Friday, September 24, 2021

Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene


I can't remember where I heard about this take on Don Quixote by Graham Greene but it sounded like a fairly cheerful introduction to an author whose books always sound depressing. And it was. Father Quixote is a descendant of the famous book's hero. Yes, he knows the book is fictional. When he's promoted to Monsignor he goes on a road trip in his aged car Rocinante, with his friend Sancho who is the newly deposed Communist mayor of the town. 

I know just enough broad plot points from Don Quixote to see where Greene uses them in his own updated way for this charming book. The rambling trip and conversation are amusing, thought provoking, and inspiring.

Cheese Pennies and Classic Chess Pie

 When my book club gathered to discuss Uncle Tom's Cabin I wanted to do a bit of a theme for refreshments. Researching classic Kentucky dishes (that's where Tom's story begins for us, on the Shelby's farm) I found Cheese Pennies and Chess Pie come from way back. The pennies are cheese crackers and the chess pie is very lemony, without being a lemon pie!

I'm just sure that's what Aunt Chloe would have served to the Governor when he came for dinner. Try them and see what you think!

Air-King Radio

Radio [1930-33] Air-King Products, New York
Via the Brooklyn Museum
Why can't our things be designed like this any more?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

St. Pio's Feast Day

I will stand at the gates of Heaven and I will not enter until all of my spiritual children are with me.
Today is St. Pio's feast day. I just love this guy, an Italian priest who knew how to throw his head back and laugh, who would scold a famous actress for being shallow, who suffered the stigmata for over 50 years, who knew (and could see) his guardian angel from the time he was a tiny child, who could bilocate and read souls, who was one of the greatest saints in living memory ... and who I share a birthday with (although his was 70 years earlier - May 25).

Finally I have found the original photo which attracted me to him when I was leafing through a book of saints in our church's library ... it communicates a sense of joy and light-heartedness that was striking. I thought, "Now there is someone I could talk to...that is what a real saint should look like."

Deacon Greg Kandra has, in years past, featured a homily he gave focusing on Padre Pio and tells this story which reflects the saint's fine sense of humor and irony.
One of my favorite stories about him happened during the early 1960s.

Italy was in crisis. The Red Brigade was sparking violence in Rome, and it was considered dangerous to travel around the country. For protection, people began carrying pictures of Padre Pio.

During this time, Padre Pio had to leave his village to visit Rome, and one of the other friars asked him, “Aren’t you worried about the Red Brigade?”

“No,” he said. “I have a picture of Padre Pio.”
Here is an extremely brief and incomplete look at the saint, which nonetheless is not a bad summary.
While praying before a cross, he received the stigmata on 20 September 1918, the first priest ever to be so blessed. As word spread, especially after American soldiers brought home stories of Padre Pio following WWII, the priest himself became a point of pilgrimage for both the pious and the curious. He would hear confessions by the hour, reportedly able to read the consciences of those who held back. Reportedly able to bilocate, levitate, and heal by touch. Founded the House for the Relief of Suffering in 1956, a hospital that serves 60,000 a year. In the 1920's he started a series of prayer groups that continue today with over 400,000 members worldwide.
You can read more about Padre Pio here

And, finally, back to the humor factor, we all know that The Curt Jester is all over the holy humor thing. I proffer this little gem from his fertile imagination.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Psalm 24 — Who is This King of Glory?

As you wonder at the order of creation, the grace of providence and the sacred prescriptions of the Law, sing ... Psalm 24.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms
I have grown to love this psalm as I encounter it in the morning prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours. I especially love "Lift up your heads, O gates! ... Who is this King of glory?" It evokes Palm Sunday with Jesus riding into Jerusalem saying that if the people were quiet then the very stones themselves would shout out. Knowing that the psalms were sung in the Temple, I also like to think of that sequence being sung as a call and response, triumphant as the people welcome their Lord.

Dome of the Rock viewed through the Cotton Merchants' Gate

 Here are a few remarks that John Paul II made when he did a series on the psalms and canticles in the Liturgy of the Hours. Read the whole commentary here.

So we reach the third scene of our triptych which describes indirectly the joyful entry of the faithful into the temple to meet the Lord (vv. 7-10). With a thought-provoking exchange of appeals, questions and answers, God reveals himself progressively with three of his solemn titles: "the King of Glory, the Lord Mighty and Valiant, the Lord of Armies". The gates of the temple of Zion are personified and invited to lift up their lintels to welcome the Lord who takes possession of his home.

The triumphal scene, described by the Psalm in the third poetic picture, has been applied by the Christian liturgy of the East and of the West to the victorious Descent of Christ to the Limbo of the fathers, spoken of in the First Letter of Peter (cf. I Pet 3,19), and to the Risen Lord's Ascension into heaven (cf. Acts 1,9-10). Even today, in the Byzantine Liturgy, the Psalm is sung by alternating choirs on Holy Saturday night at the Easter Vigil, and in the Roman Liturgy it is used on the second Sunday of the Passion at the end of the procession of palms. The Solemn Liturgy of the opening of the Holy Door at the beginning of the Jubilee Year allowed us to relive with great interior emotion the same sentiments the Psalmist felt as he crossed the threshold of the ancient temple of Zion.

6. The last title, "Lord of Armies", is not really a military title as may appear at first sight even if it does not exclude a reference to Israel's ranks. Instead, it has a cosmic value: the Lord, who now comes to meet humanity within the restricted space of the sanctuary of Zion, is the Creator who has all the stars of heaven as his army, that is, the creatures of the universe who obey him. In the book of the prophet Baruch we read: "Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice; when he calls them, they answer, "Here we are!' shining with joy for their Creator" (Bar 3,34-35). The infinite, almighty and eternal God adapts himself to the human creature, draws near to meet, listen and enter into communion with him. The liturgy is the expression of this coming together in faith, dialogue and love.

Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Julie is trying to learn to cook grits in 10 minutes. Scott asks the witness — and only the witness — how many fingers he is holding up.

 We talk about My Cousin Vinny on Episode 266 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. Join us!

A Movie You Might Have Missed #51: Caesar Must Die (2012, Italian)

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.

"To think, at school I found this so boring."

Convicts in an Italian high security prison practice and perform Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. In the process, we see how the play holds up as a real life reflection of not only the prisoners' experiences but of life in general. The prison theater is being redone so practices are held all over the prison which not only gets us out of the "stage performance" aspect but connects the play more fully to the prisoners' reality.

It was sheer genius for the directors to use real prisoners as the actors while filming in the real prison. Most of them are simply fantastic. Everything except the actual performance is in black and white which, as shot here, adds a rich textural depth.

I didn't expect the film to take us through the substance of the play but that was all to the good also. I'm not likely to voluntarily watch Julius Caesar but I thoroughly enjoyed recognizing key scenes and realizing I knew more of it than I thought. I also was fascinated to realize that the Italian translation was much more colloquial than most Shakespeare we native English speakers ever hear. That also made it easier to connect with in the prison setting.

I've seen people kicking this movie because it doesn't measure up to their standards of a documentary. I think that one can't really bring the documentary label to bear on it because it is an interesting hybrid of staged fiction and documentary.

Simply judging it on its own merits, as a piece of art, as a movie, as a story, as entertainment, Caesar Must Die is terrific.

Evening Glow

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Evening Glow

Our trees still have all their leaves (and will for a month or two), but that golden glow tells us it is autumn anyway.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Saints Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang, and Companions

I just love the example set by these holy lay people!


The Korean Church is unique because it was founded entirely by lay people. This fledgling Church, so young and yet so strong in faith, withstood wave after wave of fierce persecution. Thus, in less than a century, it could boast of 10,000 martyrs. The death of these martyrs became the leaven of the Church and led to today's splendid flowering of the Church in Korea. Even today their undying spirit sustains the Christians in the Church of silence in the north of this tragically divided land.
St. John Paul II, canonization Mass in Seoul
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Excerpted from the Saint of the Day, Leonard Foley, O.F.M.
The first native Korean priest, Andrew Kim Taegon was the son of Christian converts. Following his baptism at the age of 15, Andrew traveled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years, he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. He was arrested, tortured, and finally beheaded at the Han River near Seoul, the capital.

Andrew’s father Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839, and was beatified in 1925. Paul Chong Hasang, a lay apostle and married man, also died in 1839 at age 45.

Among the other martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. Peter Ryou, a boy of 13, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old nobleman, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.
I found the above excerpt at Catholic Culture which has more info including activities.

There is also a whole page on the Korean Martyrs at Wikipedia, which I found fascinating.

Friday, September 17, 2021

How a Christian must follow Christ even though he does not shed his blood for him

I tell you again and again, my brethren, that in the Lord's garden are to be found not only the roses of his martyrs. In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them. Christ suffered for all. What the Scriptures say of him is true: He desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

Let us understand, then, how a Christian must follow Christ even though he does not shed his blood for him, and his faith is not called upon to undergo the great test of the martyr's sufferings. The apostle Paul says of Christ our Lord: Though he was in the form of God he did not consider equality with God a prize to be clung to. How unrivaled his majesty! But he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, made in the likeness of men, and presenting himself in human form. How deep his humility!

Christ humbled himself. Christian, that is what you must make your own. Christ became obedient. How is it that you are proud? When this humbling experience was completed and death itself lay conquered, Christ ascended into heaven. Let us follow him there, for we hear Paul saying: If you have been raised with Christ, you must lift your thoughts on high, where Christ now sits at the right hand of God.
St. Augustine, Sermo 304

The Prayer

Stanislaus Chlebowski, The Prayer

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Psalm 23 — Trusting the Shepherd

When you see yourself shepherded and guided safely by the Lord, rejoice in the words of Psalm 23.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms

I've become very fond of this psalm in the last year. It has the dual effects of being very peaceful and trusting, combined with acting as a promise for believers, no matter how hard times may get.

Everyone from the Church Fathers to us modern folk love this psalm and there is a wealth of commentary to dive into. I am going to share just a few comments that struck me.

An image of Psalm 23 (King James' Version),
frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home.

This simple observation cracks me up. It is so funny because it is so true.

23.1 The Lord is My Shepherd

Complete Dependence. Augustine. When you say, "The Lord is my shepherd," no proper grounds are left for you to trust in yourself. Sermon.
Psalms 1-50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)
I like the reminder from both St. Augustine and Pope Benedict XVI that being in God's company radically transforms reality.
23.4 The Valley of the Shadow of Death, You are with Me
A Lamp in a Dark Place. Augustine. As long as you remain in this present life, you are walking in the midst of vices, of worldly pressures, which are the shadow of death. Let Christ shine in your heart, who lights the lamp of our minds with the love of God and neighbor; and you will not fear any evils, since he is with you. Sermon.
Psalms 1-50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)
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To speak of the "dark" valley, the Psalmist uses a Hebrew phrase that calls to mind the shadows of death, which is why the valley to be passed through is a place of anguish, terrible threats, the danger of death. Yet the person praying walks on in safety undaunted sine he knows that the Lord is with him. "You are with me" is a proclamation of steadfast faith and sums up the radical experience of faith; God's closeness transforms the reality, the dark valley loses all danger, it is emptied of every threat. Now the flock can walk in tranquility, accompanied by the familiar rhythmical beat of the staff into the ground, marking the shepherd's reassuring presence.
Pope Benedict XVI, Prayer

I always think of how I feel about being invited to the feast in the presence of enemies but not about what it means that God offers us that hospitality.

23.5 You Prepare a Table Before Me
To accept another as a guest at one's table was to set aside enmity and to assume responsibility for the safety of the guest while in your dwelling. To sit at Yahweh's table is to enjoy fellowship and communion with him. To do so "in the presence of my enemies" is to have one's special relationship to God declared publicly in a context of divine blessing and security.
Psalms vol. 1 (The NIV Application Commentary)
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The Psalmist becomes the object of much attention for which reason he sees himself as a wayfarer who finds shelter in a hospitable tent, whereas his enemies have to stop and watch, unable to intervene, since the one whom they considered their prey has been led to safety and has become a sacred guest who cannot be touched. And the Psalmist is us, if we truly are believers in communion with Christ. When God opens his tent to receive us, nothing can harm us. Then when the traveler sets out afresh, the divine protection is extended and accompanies him on his journey.
Pope Benedict XVI, Prayer
Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here.