Friday, April 28, 2017

Well Said: Learning from Children

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.
Franklin P. Jones
Just one more way families help us be better people!

Worth a Thousand Words: Le Morte d'Arthur

Le Morte d'Arthur Cover Illustration, Himmapaan

Through Darkest Zymurgia!

Will Duquette has a new book out.
My latest book, Through Darkest Zymurgia!, is now available in print or as an e-book. It’s a Ripping Yarn of Exploration and Adventure in a faux-Victorian world with some surprising features and a good deal of understated humor. You’ll like it, I promise.

It’s cheaper as an e-book, but buy the print edition—it’s gorgeous.
How much do I love this humorous take on a Victorian tale of exploration and adventure? So much so that I volunteered to do the layout.

I'll do a proper review soon but wanted to give y'all a heads up on this one. Check the link for a longer description. It's highly enjoyable.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: A Day Full of Rain

A Day Full of Rain, Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: "Me," said Poirot, "I lead a very moral life."

"The English," said Poirot, "are a very moral people."

Lord Dittisham said: "Confound them, they are!"

He added, looking at Poirot, "And you?"

"Me," said Poirot, "I lead a very moral life. That is not quite the same thing as having moral ideas."
Agatha Christie, Five Little Pigs

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pope Francis's TED Talk: "The future does have a name, and its name is Hope."

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: "Why them and not me?" I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today's "discarded" people. And that's why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: "Why them and not me?"
If you'd rather not watch the video, you can read the transcript of Pope Francis's TED Talk.

Worth a Thousand Words: A Parrot Ara macao

A parrot Ara macao, Edward Lear

Well Said: Stories and Spiders

Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Genesis Notes: What Abraham's Life Means to Us

GENESIS 22 & 23
Abraham's story with all the drama and events and lies and faulty humans is actually a story that shows us God's faithfulness and love. I never would have thought of it this way before going through this study but it is undeniable.

The vision of the Lord directing Abraham to count the stars,
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860
The story of Abraham's life is a story with almost limitless meaning. It includes examples of faith, prayer, and sacrifice. It contains many lessons for those who, like Abraham, live their lives by putting their faith in God. Yet perhaps the greatest significance of the story of Abraham is that it is the story of God in love with man.

From the earliest chapters of Genesis, we have traced out the evidence of God's profound love for the human creatures who bear His image and likeness. The rebellion of Adam and Eve not only did not conquer God's love, it actually became an occasion for Him to demonstrate its depth and breadth and height. For not only did God love humans when they behaved, but He even loved them when they sinned. How? He gave them promises to live by and punishments to purify them. Over and over again, God bent down to reorganize and restore the family life that was shattered in Eden. First, He promised to defeat His enemy through human beings. Then, in Genesis 12, He promised to create, from one man, a whole nation that would belong to Him; through that nation, He planned to reverse the curse of Eden into universal blessing.

The context for comprehending the significance of Abraham's story is the initiative and action of God in pursuit of humanity. His call to Abram in Genesis 12 begins a detailed, engaging account of how one ordinary human being, a creature of flesh and blood like us, is singled out by God to be transformed from sinner to saint. The story of his life is the first extended account we have of intimacy between God and man. It is a story of God's love from beginning to end.

Yes, even at the end, when God asks Abraham to give up, to put to death, that which gives his life its only true meaning, He is acting out of passionate love for him. How can that be? God knows that in losing our lives, we find them. He knew that in Eden. He knew that on Moriah. He knew it on Calvary. The source of perfect human happiness is perfect obedience to God, even if it costs us everything.
All quotes from Genesis, Part II: God and His Family. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Early Saturday Morning

Early Saturday Morning
by Karin Jurick
The painting is an homage to Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning and Summertime. Check out the Hopper painting at the link and you can see what a wonderful homage Jurick's painting is.

Well Said: The Value of Kneestem

"A lot of what you've been teaching me sometimes seems kind of useless. Like that kneestem you've got—I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with magic. It's just a weed. You said yourself it's worthless."

"It is worthless to us and to animals, having no value either as medicine or as food," Ingold agreed, turning the dry wisp in his mittened fingers. "But we ourselves are useless to other forms of life—except, I might point out, as sustenance to the Dark Ones. Kneestem, like you and me, exists for its own sake, and we must take that into account in all our dealings with the world that we hold in common with it.
Barbara Hambly, The Walls of Air
Of course, I'm thinking of this in relation to a lot of issues that have nothing to do with the obvious application, such as our environment. It's a very Catholic way of looking at the world.

Books In the Pipeline

I just realized that between podcasts and my book club I've got a lot of varied reading coming up. I would say this interferes with my 2017 book goals but I tossed them out the window about a month ago.

I'd kind of forced the list this year just because I'd done a reading goals in previous years. Note to self - no need to force a reading list. The books will come to you anyway. And the reading will be both varied and wonderful.

This is my "assigned" reading for the next few months.  (Title links go to my reviews.)
  • THE ROSIE PROJECT - rereading this for my Catholic women's book club. Proof that a book can be light and fun and still say something meaningful.

  • THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - it's been years since I've read this one. It's Scott's selection for our next book on A Good Story is Hard to Find.

  • DRACULA - rereading for SFFaudio podcast. I love this book so much. So. much.

  • BURGLARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS - also for SFFaudio. Never read it but Lawrence Block's "burglar" series is supposed to be good.

  • NOSTRA AETATE (Vatican II doc: The Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) - Catholic women's book club choice. The Vatican II documents are surprisingly easy reading.

  • A TALE OF TWO CITIES - the book that introduced me to Dickens as an adult. This will be my next book choice for A Good Story is Hard to Find.

  • THE MALTESE FALCON - the movie's good but the book is better. This one's also for SFFaudio.
Elements of Faith book club - live in Dallas? Join us!

A short interview about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

In this short Interview Extra, Scott sits down with Julie to discuss her new book Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: Prayers and Reflections for Getting Closer.

Hear it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: The Three Bears

Arthur Rackham, The Story of the Three Bears, 1837
via Wikipedia

Well Said: The Marvels of Rome and the Length of Human Memory

One of the marvels of Rome is that the traditional portraits of St. Peter and St. Paul have been preserved in the catacombs, and every artist who has painted the two Apostles owes something to this tradition. The portraits were engraved in gold leaf on the bases of the glasses or chalices which, as the Salesian Father had told me, were embedded in the plaster round the bodies. There are hundreds of these glasses to be seen in the Vatican Museum, and the type of portrait never varied. Both Apostles are shown as men of middle-age and both are bearded, but while St. Peter has a fine head of curly hair, St. Paul is almost bald. Those who have studied the portraits believe that they embody a tradition which goes back possibly to the days of Nero and to those who knew the Apostles by sight.

I was reminded of a story which the late Monsignor Stapylton Barnes was fond of telling to illustrate the length of human memory. His mother, who died in 1927 at a great age, could clearly remember, as a small girl, hearing Victoria proclaimed queen in 1837. When a child she was often taken to see a very old lady who remembered the French Revolution and the execution of Marie Antoinette in 1793. This old lady had spent her childhood in Philadelphia and had known Benjamin Franklin, who was born in 1706. Thus it would have been possible for Franklin to have described some event of his early childhood--perhaps the great fire in Boston of 1711--to the little girl, who could have told it in her ld age to another little girl, Mrs. Barnes, who could have passed on the story to her son in the twentieth century.

In his book The Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, Monsignor Barnes refers to the great sweep of human events commanded by such lives, and says 'it would have been possible for a Christian child in rome in the year 67 to have been actually present at St. Peter's martyrdom and to have seen him nailed to the cross, and still to have been alive and able to tell the tale in 150. And the child to whom he told it then could have told the story again in his extreme old age to one who lived to see the peace of the Church in 312 under Constantine.'
H. V. Morton, A Traveller in Rome
This is lengthy but I love the vivid illustration of how few generations it takes to span a very long period of time when passing along memories.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why You Should Go to Church (Even If You're Not Sure of Your Beliefs)

I'm not sure tho compelling this would've been before I became a believer. Now, though, having gone to church for a couple of decades, I can attest to the truth of this piece from The Art of Manliness. So I can assure you they're on point here.

These are just a few of the topics they touch upon:

  • A Chance to Remember/Reorient/Reflect/Re-center
  • Builds Discipline
  • Rare Chance for Communal Singing
  • Breaches Your Echo Chamber and Connects You With People From Different Walks of Life
  • Contributes to Greater Free-Thinking and Your Diversity of Ideas
  • Ample Opportunities (and More Motivation) for Service

Worth a Thousand Words: Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere, Lavinia Fontana, 1581
via Elizabeth Lev
Fontana’s version emphasized accuracy: Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener, and so she paints him in a broad-brimmed hat holding a shovel. Yet once she has emphasized the literal sense, Lavinia also evokes a beautiful scene. The atmosphere is permeated with warm golden light as a new age is dawning. A little flashback scene in the distance shows the women who have left the city arriving at the tomb where an angel tells them Christ is gone. Mary’s pose in the further scene shows her with the slumped shoulders of dejection, but in the foreground her face becomes radiant with hope. Christ puts out his hand, ostensibly to tell her not to touch Him, but also in a gesture of affectionate blessing. Mary’s gaze is directed toward the wound on his hand made visible for her, but she seems to look beyond it, trying to gaze at his face under the shadowy brim. Proof of his resurrection is not her primary concern as she sinks to her usual place by his feet. The light, setting, and positions evoke a love story, a compelling language that the Counter-Reformation will employ in its time.
There's more where that came from. I love being shown beneath the surface of paintings for deeper meaning. Elizabeth Lev's piece discusses the goals of Counter-Reformation art and opens another piece up for our edification. Be sure to check it out.

Genesis Notes: Jews, Christians, Muslims ... and Abraham

We know that all three religions have a basic connection through Abraham. A succinct summary in The Complete Bible Handbook shows where they agree and disagree about Abraham's example for us.

Abraham Serving the Three Angels by Rembrandt
A common reverence for Abraham as a model of true human response to God and as ancestor of subsequent believers is one of the prime links between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Abraham's responsiveness to God is summed up in his epithet as "the friend of God." This title is first given in Hebrew scripture (Isa 41:8; 2 Chr. 20:7); it is taken up in the New Testament (Jas. 2:23); and in Islam, Abraham (Ibrahim) is known simply as "the friend" (Al Kahlil).

Each religion gives content to Abraham's friendship with God in terms of its own characteristic emphases, on the supposition that Abraham is best understood in terms of that to which he helped give rise. Thus for Jews (appealing to Gen. 26:5 as well as to more general considerations), Abraham is an example of one who was obedient to God's commandments, or Torah, even before Torah was given to Israel at Sinai. For Christians, following Paul's exposition (Rom. 4), Abraham is a model of one who has faith (pistis) in God. For Muslims, Abraham demonstrates islam, unconditional submission to the will of God, as in his willingness to sacrifice his son. Though Jews, Christians, and Muslims differ about the true human response to God as exemplified by Abraham, they agree that he provides a model of how human life should be lived.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

San Jacinto Day! Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

Thank goodness that my friend Don never forgets ... he's the one always reminding me it is San Jacinto Day He has told me many a time:
I try to remember all of these good Texas holidays. They really bring home how unique the state –and future Republic?—truly is. This one is a real holiday, not like Cinco de Mayo. I mean, if you have a holiday to celebrate beating the French, then every day would be a holiday!
Ha! No kidding!

Let's all go get a few margaritas and lift them high to the Texian heroes of the decisive battle of the Texas revolution!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel!"

Watch the news anchor's reaction to the forgiveness expressed by the widow of the gatekeeper who prevented a suicide bomber from entering an Alexandria church yard on Palm Sunday, thereby saving countless lives.

It is truly moving. This is why the blood of the martyrs [and the forgiveness of the faithful] is the seed of the church.

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel! These people have so much forgiveness!"
Via The Deacon's Bench.

Worth a Thousand Words: Tea Service

Albert Anker, Tea Service, c. 1910
via Arts Everyday Living

A "Fast Take" Interview on Aleteia

Elizabeth Scalia graciously offered me a "fast take" interview on Aleteia about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. Aleteia is a worldwide Catholic network with all sorts of fascinating articles.

Among other things, find out what person I identify with most in the book, what writing it taught me, and ... perhaps most importantly of all ... what the ideal beverage is that you should have in hand while reading your copy!

Challenging Opinions Interview: Sticking Up for the Faith

William has relaunched his podcast and I feel honored that my 2016 interview was one he carried over. So I'm reposting this in case you're interested.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
I Peter 3:15
William Campbell invited me to chat with him at his podcast, Challenging Opinions. The podcast exists to "test all ideas, left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and libertarian."

That idea in itself is pretty challenging but when I listened to sample episodes William was a fair and impartial interviewer, which is a rare quality these days.

I thought we were going to discuss my post Obedience: The Dirtiest Word in America so I was prepared to talk about being an American Catholic during the political season. I think that post was only what drew me to William's attention. We never actually discussed that topic, but wound up covering everything from faith in God to Catholic misdeeds to the future of the Church.

I was going completely off the cuff, which I think shows sometimes, but that in itself was fair. Shouldn't we be able to shed some light on faith and the Church when we're asked about it? It was a like a particularly invigorating workout and I really enjoyed talking with William.

Listen at Challenging Opinions or iTunes.


The Reason for My Hope and Why I'm a Happy Catholic
This didn't come up in our fast-paced conversation, but I wanted to share it anyway. This quote perfectly echoes my feeling.
I have looked for happiness everywhere: in the elegant life of the salons, in the deafening noise of balls and parties, in accumulating money, in the excitement of gambling, in artistic glory, in friendship with famous people, in the pleasure of the senses. Now I have found happiness, I have an overflowing heart and I want to share it with you. … You say, “But I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.” I say to you, “Neither did I and that is why I was unhappy.
Hermann Cohen, letter to a friend
All my life I searched for Truth, wondering if there were such a thing. And I found it in Jesus.


On the documents I hadn't heard of, allegedly Vatican blueprints for methodically concealing sex crimes, the news articles had responses from both the Church and other experts which point out that they aren't a "smoking gun" and that "it's a church law that deals only with religious crimes and sins. And that the secrecy is meant to protect the faithful from scandal." All this proves is that there are two sides to any issue and that we can't make quick assumptions without very careful study.

A friend of mine is a canon lawyer. I've often heard him speak about how easy it is to misunderstand a law by only a looking at it through one frame, especially when it has been misused so that is the only lens we are using. Often these laws reflect long ago history and problems which were very different than the current issues.

Can such documents be misused? Absolutely. Was there a terrible sexual misconduct and a mistaken idea of protecting the Church implemented by moving predators around? No doubt. These are the sins we, the faithful, mourn and must keep from ever recurring.

But, it is equally a mistake to read our current mindset backwards into documents whose roots lie deep in the past. Jumping to conclusions about intention is as much of a mistake as ignoring victims to protect an institution.

Which is all a way of saying ... it's complicated.

Easter Thursday: Litany for the Easter Season

A beautiful litany full of praise and joy. And, not too long. What could be better?
Litany for the Easter Season
Father of life, we give you praise and glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have given Jesus victory over sin.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have raised him from the dead.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have made his cross a sign of glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have made us sharers in your life.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

With Christ, you have buried us in death to sin.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

With him you have raised us to new life.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

He is seated with you in glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

He sends his Spirit to guide our lives.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

Jesus will come again in glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!
Now don't forget, Easter doesn't end until Pentecost, so keep on celebrating right up to June 4!