Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stay Tuned, Fortnight for Freedom, day 10

Justice Ruth Ginsberg, said “A mandate to purchase a particular product would be unconstitutional if, for example, the edict impermissibly abridged the freedom of speech, interfered with the free exercise of religion, or infringed on a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.”
Read more at GetReligion
It ain't over til it's over. And even then, if you have enough of a Catholic point of view .... it still ain't over. Because we have to hang onto an eternal viewpoint.

That doesn't mean we stop doing the right thing or fighting the right battles. But it does mean that there is more in heaven and earth than we can comprehend while we are in the "here and now" of life. Our job is to stay faithful, stay the course, be not afraid, and ... pray.

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us
Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us

Friday, June 29, 2012

Write Like the Wind (George R. R. Martin)

I have not read any of George R.R. Martin's Fire and Ice saga. The one thing I always knew was that the books were gigantic and complicated.

However, lately I have been hearing about them on all sides. Game of Thrones on tv and in book form are being recommended by practically everyone I know. When my spiritual advisor said he'd begun reading the book (quoting from it), and then recommended that Tom and I try the tv show, I knew it had permeated all levels of society. Last night, Rose pushed the show heavily. So we may give it a try ...

You will appreciate, therefore, that this song is even funnier to me than it would normally be.

New Evangelizers - Fortnight for Freedom, day 9

We are looking for writers for the New Evangelizers blog.

If you're interested in sharing your faith and specifically things that tie into New Evangelization, especially how to Know Your Faith, Live Your Faith, and Share Your Faith, we'd love to hear from you.

Contact Sarah Reinhard at blog@snoringscholar.com or leave a comment on this post at her blog.
I continually think back to the first century Christians who had no control over their government or their society. They controlled only the way they lived and worshipped, which was often dangerous if anyone else found out. Yet through their lives and examples they changed the world.

We are called upon to do no less. Sarah's New Evangelizers blog seems like an excellent way to fall more in love with our faith and, of course, through that to fall deeper in love with God.

Definitely go by there and see what's going on. For one thing, Sarah is working her way through a new document from the U.S. bishops, Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization. It's a good way to absorb it a bit at a time and Sarah is a thoughtful guide.

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us
Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Incredibles on A Good Story is Hard to Find

Sparks fly when Julie explains to Scott that napping in front of the TV is NOT a superpower. Scott thinks it should count. 

Pixar on A Good Story is Hard to Find ... possibly a match made in heaven?

Reviewing "Crater" by Homer Hickam

Crater (A Helium 3 Novel)Crater by Homer H. Hickam

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Crater Trueblood is an orphan and helium 3 miner on the moon, 100 years in the future. This coming of age story features an annoying best friend, a pretty tomboy, and a sidekick—Crater's gillie, a sentient and sometimes insubordinate clump of slime mold cells.

Crater is chosen by "the Colonel" for a mysterious mission because he feels Crater may succeed where others have failed. All Crater has to do is travel to the capital city, pick up a package and deliver it to the Colonel. That sounds almost too easy and, of course, it is. Along the way we get to see other places on the moon, meet memorable characters, and learn about Crater's ingenuity. As with many such tales the journey teaches Crater as much, if not more, than finishing his quest.

I requested this book from Amazon Vine because the gillie was an intriguing concept. I am pleased to say that it was a totally justified decision because the gillie rose far above the "slime mold cells" description by being rather charming and a bit of a know-it-all.

I was surprised to see that there was prayer in the book a few times and then I realized the publisher is known for their Christian books. However, the book didn't come off that way at all. It was just an entertaining adventure.

In fact, one of my favorite parts was actually a commentary on prayer which made me laugh aloud.
Teller pointed at the woman. "It was your stupidity that killed Tilly." He cut his eyes back to Crater. "Say a prayer for her, Crater."

Crater didn't know why the captain wanted him to say a prayer, but he gave it some thought and said, "Dear Lord, I didn't know Tilly, but I hope You'll take her into heaven. She messed up here at the last but that doesn't matter now, not to her and maybe not to You either."

"I said say a prayer, not write an editorial," Teller growled.

The gillie jumped in. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, blessed be the Lord thy God who loves thee still. Amen and good-bye.

Teller stared at the gillie, then said, "Well, at least that thing's got some sense."
Crater made me feel the way I did when I could sink into the Heinlein juveniles for a rattling good story . This author shows original thinking in such details as the way they bioengineer space suits for outside Moon working, which kept me interested in more than just the adventure. Overall it was a great read and one that left me wishing the sequel was available.

Venerable Fulton Sheen: Fortnight for Freedom, day 8

Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is now “Venerable” after the Vatican announced today that Benedict XVI had signed a decree recognising that the archbishop heroically lived Christian virtues.

The announcement of the decree marks a significant step in the canonization cause of Peoria, Ill.-born Archbishop Sheen (1895-1979), the Emmy award-winning televangelist whose program, "Life is Worth Living," was broadcast from 1951 to 1957.

The Vatican now has to recognise a miracle has occurred through his intercession for him to be beatified, the penultimate step to canonization. Alleged miracles have been reported, which are now being assessed by experts in Rome.
Read the whole story at NCR
If anyone understands Americans and Catholics and American Catholics it is Venerable Fulton Sheen. From my reading, he always struck me as a man with a calm demeanor, a generous heart, and solid common sense. (The Anchoress has quotes, comments and links about him.)

The Supreme Court has ruled upholding the Affordable Health Act as a tax ... and the bishops are responding with pleas to repair fundamental flaws in the act (specifically about immigration, abortion, and contraception).

Surely one of the best advocates we can address in this time is Venerable Fulton Sheen.

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us
Venerable Fulton Sheen, pray for us

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Scott and I discussed it on A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast a couple of weeks ago. I'd never have read it otherwise (or even have heard of it, truth to tell).

Will Duquette from The View From the Foothills read it too and has a great review. Check it out.

Supreme Court Decision Info and German Banning of Judaism, Fortnight for Freedom, Day 7

From Aliens in This World comes the reminder that the government's job is not to be everyone's nanny, via Germany. In her usually pithy language, which is one of the joys of reading that blog...(read it all at the link).
“To your tents, O Israel!”

Anybody who’s avoided the impression that we’re reliving the incredibly crappy 1930′s — behold the banning of Judaism in Germany.

History notoriously rhymes with itself, or repeats itself with variations. This time, it’s the German courts instead of the Reich’s “chancellor.” But then, Germany back then justified the killing of those who were ill, or who had mental or physical problems, as being kind and gentle. Now, they claim that they’re banning circumcision for the good of baby boys, because a snip constitutes “grievous bodily harm.”

But it’s the same old thing. Why let people live their lives in freedom when you can use the power of the state to crush them, instead?
UPDATE: here's a German who blogs in English discussing the law.

==============

Tomorrow morning the Supreme Court is scheduled to release its opinion(s) on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Joanne McPortland mentions something that I didn't know...this decision will only affect the HHS Mandate under one extreme condition (my emphasis below).
But I need to make a clarification, because I’ve seen a lot of misinformation on the Catholic interwebz about this. Many legal commentators are suggesting that the key decision tomorrow will be the fate of what is known as the individual mandate, the part of the legislation that has generated the most constitutional blowback. Please, Catholics, do not confuse the individual mandate—the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance coverage or pay a penalty—with the HHS mandate, a much smaller corner of the legislation that is of interest to Catholics and others concerned with its implications for religious freedom. There are lawsuits working their way through local federal jurisdictions testing the constitutionality of the HHS mandate, but they are a long way from the Supreme Court level.

So don’t start setting off early Fourth of July Fortnight 4 Freedom fireworks if you happen to hear, tomorrow, that SCOTUS has found the individual mandate unconstitutional. That one provision may be separable from the rest of the omnibus bill, and if it alone is struck down but the rest of the law found constitutional, the HHS mandate will not be affected. It will still be law unless and until challenges to it reach the Supreme Court and are heard and approved. The only other way the HHS mandate would be overturned is if, tomorrow, the Court throws out the entire Affordable Health Care Act, hook, line, and mandates aplenty. I don’t think that’s likely, and I don’t think it would necessarily be worth celebrating. With all its issues (the worst, in my eyes, aside from the HHS nonsense, being the fact that the Affordable part of the title is not even addressed by the legislation) the AHCA is a step toward providing access to health care for all citizens, and that’s a goal toward which we all are called to work.
Definitely go to her place to read the whole thing.

And let us do what we are called to be faithful in during this Fortnight for Freedom: pray.

Also, sacrifice is important. I have forgotten to mention that I've gone on a podcast fast for the duration. Only one audio book and only one podcast at a time on the ol' iPod. And it hurts, people, it hurts. Seems silly, but it is what I'm offering up.

Skillet Lasagna

This is seriously good. At Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

One more reason to love Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter


Thanks to Addison for sending this ... I notice there is not much vampire sparkling here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's Not Just About Us, Fortnight for Freedom, day 6

Nigeria's Christian community was shocked to learn of plans by the Islamic sect known as Boko Haram for an upsurge in the already deadly violence directed at Christians. Boko Haram, which means 'Western learning is un-Islamic,' has issued a threat to make this June "the bloodiest month for Christians." The Islamic sect had already promised to purge northern Nigeria of Christians as part of its effort to eventually impose Muslim religious law over the entire country. Bombs, armed assaults, and directed killings have been used by Boko Haram to rout Christians while also posing an as yet unresolved challenge to the national government.
Will Duquette reminds me ... and all of us ... that the threat to our religious liberty is nothing compared to that being faced by those elsewhere in the world.

Let us keep in mind how blessed we are to live in a land where our differences are not expressed in blood.

Let us pray: for our country, to change hearts, and for those living where taking your faith seriously means taking your life in your hands ...
Prayer for Religious Liberty

Almighty God, Father of all nations,
for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1).

We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.

Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect
and promote our liberties.

By your grace may we have the courage to defend them,
for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

St. Thomas More, pray for us
St. John Fisher, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
Bl. Miguel Pro, pray for us



Georgette Heyer at Tor.com

I know. Isn't Tor about science fiction?

Where there's a will, there's a way and writer Mari Ness points out that Heyer's Regency world was really a carefully created fantasy world.

I'm gonna say that's a legit point.

Read her introduction here and then let's all go on to the discussion of The Black Moth.

I'd like to remind everyone that I read The Black Moth on Forgotten Classics, where you may download the episodes (free!).

Dappled Things, a Catholic literary magazine

I'm moving this from the comments box so that anyone admiring today's art and poetry can get a good deal when subscribing to the PRINTED (yay!) publication:
We're only $19.99 for a year, and our printed edition is beautiful! If you have a Facebook account, you should "like" our page and you'll be able to take advantage of a special promotion we'll be having in a couple of weeks in which a year subscription will be only $14.99 and two years $19.99 for new subscribers.

The Basics: Prayer

Breton Girls at Prayer
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1904
via French Painters

Lord, hear our prayers for:
  • Haley's mother who collapsed at work the other day and was put into a chemically induced coma until they could figure out what was wrong. Haley is Rose's friend ... she flew home to be with her.
  • Rose - who is job hunting
  • Deb Stribling, enduring a long recovery from a debilitating stroke
  • Kelsea's sister to recover from her coma and for her family during this hard time
    My continual prayer intentions ...
    • For our government officials to have a change of heart and uphold our right to religious liberty
    • An end to abortion and a reverence for life in all stages of age and health.
    • Our priests and for vocations
    • Abortion providers, Lord open their eyes and hearts
    • Strength, joy and peace for oppressed Christians in China, Asia, and the Middle East. Also that their oppressors may have their eyes opened to the truth. And for all those oppressed, actually.

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    On Bended Knee: Fortnight for Freedom, day 5

    Kneeling is a posture of surrender. Some people may see this as a weakness; it can also be a certain posture of strength in that we are asking for divine guidance. We can view it as a sign of deep respect for God. And anyone who knows anything about love knows it grows from being rooted in respect.

    In kneeling I am acutely aware of my littleness and my own need. But in so doing, I am most aware of my being me before the One who knows me: warts and all, insecurities and all, infirmities and all. It is the same One who knows me as someone beautiful, someone unrepeatable, someone beloved.

    In recent years, I've had surgical repairs to a hip and an ankle. So I have had long rehab seasons when kneeling was an impossibility. These down times have forced me to lean on other people for support, not to mention walking with ever-present crutches and canes. They also took me out of my normal workflow, and forced me to be somewhat unscheduled. It took some getting used to—both the non-kneeling, and the reduced activity.

    Most important, these times have taught me to kneel, instead, with the heart. To be rather than to do. And to learn that the doing is not as important as the being. For in those times of stillness, I have often received unexpected healing graces that come from God, the lover of my soul and the healer of my ills.
    This piece by Pat Gohn about kneeling while praying has stuck with me for some time.

    It speaks a truth that I echo even if I do not kneel nearly enough and do not remember that kneeling before God is the privilege of having a healthy body and a healthy spirit. This hits home to me on two levels since I finally saw The Diving Bell and the Butterfly this weekend. It reminds us that our very person, whether whole or broken, is precious. That being is very valuable indeed.

    Those who would dictate how we should live, the government who wants us to kneel before their HHS mandate, may also need a gentle reminder that being is more important than doing ... whether kneeling in prayer before God or living according to consciences that are different from theirs.

    Go read the entire piece because there is much more than what is shared above.

    "A Universe from Nothing" and Stephen Colbert

    When an author who insists that "nothing" is burping out something and completely disregards what that "nothing" might be ... it's a job for Stephen Colbert (watch it at Hulu).

    I love Stephen Colbert's quickness in seeing weak points and turning them in the discussion. Thanks to Rose for this one.

    Error 451

    Tim Bray, a fan of [Ray] Bradbury's writing, is recommending to the Internet Engineering Task Force, which governs such choices, that when access to a website is denied for legal reasons the user is given the status code 451. ...

    451, Bray believes, would work nicely, as it would provide a tribute to Bradbury as well as reminding users of the dystopian future predicted by the science fiction author. Bradbury died earlier this month, leaving behind an oeuvre numbering hundreds of short stories as well as the novels Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, which tells of a world where books are banned and burned and fireman don't put fires out but start them.
    The Guardian has the story which Tom passed along to me.

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    God's Seven Thousand - Fortnight for Freedom, day 4

    Thus we see Elijah’s despair and his sense of being all alone. And some among the faithful today struggle also with this to one degree or another.

    But note how God answers Elijah.
    Yet I have seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:19)
    In other words, you are far from alone Elijah. I have seven thousand like you though your despairing eyes see them not!

    God then says,
    “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu..” (1 Kings 19:15-18)
    In other words, find these seven thousand and go rebuild my people, go rebuild my Church. Now is not a time for despair, now is a time for action. Gather them, appoint leaders and I will be with you to win this battle and reestablish the faith in glory.

    In speaking this way to Elijah, the Lord also speaks to us. Though all seem in decline, and losses mount, Yet God still has “seven thousand” who have not bent the knee to Baal of this present evil age, who have not departed. And from this faithful remnant he expects us to draw hope and continue our work.

    [...]

    There have been times when the “practicing” Church got very small. On Good Friday all but five had fled: Mary of Magdala, Mary Clopas, Mary Solome, Mary, Mother of Jesus and John. And there they were with Jesus. They even added a sixth that day, the repentant thief. Small, and things looked pretty grim, but still the Church at worship, looking to Christ her head.

    Yes, like Elijah we can sometimes think there is little hope, that we are all but alone. But it was not so for him, and it is not so for us. God always has his “seven thousand.”
    Msgr. Charles Pope's message is one that I've reminded myself of often recently. It is easy to feel alone, defeated, and as if we are tiny beings pounding against an infinitely high wall.

    But that is far from the truth. We are some of God's seven thousand. We must just stand up for what is right. God will bring the harvest, whether now or later. Stand up and trust in God. That is our job.

    Go read the entire piece because there is much more than what is shared above.

    Saturday, June 23, 2012

    St. Thomas More and Holbein - Fortnight for Freedom, day 2

    Giuseppe Bezzuoli 1784 – 13 September 1855
    Saint Thomas More hears his death sentence
    Drawing
    We do not see the handsome and vigorous More of the paintings of Holbein the Younger.

    We see a man who has been in confinement in the Tower to wear him down over a very long period. The authorities played "Cat and Mouse" to wear down his resolve and resolution.

    They intended to break him. The King`s will was to be done. The monarch was quite convinced of his correctness and rectitude. He would not brook any disobedience.

    More stands alone in defence of his conscience. Outwardly you might think that by his appearance and surroundings the convicted man appears vanquished. Outwardly the King appears to have triumphed over his supposed opponent.

    From Bezzuoli`s composition, we do not see the political ideologue buoyed by a sense of self-righteousness. we see a man who must have repeated often the words of Scripture during his ordeal:
    "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will."
    In the end he persevered and More has obeyed his conscience and saved his Soul


    Why did Bezzuoli not make the work into a painting ? Perhaps in his day the subject would have been too controversial and subject to misinterpretation.

    The Bonapartes were dethroned from the Grand Duchy adter the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The old regine was re installed. Italian Unification was in the ascendant. Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi, the anti-clericals Liberals and the other mixed assortments were members of the broad Coalition which favoured Unification.

    What the Church and other religious authorities meant by "Conscience" was entirely different from what "Conscience" meant when used in philosophical and political circles.

    The confusion is still very much apparent today.
    Idle Speculations has more about Giuseppe Bezzuoli and his times, More and his times, and conscience in our time.

    It is a good time to contemplate all these things as we pray, fast, sacrifice, and serve in the cause of our Fortnight of Freedom.


    Friday, June 22, 2012

    Bridge of Birds, chapters 27-28

    In which we get to the bottom of something silver, something gold ... literally. Episode 190 from Forgotten Classics podcast.

    Music From 100 Years Ago: In Memorium - Ray Bradbury

    A special podcast marking the death of scifi writer, Ray Bradburry. The show includes a radio performance of Bradbury's story, The Veldt from 1951.

    Pixar's Brave

    I have been avoiding reviews ever since Steven D. Greydanus mentioned that most of them give a big spoiler.

    Today I eagerly scanned headlines and first paragraphs of the main movie critics (Ebert, Morgenstern, etc.) and got more depressed as I went. We're all Pixar fans at our house and no matter our age, we go to a Pixar movie when it comes out (the only exception being Cars 2).

    Then I saw Steven D. Greydanus' review (haven't read it all, but the beginning was enough) and also Rebecca Cusey's (she passed the spoiler litmus test by tiptoeing so much that we don't get much story - woohoo!). Sighs of relief because the things they seem to love are the things the the main movie critics probably just didn't get.

    So there are two reviews you can read and trust ... and maybe we'll see you at a theater near us in the next week or two, watching Brave.

    UPDATE
    A fellow movie lover in the office just told me that he was skimming reviews trying to avoid spoilers but get the thumbs up or thumbs down. His eyes rested on a paragraph long enough to read the congratulations to Pixar for crafting an original fairy story in this age when most studios instead settle for retelling the classics in a new way.

    So that makes me happy.

    Fortnight of Films for the Fortnight for Freedom, day 2

    I said most of what I had to say yesterday, so I've been keeping a few items to post daily during the Fortnight for Freedom. Use them for reflection, prayer, or as an idea for service or sacrifice toward our goal of truth, mutual respect, and religious liberty.
    Now that we’re officially into the Fortnight for Freedom, it’s appropriate to reflect on how the themes of religious liberty, moral conscience and commitment to one’s faith in the face of pressure and persecution have been reflected in film.

    National Catholic Register film critic Steven D. Greydanus has chosen a fortnight of worth films providentially accompanying the saint's days we will mark within these two weeks, making a perfect complement to your Fortnight of Freedom plans.

    June 21: A Man for All Seasons (1966)

    The Fortnight for Freedom begins on the eve of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. The best possible film to begin the fortnight is Fred Zinnemann’s magnificent cinematic tribute to Thomas More, one of the 45 films of the Vatican film list. King Henry VIII declares “war on the Church,” obliging More — out of fidelity to his conscience regarding the institution of marriage as well as the Petrine primacy — to retire from public life. Over the next several years, he adheres to his principles and defends himself ably, but ultimately futilely, in the face of legal harassment, imprisonment and execution.

    (Fine for all ages, but young kids won’t follow the story.)
    I implicitly trust Steven D. Greydanus to recommend great lists of films, especially when it comes to connecting them with the faith.

    His list includes the expected such as A Man for All Seasons and Becket. However, he also goes a bit further afield with movies you might not have thought of such as On the Waterfront. See the list here.

    As a bonus, the article has links to the 1995 Vatican film list and the Register's list of 100 pro-Catholic movies, so you can do more exploring on your own.

    A movie a day, connected with a saint. Perfect.


    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter -- A Righteous Man, Swinging an Awesome Axe


    Henry Sturges: Real power comes not from hate but from truth.
    Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer is light on history and heavy on vampires but ultimately delivers an action movie that is a lot of fun.

    We first see Lincoln as a young boy, being exposed to the two things that will drive him throughout his life: a slave trader whipping a young slave boy and a vampire who delivers tragedy. So when Lincoln hates slavery and vampires ... it's personal.

    Years later, on the trail of vengeance, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) encounters Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper).  A dedicated vampire assassin, Sturges recruits Lincoln to help rid the world of evil. In the process, Lincoln follows some of the timeline that all Americans know so well, meeting Mary Todd, attending law school, debating with Douglas Stephens, and so forth. All while dispatching a large quantity of gruesome vampires at night.

    This brings him to the attention of Adam (Rufus Sewell), the leader of the American vampire living in the South whose dream is to found a nation of his own. Thus Lincoln winds up fighting the war with the South on two fronts for human freedom.

    I could tell you more of the story but it is really unnecessary. Just go along for the ride and have a riproaring good time enjoying the stunts and the clever weaving of basic Lincoln facts with the action/horror story.

    Liberties are taken with the timeline and only the high points of Lincoln's life are touched upon, but we aren't watching this for a history lesson. We want to see our 16th president to take down some vamps in spectacular style. The movie doesn't disappoint on this front, sometimes in spectacular action sequences that are as electrifying to watch as they are outrageous in hind-sight.

    In fact, it was while supremely enjoying the first of the action sequences that I suddenly thought, "Of, of course, it's that director." I have a love for Bekmambetov's Russian movies, Nightwatch and Daywatch, which are what brought him to the attention of Hollywood in the first place. This film is less complex than those but delivers similar verve and style.

    A note to those who worry about respectful treatment of Abraham Lincoln. I myself was suddenly hit with those same twinges at the beginning of the movie. Young Abe snatches up his axe to visit frontier justice on the slave trader and I suddenly felt it was extremely disrespectful to treat Abraham Lincoln's memory in this way. I don't have a lot of people I idolize but Abraham Lincoln is definitely one. I had to remind myself it was just a movie, that I'd read plenty of alternate-universe science fiction with a similar premise, and I kept on watching. The movie makers were no fools and know the place that Abraham Lincoln has in the American psyche. He was treated quite respectfully and I never felt a qualm after that initial plunge into unreality.

    There are some annoying points. Dressing the female vampire like a dominatrix was ridiculous (yes, I know how silly it sounds to strain at that particular gnat in a movie so grounded in unreality). Just go with me on this one.

    The time that passed between Lincoln's "Eureka" moment toward the end and the fulfillment of his vision was insanely short ... I don't know why that bothered me but it was a nagging impossibility I couldn't shake.

    The 3D was unnecessary and, in the screening I was at, distracting in the big action scenes. Not worth the extra money and there isn't a single effect that can't adequately be conveyed as a regular movie.

    These are small points, to be sure.

    Overall Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, is a perfect summer popcorn movie. Enjoy!

    Ratings Note: Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality. I'll add that the gore splatters liberally during any slaying so if that bothers you (and it does me) then be ready to avert your eyes.

    President Obama, Tear Down This Wall - Fortnight for Freedom, day 1

    The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty.
    The reason for this Fortnight for Freedom is the government's HHS Mandate forcing every employer to provide contraception and sterilization coverage in almost all private health plans nationwide, with an extremely narrow “exemption” for some religious employers.

    It is not just a threat to Catholics but to anyone who does not want to be forced to support financially (or otherwise) things that they feel are immoral. As such, it is a threat to Americans. The way that the administration has chosen to advance their cause of contraception seems to be designed to throw up a wall between those who see contraception as immoral and those who don't understand what the big deal is. Here are twelve things that everyone should know about the mandate, if you have questions.

    For my own part, I would like to be allowed to have the "right to be wrong" and follow the dictates of my conscience and my faith ... as was proposed in a book I reviewed some time ago, but which is still applicable to this discussion.

    ===============

    This is the vigil of the feast day of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.

    St. John Fisher is not as well known as St. Thomas More but he was a martyr to Henry VIII because he would not acknowledge Henry as head of the church. For this he was imprisoned and eventually was executed. After his trial, Fisher stated his opinion, which is one that we should read and take to heart.
    My lords, I am here condemned before you of high treason, for denial of the king's supremacy over the Church of England. But by what order of justice I leave to God who is searcher of both of the king's majesty's conscience and yours. Nevertheless, being found guilty as it is termed, I am and must be contented with all that God shall send, to those whose will I wholly refer and submit myself.

    And now to tell you more plainly my mind touching this matter of the king's supremacy: I think, indeed, and always have though, and do now lastly affirm, that his grace cannot justly claim any such supremacy over the church of God as he now takes upon him. Never has it been seen nor heard of that any temporal prince before his days has presumed to that dignity. So, if the king will now adventure himself in proceeding in this strange and unwonted case, no doubt but he shall deeply incur the displeasure of Almighty God. And this to the great danger of his own soul and of many others, and to the utter ruin of this realm committed to his charge. Because of this, some sharp punishment will come from God's hand. Thus, I pray God that his grace may remember himself in time and hearken to good counsel for the preservation of himself and his realm, and the quietness of all Christendom.
    As Fisher worried about the state of the king's soul, so should we be worrying about the state of the souls of those who would wrest away our freedom. The "sharp punishment" gives modern minds pause in doubt, but I myself think that God lets us have our ways to our own ruin like the prodigal son ... so that we may return home. Letting us choose our own punishment, in reaping what we sow, is the ultimate justice while being a nice allowance of free will.

    Let us pray for our freedom, for our country, and for the souls of those who do not really understand what religious liberty means.

    =================

    From Margaret at Ten Thousand Places comes a slew of good links and practical recommendations to basic places. Which I completely forgot about giving. So I let her do the work.

    1. If you haven't done so already, sign the Women Speak for Themselves open letter to President Obama, spearheaded by Kim Daniels and Helen Alvare, and create a video adding your voice to the almost 30,000 women who have spoken up in this forum.
    2. Check out the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty's information page.  The Becket Fund is representing the 43 individual organizations in the 12 federal law suits contesting the HHS Mandate. And they need our support.  (They have been on the front lines for a long time on this issue.)
    3. Check out the resources at the USCCB: Pray // Find events in your own Diocese // Learn more//Read Cardinal Dolan's new e-book // and, if nothing else, check out the 12 Things Everyone Should Know flyer (pdf)
    4. Contact Congress
    5. Pass along this video from Catholic Vote.
    6. Join us on July 4th at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for a Mass closing the Fortnight for Freedom, with Cardinal Wuerl as the main celebrant and Archbishop Charles Chaput as the homilist.
    7. (UPDATED) Read these articles by +Chaput and +Gomez

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    The Flannery O'Connor Summer Reading Club

    I'm just finding out about this now? Of course, I'd never have discovered it if not for Brandywine Books. Thank you guys!
    My biography of Flannery O’Connor–The Terrible Speed of Mercy–will be released later this summer, so why don’t we read through some of her stories? Each Monday from now through the end of August I will post an article about one of O’Connor’s stories.
    They're only on story three so it won't be hard to catch up. Get it here.

    True Freedom by Timothy Dolan

    Today Cardinal Timothy Dolan has released a small book called True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Liberty
    It’s easy to take religious freedom for granted. It’s enshrined in our Constitution and praised by the Church, and most of us have grown up without questioning it. However when this liberty is threatened, when it’s not respected as a fundamental right, we’re forced to pull back and ask a basic question: why do people deserve religious liberty?

    Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York gives his answer in a new eBook released today. True Freedom: On Protecting Human Dignity and Religious Freedom (Image Books, 37 pages, eBook) shows how respect for human dignity—the dignity of all humans, regardless of their beliefs—undergirds the right to religious liberty. Quoting Pope Leo XIII, he begins by saying:

    “True freedom… is that freedom which most truly safeguards the dignity of the human person. It is stronger than any violence or injustice. Such is the freedom which has always been desired by the Church, and which she holds most dear.”
    Find out more and see at review at Brandon Vogt's blog.

     Note: I stole this from Jeff Miller's posting at Happy Catholic Bookshelf. So handy!

    Movie Review: Your Sister's Sister

    Photo by Steven Schard/IFC Films
    Mark Duplass as Jack, Emily Blunt as Iris, and Rosemarie DeWitt as Hannah
    A year after his brother's death, Jack (Mark Duplass) is struggling emotionally. His best friend Iris (Emily Blunt) advises him to go to her family's isolated cabin for solitude and introspection. However, he winds up meeting Iris' sister, Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt), who just ended a seven year relationship. Bonding over their personal pain and a bottle of tequila leads to unexpected consequences, which are complicated when Iris suddenly arrives at the cabin the next morning. This sets into motion a tale of increasingly complicated relationships which is genuinely funny or touching, in turn.

    This little movie delivers a fine evening's entertainment. I think that the twenty- or thirty-something crowd will especially enjoy it. Certainly I would recommend it to either of my daughters or their friends for a pleasant diversion.

    ==================================

    However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it seems incomplete as a movie, merely "fine" rather than "wonderful." I was irresistibly put in mind of John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980) which was a small-scale character drama. In Return, friends arrived for a reunion and we saw characterizations built, dialogue expanded, and plot driven through examining characters' connections. This seems like the ultimate result that Your Sister's Sister director Lynn Shelton was aiming for, albeit with three characters instead of Sayle's seven. I began wondering why Your Sister's Sister felt less sharp and complete.

    My husband and I debated why Your Sister's Sister felt as if there wasn't enough depth and had several theories. However, I came across the best way to articulate it this morning in On Stories by C.S. Lewis.
    In the sixteenth century when everyone was saying that poets (by which they meant all imaginative writers) ought "to please and instruct," Tasso made a valuable distinction. He said that the poet, as poet, was concerned solely with pleasing. But then every poet was also a man and a citizen; in that capacity he ought to, and would wish to, make his work edifying as well as pleasing.

    ... What this comes down to for me is that there are usually two reasons for writing an imaginative work, which may be called Author's reason and the Man's. If only one of these is present, then so far as I am concerned, the book will not be written. If the first is lacking, it can't; if the second is lacking, it shouldn't.
    C.S. Lewis, essay Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What's to Be Said
    Lewis is not saying that every imaginative work needs to be educational, but that there needs to be a bigger picture, an overall message, a deeper motivation, even if one is only telling a fairy story. For whatever reason, Shelton is satisfied simply with the "Author's reason" and, as an audience, we can tell. Issues of budget, time, and motivation aside, this is what makes Shelton's movie a "little one," as she herself said, and Beasts of the Southern Wild a visionary one that shows great promise to come in the future.

    There is nothing wrong with making little movies. Woody Allen himself says that his goal is to make one little movie every year. Allen's movies are hit or miss oftentimes. What gives them the potential for the greatness they sometimes achieve is that he always has both the Author's reason and the Man's.  Whether Shelton chooses to broaden her internal vision is going to determine whether her movies remain "little" or have the potential for greatness contained within.

    =================

    My final score: 3 out of 5 stars.

    Ratings note: Rated R for sexual situations and strong language. Also a bottle of tequila is killed in one night, if that is an issue for any viewers.

    Monday, June 18, 2012

    Moving a Blog from the Atheist to Catholic Category at Patheos

    Leah Libresco has blogged to good effect at the atheist channel at Patheos. Or so I'm told. I don't surf the channels much over there, being more interested in Catholics, the book club, and the movie club.

    My friend pressed me to stop beating up on other people’s explanations and offer one of my own.

    “I don’t know,” I said. ”I’ve got bupkis.”

    “Your best guess.”

    “I haven’t got one.”

    “You must have some idea.”

    “I don’t know. I’ve got nothing. I guess Morality just loves me or something.”

    “…”

    “Ok, ok, yes, I heard what I just said. Give me a second and let me decide if I believe it.”


    It turns out I did.

    I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth. I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since). Then I suggested hugs and playing Mumford and Sons really, really loudly.
    Of course, that's a choice bit that shows realization of internal transformation. Now she's moving her blog from the atheist channel to the Catholic channel at Patheos. For what came before and what's come after, go read and bid her welcome to not only a new blogging channel, but a life of faith in the Catholic Church.

    They were attacking reason ...

    Jeff Miller over at Happy Catholic Bookshelf has a link to an interview that science fiction author John C. Wright did about his conversion to Catholicism ... and other related topics. I have read Wright's conversion story several times and each time there is new information, so I just keep reading it as it surfaces here and there. In this one, I was very touched by the first lie he discovered that rocked his belief in atheism. It has to do with his son. Do go read.

    We're Brave Enough to Watch John Carter. Also Brave Enough to Say We Loved It.

    It swashed.

    It buckled.

    It had derring do, a beautiful maiden in need of rescue, a battered hero to step up and save the day. It had laughs that came naturally from the story instead of being self-aware winks at the audience. The story and set design came as a tribute to wonder, adventure, and grand story telling of the past.

    In short, it had many of the qualities we loved in Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

    Andrew Stanton's movie has been given a bad name which should more properly go to "the toxic buzz that has curled around the movie before anyone had seen it" as Peter Travers said in his Rolling Stone review.

    Travers didn't love it, but we did. And we're not ashamed to say it.

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Don't Read Reviews of Pixar's Brave

    Spoilers are spilled, sez Stephen G. Greydanus. He rants, spoiler free, and I applaud.

    I've gotten to the point where I tend to avoid all but the most cursory looks at advance reviews because too many people tell the good stuff.

    In fact, I can't tell you how difficult it was to review Beasts of the Southern Wild so that people didn't know any more than I did going into the film. But I tried. I really tried hard.

    Bridge of Birds: chapters 25-26

    In which there is a daring escape and the Emperor of Heaven is detected. We're nearing the end. Just two more episodes after this one and we are finished! Head over to Forgotten Classics for the episode and to vote on the next book.

    Movie Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

    “In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub.”
    Hushpuppy is six and the Bathtub is a magical place that has frequent holidays, parties whipped up at a second's notice, and where it is more beautiful than the place where all the other people live. It also contains dangers like crocodiles and big storms that can blow water over everything and everyone who doesn't leave for higher ground. Hushpuppy's daddy shows equally mysterious qualities, alternating between pronouncing powerful life lessons and sudden unexpected rages. Mama is gone and that is also shrouded in mystery. Whether this is a land of fable or real is also a mystery until the film unfolds and we have entered Hushpuppy's world completely.

    Told completely from the young girl's mind, Hushpuppy's life is a mixture of myth, half-understood facts, and fantasy, all cobbled together into a seamless whole that informs her understanding of life, the universe, and everything. Her world contains chickens and aurochs side by side with equal ease, shown in atmospheric vignettes rather than as a straight storyline. As Hushpuppy incorporates new information into her worldview, so do we, which was emphasized by having handheld cameras at her height and using music to communicate her mindset.

    I am loathe to say more because I believe this movie is best appreciated without preconceptions. I won't lie. The movie finished and while everyone clapped, Tom and I sat there thinking, "What did we just see?" It wasn't because we were swept away in wonder. It was because this is the sort of movie that I had to sort through and ponder to understand what I even thought of it.

    I've had that sense of disorientation thrice before, after seeing Lost in Translation, Memento, and In Bruges.  Obviously, Beasts of the Southern Wild is in good company. All are films that I eventually grew to love but that left me unsure of my feelings immediately afterward. Reflection was needed to understand all that Lost in Translation says about marriage, all that Memento says about truth, and In Bruges' message about salvation and redemption. They also required a second viewing for full appreciation and I think that Beasts of the Southern Wild is the same.

    Beasts of the Southern Wild does not tell its story perfectly but when one considers this is a first-time director who was working with first-time actors, as well as writing the script, then I believe he did very well indeed. One thing I did know immediately afterward was that director Benh Zeitlin is a talent to be watched in the future. He clearly has some specific points to make but was a good enough story teller to wreathe them in this original tale of myth and mystery, while leaving viewers with questions of their own to answer. I love a director who is courageous enough to let the audience make a movie their own and that is what Zeitlin did here.

    Young Quvenzhané Wallis is, as so many have observed, also a force to be reckoned with in the future. She carries the entire movie and, although it seems absurd that a six-year-old could be so formidable an actress, Wallis handled it easily. Dwight Henry, a New Orleans baker discovered by the film crew, as Wink (Hushpuppy's father) was also impressive and it was difficult to believe that he'd never acted before. He hinted at a big acting project and I am eagerly anticipating seeing his future work.

    The film does sag a bit in the middle and I was irresistibly reminded that some Cannes and Sundance winners are not exactly what most regular people like me would call a good film. However, it did come together in time. With more experience Zeitlin will be able to avoid such sags altogether. The hand-held camera sequences were effective but too close and jittery for my comfort a lot of the time.

    Altogether, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a film I am glad I saw, one that provided much food for thought, and one that I look forward to watching again so that I can sink more fully into the tale of a Hushpuppy who lives with her daddy in the Bathtub.

    Ratings Note: PG-13 for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality.

    The film comes to theaters July 4. Here's the trailer.





    Here's Rebecca Cusey's interview with the director ... I would caution you to read it AFTER seeing the movie.





    THOUGHTS which contain some SPOILERS
    (Seriously. Go see the movie. This will still be here when you come back. Then, we can talk!)































    Some of my thoughts after reflection.
    • The beasts of the southern wild are the people living in the Bathtub.

    • Also the Bathtub dwellers are ... the cave people. Hence, the continuing message that strength and self-sufficiency are all important, from the father, the teacher, and all residents.

    • Global warming is a recurrent theme and the director said in the Q&A afterwards that he'd realized that the series of hurricanes (like Katrina) will just keep coming, so that was an important theme. As someone who married into a family from Houston, with a big branch in New Orleans, I had to laugh. That series of storms has been coming from way before this wave of global warming.

      However, I also have to give Zeitlin credit. There is none of the whining that usually goes with such a message. Because they are "cave men" they do not worry about trying to change the environment. Survival in harsh circumstances requires strength, bravery, and endurance. This is the lesson from everyone. And it occurs to me that it is not a bad lesson, especially when I look at some of the "problems" that I hear people complaining about, which are not problems at all.

    • The big question ... the one that I still find coming back over time ... is the tension that we are shown between living in squalor in the Bathtub and living safely in a more sterile environment. The director said that this came from his fascination with the people who won't leave their homes during hurricanes. Those images from the movie mixed with my recent reading of the Civil war novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara and the federal government's HHS mandate which is threatening religious liberty in America. I do not have the answers. The pondering continues.

      What price safety? How far do we go in allowing people to make their own decisions, to live their lives in the way that they think is best ... even if we do not agree? Do we allow them the right to be wrong?

      I'll be honest. This was a problem for me in watching the movie. I kept having to re-suspend my disbelief as I watched that little girl living in some terrible surroundings. I kept thinking that she needed to live somewhere else. And then I'd remind myself that it is a movie. Later, though ... later I realized that these questions are part of our lives today.

      To some people, Catholics are living in the Bathtub. Our desire to practice our faith in peace seems ludicrous over a "little thing" like contraception. To them, the government worrying that some person somewhere is missing out on a benefit is much more important than living according to deep felt convictions. Is it better to be plugged into the wall? Is it better to be in the fish tank? Or is it better to be allowed to use our own judgment and live without the advantages that would make us miserable?

    • A realization. When explorers of old discovered different groups of people, they would begin assimilating them, whether they wanted it or not. The most striking example were the Indians of the Americas, however it also applied to the Japanese, Africans, or whoever was in the path of civilization. Ideally, this was carried out from motives of Christian love for neighbor, to help each person realize their full and best potential as one of God's children. Obviously, true motives and results varied, depending on the situation.

      Beasts of the Southern Wild made me realize that secular American society, if not Western society as a whole, continues to follow that Christian model, albeit without Christ much of the time. For one's own good, one must follow society's model, even if one does not wish to be "rescued." Although those same societies would abhor imposing their standards upon a newly discovered aboriginal tribe deep in the South American jungle, they think nothing of imposing it upon the inhabitants of the Bathtub against their will. The same behavior that they abhor is readily adopted in this circumstance. Again, I do not necessarily have any judgment about this, but it is an interesting realization which I was able to see thanks to the illustration of this film.

    • I also admired a lot of the techniques the filmmakers used ... the music communicating Hushpuppy's mood and thought ... the white light to signal Hushpuppy's thoughts about her mother ... Hushpuppy gently covering her father with her last token of her mother as she followed her teacher's directions to take care of those littler and weaker than themselves ... and her immediate departure for the quest to find her mother, in order to help both her father and herself. Beautifully done.

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Good Story #36: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

    Scott learns that Texas is it's own direction. Julie changes her opinion about Robert E. Lee. Neither is certain where in the timeline to find Lincoln's vampire slaying.

    Our discussion of this Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Civil War at Gettysburg is episode 36 at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Welcome, Jeff MIller to Happy Catholic's Bookshelf

    It just got a whole lot more fun over at HC's Bookshelf at Patheos where Jeff Miller of The Curt Jester is going to drop some book review goodness on us.
    There is nothing wrong with your internet. Do not attempt to change the url We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next while, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your internet. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to — The Outer Limits

    Well not really and this is not just an interloper taking over Julie’s Happy Catholic Bookshelf. This is Jeff Miller of The Curt Jester blog and I am now contributing to this blog. Besides Julie does not have the trademark on “Happy Catholic” and as a former atheist I am also extremely happy to be Catholic. So enough about me – onto book goodness.
    And then he reviews Red Shirts, which I've been wanting him to say more about. So, woohoo!

    You Deserved a Quicker Review Than This*: Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body by Kate Wicker

    Weightless: Making Peace With Your BodyWeightless: Making Peace With Your Body by Kate Wicker

    This book is for every American woman who has body issues. (Shall we all raise our hands in unison?) In many ways, I came to terms with body image some time ago. However, no one is immune and every so often I will find myself beating back the mental need to measure up to someone else's terms. This book is good spiritual medicine for those times. I wish I could afford to give it to every woman I know, young or old.
    Have you noticed how babies delight in their reflections? When they catch glimpses of themselves in a mirror, they smile, squeal, or laugh. When my girls were babies, they would even lean toward the mirror to give their images big wet kisses.

    How many of us ever feel like kissing the reflection that stares back at us when we give ourselves the once-over in what might be more aptly referred to as the "lambasting glass" than the "looking glass?" The truth is, when faced with our images, many of us stop liking what we see. That big pimple on my chin sure isn't pretty. My arms aren't toned enough. My backside looks bigger today than it did yesterday. Wouldn't it be nice to look more like so-and-so?

    You get the picture.

    But God doesn't see that picture. He doesn't see what we see at all. God loves what he created — curvy, rifle-thin, disabled, or disfigured. We're his art, his creation.

    When we criticize our reflections, we're not seeing clearly. We're blind to the kind of pure, unconditional love that God has for each of us.
    Like many girls and women, Kate Wicker struggled with her weight and measured her self worth by how thin or fat she was. After falling prey to bulemia, she went through the long process of realizing self-worth and fighting her way back to health. She relied not only on therapy, family and friends but also on God for inner healing.

    Years later, as a married woman with young daughters, Wicker realized that, although there is a plethora of books about handling self worth problems tied to body image, there are very few that offer a Catholic, faith-filled approach. Luckily for all the rest of us, she wrote a book about what she'd learned.

    Wicker doesn't restrict the insights to weight. She looks at how media, celebrity culture, and consumer-driven society combine to affect our ideas of beauty from every angle. We respond to these with varying degrees of make up, clothing, hairstyles, eating habits, and more. Wicker helps provide much needed balance in this easy-to-read, personable book which I enjoyed. She leans on saints, scripture, and solid common sense to pull readers back to center as they reflect on reality versus false standards.

    Here's something that spoke to me because I suddenly noticed that "old lady skin" is a new feature added to my frame. With that realization, came a new struggle of which standards to apply, and an appreciation for Wicker's refusal to budge in reminding women of every age that beauty begins beneath the surface.
    My grandmother has no qualms about admitting she needs hearing aids. When you ask her (loudly), "How do you feel?" she replies, laughing and with a twinkle in her liquid blue eyes, "Old."

    Nana's age is not a handicap or a source of angst. It is her joy and this is what makes her beautiful. She is well-worn and creased because, she will tell you, she has lived a long, fruitful life, including raising nine children. She's been around long enough to hold great-grandchildren. She prayed to St. Joseph as her husband of almost sixty years sipped into God's care.

    To Nana, wrinkles aren't something to be punished with; they're something you earn, God willing. Although she admits that sometimes it's difficult to be aware of your body growing feeble and deteriorating physically, prayer reminds her that every day is a gift to be unwrapped and lived. ...

    When I think of the saying "Age before beauty," an image of my old, crinkly grandmother pops up almost immediately. I see so much more than the signs of old age in her. She possesses an ageless, almost supernatural beauty that comes from leading a life of getting to know God better. She's living proof that gray hair is "a crown of glory...gained in a righteous life" (Proverbs 16:31).

    Nana doesn't fix her gaze on her age; she's too busy looking ahead to the age to come — the promise of eternity and a new, glorified body in union with Christ. Her faith, her goodness, and her acceptance of her mortal body holding an immortal soul are what make her lovely.
    You don't have to be aging yourself to realize the wisdom in this. How many of us know old women dyeing their hair to hide the white or gray? What about the youthful clothing worn by some women who are grandmothers? Here's the scoop, ladies. You are fooling no one but yourselves.

    If we apply this sort of realization to whatever issues are bothering us, whether we are young or old, then we can see how important it is to have inner peace about our perceived "imperfections" ... which many would tell us are not imperfections at all. Wicker's book does this in a beautiful, nonjudgmental way that helps us see how to take the first steps in looking beneath the surface.

    I am not a fan of self-help books in general, but this is a good book, especially for women who might be stressing over their looks. She makes valid points for all women but the Catholic orientation means that non-Christian friends are not going to get much from the advice about God in here. However, you don't have to be Catholic to get good advice and insights from this book. Highly recommended.

    ===========================
    * You deserve a longer letter than this; it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people as well as they deserve. — Jane Austen

    I should have reviewed this book a long time ago. My apologies to the author who did not deserve me only getting around to reviewing her excellent book now.

    Blogging Around: The "Things I Found This Morning" Edition

    I will link to a lot of things at Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ just because it's so darned easy. Then I forget to do it here, for you dear readers. But not today ...

    Fun Summer Reading
    I’ve been reading Nathan Lowell’s Solar Clipper Traders series, which begins with Quarter Share. The books concern one Ishmael Wang, who at 18 finds himself parentless, friendless, and most importantly, jobless, on a company world. The company doesn’t want him, and he’s got to get off-planet PDQ. He can join the marines; or he can find a berth on a freighter plying its way from star to star. To make a short story shorter, he does the latter and becomes the most junior crew-member of the Solar Clipper Lois McKendrick. The “quarter share” of the title is Ishmael’s share of the profits from any voyage; by tradition, the owner gets 20%, the captain gets 10%, and the remaining crew split up the rest by shares: quarter, full, half, or double. The books in the series are named according to these shares, up to Owner’s Share (not yet released), and so I imagine that the rags to riches story continues until our hero is independently wealthy.
    I agree with Will at The View from the Foothills about this series. Do go read his full review because he has some valuable observations about the content, especially the sex in the books. Frankly, the continual humility of "our hero" and the fact that he miraculously always happens to have the answer to the Terrible Problem they are facing at the moment is why I stopped listening to the series (via Podiobooks) after three or four. But, then I love Nathan Lowell's stuff and I go ahead and pick "just one more." Because, as Will says, they are perfect summer popcorn type books. If you like that sort of thing. And sometimes I do.

    Man Bites Dog in Dallas?
    From time to time here at GetReligion, we pause to wax nostalgic about what used to be in Dallas.

    I refer, of course, to the not-so-long-ago days when The Dallas Morning News took religion news seriously and assigned skilled, trained professional journalists to the Godbeat.

    Just a few years ago, the paper boasted a best-in-the-nation Saturday religion section with four or five full-time staff members devoted to faith and values news. Those same outstanding journalists regularly produced meaty investigative pieces, in-depth profiles and intriguing features for the front page.

    Not anymore.

    Now, if you check the Morning News’ religion news section online, you’re fortunate to find a new story every few weeks. And often, those stories are about as deep as a Texas river during a drought.

    All of which leads me to this: I enjoyed a nice chuckle this week when seeing this headline on a Morning News Texas Faith blog post ...
    Amen. GetReligion preaches it.

    I used to look forward to Saturdays reading the Dallas Morning News. Not only was their religion section great, but the whole paper was interesting and well written. Then the DMN, evidently in an attempt to broaden readership, dumped their reporters and went to using national stuff, moms in the suburbs, and large type with lotsa leading. What a recipe for success, right? Yeah. You get more value from USA Today, believe me.

    Lincoln, Catholics, and Conscience
    RESOLVED: That the guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant; and that all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition. –ABRAHAM LINCOLN at a Whig gathering
    Yes it is a really, truly, proven quote from Abraham Lincoln, as Frank at Why I Am Catholic tells us. And it is an important viewpoint to recall as we near the bishops' Fortnight of Freedom for religious liberty.

    The Joy of Car Talk
    Can’t stop thinking about today’s announcement: That Tom and Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk fame are retiring.

    Anne and I have listened to Car Talk almost religiously on Saturday mornings for years. Tom and Ray have been a joy because…
    Yep. Love 'em. For all the reasons Jeffrey Overstreet lists.

    Audio Resources for Writers (and Story Lovers)
    My monthly post for the Catholic Writers' Guild blog. Featuring StoryWonk, Writing Excuses, Chop Bard, and Just the Books.

    Saturday, June 9, 2012

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    In which we discover there really is no better way to pass the time before being tortured to death than to listen to a fairy story.

    Bridge of Birds is back with another "out of the frying pan, into the fire" cliffhanger. Get it at Forgotten Classics podcast.

    Friday Litany: To Jesus in the Womb of Mary

    Today I pray for our "brave new world" and I fast ... as it turns out I forgot until after I had breakfast so I am fasting from my iPod. Yep. Left it at home. I can't tell you the last time I did that!

    This litany seems a good one to remind us that all life, whether or not we can see it in front of our eyes at the moment, is precious.
    Jesus, knit so wonderfully in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, uniquely human from the moment of conception in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, present at creation, created in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, word made flesh, taking on a human body in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, subject to human development in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, whose Precious Blood first flowed through tiny arteries and veins in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, hidden nine months in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, begotten by God, nourished by the substance and blood of His Most Holy Mother in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, leaping from eternity into time, in the womb of Mary
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, revealing with His Father and the Holy Spirit all wisdom and knowledge to His Most Holy Mother, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, aware of His role as Redeemer in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Sanctifier of His Precursor from the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Eternal Word, Divine Child, embraced by the Father, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, raising His Mother to the heights of sanctification, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, everlasting delight of heaven, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, manifesting His Incarnation to His Holy Mother, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, adored and contemplated by His Mother in the sanctuary of her womb Jesus,
    before whom the angels prostrated themselves, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, in whom the very angels beheld the humanity of the Infant God and the union of the two natures of the Word in the virginal womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, whose Holy Limbs first budded in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, whose Godhead the world cannot contain, weighing only a few grams in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Divine Immensity, once meaning only tenths of an inch in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Sacrificial Lamb, Docile Infant in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, who was to suffer the agony and passion of death, accepting the human capacity for pain ad grief, in the womb of Mary,
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Lamb of God in the womb of Mary Spare us, O Lord.
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Holy Innocent in the womb of Mary Graciously hear us, O Lord.
    Have mercy on us.

    Jesus, Son of God and Messiah in the womb of Mary Have mercy on us, O Lord.
    Have mercy on us.

    LET US PRAY:

    God, our creator, You formed us as women and men,
    equal partners in the stewardship of Your world:
    joined forever as sisters and brothers,
    yet within each of us lives a rich diversity of different gifts,
    different hopes and different limitations.
    In Jesus, Your word born fully in our flesh,
    You have seen and loved in us all that You have made us to be.
    Though graced, we are limited and often weak.
    But our weaknesses themselves are no obstacle to Your passion for us.
    Teach us to see in ourselves what you have seen in each of us from birth.
    Teach us to know our gifts and limits.
    Keep us confidently on the path of self-knowledge,
    fullness of wisdom, and joy in being Your children.
    We ask this through Christ and the Holy Spirit, with You,
    One God, forever and ever.

    Amen

    Wednesday, June 6, 2012

    Eternal Rest Grant Unto Ray Bradbury, O Lord

    The father hesitated only a moment. He felt the vague pain in his chest. If I run, he thought, what will happen? Is Death important? No. Everything that happens before Death is what counts. And we've done fine tonight. Even Death can't spoil it.
    Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

    He seemed timeless somehow, that grand old man of science fiction. But of course no one is timeless and Ray Bradbury died today at age 91.

    Somehow it seems appropriate that he died when summer is just beginning to bloom. One of the memories that showed up repeatedly in his stories and novels was that of Midwest neighborhoods with Victorian houses, green lawns, and lemonade sipped by genteel gentlefolk. Reading that you'd never know that his forte was a blend of science fiction and fantasy, often mixed with horror, written in almost lyrical style.

    So many of his stories are part of my mental reading landscape. The Veldt, Usher II, The Halloween Tree, The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

    Recently I was finishing off a gift certificate and splurged by adding my own money to pick up The Stories of Ray Bradbury. I thought that I'd recognize many of the 100 stories in this anthology. As I have leisurely dipped in, here and there, I've been surprised that I do not recognize them and that many show a depth that resonates far beyond science fiction. Which, as I think of it, should not surprise me at all.

    Bradbury was not only prolific but he is one of those gifted souls who raised his chosen genre far above the ordinary level. Not only did he entertain, but he taught us lessons for the heart. I also loved his optimistic spirit and his no nonsense grounding. He understood what was real, what was not, and what mattered.
    We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.
    Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
    I am thankful that his stories, imagination, and humanity have enriched my life so well.
    Eternal rest grant unto Ray Bradbury, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.