Friday, May 29, 2015

Blogging Around: The "Finding Religion in Unexpected Places" Edition

Love, Death, and the Communion of Saints: There are Movies for That

Jennifer Fitz had a weekend movie-fest and wound up with a list of recommended movies. I'd never heard of most of these. She gives her impressions with links to the movies so you can go see what they're about. My "to watch" list has grown. Again.

Purity Through Food: How Religious Ideas Sell Diets

Processed food is evil. Natural food is good. These are religious mantras, the condensed version of simplistic fairy tales that divide up foods, and the world, according to moralistic binaries. Genuine nutritional science, like all science, rejects oversimplification. “Natural” and “processed” are not scientific categories, and neither is good nor evil. These terms should be employed by monks and gurus, not doctors and scientists. Yet it is precisely such categories, largely unquestioned, that determine most people’s supposedly scientific decisions about what and how to eat.
The Gluten Lie is a book examining the myths around which many define "healthy eating." What gives this a different twist is that the author is a religion scholar. Here's an interview with him at The Atlantic. (Via Lottie + Doof)

Pete Docter, the devout Christian from Pixar who makes blockbuster movies

Deacon Greg Kandra at The Deacon's Bench noticed an comment by director Pet Docter about using his confirmation money for a youthful purchase.

That sent him down a rabbit hole which wound up uncovering a fascinating interview.

What I learnt from 46 consecutive days in church

Adrian Chiles went to a different church for daily Mass every day of Lent. He saw it as a penance, and to be fair I would too, but it turned out to be a blessing. (As we'd all hope.)

To be fair, church is not an "unexpected place" to find religion. However, the BBC is an unexpected place to find this interesting and heartfelt report about daily Mass that changed one man's life.
From day one, Ash Wednesday, I was captivated. I happened to be in the Swansea area, so I went to St Illtyd's in Port Tennant, a neat little community with rows of terraced houses clinging to the side of a very steep hill overlooking the bay. In every church I went to on this odyssey, without fail there was something to entrance me. It could be anything from the priest's trainers - priestly footwear is something I could write a whole article about - to the majesty of a stained glass window. At St Illtyd's it was the statue outside of Christ on the cross. It was made from some metal that had corroded, kind of creating new stigmata on it. Transfixed, I looked up at it for what must have been ages, until I spotted a couple of teenagers just across the road, cigarettes in mouths, beholding me doubtfully.
(Via GetReligion.)

Well Said: The Four Rungs of Contemplative Life

Morello quotes from a twelfth century monastic letter by Guido II, The Ladder of Monks, on the contemplative life where lectio, meditatio, ratio, and contemplatio are presented as four rungs leading from earth to heaven. The four rungs and what they mean are:

Reading seeks;
meditation finds;
prayer asks;
contemplation tastes. OR,

Reading, so to speak, puts food solid in the mouth,
meditation chews and breaks it,
prayer attains its savor,
contemplation is itself the sweetness that rejoices and refreshes. OR,

Reading concerns the surface,
meditation concerns the depth
prayer concerns request for what is desired,
contemplation concerns delight in discovered sweetness.
From booklady's review of
Lectio Divina and the Practice of Teresian Prayer
by Sam Anthony Morello
I love lectio divina and I love these three ways of looking at these steps. These are not only now in my quote journal but in the front of my Bible.

The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

I wrote this for a past series of bulletin inserts. Holy Trinity Sunday is approaching and since trying to wrap one's brain around the concept of the Trinity is so difficult for me, I thought that y'all might like this too.
The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Blessed Trinity. This, the ineffable mystery of God's intimate life, is the central truth of our faith and the source of all gifts and graces. The liturgy of the Mass invites us to loving union with each of the Three Divine Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This feast was established for the Latin Church by Pope John XXII, to be celebrated on the Sunday after the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is the last of the mysteries of our salvation. Today we can say many times, savoring it, the prayer: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit...

[St. Teresa] writes: Once when I was reciting the "Quicumque vult," I was shown so clearly how it was possible for there to be one God alone and three Persons that it caused me both amazement and much comfort. It was of the greatest help to me in teaching me to know more of the greatness of God and of his marvels. When I think of the most Holy Trinity, or hear it spoken of, I seem to understand how there can be such a mystery, and it is a great joy to me.

The whole of a Christian's supernatural life is directed towards this knowledge of and intimate conversation with the Trinity, who become eventually the fruit and the end of our whole life (St. Thomas). It is for this end that we have been created and raised to the supernatural order: to know, to talk to and to love God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, who dwell in the soul in grace.

In Conversation With God Vol 6
Special Feasts: January - June
Trinity Sunday celebrates the most profound mystery of our faith: The Holy Trinity, the presence of God as Three in One. It is called a mystery not because it is a puzzle that we attempt to solve, but because it is a reality above our human comprehension. We may begin to grasp it intellectually, but ultimately must accept that we can only know the Holy Trinity through worship, symbol, and faith. What a challenge this poses for the Christian believer who knows and accepts the Holy Trinity dwells in our soul in grace, but also calls us to a relationship with Him. How do we do this? In our limited state, how can we know and love a mystery?

We do this through the small daily actions we can take of meditating on instructions on the Faith and reciting prayers composed in honor of the Trinity. For instance, although we recite it so often that it tends to slide by our consciousness, the Glory Be invites grace into our souls when we pray:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen

Certainly, we cannot hope to know the Holy Trinity unless God himself reaches out to us first and helps us along the way. Making ourselves open to God and raising our hearts to Him in petition, we can join in this prayer:

My Lord and my God, my only hope, hear my prayer so that I may not give in to discouragement and cease to seek you. May I desire always to see your face. Give me strength for the search. You who caused me to find you and gave the hope of a more perfect knowledge of you, I place before you my steadfastness, that you may preserve it, and my weakness, that you may heal it. I place before you my knowledge, and my ignorance. If you open the door to me, welcome the one who enters. If you have closed the gate, open it to the one who calls. Make me always remember you, understand you and love you. Increase those gifts in me until I am completely changed.

When we come into your presence, these many things we talk about now without understanding them will cease, and you alone will remain everything in everyone, and then we will sing as one an eternal hymn of praise and we too will become one with you.
St. Augustine, De Trinitate, 15, 28, 51

Worth a Thousand Words: In a Light Summer Kimono with Irises

In a Light Summer Kimono with Irises, Torii Kotondo

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Well Said: The No Weapons at Work Policy

“You know that ‘no weapons at work’ policy?” I asked the twitching and growing hairy monstrosity standing less than ten feet from me. His yellow eyes bored into me with raw animal hatred. There was nothing recognizably human in that look.

“I never did like that rule,” I said as I bent down and drew my gun from my ankle holster, put the front sight on the target and rapidly fired all five shots from my snub-nosed .357 Smith & Wesson into Mr. Huffman’s body. God bless Texas.
Monster Hunters International, Larry Correia
What else are you gonna do when your boss turns werewolf?

Unfortunately that's about as interesting as this book gets, but I did love that opening sequence.

Worth a Thousand Words: Irises in Evening Shadows

Irises in Evening Shadows, Max Pechstein

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Well Said: The Church is the Front Lines

When things are crappy, and they often are, sometimes the best you can do is just turn up and do the will of God. That’s what our Lord did, and it was sometimes a pretty nasty experience. It’s okay though, because the miserable part isn’t the end of the story, is it?

Meanwhile, hold onto this thought: The Church is not a safe place. The Church is literally the front lines in the battle between eternal good and absolute evil. It’s going to look, feel, sound, and reek like a battlefield. If everything is always quiet on the front, you probably aren’t on the front.
I need these reminders because, of course, Jen is absolutely right. I tend to forget I'm in the middle of a battlefield.

Worth a Thousand Words: Purple Irises

Leslie Wagle

In which we experience a unique alien invasion and victory.

A special request reading at Forgotten Classics, episode 277. Join us!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Well Said: Science, Christianity, and the Poem

In Science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.
C.S. Lewis, Miracles
Perfectly put. The notes are interesting and valuable but can't convey the whole essence of the thing.

Worth a Thousand Words: Irises

Irises, John Henry Twachtman, 1896

Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition by Louis Markos

Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic TraditionHeaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition by Louis Markos

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an excellent overview of the stories that have influenced and shaped our views of Heaven and Hell from ancient times until now. I particularly enjoyed the author's exploration of the chain of influences that have connected all these stories and the way that they've been tweaked to express new ideas in the "journey to the other side" format. For example, I never realized that the rebellious Titans' deepest level of hell (Tartarus) shows up in 2 Peter 2:4 (the only spot in the Bible) by using the word Tartarus to signify Hell:
"God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to Hell [Tartarus]", and delivered them into chains of darkenss, to be reserved unto judgment." What makes the use here of Tartarus quite stunning is that the rebellious Titans of Greek mythology share much in common with the "sons of God" who mate with the "daughters of men" to produce the nephilim (see Gen. 6:1-4) and who are then (according to the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch) put in prison to await judgment. ... just as Hell in the New Testament is linked both to the angelic rebellion of the "sons of God" and to the punishment of sinners, so Tartarus functions as both the prison of the Titans and the place of suffering for such archetypal sinners as Tantalus, Ixion, and Sisyphus: the sinners, that is, whose cries Orpheus hears rising up from the pit below.
Of particular interest to me were the in-depth looks at the Divine Comedy, the hijacking of Milton's Satan by the Romantics (I will never look at William Blake the same way), and how it continues to influence us today via the Byronic hero.

Louis Markos is a Protestant but he has a deep understanding of Catholic theology that would put many a Catholic to shame. His explanation of Purgatory in his preface to Dante's Purgatorio is masterful in explaining both the theology and the way Americans misinterpret it precisely because of their American identity. This is just a bit:
Purgatory is not about "earning our salvation," but, in having already been saved by Christ's sacrifice on the cross, working with the Spirit to present ourselves as clean vessels. Out of pure grace and love, the Prince lifts Cinderella out of the cinders and takes her to his castle. But Cinderella would never think of entering her future home until she had the chance to wash, fix her hair, and put on her finest gown. The American Christian, in his somewhat adolescent way, asks if all of this is "fair." But Purgatory is not about fairness; it is about freedom.
This signals that I can trust Markos to be just as careful in communicating information I am not familiar with. It's nice to be able to trust an author that much.

There is an extensive bibliography, written in a very readable style, with lots of ideas for further exploration of the topic.

Highly recommended.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Well Said: Survey or Not, Our Mission is Unchanged.

It doesn’t matter what any survey says. Whether our culture is 99.9% Catholic or .00009%, our mission is utterly unchanged.
That Pew survey about more people not calling themselves Christian didn't surprise me one bit. It is just getting closer reporting the actual truth than when people reflexively said, "Of course I'm Christian."

It hits home with more force at this moment because I just finished studying up on St. Francis of Assisi for a conversation at A Good Story is Hard to Find. Francis was radical in every way and that was in 13th century Italy which was 99.9% Chatholic and needed nothing more than a good hard kick in how they lived their faith.

So, here we are again ...

Worth a Thousand Words: Bookends

Karin Jurick
This is the perfect piece to prepare us for Memorial Day weekend!

Blogging Around: Mostly Churchy Stuff

Clutching Her Head in a Field

Here's the one non-churchy item.

Want to see how many different book cover designers found this stock photo captivating?

Caustic Critic Cover pulled it together for us.

I was really surprised to see how little originality was shown in using the image from cover to cover, aside from goofing around with the color.

I swear, if I come across one of those books in a store, I'm going to crack up on the spot.

State of Palestine coverage: What did pope say? What did it mean?

It broke as do so many stories that burst upon the 24/7 media scene these days – with a Tweet, followed by nearly 3,000 retweets.

The Associated Press (@AP) tweeted at 9:26am -- 13 May 15: "BREAKING: Vatican officially recognizes `state of Palestine' in new treaty."

A major diplomatic step forward for Palestinians in their quest to establish an independent state, right?

Sure sounds like it. But no, although clearly another international boost for the Palestinians, it was not the groundbreaking achievement the initial Tweet implied.

That's because the Vatican actually recognized Palestine as a state in 2012. ...
I've said it before, I'll say it again. If you want to know the real scoop about how religion is being reported and what really happened, read GetReligion. Get the rest of this story there.

Jude Law to Play The Young Pope on TV

I've seen this mentioned around but like best Maureen's comments at Aliens in This World. There's more and she's also got news and links to other Catholics on TV (Jim Gaffigan (good), The New O'Neals (junk)) so go check it all out.

This could be cruddy or good. I hope it will be good, as there’s certainly lots of room for drama in a papal West Wing. It will only be 8 episodes long, but the press release says it’s about “the beginning” of the pontificate of Pius XIII. So I think they want to leave it open for other seasons.

Either way, I guess we’ll find out what Mr. Sorrentino’s pet peeves are.

(And since it’s a Euro production airing on HBO, there will probably be gratuitous naked people but no fight scenes at all. Although I would laugh very hard if they only show Baroque paintings of naked people, with no live-action nakedness at all.)

The Closed Door of Pope Francis

Until the synod of October 2014, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had repeatedly and in various ways shown encouragement for “openness” in matters of homosexuality and second marriages, each time with great fanfare in the media. Cardinal Kasper explicitly said that he had “agreed” with the pope on his explosive talk at the consistory.

But during that synod the resistance to the new paradigms showed itself to be much more strong and widespread than expected, and determined the defeat of the innovators. The reckless “relatio post disceptationem” halfway through the assembly was demolished by the criticism and gave way to a much more traditional final report. ...

From the end of 2014 until today, there has not been even one more occasion on which he has given the slightest support to the paradigms of the innovators.

On the contrary. He has intensified his remarks on all the most controversial questions connected to the synodal theme of the family: contraception, abortion, divorce, second marriages, homosexual marriage, “gender” ideology. And every time he has spoken of them as a “son of the Church” - as he loves to call himself - with ironclad fidelity to tradition and without swerving by a millimeter from what was said before him by Paul VI, John Paul II, or Benedict XVI.
Sandro Magister connects the dots and follows them up with an extensive anthology of excerpts from every time that pope has spoken on the subject. I actually hadn't been worrying about this topic, but reading through the excerpts was interesting.

Dear Church: An open letter from one of those millennials you can’t figure out

Wow, via The Deacon's Bench, comes fascinating reading from a young Methodist that applies to everyone. Here's a bit, then go read it all.
Don’t expect a “worship style” to do your dirty work. Contemporary worship hasn’t worked. The longer we extend the life of this failed experiment, the more we see the results.

In my experience, contemporary worship brings in three groups. Baby boomers who are still stuck in their rebellion against the establishment, parents who mistakenly think that contemporary worship is the only way for their kids to connect to the church, and a small percentage of young adults who’ve never left and who never knew anything other than contemporary worship.

In modeling worship after commercial entertainment, you’ve compromised your identity, and we’re still not coming back.


Don’t give us entertainment, give us liturgy. We don’t want to be entertained in church, and frankly, the church’s attempt at entertainment is pathetic. Enough with the theatrics. Enough with the lights, the visuals, the booming audio, the fog machine, the giveaway gimmicks, the whole production. Follow that simple yet profound formula that’s worked for the entire history of the church. Entrance, proclamation, thanksgiving, sending out. Gathering, preaching, breaking bread, going forth in service. Give us a script to follow, give us songs to sing, give us the tradition of the church, give us Holy Scripture to read. Give us sacraments, not life groups, to grow and strengthen us.

Julie and Scott are appalled at the nudity and questionable parenting skills.

What kind of a saint is this? A unique one, it turns out. We discuss Saint Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton in episode 108 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lagniappe: The familiar face of the little devourer

All the items being devoured are gingerbread cookies, just to help orient you. This is one of those passages that made me appreciate Hawthorne did indeed have a sense of humor.
Phoebe, on entering the shop, beheld there the already familiar face of the little devourer — if we can reckon his mighty deeds aright — of Jim Crow, the elephant, the camel, the dromedaries, and the locomotive. Having expended his private fortune, on the two preceding days, in the purchase of the above unheard-of luxuries, the young gentleman's present errand was on the part of his mother, in quest of three eggs and half a pound of raisins. These articles Phoebe accordingly supplied, and — as a mark of gratitude for his previous patronage, and a slight super-added morsel after breakfast, put likewise into his hand a whale! The great fish — reversing his experience with the prophet of Nineveh — immediately began his progress down the same red pathway of fate whither so varied a caravan had preceded him. This remarkable urchin, in truth, was the very emblem of old Father Time, both in respect of his all-devouring appetite for men and things, and because he, as well as Time, after engulfing thus much of creation, looked almost as youthful as if he had been just that moment made.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

Worth a Thousand Words: The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback

Giuseppe Castiglione, The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback, 1758
Via Wikimedia
No special reason for this ... I just liked it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Well Said: The Man With Utmost Daring

I am the man who with utmost daring discovered what has been discovered before.
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
That's the story of my life. But I guess it doesn't make the discovery any less valid or exciting.

Worth a Thousand Words: Book of Durrow

The beginning of the Gospel of Mark from the Book of Durrow.
Source: Wikipedia
There is a sense of space in the design of all the pages of the Book of Durrow. Open vellum balances intensely decorated areas.
I'm a sucker for illuminated manuscripts, especially Bibles. I'd love so much to have an illustrated Bible, old school.

I'm also a sucker for good use of space and not feeling one has to fill every bit of the page up. And for stylized animals as parts of capital letters.

So this scores on several fronts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: PB & Jelly

PB & Jelly
James Neil Hollingsworth
As you already know, I love paintings that reflect contemporary life. In a hundred years they'll be historical documents also! This one raises the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich level to artistic heights. Look at the jewel-like tones of that jelly!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How my mother raised 10 kids on 25 words or lessThe Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How my mother raised 10 kids on 25 words or less by Terry Ryan

Having seen the movie I was curious about how closely it hewed to the book. It turns out to have been a surprisingly close telling that captured the feel of the book well.

The book itself has the same feel as Cheaper By the Dozen, if that family's father had been an alcoholic, putting them always one contest win away from abject poverty. It is also a look back at small town life in the 1950s and 60s.

Evelyn Ryan's story is woven through the humorous tales of raising ten children. She parlayed her writing skill and determination into enough income to overcome one financial crisis after another. Ryan did this in a way unique to the time, by entering numerous jingle-writing contests, and submitting poems and humorous stories to publications. Many of these are scattered through the text and they almost serve as a mini-history of product contests.

Along the way Ryan taught her family a precious lesson about how to live a full, rich life no matter your economic status. Author Terry Ryan, one of the daughters of the family, pulls off telling a positive, upbeat story without denying the reality and severity of the trials that had to be overcome.
At that moment we knew that as long as we used our brains, we were not victims. By striking out to write our own ticket, we would grow up to be like our mother, winners.
I listened to the audio book and enjoyed it. I've seen people complain about the narration as over the top and too enthusiastic but I don't agree. I thought the straight forward feel perfectly reflected the tone of the book.

Worth a Thousand Words: After Dark

After Dark. Wilkie Collins. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1876.
via Books and Art
I don't know what this story is about but the cover makes me want to find out. It's creepy but what kind of creepy? What is that paper? Are they just reading it or signing an agreement?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Indonesian Volcanoes, Night and Day

Indonesian Volcano, Milky Way
taken by Thierry Legault
shared by permission

I discovered Thierry Legault in a Wall Street Journal article several years ago. He very graciously gave me permission to share his wonderful photography here.

I highly recommend that you click through the links to go look at these volcanoes up close. There is also video there which is fascinating.

I couldn't choose between all the images so I indulged myself and shared two today.

Indonesian Volcanoes, Fog
taken by Thierry Legault
shared by permission

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Well Said: Letting ourselves be transformed in love

“The problem is not in being sinners, the problem is when we don’t let ourselves be transformed in love by the encounter with Christ.”
Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday

Worth a Thousand Words: Watercolour of Ellen Willmott's Garden

Alfred Parsons, Watercolour of Ellen Willmott's Garden
Inspired by Lines and Colors where you'll see many more of Parsons' paintings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blogging Around: The "I Didn't Know That" Edition

How Does an Adult React When They See Red for the First Time in Their Life?

In design you tend to think of colors as evoking emotion. This video, however, goes way beyond that as special glasses help the color blind actually see color. Tom discovered this and wrote about it it at General Glyphics website for our advertising business.

It's a Girl documentary

From my inbox:
Have you heard of the documentary "It's a Girl"? Our parish recently had a viewing of it. It's all about the abortions and infanticide of baby girls in India and China. It's hard to say that I would "recommend" it because it was so disturbing. But, I'd be curious to hear what you think if you see it. Your pro-life readers may be interested in it, too.
I'm too much of a wimp to seek this movie out but it is streaming on Netflix and can be rented digitally from Amazon. Here is the official website.

The New York Post and the Terrible, Awful, Don't-Believe-Everything-You-Read-About-the-Church Story

This story makes it sound like Catholic projects to help women who have had abortions are brand new, that this is some kind of theological innovation and even (wink, wink) that this implies the church may have moved closer to modernizing its stance (that "catch up with modern times" riff was amazing) on the sanctity of unborn life.
As GetReligion breaks it down, we see the problems inherent in the NY Post's "The Catholic Church Will Now Forgive Your Abortion" story. They've got links to the original story and good commentary on the truth and the misrepresentation in the piece.

Survivor of Jihadist Attack to be Canonized Sunday

Blessed Mariam Baouardy, a Melkite/Greek Catholic Palestinian who miraculously survived being throat-slashed by a jihadist as a teenager, through the intervention of the Virgin Mary, is going to be canonized as a saint on Sunday. Her religious name was “Sr. Marie of Jesus Crucified.”

She was born in 1846 and died in 1878. She had a very eventful life, traveling from Galilee to Alexandria, Egypt; from there to Jerusalem; from Jerusalem to Marseilles, France; from Marseilles to Pau, where she became a Carmelite; from Pau to Mangalore, India (where she helped found a convent); and eventually back to the Holy Land, where she helped found convents in Nazareth and Bethlehem.

She did all this after resisting an arranged marriage to an uncle, because she felt she was called to serve Jesus and not a husband. She is also one of the few saints who has been a member of both Eastern and Western rites of Catholicism. She had a deep spirituality of devotion to the Holy Spirit.
St. Marie of Jesus Crucified, pray for us! There is much, much more about her at Aliens in This World.

Worth a Thousand Words: In the Shadow of the Tent

In the Shadow of the Tent (1914). Helen Galloway McNicoll (Canadian, 1879-1915).
via Books and Art
It's a bit early in the year to think about the seashore, but I just can't resist paintings of it.

Well Said: Ideology and giving oneself

“Let’s think of that moment when a woman washed the feet of Jesus with the nard, so expensive: it is a religious moment, a moment of gratitude, a moment of love. And he [Judas] stands apart with bitter criticism: ‘But this could have been used for the poor!’ This is the first reference that I have found, in the Gospel, to poverty as an ideology. The ideologue does not know what love is, because he does not know how to give himself.”
Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday
I never thought about the fact that the very word "ideology" distances one from the issues at hand. It systemizes and organizes and studies with a cool head. At least that's what I picked up when looking up the definition.

Whereas we are called upon to make it personal, to give with our whole hearts, to plunge in up to our elbows, to give of what is precious without counting the cost.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Movie You Might Have Missed #48: The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

She raised 10 kids on 25 words or less.

#48. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Julianne Moore portrays Evelyn Ryan, a 1950s housewife with 10 children. Submitting jingles, slogans and songs to product contests, she wins prizes and cash that help their family scrape by. Her husband, Kelly, (Woody Harrelson) is an alcoholic who spends a hefty portion of his paycheck on the nightly fifth of whiskey and six-pack of beer so Evelyn's talent with words is much needed.

This started off fun and cute, with stylized presentation that made us think of Pushing Daisies. Then, just when we thought there wasn't more to say, it veered into deeper waters thanks to the complex issues caused by the alcoholic husband. Although it is treated more lightly than in some movies, the film's power comes from watching how Evelyn copes with her husband and the issues his dysfunction raises in the family.

I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would and we've had several conversations about the movie since seeing it. All of which is what made me recommend it to you!

I chose this movie because of the Maltlin on Movies podcast episode about Julianne Moore. I've been enjoying the podcast and it has been adding to my list of movies to try. So far we're off to a good start.

NOTE: I subsequently read the book and found this movie to be a very good adaptation of it. Both are worth experiencing for their own worth.

Worth a Thousand Words: Well, I've Never Been to Spain ...

... but I like the photos my brother's taken there. This one is especially striking.

Well Said: The Holy Spirit bothers us.

“To put it simply: the Holy Spirit bothers us. Because he moves us, he makes us walk, he pushes the Church to go forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: ‘Ah, how wonderful it is to be here like this, all together!’ ... But don’t bother us. We want the Holy Spirit to doze off ... we want to domesticate the Holy Spirit. And that’s no good. because he is God, he is that wind which comes and goes and you don’t know where. He is the power of God, he is the one who gives us consolation and strength to move forward. But: to move forward! And this bothers us. It’s so much nicer to be comfortable.”
Pope Francis, Encountering Truth: Meeting God in the Everyday
That's the story of my life: "It's so much nicer to be comfortable."

You know there is that excitement and fervor of the new encounter with Christ, with the Holy Spirit. And one knows what one must do, one promises and means it. Then comes the daily efforts of carrying out one's promises. We don't always have that excitement and to move forward seems so much effort.

Yes, Pope Francis nails it on the head. That's the faith the saints have, I suppose, they listen and move forward no matter what. I must allow myself to be bothered, to move forward.

I'm really enjoying this book, by the way, which will come out June 16. It's making a heckuva daily devotional. Every time I think I know where Pope Francis is going, he throws a little twist in there. We may still go to the destination I expected, but with a heightened understanding.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy Birthday to Rose!

Yellow Rose Cake from Williams-Sonoma
This is strikingly similar to last year's birthday post for Rose ... largely because I tend to have the same thoughts about her on her birthday so far away from home.

This cake is because I was thinking of how much fun it would be to celebrate Rose's birthday with her in person.

Alas and alack, she is in the city of the angels and we are in Dallas. But it made me think of how she loves Texas. All the Texas cakes I found were rather uninspiring. Not that there is anything wrong with the Texas flag on a Texas shaped cake. In fact, that is the height of Texas love, but I couldn't find any photos that looked as if I wouldn't be ripping off a family cake photo.

So I naturally turned, for my Rose, to thinking of the yellow rose of Texas and it turns out that Williams-Sonoma has made the ultimate yellow rose cake. Ultimate.

Happy birthday my sweet Rose. 25 years old? How did that happen?

I know this year she will be alone on her birthday. Luckily that prospect didn't seem to bother her when we talked yesterday. Maybe she was eyeing the birthday box I sent. We'll talk after she opens it.

Until then this will have to do: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

The Lord by Romano Guardini

The LordThe Lord by Romano Guardini
That Jesus’ task “is consummated” must be true, because he says so (John 19:30). Yet what a spectacle of failure! His word rejected, his message misunderstood, his commands ignored. None the less, his appointed task is accomplished, through obedience to the death—that obedience whose purity counterbalances the sins of a world. That Jesus delivered his message is what counts—not the world’s reaction; and once proclaimed, that message can never be silenced, but will knock on men’s hearts to the last day.
How does one adequately review this magnificent book? I'm not really up to the task.

Romano Guardini set out to explore the life and words of Jesus in the gospels. He has a clarity and depth that often turns our view upside down to show the deep meaning of Jesus' words and actions. All this is done with a completely reverent viewpoint that never leaves Catholic teachings but yet shows us something new and startling.
Such then the Firstborn of all creation. In him may be found the prototypes of all forms, beings, values. As white light contains all colors, the Word virtually contains everything distributed over the breadth of the universe, the length of time, the depths of intelligence, the peaks of the ideal. Christ is the creative hand of the Father into which are graven the lines of the world's destinies from the beginning on. Each line or thread is separate, yet together they compose the universal tapestry whose forms go back to him, the Weaver. In his hand lie also the decisions of grace, the impenetrable warp and weft of sacred history with its revelations, its prophecies and warnings, the infinite fabric of that which is to cooperate for the good of those who love God. What a thought!

Bearing all this within him, that same Christ entered into history, loved and died in the narrow confines of a human life. ...
It is the book that delved into the Beatitudes in such a way that I finally related to them. It opened up the Book of the Revelation in such a way that moved the symbolism into how Christians live and strive to know Christ better. It left me knowing more about Christ, with a sense of excitement and inspiration about the Church and being Christian, and more insight into the eternal.

That's a lot to ask but I now understand why this book was considered personally important into forming both Pope Benedict's and Pope Francis's Catholic foundations. If one wonders how two such different-seeming popes can have one book so much in common (aside from the Bible, of course), then it begins to give a feel for the depth and breadth of this work.

I began this in Lent and am finishing close to the end of the Easter season which is very fitting. Most of the chapters were 4-5 pages and those were rich enough that they fueled my thoughts for the day. Thus it makes a perfect devotional.

NOTE: I can recommend this book to any Christians, not just Catholics.

Worth a Thousand Words: They Are Out!

They Are Out!
taken by Remo Savisaar
It is no wonder that this talented photographer has begun winning awards:
Dear friends, I am very happy to announce, that two of my photos received high prize in Estonian biggest Nature Photo contest!

Winner in "Animal behaviour" category and Winner in "Creative Visions of Nature." Also one photo was Highly Commended.

Biggest news was that I became Overall winner and received Grand Prix! :)
My sincere congratulations go to Remo Savisaar for this well deserved recognition. I also sincerely thank him for allowing me to share his work here over the years.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Muzzle Nuzzle

Muzzle Nuzzle
taken by Valerie at Ucumari Photography
Some rights reserved

Well Said: What is certain in life and death

If anyone should ask: What is certain in life and death — so certain that everything else may be anchored in it? Life teaches us that this is the only true reply. Not people — not not even the best and dearest; not science, or philosophy, or art or any other product of human genius. Also not nature, which is so full of profound deception ...  The answer is: The love of Christ. … Only through Christ do we know that God’s love is forgiving. Certain is only that which manifested itself on the cross. The heart of Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of all things.
Romano Guardini, The Lord
I am certain that the love of Christ is my anchor to true reality in this world. When I look at life without focusing on Jesus is when I go astray, lie to myself, get fooled.

The full manifestation of his love is truly on the cross. It always comes back to the cross. That shadow looms over all. I cannot look away. Not from horror, but in gratitude.

Pesto alla Genovese

Or as we now know it in America, Pesto. Get this classic recipe at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Playing Children

Su Hanchen, Playing Children, mid-12th century
A painting by the Song Dynasty Chinese artist Su Hanchen (active 1130s–1160s) of two children waving a peacock feather banner like the one used in Song Dynasty dramatical theater to signal the acting general or leader of troops. If not displayed in the home of a wealthy gentry figure, this painting could very well have been an art piece of the royal family's residence in Hangzhou.
The image and description are via Wikipedia. I was looking for Chinese opera masks and came across this instead. I loved these children and their kitten. People never change ...

Blogging Around: The "I Just Liked This Story" Edition

The Papal Nuncio and Sparkly Kitty Shoes

He help up his hand and silenced the mother, and leaning forward on the crozier, he asked the girl, “Those are special shoes. Do you like them?”

She pulled the thumb from her mouth and chirped “They’re spark-a-we.”

“Ah. Sparkly is important in shoes.” He told her. “Are they your favorite?”

“She never takes them off.” Her mother confessed.

“They’re my booful shoes!” the girl shrieked to the amusement of a growing crowd.

The Papal Nucio placed a hand on the girl’s head, looked at her mother and then around at the rest of us and said, “This child is teaching us two important lessons today. The first is – do not be conformed to the rules of this world - the rules of this world are meaningless. And the second is – always offer to God your best. Even when the best you have is sparkling cat shoes.”
There's a third lesson but you can read that for yourself at Shoved to Them.

From the Corner of the Eye

“Evil-ution,” said Danny Mulloney to his beer, “is just plain wrong.”

The O Neil and I exchanged looks. There is a certain way that people have of inflecting their voices, a way of lilting this vowel or that, or stretching the odd syllable or two, that lets you know that they’ve said more than they’ve spoken. ...
This is a wonderful short story in the best tradition of one of my favorite genres, tall tales told in taverns. When the tale is told by Michael Flynn then you know you're in for a good 'un. This one did something I've never seen before and it really shocked me. (Just from the story point of view; the story is perfectly safe for general consumption.)

Read From the Corner of the Eye and find out more about the story at Michael Flynn's blog.

This is How It Is


Rage that I should have just been selfish and eaten the leftovers myself. Rage that I was really being just about as selfish now. And rage that we ever let those damn freezer pops into the house that people have been harassing me about all morning.

Go, son, into the outer darkness! No, you may not have your popsicle now. You may have it when your father has recovered from the urge to strike you and when you have waited out the penance for your own hastiness and waste.
Darwin's been minding the kids, over at DarwinCatholic, and the results are blindingly honest, familiar to any parent, and sidesplittingly funny. Go and enjoy.

18 Free Audiobooks Over the Summer, Classics and Modern

It's SYNC time again!

They give away 2 free audiobook downloads every week of the summer. Beginning this week!

SYNC is promoting literacy for listeners 13+ so the novels pair a current young adult title with a classic or required summer reading list title.

For example, this week Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is paired with Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Each set of titles is available free for only one week so if you see something you want then get it while you can. These are professionally produced audiobooks which are donated by the publishers.

The program isn't limited to anything except your willingness to use OverDrive, which many library systems already use to allow online audio borrowing.

I discovered this program through Jesse at SFFaudio. Here's a link to his initial post which details the steps necessary to use OverDrive. It's a bit of a pain but not bad once you get used to it.

Read all about SYNC and sign up for their emails at their website.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Easter Island Heads ... And Bodies!

Excavated Moai Photo: Easter Island Statue Project
via Your Daily Art
Holy cannoli, Batman!

Who knew the Easter Island heads were just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak? They are just what is visible of gigantic buried statues.

According to the ArtNet story, this isn't a new story although it is the first I've heard of it. There are a lot more photos and information at the link.

The Perfect Confirmation Gift: Happy Catholic

Happy Catholic: Glimpes of God in Everyday Life is beautifully written. The style, which achieves the admirable feat of being both ice-cold and white-hot, is electrifying. Julie Davis is never preachy, condescending, or, worse, sentimental. She states her arguments elegantly and clearly, and she has the wit and grace to remember that there are, after all, other opinions, other worldviews.

This book is a collections of quotes. It's been too long since I've read a non-formulaic, original work, let alone one that openly bares the soul of the author and makes you respect them for honestly portraying life as filled with shades of grey instead of being just black or white. Julie Davis writes like Roseanne Barr does standup. No foolin' and to the barbed point with lotsa chuckles along the way.

Think beach book, think train tome, think plane paperback, think graduation gift, think library literature! Absolutely recommend this book.
I'm indebted to Mary Ann whose Amazon review makes me very happy indeed.

Happy Catholic (the book) still makes a great confirmation gift or even a belated Easter gift to new Catholics.

And even if you've been reading the blog all these years, there isn't any duplicated content. It was all written specifically for the book.

Just thought I'd put that reminder out there!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dante's 750th Birthday, Pope Francis and Some Good Reading

On the eve of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Holy Father expresses his hope that during this year the figure of Dante and his work will also accompany us on this personal and community path. “Indeed”, he remarks, “the Comedy may be read as a great itinerary, or rather as a true pilgrimage, both personal and interior, and communal, ecclesial, social and historical. It represents the paradigm of every authentic journey in which humanity is called upon to leave what Dante defines as 'the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious' to attain a new condition, marked by harmony, peace and happiness. And this is the horizon of every true humanism”.

“Dante is, therefore, a prophet of hope, herald of the possibility of redemption, of liberation, of the profound transformation of every man and woman, of all humanity. He continues to invite us to rediscover the lost or obscured meaning of our human path and to hope to see again the shining horizon on which there shines in all its fullness the dignity of the human person. Honouring Dante Alighieri, as Paul VI has already invited us to do, we are able to enrich ourselves with his experience in order to cross the many dark forests still scattered on our earth and to happily complete our pilgrimage in history, to reach the destination dreamed of and wished for by every man: 'the love that moves the sun in heaven and all the stars'”.
That's not all Pope Francis had to say so just click over to the Vatican Information Service for the whole scoop.

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest PoemHow Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem by Rod Dreher

I recently got interested in rereading The Divine Comedy because of Rod Dreher's new book.

However, before I get to that book I have a couple of others I'm interested in. Why I feel I need to read them first I don't know. I'm just going with the (internal) flow on this.

Heaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic TraditionHeaven and Hell: Visions of the Afterlife in the Western Poetic Tradition by Louis Markos

I really enjoyed Louis Markos' On the Shoulders of Hobbits. Having begun this I'm hooked. The way Louis Markos examined the Hebrew and Greek views of the afterlife are insightful and exciting. Dante's Divine Comedy takes up the middle of the book and I'm looking forward to that part quite a bit.

You'll be seeing excerpts from this show up soon as daily quotes.

Also it didn't hurt that he gives my favorite John Ciardi his endorsement as best Dante translation and notes. In fact: "Ciardi is really the only guide you need to Dante." (I've been so beaten up for not preferring other translations that Markos' recommendation was balm to my wounds.) Not that he doesn't comment on many other translations also. When the bibliography is as invitingly written as this, then you know the book's got to be good.

Reading Dante: From Here to EternityReading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw

I can't remember where I came across this. Possibly from my pal Garry Wilmore on Goodreads. He began learning Italian in order to read Dante in the original. That's how much he loves his writing.

So when he gave this 5 stars I knew it had to be good.

The Divine ComedyThe Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Ultimately, I'd be remiss not to include the actual book itself. We don't want to forget in reading about The Divine Comedy that ultimately it is a book we should read for itself. I'm not going to ever get into a translation battle because I don't know enough to advise others. I do know what worked for me, though, and on that basis I can highly recommend John Ciardi's translation with the excellent notes.

As I mentioned above, Louis Markos has a few words of recommendation also, which I'll include here. Because Markos does know about translations.
Many great translators have turned their sights to Dante, but I still think that the best English version of the Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) is by John Ciardi. In addition to his excellent and powerful translation, Ciardi supplies a wealth of notes that help make the work come alive; he even teaches us how to pronounce all the Italian names properly. Indeed, Ciardi is all you need to understand Dante, for his notes draw together much of the best criticism. The introductions and afterwords to all three editions are particularly good.

Worth a Thousand Words: Ernesta

Cecilia Beaux, Ernesta (also known as "Child with Nurse"), 1894
via Wikipedia
This little lady has a look of our goddaughter so I just couldn't resist.

I came across artist Cecilia Beaux via Lines and Colors where Charley Parker calls her the fourth of the "loaded brushes" along with Sergeant, Zorn, and Sorolla, all of whom are favorites of mine. Go to his place for more information and lots of links to other wonderful paintings.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The House of the Seven GablesThe House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This was a great book. It was very different from The Scarlet Letter style-wise with lots of description which set mood, tone, and gave layers of additional meaning. Luckily, I've been reading so much Dickens lately that I was able to recognize when to abandon my usual "don't bore us, get to the chorus" reading style and sink into those layers. Hawthorne also does eccentric characters who you learn to love in a way that is Dickens-worthy also, including (but not limited to) a family of chickens.

It has plenty of mysterious, haunted atmosphere but isn't without comedy. I already mentioned the chickens, of course. The urchin who comes daily to Hepzibah's shop to buy gingerbread cookies was a delight. Indeed, Hepzibah's efforts to set up her "cent shop" were both humorous and touching in the way that the best writing can be.

Here's the way the back of the book description began: "The House of the Seven Gables is one of Hawthorne's defining works, a vivid depiction of American life and values replete with brilliantly etched characters." And it goes on through "lives caught in the common fire of history."

Wait, were you trying to get me to NOT read it? Luckily I was lured into reading so that I could listen to SFFaudio's discussion of it a year ago. That may not be enough to lure you so I will try to do a little better.

The Pyncheon family lives in a mansion built on land wrested from Matthew Maule after Colonel Pyncheon accuses him of witchcraft. Maule laid a curse on the Pyncheons before his death, that they would choke on their own blood. Of course. And many of them have in the generations since then. Also of course.

The family has dwindled to aged spinster Hepzibah and her mentally disturbed brother Clifford. When they are helped by sprightly, young cousin Phoebe and then threatened by rich, malicious cousin Judge Pyncheon the house's ghosts begin to descend on the cursed family. And there is a mysterious lodger. Also a family of chickens.

Now THAT'S a story I'm going to read. And you should too.

Help a prolife couple struggling under difficult circumstances

Baby Olive was diagnosed with Trisomy 18. A debilitating and lethal genetic syndrome that has a .027% chance of existing in a healthy 27 year old woman. This coupled with the fact that Olive’s heart is only half developed, and due to a hernia, her stomach is in her chest cavity; stopping her lungs from developing, is sealing our daughter’s fate.

We will only have mere minutes to spend with Olive when she enters this world.
This expectant mother is a high school friend of my daughter's. She and her fiance are facing what it means to be prolife under difficult circumstances.

They were already struggling greatly with the expenses of an unexpected pregnancy, as they found out that their baby has trisomy 18: Edward's Syndrome. She will not survive to term, and will die in their arms a few minutes after her early birth. They are persevering, but it is pushing them to the edge of bankruptcy.

Read the whole story and donate at the link. Bonus: you'd be supporting an Iraq war veteran!

Worth a Thousand Words: The Proposal

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Proposal, 1872
Today's art is in honor of a real life event in our family — our oldest daughter Hannah became engaged yesterday.

We are thrilled. Hannah's fiance, Mark, is a wonderful young man who is a great fit with our family (always a nice bonus!). Most importantly they seem perfect for each other. We look forward to much future happiness as they begin planning their life together.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Im Schlossgarten

Im Schlossgarten
(on the estate of the Schloss Charlottenburg, in the gardens…)
painted by Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: Talents

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
Henry Van Dyke

This is often less elegantly said as "Perfect is the enemy of good." I like this version better.