Friday, July 1, 2022

The Truth and Beauty: How the Lives and Works of England's Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Jesus by Andrew Klavan

Beauty descends from God into nature, but there it would perish and does except when a Man appreciates it with worship and thus as it were sends it back to God: so that through his consciousness what descended ascends again and the perfect circle is made." — C.S. Lewis, letter to Arthur Greaves
As I read this book it occurred to me that it described the process of Andrew Klavan discovering what Lewis describes above and then fleshing it out using examples from poetry and other written art. He never references the quote but it has long been one of my favorites. Along the way we get the lives of some of the poets and then Klavan's own deeper dive into the Gospels.

I picked this up from the library on the strength of the enthusiastic comments from The Literary Life podcast folks who were working their way through it. I agreed with them as I read the first half and don't think they'd gotten to Klavan's commentary on the Gospels yet which I occasionally found problematic. I myself sometimes found Klavan's Gospel interpretations to be uncomfortably far afield from my own understanding. I haven't gone to the trouble of learning Greek, as Klavan did, but I have read a wide number of commentaries from people who knew the Greek themselves. That is a fairly small quibble though.

This is a book that opens your eyes to the power of art, nature, and our own imaginations in finding and furthering our personal friendship with Christ. That's the part that spoke to me. I read it in two days and it definitely is a book I'll reread.

Selfie: Albrecht Durer

Self Portrait at Twenty-Eight, Albrecht Durer

It is the last of his three painted self-portraits. Art historians consider it the most personal, iconic and complex of his self-portraits.[1] The self-portrait is most remarkable because of its resemblance to many earlier representations of Christ. Art historians note the similarities with the conventions of religious painting, including its symmetry, dark tones and the manner in which the artist directly confronts the viewer and raises his hands to the middle of his chest as if in the act of blessing.

Read more at the Wikipedia page. I love Durer's paintings but never realized that he himself was so good looking. I think I might actually prefer this self-portrait from when he was twenty-six. The outfit is great, am I right?

Self Portrait at Twenty-Six, Albrecht Durer

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Selfie and Noir: Chandler and Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Two Circles
They had Rembrandt on the calendar that year, a rather smeary self-portrait due to imperfectly registered color plate. It showed him holding a smeared palette with a dirty thumb and wearing a tam-o’-shanter which wasn’t any too clean either. His other hand held a brush poised in the air, as if he might be going to do a little work after a while, if somebody made a down payment. His face was aging, saggy, full of the disgust of life and the thickening effects of liquor. But it had a hard cheerfulness that I liked, and the eyes were as bright as drops of dew.
Raymond Chandler, Farewell My Lovely
I don't know if this is the portrait Philip Marlowe was looking at because I discovered that Rembrandt did over a hundred self-portraits in his lifetime. But this expression is the one that came to mind when I read that paragraph. "Hard cheerfulness" is the perfect description.

Why do you not speak in tongues?

As individual men who received the Holy Spirit in those days could speak in all kinds of tongues, so today the Church, united by the Holy Spirit, speaks in the language of every people.

Therefore if somebody should say to one of us, “You have received the Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in tongues?” his reply should be, “I do indeed speak in the tongues of all men, because I belong to the body of Christ, that is, the Church, and she speaks all languages. What else did the presence of the Holy Spirit indicate at Pentecost, except that God’s Church was to speak in the language of every people?
Sixth century African author, sermon excerpt
I love that this question was being asked as far back as the sixth century and it is still brought up today. What a good answer I have now thanks to that African author!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Selfie: At the Dressing Table

Zinaida Serebriakova (1884–1967)
At the Dressing-Table (the self-portrait).
I'd never heard of Zinaida Serebriakova until Charley Parker at Lines and Colors included her charming self portrait in his continuing series of old fashioned "selfies." I love this charming self portrait with her sweet yet knowing expression, the clutter of her dressing table, and the way the candlesticks blend into the picture "frame."

A Movie You Might Have Missed #67: The Founder

It's been 11 years since I began this series highlighting movies I wished more people knew about. I'm rerunning it from the beginning because I still think these are movies you might have missed.

He took someone else's idea
and America ate it up.

The Founder is the story of Ray Kroc, a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative  restaurant, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world with a combination of ambition, persistence, and ruthlessness.
This normally isn't the sort of movie I feature as "a movie you might have missed." It's got a big star, a director who's done movies people know (The Blind Side, Saving Mr. Banks), and is about an American institution. And yet I'm continually surprised to find that so few people have heard of it.

We enjoyed it a lot both as a biopic and as a business movie. Make no mistake, it has a very definite point of view. If you check History vs Hollywood, as I like to do after watching any movie "based on a true story, you will see where the creators made story choices to enhance the points they were interested in discussing. The movie as a whole leaves you pondering innovation in its many forms and what it means "to invent" something.

Also, I defy anyone to watch this and not come away wanting a burger and fries. Maybe with a milkshake on the side.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Julie sets out for Utah with 3000 cows and a saddlebag full of podcasting equipment. Scott won't follow until he's done playing cards.

  Scott and I discuss Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry on  episode 285 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Join us!

Henry James and Chocolate Peppermint Cake

Henry James has remarked that there are two different types of intellectual pleasure‚ the pleasure of recognition and the pleasure of discovery. Of course he took five pages to say it, but that was the idea. Chocolate-peppermint cake embodies both pleasures: the surprise of finding that something lurks in the chocolate ambush and the pleasure of recognizing that it is actually a peppermint.
Louise Andrews Kent, Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen
I love both Mrs. Appleyard's Year and Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen so much. They have the homey quality that makes good comfort reading along with the clever humor that surprises you with its intelligence.

Worth a Thousand Words: Bernini Self-Portrait

Self Portrait as a Young Man, Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Monday, June 27, 2022

Unexpected Tales From A to Z by Robert Wenson

This charming and clever collection of tales is perfect for family snuggling. The stories all stand on their own and are just the right length for bedtime reading. Young readers will enjoy Robert Wenson's sweeping imagination, which takes them from old New Orleans (Esme and the Eloquent Eggplant) to the fictional kingdom of Perinnia (Reynard and the Robotic Robberies), to ancient Greece (Xenophon and the Xanthios Xiphios), to all around the whole world (Yolanda and the Yak Yoghurt). Along the way are daring escapes, dastardly villains, settings historical and fantastic, and an assortment of resourceful and brave young heroes and heroines. Sarah Neville's illustrations provide just the right flourish for each tale.

The above description is from Brendan Hodge's review which he is particularly suited to give since the stories in the book were written over the past few years for his children. Imagine being lucky enough to receive one of these stories in the mail!  This is like the sort of magical experience that sets up the beginning of an adventure in a children's book. What a treat that must have been for the Hodge children.

I found these light, funny stories very appealing and not just for children. They are just a few pages long, featuring quick-witted children who must overcome unlikely, whimsical predicaments, often with equally unlikely solutions. The titles give you a sense of the range but not of the author's comic imagination: Alexandra and the Argumentative Alligator, Hendrik and the Horrible Hollyhocks, Neville and the Negligent Neanderthal, and Yolanda and the Yak Yoghurt.

Anyone who has a sense of whimsy will enjoy these stories as much as I did. They were particularly good for my own bedtime reading as one or two were just the thing to prepare me for sleep with a smile on my face.

The Kindle price is inexpensive and it is well formatted with the charming illustrations well displayed. I also picked up a print version because when my grandson is old enough I know he'll enjoy these imaginative, charming stories as much as I do.

Brendan features one of the stories in his review and I urge you to sample it. It is simply delightful as, of course, are all the stories in the book. Then buy the book and read my favorite, Sarah and the Stranded Saturnians. This is going on my Best of 2022 list. Highly recommended.

Note: the author has been diagnosed with cancer. Please keep him in your prayers.

Selfie — painter James Tissot

Self Portrait, James Tissot

 I remember when it broke on me like a lightning bolt that we weren't the first people to think of selfies. Painters have been doing them for some time. I love this one of one of my favorites, James Tissot. He looks very jaunty.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior's Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today's feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession "peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue" (Decree of May 4, 1944).
As always you'll find a lot more information, prayers, and activities at Catholic Culture.

I particularly like this reflection which reminds me of why Mary was not only the first and best of Jesus' disciples, but why I should ask her for help in my own Christian journey.
The Preface of the Mass attributes a number of qualities to the Heart of Mary. It is wise, because she understood the meaning of the Scriptures as no other person had ever done, and she kept in it the memory of the words and things relating to the mystery of salvation. It is immaculate, that is, immune from any stain of sin. It is docile because she submitted so faithfully to God's will and to every one of his wishes. It is new, according to the ancient prophecy of Ezechiel  -- a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit -- clothed in the newness of grace merited by Christ. It is humble because she imitated the humility of Christ, who said Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart. It is simple, free from any duplicity and full of the Spirit of truth. It is clean and thus able to see God according to the words of the Beatitude. It is firm in her acceptance of the Will of God when Simeon announced to her that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart, when persecution broke out aginst her Son or when the moment of his death was at hand. It is ready, for whilst Christ slept in the sepulcher she kept watch in the expectation of his resurrection, just like the spouse in the Canticle of Canticles.

As we consider the splendor and holiness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we can examine today the depths of our own soul: whether we are open and docile to the graces and inspirations of the Holy Spirit, whether we jealously guard our heart from anything that could separate it form God, whether we pull up by the roots our little feelings of resentment, of envy ... which tend to bed themselves down within it. We know that from our heart's richness or its poverty our words and deeds will speak. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good things. (Matt. 12:35)

Friday, June 24, 2022

On the Thames

On the Thames, James Tissot

This is what I call boating with style!

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Is there any more appropriate day for Roe V. Wade to be overturned? I never thought it would end in my lifetime but miracles do happen! I was telling my daughter on the phone that it was finally announced and we were both laughing with joy.

Surely it there could be no more appropriate celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. So many more hearts will now be allowed to beat.

This is one of my favorite solemnity feast days. And not just because it is always on a Friday, which means I can eat meat! Though that does make it a proper celebration!

On the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we give special honor to the source and symbol of the love Our Saviour has for us. Celebrated the Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast day celebrates the devotion to the Heart of Jesus; one of the oldest devotions of the Church, dating back in some form to the Patristic Era, the era of the early Church Fathers. Sr. Mary Jeremiah, O.P., S.T.D. Describes the importance and significance of the devotion:

“Jesus Christ is the center of the universe. His pierced Heart, as the symbol of His infinite and divine charity united to his human affections and love, is the focal point of all time. Those who lived during the long period before his incarnation and redemptive death and resurrection waited with yearning for the promised redeemer. Those who witnessed the piercing of his side, as well as all people who will live, are invited to gaze upon and contemplate this mystery. . . As Christians lovingly gaze upon his Heart, they are given the grace to believe in God's mercy and forgiveness.” - from the book The Secret of the Heart
Originally from an article on Aquinas and More, link dead

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a moveable feast, which means that it depends on the date of Easter Sunday. It is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost Sunday, which falls on the 50th day of Easter.

I personally have a special love for the novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

O Lord Jesus Christ, to your most Sacred Heart I confide this intention. Only look upon me, then do what your love inspires. Let your Sacred Heart decide. I count on you. I trust in you. I throw myself on your mercy. Lord Jesus, you will not fail me.

(Mention your request)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in your love for me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, your kingdom come.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked you for many favors, but I earnestly implore this one. Take it, place it in your open heart. When the Eternal Father looks upon it, he will see it covered with your Precious Blood. It will no longer be my prayer, but yours, Jesus. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Let me not be disappointed. Amen.
There is something about this part especially that gets to me: "When the Eternal Father looks upon it, he will see it covered with your Precious Blood. It will no longer be my prayer, but yours, Jesus."

I tend to forget about the Litany of the Sacred Heart but it is very useful for prayerful meditation on the perfection that is Jesus' heart with which we try to bring our hearts in line daily.

Other Good Thoughts about The Sacred Heart of Jesus
"In the best apologetic manner the Catholic lady said, "Well, you know how you Baptists accept Jesus into your heart? We Catholics ask Jesus to accept us into his heart.
He also has a nice piece which reminds me that one of my very favorite churches, La Basilica de Sacre Coeur in Paris, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Go. Read.