Monday, July 31, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Ceres, Queen of the Asteroid Belt

This is especially appropriate to me after having read Leviathan Wakes.

From NASA/JPL Visions of the Future, a wonderful series of "what if" travel posters.
Ceres is the closest dwarf planet to the Sun. It is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with an equatorial diameter of about 965 kilometers. After being studied with telescopes for more than two centuries, Ceres became the first dwarf planet to be explored by a spacecraft, when NASA's Dawn probe arrived in orbit in March 2015. Dawn's ongoing detailed observations are revealing intriguing insights into the nature of this mysterious world of ice and rock.

Well Said: I dream about forests

There was a tension to the thing, a feeling of mute straining and striving towards some distant and incomprehensible goal. As a wizard, it was something Ponder had only before encountered in acorns: a tiny, soundless voice which said, yes, I am but a small, green, simple object -- but I dream about forests.
Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Please Allow Me to Bend Your Ear About St. Martha, My Patron

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, Jan Vermeer
via Wikipedia

Today is Saint Martha's feast day and I still have not written anything I like better about her than this piece, which I present again.

It is no secret that Martha is my patron saint. I chose her because she is the patron saint of housewives but it soon became clear that it probably was God who chose to put us together. I relate to Martha in so many ways and her life stands as a measure of the person I work toward becoming ... a faithful servant who loves Jesus and is his good friend.
As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary (who) sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."

The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
This is the story about Martha that springs to mind for most people and this is the first time (chronologically) that we hear her mentioned. We have all heard variations of the basic message about this passage of keeping your mind on Jesus no matter what else you may be doing.

However, we also see the confidence Martha shows when approaching Jesus with her complaint. What good friends they were for her to feel so comfortable coming to him like that. Jesus' affection is clear as he answers her much more gently than he often does his disciples.

For us, it also is a lesson in the fact that there is nothing too small to go to Jesus about. He will always help us with anything, even if it is something like helping give the right perspective.
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.

So the sisters sent word to him, saying, "Master, the one you love is ill."

When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus...

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise."

Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."

Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, "The teacher is here and is asking for you."
Again, a familiar story featuring Martha though more often it is told from the point of view of the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. First of all, we may wonder how Martha knew that Jesus had arrived when Mary didn't. What it may make us think of is someone who is attuned to all the little details even in the middle of her grief. Perhaps there was a flutter of unusual activity that clued her in, so she went to investigate.

When we examine Martha's conversation with Jesus, we see again how familiar and friendly she is with him. She doesn't hesitate to say that she is disappointed that he didn't save her brother. How can one not love the confidence and trust that shows?

Martha also shows her great faith and understanding in unmistakable terms: I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world. What an amazing moment that must have been between Jesus and Martha. Yet, after such a moment, she also doesn't forget her sister, Mary, who is still at home mourning. Martha is both loving and practical to the bone.

We have an unmistakable example of that practicality when Jesus is getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead and we are told: Martha, the dead man's sister, said to him, "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days" (John 11:39). Martha's unwavering, housewifely, detail-oriented common sense is used to emphasize the greatness of Jesus' miracle. The corpse is well into decay and yet he will still be brought back to life. How like God to use the mundane and practical moment to catch our attention and bring it to an even greater realization of His glory and love for us.
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus 2 and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Through watching Martha's progression in the previous Scripture, this very simple mention speaks to the difference between the first time we saw her and now.

Martha served.

That is all that needs to be said. Nothing about needing help is brought up now or comparing another's service to her own. Mary serves Jesus in her way while Martha serves Jesus in hers. Together they complement each other as both have chosen the better part. A beautiful end to a beautiful journey of faith.

I pray that my own journey may prove as fruitful as my dear St. Martha's.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. He and his crew stumble upon the derelict ship Scopuli and find themselves in possession of a secret that someone is willing to kill for. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and Holden, he realizes that she may be the key to something bigger than just a missing girl.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
I couldn't put it down. The combination of space colony/space ship action with the police procedural/mystery proved riveting. It helps that the chapters are short and follow a serial-style cliff-hanger model. This suspenseful space opera is supported by several adventure story arcs within the entire book.

Those made it an exciting story but what made it rise to the 5-star level were the interactions between Holden who is a ship captain whose crew call him a righteous man and Miller, a good detective clawing his way back from an alcoholic abyss in the best noir style. They both want to do the right thing but their ideas about how to do that are very different. Their ideas about how to handle potentially dangerous information are even more different. This leads to brief philosophical considerations for the reader, which are never pushed too hard by the author. They are just set out for us to reflect upon as the exciting story ratchets up.

Yes, I know this came out a long time ago. And I know everyone is reading it right now because of that Syfy show. It took Rose clubbing me over the head with it — totally worth the headache.

Waiting for library to get second book to me. Hurry up, library! Why do you only have 2 copies of this book?

Worth a Thousand Words: The Old Gardener

The Old Gardener, Emile Claus

Well Said: God and dentists

What do people mean when they say, "I am not afraid of God because I know He is good. Have they never even been to a dentist?
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Well Said: Terrorist Attacks, Media, and Humanity

"[The terrorist attack is] all over the TV. If you try to watch anything else, you feel ... like you've lost your humanity."

"Damn if we'll watch it," Jess said. "It's not tragedy, the way they report it, not horror, certainly now war reporting. It's all spectacle, and once you let yourself see it that way, your soul begins to turn to dust."
Dean Koontz, The Silent Corner

Worth a Thousand Words: Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit, taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

Genesis Notes: The Importance of Isaac and Jacob

As observed earlier, Isaac is so passive seeming compared to Abraham before him and Jacob who follows. Pulling away from the observations of their personal lives, we can compare Isaac and Jacob on a much larger scale. As so often happens in Scripture, in looking at the big picture we get yet another lesson for our own lives.

Isaac blessing his son [Jacob], Giotto di Bondone
Isaac is the most passive of the Patriarchs. In Genesis 22 he is silently bound by Abraham (though much subsequent Jewish tradition ascribes to him a more active participation). Isaac plays no active role while Abraham's servant acquires a wife for him. A blind and bedridden Isaac is deceived by his wife and younger son. Only in Genesis 26 does Isaac act in his own right -- and here, all the stories are reminiscent of earlier episodes in Abraham's story. Perhaps one implication of Isaac's story is that God's purposes do not necessarily need strong, active, and distinctive people for their continuation and fulfillment.

Jacob is different. His name becomes that of the nation Israel, and his 12 sons become the ancestors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In telling of its eponymous ancestor, one might expect the Israelites to tell of a courageous, faithful, God-fearing hero. But Jacob's faults are shown along with his virtues. In his youth, he connives in deception and is a liar as well. When, later in life, he is transformed by a mysterious encounter with God and his name is correspondingly changed, he is still no model. He is a poor parent, showing favoritism among his children and provoking deadly sibling rivalry. The Bible's portrayal of this man as Israel's ancestor is remarkable. It is a reminder that God can use even the weak to do good things. It is a story acting as a reminder that there are many baffling paradoxes in the encounter between God and humanity.

In these narratives, it is made clear from the outset that Jacob and Esau represent the two peoples of Israel and Edom (Gen. 25:23, 30; 27:29a). However much the stories embody the historic rivalries of these two peoples, the chief figures are important in their own right. Their difference is most obvious when Esau forgives Jacob, for in Israel's history -- and especially in Obadiah -- Edom is particularly remembered for its ruthless exploitation of Jerusalem when the latter was overthrown by the Babylonians.
All material quoted is from The Complete Bible HandbookThis series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Road Trip - Duluth (updated)

The Str. American Victory (then, the Middletown) passing beneath Duluth's aerial lift bridge
We went to a wedding in Duluth, Minnesota, of a good friend of Hannah's, who is also very dear to us. It was moving to witness this moment of promise and joy in her life and, as is often the case, to reflect upon how we have seen her grow during the eight or so years we've known her. It was really wonderful.

It was also the occasion for us to plan a road trip. The idea of spending two days of solid driving to get somewhere can be daunting but ever since we took our youngest daughter to California for her first job (U-Haul and Boxer in tow), I've felt differently. 

There is something about seeing the land change as you drive by. About meeting the different people on the way, hearing new accents, seeing food specialties change. You understand the country a little differently.

That slow evolution also is reflected on the people traveling, as Tom and I have found. Listening to music or audiobooks, letting silence fill the car, watching miles slip away - these are all conducive to reflections that we just don't have time for in regular life. We may never have the time to develop the thoughts, much less carry them through into conversation. Long hours in the car lend themselves to such things. 

So we embrace any chance for a road trip. I get my knitting, we pick out audiobooks and podcasts, pack up the cocktail kit, and hit the road. Plus, you have the chance for side trips which indulge at least one person's special interests. 

Mike Breitbach and me!
He's hardworking - see the glove? When we met him,
he was refilling croutons at the salad bar.
Cindy Breitbach and me!
She took time away from the kitchen just for a second —
pies wait for no man (or pictures!)
That meant we took to the back roads so we could sample fried chicken and pie at Breitbach's Country Dining, which was one of the three restaurants featured in the Spinning Plates documentary (a great favorite of mine).

It was truly worth the trip. We met both Mike and Cindy Breitbach, who were gracious and charming. Community is key for them, as we could see, and the food was definitely worth the trip. (We should've taken pictures of the place, but check here.)

And you really do have to want to take the trip. We saw lots of little roads and communities as we made our way from Balltown to Duluth. Thank goodness for Google Maps!

William A. Irvin tour
On Saturday we had all day to be tourists and it was Tom's chance for special interests. We walked around Canal Park looking at the lighthouses and, most of all, the aerial lift bridge which excited no little interest when a ferry came through so we could see it working. Afterward, we met up with our son-in-law who was also at loose ends. Naturally that meant we needed to take a tour of an ore hauler which the guys found fascinating. I especially was interested in the living quarters and galley. Thinking about living and working on that ship, often in extreme winter conditions, was fascinating to me.

Gin can be more flavors than juniper - who knew?
But this Juniper Gin has underlying flavors that never
made it into my favorite brand
We were intrigued to find the Vikre distillery not too far from where we were staying which had cedar and spruce gins in addition to the usual juniper flavoring. I liked the cedar but the spruce was too much like chewing a Christmas tree for me. Most interesting was that when I added the tonic water, the flavors really bloomed in my mouth, as opposed to the straight sip I'd taken initially. I've heard about the effect water can have on a liquor but it was the most vivid example I could've asked for.

Overlaying the entire trip was our repeating our Beyond Cana marriage retreat along the way. Once you've done the marriage retreat, you refresh the basics on your own once a year. We first did the retreat in 2005 so we've had plenty of practice and could talk over the various steps at different points on the trip. We'd put it off for longer than we should have so it was a really wonderful renewal of our marriage.

A great trip, all in all!

Guest Interview on Among Women Podcast

I have the pleasure of being a guest on the Among Women podcast where Pat Gohn and I discuss my book Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. It leads us to the every day life of a believer… grounded both in the interior life — the life of prayer — and the call to do good works. Join us!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Well Said: Christianity thoroughly approves of the body

Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body — which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Geraniums

Geraniums, Childe Hassam
via Arts Everyday Living

Genesis Notes: Laban's Resume

I never really thought about Laban much except as an obstacle to Jacob's plans. But he's more than a stereotypically difficult father-in-law. I have really enjoyed the insights about how gave Jacob have a taste of his own medicine by tricking him so thoroughly. And he was the instrument God used to help humble Jacob and make him stretch himself in different ways.

Jacob reproaching Laban for giving him Leah in place of Rachel, Hendrick ter Brugghen
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Controlled two generations of marriages in the Abrahamic family (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah)
  • Quick witted
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Manipulated others for his own benefit
  • Unwilling to admit wrongdoing
  • Benefited financially by using Jacob, but never fully benefited spiritually by knowing and worshipping Jacob's God
Lessons from his life:
  • Those who set out to use people will eventually find themselves used
  • God's plan cannot be blocked
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Haran
  • Occupation: Wealthy sheep breeder
  • Relatives: Father - Bethuel. Sister - Rebekah. Brother-in-law - Isaac. Daughters - Rachel and Leah. Son-in-law - Jacob.
Key verses:
"If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you" (Genesis 31:42).

Laban's story is told in Genesis 24:1 - 31:55.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When it comes to the life of a child, should parental devotion be disqualifying?

Let us stipulate a distinction between removing someone from life support, as the hospital proposes, and taking active measures to induce death. Put another way, if Connie Yates and Chris Gard —Charlie’s parents—decided to remove their son from his ventilator and allow nature to take its course, it would be a difficult but eminently defensible position.

But the claim asserted by the representatives of Britain’s state-run health care system is more sweeping and insidious: This is our call, they say. Such is the Great Ormond Street Hospital’s sense of dominion, says Ms. Yates, that it refused to allow Charlie to come home to die, wrapped in the loving arms of his mom and dad.
Bill McGurn wrote a really excellent editorial, For the Love of Charlie Gard, for the Wall Street Journal. It is hidden behind the WSJ's paywall but if you click through from his Facebook post then the whole article may be read.

Well Said: God Likes Matter. He Invented It.

There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Evening on the Meadow

Evening on the Meadow, taken by Remo Savisaar

Monday, July 17, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Drawing for Alfred Gilbert's project for the tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Arthur Robertson,
Drawing for Alfred Gilbert's project for the tomb of the Duke of Clarence
via Lines and Colors

Lagniappe: Dating girls in Thrall to Creatures from the Void

"Something's been calling her," he said. "In dreams. Someone that wants to be let out. I'm afraid she's going to get hurt."

"She's not worth it," said Gaspode. "Messin' around with girls who're in thrall to Creatures from the Void never works out, take my word for it. You'd never know what you were going to wake up to.
Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Yellowstone Park

Yellowstone Park, taken by Colorado Nature Photography

Well Said: The "Prince of this World" is a great P.R. man, a great master of the media

It is not brains or intelligence that is needed to cope with the problems with Plato and Aristotle and all of their successors to the present have failed to confront. What is needed is a readiness to undervalue the world altogether. This is only possible for a Christian... All technologies and all cultures, ancient and modern, are part of our immediate expanse. There is hope in this diversity since it creates vast new possibilities of detachment and amusement at human gullibility and self-deception. There is no harm in reminding ourselves from time to time that the "Prince of this World" is a great P.R. man, a great salesman of new hardware and software, a great electric engineer, and a great master of the media. It is his master stroke to be not only environmental but invisible for the environmental is invincibly persuasive when ignored.
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium and the Light

Tomato-Basil Soup

This has become a classic soup during my lifetime. I recall when La Madeleine restaurants in Dallas served it to rave comments, sold it bottled at grocery stores, and yet ... I never tried it. And then came Rose, who insisted we try it ... check it out at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

The Hauntingly Beautiful Music of the Trees

Instead of a vinyl disc, Traubeck's record player uses a cross-section of a log or tree trunk, using light to translate the different colors and textures of the tree's rings into musical notes and instruments. Because every tree has its own unique configuration of rings, every tree has its own unique "song."
For details about the technology, read the top comment at YouTube.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Inside the Church

Inside the Church, Franklin Booth

Well Said: Marriage is a colossal gamble, or rather, a very great adventure

You and I are faced with one of those situations (which fortunately are not very numerous in one lifetime) which cannot possibly be adequately judged beforehand. It strikes me as a colossal gamble, or rather, a very great adventure. And personally I am considerably exhilarated by the risks! ... The greatness of the adventure perhaps consists partly in the fact that as a Catholic I can marry only once! But, as with being born, perhaps once is quite sufficient! In the Church, you know, there is a great heightening of every moment of experience, since every moment is played against a supernatural backdrop. Nothing can be humdrum in this scheme.
Marshall McLuhan in a letter to his future wife, 
The Medium and the Light

Genesis Notes: Rachel's Resume

My favorite story about Rachel is when she hides the household gods that she stole from her father by sitting on them and saying, "It's that time of month!" A plea that any father of teenage daughters has heard many a time to excuse lots of different behavior. It makes that father-daughter dynamic so real to me.

All that aside, it is when Jacob encounters Rachel that he has met his equal (also his true love). Rachel is strong-willed, determined, and not above bending the rules to get what she wants.  I always felt so sorry for poor Leah.

The resume digs deeper into Rachel as a person.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Rachel sitting on the idols
Jacob's love for Rachel was both patient and practical. Jacob had the patience to wait seven years for her, but he kept busy in the meantime. his commitment to Rachel kindled a strong loyalty within her. In fact, her loyalty to Jacob got out of hand and became self-destructive. She was frustrated by her barrenness and desperate to compete with her sister for Jacob's attention. She was trying to gain from Jacob what he had already given: devoted love.

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • She showed great loyalty to her family
  • She mothered Joseph and Benjamin after being barren for many years
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Her envy and competitiveness marred her relationship with her sister, Leah
  • She was capable of dishonesty when she took her loyalty too far
  • She failed to recognize that Jacob's devotion was not dependent on her ability to have children
Lessons from her life:
  • Loyalty must be controlled by what is true and right
  • Love is accepted, not earned
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Haran
  • Occupation: Shepherdess, housewife
  • Relatives: Father - Laban. Aunt - Rebekah. Sister - Leah. Husband - Jacob. Sons - Joseph and Benjamin.
Key verse:
"So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her" (Genesis 29:20)

Rachel's story is told in Genesis 29 - 35:20. She also is mentioned in Ruth 4:11.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: The Future

The Future, by Chris Turnham

Well Said: The Church is a Superhuman Institution

I never came into the church as a person who was being taught. I came in on my knees. That is the only way in. When people start praying they need truths; that’s all. You don’t come into the Church by ideas and concepts, and you cannot leave by mere disagreement. It has to be a loss of faith, a loss of participation. You can tell when people leave the Church: they have quit praying.

Actively relating to the Church's prayer and sacraments is not done through ideas. Any Catholic today who has an intellectual disagreement with the Church has an illusion. You cannot have an intellectual disagreement with the Church: that's meaningless. The Church is not an intellectual institution. It is a superhuman institution.”
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium and the Light

Julie and Scott get staggered by a statue, straightened by the Holy Ghost, and stabbed in the heart by Jesus.

And that's just three Flannery O'Connor stories. Episode 162 is their third Flannery O'Connor podcast! We discuss The Artificial Nigger, Greenleaf, and The Enduring Chill. Join us!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Golden Winged

Golden Winged, taken by Remo Savisaar

Blogging Around: Biblical Art, American Causes for Sainthood, and My Conversion Story

Summula Pictoria: a Little Summary of the Old and New Testaments

Second Dream of St. Joseph, Daniel Mitsui
Daniel Mitsui is an artist I greatly admire and whose paintings I have featured here occasionally. I especially enjoy his "translations" into Asian styled art, although not all of his work is done that way.

He's got an ambitious new project planned.
Over fourteen years, from Easter 2017 to Easter 2031, I plan to draw an iconographic summary of the Old and New Testaments, illustrating those events that are most prominent in sacred liturgy and patristic exegesis.

The things that I plan to depict are the very raw stuff of Christian belief and Christian art; no other subjects offer an artist such inexhaustible wealth of beauty and symbolism. Were I never to draw them, I would feel my artistic career incomplete. I hope to undertake this task in the spirit of a medieval encyclopedist, who gathers as much traditional wisdom as he can find and faithfully puts it into order. I want every detail of these pictures, whether great or small, to be thoroughly considered and significant.
Find out more here. Be sure to browse Daniel's website to see his gorgeous art and read his thoughts and inspirations as an artist.

US Causes for Canonization

We've got more holy Americans than you might think. Certainly than I was aware of when reading this National Catholic Register piece about the causes underway for canonization. I was impressed by the timespan since the causes range across a time period from the 1500s to 2006.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint
I also enjoyed looking through the list and seeing the wide variety of holy people represented. I was happy to see a particular favorite of mine included, who is relatively unknown: Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1853). He's a former slave from Saint-Domingue whose charity for the poor made him well-known and loved in NYC. He and his wife opened their home as an orphanage, employment bureau, and a refuge for travelers. They also organized a credit bureau, an employment agency, and a refuge for priests and destitute travelers. And that's just the tip of the iceburg.

Also I was pleased to see Servant of God Mother Rose Hawthorne (1926) listed. Does that last name look familiar? Yep. She's Nathaniel Hawthorne's daughter who converted to Catholicism, trained as a nurse, and began a charitable organization to care for impoverished cancer patients. Later, in 1900, she founded a new order which was then named the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. I admire her intensely.

This is the summary of a two-part story so if you are interested in more details be sure to check out their links.

My Conversion Story

I met fellow convert Nancy Ward at the Catholic New Media Conference when it was in Dallas a few years ago. She's a lively go-getter, a Catholic writer, and a very kind supporter of my blog and writing.

I'm honored to have her featuring my conversion story at her blog, JOY Alive, in preparation for an interview she'll be doing to help get out the word about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. While you're there be sure to check out her site, which:
... reaches out both as an expression of my desire to share my own experiences and an invitation to those of you who want to explore a life of joy. As we share our stories we share the joy of our hearts with one another. We will learn more about each another, more about our true selves and more about how intimately the Lord loves us.

Well Said: Testing the Church's Claims - With Prayer

At every turn, while he was investigating the background for his study of Thomas Nashe, he would encounter the Church — what Chesterton called (another book title) The Thing. It was everywhere. At one point, he later told me (and he was never very specific just when that point occurred), he decided that the thing had to be sorted out or he couldn't rest. Either it ws true, or it wasn't. Either the entire matter was true, all of it, exactly as the Church claimed, or it was the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on a gullible mankind. With that choice clearly delineated, he set out to find which was the case. What came next was not more study, but testing.

The matter had to be tested — on its own terms: that is, by prayer. He told me that the principal prayer that he used was not some long or complex formula, but simply, "Lord, please, send me a sign." He reported that, almost immediately, not one but a deluge of signs arrived. And they continued to arrive unabated for a long time. As to just what the signs consisted in and what happened next, well, some things must remain private. The reader may deduce the rest from the fact of his conversion. ...
Eric McLuhan, introduction to 
The Medium and the Light by his father Marshall McLuhan

Optional Memorial: Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions

This feast day is actually on July 9, but since that was a Sunday when celebrating Christ trumps all, I thought it would be nice to just push it off one day.

Icon of the Martyrs of China (1900)
Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China's relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.

The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (eighty-seven) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or laborers, ranging from nine years of age to seventy-two. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

The thirty-three foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815.

Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000. ...

The fact that this considerable number of Chinese lay faithful offered their lives for Christ together with the missionaries who had proclaimed the Gospel to them and had been so devoted to them is evidence of the depth of the link that faith in Christ establishes. It gathers into a single family people of various races and cultures, strongly uniting them not for political motives but in virtue of a religion that preaches love, brotherhood, peace and justice.
I am not sure why but I have always been fascinated by the witness of these brave Catholics in China. Perhaps it is because I've always been interested in China anyway and so these saints naturally draw my attention.

You may read more about the individual martyrs.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Thursday, July 6, 2017

We are about to become missionaries.

Yep. That’s it, in a nutshell: You and I, and the people in our parishes, and the whole church, are about to become new missionaries in a new land — in the vast, untamed and often faithless jungle where “live streams” leave no room for casting out into the deep, and bear no relation to living waters. In the neighborhoods, towns and cities where people have been so long subjected to relativistic engagement, that almost everything has become unfamiliar and strange to them.

Taking our cue from the Incarnate Word — who chose not simply to preach to us about right and wrong, but to live among us, and know us in the fullness of our humanity before he saved us — we are going to purposely push past where we are now, out of our bubbles and our safe-feeling familiarities, to meet others where they are.
The Anchoress boils down the Convocation of Catholic Leaders for us. A great piece. Read it and become inspired. I did.

Hash Brown Frittata

This one's a real find and perfect for meatless Fridays — easy, filling, cheap. Oh, and delicious!

Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Worth a Thousand Words: Visit in the afternoon

Visit in the afternoon, Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: Taking Christ into the world

Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness. But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us Christ would not be there. If our being there means that Christ is there, that alone makes it worthwhile.
Caryll Houselander, Reed of God

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: El Cementiri Vell de Poble Nou (Barcelona)

El Cementiri Vell de Poble Nou (Barcelona)

Well Said: God and religion

It is a great mistake to think that God is chiefly interested in religion.
William Temple

Genesis Notes: Wrestling With Faith and a New Name

GENESIS 31 - 33

These are action-packed chapters. Jacob realizes it isn't safe to have such success when Laban can take it away. He packs up for home, faces down his angry father-in-law, prepares for meeting his presumably angry twin, and ... most famously ... wrestles with an angel, who gives him a new name.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Léon Bonnat

One thing you've got to say about Jacob. His life was never boring. Or was it? I bet that during those years of exile, working to win Rachel, supporting a growing family, finding a way around unreasonable father-in-law demands, life must have seemed mundane. Frustrating probably. Just like the way we feel when working every day, dealing with family issues, and so forth.

What becomes really clear is that those long, boring, mundane years wrought a change in our trickster.
Several things stand out about God in these chapters: First He keeps His promises. He stayed with Jacob as He promised at Bethel, even though Jacob was gone for a full 20 years. Also as promised, He gave Jacob descendants and is taking him back to Canaan safely, protecting him from Laban's wrath. Secondly, God does not depend on perfect people but uses even human failings to advance His plan. And third, He protects His own, intervening if and when it is necessary. ...

What Jacob does with his fear [of Esau's anger when they meet again] shows how far he's come in 20 years. He takes immediate action to protect his family and herds by dividing them up, and then attempts to pacify his brother and perhaps hold him off a bit by sending ahead a series of herds as presents to him. But most importantly, he prays.  ...

The young Jacob longed for what God promised him and did anything and everything in his power to get there. The mature Jacob continues to want what God has for him and does what is prudent to move ahead, but his prayer shows that he knows he is in God's hands and wants to work with him.
Genesis, Part II: God and His Family
Even though Jacob is a changed man, that doesn't mean he is done wrestling. As he is alone, the night before his meeting with Esau, a man wrestles with him. Later it is revealed that Jacob has been wrestling with God (or at the very least God's messenger). This evokes a lot of images for us, even if our own wrestling is less physical than Jacob's. Doesn't our own wrestling with God and faith leave us changed, even if our name remains the same?

I myself never realized just how imbued Jacob's story is with wrestling. Right down to the moment when Esau's wrestling hold turns into something very different.
the image of wrestling has been implicit throughout the Jacob story: in his grabbing Esau's heel as he emerges from the womb, in his striving with Esau for birthright and blessing, in his rolling away the huge stone from the mouth of the well, and in his multiple contendings with Laban. Now, in this culminating moment of his life story, the characterizing image of wrestling is made explicit and literal. ...

Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell upon his neck. This is, of course, the big surprise in the story of the twins: instead of lethal grappling, Esau embraces Jacob in fraternal affection.
Robert Alter, translation and commentary on Genesis

This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State;
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace,
March of a strong land's swift increase:
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverent awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong,
To ward her people from foreign wrong;
Pride and glory and honor, all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

(Henry Holcomb Bennett)

Childe Hassam, The Fourth of July, 1916
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.
Ronald Reagan

Monday, July 3, 2017

Well Said: Fireworks in your brain

The Library didn’t only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to their shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren’t also dangerous, just because reading them didn’t make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader’s brain.”
Terry Pratchett, Soul Music

Worth a Thousand Words: Philippine Duman

The makings for Philippine duman
via EatingAsia where you can get details on this artisanal product.

Feast Day: St. Thomas, Apostle

I posted this in years past and find I cannot improve on the basics it presents for my reflection and celebration of this apostle who spoke so forthrightly and acknowledged Truth as soon as he found it.

Thomas has been my companion throughout the few years as I have devoted myself to a private project with him at the center. I have made lamentably little progress yet find that the time has not been completely misspent from a personal point of view. My life is considerably enriched thanks to my growing friendship with this great friend of Jesus.

And the beauty of personal projects is that it gives me great practice in beginning again with great resolve.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
Via Wikipedia.
Gospel JN 20:24-29

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I became very attached to Thomas when reading A Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust with the Apostle Thomas. It's a little book that packs a big punch and I have read it three times. This is not because I especially needed a novena for doubting but because I was so fascinated by Thomas's story as told by tradition. Also, truth to tell, I could relate to many of Thomas's other various traits. Stubborn. A bit gloomy. You know ... the whole package!

And yet, Thomas's early insistence on proof made him one of the first witnesses for Christ. Ultimately he did marvelous things for God as he learned to trust and step out in faith. May we all do the same.

Here is the collect for today:
Grant, almighty God, that we may glory in the Feast of the blessed Apostle Thomas, so that we may always be sustained by his intercession and, believing, may have life in the name of Jesus Christ your Son, whom Thomas acknowledged as the Lord. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Thomas, pray for us.