Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Thursday: Via Lucis - Stations of the Resurrection for Easter

Nikolay Koshelev, Harrowing of Hell, 1900
Via Lucis, The Way of Light substitutes meditations on the Stations of the Resurrection for the Stations of the Cross.
As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation, and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession, with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn. (Source: Wikipedia)
I first came across this practice in Magnificat, which typically features a version in their Easter edition.

For Easter meditation, this devotion parallels the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary just as the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) complements the Sorrowful Mysteries. These stations were discovered in the Catacombs of St. Callistus in Rome.

If you check the Wikipedia link there are a couple of different lists of meditative stations. As with the original Stations of the Cross, it is evolving as the practice is taken up by growing numbers of people. I like getting to see that happen, actually.

This link is to a pdf from the Archdiocese of Detroit which can be printed out. I'm grateful these are provided.

Note on the art
Just to keep that fluid Via Lucis meditation going, one of my favorite things to contemplate is when Christ brought salvation to the righteous who had already died but were waiting for this moment.  That is not part of any of the Via Lucis lists that you'll find but, hey, I don't always stick to the "assigned" mysteries when praying the rosary either.

Maybe it's because I've been reading the Divine Comedy. In Hell, Dante has several spots where the architecture and ground were ruined by Christ's coming and the resultant earthquake. I love that so much. (The Harrowing of Hell is complicated. You can read more here.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Blogging Around: Two Tributes to Mother Angelica

I was never much interested in EWTN, as I've mentioned, though I knew it did untold good. Likewise, I was never really drawn to Mother Angelica, the nun who founded EWTN, although I did read and enjoy a book or two of hers soon after I entered the Church.

Therefore, I was interested and pleased to read these heartfelt tributes from people in whose life she made a big difference. It brings me closer to what she accomplished for Christ.

Foolish Enough to Achieve What She Was Not Qualified to Do

I even remember the first episode of Mother Angelica Live that I watched where she had Fr. Groeschel on as a guest talking about his book “In the Presence of Our Lord”. Now if Mother Angelica’s appearance caught me by surprised originally, the same could be said for Fr. Benedict Groeschel. In this day and age? The banter between them quite amused me. Wow these odd looking Catholics can be pretty funny. His book was the first Catholic book I purchased.
Jeff Miller (The Curt Jester) gives a wonderful view of the paths through which Mother Angelica led him to a deeper Catholic faith.

How the ‘Pirate Nun’ Changed a Gay Man’s Life

“So (Jeff) comes in, and I’m laughing mockingly at this nun with a patch over her eye, a distorted face … and a complete old-fashioned habit,” Darrow said. “We both mocked her and laughed at her — you know, ‘Gosh, these crazy Christians.’”

Jeff left the room and Darrow was about to change the channel, when Mother Angelica “said something so intelligent, so real and so honest that it really struck me,” he said.

“You see, God created you and I to be happy in this life and the next,” Mother Angelica said through slumped lips, her good eye still twinkling behind her glasses.

Mother Angelica’s words struck a chord with Darrow that day, and he found himself secretively snatching glimpses of her episodes every chance he got: “He cares for you. He watches your every move. There’s no one that loves you that can do that.”
Jeff Darrow, a same-sex attracted man tells how he saw Mother Angelica (complete with eye patch after a stroke) and it changed his life. Via The Curt Jester.

Easter Wednesday: When Easter Makes You Want to Act Like Scrooge on Christmas Morning

This is from a few years ago, but I think it's worth reading again.
After the last egg is found – what next? While I had come to know a little more about Easter and its connection to Jesus – I was still more interested in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans than what I thought of as the mythology of the Christians. Even secular Christmas has some power to let you hear the Gospel even if only via the Carols and the watered-down version of Christmas in a Christmas movie. Secular Easter is another story where hardly and bits of the Gospel make it through into the culture. On the pantheon of holidays Easter for me was less than President’s Day. At least for President’s Day you don’t feel that loss of something you feel should be there, but don’t know why you are lacking something.
Read The Curt Jester's conversion story and his experience with Easter.

I concur in most of the feelings he mentions. In reading through this I noticed that Jeff and I also share that experience of having to wait for a year to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. In my case, unlike his, I needed the RCIA instruction as well receiving the unexpected spiritual growth from the classes.

No matter what your case, read his story. It will remind you of the joy of Easter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Too Late for an Autopsy - I talk about books with Jenny at Reading Envy

I haven't talked books with Jenny at her Reading Envy podcast since episode 3. This week I was again her guest, on episode 55! Yes, it has been several years since the last time.

Maybe that's why the list of extra books mentioned is so long. Or it could simply be that I can't help peppering people with lots and lots of book ideas.

Join us to see what we've both been reading lately. Reading Envy, episode 55.

Tom Hiddleston and Stephen Colbert See the Light

I was already interested in seeing I Saw the Light, the Hank Williams biopic, though I did wonder how Tom Hiddleston could possibly pull off the role. I liked both the insights and the brief music sample from this clip.

Easter Tuesday: Living Under Enemy Occupation in the Light of Victory

I've been posting this one since waaaay back in 2007. It is still as valid now and I, personally, need the  reminder.
Now think of the cross and resurrection of Jesus as breaking the power of sin. But if the power of sin, death and evil has been broken, how can we make sense of the fact that it still continues to plague us? Human history and Christian experience tell us of a constant struggle against sin and evil in our own lives, even as Christians. There is a real danger, it would seem, that talking about "the victory of faith" will become nothing more than empty words, masking a contradiction between faith and experience. How can we handle this problem?

A helpful way of understanding this difficulty was developed by a group of distinguished writers, such as C.S. Lewis in England and Anders Nygren in Sweden. They noticed important parallels between the new Testament and the situation during the Second World War. The victory won over sin through the death of Christ was like the liberation of an occupied country from Nazi rule. We need to allow our imaginations to take in the sinister and menacing idea of an occupying power. Life has to be lived under the shadow of this foreign presence. And part of the poignancy of the situation is its utter hopelessness. Nothing can be done about it. No one can defeat it.

Then comes the electrifying news. There has been a far-off battle. And somehow, it has turned the tide of the war. A new phase has developed, and the occupying power is in disarray. Its backbone has been broken. In the course of time, the Nazis will be driven out of every corner of Europe. But they are still present in the occupied country.

In one sense, the situation has not changed, but in another, more important sense, the situation has changed totally. The scent of victory and liberation is in the air. A total change in the psychological climate results. I remember once meeting a man who had been held prisoner in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. He told me of the astonishing change in the camp atmosphere which came about when one of the prisoners (who owned a shortwave radio) learned of the collapse of the Japanese war effort in the middle of 1945. Although all in the camp still remained prisoners, they knew that their enemy had been beaten. It would only be a matter of time before they were released. And those prisoners, I was told, began to laugh and cry, as if they were free already.

... And so with us now. In one sense, victory has not come; in another, it has. The resurrection declares in advance of the event God's total victory over all evil and oppressive forces -- such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in the light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.
Alister E. McGrath, quoted in Bread and Wine: Readings For Lent And Easter
This is a point of view that hadn't occurred to me. I especially like it for those times when the world is too much with us and the cynicism of modern times begins to get us down. The deciding battle is over, the victory won, but there remain all the small skirmishes (which are not at all small to those caught up in them ... like us) that go on afterwards in any war. By virtue of simply being human and alive we are caught up in the skirmishes of resistance to the enemy occupation. Even when fighting, though, we know ...
The strife is o'er the battle done;
Now is the Victor's triumph won:
Now be the song of praise begun: Alleluia!

Monday, March 28, 2016

An Easter Weekend Story American Media Isn't Mentioning

I was shocked and saddened to see the story of terrorists bombing a park and playground in Pakistan because Christians are known to gather there on Easter. I know this might seem like a stupid reaction but I can't help thinking, "what is wrong with these people?"

I was equally shocked to read reports that the Indian priest kidnapped by ISIS linked terrorists was crucified on Good Friday. (Though those reports are currently unsubstantiated.) I've been praying for him and the report unexpectedly brought tears to my eyes.

Mother Angelica died on Easter and that news seems so appropriate. I've never paid much attention to EWTN but I know the huge contribution it made and the big impact that Mother Angelica has had on so many lives.

These are all stories you see floating around news aggregators and social media.

Here's one, though, that American media has all but ignored. As reported by GetReligion,
Coverage in British newspapers [as opposed to BBC broadcast] has been much more blunt. Consider the top paragraphs in The Telegraph, which jump straight to the religious details that make this crime so dramatic.
A popular shopkeeper was stabbed to death by another Muslim in a "religiously prejudiced" attack hours after posting an Easter message on Facebook to "my beloved Christian nation".

Asad Shah, 40, a devout Muslim originally from the Pakistani city of Rabwah, had his head stamped on during a savage attack, according to one eyewitness.

Around four hours earlier the victim wrote online: "Good Friday and a very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation. "Let's follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds."

On Friday afternoon, police confirmed that a 32-year-old Muslim man had been arrested in connection with Mr Shah's death.
The victim had a history – in social media – of rejecting violence by radicalized Muslims and calling for peace and understanding between people of different faiths. His neighbors, of all faiths, immediately began raising funds to try to help his family.
My husband and I were just discussing this morning why more moderate Muslims weren't speaking up or otherwise helping to stop the radicalized terrorists. Of course, one answer was just the sad response that we see from the story above.

But I love that Mr. Shah didn't let that stop him, though the danger would be obvious. He is a real life hero. His courage deserves to be celebrated. Shame on American media for not even reporting the story.

Easter Monday: I Wanted to Tell You I Love You

Reposted because I just love it!

It's the story of salvation history, a love story from God's point of view. This made me think, made me laugh, made me joyful and thankful. About 6 minutes long, but worth it. Joyful Easter everyone!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday: Joyful, Joyful

Maurice Denis. Holy Women Near the Tomb/Saintes Femmes au tombeau. 1894
This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness ... In him we find everything. Outside of him our life is empty (J. Escriva, Christ is passing by).
After the somber tone and reflection of Holy Thursday and Good Friday I can hardly wait to get to Mass to hear the joy and triumph of our Easter celebration.

May you all have the same delight and joy in your Easter celebrations both in church and at home.

To all the new Catholics around the world who are joining the Church this year, welcome home! This is my 16th birthday as a Catholic and well I remember how wonderful it was sitting with my sweet and wise sponsor, the smell of the chrism (I wanted to never wash it off), and that glorious Mass where it all happened. I will leave you with some funny but wise words from another convert. If you remember these, it will make the good times better and any disillusionment with the Church less.
First, the good news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family.

Second, the bad news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family.
Mark Shea

Friday, March 25, 2016

Part 5 - The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (back, predella): The Wedding at Cana. 1308-11.

The final part of Fulton Sheen's reflections on the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
The Cross is everywhere. When a man stretches out his arms in relaxation, he unconsciously forms the image of the reason for the Son of Man's coming. So too at Cana, the shadow of the Cross was thrown across a "woman," and the first stroke of the "Hour" was sounded like a bell of execution. In all the other incidents of His life, the Cross came first, then the joy. But at Cana, it was the joy of the nuptials that came first--the nuptials of the Bridegroom and the Bride of redeemed humanity; only after that are we reminded that the Cross is the condition of that ecstasy.

Thus He did at a marriage feast what He would not do in a desert; He worked in the full gaze of men what He had refused to do before Satan. Satan asked Him to turn stones into bread in order that He might become an economic Messiah; His mother asked Him to change water into wine that He might become a Savior. Satan tempted Him from death; Mary "tempted" Him to death and Resurrection. Satan tried to lead Him from the Cross; Mary sent Him toward it. Later on, He would take hold of the bread that Satan had said men needed, and tee wine that His mother had said the wedding guests needed, and He would change them both into the memorial of His Passion and His death. Then He would ask that men renew that memorial, even "unto the consummation of the world." The antiphon of His life continues to ring: Everyone else came into the world to live; He came into the world to die.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

Holy Week: Good Friday - Jesus Dies on the Cross

The Lord is firmly nailed to the cross. He has waited for this for many years, and this day He is to fulfill his desire to redeem all men ... What until now has been an instrument of infamy and dishonor, has been converted into the tree of life and the stairway of glory. A deep joy fills him as he extends his arms on the cross, for all those sinners who will approach him will now know that he will welcome them with open arms...

He saw -- and this filled him with joy -- how the cross was to be loved and to be adored, because he was going to die on it. He saw the witnessing saints who for love and in defence of the truth were to suffer a similar martyrdom. He saw the love ofhis friends; he saw their tears at the foot of the cross. He saw the triumph and the victories Christians would achieve under the standard of the cross. He saw the great miracles which, with the sign of the cross, would be performed throughout the world. He saw so very many men who, with their lives, were going to be saints, because they would know how to die like him, overcoming sin (L. de la Palma, the Passion of the Lord) ...

It was not necessary for him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgment, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and the lance ... But he wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond?

Very likely there will be times when, alone in front of a crucifix, you find tears coming to your eyes. Don't try to hold them back ... But try to ensure that those tears give rise to a resolution. (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Eleventh Station).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Week: Holy Thursday - The Lord's Last Supper

Singular events took place in that period, which the evangelists have recorded for us; take, for instance, the rivalry between the apostles, who began to discuss who was the greatest; think of Jesus' surprising example of humility and of service when he carried out the menial task of the lowest of the servants -- he began to wash their feet; consider, too, how Jesus went out of his way to show his disciples his love and affection. My little ones, he actually calls them. Christ himself wished to give that gathering such a fullness of significance, so rich in memories, scene of such moving words and sentiments, such new actions and precepts, that we will never come to an end of meditating on them and exploring them. It was, you might say, a testimonial dinner: it was an affectionate and yet a somber occasion, a time mysteriously revealing divine promises and far-reaching visions. On top of that was the sad presentiment of death, with unprecedented omens of treason, of abandonment, of immolation; the conversation dies away, while Jesus' words flow continuously in his gentle and winning voice, though there is an unwonted tension in his grave allusion to profound revelations, the matter of which hovers between life and death (Paul VI, Homily, Holy Thursday).

What Christ did for his own may be summarized in a few words from St. John: he loved them to the end (John 13:1). Today is a particularly appropriate day for mediating on the love Jesus has for each one of us, and how we respond to it; in regular dealings with him, in love for the Church, in acts of atonement and reparation, in charity towards others, in preparation and in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, in our desire to co-redeem with him, in our hunger and thirst for justice ...

Part 4 - The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Gerard David. The Marriage at Cana. c. 1503.

More of Fulton Sheen's observations about the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
The six water pots were filled, making about one hundred and twenty gallons, and in the beautiful language of Richard Crashaw, "the conscious water saw its God and blushed." The first miracle was something like creation itself; it was done by the power of "the Word." The wine He created was so good that the bridegroom was reproached by the steward with the words:
Everyone serves the best wine first, and waits until the guests have drunk freely before serving the poorer sort; but you have kept the best wine till now. John 2:10
Truly the best wine was kept. Up until then in the unfolding of revelation, the poor wine had been the prophets, judges, and kings, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Josue -- all were like the water awaiting the miracle of the Expected of the Nations. The world generally gives its best pleasures first; afterward come the dregs and the bitterness. But Christ reversed the order and gave us the feast after the fast, the Resurrection after the Crucifixion, the joy of Easter Sunday after the sorrow of Good Friday.
This deed at Cana-in-Galilee is the first of the signs by which Jesus revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him. John 2:11
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 5 will be tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Holy Week: Wednesday - The Way to Calvary

Maurice Denis. The Road to Calvary/
Montace au calvaire ou Le Calvaire. 1889.
Forming part of the procession, their presence making his impending death yet more shameful, are two convicted criminals, described as two thieves. A recently-arrived spectator to the scene would see three men, each laden with a cross, walking towards death. But only one is the Saviour of the world. Only one of the crosses is the redeeming Cross.

Today, too, the cross can be carried in different ways. There is the cross carried furiously or sullenly, in a rage; man writhes and squirms, filled with hate, or at least, with a deep and burning resentment. It is a cross without meaning and without any explanation, useless; such a cross may even separate one from God. It is the cross of those in this world who seek comfort and material well-being, who will put up with neither suffering nor setbacks, for they have no wish to understand the supernatural meaning of pain. It is a cross which does not redeem. It is the cross carried by one of the thieves.

On the road to Calvary is a second cross, carried this time with resignation, perhaps even with some dignity, with an acceptance of the situation simply because there is no alternative to it. This is the one carried by the other thief. Little by little he realizes that close by him is the sovereign figure of Christ, who will radically change the final moments of his life on earth, and for eternity; he will be the one converted into the good thief.

There is a third way of carrying the cross. Jesus embraces the saving wood and teaches us how we ought to carry our own cross: with love, co-redeeming all souls with him, making reparation at the same time for our own sins. Our Lord has conferred on human suffering a deep meaning. Being able, as he was, to redeem us in a multitude of ways, he chose to do so through suffering, for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Part 3: The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Giotto. The Wedding Feast at Cana. 1304-1306.

Continuing with Fulton Sheen's insights connecting the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
At the Resurrection He gave Himself back to her, to show that while she had gained new children, she had not lost Him. At Cana the prophecy that Simeon had made to her in the temple was confirmed: henceforth, whatever involved her Son would involve her, too; whatever happened to Him would happen to her. If He was destined to go to the Cross, so was she; and if He was now beginning His Public Life, then she would begin a new life too, no longer as just the mother of Jesus, but as the mother of all whom Jesus the Savior would redeem. He called Himself "Son of Man," a title embracing all humanity; she would be henceforth the "Mother of Men." Just as she was at His side as He began His Hour, so would she be at His side at its climactic finish. When she took Him away from the temple as a boy of twelve, it was because she sensed that His Hour had not yet come; He obeyed her then and returned to Nazareth with her. Now, He told her that His Hour had not yet come, but she bade Him begin it, and He obeyed. At Cana she gave Him as a Savior to sinners; on the Cross He gave her as a refuge to sinners.

When He suggested that His first miracle would lead unerringly to His Cross and death, and that she would become henceforth a Mother of Sorrows, she turned at once to the wine steward and said:
Do whatever he tells you. John 2:5
What a magnificent valedictory! She never speaks again in Scripture. Seven times she had spoken in the Scriptures, but now that Christ had shown Himself, like the sun in the full brilliance of His Divinity, Our Lady was willingly overshadowed like the moon, as John later on described her.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 4 will come tomorrow.

Illustrated Guide to the Triduum

Triduum. What a word. What a concept! I remember how hard it was, as a new convert, to understand what happened then and why.

That's why I was so happy to come across Focus on Campus's Illustrated Guide to the Triduum.

There's also the fact that I'm a sucker for illustrated guides. So we've got the double attraction.

This isn't a full sized version. It's just enough to give you an idea of what is contained. To get your very own downloadable PDF version, go to Focus on Campus. As revisions and changes are pointed out, they've been updating it so you'll get the latest version.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: October and November again

October and November series
by Brian at the blue hour

Holy Week: Tuesday - Before Pilate

Nikolay Gay. "Quod Est Veritas?" Christ and Pilate. 1890.
The Passion of Our Lord
Thinking that in this way he might placate the hatred of the Jews, Pilate, took Jesus and scourged him (John 19:1). This is the scene we contemplate in the second sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds.

The blows of the lash sound on his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More blows. More fury. Still more ... It is the last extreme of human cruelty.

Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and falls, limp, broken and half-dead.

You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed. Look at him, look at him ... slowly.

After this ... can you ever fear penance? (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, Second Sorrowful Mystery)

When this has happened, the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, "Hail King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands (John 19:4-5). Today as we contemplate Jesus proclaiming his kingship before Pilate, we should also meditate upon that scene contained in the third sorrowful mystery of the Rosary.

The crown of thorns, driven in by blows, makes him a mock king ... And with their blows they wound his head. And they strike him ... and spit on him ...

You and I ... haven't we crowned him anew with thorns and struck him and spat on him?

Never again, Jesus, never again ... (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, Third Sorrowful Mystery)

Caravaggio. The Flagellation of Christ. 1607.

Scott is bored. Julie hides the cocaine and hands him the violin.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle is afoot in Episode 129 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Part 2 - The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Hieronymus Bosch. Hieronymus Bosch. Marriage Feast at Cana.

Continuing the connections Fulton Sheen makes between the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
As soon as He has consented to begin His "Hour," He proceeded immediately to tell her that her relations with Him would be henceforth changed. Until then, during His hidden life, she had been known as the mother of Jesus. But now that He was launched on the work of Redemption, she would no longer be just His mother, but also the mother of all His human brethren whom He would redeem. To indicate this new relationship, He now addressed her, not as "Mother" but as the "Universal Mother" or "Woman." What a ring those words had to people who lived in the light of the Old Testament. When Adam fell, God spoke to Satan and foretold that He would put enmity between his seed and "the Woman," for goodness would have a progeny as well as evil. the world would have not only the City of Man which Satan claimed as his own, but also the City of God. The "Woman" did have a seed, and it was her Seed that was standing now at the marriage feast, the Seed that would fall to the ground and die and then spring forth into new life.

The moment the "Hour" began, she became "the Woman"; she would have other children too, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. If He was to be the new Adam, the founder of a redeemed humanity, she would be the new Eve and the mother of that new humanity. As Our Lord was a man, she was His mother; and as He was a Savior, she was also the mother of all whom He would save. John, who was present at that wedding, was also present at the climax of the "Hour " on Calvary. He heard Our Lord calling her "Woman" from the Cross and then saying to her, "Behold thy son." When Our Lord raised the son of the widow of Naim from the dead, He said, "Give him back to his mother." On the Cross, He consoled His mother by giving her another son, John, and with him the whole of redeemed humanity.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 3 will come tomorrow.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Dog's Head

James Ward, Dog’s Head
via Arts Everyday Living
That looks like essence of terrier, doesn't it!

Holy Week: Monday - Peter's Denials

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (back, central panel): 
Jesus Accused by the Pharisees. 1308-11.
The Passion of Our Lord
Jesus having been much ill-used, is led into one of the courtyards. He then turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61). Their looks meet. Peter would like to bow his head, but he cannot tear his eyes from Him, Whom he has just denied. He knows the Saviour's looks well; that look that had determined his vocation, he had not been able to resist either its authority or its charm; and that tender look of the Master's on the day He had affirmed, looking at His disciples, "Here are my brethren, my sisters, my mother!" And that look that had made him tremble when he, Simon, had wanted to banish the Cross from Jesus' path! And the affectionately pitying look with which he had invited the too-rich young man to follow him! And His look, clouded with tears, before Lazarus' tomb ... He knows them well, the Saviour's looks.

And yet never, never had he seen on the Saviour's face the expression he sees there at this moment, the eyes marked with sadness but without any severity. A look of reproach without a doubt, but which becomes suppliant at the same time and seems to repeat to him, "Simon, I have prayed for thee!"

This look only rests on him for an instant; Jesus is violently dragged away by the soldiers, but Peter sees Him all the time (G. Chevrot, Simon Peter).
He sees that compassionate look of Jesus fixed upon the deep wound of his guilt. He now understands the enormity of his sin, and the fulfillment of Our Lord's prophecy about his betrayal ...

Contrition gives special strength to the soul; it restores hope, makes the Christian forget himself and draw close to God once more with a deeper act of love. Contrition proves the quality of interior life and always attracts God's mercy; ... this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit ... (Isaiah 66:2)

Christ found no difficulty in building his Church upon a man who was able to fall and who did fall. God also counts on weak instruments, provided they repent, to carry out his big project: the salvation of mankind.
I will never forget when I first read the Gospel where Jesus turns and looks at Peter. What a terrible moment of sudden knowledge that must have been. I know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are "found out" and the remorse and shame that flooded Peter on that instant. How many times have I given Jesus reason to look at me like that?

On the other hand, I also read a commentary mentioning that Jesus turned and looked at Peter first ... indicating that God always looks first (echoes of the parable of The Prodigal Son to meditate upon there). Which is a comforting thought especially when we, like Peter, have fallen so far and need to get up again.

Part 1 - The Wedding At Cana and the Passion of Christ

Jan Steen. The Marriage Feast at Cana. c. 1665/70.

Fulton Sheen makes some wonderful connections between the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death, and resurrection in his excellent Life of Christ. (You can refresh your memory about the wedding at Cana here.)
There were, in His life, two occasions when His human nature seemed to show an unwillingness to take on His burden of suffering. In the Garden, He asked His Father if it be possible to take away His chalice of woe. But He immediately afterward acquiesced in His Father's will: "Not My will, but Thine be done." The same apparent reluctance was also manifested in the face of the will of His mother. Cana was a rehearsal for Golgotha. He was not questioning the wisdom of beginning His Public Life and going to death at this particular point in time; it was rather a question of submitting His reluctant human nature to obedience to the Cross. There is a striking parallel between His Father's bidding Him to His public death and His mother's bidding Him to His public life. Obedience triumphed in both cases; at Cana, the water was changed into wine; at Calvary, the wine was changed into blood.

He was telling His mother that she was virtually pronouncing a sentence of death over Him. Few are the mothers who send their sons to battlefields; but here was one who was actually hastening the hour of her Son's mortal conflict with the forces of evil. If He agreed to her request, He would be beginning His hour of death and glorification. To the Cross He would go with double commission, one from His Father in heaven, the other from His mother on earth.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 2 will be tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Beginning of the Celebration of Our Lord's Paschal Mystery

This post is from a couple of years ago ... when I rediscovered it, I was so moved that I wanted to share it. Some of the liturgy quoted may not relate to this year because it is older, but it is all close enough.
... we gather together to herald with the whole Church
the beginning of the celebration
of our Lord's Paschal Mystery,
that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
Palm Sunday, Commemoration of the Lord's Entrance Into Jerusalem
In his commentary on this portion of the Mass last year, our priest pointed out that the Triduum is one extended liturgy.

For the first time I understood why we read the entire passion and crucifixion during Palm Sunday's liturgy. It is to give us a preview of what we are to be meditating on during this week. It is to give us a chance to enter fully into that journey Jesus is taking which culminates with his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. It is to give us the chance to accompany him not just as a spectator, but as a friend.

Let us put aside our differences. It changes nothing. It is fruitless self preoccupation. It distracts and divides us at a time when we should be focusing on Jesus. I thought of those squabbles when I heard this part of the gospel:
His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked,
“Lord, shall we strike with a sword?”
And one of them struck the high priest’s servant
and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said in reply,
“Stop, no more of this!”
Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.
Let us "Stop, no more of this" as we concentrate on what matters most now.
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This year, our priest had a three sentence homily and it hit the nail on the head. When talking to his spiritual advisor about troubles and trials, he was told, "You are having these problems because you are avoiding the Cross."

Aren't we all? For my own part, I faced a severe internal struggle last week. Then God in his goodness made me understand that I was causing my own turmoil because I was trying to squirm out of the Cross.

Ah yes.

At that point I gave up wanting my way. And I was able, with St. Josemaria Escriva, to say, "Is that what you want? Then I want it too." that I regained peace and calm. I still had to face the Cross, but it was not so big a cross as the one I was creating for myself.

This is why I need Lent every year. I forget this lesson so easily. And life is so much simpler when I live without avoiding the Cross. Let's face it ... I'd face that Cross anyway. But when I do it squirming and turning away it is so much more difficult than when I slip my hand in God's and follow my Savior's example.

Let us walk with him this week.

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 173v - The Entry into Jerusalem the Musée Condé, Chantilly.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Preparing for Holy Week: Humility

This is a "repost" from previous years for Holy Week. However, I need it every single year to keep in mind for my own preparation ... and so thought I'd share them with y'all as well.

If I could be truly humble then everything else would fall into line ... the obedience, the loving others, loving God with our whole hearts, What a luxury that would be. Why is it so difficult to be humble? There are lots of answers to that. This fact remains. Just when I think I have it licked, my self jumps up and blindsides me into acting just the opposite.

We all have our own paths and problems with this essential virtue. With that in mind, I have gathered these words of wisdom for a weekend meditation.
This is long but worth it. Keep in mind that this C.S. Lewis piece was written during World War II as a series of letters being written by a senior demon advising his nephew on how best to gain souls. Therefore the perspective is topsy-turvy. For example, "The Enemy" is God, "Our Father" is the devil, and the "Patient" is the human under discussion.

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we may have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible. To anticipate the Enemy's strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents -- or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love -- a charity and gratitude for all selves including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbors as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbors. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left...
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Humility isn't the same thing as having a poor self-image. It's not about low self-esteem. It isn't about letting yourself become someone else's doormat. What it does mean, though, is that we recall always our utter dependence on God -- for life, for grace, for salvation. Humility knocks us off the pedestal we build for ourselves and helps us to realize that the universe doesn't revolve around us. The humble person learns to be indifferent to whether or not people praise him as much as he thinks he deserves. The humble person knows how to hold her tongue -- and her peace -- when things don't work out as she would prefer. Humility makes us consider that maybe the other guy is the one who's right.

To be humble means to be slow in asserting our wills, to hesitate before we insist on our rights, to swallow our pride and our complaints and our contrary opinions more often than we give vent to them. There are, of course, moments when it is right or even necessary to insist on our way and to tell everyone what we think: those moments, though, are far fewer than most of us would like to think. So many of those whom the culture praises as strong and assertive are merely self-absorbed and proud. Humility means to become small in spirit, like a little child, even though we may be wealthy, intelligent, and powerful in fact.
from the now defunct Dappled Things blog

Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all.
G.K. Chesterton

For the most part, I do the thing which my own nature prompts me to do. It is embarrassing to earn so much respect and love for it.
Albert Einstein

When I am paid a compliment, I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: If that little creature hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun -- jackass that he was -- to bow his thanks right and left like a prima donna, how much hilarity he would have aroused! Don't act the same!
Cardinal Luciani, later Pope John Paul I

In fact, my philosophy is it's none of my business what other people think of me.
Jim Caviezel

... when the fault for a broken vase was wrongly put on her she kissed the ground and promised to be more careful.
Saint Therese of Lisieux

If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.
Mother Teresa

True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit--it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us.
Tryon Edwards

God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him.
CS Lewis

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Well Said: Christ and the Interesting Life

There is no need to fear that living in Christ and working for him would be consigning ourselves to a drab, colorless life. The life stories of the saints are a refutation of that worry. As a general rule, the saints who lived and worked for God are seen to have highly interesting lives. There is an ancient Latin phrase that runs: cui servire regnare est — to serve him is perfect freedom — a freedom, one might add, that is not devoid of joy.
Monsignor James Turro

Worth a Thousand Words: Fin

painted by James Neil Hollingsworth

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mother Teresa to be Canonized on Sept. 4

This was announced with the upcoming canonization of four other saints. Having just finished Dante's Paradiso, I can't help thinking of all of them using that imagery: as part of the Empyrean (the celestial rose formed by Mary and the saints as they gaze on the face of God in the center, with angels fluttering back and forth like bees).
...  the Holy Father announced the upcoming canonization of five new saints, including Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata (née Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu), whose work among the “poorest of the poor” won her worldwide acclaim. Hundreds of Missionaries of Charity, members of the religious order founded by Mother Teresa, are expected to be in Rome for her canonization, set for 4 September 2016.

From Poland, Blessed Stanisłaus of Jesus and Mary (né Jan Papczynski) was a member of the Piarist Order. After leaving the Piarists, Bd Stanisłaus founded the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

Blessed Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad of Sweden, a convert from Lutheranism, founded a new branch of Bridgettine sisters, dedicated to working and praying for the unity of Scandinavian Christians with the Church. She will be the first Swedish saint in more than 600 years.

The two northern Europeans will be canonized together on Sunday, 5 June, of this year.

The Holy Father also announced the canonization of Blessed José Gabriel del Rosario, from Pope Francis’ native Argentina, known as the “gaucho priest.” Like the famous Argentinian cattlemen, he travelled on a mule throughout the vast territory of his parish in order to be close to the members of his flock.

He will be canonized on 16 October 2016, along with Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río of Mexico. Blessed José was just fourteen-years-old when he was martyred by the Mexican government during the Cristeros War, after refusing to deny his Faith.

Worth a Thousand Words: October and November once more

October and November series
by Brian at the blue hour

The Holly is Alive with Bees!

Stock photography

Idly looking out the window on Sunday I saw a lot of gnats flitting around our holly bushes. When I got out there it turns out they were actually bees. So many bees, all busily going from blossom to blossom. Even the occasional wasp was in the crowd. They had a very different style though. Instead of quick canvassing, the wasps were slowly and methodically covering each blossom thoroughly before moving to another.

Now I'd never even noticed the holly bushes had blossoms. They are tiny and nondescript to our eyes. But they have a heavenly scent. I'd wondered for years what was giving off  that scent as I'd go into our office or front yard. As I said, the blossoms are so nondescript that I never noticed them before.

When I walked onto our porch after bee watching I was hit with the scent which had accumulated under our eaves. Directly sniffing the blossoms (at my own risk from busy bees) yielded nothing. The scent had to gather, it seemed.

These holly bushes suddenly took on extra value. I'd always liked that they provided berries for sparrows, cardinals, and robins in late winter. I also appreciated that squirrels and small birds liked hiding in them. Now I could see they perfume the air and feed the bees!

It makes me look at those prickly leaves much more forgivingly. Once again, there is so much that we think we know all about but which has hidden dimensions, if only we open our eyes and see. (Or noses and sniff. Take your pick!)

Ours are Burford Holly bushes which you may read about here.

Well Said: The flavor of scripture

To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches.
Saint John Chrysostom

Monday, March 14, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Margin O

A face drawn inside the O on the title page
of Rye House Plot Trials, 1683-4.
Via Letterology

Well Said: Because of a Presence ...

"But a very little while" and a change we could never imagine will happen. The lowly will find joy and the poor will rejoice. Why? Because of a Presence that even a blind man can sense. "Have pity on us!" The Lord Jesus took compassion on us in order that he might call us to himself and not scare us away. He comes as someone gentle, someone humble.
Saint Ambrose

Beginning on Forgotten Classics: Talents Incorporated by Murray Leinster

Now beginning on Forgotten Classics: Talents Incorporated by Murray Leinster.

This is a light-hearted story about planetary invasion and misfits with oddball paranormal talents. Can Talents Incorporated information save Kandar from bloodthirsty conquest? You can depend on it!

When Watson Met Mary: The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Jesse, Maissa, and I discuss the second of the Sherlock Holmes novels, one with unexpectedly exotic story lines, on SFFaudio.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Let Sleeping Swine Lie

James Ward, The head and front leg of a sleeping swine

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

Slow Horses (Slough House, #1)Slow Horses by Mick Herron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Slow Horses builds from the idea that the punishment for spies who have failed at their jobs is to send them to Slough House where they do paperwork. The idea is logical but humorous at the same time. They spend all their time longing to get back in the field.

When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, everyone from Slough House is intensely interested. Then they realize that they will simply be part of the viewing public since they aren't really spies anymore. Except, of course, that wouldn't make much of a story. River Cartwright sees this as an opportunity to redeem himself and soon the rest of the Slow Horses are pulled into the effort.

My favorite character was the Slough House boss, Jackson Lamb, who makes sure his crew knows they are mediocre, doesn't care a flip for them, and yet commands their respect because they all know he was a big field agent back in the day. His sardonic comments never failed to crack me up.

This was simply terrific. The humor is understated, the writing evokes London wonderfully, the plot twists like a pretzel but never loses you, and the suspense ratchets up so that by the end I was simply longing to see villains get their comeuppance.

I listened to Sean Barrett's reading, which was simply wonderful.

Well Said: Fighting error

Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause.
St. John Cantius

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: October and November

October and November series
by Brian at the blue hour

Well Said: Criticism and Authors

In a recent criticism on this position I saw it remarked that all this is reading into Dickens something that he did not mean; and I have been told that it would have greatly surprised Dickens to be informed that he "went down the broad road of the Revolution." Of course it would. Criticism does not exist to say about authors the things that they knew themselves. It exists to say the things about them which they did not know themselves.

G.K. Chesterton, Appreciations and Criticisms

of the Works of Charles Dickens

This Just In: When You Suffer by Jeff Cavins

When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and UnderstandingWhen You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding by Jeff Cavins
When You Suffer is a refreshing look at the mystery of pain and suffering and how to find meaning and even joy in the midst of it. Jeff Cavins discusses why we suffer and how our suffering can draw us closer to God. He explains that suffering is the greatest opportunity to love as Christ loves and how, by “offering up” our suffering, we join in Christ’s mission to redeem the world.
Lent does seem like the perfect time to read this book, especially as we draw closer to Holy Week. Reading a book about suffering, though, isn't normally my cup of tea. But all it took was the first chapter for me to change my mind.

By comparing an ideal day to a real day, Cavins reminded me that suffering often isn't on the grand scale of experiencing an earthquake. Plenty of small things add up to suffering in everyday life. None of us escape it. He uses that as a springboard to compare the classical idea of happiness (living as a good person) to the modern idea (feeling good). From there he examines the different types of suffering (physical, moral, etc.)

Our "ideal day" isn't ever going to happen because real life is messier than our dreams. So how do we live real life with meaning and even joy?

That's just the first chapter but the stage is set for us to discover more. It's all written in a personable, practical way that is easy to understand.

I can't wait for the rest of the book but since I've got a tall "to read" stack ahead of this, I wanted to give you a heads up on this one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: In the Artist's Studio

In the Artist’s Studio (1892). Frederik Vermehren (Danish, 1823-1910)
via Books and Art
What are they discussing? Is it a portrait of one of them? Of a loved one? Is the artist a protogé, despite his age?

Well Said: Jokes and Government

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.
Will Rogers
I don't have to say why this never gets old, do I?

I Can't Wait to Read ...

These are far enough in the future that I can't get a Kindle sample, but I've been waiting and waiting and waiting ...

City of Strangers (Luis Chavez #2)
by Mark Wheaton

This one's so far in the future that they don't have a cover for it yet. Or a description. I'm not surprised since the first book, Fields of Wrath, just came out in January.

You might remember I loved that book for the tough, gritty mystery and the nuanced look at priests. I especially loved Father Chavez. I'm really hoping this book upholds the promise of the first!

Poisonfeather (The Gibson Vaughn Series Book 2)
by Matthew FitzSimmons

Another one so far in the future that there's no cover. Since I wrote last week about new, fun books I had on tap, I actually read one - The Short Drop, which was FitzSimmons' first book. I found it a tightly written, suspenseful book and really enjoyed it. So naturally I want more!

From behind bars, a disgraced Wall Street financier has arrogantly hinted at the existence of a stolen fortune that by all rights should not exist. But if it does, Gibson Vaughn has vowed to return the money to its rightful owners. He’ll have to stay one step ahead of a horde of ruthless rivals who also have claims on the fortune. And behind it all lies Poisonfeather, a secret that just might get Gibson killed—or worse.

Sixth Watch (Night Watch)
by Sergei Lukyanenko

I thought we were done! New Watch was supposed to be the end of the series. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

"the Prophets have all reached the same chilling conclusion: The world will end in five days’ time. To ward off the apocalypse, an ancient council called the Sixth Watch must be assembled. After both Light and Darkness select their emissaries, Anton must enlist the unwilling aid of the four other Great Parties: the Vampires, the Witches, the Form-Takers, and the enigmatic Foundation. "

Tried by Fire: The Story of Christianity's First Thousand Years
by William J. Bennett

I loved Bennett's "American: The Last Best Hope" so much. It was rare to find an even-handed history, praised by conservatives and liberals alike, which was thorough but didn't bog me down with so many facts I couldn't keep track of the story. Fingers crossed, this history of Christianity does the same!

"the riveting lives of saints and sinners, paupers and kings, merchants and monks who together—and against all odds—changed the world forever. ... Challenged by official persecution, heresy, and schism, they held steadfast to the truth of Christ. Strengthened by poets, preachers, and theologians, they advanced in devotion and love."

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
by Rosamund Hodge

You know how much I loved Hodge's first two books, Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound. She's got a real talent for evoking a familiar story but telling us something completely original. This one uses Romeo and Juliet as a springboard and I really can't wait to see where it takes us!

"When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die."

The Hanging Tree
by Ben Aaronovitch

I discovered this series last year which pulled me back into urban fantasy, something I thought was impossible. Peter Grant is a young constable who doubles as apprentice to Inspector Nightingale, England's last wizard. I know, it sounds quite typical. It isn't though. Aaronovitch gives us a fresh look at London as well as urban fantasy.

"The Hanging Tree was the Tyburn gallows which stood where Marble Arch stands today. Oxford Street was the last trip of the condemned. Somethings don't change. The place has a bloody and haunted legacy and now blood has returned to the empty Mayfair mansions of the world's super-rich. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Tom Hardy Reads

Tom Hardy Reads
via Awesome People Reading

Lagniappe: Holmes the busybody!

"I know you, you scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes the meddler."

My friend smiled.

"Holmes the busybody!"

His smile broadened.

"Holmes the Scotland Yard jack-in-office."

Holmes chuckled heartily. "Your conversation is most entertaining," said he.
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Speckled Band
That story is in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which I've begun rereading for an upcoming episode of A Good Story is Hard to Find. I love these stories so much!

Julie shot her iPod. Scott burned his socks.

Neither was able to get Father Job to like them. Stoke the fire before watching Ostrov (The Island, 2006)! Then listen to our discussion at episode 128 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Well Said: Words are charged with power

To a Jew a word was not merely a sound; it did things. As Dr. John Paterson puts it in The Book That is Alive: "The spoken word in Hebrew was fearfully alive. It was not merely a vocable or sound dropped heedlessly from unthinking lips. It was a unit of energy charged with power. It is energized for weal or for woe."
William Barclay,
The Revelation of John, vol. 2
This concept is one I knew but that "unit of energy charged with power" has rung in my brain since I read it. We know this deep in our bones. It's why we get so hurt and strike back if someone insults us. It's why this political year is so charged and so many people seem to be angry and ready to take offense. We aren't guarding our tongues, our words, our power, enough.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #53 : Meet the Patels

Mom: She lives in India. She’s a bit heavy but has a Master’s in engineering. 

Ravi: So she’s overweight and an engineer and an Indian. That’s not the best pitch, Mom.

#53. Meet the Patels (doc.)

Ravi Patel is a first generation Indian-American. After a failed relationship he realizes that his ideal bride would be an Indian raised in the U.S. since he was too. But he has trouble finding such women. His mother is overjoyed to help since she's a famous matchmaker who has been frustrated because her own children won't accept her help. Filmed by his sister, Geeta, Ravi spends a year trying to find love in traditional Indian style.

A lot of reviewers have called this predictable and in one sense it is. We have a feeling that we know who Ravi will wind up with the entire time.

However, there are a lot of other threads combined in the year of matchmaking Indian style. It is those threads that provide more depth than simply who Ravi will like enough to marry.

Vignettes give context for cultural views of marriage, whether of older Indian couples talking about how their marriages were arranged or of young married couples containing either one or both Indian spouses. The comments that both Geeta and their parents drop throughout the filming combine to become a reflection on the importance family and attachment to culture plays, especially in immigrant families.

It was fascinating watching everyone struggle to adapt their native culture to that of their adopted American homeland. For instance one wonders how the Patel parents felt as they adapted the standard Indian matchmaking process in an effort to meet their American son halfway. We also see how this struggle makes Ravi look more deeply at his own life.

This is an amusing, light piece, but one that is also heartwarming and genuine, with insights to share beyond what you might expect.

Worth a Thousand Words: Smallest Owl in Europe

Smallest Owl in Europe
taken by Remo Savisaar

Friday, March 4, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Corn in the Sun

Corn in the sun, Jose Malhoa

Lagniappe: The Sex Life of Corn

Next time you pull a piece of silk from between your teeth while you're eating a fresh ear of corn, remember that you've just spat our a fallopian tube. Corn has a curious anatomy: the tassel at the top of the plant is the male flower; when mature, it produces two million to five million grains of pollen. The wind picks up those grains and moves them around.

The ear of corn is actually a cluster of female flowers. A young ear contains about a thousand ovules, each of which could become a kernel. Those ovules produce "silks" that run to the tip of the ear. If one of them catches a grain of pollen, the pollen will germinate and produce a tube that runs down the silk to the kernel. There the egg and pollen grain will meet at last. Once fertilized, that egg will swell into a plump kernel, which represents the next generation—or a bottle of bourbon, depending on your perspective.
Amy Stewart, The Drunken Botanist
Okaaaaay. That next ear of corn is going to feel a little different when I eat it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Poppies

Henri Fantin-Latour, Poppies, 1891
via Arts Everyday Living

On My Kindle - fun, new stuff

Just last week I was wondering why the only interesting fiction I could find was all from the turn of the century. And not the recent turn of the century.

I love Rafael Sabatini, Edgar Wallace, and H. Rider Haggard, but eventually you want something that's new.

Suddenly I've got new books out the wazoo. Now Lent is kicking in with a vengeance because my "add on" was to finish half-read books and read books that have been pressed on me, "you'll love this!" Not to mention book club and podcast obligations. Believe me, I'm reading as fast as I can!

I want to get to these books now! Here's a quick look see in case any of them hit you just right.

The Brotherhood of the Wheel
by R.S. Belcher

"... a small offshoot of the Templars endure and have returned to the order's original mission: to defend the roads of the world and guard those who travel on them.

Theirs is a secret line of knights: truckers, bikers, taxi hacks, state troopers, bus drivers, RV gypsies--any of the folks who live and work on the asphalt arteries of America. They call themselves the Brotherhood of the Wheel."

Knights Templar in big rigs? C'mon! This is begging me to read it!

I found this when looking for Bronson Pinchot's latest narrations on Audible. If I thought I could handle the violence or sex audibly, I'd definitely listen because Pinchot is superb. But I know I'll want to skim or skip those parts. So I chose this for my March book purchase (yes, I'm still trying to limit my book buying ... and mostly it works!)

I'VE READ IT: and can't recommend it.

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's)
by Jodi Taylor

"Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary's, a different kind of historical research is taking place. They don't do 'time-travel' - they 'investigate major historical events in contemporary time'. ...

Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary's Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document - to try and find the answers to many of History's unanswered questions...and not to die in the process."

I'm fairly sure that when your mother tells you she's laughing continually at a really fun Daily Deal, you have to buy it. You know. For conversation. Hey, that's my story and I'm sticking with it. Also, time travel. And humor. And super cheap. So that was a done deal.

Amends: A Novel
by Eve Tushnet

A month in rehab would be stressful enough without a television audience. When the ramshackle cast checks in for "Amends," a new reality series about alcoholism and recovery, they don't know if they've been cast as villains or potential redemption arcs. Over the course of the show they learn what God sees when he shuts his eyes, how to appreciate the comforts of hallucination, and what it looks like when a wolf fights a troll. A conservative journalist woos a homeless Ethiopian visionary. A teen hockey star licks a human heart. And a collections agent pays some of his own oldest and saddest debts.

From backhanded compliments to accidental forgiveness, "Amends" proves that there's a place you can go when you've given up on reality: reality TV.

Not my usual thing. At all. Reading about alcoholics is dreary in the extreme (The Shining aside). But I was curious because it was Eve Tushnet and it was fiction. She certainly sticks the entry because the Kindle sample was enough to make me go for the whole enchilada. Also self-published and cheap for Kindle. Which were the final deal makers.  Via Brandywine Books.

The Short Drop
by Matthew FitzSimmons

A decade ago, fourteen-year-old Suzanne Lombard, the daughter of Benjamin Lombard—then a senator, now a powerful vice president running for the presidency—disappeared in the most sensational missing-person case in the nation’s history. Still unsolved, the mystery remains a national obsession.

For legendary hacker and marine Gibson Vaughn, the case is personal—Suzanne Lombard had been like a sister to him. On the tenth anniversary of her disappearance, the former head of Benjamin Lombard’s security asks for Gibson’s help in a covert investigation of the case, with new evidence in hand.

Mentioned by a friend who was reading it free with her Kindle read everything subscription (whatever that is called). Not having that, but tempted by the preview, it's my free March library choice for Kindle Prime.

I'VE READ IT: and liked it a lot.

by Eric James Stone

In the near future, a fluke of quantum mechanics renders Nat Morgan utterly forgettable. No one can remember he exists for more than a minute after he's gone. It's a useful ability for his career as a CIA agent, even if he has to keep reminding his boss that he exists.

Naturally there are complications beyond that brief description. This preview kept me coming back month after month until I finally gave in and got it. Imagine growing up when your mother forgets you if she leaves the room for more than a minute.

I really enjoyed his short story collection Rejiggering the Thingamajig which contained the incredible That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made. So I'm a fan.

Envy of Angels: A Sin du Jour
by Matt Wallace

In New York, eating out can be hell.

Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?

Welcome to Sin du Jour - where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.

Ok, this was just because I was in buying mode and it was one of the Daily Deals. But the preview looked fun, which seemed to be my main criteria. in this book spree.

Jennifer the Damned 
by Karen Ullo

When a sixteen-year-old orphan vampire adopted by an order of nuns matures into her immortal, blood-sucking glory, all hell literally breaks loose.

Ok, not on the Kindle but free because the author sent me a review copy. I'd had my eye on this one for a while.

A teenage vampire, adopted by nuns, who goes to Catholic school, and yearns for the chance to take Communion ... with many reviews at Amazon praising it as "literature, rich with vampire lore and intertwined with Catholic doctrine." Right down my alley.