Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dear Tom!

birthdaycake

I'm making a Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Chocolate Malt Frosting ... are we all seeing the theme here?

First, however, we will go out for fried chicken ... not sure where yet. And, of course, after cake will be gifts, none of them good enough for the most wonderful husband and father ever. But it's what we can do and, luckily, since he is so very wonderful and understanding ... it will be enough.

Movie Night Report

We had a blast. Three other couples made it, laden with appetizers, salads, and dessert. We provided a Chinese noodle main dish, with peanut sauce option for our vegetarian member ... and we had plenty of libations of all sorts.

The movie? Shower, a charming little Chinese movie (my review here) that everyone seemed to like a lot. In fact, we actually had quite a bit of conversation about it later. (Whew!)

I'm really looking forward to the next one and to seeing what sorts of movies people choose to show.

The entire evening format is highly recommended!

As an added bonus, we had to rearrange the living room to move the TV in from the back room where it normally "lives." We moved the TV back the next day but liked the rearranged living room so well that it may stay that way. Tom and I are still playing around with it ... one of us will walk through and find a few things moved around a bit, make our own further adjustments, and move on again. Yes, I'm easily entertained.

A Notable Story of Redemption and Joy

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy
by Rumer Godden
"I took Vivi home." Why? Lise had asked herself a thousand times. "There's a little church in England," she told Soeur Marie Alcide, "at Southleigh in Oxfordshire, which has an old, old mural painting showing a winged Saint Michael holding the scales of justice. The poor soul awaiting judgment is quailing because the right-hand scale is coming heavily down with its load of sins: but on the left our Lady is quietly putting her rosary beads in the other scale to make them even. I saw it long ago, but in a way I suppose something like that happened to me.

"It happened to me," and Lise started to tremble. "How did Vivi come to have those beads?" Lise asked that for the thousandth time. "She wouldn't say. She never said ..."

Now, in the cafe, Lise seemed to hear Soeur Marie Alcide's firm voice. "Put it behind you. That is one of our first rules. You will probably never see Vivi again." and, "It's time you caught your train," Lise told Lise.
This is an inspiring tale of conversion and redemption told in flashback sequence. We meet Lise when she is being released from prison where she has served her term for murder. She is going to join an order that ministers to those on the fringes of society. Through Lise's thoughts, we watch her go from being a young WWII staffer in Paris, become seduced by a man who has a brothel and eventually turns her into a prostitute where later on she becomes the manager. The reasons behind the murder become clear as the threads come together again in the people around Lise in current time.

The first third of the book can be tough to read as Godden is devastatingly emotionally honest as always. Despite the fact that much of the book takes place in a brothel the words used are unobjectionable so one needn't worry about that. As I read, I suddenly realize that I must have tried this book at least once before but always stopped as it was too painful. However, I was selling the book short by never pressing on as the last two-thirds took an upward swing that surprised and enchanted me.

Throughout it is strung the rosary, sometimes in surprising ways and always as a pointer toward action to be taken. Interestingly, Lise doesn't even enjoy saying the rosary but it is somehow integral to her journey of faith despite that. She cannot seem to escape it no matter how she might try.

I didn't realize how integral the rosary was to the book until I was very far into it. After I finished the book and thought about it over the next few days, I wondered about the title. What did it mean? Suddenly it came to me. Five [mysteries] for sorrow, ten [mysteries] for joy. It reflects the rosary itself. Reading the book with that foreknowledge might yield even more riches. I will have the opportunity to find out as I definitely will return to this book.
It was a revelation to the aspirants that the sisters, some of them elderly impressive nuns, filled with quiet holiness, should publicly admit their faults. Could Soeur Imelda de Notre Dame, that calm saintly person, really have snapped sharply at anyone? Could Soeur Marie Dominique have lost her temper? "Then do you go on being you until the very end?" they could have moaned. "Even after all this trying and training?" "Always," Soeur Theodore would have told them. ...

For the Students I Know

Catholic Mom has posted a prayer for students, which I am putting here as well. Check out her spot for more info about St. Joseph of Cupertino.

O Great St. Joseph of Cupertino
Who while on earth did obtain from God
The grace to be asked at your examination
Only the questions you knew,
Obtain for me a like favor in the examinations
for which I am now preparing.
In return, I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.

Through Christ, our Lord,

St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for Us.

Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Around the House

Quick news for those who have been asking ...
  • Hannah comes home in about a week and a half. She has been loving A&M but is so ready to come home that she's trying to figure out when her last final is so that we can be waiting outside with the motor running and the door open when she's done (joking, joking). But she always has been a "home" girl and is ready to have some time off from school.

  • Aggie Parent's weekend was fun although due to the complete lack of hotel rooms any closer than 1-1/2 hours away (which would put it 1-1/2 hours away from home) we opted to drive down early Saturday morning and then back late Saturday night. It was all lots of fun. We went to a barbecue held by her Christian women's club and it was great to meet some of the girls that Hannah talks about, then we went to a scrimmage football game (I was so right to back White, y'all!) and did our best to keep up with the cheers, saw the rock wall where she spends most of her out-of-class time, walked through a little museum in the MSC which had some interesting glass collections and Western paintings (reaffirmed there is a reason that acclaimed art "masters" are so named, thanks to the wide variety there), and went to Lane's for chicken fingers. Mmmmm, chicken fingers. Then we hung out at Starbucks for a while and mocked their "contest" which apparently gives the lucky winners 10 days picking coffee beans so they can feel close to the earth (or some such malarkey). Got home at 11:30 ... a very full day but lots of fun, as I said.

  • Rose got back her PSAT results and is a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist because she is in the top 3% of those who took the test nationally. Doesn't it just figure that she is so good academically but wants to go to Columbia College and study film editing? Which she would be brilliant at, don't misunderstand me, as she is very creative also ... but they don't give a flip about academics and only give one academic scholarship. Ah well ... we'll have to see how all that falls out ...

  • Rob Duncan from Spero News (as well as from Navarre University where he actually is employed) was in town and so we went out for TexMex, meeting up with our lovely and talented Laura H. as well. Rob is soft-spoken, tall, interesting, and funny ... we had a great time albeit too short together.

  • Tonight we will be having our first Movie Night with a few couples we know. The idea is that it will rotate to different houses, everyone will bring potluck (a rather coordinated potluck), and we'll watch a movie of the hosts' choice and then talk about it (which is at least half the fun) over dessert. The first movie is a favorite of Tom's and is going to be a surprise to everyone (no, we haven't told them anything about it, wanting no one to form impressions before seeing it). However, as a semi-coordinated theme I'll be making a Chinese noodle dish (and I bet that no one guesses this movie as it is not commonly known). I'll let y'all know how it goes but now must go grocery shopping, movie renting, etc. in preparation. For one thing, we have to move the television into the living room as it "lives" in a back room out of the way (y'all never would have guessed that would you, what with my passion for television?).
So now I'm outta here until Monday. Have a good weekend y'all!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Jesus never said that we didn’t need a spine."

St. George and the dragon from The Roving Medievalist
We most truly serve the common good by having the courage to be disciples of Jesus Christ. God gave us a free will, but we need to use it. Discipleship has a cost. Jesus never said that we didn’t need a spine. The world doesn’t need affirmation. It needs conversion. It doesn’t need the approval of Christians. It needs their witness. And that work needs to begin with us.
Archbishop Charles Chaput gave a speech in Philadelphia last week about religion and the common good and boy, howdy, what a speech it was. I read it through twice. He ranges from Nietzsche’s Will to Power Bars to Georges Bernanos to Frank Sheed to Flannery O'Connor and yet always stays on target in this powerful speech.

I usually copy the text from long posted pieces and dump them all into a text file that I print out and take home to read at my leisure. It functions like a personalized magazine in a way. Homesick Texan's musings on biscuits will be followed by Orson Scott Card's thoughts on walking everywhere to save gas. At any rate, I was reading along in this piece and by the time I worked my to the statement below I was taken by surprise.
First, I’m tired of the Church and her people being told to be quiet on public issues that urgently concern us. And second, I’m tired of Christians themselves being silent because of some misguided sense of good manners. Self-censorship is an even bigger failure than allowing ourselves to be bullied by outsiders.
I blinked. Who wrote this? I looked back at the beginning. Yep. Archbishop Chaput. That's the spirit I like to see in our bishops. More power to him.

Much of it follows theme developed by Georges Bernanos in his seemingly prophetic "The Last Essays of Georges Bernanos."

As Bernanos explains it, big ideological systems “mechanize” history with high-sounding language like progress and dialectics. But in doing so, they wipe out the importance of both the past—which they describe as primitive, unenlightened, or counterrevolutionary—and the present, which is not yet the paradise of tomorrow. The future is where salvation is to be found for every ideology that tries to eliminate God, whether it’s explicitly atheistic or pays lip service to religious values. Of course, this future never arrives, because progress never stops and the dialectic never ends. ...

Time and freedom are the raw material of life because time is the realm of human choice. Bernanos reminds us that the Antichrist wants us to think that freedom really doesn’t exist, because when we fail to choose, when we slide through life, we in effect choose for him. Time is the Devil’s enemy. He lives neither in the eternity of God nor in the realm of man. Satan has made his choice against God and he is forever fixed in that choice. But as long as man lives in time, which is the realm of change, man may still choose in favor of God. And, of course, God is always offering the help of his grace to do just that. If the Devil can sell us the idea that history is a single, determined mechanism; if humanity’s freedom of will can be forgotten or denied; then man will drift, and the Antichrist will win.

There is much more to ponder in this speech and I encourage everyone to go read it at least once.

Which is Your Favorite Picture of Joy?


Laura H. asks that question for those who watch this really great slideshow from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. You can see my choice ... I love the way these brothers are laughing and clasping hands.

Poetry Thursday

refreshing limeade
dancing over cool ice cubes
nectar of the gods

Monkey

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eifelheim Love Spreading

You may remember that Claw of the Conciliator gave it two thumbs up.
What if the first contact between humanity and an intelligent alien species occurred in the Year of Our Lord 1348?

Some sf authors would have taken this concept and written a cautionary tale in which benighted priests declare the aliens to be demons and whip mobs of superstitious peasants into a killing frenzy. After all, was that not the Age of Faith, an era of theocracy, ignorance, and fear?

What Flynn has done instead is marvelously refreshing. Eifelheim is a carefully researched depiction of Rhineland in the 14th century, showing both the bright and dark aspects of medieval civilization and the small renaissance that was underway before the Black Plague. He illuminates some of the roots of the Scientific Revolution among natural philosophers like William of Ockham, Jean Buridan, and Nicholas Oresme.

Thus when grasshopper-like aliens, the Krenken, crash near the small Black Forest village of Oberhochwald, it is in fact their good fortune to encounter the local priest. Father Dietrich is a thoughtful and discerning man, who studied under Buridan at the University of Paris, and is adept at inquiring into the natural causes of things. His somewhat cool rationality is combined with deep Christian faith, which motivates him to display charity and hospitality to the stranded travelers.
Now The Wine Dark Sea and The Curt Jester add their approving voices to the chorus.

Me?

I'm still waiting for the darned thing to get to the library near me.

Finding Holiness ... in Our Families

Love in the Little Things
by Mike Aquilina
... The family is the great catechism God has given the world. The work of our lifetime is to learn how to read it, and then study it prayerfully.

A couple in love will find many lessons to learn in the everyday events of their life together. Throw into the mix a child or two (or six or twelve), and the lessons increase by orders of magnitude. It’s all serious business, I suppose, but a sense of humor plays no small part in our spiritual development. Monks may learn humility by wearing a hair-shirt. We parents have our own means of mortification. We must, for example, sit helpless while our four-year-old daughter, patiently and with scientific rigor, enlightens a visiting priest — an elderly, saintly Franciscan — about the varieties of panties that Mattel affixes to its Barbie dolls. (I’m not making that one up.)...

Our family life is the sacrifice we offer to God every day. It rises like incense to heaven as we do very ordinary things: as we love our spouses, guide our kids, pay the bills, attend countless, endless scout meetings, and do our work. All this is our share in the common priesthood of the Church. It is our daily sacrifice, our “Mass.” God, for His part, gives back to us abundantly, from the treasury of His own perfect fatherhood.
This is a subject that Tom and I recently were talking about on a long car trip. It is easy to look at the family and see why God made that our basic core of life on earth. It is the means of sanctification for us all, as we learn to gracefully take up the many irritations and pinpricks of daily self-sacrifice. It is only in soldiering through many of these that we then see the other side, that the graces we receive are so much more than any sacrifice we make ... and the "self" that we become is so much holier than we would have been otherwise. (Not perfectly holy, just a little more holy ... and when you're like I am, then that means there is a long way to go on the holiness business ...)

I received this book last Friday and have to admit that I was so happy to see it looked lighter than Mike Aquilina's usual "Church Fathers" fare. He is brilliant at communicating their personalities and works but I had just finished his Fathers of the Church and am deep in the middle of a church history. (Of course, I just read about the new, expanded version of Mass of the Early Christians coming out soon and now am suddenly ready for the "deeper" reading again!) This book of short essays was just the ticket. He talks about something we all can relate to -- how family life and marriage give us endless opportunities to live a holy life and see God's touch everywhere. These essays range from short two-page works beginning with a family story, usually humorous, and then go to a simple reflection about a needed grace or lesson learned that the incident illustrates or sparks. These are the sorts of examples many of us need to see God's hand in the everyday and to remind us that everything we do is an opportunity to grow in a holiness that needn't be stuffy or holier-than-thou. It is all very real and down-t0-earth.

Some chapters are longer essays that are packed full of good reflections, also stemming from family interactions, that take us to deeper reflective depths. A favorite of mine is about the "Spousal Secret." In other words, what is the secret to being a good husband (or wife). As you'd guess, it is self sacrifice but it is examined from every angle in a very readable way.

I will finish by sharing one of my favorite chapters so you can get a feel for this charming and insightful book which would make an excellent Father's Day gift. It is simple but there's something about Grace that I just can't resist.
The State of Grace

A lone blonde in a crowd of brunettes, our Grace Marie early sensed her difference, her distinctiveness.

One October night the family poured out of the van and approached our favorite ice-cream parlor -- now decorated for the harvest season. Suddenly, three-year-old Gracie broke ranks and ran to a pair of scarecrows. "Look, Mom! Look, Mom! Look, Mom!" She jumped repeatedly in front of the flopsy couple. We all looked, but couldn't figure out what was so special. She pointed emphatically to the golden straw peeking out from the scarecrows' hats. "Look! Gracie dolls!"

Our peerless blonde had found her peers, or at least she thought so. I found them entirely too subdued to pass for "Gracie dolls."

Early in Gracie's life I decided that the word "irrepressible" must have been coined for her. From the time she could crawl, she's had boundless energy and an inquisitive mind. She could jump repeatedly while she asked a breathless series of questions: "What are eyelashes for? Why did God make dinosaurs? How do flowers know what colors to turn?"

In exhausted prayer I would suggest to our Lord that perhaps He should have sent Gracie when I was twenty-five rather than thirty-five.

But, if He had, I would now have even less muscle in my abdomen than the little I can claim. Gracie is extremely affectionate, and from toddlerhood onward her preferred display of affection has been the flying leap. (Ballet lessons have only made her more adept at this.) So I've grown accustomed to tensing my abdomen, just in case it should have to absorb a strong and sudden impact. I'd wager that, even as I sleep, my belly stays taut (well, as taut as it can), just in case Gracie should swoop down from the darkened eaves of the master bedroom.

When our family flew to Rome several years ago, Gracie was only five and she could barely contain her excitement. As our jetliner passed over the ocean, she bounced across the aisles, from sibling to sibling in the Aquilina dispersion, before bouncing to her parents, then back through the cycle.

Shortly after landing, through an unpredictable series of events, we found ourselves, jet-lagged, at Pope John Paul II’s regular Wednesday audience -- with passes to greet the pope personally afterward. Everyone in the family was awestruck by the presence of that great man, now stooped and partially paralyzed from age and ailments. One by one, we passed before him. He hugged each of the children. But none of us had the courage or presence of mind to say anything.

Except, of course, Gracie, who hugged him tight and said, "I love you very much." The flashing cameras captured his broad smile forever. And hers.

Later, back at the hotel, my wife and I felt the comedown from the excitement of meeting a pope and a saint. Factor in the time difference between Rome and Pittsburgh, and we were plummeting toward collapse. Everyone headed to one of the rooms and found a place on the beds, the comfy chairs, or the floor. I dropped to a mattress, so utterly exhausted that it never occurred to me that I was leaving my abdomen wide open.

Sure enough, as soon as I closed my eyes – crash, whoosh, and out went the breath from my lungs. And there was Gracie hovering over my face, smiling what her mother calls her "thousand-watt smile."

"Oh, honey," I groaned. "If you'll just let me sleep five minutes, I'll be a new man when I wake up."

And then I saw something I had never seen before. Gracie, looking frightened, jumped off me as suddenly as she'd landed. She turned to Terri: "Mommy, when Daddy's a new man ..."

"Yes?"

"When Daddy's a new man, what will he look like?"

All the kids erupted in laughter. But Terri just hugged our actual Grace and said: "Remember what the pope looked like?"

Gracie nodded.

"He'll look like that."

Gracie accepted this and let me have my forty winks. But no more.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as our “participation in the life of God” (n. 1997).

What is God's life? Boundless joy. Boundless love. Limitless energy. Unceasing wonder.

God gives us the grace we need, when we need it. He gives us the children we need, just when we need them. He has given me Grace, amazing Grace, abundantly.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You Say Moslem. I Say Muslim. H.W. Crocker III Says BOTH.

The Perpetua & Felicity Book Club is reading Triumph and Susan, a history major and attentive reader, pointed out that the author uses both Muslim and Moslem. Naturally she wondered why and so did we. I can't find anything definitive on why one term would be different from another, least of all from the author himself. I'd ask him, except that I can't find contact info on him either.

Muslim? Moslem? Anyone have more than a guess on this?

UPDATE:
The question is not which word is correct. Or why we might have two spellings. (These things we already knew.)

The question is why H.W. Crocker III uses both spellings throughout Triumph. Obviously he is making some sort of distinction (or has the worst editor known to mankind).

All Things Work for Good ...

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

God knows what we need before we do and provides in ways we couldn't imagine. Check out Penni's story from today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Science Fiction and Faith LInks

It occurred to me that the ongoing listing of great sci-fi and fantasy novels with links to faith was sometime ago (as the blogosphere counts it anyway). Here are some wonderful resources. If anyone has any others I'll add them to the list.
  • Speculative Catholic has a very good list of Catholicism in Science Fiction at The Catholic Wiki Project
  • Elliott has a great series of discussions about science fiction, fantasy, and faith wherein he discusses different authors. It begins at the link and you can follow it from there.

Want to Know About the Pope in Pavia?

AmericanPapist is on the job. Check out the links there.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Moses: The Most Complete Prefigurement of Christ

Exodus centers on Moses, greatest of all Jewish prophets, the man who spoke with God face to face and lived. Moses is as prominent and primary in Judaism as Mohammed is in Islam or as Confucius is in Confucianism. Yet his deepest significance is beyond Judaism: Moses symbolizes and foreshadows Christ. Let's look at some of the ways he does, some of the parallels between Moses and Christ.
  1. Both were outsiders (Ex 3:1-10; Jn 3:13)
  2. Both received long training before their public ministry (Ex 2:10; Lk 3:23)
  3. Both performed many miracles (Ex 7-14; Jn 3:2 and 21:25)
  4. Both were preserved from an evil king's plot to murder them as babies (Ex 2:2-10; Mt 2:14-15; and Rev 12:1-6 and 13-17)
  5. Both stood up against masters of evil (Ex 7:11; Mt 4:1)
  6. Both fasted for forty days (Ex 34:28; Mt 4:2)
  7. Both controlled the sea (Ex 14:21; Mt 8:26)
  8. Both fed a multitude of people (Ex 16:15; Mt 14:20-21)
  9. Both showed the light of God's glory on their faces (Ex 34:35; Mt 17:2)
  10. Both endured rebellion from their people (Ex 15:24; Jn 5:45-47)
  11. Both were scorned at home (num 21:1; Jn 7:5)
  12. Both saved their people by intercessory prayer (Ex 32:32; Jn 17:9)
  13. Both spoke as God's mouthpiece (Deut 18:18; Jn 7:16-17)
  14. Both had seventy helpers (Num 11:16-17; Lk 10:1)
  15. Both gave law from a mountain (Ex 20; Mt 5-7)
  16. Both established memorials (Ex 12:14; Lk 22:19)
  17. Both reappeared after death (Mt 17:8; Acts 1:3)
  18. Both did the work of prophets, priests, and kings -- the three most important positions of authority in the ancient world
  19. Both conquered the world, the flesh, and the devil
  20. Both, finally brought their people from slavery tofreedom and to the Promised Land
Moses is the most complete symbol of prefigurement of Christ in the Bible.
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft

Friday, April 20, 2007

A God of Infinite Justice and Infinite Love

It's often said that the Old Testament, especially Genesis, teaches a God of justice, in stark contrast to Jesus, who teaches a God of forgiveness and love. It is a lie, of course. The God of the Old Testament does all that He does out of love; and the Father of Jesus needs to satisfy justice as well as love; that's why Jesus had to die. I used to think that only those who never read the Bible could fall for this fallacy. But experience has taught me otherwise. Why is it so common?

I think it comes partly from misunderstanding the literary style of Genesis. It is not meant to be psychology, either of God or humanity. The modern style of storytelling emphasizes psychological motive and scrutinizes inner consciousness. This is simply not the style of premodern writing. Augustine's Confessions is the only personal introspective autobiography in premodern literature.

Thus the "wrath of God" is not meant as a description of God's own private feelings, but of His public deeds, of how those deeds look to fallen, "wrathful" man. Psychologically, this is "projection." When God gave Lady Julian of Norwich a "showing" of His wrath, she said, "I saw no wrath but on man's part."

God is indeed a God of justice and thus of punishment, which is part of justice. But love is the motive behind all His deeds of discipline. "For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves. ... If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb 12:6-8).
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft

He Had Me At Kelvin ...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pondering Evil

I really was resisting writing anything about this because I know that I can't match some of the very good pondering I have seen written already ... but the two columns I read this morning generated even more thinking on my part and it poured out here.

I already had been thinking about evil before the Virginia Tech massacre. After Rose and I watched the premiere of Drive, I was unsettled because of the cruel methods used to coerce some of the participants. The basic premise of the show is that it is an anonymously run, illegal cross country race with the winner receiving 32 million dollars. Although the race liaison, has informed them that there are other competitors, the group does not know exactly whom they’re racing against, or even where the finish line is. Some are participating sheerly for the cash while others have been forced to participate. In one case, Alex Tully is trying to save his wife who has been kidnapped. In another, a mother's newborn son is being held hostage. In a flashback we are shown a couple racing to save their young daughter, who watches them crash and die before her eyes. And so on ...

It is clear that Alex Tully (Nathan Fillion) will also be working toward uncovering whoever is running the race and stopping them from ever doing so again. What bothered me was the idea of such evil that would kidnap a wife or take a newborn from his mother without any reason other than the sport of motivating participants. It made me think of the villain from Daredevil who was sadistically and purposely evil at any opportunity. He bothered me so much that I forbade the girls to ever rent or buy the movie (and, believe me, that is something that I don't often do).

The evil in Drive may be further explained as the plot develops further, however, it provided food for thought all day long. Was evil worse because I didn't know about any motivation? It seemed so to me and that didn't seem right either. Evil is wrong no matter whether we understand the motivations or not. Truth to tell, I realized that knowing the motivation for evil is no excuse at all. Many, many people suffer what might be similar motivations but very few act upon them.

As we watched the next episode it became clear that Alex Tully had been a very bad person but that his wife had somehow redeemed him and helped him transform into a good and normal man. He is being required to revert to his more basic, bad-guy self in order to save his wife. In fact, a race representative was specifically sent to make sure that was clear to him. And revert he did. The sweet and pure seeming mother of the newborn was given an order to eliminate another racer, along with a loaded gun. She was able to find a solution that fulfilled the requirements without having to kill anyone, or even eliminate the other person from the race at all.

Again it seemed to me that a major theme of the show was evil. Some people are being lured to it with the reward, some are being forced by choices that seem unthinkable. Some people are showing their worst sides in response while others are managing to hold onto themselves while fulfilling the requirements. Still I pondered. Was it any more acceptable that Alex Tully was having to race now that we knew he was indirectly responsible for murders? That possibly the punishment for his past sins were being visited upon his innocent wife? I knew I would keep watching if only because it generated so much thought. Also, let's face it, I liked the show and because it is a television show I know there will be answers that will eventually fit into an acceptable moral guideline. That is what good stories are all about, after all.

That same evening I learned from Tom of the Virginia Tech massacre (I am unplugged from news, computer, and email once I leave work). Here was a real life example of evil for which we could not fathom any possible motivation. In our household, as in those across the country, we kept saying to each other, "Why? Why would someone do something like that?" I thought of Cho as a baby, a toddler, a little boy and my heart ached not only for the people whose lives he cut short but for the potential that somehow went terribly wrong in his own life.

We will never know.

As reports have surfaced it is clear that there were many warning signs. Debates will continue over what to do in such cases.

Rod Dreher wrote a "it could have been me" editorial for the Dallas Morning News today (free registration required).
So I was saved twice by friendship during my teenage years, and by having the grace to respond to lifelines when they were thrown.

Still, it's a little frightening to think about how things might have turned out for me had I continued drifting down that dark river, until I'd lost sight of the last human settlement. Was Cho ever thrown a lifeline? Was he too lost in a fog of self-pity and loneliness that he couldn't see it when it was thrown?
Along with my horror and sorrow over the massacre, I also had felt a profound tiredness from the beginning at the thought of the experts, the analyses, the "what if's," the "it could have been me" stories that we now would be subjected to ... all of which would solve exactly nothing.

It is not that the various solutions I have read about would do no good. Undoubtedly it would be a very good thing if we were nicer to that loner, reached out and fought harder to get help to a troubled person, tried through personal example to help our culture regain some of the social strictures that probably reduced these sorts of incidents in the past, or put a few sane controls on gun laws (I'm all for the right to bear arms, but semi-automatics? Let's get real here. And as for the Europeans clucking about violent American society ... Cho's guns were manufactured in Austria and Germany. How about taking a look at their contributions to our problem?). However, there will always be some people that these things will not help, no matter how well the solutions were applied.

My own thoughts (undoubtedly as lacking as everyone else's) coincide amazingly with Scott Blow's column in the Dallas Morning News this morning.
When I first began to educate myself about mental illness, 20 years ago or more, I repeatedly encountered a calming assurance:

"People with mental illness are no more dangerous than society at large, except perhaps to themselves."

That was part of the campaign to remove the stigma from mental illness. After all, hadn't pop culture always depicted "crazy people" with an ax in hand?

While I applaud the ongoing effort to erase that stigma, I wonder if we didn't let the safety assurance lull us into a certain complacency about mental illness.

For the moment, Cho Seung-Hui has blasted us from our complacency.

And though I would never want to go back to the days when "murder" and "mental illness" were synonymous, must we continue to shrug off these rampages by "misfits" and "loners" as inevitable?

They are not.

One thing about mental illness is known for sure: Treatment works. People with mental illnesses can be helped.

I see that NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness – has slightly adjusted its basic statement. "People under treatment for mental illness are no more dangerous than society at large," NAMI legal director Ron Honberg told me yesterday.

"Under treatment" – a couple of very important added words.
Go read it all (free registration required).

As someone who has dealt with mental illness suffered by a family member, as have many people I have been surprised to find out), sometimes they are just sick. There is no rhyme or reason to their thoughts or feelings. They are sick. We would remove plague carriers from the general population to protect society and we should give serious consideration to doing the same to those with mental illness. It is no kindness to these tortured souls to let them suffer when they can be helped and sometimes they just can't see clearly that they need help. In our case, our family member did alert us and I thank God often for their clarity of thought that had them asking for immediate assistance.

Now I have fallen into the same trap as everyone else and given a solution ... which is no real solution at all. However, it might make life better for some people, and maybe not only for those who are the immediate sufferers.

As to the problem of evil, I still ponder it. Or rather my reactions to it. Knowing why evil has been committed should not make the evil seem less than that with no obvious motivation. But it does somehow, at least to me. I think that is a problem with my spiritual eyesight that I need to be aware of and ponder some more.

Poetry Thursday

Not only is it poetry month but Monkey reminds us that it is Grilled Cheese Month! Woohoo! Naturally Monkey makes sure we have some poetry available for this auspicious time.
UNTITLED
Low fat, no, fat, low carb fare
No salt, less salt, do we dare
No bland , flavorless, dry arse cheese
I prefer the kind that blocks arteries
So its fattening that’s for sure
Life is short as it were
Use any kind of bread you like
But sourdough is a gourmet delight
Pile some mayo on the side
Dip it in and open wide
So when I hit the pearly gates
I’ll pray a grilled cheese sandwich awaits.

by Kc

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

April is Poetry Month

The Common Room is reminding us of that fact. Not being a real poetry lover, I still do manage to find some examples that I enjoy. For instance, Will Duquette's splendid example ...
The horrible thing about Smeagols
Is Smeagols are horrible things.
Their eyes they are made out of lanterns (my Precious)
Their hair it is made out of strings.

Thievesie, Sneaksie, Tricksy, Precious,
Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine!

But the most horrible thing about Smeagols
Is their Precious for which they pine.

Well, that and the throttling, and the eating raw meat, and the treachery,
and….

– J.R.R. Milne, The Mount at Doom Corner
(a.k.a. Ian Hamet and Will Duquette)
Check out his comments box ... to paraphrase one commenter, "What has it gots in its commentses, precious? Not more of that horrid poetry?!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Words, words, words ...

Here I always thought that I was fairly well educated and knew quite a few seldom used words. However, pride goeth before a fall, as we should all know and The Common Room is proving just how little I really know in the way of words.

In the course of reviewing a book (yet another for my long list), a discussion begins about what a paucity of words the modern writers and readers know. The long list of words in the post had few that I had ever seen before.

This was followed later by a list of definitions which was enlightening.

This seems to have led to a trend of word-spotting as we see here.

Obviously I am reading books that are much too modern and suffer from lack of vocabulary.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Gone for the Weekend

It's Texas A&M Aggie Parent's Weekend so we are trekking down to College Station.

I leave you with a few good links for your weekend reading:
  • Bloggers' Choice Awards: it looks as if St. Blog's Parish has dashed to the rescue, thanks to Father S's Paul Revere ride through the blogosphere yesterday. If you haven't swung by, do go and vote for as many blogs as you like. I found some great new ones by browsing the categories a bit.

  • Finding Joy in the Darkest Night: The Divine Abandonment of Mother Teresa. David Scott, who wrote so beautifully and insightfully about Mother Teresa in Revolution of Love asks if Mother Teresa was faking her joy when she was suffering her dark night of the soul.

  • Anniversary of a Catholic Victory Over a Dictator by John Allen tells the little known story of seven courageous bishops in Malawi who stood toe-to-toe, facing death, and made their country's dictator back down. Would that God gave us more bishops like that.

  • Book Review: A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture, by Bishop Knecht. I have had this book for some time but only recently picked it up and really perused it. Initially I was thinking of giving it away but after taking a good look, realized that it is a treasure, albeit one that I had unfairly discounted as being from too many years ago to be relevant. As I discovered, that was unfair. This review is spot on.

Three Basic Explanations for Evil

This is all fascinating but especially the definition of "knowledge" at the end. Don't miss that even if you don't usually read excerpts. It puts a whole new spin on original sin.
There are only three basic explanations for evil. It is to be blamed either on God above us, nature below us, or us. Genesis 3 rejects the two convenient excuses that either God or evolution made us this way. The message of Genesis 3 is that the buck stops here. The finger that points blame is curved one hundred and eighty degrees.

Jews, who have and believe this Scripture just as Christians do, say they do not believe in "original sin" because they think of that doctrine as Calvinism, as a denial of the goodness of God's creation even when defaced by sin. But Genesis 3 does not teach Calvinistic "total depravity" (except in the sense that we are totally unable to save ourselves without divine grace, which is also taught in Orthodox Judaism). Rather, the forbidden fruit was "the knowledge of good and evil," not pure evil. There's still a little good in the worst of us, but also a little bad in the best of us.

By the way, the word knowledge here means "experience." God wanted to keep us from the knowledge of good-and-evil that comes from experiencing and tasting it (thus the image of eating fruit), not from the knowledge that understands it. The same word is used in Genesis 4 for sexual intercourse: Adam "knew" Eve, and the result was not a book but a baby.
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft

Thursday, April 12, 2007

First of All, Atheism Isn't a Religion: Bloggers' Choice Awards

Fr. Stephanos sent an email that an atheist blog is winning in the category of "Best Religion Blog"at the Bloggers Choice Awards.

Now that just ain't right. As the daughter of two atheists I can tell you that atheism is all about not having anything to do with religion ... especially blog about it!

So, let's set this straight. Get over there and vote for some blogger who has a real honest-to-goodness claim to the award. I see that there is pretty good representation from St. Blog's Parish over there.

Which brings me to another email I received. Dear Mrs. Darwin nominated Happy Catholic. I see that I have four votes (which puts it back on about page 8). Very exciting! So if you aren't sure who to vote for, remember where you read this! (Don't make me get out the Jamaican bobsledders and start kissing the egg, y'all! ha!)

My site was nominated for Best Religion Blog!

Looking for Truth and Finding the Church: Two Conversion Stories

So as far as I can remember, I have always “known” that Catholics were in a false religion that was leading them straight to Hell as Catholics did not rely on Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I wish I never had to repeat this because it is so painful and tragic, but it is true and indicative of how lost I thought the Church was. When both Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II died, I was saddened and I thought “Now they know they were wrong.” Forgive me Father.

You wouldn't believe that anyone could go from this to wearing a huge grin because she was confirmed in the Church last weekend. But people, and the way that God leads them, are endlessly surprising. This is a fascinating story about a family that converted from The Church of the Nazarene to Catholicism. It was especially interesting to me since I had a good friend in high school who was a member of The Church of the Nazarene and I went with her for about two years.

I found this fascinating in that they had anti-Catholicism drilled into them (if any Catholics were Christians it was in spite of being Catholic) and yet the woman had enough of a quest for truth to move beyond it and read herself into the church (and argue her husband there with her). I love someone who just won't quit looking until they have found the truthful answers to their questions. Her reading list is one that will be a good resource to anyone who wants to help Protestant friends who are looking into crossing the Tiber.
A few years later, a friend of mine became a Catholic. He’d grown up mostly Baptist, Reformed, or Reformed Baptist and had had his share of struggling with his faith. His family was mostly Baptist and his father worked at the school with me, so it was a pretty big shock. For many of his “Christian” friends, it meant that he’d abandoned his faith and was no better than a heretic or non-Christian. I wanted to give him, if not the benefit of the doubt, then at least some room to discuss why he’d chosen this spiritual route. Rather than just abandoning him because he’d “fallen away.”

That meant I needed to put away my anti-Catholic preconceptions and take a new look at what it was he said he believed. Which meant looking at what the Catholic Church says it teaches. Not what nominal Catholics believe or what I see in movies or hear antagonists say about it, but what the Catholic Church officially teaches. If you’re going to learn about a belief system, it’s a good idea to start with their own official teachings. THEN you can evaluate whether or not you think them credible or worthwhile. But you certainly can’t make an unbiased decision when your only information sources are biased against them.

I have never seen such a thorough, planned study as the one that Coffee Klatch outlines in this story. Just reading his list of items to research wore me out. Thank heavens I was into much more basic wrestling when I converted. I'd never have finished the reading. What makes this so interesting to me (besides the fact that any conversion story is an interesting story) is that one by one we are given the reasons why Scripture itself refutes anti-Catholic arguments. The author doesn't always specifically spell out all the Protestant beliefs that his studies refuted, however, to anyone who is used to the basic sort of arguments, it is very clear. Not only is this inspiring but it is a wonderful resource as well. (Note: apologies to Scott ... obviously I hadn't come across his name and so was writing "her" when it should have been "him.")

The God Who Creates Out of Nothing

Genesis begins not just with the beginning of something, but with the beginning of everything. Its first verse uses a word for which there is no equivalent in any other ancient language. The word is bara'. It means not just to make but to create, not just to re-form something new out of something old, but to create something wholly new that was simply not there before. Only God can create, for creation in the literal sense (out of nothing) requires infinite power, since there is an infinite gap between nothing and something. Startling as it may seem, no other people every had creation stories in the true sense of the word, only formation stories. The Jewish notion of creation is a radically distinctive notion in the history of human thought. When Jewish theologians like Philo and later Christian theologians (who learned it from the Jews) told the Greeks about it, they were often ridiculed.

Yet the consequences of this notion of creation are incomparable. They include radically new notions (1) of God, (2) of nature, and (3) of human beings and human life.
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft
This is right in line with what our priest spoke about in his Easter homily. He pointed out that the very fact that makes the resurrection so true is that the gospels repeatedly report that the apostles themselves didn't believe in it until Jesus showed up in person. Like any sensible person, they knew that in and of itself coming back from the dead is an unbelievable fact. The only thing that would make anyone go around proclaiming something so obviously ludicrous is if it is real.

So God has been doing the inexplicable since the very beginning. As always, Jesus showed us God up close and personal ... by doing the inexplicable in his resurrection.

Uncle

I just can't do it.

I know it's a classic.

I realize it's a fault in my intellect.

I have tried and tried ... and tried.

But I can't force myself to try any longer to read A Canticle for Leibowitz.

I give up.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The God of the Old Testament

The Old Testament story distinguishes Judaism (and Christianity) from all other religions of the world in two main ways. First, we find here a religion based on historical facts, not just abstract ideas and ideals or mystical experiences. Second, the God of the Old Testament differs from the gods of other religions in at least four important ways:
  1. Only a few individuals in the ancient world, like Socrates in Greece and Ahkenaton in Egypt, rose above their society's polytheism (belief in many gods) to monotheism (belief in one God) like the Jews.

  2. Only the Jews had the knowledge of a God who created the entire universe out of nothing.

  3. Other peoples separated religion and morality. Only the God of the Bible was perfectly good, righteous, and holy as well as the Giver of the moral law, demanding moral goodness in all men.

  4. These differences are accounted for by a fourth one: although other peoples sometimes arrived at profound truths about God by their imagination (myth), their reason (philosophy), and their experience (mysticism), they mixed these truths with falsehoods because they did not have a word from God Himself. Other religions tell of man's search for God; the Bible tells of God's search for man. Other religions tell timeless truths about God; the Bible tells of God's deeds in time, in history.
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why I Read the The Class Factotum

She's so darned funny.
Go forth and sin no more

The difference between SH’s sins and mine (in our respective worlds):

Mine get me sent to hell.

His ensure he is held in disdain by the cultural elite and will never be invited to another party in San Francisco again.

What are these sins?

I violate some – not all – of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses with regularity.

He violates of the ten commandments handed down from the extreme Left:
  1. Thou shalt worship Fidel Castro
  2. Thou shalt not eat flesh, especially veal or foie gras
  3. Thou shalt not wear leather, unless it is in the form of Birkenstocks
  4. Thou shalt take public transportation, or, if that is not available, drive a Prius
  5. Thou shalt believe wholeheartedly the hysteria about global warming
  6. Thou shalt believe that every other culture is superior to the US and that the US is the cause of all evil in the world
  7. Thou shalt recycle
  8. Thou shalt not smoke, unless it be marijuana
  9. Thou shalt replace all incandescent lightbulbs with the spirally expensive kind
  10. Thou shall eat only organic
Go thou and read likewise.

Ten Tips for Reading the Bible Profitably

  1. At first, forget commentaries and books that try to tell you what the Bible means. Read the Bible itself. Get it "straight from the horse's mouth." Data first. The Bible is the most interesting book ever written, but some of the books about it are among the dullest.

  2. Read repeatedly. You can never exhaust the riches in this deep mine. The greatest saints, sages, theologians, and philosophers have not exhausted its gold; you won't either.

  3. First read through a book quickly, to get an overall idea; then go back and reread more slowly and carefully. Don't rush. Forget time. Relish. Ponder. Meditate. Think. Question. Sink slowly into the spiritual sea and swim in it. Soul-surf its waves.

  4. Try to read without prejudice. Let the author speak to you. Don't impose your ideas on the book. Listen first before you talk back.

  5. Once you have listened, do talk back. Dialogue with the Author as if He were standing right in front of you -- because He is. Ask Him questions and go to His Book to see how He answers. God is a good teacher, and a good teacher wants his students to ask questions.

  6. Don't confuse understanding with evaluating. That is, don't confuse interpretation with critique. First understand, then evaluate. This sounds simple, but it is harder to do than you probably think. For instance, many readers interpret the Bible's miracle stories as myths because they don't believe in miracles. But that is simply bad interpretation. Whether or not miracles really happened, the first question is what was the author trying to say. Was he telling a parable, fable or myth? Or was he telling a story that he claimed really happened? Whether you agree with him or not is the second question, not the first. Keep first things first. Don't say "I don't believe Jesus literally rose from the dead, therefore I interpret the Resurrection as a myth." The Gospel writers did not mean to write myth but fact. If the Resurrection didn't happen, it is not a myth. It is a lie. And if it did happen, it is not a myth. It is a fact.

  7. Keep in mind these four questions, then, and ask them in this order: First, what does the passage say? That is the data. Second, what does it mean? What did the author mean? That is the interpretation. Third, is it true? That is the question of belief. Fourth, so what? What difference does it make to me, to my life now? That is the question of application.

  8. Look for "the big picture," the main point. Don't lose the forest for the trees. Don't get hung up on a few specific points or passages. Interpret each passage in its context, including the context of the whole Bible.

  9. After you have read a passage, go back and analyze it. Outline it. Define it. Get it clear. Don't be satisfied with a nice, vague feeling. Find the thought, and the structures of the thought.

  10. Be honest -- in reading any book, but especially this one, because of its total claims on you. There is only one honest reason for believing the Bible: because it is true, not because it is helpful, or beautiful, or comforting, or challenging, or useful, or even good. It it's not true, no honest person should believe it, even if it were all those other things. And if it is, every honest person should, even if it weren't [all those other things]. Seek the truth and you will find it. That's a promise (see Mt. 7:7).
You Can Understand the Bible
A Practical And Illuminating Guide To Each Book In The Bible
by Peter Kreeft
This is good for me to consider especially since I have a tendency to read the commentaries over reading the actual Bible itself. *for shame!*

Monday, April 9, 2007

Inspiration Resources 7 & 8

A series of good resources to try out for inspiration and formation (it begins here as well as a description of my inspiration for the series).
INSPIRATION
Maced with Grace
Specifically, I am recommending Hey Jules' way with connecting photography and her faith. She isn't Catholic but she isn't focusing on anything denominational. Rather she looks at the world around her and finds God ... which often starts with her photographs and musings.

INSTRUCTION
10 Best Books for New Catholics
Literary Compass has a very good list of basic books that I think are good not only for new Catholics but for any Catholics. Sometimes we need to get back to the basics in order to remember why we are Christians and Catholics in the first place.
* Unless otherwise mentioned, any podcasts or audio can be downloaded to your computer (using the right click mouse button) and listened to there or burned to a CD if you don't have a mp3 player. I mention iTunes because that is what I use, however most of these also can be found through other podcatchers (usually mentioned on their sites).

A View of Heaven


A couple of weeks ago we were mentioning our imaginings of Heaven. I realized that many of the descriptions of the protected places in The Lord of the Rings, both from the books and also as portrayed in the Peter Jackson movies, also seem like a bit of heaven to me. In The Shire we are shown the homey comforts. Reading about Bilbo's hobbit hole makes one long to be there. Similarly, we are given glimpses of grace and glory beyond our imagining in the views of such places that the Elves inhabit and that men of Elder Days created.

As soon as he set foot upon the far bank of Silverlode a strange feeling had come upon him, and it deepened as he walked on into the Naith: it seemed to him that he had stepped over a bridge of time into a corner of the Elder Days, and was now walking in a world that was no more. In Rivendell there was memory of ancient things; in Lorien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Evil had been seen and heard there, sorrow had been known; the Elves feared and distrusted the world outside: wolves were howling on the wood's borders: but on the land of Lorien no shadow lay. ...

... Frodo looked up and caught his breath. They were standing in an open space. To the left stood a great mound, covered with a sward of grass as green as Springtime in the Elder Days. Upon it, as a double crown, grew two circles of trees; the outer had bark of snowy white, and were leafless but beautiful in their shapely nakedness; the inner were mallorn-trees of great height, still arrayed in pale gold. High amid the branches of a towering tree that stood in the centre of all there gleamed a white flet. At the feet of the trees, and all about the green hillsides the grass was studded with small golden flowers shaped like stars. Among them, nodding on slender stalks, were other flowers, white and palest green: they glimmered as a mist amid the rich hue of the grass. Over all the sky was blue, and the sun of afternoon glowed upon the hill and cast long green shadows beneath the trees. ...

The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer of for spring. no blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lorien there was no stain.

He turned and saw that Sam was now standing beside him, looking round with a puzzled expression, and rubbing his eyes as if he was not sure that he was awake. "It's sunlight and bright day, right enough," he said. "I thought that Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as I was inside a song, if you take my meaning."
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, April 7, 2007

I Hope I'm Still Holy From Last Night ...

... I think the world might be coming to an end.

It's snowing.

And getting thicker.

In April. In Texas.

What was that about global warming? Hmmm?

Veneration of the Cross... O my people...

O my people, what have I done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me. Because I brought thee out of the land of Egypt, thou hast prepared a cross for thy Savior.

O Holy God! O Holy Mighty One! O Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

Because I was thy guide through the desert for forty years, and fed thee with manna, and brought thee into an excellent land, thou hast prepared a cross for thy Savior.

O Holy God! O Holy Mighty One! O Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

What more should I have done to thee, and have not done? I have planted thee for My most beautiful vineyard: and thou hast proved very bitter to Me, for in My thirst thou gavest Me vinegar to drink; and didst pierce the side of thy Savior with a spear.

O Holy God! O Holy Mighty One! O Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.

For thy sake I scourged Egypt with her first-born; and thou hast delivered Me up to be scourged.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

I led thee out of Egypt, having drowned the Pharoah in the Red Sea; and thou hast delivered Me up to the chief priests.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

I opened the sea before thee; and thou hast opened My side with a spear.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

I went before thee in a pillar of cloud; and thou hast brought Me to the court of Pilate.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

I fed thee with manna in the desert; and thou hast beaten Me with buffets and stripes.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

I gave thee wholesome water to drink out of the rock, and thou hast given for My drink gall and vinegar.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

For thy sake I smote the kings of Chanaan; and thou has smitten My head with a reed.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

I gave thee a royal scepter; and thou hast given to My head a crown of thorns.

O my people, what have done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.

With great might I raised thee on high; and thou hast hanged Me on the gibbet of the cross.

O my people, what have I done to thee, or in what have I grieved thee? Answer Me.
It is easy to forget about going to the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. Holy Thursday has all the images that are memorable with the washing of the feet, the procession of the Holy Eucharist, Adoration, and more.

When it comes to the Veneration of the Cross, I only ever remember that everyone goes up to kiss the cross. Oh, right, and there is communion, though not Mass, using hosts that were consecrated on Holy Thursday. It is only when the service is in progress that I remember, "Oh yes, the priests fully prostrate themselves before the altar ... oh yes, the reading of St. John's passion gospel ... oh, yes, and now we kneel and now we stand, over and over..." (as we pray for the entire world, bit by bit, beginning with the Catholic church and working our way outward to those who don't believe in God at all).

I actually was grateful for all that standing and kneeling as I came wide awake at 4:00 on Friday morning and was in great danger of nodding off during the homily, though Fr. S. was probably the best I've ever heard in terms of being focused and giving a good message. We then went into the long prayer and the constant physical activity woke me up. (Though I must add a warning to the ladies that it is highly recommended not to cut your knee shaving your legs on the morning of all that kneeling. Oy veh!)

This year the Gospel of the Passion was chanted by three choir members dressed in cassocks (or whatever one calls those lacy white garments over the black robes). It was compelling, beautiful, and forced us to slow down and really absorb what those very familiar passages really meant to us.

A large cross is held by the priest and brought to the front of the church with stops in the back, middle and front, while he sings, "Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the savior of the world!" Choir and congregation respond, "Come, let us worship." This was sung by Fr. L. from the choir loft and his voice had a strength and range that was beautiful and moving. During the veneration, the choir sang traditional chants, and I have never heard them sing more beautifully. We are very blessed by their donation of their considerable talents, as well as those of our music director who exhorts them to such heights. This morning, over and over, my memory sings to me those beautiful tones, "O my people, o my church ..."

It is a somber but moving thing to go forward and kiss the cross, to venerate it as the instrument that Christ used to save us. It is also inspirational to watch the long lines of people coming forward to kiss the cross, some matter of factly, some weeping. Again I was so saddened but yet so grateful and glad that Christ had given Himself for me. In the midst of a sad period, into my head popped the thought, "Julie, I wanted to give you freedom."

And, truly he has. I only wish that I used my freedom better. This is another power of the Triduum, to reinvigorate our resolutions to follow a higher path, keeping our eyes on Christ as our model and guide.

I strongly encourage anyone who has not experienced this to consider going next year. In fact, I encourage anyone who wants to be immersed in the truth and depth of the Passion and the soaring joy of Easter to attend both Holy Thursday and Good Friday at a Catholic church, whether you are Catholic or not. (Just don't take communion; you can go to the altar to be blessed instead). Believe me, when I say that is why so many people, myself included, consider the Triduum to be the most beautiful and uplifting services of the entire year (Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Saturday Vigil ... I admit I skip the Saturday Vigil and go on Easter Sunday morning instead).

Friday, April 6, 2007

3:00 p.m.

Wow.

Made it hit home.

Made me cry.

So sad and yet so very, very grateful to Him at the same time.

Holy Thursday and a Prayer Answered

Last night was so solemn, so symbolically rich, so very ... Catholic.

For those who don't know, incorporated into the liturgy of the Mass is the washing of the feet of twelve by the priest. After the Mass, the altar is completely cleaned of everything (candlesticks and all). The Holy Eucharist is then taken in solemn procession throughout the church around the entire congregation. Afterward, the Eucharist is placed in a special place for adoration until midnight, that we may wait with Him in prayer.

There were three priests, three deacons, three seminarians, and three altar servers and all due ceremony was given, including the liberal use of incense. The only flaw in the ointment for me was the also liberal use of Haugen-Haas music. The richness of the liturgy stood as a contrast to show how very shallow and lacking that music is. The choir made it sound as good as it possibly could and their clear talent was allowed to shine through when we sang St. Thomas Aquinas' Tantum ergo sacramentum in Latin (the first 4 verses repeated during the procession and the last two after the Eucharist was installed in the adoration space, not merely what is shown in the link). The final song, although with the clear potential for banality when merely reading the words, was arranged and sung with such beauty and sensitivity that the choir overcame the material. A special bonus was getting to hear Laura sing. What a talent she has! To think that all this time I had no idea what a "voice" I knew. (It was like a St. Thomas blogging convention at that Mass ... Stevie helped clear off the altar and I bet that Veronica was around somewhere though there was such a crush of people I didn't see her ... and, truth to tell, everyone's attention was elsewhere than checking out the crowd.)

As for the prayer answered, it was if the Holy Spirit was flowing over us like a river. At least that is how it was for Rose and me. Fr. L. is a homilist of inspired talents. When listening to him, I often think that I have a taste of what it must have been like to be privileged to hear St. John Chrysostom (whose name means golden tongued) or St. Anthony (who when the people would not listen preached to the ocean and had the fish come to listen) or St. Ambrose who was so eloquent that he converted my favorite St. Augustine (who, himself was no slouch with words).

At any rate, he kept making the point that tied all the scripture together in a timeless tale of God's goodness and love for us. "This is what God has done for us," he said repeatedly. "Not for people from a long time ago, not for the ancient Israelites ... but for us." Of course, there was more because it is not as if that is a point I have never heard. However, hearing those words, "this is what God has done for us," was like an electric shock to my system. Somehow, for a few seconds, there was a slight lifting of the veil between the seen and unseen. I flashed on John C. Wright's mystical glimpse and it all tied together a bit to make me somehow grasp, oh so briefly and oh so slightly, God's timelessness and love in instituting the Eucharist for us (believe me, this was not nearly at the level that Wright saw, but through a thick dark veil...).
During this experience... I saw and experienced part of the workings of a mind infinitely superior to mine, a mind able to count every atom in the universe, filled with paternal love and jovial good humor. The cosmos created by the thought of this mind was as intricate as a symphony, with themes and reflections repeating themselves forward and backward through time: prophecy is the awareness that a current theme is the foreshadowing of the same theme destined to emerge with greater clarity later. A prophet is one who is in tune, so to speak, with the music of the cosmos.
Throughout Lent, and especially lately, I have been praying to know, love and serve Jesus better. It is funny that Rose and I were discussing before Mass began that we did not have what one would call a "devotion" to Jesus. I always am more comfortable with God the Father or the Holy Spirit and often must struggle to find my way to that one of the three-in-one who actually has shared our humanity. (Yes, I'm weird ... but at least I know it.) I also have accepted the fact that I can love Jesus and not feel it. After all, love is not all about feelings and I know that too.

However, last night I was suddenly flooded with an intense love for Jesus and such a sorrow for the times I have turned my back on Him ... it was literally overwhelming. I also felt such a sadness at all the grief and suffering and sin of the world. This was a gentler feeling mixed with love and compassion as I watched everyone come for Communion and thought how alike we all are ... in our love for God, in our failings, and in our need.

Meanwhile, beside me, Rose was intermittently struggling with being overcome with emotion and that is not at all typical. A fine pair we made, sniffling, red eyed ... and not a tissue between us. Sheez! I will certainly bring some tonight to Mass and, therefore, doubtless will remain dry-eyed the entire time.

Afterwards we stayed in Adoration for a bit and then drove home, confiding our experiences to each other. We entered the house to find that Hannah was home for the Easter weekend ... and all was joy again. A homey, down-to-earth family joy, but joy nonetheless.

God is good.

UPDATE: Prayers for My Father

Thanks to everyone who has so kindly commented or emailed me and is praying for my father. He is feeling better now thanks to some stopgap medication for symptoms. However, he still has to undergo some testing to confirm whether he has nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or not. Any further prayers are much appreciated as a certain well-known stubborn streak is at work, especially about any more medical tests, and my mother's patience and ingenuity is much tried.

I have been passing emails on to my mother and she has been very touched by the evident community at work. Thank you also for that visible sign of God's love at work in the world.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Lino's Blogger Today ... It's Me!

I'm going to be interviewed on "The Catholic Guy," hosted by Lino Rulli, to discuss Happy Catholic live around 5:00 ET (which is 4:00 to me). It airs on The Catholic Channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, 159. They have a blogger a day on there ... now if only I had it so I could hear what some of my favorite bloggers sound like!


He's going to shave his head on the day after Easter ...
St. Baldrick's is a charity that raises money for kids with cancer by shaving peoples heads. And out of the blue, a caller dialed in to say he'd give $250 "for Lino Rulli's head". We presume he meant for me to shave my head, and not actually for my head on a platter (though the latter is more Biblical). When asked why he wanted to see my head shaved, he said "I don't know, I thought it'd be funny."
The photo is of a previous shaved head moment for Lino. He's holding up one finger for the number of people who thought he looked good that way. He needs to change that to two ... I like that look on him (very Prison Break-ish ... and we all know how I feel about Prison Break. Right?)

Lenten Lessons Learned

I realized this morning that there was one idea repeated to me over and over in different ways throughout Lent. Avoid distractions and get on with the business of the moment now ... not later, don't spend time thinking about it, just do it.

The first holy 2x4 came when I read this a couple of weeks ago.
We have to ask God: What are You calling me to do now, in this Present Moment? Not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now. God's will is manifested to us in the duties and experiences of the Present Moment. We have only to accept them and try to be like Jesus in them.
It has popped into my mind again and again whenever I needed something to prompt me out of daydreaming, cruising the internet, or basically to drag my attention back to what was going on at the moment (such as Mass for example). Yesterday, I read this.
The Lord led me to St Alfonso di Liguori's little book Uniformity with God's Will. The Saint recommends the use of the words "Lord, what will you have me do?"

As soon as I read this, I asked the question. The answer was simple and direct and easy to obey. There was nothing "holy" about the action - it was in fact to have lunch. But after a morning of chaotic random action, the day suddenly came into focus. Still asking the question, I spent a short time in prayer after lunch, had a 15 minute nap, and then commenced writing this posting.
Asking myself this question when I read it, the answer was just as simple as that given to Si Fractus Fortis. Quit reading blogs and get back to work. As with his follow up today I have felt focussed and productive.

That is something I have been struggling with for ... oh, a very long time. I had been asking Jesus for help with this for some time, knowing that it doesn't seem like a big problem but also knowing that this was a big one for me. We each have our own cross, our own special paths of temptation and this has been mine.

And He answered.

The answer is simple, of course. Unexpectedly simple. But so effective.

Yes, I must apply the answer. Must do the work of reminding myself to stay in the Present Moment and then to ask that question, "Lord, what will you have me do?" And then do it.

But I have been given the tools I needed.

For prayers answered, I gratefully give thanks.

And now I must get on with work, which is what the Lord would have me to do right now (not to mention that also also being the preference of my clients and co-workers!).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Which Father Am I?

You are St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Check out St. Justin Martyr: The First and Second Apologies for more information on St. Justin Martyr.
Via Mike Aquilina, who else?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Inspiration Resources #5 & 6

A series of good resources to try out for inspiration and formation (it begins here as well as a description of my inspiration for the series).
INSPIRATION
Jeremiah, Tell Me 'Bout the Fire
This video is only about five minutes long but packs a punch whenever I watch it (and I'm not just saying that because Rose created it).

INSTRUCTION
Understanding the Scriptures*
As the instructor in this Scripture study says, it sucks the fog out of understanding the New Testament by showing how integrally it is linked to the Old Testament. Going through the Bible book by book, following Scott Hahn's "Understanding the Scriptures" book, this class is perfect for anyone who can't make it to a regular Scripture study ... or, as in my case, also perfect even for those who do make it to a regular study. Just listening to Lesson 10 as I did this morning uncovered so many ways that Mary is shown by Luke to be the Ark of the Covenant that I never had heard of before. A really good resource.
* Unless otherwise mentioned, any podcasts or audio can be downloaded to your computer (using the right click mouse button) and listened to there or burned to a CD if you don't have a mp3 player. I mention iTunes because that is what I use, however most of these also can be found through other podcatchers (usually mentioned on their sites).

Bones and Catholics

No, not skeleton bones. The television show featuring David Boreanaz who used to be on Angel and is the reason Rose and I first tried watching Bones. Ahem ... I think it is pretty clear why we followed him from one show to the other.

Anyone else watching Bones? Until this season it has been a guilty pleasure. However, this season's writing has kept the enjoyable aspects of characters' interaction while improving on the plots. One of the most pleasing things for me is that Agent Booth (David Boreanaz' character) is unabashedly Catholic and not backwards about defending his faith in the face of Dr. Brennan's detached scientific atheism.

The last episode's murder was discovered in a Catholic cemetery and focussed on the old-style priest as a main suspect. He was everything that makes someone dislike that "old-style" yet in the end, as the real murderer confessed to him, he took responsibility for his attitudes of anger and pride that influenced their actions. I was afraid that he would be portrayed simply as a stereotype but they moved beyond that.

As well, there was a moment when Dr. Brennan says that the younger priest seems like a sensible man who didn't believe in superstition. I was stunned when he smiled and said, "Superstitious? Well if you mean believing in the resurrection, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the transubstantiation of the Host ... I do." (This is from memory as is all dialogue from this ... funny ) I'm trying to think of when I ever heard someone use the word transubstantiation ... and then respectfully ... on a regular television show.

Or how about when Dr. Brennan was going to step on the altar and Booth cries out, "Don't step on the altar. Have some respect." A few minutes later, when it becomes apparent that the chalice is the murder weapon and Dr. Brennan is going to grab it, Booth yells, "No! Don't touch that chalice. That's where the wine changes into the Sacred Blood of Christ."

How about that? Nothing about "we believe" or "it is supposed to." Just simply stated as a fact from a believing Catholic. Granted, a Catholic who has strayed as we see in other shows, but one who knows the nuts and bolts of what's important in being Catholic. Refreshing and a welcome change!