Friday, March 27, 2020

Gospel of Matthew: A Lamp in the Hand of God and Stained Glass

Matthew 5:15

Out of order again, but this is worth backing up for. At least I think so ...

In the Lord's saying, "when a lamp is lit, it is not put under the bushel basket...," the word for "lamp" used (Greek word) actually means "portable lamp," and this makes the saying all the more poignant. It makes us, in fact, to be a lamp in the hand of God, a light that must allow itself to be moved about by Christ as he sees fit. The house is not lit up all at once but according to the need of the moment: now the kitchen, now the dining room, now the study or the bedroom requires light. Because it is Christ who has kindled his light, the Christian will also allow his Lord to choose the particular lampstand where he will shine, and when.


It would be a great mistake, however, for us to look too avidly for the proofs of the effect of our presence in the world. Inevitably, we would lose heart, because in the end we lack the means of measuring and judging things as God sees them. Who knows the true meaning and import of what transpires in a human heart, our own or another's? How can we know whether a negative sign, such as sadness and conflict, is not in fact the middle phase of a process that will culminate in much good? Our real business is to allow God to shed his light through us, and, since the light belongs to him, he will know where to focus it and to what effect. Our endeavor should be to make ourselves transparent so as not to eclipse his brilliance.
Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
The idea of being a lamp in Christ's hand doesn't get anywhere near the intimacy implied if we just think of a modern idea of a lamp. Reading Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Manners and Customs I was fascinated to see that lamps of the time were palm sized and would have shed light only where the person directed it. This is the lamp Christ would have been speaking of. Think of Him directing our light in the palm of his hand.

Reflecting upon this, I came across Thomas Merton's quote about transparency and God shining through.
Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.
And at about this time I was slowly working my way through Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis' encyclical on the Light of Faith. This passage about the give and take of God's deeds and life stories shone a light on my own mind.
Israel’s confession of faith takes shape as an account of God’s deeds in setting his people free and acting as their guide (cf. Dt 26:5-11), an account passed down from one generation to the next. God’s light shines for Israel through the remembrance of the Lord’s mighty deeds, recalled and celebrated in worship, and passed down from parents to children. Here we see how the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfilment of his promises. Gothic architecture gave clear expression to this: in the great cathedrals light comes down from heaven by passing through windows depicting the history of salvation. God’s light comes to us through the account of his self-revelation, and thus becomes capable of illuminating our passage through time by recalling his gifts and demonstrating how he fulfils his promises.
It all came together for me at that moment. Is it original? Unlikely. But it was a moment of blinding reality when I realized that my life is the stained glass window that God shines through to show others His existence, to show them some facet of His face that they need at that moment.

It was part of an opening of my own mind in answer to that question of our lives being lived in the light of God's will and of our own free will. How much is God and how much is us? The stained glass does not turn on the light which illuminates it to others, but it does paint a story that may inspire others in some way.

I can't express this well but the image shines often in my mind's eye. It is a guide for me as I make my way through the day, hoping that God will shine through the stained glass of my life in a way that others will see.

This series first ran in 2008. I'm refreshing it as I go.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

H-E-B - Prepared to handle any emergency, including Covid-19

Craig Boyan: Starting in January, we’ve been in close contact with several retailers and suppliers around the world. As this has started to emerge, we’ve been in close contact with retailers in China, starting with what happened in Wuhan in the early couple of months, and what kind of lessons they learned. Over the last couple of months, [we’ve been] in close contact with some of our Italian retailers and suppliers, understanding how things have evolved in Italy and now in Spain, talking to those countries that are ahead of us in the curve. We’ve been in daily contact, understanding the pace and the change and the need for product, and how things have progressed in each of those countries.

Justen Noakes: We modeled what had been taking place in China from a transmission perspective, as well as impact. As the number of illnesses and the number of deaths were increasing, obviously the Chinese government was taking some steps to protect their citizens, so we basically mirrored what that might look like. We also took an approach to what we saw during H1N1 in 2009, and later got on top of it. Our example was if we were to get an outbreak, specifically in the Houston area, how would we manage that, and how would we respond with our current resources, as well as what resource opportunities would we have.
I've mentioned before how much I love the Central Market and their parent grocery H-E-B. This (free) story shows why. They were planning, they were ready, they are considerate of their employees. And they kept my store stocked. Outstanding.

Mother and Son

Mother and Son, Remo Savisaar

I've been seeing lots of photos of fledgling owls emerging from the nest on the North Central Texas Wildlife page on Facebook. Remo Savisaar is in Estonia so it must be the season everywhere.

Christopher Closeup interview about Thus Sayeth the Lord

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Tony Rossi of The Christopher Closeup.

Our interview will air this Sunday, March 29th, on Sirius-XM's The Catholic Channel (129) at 7:00am and 11:30am Eastern - and on Relevant Radio at 7:00am Eastern.

It will be released as a podcast during Holy Week.

Gentle Reading of Long Ago Times: Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

Lark Rise to Candleford: A TrilogyLark Rise to Candleford: A Trilogy by Flora Thompson

My daughter, Hannah, is reading my copy of this book and I realized it is perfect gentle reading for troubled times. I was, therefore, delighted to see there is a Kindle version for only $2.99. Now I will be occasionally dipping into this soothing, fascinating look at bygone days. 

My original review is below.

This is probably my third time reading this trilogy. I used to keep it in my desk at work for lunchtime reading when there was no one else in the break room.

These three books are chronicles of small village, larger village, and small town life in rural England in the late 1800s. Told with fictionalized names this is nonetheless acknowledged to be a good record of what life was really like back then, from the farming/working class point of view. As such, Thompson didn't populate it with a main story line but centered it on one family (her own, one presumes) and then told all she had observed growing up. We see working habits, tavern stories and songs, pig killing day, and much more. In a sense, I suppose one could call it "Little House" stories for grown ups - set in Britain.

The rhythm of life gently washes over the reader and, if one isn't too worried about driving storylines as I mentioned, then there is a great reward in these books. They are perfect for unforced reading whenever one has a chance.

I was unaware that there was a television series based on these until reading some of the other GoodReads reviews. No wonder many of them were slightly disappointed. There would have to be a great deal of "reading into" to get storylines for the Lark Rise village setting. I've also seen a variety of rather judgmental reviews commenting on sexism, politics, and so forth. Those entirely miss the point of history, for one thing, and of these books, for another.

Here is an excellent overall review of the book for anyone who'd like an overview.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Church is Never Closed

Some of the initial statements I read from parishes and dioceses were all “WE’RE CLOSED.”

Which is not the message of the Gospel. We are not closed. We are never closed. Even if, God forbid, the physical church building has to be closed, the Church is not closed.

The Solemnity of the Annunciation

It's a solemnity! No fasting!

Leonardo da Vinci. The Annunciation.
Detail. c. 1472-1475. Oil and tempera on wood. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
On today's feast the Church celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation and, at the same time, the vocation of Our Lady. It was her faithful response to the angel's message, her fiat, that began the work of redemption...

The setting of this feast day, March 25th, corresponds to Christmas. In addition, there is ancient tradition that the creation of the world and the commencement and conclusion of the Redemption all happened to coincide at the vernal equinox.

As the greatest proof of his love for us, God had his only Son become man to save us from our sins. In this way Jesus merited for us the dignity of becoming children of God. His arrival signalled the fullness of time. St. Paul puts it quite literally that Jesus was born of a woman. (cf The Navarre Bible, Romans and Galatians, note to Gal 4:4) Jesus did not come to earth as a spirit. He truly became man, like one of us. He received his human nature from Our Lady's immaculate womb. Today's feat, therefore, is really in honour of Jesus and Mary. That is why Fr. Luis de Granada has pointed out: It is reasonable to consider, first and foremost, the purity and sanctity of the Woman whom God chose 'ab aeterno' to give form to his humanity.

When God decided to create the first man, he first took care to create a fitting environment for him, which was the Garden of Eden. It makes sense, then, that when god made ready to send his Son, the Christ, he likewise prepared for him a worthy environment, namely, the body and soul of the Blessed Virgin. (Life of Jesus Christ, I)

As we consider the significance of this Solemnity, we find Jesus very closely united to Mary. When the Blessed Virgin said Yes, freely, to the plans revealed to her by the Creator, the divine Word assumed a human nature: a rational soul and a body, which was formed in the most pure womb of Mary. The divine nature and the human were united in a single Person: Jesus Christ, true God and, thenceforth, true Man; the only-begotten and eternal Son of the Father, and from that moment on, as Man, the true son of Mary. ... (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 274)
There is more from this reflection featured in this previous post for this solemnity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Day One - "Shelter at Home" in Dallas and the Grocery Store

Dallas County is now under a "shelter at home" order, which I suppose you could say is a gentle form of lockdown.

We'd already been planning on going to the store on Monday to avoid crowds. When they scheduled the order to begin on Tuesday, we thought we'd try to avoid what we thought might be big crowds on the last day before the order began. So instead we went on the first day of the stay at home order — this morning.

I'd heard from Hannah in line at the Central Market yesterday that entrance was being judiciously spaced out by the store so there was a line — but a fairly quick one. And that's what we experienced also. They made sure that everyone had a chance to get inside, get a freshly disinfected cart, and to disperse in the store before letting the next person in.

No one inside the store practiced the 6-foot rule in general, but no one was talking to each other and everyone did keep a "cone of distance" around them.

Everything was stocked and in select places like the butcher or deli counters there were green mats on the floor indicating six foot distances to maintain. And about 2/3 of us did it.

I have to say I felt a real gratitude for the friendly hospitality and thoughtfulness of how HEB (Central Market's owner) planned things out. You felt welcome, but it was clear they took everything seriously.

I took a picture of the social distancing in place at the checkout so Mom could see how it was. And I share it here with you!

Mapping the COVID-19 outbreak in the US

Remember USA Facts? The Nonpartisan government data site that uses easy to understand graphics to break down the facts as they are reported by government agencies?

Yeah. I'd kind of forgotten about them too. Until my husband told me about a fascinating map that breaks down the outbreak numbers by state ... and by county.

Here's the latest data.

Upcoming - Live Streaming Annunciation Mass and More

On Wednesday, St. Thomas Aquinas will live stream a Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation at 10:00 am.

And, of course it can be watched any time on the Facebook feed.

They have also decided to record weekday daily reflections. More on that later as it develops.

Pray the "Our Father" at noon on the Annunciation

Pope Francis has invited us “to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, to recite at the same time the prayer that Jesus, our Lord, taught us” – the Our Father.

We're invited to join in this prayer at noon on the Annunciation, Wednesday, March 25.

Scott created an AI that looks like Shah Rukh Khan for Julie. She applies a Turing Test ...

... to recreate the Dard E Disco dance from Om Shanti Om. Scott argues that this tests only one thing and it is not intelligence.

Episode 228 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast: Ex Machina (2014), directed by Alex Garland; starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac.

What is Dard E Disco, you ask? It is actually meant to be funny since it is an "item number" which usually features a highly sexualized female dance. In this case female director Farah Khan turns it on its head with Shah Rukh instead of a woman. Around 2 minutes in this gets really obvious.

Type Z and Not Freaking Out

At the same time, I want to say: if you're not freaking out right now, it's okay! This is a time that plays to the strengths of us Type-Z people in other ways than it plays to the strengths of the Type-A planners and organizers. The world, the neighborhood, the family needs people who can be cheerful, unafraid, easy-going, roll-with-the-punches. I'm not talking about risk-takers, but about having a balanced outlook even in unprecedented circumstances. We love our families, we take precautions, and then we know: what's going to happen is going to happen.

All shall be well, said Julian of Norwich, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well. May all manner of thing be well with you, my friends.
Mrs. Darwin, DarwinCatholic
We are type-A in our household and yet have managed to hold fairly well to the attitude Mrs. Darwin mentions above. In our case, a wide contrarian streak helps a lot.

Occasionally one of us has to stop and ask for a family member to talk us down from becoming anxious. And that works since big doses of common sense and contrariness are liberally and willingly applied by other household members.

We're as prepared as possible and we know "what's going to happen is going to happen."

The End of the Journey

Hugh Thomson, The End of the Journey
via Old Book Illustrations

Monday, March 23, 2020

An early positive comment on Thus Sayeth the Lord

We've been reading this out loud as a family and just finished the Deborah chapter. The kids love it, and everyone has been paying good attention and asking intelligent questions. Thanks for writing such a fun book on a complex topic!
Mrs. Darwin (from DarwinCatholic blog) commented after I announced the e-book is now for sale on Amazon.

I couldn't be more pleased. Will be very interested to hear how they handle Hosea, which I say right up front is not a family friendly prophet!

Pick up your e-book today! You might be surprised how the prophets can help you handle our hard times today!

Suffering and Deeper Realities

It is well to remember that so long as a soul has not suffered, it lives only on the surface; the deeper realities escape its grasp. In the mystery of Christ lie hidden depths of divine reality which only those can reach and penetrate who, like Christ, have each in his own way been crucified. Authentic holiness is always consummated on a cross.
Father M.M. Philipon, O.P.

Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate

Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate, self portrait
I picked this up from J.R.'s Art Place where he had the following information, which is fascinating. For myself, I simply love that hat!
Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate was the daughter of Frederick V of the Palatinate and King of Bohemia, and Elizabeth Stuart. Raised in a Protestant household in the Netherlands, she showed great artistic talent. Her family arranged for her to study under one of the greatest artists of the time, Gerard van Honthorst.

The painting shown here is a self-portrait by her circa 1650. It was in 1657 that she, for unknown reasons, fled the Netherlands with the aid of her aunt Henrietta Marie de Bourbon, the widow of Charles I of England. In France she converted to Roman Catholicism and entered the Cistercian Abbey of Maubuisson. In retaliation, she was left out of her mother's will.

In 1664 she became Abbess of Maubuisson. She continued painting after entering the Abbey, mostly of religious subjects.

Shah Rukh Khan on the war against coronavirus

Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan does a coronavirus public service announcement using scenes from his movies.

I'm very proud to say that I recognized a lot of the scenes — yes, I'm a SRK fan. I don't know if people who don't know his movies will find this as amusing as we did.

Though no matter who you are, I'm sure you agree that the hat and sunglasses are tragic. Just ignore them.

For those who don't know, here's how SRK really looks. Now you can see what I meant about the hat and glasses.

Chef Yia Medina on Lessons Learned From Hurricanes, Earthquakes and Cleaned-Out Grocery Stores

I found this story inspiring especially since I haven't been through the disasters that Yia Medina has.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

STA-Live: Streaming Mass, Faith, and Community

Our priest live streamed the Mass on Facebook this morning. It really won't be a big deal to people who aren't parish members, but his homily was wonderful (as always) and you might like it. It is about 22 minutes in. His closing comments at about 54 minutes are also good.

I found my husband's comments equally inspiring when he shared it on Facebook. He doesn't talk about his faith much (make that "ever") so you know he was moved by watching the Mass and our community:
While I consider myself a faithful Catholic I am certainly no zealot. Watching a Mass online does nothing for me. But this Mass from our parish of 30 years proved how much I see community as my connection to God. It shows me how community is inherently local. Most of you will not get the same feeling from this Mass from our parish. But it is what "church" is to me. I could easily find a Mass online with better production values (multi-camera, mic'd to the hilt) but this is my community.

For me, community is where faith is put into action. You will rarely see most of the acts of support and mercy that are happening. But they are out there. Yesterday, Julie and I raced through two grocery stores to get supplies for a sick friend (and fellow parishioner) who should not be going out into the world right now. To the others in the stores we looked like everyone else getting ready for our "social separation". But I am sure many of the other shoppers were like us.
Here's the Mass video. 22 minutes into this video is a beautiful homily from Father Libone and at 54 minutes he gives an eloquent blessing for the times.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Thus Sayeth the Lord E-book Released TODAY!

Thus Sayeth the Lord had a March 31 release date but right now, as you can imagine, Amazon isn’t sending out orders on anything other than essential items.

SO, the publisher has released the e-book today and the print book will release when shipping loosens up some.

That means this very day you can have the prophets to help you get through hard times ... and everyday life.

Get it at Amazon now!

What I'm Reading: Mirabile by Janet Kagan

I've seen it reported that people are reading and watching movies about contagions.

This mystifies me. Real life isn't enough for them? As always, when faced with stressful circumstances in life I turn to light, entertaining books to get away from it all.

This book is one I'd forgotten I had until browsing through my Kindle library. It's just what the doctor ordered!

That year the Ribeiro's daffodils seeded early and they seeded cockroaches. Now, ecologically speaking, even a cockroach has its place -- but these suckers bit. That didn't sound Earth-authentic to me. Not that I care, mind you, all I ask is useful. I wasn't betting on that either.
A light, enjoyable collection of connected short stories told in a pleasing voice. These strike me as perfect juvenile stories though I can see how they'd be fun if encountered in sf magazines. There is little character development, what you see is what you get. Not that there's anything wrong with that for entertaining reading.

They are largely problem solving tales, wrapped in the intriguing environment of human colonists on Mirabile. Scientists who packed the colony ships with embryos also planned for emergency redundancy with some gene twisting so that each species contains the genes for other species. Which is super until your computer has a glitch that loses how to turn those genes off or on. When the Earth species react to the alien environment they reproduce with different species altogether, or sometimes with unexpected results of genes that mixed to produce monsters. My favorite — the Kangaroo Rex.

The fun is in watching Jason, the planet's genetic/environmental problem solver, evaluate and handle the various mutations along the way.

Hannah & Rose discuss the early 2000s metal scene, the loneliness of the long distance vampire ...

... and the respective merits of vampire versus human blood in bestowing superpowers as they watch Queen of the Damned (2002). Get it at More is More, a bad movie podcast.

Eggplant with Molten Mozzarella

A delicious Friday meatless meal ... the mozzarella is a variation so if you just see eggplant at the store and no mozzarella, we've got you covered! It's also perfect for using the vegetables that others might not be buying. Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Well Said: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world?

The great question that will be with us throughout this entire book: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?

The answer is very simple: God.... He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God's power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and the lasting power. Again and again, God's cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.
-- Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth

Great Train Robbery

N.C. Wyeth, Great Train Robbery