Friday, October 22, 2021

St. James Church Cemetery

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

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.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Bells

Because Halloween is coming! When better for bells and Poe! Read it aloud for best effect.

The Bells

by Edgar Allen Poe

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.


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!


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!


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,
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.

Carving the Pumpkin

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Halloween Countdown: Trick or Treat

I've seen blow up pumpkins and ghosts and spiders. I prefer these.

There is actually a blog devoted to candy corn called Sweet Candy Corn. Recipes for such things as vegan candy corn or candy corn sugar cookies abound. (Via Miss Cellania)  

Then turn your attention to this horror story of sorts, especially if you are politically correct about children and sugar (I never saw that much difference in children without sugar and children with...). Candyfreak author, Steve Almond, talks about candy in his new homelife as a father.

... I had already eaten two of these transcendent morsels and was in a state I would describe as choco-euphoria. Life seemed wonderful, beautiful and without fault, and, as I picked up a third piece, I noticed my daughter gazing intently at me and the chocolate. It occurred to me that she might want a taste, and that I should offer her one. Yes, that was what I needed to do. After all, Josie was eventually going to get her first taste of chocolate. Why not share that joy with her?

I suppose I should mention that Josie was not quite 3 months old.

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.

Psalm 26 — I Have Led a Blameless Life

If [enemies] persist and, with hands red with blood, try to drag you down and kill you, remember that God is the proper judge (for he alone is righteous while that which is human is limited) and so say the words of [Psalm] 26.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms

This psalm begins with:

Judge me, LORD!
For I have walked in my integrity.
In the LORD I trust;
I do not falter.
It seems like a bold request, especially when reading through the rest of the psalm where the psalmist doesn't have a particular complaint or name an enemy. This is a straight up call for redemption based on personal innocence. God is called to take a close look and judge for himself.

I love the psalmist's straight forward, personal approach to God, honestly stating his case for having lived a humble, trusting life. This almost reads like a sequel to Psalm 25 where we're told that trust in Yahweh and following his instructions wil lead to a righteous life with divine deliverance. Psalm 26 describes the life where that has been done.

The Treasury. Gold- and silversmithery of Wrocław Archcatedral Exhibition.
Christian Mentzel the Elder (about 1675). Psalm 26:6–12
(psalm 25 in the Greek numbering), followed by the Gloria Patri. [So gorgeous!]

When considering humility it is always important to remember that being humble means knowing who you are — both the good and the bad. Only that way can we know who we are in relation to others and to God. If the psalmist says he is innocent, he may still be a humble man.
True Innocence and Honesty Before God
We may find it difficult at first to recognize humility in what may seem like a rather brash and prideful statement of complete innocence, but it is there. Especially the call for Yahweh's scrtiny is a moment of humble submission to divine authority. One does not lightly open the ark inner recesses of one's being to God's gaze, for the consequences of sin are real and God's mercy is very necessary, as the psalmist clearly recognizes in 26:9-11.
Psalms vol. 1 (The NIV Application Commentary)
Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

After seeing Shah Rukh Khan's live show, Julie and Scott plan a revue of their own. Their big number is performed by two look-alike fans who locked them in their dressing room. Scott and Julie don't complain because the fans got standing ovations.

Episode 268 is our discussion of a thriller that stars Shah Rukh Khan In and As: Fan (2016). Join us!

Kohada Koheiji

Beginning our occasional Halloween posts, which will gear up in intensity as we near Halloween!

Kohada Koheiji, Hokusai
from the series Hyaku Monogatari [One Hundred Ghost Stories] (ca. 1830)
via J.R.'s Art Place
Based on a real event, the cuckold and murder victim Kohada Koheiji returns from the dead to torment his cheating wife and lover. Here he grins over the top of the mosquito netting that surrounds the bed of his killers.
See more at Public Domain Review.

October Lagniappe: The Ghost House

A melancholy and evocative poem by Robert Frost.

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me—
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Suburban Dicks by Fabian Nicieza

Once a budding FBI profiler, Andie Stern gave up her career to raise her four (soon to be five) children in West Windsor, New Jersey. But one day, between soccer games, recitals, and trips to the local pool, a very pregnant Andie pulls into a gas station--and stumbles across a murder scene. An attendant has been killed, and the bumbling local cops are in way over their heads. Suddenly, Andie is obsessed with the case, and back on the trail of a killer, this time with kids in tow.

She soon crosses paths with disgraced local journalist Kenneth Lee, who also has everything to prove in solving the case. Hilarious, insightful, and a killer whodunit, Suburban Dicks is the one-of-a-kind mystery that readers will not be able to stop talking about.
This is a book of contrasts. A light, humorous tone is counterpointed by the dark roots of the motive for the murder of a young, simple Indian gas station attendant.

Likewise it plays with a lot of mystery tropes like two losers who wind up solving a murder — only they are actually people with very successful backgrounds who have found themselves at low points of their lives. Andrea was a profiler who caught a serial killer but who now is a housewife with four kids and one on the way. Kenny won the Pulitzer Prize very young for journalism and has gone nowhere but down, now working on a surburban newspaper. The murder is not only a chance to reestablish their self worth but the investigation makes both feel alive again.

We could look at this as the suburban mystery where the housewives who are friends band together to gather clues. Yet, these women are not not really good friends and in some cases haven't met until the story begin. They are all motivated by different things, all of which tie into the murder or their own lives.

The past matters a lot, both to the investigators and to the mystery but we aren't dragged through info dumps. In fact, often small facts are sprinkled through someone's thoughts which give us a clue as to personal relationships, Andrea's with her husband for example, but the big picture is left to unfold naturally. That's a relief because I don't really care about Andrea's and Kenny's pasts more than the author tells us.

Also there is the topic of racism, both systemic and personal, which would normally make me steer a mile away from this book. However, the touch is light without being glib. And because the story is so rooted in Andrea's and Kenny's personal stories, it is a factor without taking over the narrative.

As I said, this is a study in contradictions and perhaps that is what makes it work so well. It is a story with characters we like, a murder that is interesting, and a funny tone which pulls it all together. You'll know early if it is your kind of book. The introduction is what grabbed me and it will either do the same for you or turn you away. Highly recommended.

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

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!

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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Memorial: St. Theresa of Avila

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

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.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Pope St. Callistus, Martyr

St. Callistus
Imagine that your biography was written by an enemy of yours. And that its information was all anyone would have not only for the rest of your life but for centuries to come. You would never be able to refute it -- and even if you could no one would believe you because your accuser was a saint.

That is the problem we face with Pope Callistus I who died about 222. The only story of his life we have is from someone who hated him and what he stood for, an author identified as Saint Hippolytus, a rival candidate for the chair of Peter. What had made Hippolytus so angry? Hippolytus was very strict and rigid in his adherence to rules and regulations. The early Church had been very rough on those who committed sins of adultery, murder, and fornication. Hippolytus was enraged by the mercy that Callistus showed to these repentant sinners, allowing them back into communion of the Church after they had performed public penance. Callistus' mercy was also matched by his desire for equality among Church members, manifested by his acceptance of marriages between free people and slaves. Hippolytus saw all of this as a degradation of the Church, a submission to lust and licentiousness that reflected not mercy and holiness in Callistus but perversion and fraud.
Today we celebrate St. Callistus, a saint who was merciful. For this he was castigated by someone who also became a saint. And his history is written by those who hated him.

It strikes me that he is particularly suited to lend us his aid and wisdom in these days of finger pointing, castigation, and general wrath.

Read all of St. Callistus' story at Catholic Online.

St. Callistus, pray for us, pray for our country.