Friday, August 17, 2018

St. Martin's Summer by Rafael Sabatini


The life of an heiress is in jeopardy and her only hope is to place her trust in the wiles of a middle-aged swordsman with no use for "women's troubles." As the plots of the conspirators converge it will take all the wiles and accumulated wisdom of Martin Marie Rigobert de Garnache uncover their identity, to save Valerie de La Vauvraye and keep his promise to his Queen.
What a fun swashbuckler this was, truly one of Sabatini's better books and surely an homage to Alexandre Dumas's adventures.

As mentioned in the summary above, Garnache is wily, wise, and an accomplished swordsman but the bane of his career has been his unbridled temper. Watching him struggle to overcome it and the result of his ill-timed explosions is a lot of fun because we can sympathize with his frustration.

He despises the fairer sex, "Let me tell you that this is the first time in my life that I have been concerned in anything that had to do with women." This makes it more ironic when the main players in the story are all women: the Queen of France, the girl he must rescue (who turns out to be completely admirable) and the wicked, willful Marquise de Condillac is his equal, foiling his attempts repeatedly. Poor Garnache does nothing but deal with women, except when he's sword fighting, of course.

Definitely recommended for light reading.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Omkara — Othello, Indian-style

Half-caste bandit Omkara Shukla abducts his lady love, Dolly Mishra, from her family. Thanks to his cleverness, he gets away with the kidnapping. A conspiracy, however, forms against him when he denies his right-hand man, Langda Tyagi, a promotion. Ultimately, this plot threatens not only his relationship with Dolly, but their lives and those of their associates as well.
This is a simply wonderful Indian film adaptation of Othello as a gangster story. Not only is the film pretty faithful to the story and to the Indian environment in Uttar Pradesh, but the acting, shots and production were arresting. If you've seen it, I'm thinking especially of a particular shot in the rain in front of the train and, of course, the film's last shot. I also loved the use of specific color associations with specific characters. (Hint - in India, the color for marriage is red.)

It is, as the film says, an adaptation, but often there were lines that seemed almost lifted directly from the original. This line, in particular, was key to this production.
Shakespeare/Desdemona's father: "Look to her, Moor, if thou hast eyes to see. She has deceived her father and may thee."

Omkara/Dolly's father: "The girl who can betray her own father, how can she be trusted by anyone else."
We were especially interested to see Saif Ali Khan's take on Iago since he first came to our attention as a lovable rogue in Tashan. Khan gave an impressive portrayal of a man consumed by envy and evil. He's truly versatile.

It's Bollywood so of course there are a couple of song and dance numbers but they are worked in realistically as Kesu's (Cassio's) girlfriend is an entertainer whose performances provide key moments for the story's action.

Vishal Bhardwa is a director I will be looking for more from. I'm especially eager to see his adaptations of Macbeth and Hamlet.

President of USCCB: Scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone.

This statement from Cardinal DiNardo seems sincere. Certainly the wording is less like that of a CEO and more like that of a priest. Read it all ... this snippet is the conclusion.
I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Holy Day of Obligation: Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary (with some modern science commentary)

Adam and Eve with the Virgin Mary (detail), Correggio, Assumption of the Virgin
via Khan Academy
On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption. Thus he solemnly proclaimed that the belief whereby the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the close of her earthly life, was taken up, body and soul, into the glory of heaven, definitively forms part of the deposit of faith, received from the Apostles. To avoid all that is uncertain the Pope did not state either the manner or the circumstances of time and place in which the Assumption took place — only the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into the glory of heaven, is the matter of the definition.
Catholic Culture, where there is a lot more info
Each year on the Assumption of Mary I like to revisit this from The Anchoress. Because it blows my mind. And the Assumption is a good time for mind-blowing. This was originally posted this at Patheos where the original post link no longer works:
When studying Anatomy and Physiology in college, the lesson that briefly discussed fetomaternal microchimerism, became instructive to me on a different level. Learning that every child leaves within his mother a microscopic bit of himself — and that it remains within her forever — the dogma of the Immaculate Conception instantly became both crystal clear and brilliant to me.

Mary, then, was indeed a tabernacle within which the Divinity did reside — not for a limited time, but for all of her life. Understanding this (and considering how the churches seemed to get it ‘way before microscopes told us anything) the Immaculate Conception made and makes perfect sense: God, who is All-Good is also completely Pure; the vessel in which He resides, then, must be pure, too, or it would not be able to sustain all of that “light in which we see light itself.”

Microchimerism also relates to the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, as well. In the psalms we read “you will not suffer your beloved to undergo corruption.” Christ’s divine body did not undergo corruption. It follows that his mother’s body, which contained a cellular component of the Divinity — and a particle of God is God, entire — would not be allowed to become corrupt, either.
I believed it anyway, but that made sense on several levels. Incredible.

Assumption of the Virgin, Correggio
where the above detail is included
Click through to the link to look at it enlarged.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr


I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me - a stranger. Is this some dream?

I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this. The news quickly spread all round the camp. It was the first and the last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of Auschwitz.

For a long time I felt remorse when I thought of Maximilian. By allowing myself to be saved, I had signed his death warrant. But now, on reflection, I understood that a man like him could not have done otherwise. Perhaps he thought that as a priest his place was beside the condemned men to help them keep hope. In fact he was with them to the last.
Testimony of Franciszek Gajowniczek,
for whom Maximilian Kolbe offered himself at Auschwitz
I have long admired Maximilian Kolbe for a lot of reasons. The most famous story about him is that of his martyrdom, when he stepped forward to offer himself in place of a married man with children.

Before World War II, Kolbe traveled to Asia and throughout Europe teaching and preaching the Gospel. He used the latest technology with the most modern printing and radio techniques. He planned to begin a motion picture studio. And then he was imprisoned in 1941 by the Nazis. He was known for walking among the bunks at night, quietly saying, "I am a Catholic priest. Can I do anything for you?"

When a prisoner escaped, Franciszek Gajowniczek was one of the ten men chosen for death in retaliation. He sobbed, "My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?

Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward before the commandant and said, "I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children."

It took the prisoners over two weeks to die, imprisoned with no food or water, but the sounds of hymns and prayers came from the room until only Father Kolbe was left. The room was needed for more prisoners so he was killed by injection and his body was burned in the crematorium. I often think of what a blessing his presence was and what a difference he made in helping those men in their ordeal.

Maximilian Kolbe was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron against drug addiction and for drug addicts, families, prisoners, journalists, and the pro-life movement. He was declared "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century" by Saint Pope John Paul II.

I think of the problems we face in our culture, the technology we have available to use in spreading the good news, the choices we sometimes are faced with ... and Maximilian Kolbe is modern enough to be a shining example of how to show God's love and truth.

Truly Saint Maximilian Kolbe is a saint for our time.

More indepth reading:

Monday, August 13, 2018

Miss Monroe, 1925

1925 photo of Miss Monroe on the beach at a Galveston beauty pageant.
There's more and a link to a bathing beauty video she was in at Traces of Texas.

Great First Lines: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.
Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Great first lines from a mystery/horror novel that I haven't read in way too long a time.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Hannah & Rose discuss the wonders of gravity ...

... why everything should be on fire, and how to properly segregate your workforce as they watch Upside Down (2012) at More is More, the bad movie podcast.

Breathless encounters with the classics

Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities.
With Illustrations by H. K. Browne. 1859. First edition
For of all my discoveries, nearly the most breathless was Dickens, himself. How many of the educated can ever suspect the delight of such a delayed encounter? I think we owned a Collected Works when I was a child. But I had tried David Copperfield too early and had believed all my life that he was not for me. One night last winter I was sleepless and somehow without a book. From our own shelves I took down Little Dorrit, which people tell me now is one of the least beguiling of the lot. But Keats first looking on Homer could have been no more dazzled than I first poring on my Boz. I felt as a treasure-hunter might feel had he tripped over the locked chest that belonged to Captain Kidd.
Phyllis McGinley
I found this quote in a good piece about not being able to understand the classics until we are adults by Tod Worner at Word on Fire. Phyllis McGinley, whose wonderful book Saint-Watching I have loved for some time, echoes precisely my own adult encounter with Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. I still remember how thrilled I was to see how many of his books were there for me to discover. I went on to read all of them.

It is interesting to think about the classics that I've grown to love as an adult since Uncle Tom's Cabin awoke me to the possibility that maybe classics weren't boring. That was in 2006. From there I went to the afore-mentioned A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, Dante's Divine Comedy, C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy, and Kim. All are books that I approached with the trepidation borne of early failed attempts. Some I had to approach with audio, print, and commentaries. But I kept going and there was something very worthwhile in them all.

The latest in that struggle was Brideshead Revisited which my book club just discussed this Monday. I do not yet love it, but I now appreciate a book I had cast away twice earlier with distaste. I know I will reread it and can foresee a future where I might love that work. Once I was finished, I appreciated the struggle itself and the fruit it yielded. There was a real sense of satisfaction in working through a challenge successfully. What I found in each was something that enriched my life and mind in new and exciting ways.

All of this is to say that when I feel a book challenge circling my mind I no longer duck and weave to avoid it. I wait to see if it will settle and then approach the book with a certain anticipation, both of the struggle and of the achievement.

Next up? Well, I have been thinking about Augustine's City of God an awful lot over the past few months ... and also Crime and Punishment. We shall see if either of them settles down to roost.

Morning Sun

Morning sun, Joaquín Sorolla

In the Midst of Clerical Misdeeds, a Crucial Moment for the Laity

Just when I think I've shared the last piece I need to about this McCarrick scandal, another comes up. This one from Msgr. Charles Pope, urges us to write a physical letter to our bishop so they really understand this is a scandal that will not go away.

Here's a bit of it:
I am not sure how many of the bishops realize just how angry, disheartened and disturbed God’s people really are. ...

I have never seen people so serious and determined to take actions of their own....

As a Church hierarchy, we have worn on folks’ last nerve. We have come to a point where only penance and a complete housecleaning can restore credibility and trust. As a lower-ranking priest I cannot issue demands or send binding norms to those in wider and upper ranks of the hierarchy, but I do want to say to God’s faithful how powerfully aware I am of their justified anger and agree with their insistence that something more than symbolic action or promises of future reform is necessary.

I also would like to say to God’s faithful that this is a critical hour for you. I have learned from Church history that reform almost never comes from the top; it comes from religious life and from the grass roots, from among God’s people. ...
Read it all here.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Bishop Barron on The McCarrick Mess

While I have been disillusioned and saddened by the silence of  bishops and cardinals I really admired, one bishop's silence especially had me on tenterhooks. I admire Bishop Robert Barron and his Word on Fire ministry so much that to see time go by with no commentary was really worrying.

I told myself that he is an auxiliary bishop and probably had to wait until his own bishop gave permission. If that was not the reason ... well, I knew it would be a heartbreaking admission of how far the entire hierarchy had fallen. So you can imagine how happy I was to see this piece. Here's a bit but go read it all for yourself.
Now I can hear people saying, “So Bishop Barron is blaming it all on the devil.” Not at all. The devil works through temptation, suggestion, and insinuation—and he accomplishes nothing without our cooperation. If you want to see the principle illustrated, Google Luca Signorelli’s image of the Antichrist in the Orvieto Cathedral. You’ll see what I mean. Archbishop McCarrick did wicked things and so did those, it appears, who enabled him. And we have to come to terms with these sins.

Noh Dance Prelude

Noh Dance Prelude, Uemura Shōen
Isn't this gown gorgeous? I especially love the bottom because it makes it look as if she is standing among the clouds.

A Gaelic Blessing

May those who love us, love us.
And those who don't love us
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn't turn their hearts
May He turn their ankles
So we'll know them by their limping.

Traditional Gaelic Blessing
This just works on so many levels!