Friday, February 27, 2015

The Lord by Romano Guardini — "But love does such things!"

Speaking of the Incarnation, Guardini says:
However, this journey of God from the everlasting into the transitory, this stride across the border into history, is something no human intellect can altogether grasp. The mind might even oppose the apparently fortuitous, human aspect of this interpretation with its own "purer" idea of godliness, yet precisely here lies hidden the kernel of Christianity. Before such an unheard of thought the intellect bogs down. Once at this point a friend gave me a clue that helped my understanding more than any measure of bare reason. He said: "But love does such things!" Again and again these words have come to the rescue when the mind has stopped short at some intellectual impasse. Not that they explain anything to the intelligence; they arouse the heart, enabling it to feel its way into the secrecy of God. The mystery is not understood, but it does move nearer, and the danger of "scandal: disappears.

None of the great things in human life springs from the intellect; every one of them issues from the heart and its love. If even human love has its own reasoning, comprehensible only to the heart that is open to it, how much truer must this be of God's love! When it is the depth and power of God that stirs, is there anything of which love is incapable? The glory of it is so overwhelming that to all who do not accept love as an absolute point of departure, its manifestations must seem the most senseless folly.
This book is my Lenten reading this year. However, it is rich enough, requiring slow absorption, and big enough that it will likely last past that time. I'm reading a library book but realize that it is a book for owning as I would benefit from many rereadings.

Interestingly, it is somewhat like reading G.K. Chesterton's nonfiction. Chesterton always does you the compliment of assuming you know all the basic facts about a subject. It is like entering a conversation between friends who have left mere facts behind long ago and are now delving deeper into underlying themes.

In that way The Lord is a great relief. I don't have to hear yet again, line by line, what Jesus "really meant" by each line of the beatitudes. Instead Guardini brings Jesus' words to life by diving straight into the heart of what lay behind the bigger picture. This may sound odd but consider the above passage, excerpted from his discussion of Christ's incarnation. It dives right to the heart of why believers and nonbelievers alike may struggle with the concept of God becoming man.

The italics are my emphasis of the lines that struck straight to my own heart. It is the basis for so much of Christianity, of learning to answer Jesus' question, "Who do you say that I am?" Certainly it is a wonderful expansion upon that maddening word "mystery" which often is my only fallback when trying to answer questioning non-Christians about something which just "doesn't make sense."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Out of Town for a Week

I may check in if I get a chance but it is likely that I won't be posting until I return next week.

Heads Up on Upcoming Film: Alison's Choice

Alison's Choice is a film about a teenager, Alison, who is pregnant and seriously considering having an abortion, but while she is waiting at the abortion clinic, the janitor starts up a conversation with her. This janitor happens to be the manifestation of Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Alison's Choice doesn't quite fit in the typical "Christian" movie box, but we believe that it will be a powerful tool that can be used to save lives.

Alison's Choice was written and directed by Bruce Marchiano and it is currently in post production.

We have a great team of filmmakers working on this movie. Bruce has been an actor for a long time, and our DP is Phil Hurn, who has worked in many films, and our editor is Scott Conrad, who won an Oscar for his work on the original Rocky film. I say all that to let you know that we have a team with the experience and the tools to make this not another low budget "Christian" film, but a high quality and powerful film.
For one thing, I like it when something isn't "typically Christian" and this set up makes me think of Joan of Arcadia which I really liked a lot. Also, the editor from Rocky! C'mon. Now we're talking.

There won't be a trailer for a while but I thought I'd let everyone know about it. There is more info at the link above. And they have a Facebook page you can check out.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Well Said: Buying Time

It would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents.
Arthur Schopenhauer
Oh, that's why I have big stacks of books and still keep buying more. I forget to pick up a little time while I'm at it.

Worth a Thousand Words: Shop Sign of Gersaint


Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), Shop Sign of Gersaint
I know that trade work was common for artists trying to keep their heads above water, but something about this shop sign really grabs me ... and amuses me at the same time.

Movie Review: The Drop Box


They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to the earth to use them.
Pastor Lee Jong-rak
Many years ago Pastor Lee's son, Eun-man, was born with crippling cerebral palsy. He and his wife cared for their baby at home, which is so unusual in Seoul, South Korea, that it led a frightened mother to abandon her disabled infant on his doorstep one cold night. Luckily he found the baby before it froze but this prompted him to build The Drop Box. On any given night the "doorbell" may sound in the Lee home signaling that another desperate, anonymous mother has chosen to surrender her baby.

Too often, in a society like South Korea there is only one answer to the social stigma attached to unwed motherhood and aversion to any child born with disabilities. Babies are abandoned and often die before they are discovered. Pastor Lee and his wife and their Christian community care for about 18 disabled children. He has rescued hundreds of babies thanks to the drop box.

The Drop Box is told in a straight forward way but it is not a simple film.

Not only do we see Pastor Lee's ministry but the value of life becomes the central theme of the film. This is only to be expected but what I didn't expect was that the drop box ministry has opponents. Here is where the director's patient story telling pays off. The presentation of both sides of the arguments is handled delicately but compellingly.

Perhaps the most powerful statement about the film is that it changed the film director's own life.
Ivie said, "These kids are not mistakes. They are important." He went on to say, "I became a Christian while making this movie. When I started to make it and I saw all these kids come through the drop box – it was like a flash from heaven, just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul. And God loves me still. When it comes to this sanctity of life issue, we must realize that that faith in God is the only refuge for people who are deemed unnecessary. This world is so much about self-reliance, self-worth, and self-esteem. It's a total illusion that we can be self-sufficient. Christ is the only thing that enables us."
This documentary is a wonderful look at a Christian who is changing the world the only way he knows how: through actively loving those around him. Pastor Lee lives in the best tradition of the first-century Christians who bore witness to the pagans around them by taking in abandoned infants, caring for widows, and staying with the sick when everyone else was fleeing.

It's a movie that stuck with me long afterward and had me reexamining parts of my own life.

This film will be in theaters March 3-5.

Don't miss it.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Lagniappe: Never record anything ...

I rang her and left a message identifying myself and giving an impression of urgency without actually saying anything concrete. Never record anything you wouldn't want turning up on YouTube is my motto.
Ben Aaronovitch, Moon Over Soho
If only more of us remembered this, the world would be a calmer place. More boring, sure. But definitely calmer.

Worth a Thousand Words: Arctic Tern

Arctic Tern
taken by Remo Savisaar

Blogging Around: The What-Caught-My-Eye Edition

Tips for Mid-Lent Penance Adjustment

Jennifer Fitz reminds us that our chosen penance isn't set in stone. If we need adjustments, she's got three good tips.

The Importance of Rough Housing With Your Kids

The Art of Manliness has reasons, good guidelines, and a book to check out.

Decent Films Website Redesign

Normally I don't care about such things enough to point them out, but this one really does make it easier to see what Catholic film critic Steven D. Greydanus has been writing.

Bread, on the table ... s'il vous plait

David Lebovitz talks about where the French put their bread in restaurants and many other aspects of bread and French meals. Fascinating.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Well Said: Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hater
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost
Elegantly said.

And insightful. Yet another quote perfect for Lenten reflection.

Worth a Thousand Words: Melk Staircase

Stift Melk, staircase near church, photographed by David Monniaux, Creative Commons licensing
I first saw this gorgeous piece of architecture in Art: A New History by Paul Johnson. I could look at this all day.

Audible's Daily Deal - Cabin Pressure, season 4


One of my favorite BBC radio series is Cabin Pressure.

It tells the hilarious exploits of an oddball crew of a struggling charter service with a single airplane that is in none too good repair. As they take all sorts of items, people or animals across the world, we learn about the crew and their lives.

It is clever and humorous in the way that the best sitcoms can be. There is wordplay, build up to final jokes, and, of course, we learn to care about even the most unlikable characters. One of my favorite touches is that the crew is often playing games to while away the time. And they are simultaneously funny and engrossing, while often moving the plot along.

The daily deal is for season 4, but season 1 is pretty cheap and you really should begin at the beginning. None of the seasons are more than $10. I promise they pay off with high levels of entertainment.

What I didn't realize until I saw the photo accompanying the daily deal is that Benedict Cumberbatch played Martin. Or perhaps I should say that by the time Benedict Cumberbatch became famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, Cabin Pressure just wasn't on my radar any more. At any rate it is fun to hear him as Martin.

I also never picked up on the fact that the places they visit in each episode are in alphabetical order. They begin with Abu Dhabi, proceeding then to Boston, Cremona, and onward until the last episode, "Zurich." It is those little touches that make it a complete listening pleasure.

I'll relisten with extra relish.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday - A Little Fun

Because this makes me laugh every time, I repost ...

Ash Wednesday is the chance for single Catholics to identify other singles who are, as my friends would say, really eligible! In aid of that, we present:
PATRICK MADRID'S TOP 10 LIST
Catholic Pickup Lines
(courtesy of Envoy)

10. May I offer you a light for that votive candle?

9. Hi there. My buddy and I were wondering if you would settle a dispute we're having. Do you think the word should be pronounced HOMEschooling, or homeSCHOOLing?

8. Sorry, but I couldn't help but noticing how cute you look in that ankle-length, shapeless, plaid jumper.

7. What's a nice girl like you doing at a First Saturday Rosary Cenacle like this?

6. You don't like the culture of death either? Wow! We have so much in common!

5. Let's get out of here. I know a much cozier little Catholic bookstore downtown.

4. I bet I can guess your confirmation name.

3. You've got stunning scapular-brown eyes.

2. Did you feel what I felt when we reached into the holy water font at the same time?

1. Confess here often?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lent and Me

I've been busy posting lists of books, movies, and suchlike for everyone. But I haven't said much about my own personal plans for Lent.

Then I read Joseph's plan at Zombie Parent's Guide and found it inspirational. Or should I say awe inspiring? In my mind, anyone who gives up fiction for Lent is akin to one of those hermits who sat on pillars in the desert. It calls for superhuman strength and I don't even understand it.

At the very least I realized I've got to buckle down and decide instead of just toying with ideas. To be fair, I've been asking God for prompting in what stands between us, so I can toss it out.

Such questions in the past have led to changes I've carried on in real life such as not using the computer on Sundays, not listening to my iPod when others are around and so forth. We'll see if these are equally life changing ... and form better connections with the Almighty.

Here's where I am.

Prayer

I pledge to be more faithful.

I already have two prayer times in the day.

When I'm feeding the dogs in the morning, I do intercessory prayer and (when I remember) I turn my day over to God. Sometimes that will spill over into when I'm reading my daily page of A Year with the Saints (Thigpen) while I'm dressing. Sometimes not.

When I get home in the afternoon, I make a cup of coffee and go outside if it is nice. (The dogs love coffee time when we're all out there together.) I spend 20 minutes with more contemplative prayer than in the morning.

There is nature, for one thing, which always brings me closer to God.

In the last few months I've also been working my way very slowly through Mark, a few verses at a time, in that Ignatian imaginative style. You know, read a little story or parable, and you imagine you are there. What do you smell? What is the weather like? What can you hear? How does everything look? Can you feel the sun or is it overcast? And you put yourself in the scene and ... let it unfold.

Believe me there is nothing for making you get everything out of scripture like applying this to a little bit of text for 20 minutes. I have had some surprising insights this way. And certainly I've had moments of connection with God.

The problem, of course, is that I have to give 20 minutes. It is sad how often I have other distractions I'd rather indulge in during that paltry 20 minutes. Worse yet is how often I go ahead and do something else instead of prayer.

So during Lent I will not miss a 20-minute date with my coffee, dogs, and Bible. Promise.

Fasting

This is the traditional name for "giving up something for Lent." I've done it with food, I've done it with technology, I've done it with bad habits. (Remember that 40 days when I made it everywhere on time? Hurrah for Lent!)

This year I am fighting distraction overall. (See prayer above.) I think it is one of the ills of our time. And I really need a cure.

I'm going to give up visiting three social media spots which just suck the time right out of me. GoodReads, Bloglovin', and Facebook.
  • GoodReads is the biggie here. I. love. it. But I realize it is also influencing my reading because I am reading for the community sometimes instead of for myself. Yeah, I also do that for podcasts and suchlike but it's a different thing than GoodReads for me.
  • Bloglovin' is, strictly speaking, an RSS aggregator but if I want to read a blog I can actually take the trouble to use my own sidebar. Much less distracting. 
  • Facebook is the most minor of these. However, if I want to avoid a task it is better than nothing. And I'll go there for that avoidance and distraction. I'll probably still throw occasional links to this blog on Facebook but I won't stop to read anything. 

Almsgiving

I admit this is one I hadn't really thought about specifically until I read Joseph's post. We give weekly and just contributed to a couple of the bishop's various appeals. However, Lent calls for more.

What comes to mind right now is something weekly for our poor box. (Yes, we have one. Actually we have two. One for money. One for food, clothing, and other tangible items.) It all goes to our St. Vincent de Paul ministry who helps the needy with food, clothing, furniture, rent, utility, transportation, medical, emotional and spiritual support.

I like that. Ok, almsgiving chosen.

Prepping for Lent: Are You Ready to Rumble?

Fasting. No one likes it. Even people who don't care about food too much don't like it. And no wonder. We get hungry, we get cranky, we're uncomfortable ... darned uncomfortable.

I rarely remember to think about it more deeply than than to psych myself into the zone by offering it up for someone in grave need.

This from my quote journal reminded me to think about fasting in a very different way. I thought I'd share it.
Lenten Fasting
Jesus fasted simply because he wanted to, as the gospel clearly says. But why? Because hunger never comes alone; hunger usually touches us very deeply, not just physically but deep in our heart. Hunger in a sense wounds us; it undermines something in us which up to that moment had been inviolable. It causes a kind of vaccuum, tears open an old wound, and even at times leads to dizziness. Precisely for that reason fasting and hunger can change something in us, can even bring about a genuine transformation.

Whatever is thus touched or kindled is not always honorable or satisfying ... In order to be able to test us the devil has to take advantage of our weaknesses, both our physical and spiritual weakness, the hunger which torments us and makes us afraid of losing our life.

For along with hunger other desires and temptations immediately surface as well, even in the case of Jesus: the seductive challenge of easy success, the desire for earthly fame, the hunger for power in this world, sensuality in all its forms. Fasting half opens the door we so often want to keep shut, even with a double lock. For immediately after the first hunger and the first desire, the other hunger and those other desires surface as well, desires which seek -- with equal bitterness and equal power to disturb us -- to take possession of our heart. No one ever fasts with impunity ...

However, Jesus had come for this very purpose. Not to crush all desires and temptations, nor to conquer them honorably. The contrary is true ... Our fasting even today risks opening the door to the excitement of the desires it threatens to unleash, a door which looks out on the other shore of our desires, not on their dark but on their light side: God within us; God who desires to be loved; God who hungers for us and we for him, passionately.
Father Andre Louf, O.C.S.O. (Magnificat)
I do have one practical piece of advice to offer ... hunger comes in "waves" so if you suddenly feel those pangs, quite often you can remember that and when you come to think of it again then the hunger has receded. That helps me anyway.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Well Said: God and St. Catherine

In a vision, God summarized all of divine revelation to St. Catherine in two two-word sentences: "I'm God. You're not." Why is it so easy for us to forget that second thing?
Peter Kreeft, Practical Theology
I don't know. But it really is, isn't it.

Just one more reason we need Lent every year.

Worth a Thousand Words: Bust of Louis XIV

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), Bust of Louis XIV of France
Doesn't that clothing look as if it is flying in the wind? Sculpting is truly a mysterious and amazing art.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Yellow-Glazed Brush Holder

Yellow-glazed brush-holder, "Chen Guo Zhi" mark;
Jingdezhen Daoguang reign, (1821-50)
I love it when common place items have decorative, artistic touches. I wish that more of our world had such touches.

Well Said: On the Palm Branches

Let's spread the thoughts and desires of our hearts under his feet like garments, so that entering us with the whold of hhis being, he [Jesus] can draw the whole of our being into himself, and place the whole of his being within us. ...

Receive him, then, with open, outstretched hands, for it was on his own hands that he sketched you. Receive the one who laid your foundations on the palms of his hands. Receive him, for he took upon himself all that is ours except in sin, so he could destroy the sin that is ours in the sinless nature that is his.

St. Andrew of Crete,
Oration 9 on the Palm Branches
I read this in A Year with the Saints by Paul Thigpen. I got to the end of that book and just turned back to the beginning and began rereading it a page per day. It beats me how those saints can say things that hit me right between the eyes, especially when I don't recall reading them the first time through the book.

In this case, St. Andrew of Crete provided me with some really lovely images for reflection, leading to thoughts about Jesus himself. I thought you might like them also.

Julie and Scott discuss Calvary until they run out of things to say ...

They are both sure they'll think of something to add by Sunday week.

This might be the perfect Lenten movie. See what you think. It's episode 101 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What We've Been Watching: The Hundred-Foot Journey, Chef

The Hundred-Foot Journey 2014 ★★

Ho hum. This is a beautiful piece with a talented cast. Unfortunately it had a highly predictable plotline.

Watching it I was struck by the fact that this is the director who gave us What's Eating Gilbert Grape at the beginning of his career. I also greatly enjoyed his later film Chocolat. This piece of eye candy does not live up to either.




Chef 2014 ★★★½

This is a happy little movie that I enjoyed a great deal more than I thought I would. That's probably because I had recently suffered through the predictability of The Hundred-Foot Journey and thought this would be more of the same.

Chef ain't rocket science but I greatly enjoyed the father-son bonding and how each teaches the other something important to them. I also really liked the way they illustrated social media, going viral, and other such modernities. I watched it with Mom and we agreed that it was like a tutorial in how such things work. As well as food trucks.

It is an honest little, indie-style movie that gave me a great deal of pleasure. And sometimes that's all a movie needs to do.


Worth a Thousand Words: Lion Man

Lion man, from Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany,
40,000 BC-30,000 BC

Well Said: Private Life

You have the right to a private life, but you do not have the right to a secret life.

Cardinal Thomas Collins,
Lectio Divina on Mark

In which we go to Legoland, visit Hans Christen Anderson at home ...

and I bid a temporary farewell to Forgotten Classics.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Authors' Love for the Narrators of Their Audiobooks

We all know I'm a sucker for a good audiobook but it hadn't occurred to me to wonder how authors may feel about the way their books are literally brought alive by narrators.

You can read some of their fan mail at Audible. I admit I loved seeing Jonathan Maberry and John Scalzi praise the voices I've come to love as those of their characters.

Green Beans Dijon

I finally tried a recipe I'd been hanging onto for years. The results are at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Poetry: Upon Julia's Clothes

Upon Julia's Clothes

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
O how that glittering taketh me!

Robert Herrick, 1591-1674

Worth a Thousand Words: The Eiffel Tower

La tour Eiffel, Georges Seurat, 1889
This jewel-like painting makes me think of the Eiffel Tower lit at night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: In the Orchard

Edmund Tarbell, In the Orchard, 1891
Souther siblings, Mrs. Tarbell at far right

Lagniappe: Offending your family

Fledgeby's mother offended her family by marrying Fledgeby's father. It is one of the easiest accomplishments in life to offend your family when your family wants to get rid of you.
Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
Ouch! Funny and true. And, I must add, the eventual effect on Fledgeby was considerable.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Kingfisher

Kingfisher
taken by Remo Savisaar
Simply splendid.

Be sure to click through the link to see this photo in full size.

Well Said: Faith in the Word

Christianity, of course, is not a "religion of the book" but rather faith in the Word — that is in that Word of God who in Mary's womb "was made flesh" and "lived among us," and "we saw his glory." (John 1:14a)
Timothy Verndon, Art and Prayer
I never really thought about what is wrong with that lumping together of Christianity with other faiths as a "religion of the book." Until I read this, of course. Yes, I am a believer in the Word, not in the book.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Drawing on

Drawing on
by Edward B. Gordon
Finally! A still life I can relate to! At least from a writing and journal perspective.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Well Said: A Worm in the Apple of the Heart

Most people desperately desire to believe that they are part of a great mystery, that Creation is a work of grace and glory, not merely the result of random forces colliding. Yet each time that they are given but one reason to doubt, a worm in the apple of the heart makes them turn away from a thousand proofs of the miraculous, whereupon they have a drunkard’s thirst for cynicism, and they feed upon despair as a starving man upon a loaf of bread.
Dean Koontz, Odd Thomas
Why is that? I can be just as bad, having to talk myself into believing the miraculous instead of instantly finding a thousand reasons to doubt ... even when I know better.

Worth a Thousand Words: The City Atlas

Sidney Starr, A City Atlas, 1888-1889
via Arts and Everyday Living

The Faithful Traveler: Exploring the California Missions

"San Carlos Borromeo Mission" by Jsweida - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Diana and David von Glahn, the husband-and-wife team behind the travel series, The Faithful Traveler, which broadcasts on EWTN, are turning to Kickstarter to raise funds for their latest series, Exploring the California Missions.

The 10-13 episode travel series will look at the history and Catholic tradition behind all 21 California Missions, and will be produced in time for the canonization of Bl. Junipero Serra.

With just 45 days to fund the project and six months to get it ready for broadcast, the producers are hopeful that potential funders will support their efforts to tell the story behind the Missions.
There is hardly a more romantic and Catholic part of U.S. history than the California missions. Diana and David would be the perfect guides.

They've got wonderful photos and information up at Kickstarter, where you may contribute to their series.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: Gorilla, Gorilla

Gorilla, Gorilla - Western lowland
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
Some rights reserved

Well Said: More to Read Than We Can Read

We all have a lot more to read than we can read and a lot more to do than we can do. Still, one of the things I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying.
Will Schwalbe, The End of Your Life Book Club

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lagniappe: Tea and Objectionable Practice

I have understood that it was, to the last, her proudest boast, that she never had been on the water in her life, except upon a bridge; and that over her tea (to which she was extremely partial) she, to the last, expressed her indignation at the impiety of mariners and others, who had the presumption to go 'meandering' about the world. It was in vain to represent to her that some conveniences, tea perhaps included, resulted from this objectionable practice.
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
I always forget just how funny Dickens can be and how well he slips his jokes into the main narrative.

Worth a Thousand Words: Peintres de Montmartre

Peintres de Montmartre, Place du Tertre, Paris, c.1950
via Books and Art
I loved Montmartre when we were in Paris, right next to my favorite basilica, Sacre Coeur. This took me back to the days when we visited with the girls and had their portraits painted.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Worth a Thousand Words: White Lilies

Anders Zorn, White Lilies
via Wikipedia
I am winging my way home from Florida. This makes me think of Mom since she got a lovely flower arrangement featuring several white lilies.

Well Said: Not Before God

There's a thing in The Dark is Rising, the Christmas one, which is definitely the best of them, where Will does magic in a church, and the vicar asks about the magic crosses and they say they're before Christ, and he says, "But not before God. ... In children's books with magic everything is always very black and white though not of course in Tolkien. But "not before God" made me think.
Jo Walton, Among Others
I came across The Dark is Rising before realizing it was part of a series, in fact the second in a series. I liked it so much that I then tried the first book which I didn't like as well. This quote and Jo Walton's use of it makes me want to reread it.