Friday, March 24, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Summertime

Summertime, Edward Hopper
via WikiArt, Fair Use

Lagniappe: A highly professional cat

Hamoudi explains soothingly that all will soon be well. The holes in the bedroom are being stopped up with plaster. More whitewash will be applied. Moreover, a cat is coming; it has been loaned out. It is a super-cat—a highly professional cat. ...

Our cat arrives at dinner-time. I shall never forget that at! It is, as Hamoudi has announced, a highly professional cat. It knows the job for which it has been engaged, and proceeds to get on with it in a truly specialized manner.

Whilst we dine, it crouches in ambush behind a packing case. When we talk, or move, or make too much noise, it gives us an impatient look.

"I must request of you," the look says, "to be quiet. How can I get on with the job without co-operation?"

So fierce is the cat's expression that we obey at once, speak in whispers, and eat with as little clinking of plates and glasses as possible.

Five times during the meal a mouse emerges and runs across the floor, and five times our cat springs. The sequel is immediate. There is no Western dallying, no playing with the victim. The cat simply bites off the mouse's head, crunches it up, and proceeds to the rest of the body! It is rather horrible and completely businesslike.

The cat stays with us five days. After those five days no mice appear. The cat then leaves us, and th emice never come back. I have never known before or since such a professional cat. It had no interest in us, it never demanded milk or a share of our food. It was cold, scientific, and impersonal. A very accomplished cat!
Agatha Christie, Come Tell Me How You Live

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This book is a joyful pilgrimage to the Father,
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lagniappe: "A little extra money is always welcome"

Soundings must be made at all three mounds. We make a start with Tell Mozan. There is a village there, and with Hamoudi as ambassador we try and obtain workmen. The men are doubtful and suspicious.

"We do not need money," they say. "It has been a good harvest."

For this is a simple, and, I think, consequently a happy part of the world. Food is the only consideration. If the harvest is good, you are rich. For the rest of the year there is leisure and plenty, until the time comes to plough and sow once more.

"A little extra money," says Hamoudi, like the serpent of Eden, "is always welcome."

They answer simply: "But what can we buy with it? We have enough food until the harvest comes again."

And here, alas! the eternal Eve plays her part. Astute Hamoudi baits his hook. They can buy ornaments for their wives.

The wives nod their heads. This digging, they say, is a good thing!

Reluctantly the men consider the idea. ...
Agatha Christie, Come Tell Me How You Live

Worth a Thousand Words: Satan of the Sea

Via Pulp Covers

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Gladioli in a Vase

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gladioli in a Vase, c. 1875
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: There is no entering in ...

The next morning we reach the Cilician Gates, and look out over one of the most beautiful views I know. It is like standing on the rim of the world and looking down on the promised land, and one feels much as Moses must have felt. For here, too, there is no entering in. ... The soft, hazy dark blue loveliness is a land one will never reach; the actual towns and villages when one gets there will be only the ordinary everyday world—not this enchanted beauty that beckons you down. ...
Agatha Christie, Come Tell Me How You Live
There is a lot of wisdom in that short observation. It's a lesson I always need to remember to apply to my own life. From far away, plans, dreams, desires, always look perfect. But it is close up, in the nitty gritty, where we live.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Genesis Notes: Hagar's Resume

I never thought of Hagar as a perpetual avoider, a run away, but there you go. And yet she also was thrust into a situation which most of us would find challenging, to say the least, when Sarah gave her to Abraham as a surrogate. We might also get in the habit of running away under those circumstances.

Matthias Stom, Sarah Leading Hagar to Abraham
Escape of some kind is usually the most tempting solution to our problems. In fact, it can become a habit. Hagar was a person who used that approach. When the going got tough, she usually got going -- in the other direction.

However, it is worthwhile to note that the biggest challenges Hagar faced were brought on by other people's choices.

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Mother of Abraham's first child, Ishmael, who became the founder of the Arab nations
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • When faced with problems, she tended to run away
  • Her pregnancy brought out strong feelings of pride and arrogance
Lessons from her life:
  • God is faithful to his plan and promises, even when humans complicate the process
  • God shows himself as one who knows us and wants to be known by us
  • The New Testament uses Hagar as a symbol of those who would pursue favor with God by their own efforts, rather than by trusting in his mercy and forgiveness
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Canaan and Egypt
  • Occupation: Servant, mother
  • Relatives: Son - Ishmael
Key verse:
"Then the angel of the Lord told her, 'Go back to your mistress and submit to her.'" (Genesis 16:9)

Hagar's story is told in Genesis 16-21. She also is mentioned in Galatians 4:24, 25.
All quotes from 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.

While Scott runs through a frustrating maze, Julie marvels at her ability to find Karl Urban in every inkblot she sees.

We dig deep below the surface Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and find Genesis everywhere we look. Get it all in Episode 154 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Entrance to the Underground

Entrance to the Underground
by Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: One does not set a Force in motion lightly.

“... But if I go with the Host ... then I go as an agent of the Holy Catholic Church, prepared to execute what I would consider the most spiritual rites of my office. Then I go as Christ’s representative on earth.” He was now looking at Matt seriously, solemnly. “I may be a poor excuse for a priest—at times I’ve thought so—a bit jaded, a bit cynical, and just lately suffering a crisis of ... what? faith? identity? ... but I still believe enough in the awesome, mystical, and apotheotic power of the church which stands behind me to tremble a bit at the thought of accepting your request lightly. The church is more than a bunch of ideals, as these younger fellows seem to believe. It’s more than a spiritual Boy Scout troop. The church is a Force ... and one does not set a Force in motion lightly.”
Stephen King, Salem’s Lot

Solemnity of St. Joseph

Because March 19 falls on a Sunday, the celebration of this solemnity has been moved to March 20 for this year.

Good news! NO FASTING on a solemnity. So enjoy a break from your Lenten fasting while giving thanks for St. Joseph. May he help us to all be so self-giving and faithful.



Giuseppe Maria Lo Spagnolo Crespi - Death of Saint Joseph [c.1712]
Via Gandalf's Gallery
The season of Lent is interrupted by the Solemnity of Joseph, Husband of Mary. With the exception of Our Lady, there is no greater saint in Heaven than Saint Joseph. This feast originated in the fifteenth century and was then extended to the whole church in 1621. In 1847 Pope Pius IX named Saint Joseph Patron of the Universal Church. Pope John XXIII had Saint Joseph's name included in the Roman Canon.

Here was an ordinary man to whom God granted extraordinary graces. Joseph was to fulfill a most singular mission in the salvific design of God. He experienced indescribable joys along with the trials of doubt and suffering. We recall his perplexity at the mystery of Mary's conception, at the extreme of material poverty in Bethlehem, at the prophecies of Simeon in the Temple, at the hurried flight into Egypt, at the difficulties of having to live in a foreign land, at the return from Egypt and the threat posed by Archelaus. Joseph proved himself always faithful to the will of God. He showed himself always ready to set aside his own human plans and considerations.

The explanation for this remarkable fidelity is that Jesus and Mary were at the centre of Joseph's life. Joseph's self-giving is an interweaving of faithful love, loving faith and confident hope. His feast is thus a good opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the Christian calling God has given each of us. (St. J. Escrivá, Christ is passing by)

In Conversation with God, Vol. 6: Special Feasts: January to June

Friday, March 17, 2017

Well Said: The worst form of inequality

The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.
Aristotle
And thousands of years later, here we are ... still in the same place.

Worth a Thousand Words: Lady with a Bouquet

Lady with a Bouquet. The artist's wife with flowers from the Viburnum 'Snowball' bush, Charles Courtney Curran

Top o' the Mornin' to Ya: Happy St. Patrick's Day

Just a few things for St. Patrick's Day.

First of all, it's Lent and St. Patrick's Day is on Friday ... you really just need to shoulder your cross and skip the corned beef (which is never a problem for me ... I loathe it).

Bishops regularly get asked for dispensations under these circumstances and, from what I've seen over the years, they all have the tendency to do what the new Dallas bishop did this year — allow your meatless day to be observed the day before or after.

Get creative with potatoes and you will be in the proud spirit of the Irish who can celebrate using whatever is at hand.



A Joke
from Miss Cellania some time ago, but which I continually find amusing.
Mrs. O'Connor wants a Divorce

"Well, Mrs. O'Connor, so you want a divorce?" the solicitor questioned his client. "Tell me about it. Do you have a grudge?"

"Oh, no," replied Mrs. O'Connor. "Shure now, we have a carport."

The solicitor tried again. "Well, does the man beat you up?"

"No, no," said Mrs. O'Connor, looking puzzled. "Oi'm always first out of bed."

Still hopeful, the solicitor tried once again. "Well, does he go in for unnatural connubial practices?"

"Shure now, he plays the flute, but I don't think he knows anything about the connubial."

Now desperate, the solicitor pushed on. "What I'm trying to find out are what grounds you have."

"Bless ye, sor. We live in a flat -- not even a window box, let alone grounds."

"Mrs. O'Connor," the solicitor said in considerable exasperation, "you need a reason that the court can consider. What is the reason for you seeking this divorce?"

"Ah, well now," said the lady, "Shure it's because the man can't hold an intelligent conversation."
"It is my design to die in the brew-house; let ale be placed to my mouth when I am expiring so that when the choir of angels come they may say: 'Be God propitious to this drinker.'"So said St. Columbanus who is just one of those written about at Patron saints of beer.

A bit of St. Patrick's Confession which you may read it its entirety here.
1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven. ...
St. Patrick's Breastplate ... the confession above is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to have led to the glory that is this prayer.
I arise today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today, through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism, through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today, through the strength of the love of the Cherubim, in obedience of angels, in the service of archangels, in the hope of the resurrection to meet with reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in prediction of prophets, in preaching of apostles, in faith of confessors, in innocence of holy virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of heaven; light of sun, radiance of moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of earth, firmness of rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak to me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, God's host to save me, from the snares of devils, from temptations of vices, from every one who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a multitude.

I summon today, all these powers between me and those evils, against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of pagandom, against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of women and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today, against poisoning, against burning, against drowning, against wounding, so there come to me abundance of reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me, Christ in the eye of every one that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today, through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.

(The full text of what has come to be known as St. Patrick's Breast Plate. While it's not known for sure, ancient tradition has ascribed the prayer to Patrick himself. This is an older translation.)

For Celebrating:
  • Make some Irish Soda Bread. (For other Irish recipes, check here ... I'm not into corned beef at all, but lamb? Oh yeah ...)
  • I love the idea of  Irish dancing. See, that's how you use up all that alcohol in the Guiness (you are drinking Guiness today aren't you?) ... leaping and twirling?

    We foot it all the night,
    Weaving olden dances,
    Mingling hands and mingling glances
    Till the moon has taken flight;
    To and fro we leap
    And chase the frothy bubbles,
    While the world is full of troubles


    WB Yeats, The Stolen Child
Irish Heritage: I have been asked if I am Irish and yes I am. I believe it was my great-great-grandfather who was named Reeves. That then lead to some thought that the surname was actually an occupation as well, which I hadn't thought of. And so it was, according to Wikipedia at any rate.
Reeve may refer to:
  • High-reeve, a title taken by some English magnates during the 10th and 11th centuries
  • Reeve (England), an official elected annually by the serfs to supervise lands for a lord
  • Reeve (Canada), an elected chief executive in counties
  • Shire reeve, an office position that originated the term Sheriff
So I come from a proud line of middle managers. Ah, tradition ...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Well Said: God made the world beautiful because he loves us.

One July evening, cloudless, moonless, with just a hint of a humid breeze, her father took her out into the back yard in the dark and told her to look up at the sky.

From one horizon to the other, all across the black carpet of the night, were the stars — thousands of them, tens of thousands, in clusters and rivers of light. And in the quiet, her father said, “God made the world beautiful because he loves us.”

That was more than sixty years ago. … still, when she closes her eyes, she can see that carpet of stars and hear her father’s voice: God made the world beautiful because he loves us. Creation is more than an accident of dead matter. It’s a romance. It has purpose. It sings of the Living God. It bears his signature. And it's our home.
Charles J. Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land

Worth a Thousand Words: Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Strangers in a Strange Land by Charles J. Chaput

Strangers in a Strange Land: 
Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World
by Charles J. Chaput
We've spoken frankly so far about the American landscape as we now know it. Some of the words have been difficult. But candor is not an enemy of love. And real hope begins in honesty.

The current spirit of our country inclines us to be troubled. It's a sensible temptation. How can any one person or small group of people make a difference? How can we change and renew things so that our children grow up in a better world? We come back to a question suggested at the start of this book: How can we live in joy, and serve the common good as leaven, in a culture that no longer shares what we believe?
As we might expect from the author of Render Unto Caesar, this is a book which focuses on how we can live both an authentically Catholic life and an American life in changing, chaotic times.

The first half of the book examines our nation's history, especially as it is tied to religion; how our society became "post Christian;" and why it will not return to the way it was. That last truth hit me hard. I'm not someone who thinks restoring a few laws is going to change the national psyche but I think I felt as if everything would settle back into old norms at some point. Absorbing Chaput's explanation was tough. But if we don't know the truth, then we aren't on firm ground for future decisions. So I'm grateful.

The second half looks at where we go from here, as Catholics, as Americans. I found it realistic and hope-filled and inspiring. What is hope and how do we maintain it? How do Jesus' promises in the Beatitudes apply to our lives and times? What does it mean to be the "people of God" in a distracted and unbelieving age?

Chaput's answer is one that I have always felt is a basic truth, perhaps because I myself came from a completely secular life before my conversion. We begin by reforming our own hearts, being authentic Christian witnesses by living our own lives with conviction. We have to be in love with our faith and with God. That is what spills over as we go into the world for work, school, and all the things that make up a normal life.

It may not always be easy, but, let's face it, we've been spoiled. All you have to do is look at the way Christians are persecuted around the world to see that.

In different ways, with varying directness, Chaput repeatedly points out that people living a fully Christian life make a difference in the world.
Jesus uses three images to describe using our gifts for God's kingdom: salt, light, and leaven, or yeast. ...

Note the logic at work here. Yeast mixes with flour and makes dough rise. We sprinkle salt on our food, and the meal tastes better. We turn on the lights of a dark room so we can see. The yeast, salt, and light aren't the focus of our attention. Rather, they impart their qualities to something else to make it better. And so it should be with the work of the Church in the world.
Chaput directly addresses why withdrawing from the world won't work. I found his first reason the most compelling: "The world will come after us" because reminders of an abandoned past will be increasingly irritating. In his discussion of forming a Catholic identity, Chaput acknowledges the Benedict Option idea, albeit without naming it specifically, adding:
This is wisdom, so long as we don't give up on the good present in American society. We need to create places where Catholic culture can flourish and be handed down to the next generation. ...
I'm not a fan of the Benedict Option, at least as I've read about it to date, but I do think it has begun a much needed discussion. Catholics and, indeed, all Christians need to be mindful of the uneasy ground beneath our feet as our society goes through a watershed moment. Strangers in a Strange Land is a clear-sighted road map to where we've been and where we need to head now.