Monday, September 30, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: How to Cook a Hare

How to Cook a Hare
taken by EatingAsia's David Hagerman
Yes, this should probably be called How to Eat a Hare, but I went with the post title. If you haven't ever perused EatingAsia, you'll find a fascinating look at culture, food, and travel in places like Turkey, Georgia (the country), Taipei and many other places I'll probably never get to visit. Plus gorgeous photography, of course.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Well Said: Loving the Blessed Virgin

From my quote journal.
Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did.
Maximilian Kolbe
You know, I never thought of it like that. Though my own inclination tends to be to forget all about the Blessed Virgin altogether. Not in the importance of the big picture, of course, but just in my every day life. Which is probably a bit less than Jesus would like ... I mean, she is the first of all disciples and definitely worthy of me keeping her example and help in mind.

My Inadvertent Participation in Banned Books Week

Not that I wouldn't gladly plan to defiantly read a banned book. "Take that, small-minded censors! Ha!" (And I'd flourish the book and toss my head and so forth.)

It's just that I didn't realize it was Banned Books Week until Dappled Things mentioned it. (They also hadn't realized it.)

Imagine my gratification at discovering I already was reading a Banned Book.

And then my consternation at discovering I was reading a Banned Book.

Someone banned or challenged The Lord of the Rings?

Oh, J.R.R. Tolkien, what have you wrought in The Lord of the Rings, to be thus summarily dismissed (or at least to have such a dismissal attempted)? Is it the elves? Is it the magic? Is it the hobbits? Is it the triumph of good over evil ... the use of seemingly unimportant people to do tremendous works of salvation? I'm stumped.

Though on a completely different tack than banned books, it's the first time I've read the whole thing this deliberately and slowly. Just taking in all the scenery on the way instead of dashing to the finish line of the great adventure. I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Lift for My Day: Forgotten Classics in the "What's Hot" iTunes podcasts

Granted, it is featured in the Literature category, a sub-set of the Arts category in podcasts.

Still, it was a decidedly wonderful surprise when I was skimming podcasts to see if some new interesting podcast has begun ... and I saw Forgotten Classics featured. Right in the same special spot as Scott Sigler, Grammar Girl, CraftLit, and The Classic Tales Podcast!

It's funny how little it takes sometimes to put a bright new gloss on the day. Right? A nice little treat along with the fun I've been having looking for a 1930's style science fiction / adventure type story which one of my regular listeners requested, "Something like The Green Girl."

It does keep it all fun, and that is the point after all ... along with doing all I can to tempt people to try some of these forgotten classics which I love.

Well Said: Jesus complicates our life ...

From the Sunday, year B, reflection. Yeah, I know it's year C. Who sez it isn't a good idea to mark up your books? Sometimes you pull out the next devotional volume, flip to the front, and have your eye caught by that bracket in the margin, which yields this gem ... one I need to write on an index card and take everywhere with me.
Jesus Christ complicates our life in a way no other person can. He asks us to follow him through a complete identification of our will with his own.
Francis Fernandez, In Conversation With God, vol. 5

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Bookplate

A bookplate
created by Daniel Mitsui

I love the cat on the monk's shoulder. That touch of humor makes the bookplate sparkle. If you haven't visited Daniel Mitsui's website you are missing a chance to support or at the very least enjoy a modern artist who works in the old style.

Daniel's family could also use your prayers as you may read at this link.

It's All Downhill From Here: Church of Trek

From Futurama, via Wikipedia

A little humor to get us through the rest of the week.

This is particularly appropriate considering my conversation about Galaxy Quest with Scott at A Good Story is Hard to Find, where Star Trek as religion was a topic. Indeed, Scott's the one who popped this into a Twitter feed.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Really Good Prayer ... Again

I first wrote this back in 2004 and have since written enough posts that Blogger won't let me get to it to repost ... so I'm just popping it in as a new post.

It has been said by a particular pal of mine, may his straight talk never fail, that when I am simply putting up a quote of the day and a piece of art, then it feels as if I am not really "here." Truth to tell, sometimes I only have time for that and that alone.

However, lately I have been involved in particular struggles. You might call them a cross. That would be right. I was promised crosses, as were we all, by our Lord. The thing with crosses is that they are never pleasant or they wouldn't be the cross. Of course. 

At any rate, the real saving grace which has led to much peace for me is this prayer, which I wrote about so long ago. Whenever the main mover behind this particular cross comes to mind, I try to always say this prayer ... for me and for this person. I also ask Jesus to show me what He finds so lovable about this individual. Because I know He sees so much deeper than I can on my own. 

It occurs to me that it has been a very long time since I've mentioned the "Lord, have mercy on me" prayer. With all that in mind, I share it again below.


Here is a prayer that never fails. It is excellent for those times when someone is crunching popcorn in your ear while you are watching "The Passion", when the choir won't stop practicing even though they did not reserve the room that you need to use, or when you find yourself in the situation I did yesterday ... talking to a very angry man who treats you contemptuously as a simple fool. In other words, it is perfect for helping deal with the irritations and stress of daily life.
Lord, have mercy on me and bless them.
This simple prayer is proof that you do not have to "feel" the prayer. You simply must be willing to say it, however grudgingly. Considering the circumstances that lead up to it, I always am upset and irritated whenever I say it. Do I actually want those annoying people to be blessed? Hmph, I should say not! (At least I don't feel as if I do, although I am going to the effort of saying the prayer...) In fact, yesterday I was shaking with anger when I suddenly realized that prayer was running over and over in my head. But it is the classic case of "ask and you shall receive." Whenever I say it, I never fail to be reminded of my many imperfections, my pride, and that we are all sinners together. Often that is just what I need to calm down and let my anger go.

In fact, yesterday I was given much more than that. I actually was able to walk away without getting sucked into further argument. I let him "win." So he thinks I'm an idiot? OK, fine. Believe me, that's not my way. No matter how hard I have fought with myself, I never have been able to do that before. It was all grace, an amazing triumph over my worst instincts, an answer to prayer for which I am very grateful.

I realized that angry man actually was the answer to a prayer for humility. That's another prayer that usually is fairly grudging. I know I need it. I know its good for me. But I know it hurts. Why is it that those prayers always are answered so quickly? Maybe its because that is the path that takes us closest to where we should be ... death to self, doing everything for the glory of God.

I was left with peace in my heart, an ability to pray for the man to truly be blessed, and an appreciation of humility (again). This morning's prayer for humility was much more sincere. What a great ending to that encounter. Thanks be to God for that simple prayer and for His quick answers.

Worth a Thousand Words: Alcock Nelson Jug

By VAwebteam at en.wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 , from Wikimedia Commons

Look at the intricacy of this jug. Simply amazing and just in case you, like me, didn't realize just how much is conveyed visually, here is a brief description.
Subjects Depicted - The jug bears copies of the reliefs sculpted on the base of Nelson's Column, in Trafalgar Square, which was only about 10 years old in 1852. Admiral Horatio, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805) defeated the French at the Battle of Trafalgar where he died in 1805. The Neptune figure on the handle and other marine motifs emphasise Nelson's maritime prowess.

People - Alfred Henry Forrester (1804-1872) (under the pseudonym of Alfred Crowquill) with his brother Charles Robert (under the pseudonym of Hal Willis) contributed pen-and-ink sketches to periodicals, and exhibited works at the Royal Academy. He wrote and illustrated over 20 humorous works including the Tour of Dr Syntax (1838) and also illustrated his brother's works. He designed 19 objects for Alcock's stand at the Great Exhibition, including a Plate of All Nations, fairy and nautilus cups, a snail ring holder, a butterfly pen holder, and a lily cup and saucer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Leere Flasche 2

Leere Flasche 2
by the brilliant Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: Talk sense to a fool ...

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.
Euripides, from Bacchae
This was today's Goodreads quote and it hit a chord with me immediately, making me think also of Jesus' comment about not casting pearls before swine.
This whole area can seem as clear as mud sometimes. It is something that I have been reflecting upon lately, along with Christ's counsel, "... be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

At any rate, Euripides hits the nail on the head from a practical angle and this is going into my quote journal.

UPDATED: A Big Heart Open to God - Pope Francis's Exclusive Interview

I finished reading the Pope's interview over the weekend and was very happy I did so. Above all the other reasons which most news medias reported (which way will he lead the Church, what does he think about this or that issue, etc.) ... was that I got a look into this priest myself based on his answers.

Since Pope Francis's election I have not felt that I "connected" very well with our new pontiff. I know there have been some hastily written books about him, but I wanted to hear from him in his own words. This interview solves that desire.

I really like the person I "met" because he is thoughtful, smart, willing to take time for discernment, willing to listen to others (but not afraid to make up his own mind), and in many ways makes me think of our pastor. I think out pastor would be very surprised to hear that, but the things which Pope Francis urges us to do (slow down, discern, be slow to anger, think of the whole person, and so forth) are the very things I have heard spoken of so many times, both in homilies or private conversation.

Tom is reading it now and is struck the same way so far. It has led to some fascinating conversations around the house.

I very highly recommend reading this interview (link to pdf below).


Whispers in the Loggia tells us that early in his pontificate Pope Francis sought out the editor of Civiltà Cattolica – the authoritative Italian Jesuit journal vetted by the Holy See before it goes to press and gave an extensive interview.
In English, the result of the conversation – touching on issues ranging from sin, sexuality, the Curia and the pre-Conciliar liturgy to family, politics, books and film – is available via the UK's Thinking Faith and the US' America magazine. On its release today, Spadaro called the encounter "one of the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life."

Francis approved the original Italian text of the interview before its translation in the relevant languages.

As the story begins to blow up the news-cycle, you will want to read the full text. Repeat: you will want to read the full text, so have at it.
So the interview is out and we all want to read it. Don't we? Of course we do!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend Joke: Headlines

In this case our weekend humor comes from funny Wall Street Journal headlines that I've collected. I don't know who writes these but every so often they go on a jag, especially in the business section, and I comb the paper looking for them.

  • Peugeot Still Has Trouble Turning
  • China SUV Maker Has Great Wall to Climb
  • Hostess Crumbs Swept Up
  • Self-Driving Cars Accelerate

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Julie thinks the aliens are *SO* cute. Scott asks her if she ever watched the show.

Yep. It's Galaxy Quest time at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. We're off for the ultimate space adventure. Or science fiction convention. It's one of those, we're pretty sure.

Quick Asian-Style Dumpling Soup

Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. You want a bowl of this. I'm just sayin' ...

Worth a Thousand Words: The Hobbit

I'm rereading The Hobbit for the umpteenth time for my Catholic women's book club and one of the sheer delights is examining the illustrations which were drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien himself. This cover shows his unique style and I simply love it.

I snagged this from The Art of Manliness, by the way, which has up a very good piece which I recommend, Lessons in Manliness: The Hobbit.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

And, here to help us celebrate it, is one of my favorite cartoons, Savage Chickens!

You'll find a slew of pirate cartoons at Savage Chickens, all very funny.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Review: Catholicism - The New Evangelization from Father Robert Barron

I've been a fan of Father Barron's ever since reading his book Catholicism (my review here) and then getting to watch the DVDseries it was written to accompany. He's personable, reasonable, relatable, and communicates joyful faith. Anyone who has seen him on YouTube already knows that but since that's not where I hang out, I was pleased to encounter such a "normal" Catholic. As a more important litmus test, my husband is a big fan and that's not an easy accomplishment where religious broadcasting is concerned.

I was really surprised when I picked up the mail yesterday and found Father Barron's Catholicism: The New Evangelization dvds and study guide (written by Brandon Vogt, who I have met and respect a great deal). I never get review items like this so it was a wonderful treat.

We didn't wait, but watched the main dvd last night.

What's it about? The dvd package puts it best of all, I find.
CATHOLICISM taught us what the Church believes and why.

CATHOLICISM: The New Evangelization shows us how to put our faith into action.
The main message is documentary style and takes us through evangelization in the recent past after Vatican II and today with emphasis on ministries by lay people. Father Barron discusses not only major objections to the Church but movements and individuals who answer those objections through both traditional and new methods (such as new media).

I would say the one thing gap I noticed was that Father Barron tended to focus on ministry begun to "tell people about Christ or the Church" especially within the context of using new media. This is very understandable because it is where he himself is focused. It is too bad that they didn't find a few lay people who found themselves caught up in ministries simply because their joy couldn't be contained and the Catholicism was part of the whole package. It is a quibble, I realize, but there you go. It is how I fall into ministries myself and so I felt that area was left unaddressed.

I came away from this viewing feeling inspired. Joyful. Part of something bigger than I am.

And that was exactly what I needed that very evening. (No coincidences, as I said.) It allowed me to completely take my mind off of my own frustrations and recall that any ministry I am involved in is because I encountered Christ there ... because I felt such joy and surprise and ... yes ... love that I couldn't wait for others to experience it too.

The New Evangelization imbued me with that feeling once again.

It comes with a study book suitable for individuals or parish use. I haven't read the entire thing, but I continually caught myself reading on where I meant to skim. Brandon Vogt's style is engaging, compelling, and nicely complements Father Barron's dvd. The other dvds have additional interviews and materials for a study or formation program.

I'm going to give this to our priest and ask where he may need help in our parish with any new evangelization seeds that it plants. (As Tom points out, our parish is pretty active, but you never can tell where the need is not being met.)

Highly recommended.

Worth a Thousand Words: Nightjar

taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar
Be sure to click through on the link to see the photo at full size. There is an artistry in the nightjar's feathers that is breathtaking.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Max

by the brilliant Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: Conventional Wisdom

From my quote journal. I remember being dumbfounded recently when learning that "conventional wisdom" was an invented phrase that specifically means what I always thought it did ... rather than what it is often put forward as meaning, which is "true wisdom."

The following excerpt is heavily edited to get at the essence but I can highly recommend the entire chapter.
Just as truth ultimately serves to create a consensus, so in the short run does acceptability. Ideas come to be organized around what the community as a whole or particular audiences find acceptable.

Numerous factors contribute to the acceptability of ideas. To a large extent, of course, we associate truth with convenience—with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. ... But perhaps most important of all, people approve most of what they best understand. ... Therefore we adhere, as though to a raft, to those ideas which represent our understanding.

Because familiarity is such an important test of acceptability, the acceptable ideas have great stability. They are highly predictable. It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability. I shall refer to these ideas henceforth as the Conventional Wisdom. [...]

The enemy of conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events. As I have noted, the conventional wisdom accommodates itself not to the world that it is meant to interpret, but to the audience's view of the world. Since the latter remains with the comfortable and the familiar, while the world moves on, the conventional wisdom is always in danger of obsolescence. [...]

Ideas need to be tested by their ability, in combination with events, to overcome inertia and resistance. This inertia and resistance the conventional wisdom provides.
John Kenneth Galbraith,
The Affluent Society

Notes on Mark: When the King Comes Into His Own

MARK 8:38-9:1
I really always think of Jesus as being confident, especially when he is speaking to his disciples. However, I never really associated it with what Barclay speaks of here ... the seemingly insurmountable odds against success.
One thing leaps out of this passage -- the confidence of Jesus. He has just been speaking of his death; he has no doubt that the Cross stands ahead of him; but nonetheless he is absolutely sure that in the end there will be triumph...

The last part of the passage has caused much serious thought. Jesus says that many who are standing there will not die until they see the Kingdom coming with power. What worries some people is that they take this as a reference to the Second Coming; but if it is, Jesus was mistaken, because he did not return in power and glory in the lifetime of those who were there.

But this is not a reference to the Second Coming at all. Consider the situation. At the moment Jesus had only once been outside Palestine, and on that occasion he was just over the border in Tyre and Sidon. Only a very few men in a very small country had ever heard of him. Palestine was only about 120 miles from north to south and about 40 miles from east to west; her total population was 4,000,000 or thereby. To speak in terms of world conquest when he had scarcely ever been outside such a small country was strange. To make matters worse, even in that small country, he had so provoked the enmity of the orthodox leaders and of those in whose hands lay power, that it was quite certain that he could hope for nothing other than death as a heretic and an outlaw. In face of a situation like that there must have been many who felt despairingly that Christianity had no possible future, that in a short time it would be wiped out completely and eliminated from the world. Humanly speaking, these pessimists were right.

Now consider what did happen. Scarcely more than thirty years later, Christianity had swept through Asia Minor; Antioch had become a great Christian church. It had penetrated to Egypt; the Christians were strong in Alexandria. It had crossed the sea and come to Rome and swept through Greece. Christianity had spread like an unstoppable tide throughout the world. It was astonishingly true that in the lifetime of many there, against all expectations, Christianity had come with power. So far from being mistaken, Jesus was absolutely right.

The amazing thing is that Jesus never knew despair. In face of the dullness of the minds of men, in the face of the opposition, in face of crucifixion and of death, he never doubted his final triumph -- because he never doubted God. He was always certain that what is impossible with man is completely possible with him.
The Gospel of Mark
(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

What I'm Reading — Genghis Khan: Emperor of All Men by Harold Lamb

This book has been on my To Read stack for some time. Gripped anew by determination to work my way through the books in my house before seeking out others, I picked it up this weekend and have really been enjoying it. (Hey, it's not how many times we fail, but how many times we begin anew that instills virtue, right? I'm counting on that, by the way.)

Genghis Khan: Emperor of All MenGenghis Khan: Emperor of All Men by Harold Lamb

Harold Lamb was fascinated by the people and history of Asia which greatly influenced his fictional short stories, many featuring Cossacks or Mongols as heroes. His fascination just as greatly influenced his string of popular nonfiction histories, of which Genghis Khan was the first, written in 1927. Eventually his skill with nonfiction led to Cecil B. DeMille hiring him as technical advisor and screenwriter on several films.

Lamb's style of writing is easy to read, probably because he began his writing career with his exciting adventure stories. He paints a picture, in this novel at least, of Genghis Khan the man, rather than as simply a leader of Mongolian hordes. The introduction nicely sets him in the context of European history by showing the panic and terror expressed in historical documents of the time. Indeed, one of the chief features which impresses me thus far is that Lamb's sources go back to the very earliest Chinese documents mentioning this particular Khan. The resources list in the back is extremely impressive, as are Lamb's notes about them.

Lamb expressed dismay that modern historians of his time tended to forget that all historical mentions of Genghis Kahn were written by his enemies. Therefore any actual facts had to be teased out of opinions rendered by those who left a written record, which was not a thing the Mongols valued or bothered with. It is also refreshing that Lamb doesn't interject his own opinion or agenda into any of the attitudes or actions of those I have thus read. He simply tells the story of Genghis Khan as best as it can be reconstructed. Would that more of our modern historians would follow this method.

Thus far this is a fascinating book, made all the more so by the hardships and adventures of the great Khan's life and times. Also, of course, it is an easy way to absorb the history of a time and place that are very foreign to us. As I think of the terror of those in Genghis Khan's path, who found his actions and attitudes incomprehensible, it makes me think of the current problems our civilization faces with terrorist threats. History may not literally repeat itself but patterns of behavior do in such a way that we can see connections and this seems to be one of those times.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Which is Quicker? Outwaiting 199 book readers or 51 book listeners?

Reading Jeff Miller's review of The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith at Goodreads this morning made me interested in reading it. I remember hearing that J.K. Rowling had written a mystery under a pseudonym which I thought was a good way to see if she could write an adult book without the hoopla that now accompanies her name.

I didn't stop to even mentally register the pseudonym although the rest of Dallas evidently did. I was in a quandary as to which version of the book I should request when faced with monumental numbers waiting ahead of me. It takes longer to listen to a book than to read it, but then some people are slow readers. Did that make the 51 audio requests equal to the 199 print requests?

Then, oh happy day, I found I could request both versions. Kind of like sending your kid to stand in the  grocery line next to you in case it moves faster. (Yes, I've done it. We all have.)

I'm curious to see which line gets me there the fastest ...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz

A Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family & Faith Throughout the Christian YearA Continual Feast: A Cookbook to Celebrate the Joys of Family & Faith Throughout the Christian Year by Evelyn Birge Vitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At Pentecost a few years ago the usefulness of food for teaching religious ideas really became apparent to me. I was trying to explain to my children what Pentecost was, and their eyes were getting that glassy look that mothers know so well. I was losing them fast. Then (providential inspiration?) I declared, "We are going to bake a cake to eat on the great feast of Pentecost. How shall we decorate it?" Now, as it happens, my children love to decorate cakes and cookies. Their eyes brightened and their ears pricked up. We made a pretty wild-looking bakery item, with flames and doves and rays of light, but we all had a wonderful time, and they certainly knew what Pentecost was by the time we were through.
Evelyn Vitz goes on to give a recipe for making and decorating the Pentecost Cake, but as we can see, this is much more than a cookbook. As the subtitle says, it is: "A cookbook to celebrate the joys of family and faith throughout the Christian year." This book is perfect for the family who wants their faith present in every part of their lives, including the kitchen and dining room.

The first half of the book focuses on "All the days of our lives" with meals for celebrations, daily dining, and hospitality. This is also where the section on fasting and meat-free meals is included. As Vitz points out, abstinence from meat is still required of American Catholics unless they replace it with some other form of penance or good work. And that puts it squarely in the regular part of our meal planning lives.

"The Christian Year" is the focus of the second half which is organized according to the liturgical calendar. Vitz gives good explanations of the evolution and meanings of different customs and rites. Aimed primarily at Catholic and Orthodox families there is still a lot of information for exploration by Protestant families interested in tradition. The recipes in this section include a big section for saints days and special feast days, organized by season.

Lovely drawings and food-faith quotes are scattered throughout the book in pertinent spots. Some of the recipes are simple, some complex, and they are drawn from countries around the world. All were obviously chosen a lot of care and I was impressed with the range. Most of all, though, Evelyn Vitz's warm personality and love of faith come through in every headnote for each recipe.

Here's a sample recipe that caught my eye since autumn is upon us, which means All Souls Day looms ever nearer (November 2). I want to try these.
Beans of the dead
Fave Dei Morti

Here is a recipe for Italian "soul" cookies called Fave dei Morti, "Beans of the Dead." The theme of beans suggests, among other things, the idea of burial in the ground and rebirth. Sometimes "soul" cookies are called Ossi de Morti--"Bones of the Dead"--and are made in the shape of bones. In fact, the central ingredient in all the forms of this cookis is ground or crushed nuts, which are understood to suggest bones. (This theme is also common in bakery items for this day in other countries, such as Mexico.) These perhaps morbid considerations notwithstanding, Fave (and Ossi) dei Morti are delicious.

2/3 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces and softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon

Place the almonds on a baking sheet and dry them out for 10 minutes or so in a slow oven: 200°. Reset the oven for 350‚.

Grind the almonds very fine. Place them in a large bowl. Add the sugar, and blend the mixture well with a fork. Add the flour and the cinnamon, then the butter, and finally the egg, the vanilla, and the grated lemon rind, mixing well with each addition. With a fork or floured hands, work the mixture to a smooth paste.

Break off large-bean-sized pieces of paste (about 1 inch long), and place them about 2 inches apart on a greased, floured baking sheet. [My comment ... I would use parchment paper here.] Squash each bean slightly to produce an oval shape like a lima or fava bean.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are a golden color.

Yield: about 100 one-inch beans.

Form pieces of dough into the shape of bones, 1 or 2 inches long.
Please Note:
I received this review copy of A Continual Feast from the good folks at Catholic Family Gifts. They've got a lot of great items there, including this cookbook and several others.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's All Downhill From Here

A little Wednesday humor to get us to the weekend, courtesy of xkcd.

Worth a Thousand Words: The House of the British Consul, Damascus

Thomas Allom (1804-1872)
The House of the British Consul, Damascus
Government Art Collection, London
This is via Idle Speculations, accompanying an interesting piece about Syriac Christianity.

Well Said: Opposition from the Good

From today's reading in In Conversation With God. I myself tend to forget this over and over, becoming quite indignant. That's why this is a good reminder for me. I don't have to like it, but I shouldn't be surprised.
It is difficult to understand calumny or persecution -- either open or veiled -- in an era in which one hears so much about tolerance, understanding, fellowship and peace. But the attacks are more difficult to understand when they come from good men, when Christian persecutes, no matter how, another Christian, or a brother his brother. Our Lord prepared his own for the inevitable times when those who would defame, calumniate, or undermine their apostolic work would not be pagans or enemies of Christ, but brothers in the Faith who would think that with these actions they would be doing a service to God. This opposition from the good, an expression that the founder of Opus Dei coined to describe a phenomenon that he experienced so painfully in his own life, is a trial that God sometimes permits. It is particularly painful for the Christian to whom it happens. [...]

In any case, the position of the Christian who wants above all to be faithful to Christ has to be one where he can pardon, make amends and act with rectitude of intention, all the time looking towards Christ.
Francis Fernandez, In Conversation With God, vol. 4

Notes on Mark: Gradual Journeys

MARK 8:22-26
Jesus usually healed people instantly. I never stopped to wonder why this might be a more gradual healing. It makes me feel a little better at my lack of understanding sometimes when I think that the disciples had the same need for gradual understanding that I do.
The man's more gradual return to sight reflects the gradual journey of Jesus' disciples from spiritual blindness to spiritual insight. Surely they had seen Jesus perform many signs and wonders. Peter later confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Mark 8:29). Yet, as Jesus began to reveal to them what was going to happen -- that he would suffer and die -- the disciples struggled to comprehend God's plan for redemption. "And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him" (8:32). They still lacked the spiritual acuity to grasp God's plan for the salvation of the world through Jesus.
Mark: A Devotional Commentary
(The Word Among Us)
The gradual healing also has been seen by Church fathers to contain even deeper meaning.
Allegorically (St. Bede, In Marcum), Jesus heals the blind man to announce the mystery of redemption. As God Incarnate, Jesus heals man through the sacrament of his human nature, here signified by his hands and spittle. This grace cures our spiritual blindness gradually, and, as with the blind man, progress is measured in proportion to our faith.

Allegorically (St. Jerome, Homily 79), the restoration of the blind man signifies our gradual increase in wisdom, from the darkness of ignorance to the light of truth. Christ's spittle is the perfect doctrine that proceeds from his mouth; it enhances our vision and brings us progressively to the knowledge of God.
The Gospel Of Mark
(The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Well Said: Do not squander time...

From my quote journal.
Do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin
I heard this on the Monday Morning Memo podcast, wrote it on an index card, and have been putting it in prominent spots around the house for several days. It's a lesson I need, especially in these times of increasing distractions.

I Was On Conversion Corner This Morning - on Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd

I have to say that Gus Lloyd was unlike other interviewers I've talked to because he slowed down to talk more about my parents' attitudes toward religion, whether I'd been exposed to religion or church in my youth, and went on past God's reaching out to me ... in spectacular fashion ... to explore my further conversion into Catholicism.

It was a real pleasure and lots of fun to talk with him. It looks as if they rerun Seize the Day for late night listening on the Catholic Channel so if you are listening then you may hear me!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: The Letter

The Letter (c.1890). Thomas Benjamin Kennington
via Books and Art where there is more information about the artist

Well Said: "Mr. Pancks, whose resources seemed equal to any emergency..."

I continue to be fascinated by how sharply Charles Dickens can draw minor characters. Mr. Pancks is one that I really enjoy as I work my way slowly through Little Dorrit. He is immensely practical and I really love the way he handles Mr. F's Aunt in this scene. She obviously has some form of senile dementia and he is completely unflustered while surprising the reader (or at least me) with his solution.
“Therefore Flora said, though still not without a certain boastfulness and triumph in her legacy, that Mr F.'s Aunt was 'very lively to-day, and she thought they had better go.' But Mr F.'s Aunt proved so lively as to take the suggestion in unexpected dudgeon and declare that she would not go; adding, with several injurious expressions, that if 'He'--too evidently meaning Clennam--wanted to get rid of her, 'let him chuck her out of winder;' and urgently expressing her desire to see 'Him' perform that ceremony.

In this dilemma, Mr Pancks, whose resources appeared equal to any emergency in the Patriarchal waters, slipped on his hat, slipped out at the counting-house door, and slipped in again a moment afterwards with an artificial freshness upon him, as if he had been in the country for some weeks. 'Why, bless my heart, ma'am!' said Mr Pancks, rubbing up his hair in great astonishment, 'is that you?

How do you do, ma'am? You are looking charming to-day! I am delighted to see you. Favour me with your arm, ma'am; we'll have a little walk together, you and me, if you'll honour me with your company.' And so escorted Mr F.'s Aunt down the private staircase of the counting-house with great gallantry and success.
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

This review originally appeared at my A Free Mind column at Patheos. Scott and I discuss the book at A Good Story is Hard to Find. I wanted to get it on the record here at Happy Catholic.

There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.
It is appropriate that during Lent, when the depth of God's love is the lesson made plain to us, The Hiding Place came to my attention; it contains vivid examples of God's deep love set in a story of man's inhumanity to man.

I read The Hiding Place in high school, so it was with a sense of nostalgia for an excellent "holocaust survival autobiography" and the vague memory of a few key inspirational passages that I downloaded it as the free April audiobook from In fact, I believed I remembered it so well that I only began listening from curiosity, to see how the narration sounded.

I soon realized my memory was severely at fault as the honest and beautiful story unfolded. I was completely absorbed, and listened in every spare moment.

The Hiding Place begins in 1937, in Haarlem, Holland, with preparations for the one hundredth anniversary celebration of the ten Boom family's clock shop. The story is told by Corrie ten Boom who is the then-45-year-old youngest daughter of the family. She and her sister, Betsie, who is seven years older, are spinsters living with their elderly father. As such, they make an unlikely pair of heroines but God does not see with our eyes, as their tale tells.

The early pages of the book reveal a family truly living a Christian life, with a soup kettle always bubbling to feed the poor, numerous foster-children raised, and a challenging extended family borne with patiently. Corrie's father, Casper, keeps Christ at the center of their lives. His gentleness, rooted in strength and wisdom, serves as a Christ-like example. Several instances of her father's guidance become touchstones throughout Corrie's life, as in this childhood recollection:
And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sex-sin?"

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.

"Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

"It's too heavy," I said.

"Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
Corrie's sister, Betsie, is often a source of much needed Christ-like perspectives. When Corrie is troubled by a premonition of being taken from Haarlem against her will, she consults Betsie, who tells her:
If God has shown us bad times ahead, it's enough for me that He knows about them. That's why He sometimes shows us things, you know -- to tell us that this too is in His hands.
That trust is soon tested as the Nazis conquer Holland. When a well-dressed woman with a suitcase in hand appears at the shop's front door saying that she is a Jew afraid of being arrested, she is welcomed by Casper, "In this household, God's people are always welcome."

Thus begins the ten Boom family's surprising involvement in the Dutch underground.

Corrie soon finds herself the leader of one of the largest resistance groups in the city, centered at their home. She shares engrossing details about how the family eluded detection, managing to feed and house Jewish refugees until they could be spirited to safety. However, such a large operation made it inevitable that there would be a slip-up, and eventually the family is arrested.

From that point, the story reads like Dante's descent into the circles of Hell. The two middle-aged sisters are moved from one prison to another, each worse than the one before. It is during this point, however, that God makes His presence unmistakably known. As Corrie says in the movie made from the book, "God does not have problems. Only plans."

This revelation lifts The Hiding Place above other holocaust stories. Although the sisters suffer immense indignities and hardships, their story is about God's triumph over evil, even in the midst of the very place where evil reigns. They do not perform what we might think of as heroic acts, yet as Corrie and Betsie persevere in their efforts to stay in the center of God's will, they make it possible for God to work through them.

In fact, it is in their very powerlessness that they reveal God to others as their plight continues.

I was struck by the timelessness of the message and the values contained therein. Casper ten Boom models God the Father for his children, and those with good fathers recognize how powerful that can be. Those of us who were not so blessed can recognize in this hero a model of God the Father that we can relate to and call our own. Their mother, though not a key figure in the story, is instrumental in showing how it is possible to live a fully Christian life when home caring for a family, or when stricken by illness.

Betsie's point of view displays a Christ-like love for their captors even under the most terrible circumstances. Corrie is the example for the rest of us. She is uncertain, afraid, and needs the examples of Betsie and her father to keep her eyes on Christ. Even so, Corrie steps out in faith throughout the book whenever there is a need.

The Hiding Place also serves as a warning. I was quite surprised at how certain attitudes portrayed in the book resonated with our times; the Nazis showed utter disdain of the elderly, the very sick, and "feeble minded" because they were not productive members of society. If the ten Booms couldn't comprehend such attitudes, I realized with chagrin I understood them all-too-well as the utilitarian ideas of our "modern" society. As Flannery O'Connor said,
If you live today, you breathe in nihilism . . . it's the gas you breathe. If I hadn't had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.
When I began telling people about this audiobook, I was surprised at how many people had never heard of The Hiding Place. Many others, like me, believe they remember it well, despite having read it many years ago. Even if you know and love the book well, I encourage you to take advantage of christianaudio's download. Narrator Bernadette Dunne brings Corrie to life in a matter-of-fact but sympathetic reading.

We could do with a revival of The Hiding Place on American bookshelves. Not only does this story remind us that God is with us always but it shows where we may find ourselves, if we do not heed His will. We will be in a very unsafe place where there is no hiding at all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Life-Changing Book: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Scott and I discuss it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Worth a Thousand Words: Diplomats

painted by Edward B. Gordon
I love it when artists capture the everyday things which we take for granted. Edward B. Gordon is a master at this. Girls with umbrellas, street lights, cars in the rain ... everyday things are his daily subjects but he makes me see them in a new way. In this case, I'm thinking of these men's suits. Very typical and not really worth recording seemingly, but so much a part of today's work fashion.

Well Said: Life is This Simple

From my quote journal.
Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.
Thomas Merton
If you remember no other quotes, remember this one. I'm not especially a fan of Thomas Merton one way or t'other but he summed up my Catholic life right there. And when I remember this simple truth, which I can forget in busy everyday life just life everyone else ... when I remember it - my life is better and simpler and truer.

Cardinal Dolan and The Colbert Report - a match made in Heaven?

Cardinal Dolan's trademark charm and humor come across full strength in this interview with Stephen Colbert. (The link goes to part 1 and automatically loads up part 2 ... about 8 minutes total).

In which we drive into the country, consider the elm,and think about baby talk.

It's May in our tour of Mrs. Appleyard's Year at Forgotten Classics. Come listen!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Saturday, September 7, Proclaimed a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria

Bold emphasis is mine.
… All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and be let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mat, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
So declares Pope Francis and so we should follow in his lead.

(One of the few downsides to not reading blogs much is that one tends to miss the news when it breaks. You've probably seen this mentioned elsewhere already. However, just in case, like me, you are out of the loop ... you've now been alerted. I picked this up via Jeff Miller's "ember alarm" which makes me laugh every time I think of it.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blogging Around: The "I Hardly Ever Read Blogs These Days" Edition

I don't know how or why it happened. Perhaps it is a combination of going to my niece's wedding, vacation, Tom's mother's death and various other things that have jerked me out of my regular routine.

I only remember to read other people's blogs about once a week. It won't be a surprise to find that I now have more time. And I do have more time.

It also allows me to easily sift through what I am not interested in and find what I do want to read.

Here are a few bits which I hope you enjoy also.

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
The title alone makes this sound great. Melanie reviews this at The Wine Dark Sea.

Boots and Saddles by Elizabeth Bacon Custer
Yes, that's the right name, Custer. Boots and Saddles is a new, free audiobook at LibriVox where the narrator begins the description thusly:
Elizabeth Custer has penned an engaging portrait of 1870’s life on a U.S. cavalry post in the Dakotas, just before her husband and his troops met their tragic deaths in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. “Our life,” she writes, “was often as separate from the rest of the world as if we had been living on an island in the ocean.”
I haven't tried it yet but if I like it, you'll be the first to know!

LibriVox: Where Are the New Releases?
Perhaps, like me, you have subscribed to LibriVox's New Releases rss feed. Perhaps, also like me, you have noticed that it has been three weeks since something new has showed up. LibriVox is overhauling their infrastructure and they have an alternate way to find out what's new (such as the above-mentioned Boots and Saddles) while that is going on.

My Son (movie trailer)
I'm not a Christian movie fan, as anyone who hangs out here already knows. They tend to forget about telling a story in favor of hammering in their point over and over. This one, however, looks different.

Here's the story we saw that made us watch the trailer. Burleson is a nearby town. Here's where you can watch the trailer.

Elmore Leonard, Modern Prose Master, Noted For His Terse Prose Style And For Writing About Things Perfectly And Succinctly With A Remarkable Economy Of Words, Unfortunately And Sadly Expired This Gloomy Tuesday At The Age Of 87 Years Old
The Onion does it again. I've been hanging onto this one for a bit, as you know if you read of Leonard's death. A perfect tribute delivered the funny way.

If you spend all your time looking for errors ...

Why I read Will Duquette:
...if you’re spending all of time looking for errors, you can begin to forget what the truth looks like.

Don’t just stand against the false, the bad, and the ugly. Stand for the true, the good, and beautiful, not simply in principle but also in practice. It’s better for you, and you’ll have less to repent of.
Read the whole thing at his blog: The View From the Foothills.

And yes, this is going into my quote journal.

Notes on Mark: Only One Loaf

Mark 8:14-21
I have never noticed the discrepancies in this bit of scripture. I guess, like the disciples, I wasn't paying enough attention, especially to this very interesting point about "one loaf" being in the boat.
Mark begins by noting the seemingly irrelevant detail that the disciples had forgtten to bring bread and had only one loaf with them. On one level, this simply means that they have failed to replenish their food supplies. But the two miraculous feedings and the ensuing discussions have prepared us to understand: What is the real "one loaf" (literally, "one bread") with them in the boat? It is Jesus! Mark clarifies in verse 16 that actually they have "no bread"--no earthly bread, that is. Bread will not be mentioned again in the Gospel until Jesus announces that the bread is his own body, to be given up for us on the cross (14:22).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Well Said: A Home That Has a Cat

From my quote journal and this seems very appropriate for Labor Day.
There's no need for a piece of sculpture in a home that has a cat.
Wesley Bates