Friday, October 23, 2020

The Autumn People

For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ's birth, there is no Bethlehem star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles -- breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Proof that horror fantasy can also be poetic.

St. James Church Cemetery

St. James Church Or Goose Creek Church And Cemetery, 1872 Engraving
Deliciously spooky!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Pope Francis' homosexuality comments heavily edited in documentary

I was stunned, as was everyone to judge from the media headlines, when Pope Francis seemed to endorse same-sex civil unions in a documentary. However, I should have waited for the full context to be revealed.

Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports:

“Francesco,” a newly-released documentary on Pope Francis, contains comments from the pope on homosexuality and civil unions. Some of the remarks, however, are the result of editing distinct phrases from a papal interview and presenting them as a cohesive whole. ...

a CNA analysis of the interview’s transcript shows that other papal comments on homosexuality featured in “Francesco” were compiled by heavy editing of the 2019 interview’s video footage.

If you read the whole piece, CNA bolded the appearance of those words in an excerpted translation of the pope’s remarks during his 2019 interview. 

The Vatican still isn't commenting on the story and there may be further discussion to come, but it was nice to see the context for the Pope's comments.

Remembering John Paul II on his feast day

I wrote this when John Paul II was beatified. Rereading it, I was taken back to my feelings about this wonderful saint. I am truly privileged to have become Catholic during his pontificate. Not all the links work because it was so long ago, but I left them in so the sources are maintained.

----------------------

I really couldn't think of what to write for the occasion of seeing public acknowledgment of something I already know, that Pope John Paul II is a saint. Of course, I'm not the only one. Public acclamation of him as "the Great" began at his funeral. I was interested to read in one of Mike Aquilina's books recently that the people proclaim someone as "the Great." The Church later makes it official.

I couldn't think of anything better than this tribute which originated with my thoughts upon John Paul's death and which I have updated very slightly below. Nothing I can say can cover the scope of such a personality and many others in the news and online will doubtless do it better. But this is how I feel and that's often why you come by. So let's look back at the beloved Papa we all were so privileged to know.




At 9:37 p.m. on the evening of April 2, 2005, (a Saturday) Pope John Paul II died.

I will never forget it, not only because I loved him more than I realized until heard that news, but also for the company I was keeping at that moment. I was with fellow bloggers Mama T, Smock Mama and Steven Riddle in the Rockfish Grill dawdling over a long, enjoyable lunch. As I wrote the next day...
We were in a restaurant but it was as if we were in a soundproof bubble. Nothing else existed except the four of us and our shared, mingled sadness and joy. Tears flowed and we clasped hands and shared prayer together for our pope and our church. What an odd "coincidence" for us to be together to share that moment ... as if I believed in coincidence. In fact, my husband has said three times that he still can't believe how odd it was that I was with those St. Blog's parishioners at that time (and he doesn't repeat himself like that).

Today we are living in an age of instant communications. But do you realize what a unique form of communication prayer is? Prayer enables us to meet God at the most profound level of our being. It connects us directly to God, the living God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a constant exchange of love.
Pope John Paul II
Celebration with Youth, St. Louis, 1999
The above photo and quote is one of a series that I did during those days of mourning afterward. I like looking through them. They remind me of what a treasure he was for the Church ... and for me.
This was written much later but is my review of Peggy Noonan's book, John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father. I highly recommend it and there are several good links in that review as well.

Carving the Pumpkin

Carving the Pumpkin by Franck Antoine Bail, 1910
via J.R.'s Art Place

Halloween Lagniappe: The Ghosts' High-Noon!

From Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan.
When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls, and the bat in the moonlight flies,
And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds, sail over the midnight skies –
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail, and black dogs bay at the moon,
Then is the spectres' holiday – then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees, and the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tomb-stones are gathered the bones that once were women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow, to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

And then each ghost with his ladye-toast to their churchyard beds takes flight,
With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps, and a grisly grim "good-night";
Till the welcome knell of the midnight bell rings forth its jolliest tune,
And ushers in our next high holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Review of Thus Sayeth the Lord That Makes Me Very Proud

Some recommended reading for your month of All Souls, Advent, or Ordinary-Time Bible study needs. Excellent intro to the prophets by Julie Davis.

Final verdict: This is a fantastic offering that fills a void in the Bible-study literature. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a readable, down-to-earth introduction to the prophets that is a balanced combination of Bible study and reflections for personal inspiration and spiritual growth.

This wonderful review of my book Thus Sayeth the Lord comes from Jennifer Fitz. It's lovely to have someone I respect so much give such a glowing recommendation. It makes me really proud! 

Do go read the whole thing! I'll leave you with a last bit that filled me with more pride.

What makes this book especially good: Julie writes the book from the perspective of a former atheist, of a faithful-but-normal Catholic, and as someone engaged for decades now in a constant two-way conversation with the wider culture. You can tell that she really understands how people struggle with the faith and what it’s like to be looking at Christianity and scratching your head and wondering if the Catholic faith has anything, at all, to offer somebody like you.

Her depth and breadth of experience shows on every page, and the end result is a book that is exquisitely suited to parish Bible study groups, where participants may vary from curious-non-believers to earnest disciples, all thrown together in one classroom to puzzle out what can be a very daunting topic.

 

Halloween's Coming: Horror, Monster, and Monstrance

We're going to count down to Halloween with some of my favorite spooky quotes and images. But let's put it in perspective first ... Catholic perspective that is!
By Toby Ord
Most people don't think of horror as a genre of literature or film that is particularly agreeable to Christian sensibilities. However, two of the great practitioners of horror on both page and screen consider their work to be an extension of the gospel. Stephen King, author of many a scary tale, says that he considers himself the spiritual heir of the great Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards (who preached the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"). William Peter Blatty, who penned "The Exorcist" wrote the story precisely in order to show both the depths of demonic evil and to remind the world of the reality of Christ-like self-sacrifice.

By Broederhugo
It is the depth of the darkness of the Enemy that paradoxically highlights the brilliance of the light of Heaven. Indeed, the word "monster" comes from the same root as the word "demonstrate" and "monstrance." A "monster" demonstrates what we can and will be apart from Christ. A monstrance shows forth the saving eucharistic, and self-sacrificial power of him who underwent the worst horror the world has ever known to save us from the terrors of Hell. He has prepared a eucharistic table for us in the presence of Satan himself--and deprived him of his prey.

This Halloween, be not afraid.
Catholic Exchange, Word of Encouragement, Oct. 31, 2005

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Gospel of Matthew — Love's Last Appeal to Judas

 Matthew 26:20-25

Usually we look at the scene where Judas is leaving the last supper and think about betrayal, staying loyal, and so forth. This, however, looks at what we can learn from Jesus in this situation.

Judas Iscariot (right), retiring from the Last Supper  by Carl Bloch

And now we can see Jesus' methods with the sinner. He could have used his power to blast Judas, to paralyse him, to render him helpless, even to kill him. But the only weapon that Jesus will ever use is the weapon of love's appeal. One of the great mysteries of life is the respect that God has for the free will of man. God does not coerce; God only appeals.

When Jesus seeks to stop a man from sinning, he does two things.

First, he confronts him with his sin. He tries to make him stop and think what he is doing. He, as it were, says to him, "Look at what you are contemplating doing — can you really do a thing like that?" It has been said that our greatest security against sin lies in our being shocked by it. And again and again Jesus bids a man pause and look and realize so that he may be shocked into sanity.

Second, he confronts him with himself. He bids a man look at him, as if to say, "Can you look at me, can you meet my eyes, and go out to do the thing you purpose doing?" Jesus seeks to make a man become aware of the horror of the thing he is about to do and of the love which yearns to stop him doing it.

[...]

There is sin and sin. There is the sin of the passionate heart, of the man who, on the impulse of the moment, is swept into wrong doing. Let no man belittle such sin; its consequences can be very terrible. But far worse is the calculated, callous sin of deliberation, which in cold blood knows what it is doing, which is confronted with the bleak awfulness of the deed and with the love in the eyes of Jesus, and still takes its own way. Our hearts revolt against the son or daughter who cold-bloodedly breaks a parent's heart — which is what Judas did to Jesus — and the tragedy is that this is what we ourselves so often do.

Quote is from Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 by William Barclay. This series first ran in 2008. I'm refreshing it as I go.

Scott smells oranges. Julie smells strawberries. They worry about receiving a psychic message...

... and then realize they're in the fruit section at the store. Just in time for Halloween comes Episode 243 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast: The Shining by Stephen King.

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Movie You Might Have Missed #25 — Shower

It's been 10 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.

Now we share one of Tom's favorite movies. Have you noticed that many of his favorites are gentle, charming, and humorous? Yep. But all individuals in their own way. This one is no different. 


This is the sweet, charming story of a son who returns home due to a misunderstanding. He has made a successful life for himself in another city while his father and brother have remained in business at the father's bath house. 

On one level the story is predictable, revealing the problems of the bath house regulars. As we expect, the returning brother has been somewhat estranged from his family and this, too, is resolved. For instance, I will never again hear "O Sole Mio" without thinking of this movie. 

However, on another level, there is complexity that was unexpected. This is provided by the brother who has remained at home and by the father's revelation of his past ... whereby we understand exactly why he loves running his bath house. Also quite enjoyable  are the glimpses of life in the father's corner of Beijing.

Friday, October 16, 2020

October Lagniappe: The Bells

Because it's October! When better for bells and Poe! Read it aloud for best effect.

The Bells

by Edgar Allen Poe


I
Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II

Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III

Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV

Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Autumn Leaves in Yokokan Garden

Autumn Leaves in Yokokan Garden, kskphoto via Find/47

 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Falling Leaves


 Olga Wisinger-Florian, Falling Leaves, 1899

Memorial: St. Theresa of Avila

Saint Theresa of Avila
Saint, Mystic, Doctor of the Church
Memorial

Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens
St. Theresa of Avila is probably the second saint who ever "caught" my attention. She did so by force of her remarkable personality which comes to us down through the ages as vital and sparkling. She was a profound contemplative, a zealous reformer of religious life, and the first female doctor of the Church. Those things make us expect a person so far above us in prayer, thought, and accomplishments that we can never hope to understand her. Indeed, she is far above me in all those things. However, it is impossible not to love and relate to someone with this amount of sass:
Those watching from the river bank saw the carriage she was in swaying on the brink of the torrent. She jumped out awkwardly, up to her knees in water, and hurt herself in the process. Wryly, she complained. "so much to put up with and you send me this!" Jesus replied, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends." She was not lost for an answer: "Small wonder you have so few!"
That's so very human and Theresa lets her humanity hang out in a very real way.
From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.
She scandalized people when they came upon her teaching the nuns in her convent to dance. When they received a donation of pheasant on a fast day, she instantly cooked them up for all to feast upon. "Let them think what they like, she said. "There is a time for penance, and there is a time for pheasant."

When I have trouble praying I remember that St. Theresa too said that she often needed to have a book to help her pray (obviously a soul sistah!). She was often distracted and couldn't calm her thoughts.
This intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down.
Heaven only knows that I have had more times like that than I care to admit. When I have trouble sticking with prayer at all, Theresa's open and honest avowal helps me hang in there just a little longer.
For many years I kept wishing the time would be over. I had more in mind the clock striking twelve than other good things. Often I would have preferred some serious penance to becoming recollected in prayer.
These things are those which give me hope that I could come near to loving God and serving Him the way that she did. Here is a little more information about her.

Last, but not least, here are a few of my favorite inspirational quotes (since I have already favored you with the more humorous above).
How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing Thee?

Give me wealth or poverty, give me comfort or discomfort, give me joy or sorrow...What do you want to make of me?

As to the aridity you are suffering from, it seems to me our Lord is treating you like someone He considers strong: He wants to test you and see if you love Him as much at times of aridity as when He sends you consolations. I think this is a very great favor for God to show you.

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day.

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.