Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day Tribute

Photo credit: Kate Gardiner
It Is The Soldier
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

by Charles M. Province, U.S. Army • November 1, 2004
  • Recta Ratio has good comments on the day and how our lack of true celebration is a commentary in itself on our culture.
For me, nothing says it better than this, also pulled from 2006, which shows just why our soldiers and veterans are so worthy of our thanks and pride. I look at this and think of my brother who has said several times, with becoming modesty, that he really just wanted to help other people.

This moving photograph shows Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, superintendent of the 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, holding an injured Iraqi girl. The picture was taken in October 2006, while Sgt. Gebhardt was deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq. According to the Air Force Print News, the infant girl Sgt. Gebhardt held in his arms "received extensive gunshot injuries to her head when insurgents attacked her family killing both of her parents and many of her siblings."

Sgt. Gebhardt is now back home in Wichita, Kansas, with his wife and two children. An Air Force Link article about the sudden fame he gained as the subject of this photograph reported that:
The chief had a knack for comforting [the injured Iraqi girl] and they often would catch a cat nap together in a chair.

"I got as much enjoyment out of it as the baby did," he said. "I reflected on my own family and life and thought about how lucky I have been."

While deployed to Iraq, the chief tried to help out any way he could. He figured holding a baby that needed comforting that would free up one more set of arms that could be providing care to more critical patients.

"I pray for the best for the Iraqi children," he said. "I can't tell the difference between their kids and our kids. The Iraqi parents have the same care and compassion for their children as any American."
Source: Snopes
I haven't said it enough because none of us really can but to our veterans as well as those serving now ... thank you from the bottom of my heart.

We notice a self-hatred in the Western world that is strange ...

Here we notice a self-hatred in the Western world that is strange and that can be considered pathological; yet, the West is making a praiseworthy attempt to be completely open to understanding foreign values, but it no longer loves itself; from now on it sees its own history only as a blameworthy and destructive, whereas it is no longer capable of perceiving what is great and pure. In order to survive, Europe needs a new ... acceptance of itself, that is, if it wants to survive.

Joseph Ratzinger, Europe Today and Tomorrow
quoted in The Day is Now Far Spent, Cardinal Robert Sarah
I am, of course, aware of this self-hatred which is flung at Americans. We're not allowed to honor or praise ourselves in a lot of ways without having fellow Americans tell us why we are terrible.

Reading this quote it struck me that if Ratzinger was describing a person instead of the Western world, we would worry about suicide or abuse. Certainly we'd think of depression accompanying such self loathing. We would build the person up, not tear them down every chance we got. And yet this is how we as Americans, as Westerners, are treated. No wonder we are suffering cultural crisis on so many levels.

The Swan, No. 1

The Swan, No. 1 by Hilma af Klint, 1915
via J.R.'s Art Place

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Star Lovers

Illustration for The Star Lovers by Grace James
Illustrated by Warwick Goble
Read the story at Childhood Reading
This illustration makes me think of Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, which he graciously allowed me to read aloud for Forgotten Classics.

God awaits us in our own nature.

We must rediscover the fact that our own nature is not an enemy or a prison. It extends a hand to us so that we might cultivate it.

Through our nature, ultimately the Creator himself is the one who extends his hand to us, who invites us to enter into his wise and loving plan for us. He respects our freedom and entrusts our nature to us as a talent that is to be made productive. In the gender ideology, there is a deep rejection of God the Creator. This ideology has real-life theological and spiritual consequences. In opposing it, the Church is not making herself the intransigent, inflexible guardian of a supposed moral order. She is fighting so that each human being may encounter God. The first place where he awaits us is precisely our nature, our profound being that he offers us as a gift.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Peanuts and Bananas

We've got two new recipes that are going to be making repeat appearances ... Whole-Grain Banana Bread (don't worry - it is not healthy tasting, just delicious) ... and Curried Peanut Sauce (suitable for simmering any combo you like of meat and vegetables). Both are also super simple!

All at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Gospel of Matthew: Come to the desert to be baptized in the Jordan

Matthew 3:1-2

I'm going to back up for a second to look at just a little of the deep symbolism of John the Baptist's ministry. His garb screamed prophet to the Jewish people and that connection is easy to see if you look back over the different Old Testament prophets.

But I never thought about how the place he chose for baptism would have elevated the event. No wonder everyone is hurrying to see him.

St. John the Baptist Preaching, c. 1665, by Mattia Preti
John the Baptist's ministry was based at the Jordan river, probably on the southern stretch of the river that flows by the Judean desert, just before emptying into the Dead Sea. To get there, crowds from Jerusalem would travel about twenty miles through rugged terrain in a hot, barren wilderness. One might wonder why John would base his movement out there.

To appreciate John's strategy in choosing this location we first must understand that the Jordan was more than a river for the Jews: it was a powerful symbol of hope and new life. God did great things at the Jordan. He healed Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy there (2 Kings 5:1-14), and he took the prophet Elijah up to heaven in a fiery chariot at the Jordan (2 Kings 2:1-11). Most of all God led the Israelites across the Jordan River at the end of their forty-year journey from Egypt to the promised land. Thus the Jordan represented the climax of the exodus story and the fulfillment of God's plan to bring Israel to the land of Canaan.

The Judean desert carried rich symbolism for the Jews. It too recalled the exodus story, for it was in a desert that Israel became established as God's covenant people as they journeyed to the promised land. ... The prophets foretold that God would lead his people back to the desert to renew his covenant with them. Hosea, for example, described how God would lovingly draw his sinful people back to him like a husband wooing an unfaithful wife. (Hosea 2:16, 20-21)

This background helps explain why John called the people to come out to the desert and be baptized in the Jordan. Such a summons would have signaled that everything the Jews had been longing for was about to be fulfilled. In this particular place, the ritual of baptism was a powerful symbolic action. In calling the people to journey into the wilderness to step into the Jordan River to be baptized, and to reenter the promised land, John was summoning them to reenact the exodus story. ...
Quote is from Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. This series first ran in 2008. I'm refreshing it as I go.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Flower Girl

Flower Girl, Childe Hassam

Man's dignity consists of being fundamentally a debtor and an heir.

Man's dignity consists of being fundamentally a debtor and an heir. How beautiful and freeing it is to know that I exist because I have been loved! I am the product of a free decision by God, who, from all eternity, willed my existence. How sweet it is to know that one is the heir of a human lineage in which children are born as the most beautiful fruit of their parents' love. How productive it is to know that one is indebted to a history, to a country, to a civilization. I do not think that it is necessary to be born an orphan in order to be fully free. our freedom has meaning only if other persons give substance to it for us, gratuitously and through their love. What would we be if our parents did not teach us to walk and talk? To inherit is the condition for any true freedom.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Impressions from Eastern Frisia: On the road

Taken by Marc Fabian Erdl

The True Nature of Our Liberty

We urgently need to discover the true nature of our liberty, which flourishes and is strengthened by agreeing to be dependent through love. Indeed, all love creates a relation with the object of our love that is a bond, a gift, a free dependence.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Day is Now Far Spent

Julie uses mad skills to hunt cats. Scott is heartbroken when his iPod battery runs out.

We're deep in the post-apocalyptic world with Denzel Washington, who is a pretty good companion on the road. Except he's got the only book around and won't read out loud.

A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, episode 219: The Book of Eli. Join us!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Worlds of Crime and Post-Apocalyptic

Somehow it escaped me that two different SFFaudio episodes aired which featured books I dearly love. Maybe that's because I picked the books!

The Angel of Terror by Edgar Wallace is a most unusual crime novel from 1922 where no one will believe the one man who has evidence that a criminal mastermind is a woman — because she's so beautiful, how could she be evil? We discuss it in episode 547.

Mockingbird by Walter Tevis is set in a world run by androids where everyone has forgotten how to read. (Truly a terrible place!) This is the book that Jesse continually thanks my mother for discovering. My own review is here. We discuss it in episode 549.

Welcome Jeeves!

We didn't mean to get a puppy so soon after Wash died, but keeping an eye on Craig's List for Boxer puppies led us to this sweet little guy. Though "little" is a relative term. He was the biggest in the litter and weighed 15 pounds at 10 weeks old.

He's Jeeves because we never had a Boxer who didn't take an active interest in the mail, the housework, the social activities, and all the things that a good butler has to manage to keep everyone's lives on an even keel. What has surprised us is how few people (at the vet, for instance) have heard of the Jeeves name before. Oh civilization, what cost progress when we leave behind the gentle P.G. Wodehouse references?

Usually I never worry about bringing a puppy home to another dog. The adult understands that a puppy gets special license. But Kaylee is very dog aggressive. Wash is the only dog she was ever friends with so we weren't sure if her mothering instincts would kick in automatically.

We spent a week with them alternating crates to get to know each other, a day with them on leashes around the house ... and then Kaylee took things into her own hands, racing up and down in play mode. Off came the leashes and no one has looked back. Jeeves is delighted. He's hero worshipped Kaylee since he set eyes on her, plastering himself to her crate and whining.

Kaylee spent a day being very dominant (as is right and proper) and then settled down to enjoying playing and correcting when Jeeves forgets his place (which is fairly often - you know how fun it is to jump on someone's head - how do you just not do that?).

Now we're all settling down to the job of keeping socks and shoes off the floor, endless pull toy playing, and lots of fun as this little guy explores the big world. And at the end of the day ... we're all ready for a good rest.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

On the Commemoration of All Souls' Day: "OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.

Steve’s final words were:

From Steve Job's sister's eulogy for him.

I simply love this and can't read it enough. The whole piece is a tender, loving image that adds wonderful depth to the public persona. Her absolute honesty about his last words made me cry (but you knew that already, didn't you?).

It certainly seems like a fitting memory for today, when we pray for all souls.

Commemoration of All Souls

Today is a feast day!

The Day of the Dead, William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Today we dedicate our prayers in suffrage for the souls in purgatory, still being purified of the remains of sin. Our ties with deceased relatives and friends do not end with their death. Priests can celebrate Mass three times on this day for their benefit, and all the faithful can gain special indulgences to expedite their entrance into heaven.

In Conversation with God, Vol. 7
Here is the translation of the beautiful, yet mournful music for the day which I heard at Pray As You Go a few years ago. It touched my heart and made me contemplate more deeply the mysteries of faith, life, and death.
Free the souls of all the faithful departed.
Free them from the pains of hell.
Free them from the deep pit.
Free them from the lion's mouth.
Make them pass from death to life.


As I listen, I may want to pray too for the people I know who have died or perhaps to contemplate in these moments the ultimate hope that God offers me of freedom from all things that threaten and trouble me: the promise God makes me of eternal life.

This dovetailed with the reading from today that touched my heart most, surprisingly, to me, from Wisdom. Reading it line by line, I felt that ache of missing those I love, but the surety that God offers for the faithful departed.
Wis 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.

But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.

As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.

Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
I think today of my beloved dead. I love them and I miss them. Certainly, I pray for them to be happy and joyful in Heaven. And I long to see God's face ... which is a surprising longing for me to be experiencing. But one which I accept gratefully.
  • Our two unborn children 
  • Dad
  • GG
  • Raymond
  • Thelma
  • Grandmama
  • Deedah
  • Tom's father
  • Tom's mother
  • Mrs. Ford
  • Robin Ford
  • Jeanmarie
  • Sydney
  • Matthew
  • Ivar
  • Dorsey
  • Dorsey's mother
  • Carole
  • Heath
  • Phyllis
  • Alberta
  • Aunt Laura
  • Uncle Adolph
  • Mark (Tom's cousin)
  • Harry Steven
  • Johnny Falcon
  • Maggie Garcia
  • Sarah Arnold
  • Gregg Margarite
  • Phyllis
  • June
  • Jack
  • Marshall
  • Diane
  • Kathy
  • Harry Steven
  • June
  • Reisha
  • Marshall
  • Kathy
  • Diana
Rest Eternal Grant Them, Lord!
Take we up the touching burden of November plaints,
Pleading for the Holy Souls, God’s yet uncrowned Saints.
Still unpaid to our departed is the debt we owe;
Still unransomed, some are pining, sore oppressed with woe.
Friends we loved and vowed to cherish call us in their need:
Prove we now our love was real, true in word and deed.
“Rest eternal grant them, Lord!” full often let us pray—
“Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine!”
Here is a litany for the souls in Purgatory.

You can read more about All Souls' Day here. For those with any questions about Purgatory I posted this extremely basic explanation a while back.

Catholic Culture explains indulgences and practices that Catholics can do during the month of November for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. Also be sure to swing by Recta Ratio, who's really got soul ... check out his place. In the past he has examined such fascinating topics as Catholic death customs, especially medieval ones.

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

The best known All Souls’ Day observances in the United States come from Mexican immigrants. Mexico has a vibrant celebration, cleaning graves and building altars on them, bringing favorite foods or trinkets for the deceased, sugar skulls, and marigolds, toys for children, alcohol for adults. Families will spend time praying and reminiscing.

These are often carried out from Halloween through All Souls' Day.

Ray Bradbury had a real love for the purpose of Day of the Dead in Mexico. He wrote about it most notably in his children’s book The Halloween Tree.

A family sits beside a loved one's decorated grave at the cemetery in Xoxocotlán, Mexico.
A tequila bottle, photograph, flowers, and candles are on the grave. (via iStock)
For now they knew why the town was empty.

Because the graveyard was full.

By every grave was a woman kneeling to place gardenias or azaleas or marigolds in a frame upon the stone.

By every grave knelt a daughter who was lighting a new candle or lighting a candle that had just blown out.

By every grave was a quiet boy with bright brown eyes, and in one hand a small papier-mâché funeral parade glued to a shingle and in the other a papier-mâché skeleton head which rattled with rice or nuts inside. ...

“Mexican Halloweens are better than ours!”

For on every grave were plates of cookies shaped like funeral priests or skeletons or ghosts, waiting to be nibbled by—living people? or by ghosts that might come along toward dawn, hungry and forlorn? No one knew. No one said. ...

And each boy beside the graveyard, next to his sister and mother, put down the miniature funeral on the grave. And they could see the tiny candy person inside the tiny wooden coffin placed before a tiny altat with tiny candles. ... And on the altar was a photograph of the person in the coffin, a real person once; remembered now.

“Better, and still better,” whispered Ralph. ...

“Oh, strange funny strange,” whispered Tom

“What?” said Ralph at his elbow.

“Up in Illinois, we’ve forgotten what it’s all about. I mean the dead, up in our town, tonight, heck, they’re forgotten. Nobody remembers. Nobody cares. Nobody goes to sit and talk to them. Boy, that’s lonely. That’s really sad. But here—why, shucks. It’s both happy and sad. It’s all firecrackers and skeleton toys down here in the plaza and up in that graveyard now are all the Mexican dead folks with the families visiting and flowers and candles and singing and candy. I mean it’s almost like Thanksgiving, huh? And everyone set down to dinner, but only half the people able to eat, but that’s no mind, they’re there. It’s like holding hands at a séance with your friends, but some of the friends gone. ...”
Except the Catholic Church all over the world, of course. We remember and we pray.

For more on the Day of the Dead check Wikipedia.

The offering, Saturnino Herran
The Offering (1913) exemplifies Mexican modernism with its allegorical allusion to life’s journey. It displays a punt boat in a canal filled with zempasúchitl flowers (a marigold that is traditionally associated with death). Featured are a baby, a youthful man, and an elderly man offering the flowers for the dead. This is a reference to ofrenda, a tradition deeply connected to Mexico's Dia de los Muertos, a celebration of ancestry that is said to connect the living to the dead. Each character is represents a different stage of life, but they are all following the same end destination and respecting their course.