetables in main dishes ... and certainly get a really delicious result for dinner. Even Hannah ate it and she's no eggplant fan.

Find out more at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving ... Seemed Longer This Year

I mean that in a good way. A very good way.

It was almost like taking a vacation.

We were worried about transporting Tom's mother after her amputation. She's been moved to a skilled nursing section where she lives but hasn't been to our house since all that happened.

We went to visit her on Thanksgiving morning and she was so mournful (not in words, but attitude) that we made renewed efforts to figure out how to get her home for Thanksgiving dinner. It wasn't easy, but it was do-able so Mom came home for a couple of hours, which was all she could manage.

She was so happy to get out and watch the cooking and have a home cooked meal. I haven't seen her eat so much for a long, long time. It made us very happy just to see her face at the table. We will definitely be bringing her home again soon for a visit.

On other fronts, all went quite well. The Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Crumble was simply amazing. Rose loved the ginger. I loved the nutmeg. We may be working on adapting it to pie form soon.

I got tons of reading done. It helped that my pal, DJ, had just lent me Midshipman's Hope and Challenger's Hope by David Feintuch (my comments at links). I like military science fiction and, although the first book began slowly, I was soon caught up in the adventures of a young midshipman when a fatal accident thrusts him into leadership.

I didn't get to listen to Patient Zero as much as I'd hoped (my comments here), which left me eking out bits and pieces of the final showdown as I washed dishes or swept the floor. I'm still eking ... this feels like the longest, slow motion finale in history. One of the things I love about this book is the hands-down patriotism of the main character, Joe Ledger. That made it perfect for Thanksgiving weekend when all-American seemed the way to be.

That all-American bent was reinforced when we watched Captain America. Loved it! Solidly old school patriotism, the way it would have been in the original comic books, and a straight forward story line. In many ways, it made us think of another family favorite, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Rose and I also watched Tokyo Godfathers, both as a kick-off to the Christmas season and because Scott and I will be discussing it this week on A Good Story is Hard to Find. I forgot just how many funny moments this anime has ...

Other movie watching included Monsters, which Rose had heard good things about and which I had on my list for some time. Sadly it struck us much like Schultze Gets the Blues ... potential and story idea were good but it needed other input (or something) because the story just meandered and nothing much really happened. The one thing that seemed quite clear was that it was an allegory about illegal immigration. Turns out that wasn't the intention of the British writer and director, but that doesn't matter because anyone living in Mexico or the southern U.S. is going to see it loud and clear. I did like the monsters. They were creative and fascinating. Hannah says that the way their life cycle was discussed was exactly the way something like that would happen and she also pointed out that it was a typical "invasive species" story. That's what happens when you watch things with Wildlife Management Sciences majors.

The best movie of the weekend, though, was Gone Baby Gone. This was everything that critics said. Ben Affleck's directing was superb and surprising considering that it is the first movie he's directed. Casey Affleck's acting was subtle and right on target. The supporting cast was wonderful as well. The story was morally grounded and made me want to look for Dennis Lehane's books, as this was based on one of his. All round a wonderful movie.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Buffy vs. Edward Cullen

I was never a Sarah Michelle Gellar fan so I just watched Angel instead.

However, I may have to change my ways. (Because even whiny Slayers are better than twinkly vampires.)

Via Frank Weathers, who saw it first.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Star Wars Subway Car


Snapshot: Rose - Cook of the House

I finally have a breather so I can do more than the minimum around here ... so I'll start by filling you in on the most significant change in the household lately.

About three weeks ago, completely frazzled from our huge annual project which takes all waking hours, I assigned Rose the dinner duties for weekdays. She's home for a bit between graduation and heading off to L.A. to seek her fortune in film editing. Other than training the dogs to do tricks (three dogs now know "down", two also know "shake" and all are gradually coming to grips with "fetch), she's been whiling her time away reading Middlemarch and working on screenplay ideas.

She likes to cook but hadn't been expecting this, which began with a phone call (as she reminded me the other day), "Check the freezer for things to use, but you've got to make dinner tonight. And the rest of the week."

She rose nobly to the challenge. I don't remember what she pulled together for that evening, but she has been planning weekly meals that reminded me of the joy that can be had preparing and consuming meals when you go beyond the same old thing.

I have to admit that  "same old thing" is what I'd been doing for too long. I believe that most people who are responsible for daily meals every day of the week will know what I'm talking about.

Rose, however, faced different problems when in college. She had little time, little money, and few people to consume what she was interested in making. She has had all those deficits filled in our family where I give her my debit card, add my weekend cooking items to her grocery list, and where all four of us either appreciatively enjoy the meal OR laugh together over the failure of the recipe. I hasten to add that in each case the failure has definitely been in the recipe writing or testing, not in Rose's skill in cooking.

The biggest change for me is that Rose's fearlessness in trying whatever looks interesting has rekindled my interest in cooking is returning to enjoying the process and experimenting more. It is becoming more of a joy than a chore.

Also, I painlessly lost three pounds because Rose incorporates so many vegetables in every meal and I'm not tasting while cooking all the time. Something to take note of for my full-time return to the kitchen!

I will be sharing some of the recipes that I've been trying and my favorites of those that Rose has served.

First up, Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Grilled Onions.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend Joke

Thanks to Mark W. for this one!
A young woman on a flight from Ireland asked the priest beside her, "Father, may I ask a favor?"

"Of course child. What can I do for you?"

"Well, I bought an expensive woman's electric hair dryer for my mother's birthday that is unopened and well over the Customs limits, and I'm afraid they'll confiscate it. Is there any way you could carry it through customs for me? Under your robes perhaps?"

"I would love to help you, dear, but I must warn you: I will not lie."

"With your honest face, Father, no one will question you."

When they got to Customs, she let the priest go ahead of her. The official asked, "Father, do you have anything to declare?"

"From the top of my head down to my waist, I have nothing to declare."

The official thought this answer strange, so he asked, ""And what do you have to declare from your waist to the floor?"

Priest answered, "I have a marvelous instrument designed to be used on a woman, but which is, to date, unused."

Roaring with laughter, the official said, "Go ahead, Father... Next please!"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mailbag: Publishing, Videos, and Voodoo

From my inbox and worthy of your interest:

  • TAN BOOKS: It's the three year anniversary of Saint Benedict Press’ acquisition of the venerable TAN Books out of bankruptcy ... interesting article.
  • FREE CATHOLIC BOOKS, written by saints
  • FRANCISCAN MEDIA: "St. Anthony Messenger Press has changed its name to Franciscan Media. With its new name and branding efforts, Franciscan Media hopes to bring greater clarity to our Franciscan tradition and become more inspiring, innovative, and personally relevant in today’s marketplace." ... my comment: it's certainly easier to say in a hurry. Read about it here.
  • SOPHIA INSTITUTE PRESS: Sophia Institute Press announced Wednesday the acquisition of Catholic Exchange. I remember back in the day when Catholic Exchange was just about the only good place gathering together Catholic writers. They were ahead of their time. Read more here.
Worth Watching
  • Eskimo Hallelujah Chorus ... charming, creative, and sweet ... they hold up the cards with the words while the music and singers provide the sound. Some of the very creative ways to display the cards really made me smile.
  • The Hunger Games ... the movie. Haven't read the book, but this looks great! (scroll down for the trailer)
Pope & Voodoo Newswatch
  • BBC article wins the prize for how many times can an article force the word Voodoo into an article about the Pope going to Africa. Despite the pope never mentioning it once. I believe the article may have been commissioned by Dah Aligbonon.

Every Blogger's Nightmare ... It's Funny Because It's True

From the hilarious Doug Savage.

High Praise, Indeed, for A Good Story is Hard to Find Podcast

SFFaudio’s sister podcast, if there is such a thing, must be A Good Story Is Hard To Find. It’s like a slimmed down and Catholicized version of The SFFaudio Podcast. At the beginning of every show Scott and Julie describe the show as a podcast “where two Catholic friends talk about popular the books and movies they love, and the one reality we see beneath.” Now while I’m a bit suspicious of that “one reality” (especially after reading a Philip K. Dick story) I still love the show to bits. Scott and Julie, the participants, talk intelligently about great books and movies.
Awww ... now that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I love you too, buddy ... no kidding.

It may help that our latest episode discusses one of Jesse's favorite books, Way Station by Clifford D. Simak. Jesse has lots of art posted from the original serialization of the book ... as well as a link to his review of it. Go and see!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Just When My Plan Was All Coming Together ...

... the catalog was ahead of schedule and I was going to have this weekend off and was assured of Thanksgiving weekend also.

And then the client changed a very basic formatting issue in such a way that we are going to have to work on every page much more.

Darn it!

So, my very cursory blogging will have to continue. Thank you for your patience!

Something I'm Reading ... Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My NeighborFlunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor by Jana Riess

The premise of this book is that the author was to try a different spiritual discipline every month. She failed at each, if I understand the back of the book (and the title) properly. However, it seemed an interesting read if for no other reason than to read her quotes from other sources and for her take on the various disciplines.

I dipped into this a while back when I received it and found it an easy read but the author came off as really whiny (they call it wry, but whiny was my reaction, especially in March where she really, really did not like Brother Lawrence -- who I've always found rather endearing).

Picking it up again, I decided to skip to the end to see if there was a worthwhile result and any hope that the whininess would lessen (however amusingly the whining might be couched). Definitely there is a big payoff ... and one that I can relate to. Therefore, I picked it up from March and am going to see if the other disciplines sit a bit better on the author. Perhaps encountering Brother Lawrence so early in the process was simply unfortunate for both the author and the book.

More later ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BLEG: Recommendations for a book about "offering it up?"

The concept of offering one's suffering to God as a sacrifice was introduced last week at RCIA.

It is never an easy concept, but one person in particular struggled with understanding it. A request was made for a book recommendation.

I have no clue, people. At least about a book to help with this concept.


Just as a source of further information, should someone be reading and wonder what the heck we're talking about, here are two previous posts of mine on the subject:

Community benched ... scheduled "to return at some point..."


Say it ain't so!

The Catechism Demystified

This is a talk that I gave to our RCIA class last week. I'm sharing it here for anyone else who'd like a little help finding their way around the Catechism, which can be confusing but need not be.
I am not an expert on the Catechism, but I do know how to use it.

The Catechism can be a bit tricky to find your way around so I wanted to take just a couple of minutes to familiarize everyone with it.

Let’s start with what the word catechism means. A catechism is a summary of principles.

So, the Catholic Catechism is specifically designed as a reference guide. Some people call it the Catholic “rule book.” It is much more than that though.

“In the Catechism, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has
received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith."

That is what Pope Benedict says about the Catechism ... and he should know.

The current Catechism was requested by Pope John Paul II and produced under Cardinal Ratzinger’s supervision. Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI.

This Catechism is the first systematic synthesis of faith issued since the Council of Trent in 1566. Between then and now there were catechisms that were issued locally as various people saw the need.

The English version of this catechism came out in 1994 and was revised in 1997, so this is really current.

Think of it as the sort of encyclopedia from the days when all we had were books ... when you would sit down to look up facts about the moon and get pulled into other sections because they were so fascinating.

Of course, when you have a two thousand year old institution whose goal is to help get us to Heaven, they don’t think quite the way we do about organization.

The Catechism is arranged in four main sections that are often called the “Four Pillars” of the Faith:
  • The Profession of Faith (the Apostle’s Creed)
  • The Celebration of the Christian Mystery (the Sacred Liturgy, especially the sacraments)
  • Life in Christ (including The Ten Commandments in Catholic theology)
  • Christian Prayer (including The Lord’s Prayer)
Numbering system:

Let’s look at a page. (get pdf of sample page here)

Every paragraph is numbered. (red circle) Those numbers are very important.

When you look up something in the index, the numbers it refers you to are
paragraph numbers, NOT page numbers. This can be confusing until you get used to it, but it does give us an idea of just how much information is packed into each paragraph.

The numbers in the margins (green square) are cross-references ... to other paragraphs in the Catechism that refer to the same subject and may shed more light.

The cross-reference paragraphs are a good reason to have the actual book. The Catechism is on-line in a lot of places (the Vatican’s web-site, the US Bishops’ website, etc.) and is super handy for searching. I use the online version all the time.

But those versions don’t have the cross-reference paragraphs ... and sometimes those lead you to just what you were looking for or for added depth you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

In Brief:

The writers of the Catechism know that this may be more information than you wanted. Maybe you were looking for a simple answer and didn’t need all the extra info.

Each chapter ends with an “In Brief” section that summarizes the main points of the chapter in one or two sentence paragraphs.


Of course, there are are copious footnotes for both direct quotes in the text and also where they refer to sources of the teaching, in particular the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils and other authoritative Catholic statements, such as those issued by recent Popes.


Just finding your way to the correct “In Brief” answers may seem a bit daunting if you’re trying to find something quickly ... which is something I’ve experienced in our small group.

And the writers of the Catechism realized that too.

So, in 2005 they came out with the Compendium to the Catechism. (Download a sample page here.)

It is a more concise and conversational version of the Catechism.

Again the paragraphs are numbered. These paragraph numbers don’t have any relationship to the numbers in the Catechism.

However, these numbers in the margin (red circle) DO correspond to numbers in the actual Catechism so if you want to read more, it is easy to find.


Say you need more explanation though, and the Catechism is a bit too confusing. I’ve been there. Here are three good books. (Links lead to my reviews.)

For one thing, how can we trust these books though to tell us the truth about Catholic teachings?

Two reasons.

First, they all use those same, all-important paragraph numbers from the Catechism so that you can go check what they’re saying against the Catechism itself.

There is a much easier way to be sure though.

I didn’t trust these books myself ... until I saw that each went to the trouble of getting the Catholic seal of approval.

Here’s what I mean by that.

Look on the copyright page for one or more of these phrases (below). These mean that the book has been submitted to Catholic authorities to be checked for accuracy.

If the author belongs to a religious order, the book is submitted to the order’s superior. If the author is just a regular writer, the book is usually submitted to local Catholic authorities, like the local diocese.

In either case, first the book is examined by an expert, called a censor. If the book is accurate, they issue:
Censor’s stamp: NIHIL OBSTAT (“nothing stands in the way”)
After the Nihil Obstat has been obtained, the manuscript will be submitted another person for checking.

In the case of a religious order, it is examined by the order’s religious superior ... in which case it receives the:
Religious Superior’s stamp: IMPRIMI POTEST (“it can be printed”)
I have only come across the Imprimi Potest once ... in The Catechism, which has Cardinal Ratzinger’s stamp of approval.

In the case of the regular book given to the diocese, the manuscript would go from the censor to the bishop to receive the:
Bishop’s stamp: IMPRIMATUR (“let it be printed”)
The religious superior may also go ahead and submit the manuscript they approved for an Imprimatur. So it is possible to have a book with all three seals of approval.

By the way, it is only necessary to put the Imprimi Potest or Imprimatur on the book. You can assume it has gotten a Nihil Obstat first if it made it to those two stages.


A word of warning though ... if you see a book that only has a Nihil Obstat, be cautious. It may be in error. This happened in the 1960s a lot and some of those books contained incorrect material, even heretical material. You need the double-check system to be sure something didn’t slip by someone. That is why if one bishop gave the Nihil Obstat, another bishop has to give the Imprimatur.

The Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur are often followed by this statement on the copyright page:

The “Nihil Obstat” and “Imprimatur” are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur agree with the content, opinions or statements expressed.

So if one of these authors has all theCatholic truths right but is using them to try to prove that we shouldn’t drink hot coffee because it’s the devil’s temperature ... we can’t blame the Catholic Church.


Remember those footnotes in the Catechism? The ones for materials that are simply referenced, where they might have summarized twelve pages of a Church Council document into two sentences?

If you ever wonder just what was summarized, there’s a book for that too.

The Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church ... which is a compendium of texts referred to in the book but not quoted there.

It has every word of the pertinent part of the originally referenced materials, in English, so you don’t have to go all over the place looking for something.

It is almost 1,000 pages long and is really fascinating and enlightening if you want to see it all from original sources.

Just imagine if all this material had been included in the Catechism.

That would’ve been a book no one would have wanted to open.

It makes the Catechism not look so big after all, does it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crunch Time Means No Blogging ...

Sorry everyone, but the catalog is in crunch time ... layout calls ...

Back by next week, hopefully!

Thank you for your understanding.

Something I'm Reading Now: Way Station by Clifford D. Simak

Since I updated my Goodreads spot and they make it easy to share, I'm dropping it in here.

Way StationWay Station by Clifford D. Simak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rereading this for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, where Scott and I will be discussing it next week.

Here's what I said when I named it among my top fiction for 2009:
From SFFaudio's review: This story spans more than a century, but most of the ‘action’ takes place in the middle of the 20th century, over a couple of months. See, a friendly alien recruited Enoch Wallace to become something of a galactic station master shortly after the American Civil War. Now, with his neighbors generally accepting his mysterious eternal youth, Enoch has a curious and unseen visitor watching him from the woods. Enoch is lonely, with his only friends being a completely deaf and mute young woman and his kindly mailman. Will the visitor in the trees learn the truth? Will Enoch help guide the Earth to its ultimate destiny?

I really enjoyed this story which also sparked quite a debate about the nature of fiction and storytelling between Jesse from SFFaudio and me. (Dang, those comments were lost because I was using Haloscan at the time, which changed around became so complicated I switched to Blogger's commenting system.) This story makes you think of what it means to truly be human, the nature of conflict (and not just between Jesse and me), and also made me love and appreciate nature more than ever.
I'm looking forward to rereading this and discussing all these issues (and probably many more).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request

I just got word that one of Hannah's best friends, Addison, went to the emergency room this morning, vomiting blood.

He has been hurried into surgery.

I don't know what is wrong, but please say a prayer for this young man, who our whole family is close to.

We got a brief text last night from Addison, saying that he was out of surgery ... that is all we know and we were grateful for that much.

Thank you for all the prayers and I'll update further when we learn more.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Curt Jester Adds to Diversity of SFFaudio

Which is my way of saying that Jeff Miller has begun reviewing audiobooks at SFFaudio and added another Catholic to the mix, which is one that ranges from atheists to Catholics and various points in-between. Although, now that I think about it, he hasn't so much made it more diverse, as a bit more Catholic. Though his Navy experience surely does add to the diversity!

Anyway, I'm thrilled!

Read his review, but also don't miss his comments at The Curt Jester (especially since he goes out of his way to praise A Good Story is Hard to Find).

Thanks Jeff!

Now, when are you going to be on the read alongs at SFFaudio? That would be something I'd love to hear!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blogging Around: The Fast, the Furious, and the Literate

Meaning that I'm super busy, but here are a bunch of book-ish links you might like. Just the links, no comments, that's how busy I am!

  • The All-Pro by Scott Sigler - free audiobook at Podiobooks
  • The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia - review at SF Site
  • Briarpatch by Tim Pratt - review at SF Site
  • Finding Shakespeare - listen or read at Skeptoid
  • Looking for Mysteries Where There are None - Andrew Ordover on Shakespeare as author
  • What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space by Scott Belsky - how to be proactive at creating silence and sacred space at 99% (nothing to do with literature but I was so intrigued to see a mention of sacred space at this site, that I found an excellent article)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Weekend Joke: The Bell Ringer

Thanks to Seth Peters for this one!
After Quasimodo's death, the bishop of the Cathedral of Notre Dame sent word through the streets of Paris that a new bell ringer was needed.

The bishop decided that he would conduct the interviews personally and went up into the belfry to begin the screening process.

After observing several applicants demonstrate their skills, he had decided to call it a day.
Just then, an armless man approached him and announced that he was there to apply for the bell ringer's job.

The bishop was incredulous.

"You have no arms!"

"No matter," said the man. 'Observe!' and he began striking the bells with his face, producing a beautiful melody on the carillon.

The bishop listened in astonishment; convinced he had finally found a replacement for Quasimodo.
But suddenly, as he rushed forward to strike the bell, the armless man tripped and plunged headlong out of the belfry window to his death in the street below.

The stunned bishop rushed down two hundred and ninety five church steps, when he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure, drawn by the beautiful music they had heard only moment before.

As they silently parted to let the bishop through, one of them asked, "Bishop, who was this man?"

"I don't know his name," the bishop sadly replied, "but his face rings a bell!"

WAIT! WAIT! There's more...

The following day, despite the sadness that weighed heavily on his heart due to the unfortunate death of the armless campanologist, the Bishop continued his interviews for the bell ringer of Notre Dame.

The first man to approach him said, "Your Excellency, I am the brother of the poor armless wretch that fell to his death from this very belfry yesterday. I pray that you honor his life by allowing me to replace him in this duty."

The bishop agreed to give the man an audition.

As the armless man's brother stooped to pick up a mallet to strike the first bell, he groaned, gazed down at his chest, twirled around, and died on the spot.

Two monks, hearing the bishop's cries of grief at this second tragedy, rushed up the stairs to his side.

"What has happened? Who is this man?" the first monk asked breathlessly.

"I don't know his name," sighed the distraught bishop, "but ...he's a dead ringer for his brother!"

Friday, November 4, 2011

Back to Basics: Sloth

The last of the seven deadly sins is sloth.
Sloth (sometimes called acedia) is laziness -- particularly when it concerns prayer and spiritual life. It centers on doing nothing or doing just trivial things. Sloth is always wanting to rest and relax, with no desire or intention of making a sacrifice or doing something for others. It's an aversion to work -- physical, mental, and spiritual. Sloth inevitably leads to lukewarmness and tepidity and then deteriorates into disinterest, discouragement, and finally despair. Sloth breeds indifference, which prevents joy from ever being experienced.

Spiritual laziness can only be overcome by practicing the virtue of diligence, which is the habit of keeping focused and paying attention to the work at hand -- be it the work of employment or the work of God. Diligent prayer and diligent worship can make you more reverent. Diligence in all things ensures that you don't become idle ...
Catholicism For Dummies by John Trigilio
Recommended reading: Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. He examines the virtues in depth and also looks specific virtues and Beatitudes as antidotes to each of the seven deadly sins. Not a new concept but one that he writes about superbly (as always).

I have to say that, upon finishing this little review of these seven core sins I was surprised to find definite identification with two of them specifically. For the moment at least that has resulted in an identification of them in my daily life and an effort to move away from them through practicing the virtue prescribed as a remedy. Perhaps this is a sign to myself that whenever I feel too complacent it is time again to read through the list of sins and virtues to see what else I find.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back to Basics: Greed

The sixth of the seven deadly sins is greed.
Greed is the inordinate love of and desire for earthly possessions. Things are cherished above people and relationships. Amassing a fortune and foolishly trying to accumulate the most stuff is greed, which is sometimes called avarice. Next to anger, envy, and lust, more crimes have been committed due to greed than any other deadly sin. "It's never enough. I've got to have more." That's the battle cry for greed.

Greed is also a sign of mistrust. "I doubt that God will take care of me, so I try to gather as much as possible now in case no more is left later." ...

Generosity, however, is the best weapon against greed. Freely giving some of your possessions away, especially to those less fortunate, is considered the perfect antithesis to greed and avarice. Generosity promotes detachment from material things that come and go...
Catholicism For Dummies by John Trigilio

Recommended reading:
Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. He examines the virtues in depth and also looks specific virtues and Beatitudes as antidotes to each of the seven deadly sins. Not a new concept but one that he writes about superbly (as always).

Next up, the last one in our list of seven deadly sins ... Sloth.

Julie and Scott talk about The Social Network, a movie written by Aaron Sorkin, then decide to sue Mark Zuckerberg for wearing flip flops in the snow.

We discuss The Social Network at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Catholic Ministry Conference: Report, the Second

One of the joys of meeting in person is that the people we are friends with through blogging (or Google+ or other such means) are even more delightful in person.

Lisa Hendey
Foremost among those last weekend was Lisa Hendey of Catholic Mom. Of course, she and I met in San Antonio a couple of years ago at the Catholic New Media Conference. However, we didn't get to spend a lot of time together.

This time was different. We heard her talk about the saints on Friday and, after the conference was done, we all went to Mariano's for Tex Mex. We were able to talk and talk, fueled by the margaritas and brisket tacos.

The next day, we heard Lisa's excellent talk about new media and then chatted for a bit more before parting ways. Lisa is not only a wonderful speaker, with a relaxed and welcoming style, but extremely generous.

Both times she spoke, I was surprised because she found a way to mention my book and urge people to buy it while, having me stand and wave to the room. What a sweetheart!

Bernardo Aparicio
I didn't expect to meet Bernardo Aparicio, but on Friday at the book signing at St. Anthony Messenger Press's booth, a young man dashed up, "Are you Julie Davis?" When I assented, he thrust a copy of Dappled Things into my hands and said, "This is to thank you for supporting us over the years." I said, "Bernardo?" (Luckily I'd noticed that Dappled Things had a booth at the exhibit.)

What a pleasure it was to talk with him both that day and then on Saturday when I went over to check out the set up and subscribe to Dappled Things. I was thrilled to hear that he now lives in Arlington so we can get together in person (which I will be looking at my calendar for soon, Bernardo!).

Check out Dappled Things for things of beauty which will lift your hearts toward faith and heaven (a featured image can be seen here at Happy Catholic).

Paul Snatchko
Paul is a Google+ acquaintance. He's the manager of marketing and communications at Magnificat and we've chatted a bit on-line about the publication, which y'all know I'm a fan of. I'm also a fan of Paul who was great fun to chat with.

I am now reminded that I've been wanting to mention the Magnificat Missal Companion. Our church bought copies for everyone, which they made available last weekend. (Good thing they offer bulk discounts, I'm thinking, since several thousand attend our church each weekend.)

At any rate, this Missal Companion is a terrific guide to the changes in the liturgy that will be implemented when Advent begins. If your parish isn't as forthcoming, a copy is only $3.95 and I highly advise picking one up.

The HHS's War on the Church

Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB with a very informative and troubling post about HHS and the quiet little war it is declaring against the Church.
Markon’s story investigated how the grant process at HHS was manipulated to keep an office of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from receiving an award to serve victims of human trafficking. USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) had scored high enough to be awarded a federal grant to continue its very successful anti-trafficking program. But the decision was “overturned,” so to speak, when Sharon Parrott, a top adviser to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, stepped in to “have a dialogue” (her words) in the process because the award would go through a Catholic agency. Their problem?: the Catholic Church—though providing food, shelter, and legal and other medical services for trafficking victims more effectively than any other—is forbidden by conscience from referring those victims for abortion, sterilization or contraceptives. So much for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal legislation that protects conscience—not to mention ordinary fair-play in picking grant recipients.
Thanks to The Anchoress for the heads up on this.

"Explain to me, and to my flamethrower, why you are not The Thing. Make your explanation rhyme. "

Writing prompts from John Scalzi. They only get better as they go.



Start writing!

(Thanks to Scott Danielson for the heads up on this!)

Back to Basics: Gluttony

The fifth of the seven deadly sins is gluttony.
Like lust, gluttony focuses on pleasure and finds it in food and drink... Both enslave the soul to the body, even though the soul -- being superior to the body -- should be in charge. Gluttons don't eat out of necessity or for social reasons, but merely to consume and experience the pleasure of taste...

Legitimate eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, aren't gluttony. They're medical conditions that require treatment and care. The sin of gluttony is freely choosing to over-consume. Gluttony is voluntary and merely requires self-control and moderation...

Periodic fasting, restricting the amount of food you eat, and abstinence, avoiding meat for some favorite food, are the best defenses against gluttony. Unlike dieting where the goal is to lose weight, fasting and abstinence are to purify the soul by controlling the desires of the body...
Catholicism For Dummies by John Trigilio
Recommended reading: Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. He examines the virtues in depth and also looks specific virtues and Beatitudes as antidotes to each of the seven deadly sins. Not a new concept but one that he writes about superbly (as always).

Downward and onward ... Greed will be up next.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back to Basics: Anger

The fourth of the seven deadly sins is anger. This is one that I think our society has let get out of control in the name of healthy self-expression.
You have no control over what angers you, but you do have control over what you do after you become angry. The deadly sin of anger is the sudden outburst of emotion -- namely hostility -- and sustaining thoughts about the desire for revenge...

Patience, the virtue that allows you to adapt and endure evil without harboring any destructive feelings, is the best countermeasure for anger. When you give yourself the time and opportunity to cool off, anger dissipates and more practical concerns come to the front line.
Catholicism For Dummies by John Trigilio
Recommended reading: Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. He examines the virtues in depth and also looks specific virtues and Beatitudes as antidotes to each of the seven deadly sins. Not a new concept but one that he writes about superbly (as always).

And on we will go next to Gluttony.

Same Kind of Happy As Me: Reviewing "A People of Hope: Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation with John L. Allen, Jr."

Probably my chief professional frustration is that the Catholic Church I have come to know from the inside—the warmth and laughter one finds in most Catholic circles, the rich intellectual tradition, the vast body of lore, the incredible range of characters, the deep desire to do good, the abiding faith against all odds that thrives even in a secular world, the ability to go anywhere and feel instantly at home, even the love of good food, good drink, and good company—rarely finds an echo in my reporting. I wanted to tell the Tim Dolan story in part because it wouldn't leave me with a sense of dissonance between the inner experience of being Catholic, and the public perception of what the Church is all about.
Who knew that being a happy Catholic was something that has an actual name? John L. Allen calls it "affirmative orthodoxy." In brief, this means holding onto the core elements of classic Catholicism but with the emphasis of what Catholicism embraces and says "yes" to instead of what it opposes.

To show there is more to the Catholic Church than the contentious side that that mainstream media presents, Allen had a series of informal question and answer sessions with Timothy Dolan who is the Archbishop of New York City.

What emerges is the profile of a determined "bridge builder"—so much so that Allen often uses the word pontiff meaning "bridge" in Latin to describe Dolan.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Dolan is that his continual optimism is not founded in Pollyanna-style cheeriness but anchored in a tough, clear-eyed reality. He understands why critics are angry, how dreams have been dashed, where the people in the Church have fallen short. Therefore he is able to sturdily defend Catholicism while holding out an understanding hand to opponents so that all have the chance to find common ground from which to work.
What about this case? Two men are in a same-sex union who have adopted a child and want that child to attend a Catholic school. We just had a case like that, and I replied, sure, that child is very welcome, as long as there is a certain understanding. ... we need to be up-front from the beginning. We need to say, "You want your child in a Catholic school, and your child is welcome. But you do realize there might be some discomfort insofar as that at a certain point in their catechesis, the child might learn that the kind of life you are leading might be contrary to the teaching of the Church. You may also want to know that if it becomes public you're leading this kind of life, there may be some discomfort for your child and for you." We have to be pretty blunt from the beginning about some of these things. We also need to say, "When it comes time for your child's First Communion, you may be unable to receive Holy Communion with your child. If you're accepting of all that, then I would be open to accepting the child."

Aren't there analogous situations with parents who are married outside the Church? Or, to take another example, when you have a teacher in a Catholic school who's talking about the sinfulness of the abuse of alcohol, there may be a fair number of kids sitting there thinking, "Wow, she's talking about my dad." In other words, I think it's a mistake to treat homosexuals as a special case. There are all kinds of situations in which people may fall short of what the Church would see as the ideal, and I would hope that in all those cases we can find ways to balance the need to be clear about our teaching with being pastoral and loving in the way we relate to people. If we only took the children of saints in our schools, our classrooms would be empty!
Again and again, we see Dolan acknowledge core differences but then reach out across them to relate to people on a human level. It is refreshing to see him continually begin an answer by mentioning a good quality or friendship with someone who holds views that outsiders see as diametrically opposed.

What we also see is a sense of self-awareness that I initially learned about Dolan when I read his book To Whom Shall We Go? Lessons from the Apostle Peter. It was a terrific book about examining our lives in Christ by using St. Peter as our guide. It was a review copy and I didn't know Dolan from Adam. However, it was full of reminders focusing readers on St. Peter's strengths and weaknesses and showing the many ancient and current examples that reflect our own tendencies. The person that wrote that honest book was someone I could relate to and trust because he understood people from the inside out. In my experience, that happens only when the person begins with himself.

This honesty extends inside the Church as well as outside. Dolan gives us food for thought about how Catholics themselves stand tall or fall short.
The outsider's perception of the Catholic Church is whatever the latest thing the bishops have said or done happens to be.

You got it. But that's not just a problem out there, it's in here. I went up a couple of months ago to Poughkeepsie, where we had a parish that in its heyday had a school, rectory, gym, the whole deal. Now it's decimated. Over the last year, Catholic Charities took over the old gym and now we've got a day care center on the ground floor and a food bank on the second floor. On the third floor we've got an immigration center that does English language instruction, immigration services, all that stuff, because there's a large itinerant Hispanic population out there. That's been humming for a good year. I went up to bless it and I was just blown away by what I saw. I was talking to the staff, who are dedicated Catholic people, and who are proud of what they've done, but who were also a little critical. Of course they thanked me for being there, but the edge of their remarks was, "Where has the Church been? You're here now after a year, but where has the Church been? Why hasn't the Church been more supportive of this?" I'm getting more and more frustrated, and finally I blurted out, "What the are you talking about? The Church has been here already. You are the Church. This is the Church at its best. This is what we're all about." Of course what they meant was, why hasn't the purple been here for a year? Even our own people are thinking like that. ... My point instead is that we need to flip the perception around—to see the kind of thing that's happening in Poughkeepsie as the real expression of "the Church," not so much wherever the bishop happens to be.
This example in particular spoke to me because I have come across it a lot lately and it never fails to baffle me. Perhaps that speaks more to my experience as a convert than anything, but the Church through the ages has operated that way, up to and including the development of the rosary.

This review is excerpt-heavy but that is because letting Dolan speak for himself is the best way to help you understand these views. Author John L. Allen, Jr., is a veteran journalist and Vatican expert and it shows. Each section begins with three or four pages of expert summary and explanation of the overview of a particular issue. This is followed by the questions and answers. The questions aren't designed to pin Dolan to the wall but rather to allow him to air his views.

It is interesting that Allen chose Archbishop Dolan for the purpose of displaying the affirmative orthodoxy ... or, as I call it, happy Catholics ... in the Church. He has a vantage point and knowledge that few other authors share. I, myself, was forever changed by reading Allen's examples in  All the Pope's Men of how liberals and conservatives want the same good for all but simply have very different ideas of how to achieve it. That, coupled with an introduction where Allen confessed that he once thought he was an even-handed writer but was shown how wrong he was ... and how he had worked to change ... come to mind to this day when I am faced with situations where bridge-building must be undertaken simply to have a civil conversation. His books since then have been models of lucid, comprehensive, and even-handed looks at aspects of the Catholic faith. In other words, I trust him.

Allen also tells us that one of the reasons he profiled Dolan is because he is and will be important to the American Catholic Church. I suppose that is important but personally I don't care. What this book shows me is a model to follow in extending a generous hand before condemning, in standing firm but in charity when it involves core Catholic values, and in always, always turning back to Christ who founded Mother Church to help us get to heaven. A People of Hope gives me the examples I need and, hopefully, will show curious outsiders that there is more to the Church than the media tells us.

Highly recommended.