Thursday, November 29, 2012

Conversing with God in Advent: Praying the Sunday Readings with Lectio Divina

Conversing with God in Advent: Praying the Sunday Readings with Lectio DivinaConversing with God in Advent: Praying the Sunday Readings with Lectio Divina by Stephen J. Binz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Bible ends with the words of Christ, "Yes, I am coming soon," and with the ancient prayer of the Church, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (revelation 22:20). The word "Advent" is derived from the word adventus, which means "coming." In Advent we're reminded of how much we need a savior, and we look forward to our Savior's coming in majesty even as we prepare to remember his coming in humility at Bethlehem.
Stephen Binz is a passionate advocate of Lectio Divina, the ancient practice of studying and praying using Scripture. The point of lectio divina is to personally encounter God and that is something I can relate to very well since I can't count the number of times I have had "aha!" moments of connection when I'm reading. Now, lectio divina isn't precisely that sort of thing, so it is something that I work at. I want to read too fast, I don't want to stop and reflect, and so forth.

This is where Stephen Binz's books are so valuable. He has a love for this practice which shows in the way they are written. First he takes readers deep into the meaning of Advent with our ancestors in Israel longing for Messiah and early Christians longing for Christ's return, with our own expectant hope of Christ's coming which lends itself to valuing the present, with lighting candles against the darkness, and with the cycles of scripture which give us the great prophets messages of Messiah.

Next, with the Advent background in mind, Binz walks readers through the simple steps of lectio divina: lectio (reading), meditatio (reflection), oratio (praying), contemplatio (resting in God), and operatio (witness in daily life). There is much more to it than this simple list, obviously, and Binz does a wonderful job of taking you through each step.

The treasure for Advent and Christmas, however, are in the specific material Binz has prepared for each Sunday of those seasons. The Lectio does not simply contain the readings for that Sunday but also provides some background material to help readers understand both historical and personal context. Meditatio has some prompting questions to aid reflection on scripture until "they become a mirror in which we see our own reflection." And so forth.

I am especially appreciative that this book has the complete A, B, and C cycle readings thus illuminated. This book becomes a tool that can be used every year. I am really looking forward to going through Advent and Christmas with this book. Highly recommended.

How "the Pope Canceled Christmas" and Other Bad Media Reporting

You know media coverage on the Pope’s new book has spiraled out of control in misreporting when Reuters issues a corrective piece lambasting the bad reporting. The Reuters piece is actually quite good.
Jeff Miller, The Curt Jester, pointed the Reuters piece out. It is great to read the official media actually taking the time to do a corrective piece. As Jeff says, it is a good story.

Jeff actually commented on the bad media reporting in his review of Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. I recommend his review to anyone interested in the book. It sounds really wonderful and like a good Advent book.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Seven Glorious Days: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation Story

Seven Glorious DaysSeven Glorious Days by Karl W. Giberson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The watery planet that would bear the label "Earth" some five billion years later was nothing short of a creative miracle. The ten billion years that it took the universe to produce a habitable planet is about the shortest possible time for that gargantuan task. Skeptics who say humans must be irrelevant because they did not exist for most of the history of the universe don't know what they are talking about. It takes a few billion years to make the first stars and about five billion years for a newly minted first-generation star to fuse itself into a supernova. It then takes a few billion years for the cloud from that supernova to reassemble itself into a second-generation star like our sun, surrounded by rocky planets rich in organic molecules, and, in rare cases, water.

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

The most awe-inspiring aspect of this long, strange trip is the constant presence of mathematical laws, guiding and controlling every aspect. When we examine the world at the "top level," so to speak, the mathematics is invisible. ... On the surface, nature is, to be sure, noisy in the sense of being cluttered, busy, and seemingly without patterns. Even beautiful scenery--picture a mountain lake with snowcapped mountains in the background--rarely seems "organized." But as we apply our scientific knowledge to the cluttered world we experience and drill down to the bedrock of our understanding--eliminate the noise--we find something quite wondrous. At the end of the great hallway that takes us from the social sciences to the natural sciences, through biology and chemistry and ultimately to physics, we find ourselves at last in the presence of a most beautiful and unexplained symphony of mathematics. Across the dark abyss, this mathematics comes clearly into view, out of nowhere, explaining the world around us while remaining unexplained itself. It is part of the Logos of creation.
I have a general interest in science but have only a layman's grasp of what happened between the Big Bang and now. As a Catholic convert coming from a completely secular mindset, I especially appreciate the hope and optimism that come from seeing science not simply as coldly rational facts, but in the context of a bigger plan.

Author Karl Giberson comes from an almost completely opposite background than mine. Raised to believe in the literal truth of the Bible, he was a young-earth creationist. College science classes convinced Giberson that Genesis was a story recounting faith rather than science. However, science was often reduced to coldly rational explanations that were not engaging people about their place in the scheme of things, which he found unsatisfactory as well.

Seven Glorious Days bridges the gap between science and faith so that Giberson and I find ourselves meeting in the middle, amazed at the mechanics of creation and awed at the sense of purpose that can be traced. Giberson communicates this by giving an overview of what scientists have discovered about creation, from the Big Bang to human evolution.

As I read about what has been discovered about the underlying structure following the creation of the universe, and how it led to our planet's eventual creation followed by the generation of life, I felt a sense of exhilaration and excitement. There is beauty accompanying the logic of the laws of physics. By the time Giberson reached the "symphony of mathematics" mentioned above, I was thrilled. Not only did I have a grasp, albeit simple, of the science, but I had a sense of why many scientists themselves believe there is more than cold, hard facts to the universe.

Reading Giberson's commentary about how life flourished just about as fast as conditions would permit, I was suddenly struck by the odd notion that perhaps we are not finding life in other star systems because we are the first. This never occurred to me before and, as a devoted science fiction fan, it turned my world upside down. Could it be that we are the much vaunted "Old Ones" which many science fiction novels show their protagonists tracking down? A humbling notion and also a fascinating one, showing that we do not really know where our place is in the universe.

At this point in the book, I was catching up on my daily Catechism reading and came across a passage that dovetailed precisely with Seven Glorious Days.
310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil cold exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God feely willed to create a wold "in a state of journeying" toward its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the eixtenceof the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.

That sense of "a state of journeying" perfectly expressed the sense I received from Seven Glorious Days. The next paragraph brings that "journeying" home to our own lives.
311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it....
As much sense as this made to my Catholic sensibilities, I was quite surprised to see that it was a foretaste of the remainder of Seven Glorious Days. Speaking of evolution and man's unique characteristics, Giberson fills in the scientific gaps which lead to the above mentioned journey we humans take. I do not want to spoil it for anyone so I won't explain further. Indeed, I see that I have taken up quite a few pixels in my enthusiasm so far. Suffice it to say that Giberson's overview uses scientific facts to show where the whole glorious ride of creation has been headed since the beginning.

I have been remiss in not yet mentioning Giberson's framework, in which he rephrases God's seven days (or epochs) of creation in ways which encompass science. Here is a sample.
Day 2

Then God said, "Let matter emerge, with precisely defined properties that will empower the development of everything else in the universe, laying a secure foundation for changes that will eventually lead to living creatures, following the patterns laid down by the Logos.

And there was evening and morning, beginning and ending, of the second epoch of creation.

And God saw that it was Good.
As you can tell by now, I find Seven Glorious Days to be very good, very inspiring, and a "must read" for anyone who ever struggles to explain to nonbelievers that science and faith are not nonexclusive. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Praying Through Advent: O Radiant Dawn by Lisa Hendey

O Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent WreathO Radiant Dawn: 5-Minute Prayers Around the Advent Wreath by Lisa M. Hendey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very handy book that I recommend to anyone who wants to get in the habit of regular reflection during Advent. Lisa Hendey has written a series of 5-minute prayers designed for daily use by individuals or families, even those with young children.

The family gathers round the Advent wreath, lighting the candle, a song is sung, and a scripture reading is provided to be read aloud for prayer and contemplation. There are reflection and conversation prompts, both for adults and for children. A closing prayer provides more food for thought as it sums up the daily readings.

It is a simple enough formula but Hendey has put it together with obvious care. It is nice to have something structured yet brief enough to include in busy daily schedules. This will also be a good opportunity to reflect upon the O Antiphons, which are included as part of the prayer reflections during the appropriate days immediately before Christmas.

This is a good book that I could see becoming a family tradition from year to year. I'm looking forward to using it myself beginning Sunday when Advent is finally here.

There is a bulk discount offer until December 15, 2012. You can order O Radiant Dawn for only $1 when you order 10 copies or more using the promo code catholicmom12 when placing an order at Ave Maria Press.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Skyfall

Q: Age is no guarantee of efficiency.

Bond: And youth is no guarantee of innovation.

Q: Well, I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.

Bond: Oh, so why do you need me?

Q: Every now and then a trigger has to be pulled.

Bond: Or not pulled. It's hard to know which in your pajamas.
We got a chance to see the new James Bond movie this weekend. Others have given more complete review, and I can recommend Roger Ebert's (though I skipped his paragraph on the opening action sequence and would advise you to do the same unless you enjoy spoilers).

As he said, "This is a brand-new Bond with love and respect for the old Bond. "

Exactly.

Skyfall is a brilliant, exhilarating combination of new and old which remakes the franchise while somehow coming full circle and putting Bond back where he began. All this while still moving definitely forward in time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way Bond and M had to battle suggestions of both people and institutions being "too old" and "outdated." M's speech quoting Tennyson is nothing short of genius and it captures exactly the uncertainties of our age where we aren't sure who is a villain and who isn't. Also, as Rose mentioned in our conversation this weekend, if we were British there were times when we'd have been applauding. The movie is unashamedly positive about the necessity of defending and loving Britain, even if one doesn't go on and on about it. (So British, that.)

This is a Bond movie you must see, if you have even the slightest interest in the franchise. And, possibly, even if you don't.

Blogging Around: The "Leftovers Are Good" Edition

Some of these are things I've been meaning to mention, a few are new (after all the best way to eat leftovers is with a little something to make it all seem new, right?).

Joseph Susanka is Blogging
I'm pretty excited since I like his movie commentary.

Sceptre E-Books 
This is great news for anyone who loves the In Conversation with God devotional series the way that I do. You can find the e-books in the usual places.

Catholic Bookstores
Don't forget that your local (or online) Catholic bookstore are often run by local families. They are a great place to do your Christmas shopping.

For example, check out Aquinas and More's Cyber-Monday specials.

Sudden Monday - A Place for Flash Fiction
Ryan Charles Trusell, who many of us know from his Ora et Labora et Zombies project, has flash fiction on the brain.
Sudden Monday is a brand new weekly link-up, hosted by Labora Editions and devoted to sudden fiction, also known as flash fiction, or the short-short story (in this case, fewer than 500 words.) In the future, I will post a new short-short story every Monday with a link-up at the bottom for others to do likewise.
Sudden Monday submission guidelines are here.

Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI
Another thing that really struck me was when he was writing about passages in the Old Testament that seemed to have no context and meaning until the truth was revealed in the New Testament. I just love the term he used ”Word in waiting.” He wrote about how Mary’s yes really was the dividing line between the Old and New Testament. This seems to me to be kind of an ironic reversal. The Old Testament was pregnant with the Word until Mary’s Fiat and the Word was conceived. This is a clumsy analogy on my part, but what the Pope had to say about the “Word in waiting” really made me see some of these passages in the Old Testament in a new light.
Jeff Miller's review both smacks the media for wrong reporting and then tells us what is wonderful about this book. I can't wait to read this!

The Crimes of Galahad by Dr. Boli 
This is the memoir of Galahad Newman Boustead, a young man who decides to live his live scientifically, according to evil principles. Dr. Boli is a favorite stop of mine on the internet and this book sounds hilarious. Turns out, as Will Duquette's review tells us, it is much more.
Although the book made me laugh, it’s by no means a farce; in retrospect, it’s a serious meditation on the relationship between virtue, goodness, and grace, on the limitations of purely human virtue, and on human nature and the natural law. I suspect I’m going to be pondering it for some while.
Judge Upholds Part of Law On Birth-Control Coverage
A federal judge Monday rejected Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.'s request to block part of the federal health-care overhaul that requires the arts-and-craft-supplies company to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after and week-after birth control pills.

U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton denied a request by Hobby Lobby to prevent the government from enforcing portions of the health-care law mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives the company's Christian owners consider objectionable.

The Oklahoma City-based company and a sister company, Mardel Inc., sued the government in September, claiming the mandate violates the owners' religious beliefs.

In his ruling, Judge Heaton said that while churches and other religious organizations have been granted constitutional protection from the birth-control provisions, "Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations."
Associated Press story via The Wall Street Journal
I read this last week but the point about the dangers of a nanny government are clear. Only "religious organizations" are allowed to express their religious beliefs. And employees couldn't possibly decide whether or not they want to work for Hobby Lobby based on their insurance coverage. We knew this was coming but it's another step down that slippery slope. Thank you so much President Obama for taking care of us whether we want it or not, whether we need it or not. Kudos to Hobby Lobby's owners for standing up for their religious rights.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

In which a young girl goes in search of fire from a horrible witch!

The Sea Hag at Forgotten Classics. Many thanks to Joseph for this folk tale. I love hearing the stories he chooses and his insightful comments.

Fog at Julie's house, fog at Scott's place.

Nonetheless they manage to grope their way through a conversation about Bleak House by Charles Dickens.

Get it now at A Good Story is Hard to Find where they also discuss the movies they saw last.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life of Pi

The Writer: You're a Hindu Catholic?
Pi: We get to feel guilty before hundreds of gods.
When I entered the theater I knew virtually nothing about the movie, except that there was something about a boy on a raft with a tiger. As it turns out, that is all I needed to know for this astonishing, thought provoking movie.

Pi (Suraj Sharma) is a sixteen-year-old Indian boy, who survives a shipwreck only to find himself adrift on a lifeboat with a 450 pound, ferocious Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Pi's intelligence and ingenuity are stretched to the limit in surviving on the open seas while figuring out how to coexist with a tiger who is getting hungrier every day.

This story is told by the middle-aged Pi (Irrfan Khan) to an aspiring writer (Rafe Spall) who has been told that Pi's story is worthy of a book. He also has been told, "you had a story that would make me believe in God" which is not quite tossed out as a challenge, although he hastens to add that he does not believe in God. This framework provides a neat parallel to the story Pi tells, which begins with young Pi's constant search for God as he grows from a little boy to a teenager.

Obviously we know that Pi survives the shipwreck because he is telling the story. However that soon becomes forgotten as we are swept up in Pi's struggles. Wound around and through this are amazing images of the world all around him. Using 3-D technology, we are shown vertical views from the bottom of the ocean to the heavens above, with all the inhabitants in between. These views through ultra-clear water add to the wonder and mystical tone of the entire story, as Pi's despair and hope alternate while he surrenders himself to God's will.

Meanwhile, viewers wonder what in this tale will be compelling enough to convince the writer to suddenly believe in God. The answer to that question is one that kept us thinking and discussing the movie the rest of the evening and the day after.

I was really surprised to find a movie with such emphasis on faith and God from such a famous director. I suppose that shows that it really is revolutionary these days to have faith. As I watched, I kept thinking of the stories of Job and Jonah from the Old Testament. This story is a modern version of those tales because it is an examination of modern attitudes to faith, free will, and our response to God. Kudos to Ang Lee for providing an incredible adventure story that didn't soft pedal the religious elements of the book from which it was derived.

PG rating on this movie and I'd say that as long as your kid is ok with animals acting like animals (nature red in tooth and claw), then you're good to go.

SPOILERS

The key to the movie, and especially to the puzzling dual story solution given at the end, is the family dinner when Pi's father talks about the need to be rational. Pi's mother says that he is right if one wants to know the truth about the outside world. However, she adds, faith is good for knowing the truth about what is inside you.

This duality is continued through elements like Pi's name. Piscine is named for the French swimming pool his uncle loved because it was full of such clear water. That name shows Pi's connection to the natural world and his ability to look through the depths for what is really there.

His shortened name, for the number Pi, shows a more rational side, but also Pi is an "irrational number" as the narrator told us ... which made me think that pi is actually a stunningly good way to refute people who want to solely believe in facts, without considering that "truth" comes in many ways. The idea that a number just keeps going and can't be "solved" is in itself a sort of refutation of those who want everything nailed down. Do you chop it off at a few decimal places or do you let the numbers keep spinning out and keep searching the bottomless well for truth?

This also demonstrates Pi's intelligence and that he understands how others think and how to influence them. As well, we are shown he is well versed in the natural world when we see his father teach him with the tiger and the goat.

These elements raise the possibility that Pi's "other story" told to the Japanese investigators is completely fabricated to tell them what makes sense to modern ears and will fit into a report.

In the end, we are left with a new version of "The Lady or the Tiger?"

Either story may be true or false. The interpretation we resonate with is an indicator of our own souls.

The Life of Pi is much like the Old Testament, full of stories of daring and danger which do not make sense to our modern souls which like to weigh everything against concrete, understandable scientific measures. We are ready to call such tales Myth, but does our interpretation see the whole story? We accept the Big Bang, measurable echoes of which still linger, if we know what to listen for. However, Genesis says that God spoke the universe into being.

Creation begins with sound in both cases; one is measurable by science, one by the human heart who looks deeper, is willing to be vulnerable, and who is willing to chance all on God's love. Neither negates the other although there are those who will choose one and call the other false.

As we are reminded, none of us knows why the ship sank (or how the universe began). All we know is what happened afterward from our own vantage point.

Such is the story of Pi. It is not about what you choose to believe, as much as it is about where one finds Truth. Much in the same way that Genesis is a story of faith and not about the Big Bang, we can hold that both stories are true or that only one is. Which one do you choose?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Odds and Ends

10 Sci-Fi Fantasy Shows That Were Canceled Too Soon

A fun list from Paste Magazine which counts down ... and ends up with a show that any frequent visitors here will recognize as a much mourned cancellation. I was pleased to see Better Off Ted, Angel and Wonderfalls included since I enjoyed them greatly in their day. And Carnivale is a show I've always meant to watch, even with the lack of resolution when it was canceled. I can take it.

LibriVox Saved My Sanity

A love letter to the free audiobook resource that volunteers (and love of books) built. Like Ga√ętan L. Charlebois, I also love LibriVox as you may have gathered. His praise of Elizabeth Klett is well founded, but allow me to direct your attention to my own favorite LibriVox readers.

Adventhology

Ryan Trusell from Ora et Labora et Zombies doesn't rest upon his laurels. Adventhology is a new "micropublishing adventure that brings together four short pieces by four well-known Catholic bloggers, united by the common theme of the season of Advent and its culmination at Christmas. Each piece is published separately, as its own small booklet, of fine paper with a hand-printed softcover." Written by Dorian Speed, Brandon Vogt, Dan Lord, and Simcha Fisher. Read more at Adventhology.

By the way, Ryan has got a new look for his website and begun blogging. Check it out.

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 33

Sunset Blvd. title card
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim

"The poor dope. He always wanted a pool."
The movie begins watching a dead man floating in a pool with a voice over from the man himself. You then hear this quote and you remember that Billy Wilder's dialogue crackles with verve and multiple layers of meaning.

We then flash back to see the story of Joe (William Holden) who is an aspiring screenwriter but on the run from repo men when he dodges into a driveway to throw them off the track. He finds a dilapidated house from the 1920's and Gloria Swanson as the equally dilapidated former silent screen star who lives in the past and is planning her comeback. Joe finds himself lured into becoming her rewrite man and gigolo.

It is an unforgettable film that is a blistering expose of Hollywood which still holds true today. Interestingly many stars of the silent screen had parts in this to add authenticity and Cecil B. DeMille actually played a much more significant role than we would have thought ... and did so with surprising gentleness and charm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Life of Pi and Movie End Cards


I can't give a review of this movie until Nov. 21, when it opens on the week of Thanksgiving, but I can highly recommend it.

Hard to imagine Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) doing a movie that is so completely infused with faith and the search for God, but that is the crux of the movie.

It is PG and we were told at the screening that it is a "family movie."

Be aware that it is a family movie as done by Ang Lee, which is to say that it takes nature seriously and treats it realistically as much as can be done in this tale.

Think "The Yearling," "Old Yeller," or "Bambi" (remember that even Walt Disney killed off Bambi's mother; the book was much more realistic). I wouldn't advise taking small children to see this film.

Don't be afraid to see the 3D version. This movie is gorgeous.

Just wanted to give movie goers a chance to fit this into their schedule.

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

On the way out we scored one of the above movie posters.

However, the image from the very end of the credits was one that we applauded. The Life of Pi's card had a plain black background, but you get the idea. We'd read about this initiative to show why movie piracy is important to stop and that the reason your movie ticket costs what it does. I like it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Thing I Don't Understand #7*: Complaints About Small Type in Books

I hear nothing but praise for large type and damning of small type in books.

At the book club, I showed my Collectors Library edition of Jane Eyre,delighting in the small format, someone dismissed me with, "Oh you still can read small type."

As if I haven't heard this one before and she couldn't see the glasses on my face.

Then this morning I read someone who said, "I couldn't read the small type. Must be my aged eyes."

My question: is this not the modern age? Have we not got reading glasses? Why the complaints?

As someone who has worn glasses since the 4th grade for nearsightedness and whose eyes have aged in the expected manner so that I now have some farsightedness, I wear trifocals (smoothed over so y'all can't tell ... ha!)

Man up, get some reading glasses and stop forcing those of us who do to lug around gigantic books with monstrous type of the sort that used to be featured only in the Dick and Jane stories for tykes.

(I'm talking about the "average" here, not the unusual exception condition ... so we need not go there.)

* Numbered in no particular order except that I'm sure there are six other things I don't understand more often than this. Be glad I didn't drag you through those questions so early in the day! :-)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Everlasting Feast by Tamar Adler

Tamar Adler was inspired by M.F.K. Fisher's How to Eat a Wolf. Is she a worthy successor to the legacy of eating well using simple ingredients?

My review is at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Jane Eyre or Katniss?

What do our heroines say about our culture?

Heroines Past and Present is the topic of discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Joseph Susanka and two other guests (including my own daughter Rose) join Scott and me for our first "topic" discussion.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

No one wants their first words of the day to be, "Damn it" ...

... when they hear the election results on the clock radio. (Yes, we still have one of those.)

But there were the results and there I was.

It took a while to regain perspective and recall that I am, in fact, a monarchist. As one of that family, my duty is to convey His Majesty's wishes as best I can in this minor principality to which I have been assigned.

I do my best. And sometimes it can get me down. But I answer to a higher power, a monarch who has all our best interests deep in his sacred heart.

For now, that is enough.

And I curse no more.


NOTE
If you don't click through on the "monarchist" link this post might not make sense. I count on HC readers to be thorough! :-)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An Election Day Prayer

From The Curt Jester.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.

– St. Teresa of Avila
Reading Yours is the Church by Mike Aquilina last week, I was struck by a comment he made about not letting things like current events get you down. The Church has been here for 2,000 years. Before us, God guided the Hebrews for ... what ... 2,000 years before that. We do the best we can with what we've got in front of us and trust in God's providence.

So I'll go to vote at lunch and trust that we will all do our best ... in charity ... in love ... in wanting the best for each other, even if we disagree on how best to do it.

(I'm just glad I don't have to vote on some of the issues that Rose was reading to us from the L.A. County voters ballot info. Ugh.)

May God bless us and our country.

Now get out there and vote!

[UPDATED] Elements of Faith Book Club - 2013 Books Selected

For several years now our Catholic women's book club, Elements of Faith, has met on the first Monday of the month to discuss a wide variety of books. Only five of us were at last night's meeting, which put everyone else at our mercy for the diverse selection of books we chose for next year.

I thought I'd share it in case anyone else is interested in reading along. Interestingly, although there are several overlaps with the A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast selections, I was responsible for very few.

If you live in Dallas and are interested in joining us, please do contact me (my email is in the sidebar). You don't have to even be Catholic as long as you are interested in respectful book talk from that point of view.

I will post these on the Goodreads group also. There is not any conversation there usually, but it would be most welcome if anyone is interested.

Next Meeting
Monday, December 3
7-9 p.m.

Reading: Happy Catholic by Julie Davis (This was NOT my idea!)

Upcoming Books
 
  • January: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • February: Introduction to the Devout Life* by St. Francis de Sales
  • March: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • April: Yours is the Church by Mike Aquilina
  • May: The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey
  • June: The Dumb Ox by G.K. Chesterton
  • July: The Brothers Karamazov* by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (note: this is one of our big books and we encourage beginning reading several months before we will discuss it)
  • August: Tobit (Old Testament)
  • September: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • October: Confessions* by St. Augustine (note: another of our big books which we encourage spending several months reading before discussion)
  • November: Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith
* Recommendations for which translation to use are welcome!

UPDATE

I realized I missed a book from our list, our piece of scripture to read together during the year ... Tobit! It introduces us to the angel Raphael and also is the only piece of scripture to feature a lovable dog. Or a dog of any sort. :-)

Only two of us were truly gung ho about Mark Twain's Joan of Arc, so we'll put that back on the list to consider for next year.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Suicide by Choice? Not So Fast

I received this link last week from a friend who said: "An interesting article in the New York Times by a man who suffers profound disabilities. The writer explains he is against the assisted-suicide bill pending in Massachusetts (I think) because of concerns that disabled patients might be coerced into death."

It was enlightening indeed.
NEXT week, voters in Massachusetts will decide whether to adopt an assisted-suicide law. As a good pro-choice liberal, I ought to support the effort. But as a lifelong disabled person, I cannot.

There are solid arguments in favor. No one will be coerced into taking a poison pill, supporters insist. The “right to die” will apply only to those with six months to live or less. Doctors will take into account the possibility of depression. There is no slippery slope.

Fair enough, but I remain skeptical. There’s been scant evidence of abuse so far in Oregon, Washington and Montana, the three states where physician-assisted death is already legal, but abuse — whether spousal, child or elder — is notoriously underreported, and evidence is difficult to come by. What’s more, Massachusetts registered nearly 20,000 cases of elder abuse in 2010 alone.

My problem, ultimately, is this: I’ve lived so close to death for so long that I know how thin and porous the border between coercion and free choice is, how easy it is for someone to inadvertently influence you to feel devalued and hopeless — to pressure you ever so slightly but decidedly into being “reasonable,” to unburdening others, to “letting go.”

Perhaps, as advocates contend, you can’t understand why anyone would push for assisted-suicide legislation until you’ve seen a loved one suffer. But you also can’t truly conceive of the many subtle forces — invariably well meaning, kindhearted, even gentle, yet as persuasive as a tsunami — that emerge when your physical autonomy is hopelessly compromised.
Do go read the whole thing, especially if you live in an area where this is an issue to be voted upon tomorrow.

I Greet You, People of the Past

I will not turn my clock back. I will be living one hour in the future. I greet you, the People of the Past. Your ways are quaint.
Best Twitter Quote of the Day ... via Joseph Susanka.

Health-Care Law Spurs a Shift to Part-Time Workers

Some low-wage employers are moving toward hiring part-time workers instead of full-time ones to mitigate the health-care overhaul's requirement that large companies provide health insurance for full-time workers or pay a fee.

Several restaurants, hotels and retailers have started or are preparing to limit schedules of hourly workers to below 30 hours a week. That is the threshold at which large employers in 2014 would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 for each worker.
The Wall Street Journal's story Health-Care Law Spurs a Shift to Part-Time Workers discusses a change that never even occurred to me in considering the Affordable Care Act. When does health insurance hurt workers? When employers are squeezed so that they can't take any other measures.

Reading the article, I thought these employers were jerks. And then I got to the examples.
Pillar Hotels & Resorts this summer began to focus more on hiring part-time workers among its 5,500 employees, after the Supreme Court upheld the health-care overhaul, said Chief Executive Chris Russell. The company has 210 franchise hotels, under the Sheraton, Fairfield Inns, Hampton Inns and Holiday Inns brands.

"The tendency is to say, 'Let me fill this position with a 40-hour-a-week employee.' "Mr. Russell said. "I think we have to think differently."

Pillar offers health insurance to employees who work 32 hours a week or more, but only half take it, and Mr. Russell wants to limit his exposure to rising health-care costs. He said he planned to pursue new segments of the population, such as senior citizens, to find workers willing to accept part-time employment.
And I had to think differently. This employer is offering insurance in good faith. But the government's Affordable Care Act would penalize him for something that half of his employees are essentially turning down. They evidently don't need it.

And the employers are going to have to find ways around it to survive.

A bad situation forced upon all of them by the lack of thought that went into the Affordable Care Act.

If you have to ask, you're streets behind.

Pierce: Ay-bed, your social skills aren't exactly "streets ahead." Know what I mean?

Abed: [thinks] I don't.

Jeff: You're not alone in this case. Pierce, stop trying to coin the phrase "streets ahead."

Pierce: Trying? Coined and minted! Been there, coined that! "Streets ahead" is verbal... wildfire!

Annie: Does it just mean "cool," or is it supposed to be like, "miles ahead"?

Pierce: If you have to ask, you're streets behind.
Any Community watchers remember the episode where Pierce tried to coin "streets ahead" as slang. Which rapidly spread throughout the campus.

However, Rose was watching Help (that great old Beatles movie) lately and was stunned that one of the electricians used "streets ahead" as slang. Yes, way back in 1965 in England.

Turns out it is actual British slang.

In looking around, Tom found this great site, Not One Off Britishisms, which tells us all about it.

Who knew we were all streets behind on this? No one. That's who.

Hurricane Sandy and Hard Times

What a week last week was. I knew it would be tough, as it always is when I'm working on this catalog which requires evenings and weekends to stay abreast. This year, since a redesign which will make the products shine even better, the workload is triple to change it over, although the time allotted remains the same. So there's a tendency to just hunker down, work and not be able to look up long.

We also struggled with Tom's car which had a battery going out but which took all week to solve, for reasons which I won't bore everyone with. So we were down to one car. And, to top it off, Tom finally went to the doctor for myriad small problems plaguing him only to find out that they all added up to one cause: a gall stone. He'll have the sonogram today to confirm it, but he's been feeling a bit under the weather and fatigued.

A statue of the Virgin Mary sits amid rubble in the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., Tuesday. Fire destroyed at least 80 homes there as Sandy hit the beachfront community.

Via St. Peter's List, via Patricia.
So ... all that is nothing compared to what struck Haiti, Cuba, and the East Coast in the form of Hurricane Sandy. I recall remembering to ask someone last week, "What ever happened with that hurricane? Did it hit or miss?" And was told it did indeed hit, with a vengeance.

I checked in with personal friends via email or their blogs after hearing the news. I'm so thankful that they all seem to have weathered the storm fairly well.

I listened with interest over the weekend to the Bowery Boys podcast with their overview of the hurricane and the broad effects on NYC. I recommend it for the historical and personal in a good blend of what's happening. They have a list of disaster services to which you can donate.

I myself use The Salvation Army thanks to family history where they came through for Tom's father when he returned from World War II with no money and no way to get to Texas from California.

Of course, Catholic Charities is another excellent choice for donating.

I have been saying little prayers after getting that news, whenever the disaster would come to mind, but here is something that helps us all keep perspective, whether it is a gall stone or a hurricane ... these times of trouble give us all a chance to come together to help each other and to bring us closer to God. My constant prayer has been that those affected will see God bringing something good out of the bad ...

Here is a prayer from Catholic Online that is a bit more formal:
IN TIME OF NEED
Heavenly Father,
in my present need,
help me to believe that you are aware of my anxiety
and will do what is best for me.
Give me the strength to trust you
and put the present and future in your hands.

Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
And for a bit of visual calm and beauty, here is one of Remo Savisaar's gorgeous photographs.

Autumn
taken by Remo Savisaar
Remo's place is a good one to browse for a bit of the beauty that reminds us that there is a larger reality than the one we face at the moment. Nature shows us glimpses of God's nature. May we all find healing and peace in Remo's photos there.

Many thanks to Patricia for her email ... which prompted this post.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Commemoration of All Souls [Updated]

The Day of the Dead, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Today we dedicate our prayers in suffrage for the souls in purgatory, still being purified of the remains of sin. Our ties with deceased relatives and friends do not end with their death. Priests can celebrate Mass three times on this day for their benefit, and all the faithful can gain special indulgences to expedite their entrance into heaven.

I heard this when listening to Pray-As-You-Go this morning. It is the translation of the beautiful, yet mournful music for the day. It touched my heart and made me contemplate more deeply the mysteries of faith, life, and death.
Free the souls of all the faithful departed.
Free them from the pains of hell.
Free them from the deep pit.
Free them from the lion's mouth.
Make them pass from death to life.

==========

As I listen, I may want to pray too for the people I know who have died or perhaps to contemplate in these moments the ultimate hope that God offers me of freedom from all things that threaten and trouble me: the promise God makes me of eternal life.

This dovetailed with the reading from today that touched my heart most, surprisingly, to me, from Wisdom. Reading it line by line, I felt that ache of missing those I love, but the surety that God offers for the faithful departed.
Wis 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.

But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.

As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.

Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
I think today of my beloved dead. I love them and I miss them. Certainly, I pray for them to be happy and joyful in Heaven. And I long to see God's face ... which is a surprising longing for me to be experiencing. But one which I accept gratefully.
  • Our two unborn children 
  • Dad
  • GG
  • Raymond
  • Thelma
  • Grandmama
  • Deedah
  • Tom's father
  • Mrs. Ford
  • Robin Ford
  • Jeanmarie
  • Sydney
  • Matthew
  • Ivar
  • Dorsey
  • Carole
  • Heath
  • Phyllis
  • Aunt Laura
  • Uncle Adolph
  • Mark
  • Maggie Garcia
  • Sarah Arnold
  • Gregg Margarite
Rest Eternal Grant Them, Lord!
Take we up the touching burden of November plaints,
Pleading for the Holy Souls, God’s yet uncrowned Saints.
Still unpaid to our departed is the debt we owe;
Still unransomed, some are pining, sore oppressed with woe.
Friends we loved and vowed to cherish call us in their need:
Prove we now our love was real, true in word and deed.
“Rest eternal grant them, Lord!” full often let us pray—
“Requiem √¶ternam dona eis, Domine!”
Here is a litany for the souls in Purgatory.

You can read more about All Souls' Day here. For those with any questions about Purgatory I posted this extremely basic explanation a while back.

Catholic Culture explains indulgences and practices that Catholics can do during the month of November for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Also be sure to swing by Recta Ratio, who's really got soul ... check out his place. In the past he has examined such fascinating topics as Catholic death customs, especially medieval ones.