Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints XIII

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. We've reached the end of it on Halloween and I feel very happy that I wound up with 13 parts. Perfect!

If any of these meditations spoke to you, take the time to look up a bit more about that particular saint. You might find a new friend to help you to a closer relationship with Christ.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add your favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Maximilian Kolbe: "Shall the urge for complete and total happiness, inherent to human nature, be the only ned to remain unfulfilled and unsatisfied? No, even this longing can be fulfilled by the infinite and eternal God." R

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: "Holy realism has a certain affinity with the realism of the child who receives and responds to impressions with unimpaired vigor and vitality, and with uninhibited simplicity." R

Saint Katharine Drexel: "May your faith be increased so as to realize the fact that you are never alone, wheresoever you may be, that the great God is with you, in you." R

Saint Faustina: "Jesus, I trust in you." R

Saint Pio: "If the soul longs for nothing else than to love its God, then don't worry and be quite sure that this soul possesses everything, that it possesses God himself." R

Saint Damien: "In the face of the too real dangers that surround me I repeat: 'Lord, I have placed all my hope in you. I will never be confounded.'" R

Julie can't sleep because of the incessant pounding while Scott won't let Mrs. Dudley clear the table.

Both are terrified while they discuss The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

The Halloween TreeThe Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state. There wasn't so much wilderness around you couldn't see the town. But on the other hand there wasn't so much town you couldn't see and feel and touch and smell the wilderness. The town was full of trees. And dry grass and dead flowers now that autumn was here. And full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and a large ravine to tumble in and yell across. And the town was full of...

And it was the afternoon of Halloween.
And all the houses shut against a cool wind.
And the town was full of cold sunlight.
But suddenly, the day was gone.
Night came out from under each tree and spread.
Scott (from A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast) loves this book and never fails to bring it up around Halloween. I happened to have an Audible credit coming up and figured it is always good to come up to Halloween with Ray Bradbury. Bronson Pinchot's narration is simply wonderful.

The story, which is highly reminiscent of A Christmas Carol, is an enchanting tour of Halloween history and how it is represented in the way we celebrate the holiday ... done Bradbury style with lovely prose as a gang of neighborhood boys strike out into adventure to help an ailing friend.

It is written for younger readers but is equally enchanting for those of us who are merely young at heart.

This is going on my Best of 2013 list.

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints XII

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add your favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint John Vianney: "the soul can feed only on God; only God can suffice it; only God can fill it; only God can satiate its hunger. Its God is absolutely necessary to it." R

Saint John Neumann: "Though God hates sin more than any other thing, he loves us poor miserable sinners. He ardently desires the welfare of our souls as if his own happiness depended on it." R

Saint Peter Julian Eymard: "Abide in the home of the divine and fatherly goodness of God like his child who knows nothing, does nothing, makes a mess of everything, but nevertheless lives in his goodness." R

Saint John Bosco: "What tenderness there is in Jesus' love for man! In his infinite goodness, he established with each of us, bonds of sublime love! His love has no limits." R

Saint Therese of Lisieux: "You alone, O Jesus, could satisfy a soul that needed to love even to the infinite." R

Saint Bernadette Soubirous: "O Mary, Mother of Sorrows, I am the child of your sorrows. My tender Mother, here is your child, who can do no more. Have pity on me." R

Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini: "Stretch every fiber of my being, dear Lord, that I may more easily fly towards you. May your Spirit, which once breathed over the chaos of the earth give life to all the powers of my soul." R

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Italian Vacation

Italian Vacation
by Belinda Del Pesco,
a longtime favorite of us here at Happy Catholic

17th century Salem village, Puritans, witch-meetings and pink ribbons.

 What else could it be but Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne ... at Forgotten Classics.

A Year With the Saints by Paul Thigpen

All Saints' Day is this week with All Souls' Day right behind it. Soon we'll be at the beginning of a new liturgical year. What better time to settle in with a bit of spiritual guidance from the saints?

Yep, that's what I thought too. So it is my great pleasure to tell you about this new book.

Paul Thigpen is a favorite author of mine from way back in the days when his books in The Saints Speak Today series were my favorites (St. Thomas More and St. Augustine). In fact, I still grab copies of those to give to new converts since they were key to my own experience.

All of which is beside the point, I guess, except to help explain that I've been eagerly awaiting this book ever since I first saw it mentioned.

Like the other books in Tan Book's "A Year With ..." series, it has 365 one-page meditations. As is obvious from the name, it takes you through a year with the saints as your spiritual guides.

Each reading begins with a brief summary from Thigpen to orient the reader to the subject. Then an excerpt from a saint's writings brings a topic to light. This is followed by a question or two which help readers relate fully to what was just read. A brief prayer ends the session. In case you want to know a bit more about a particular saint, there is a brief biography of each in the back of the book.

Tan Books has done this book proud, as with all those in the series. Even if you prefer e-books, this is one you want to hold in your hands, just trust me on this. The cover may not be actual leather but it certainly feels like it. Pages are gilt-edged and the ribbon marker is sturdy. Moreover, the book design is elegant and decorative in an understated but classic way. A Year with the Saints is not only useful but a book that could become an heirloom in your family. Readers will know that I do not give this praise lightly.

I've been reading an entry a day since I received the book, which means I'm up to the 7th or 8th one. So far I've been reminded of the marvel that Scripture achieves in having simple meanings and complex meanings in the same passages, perfect for whichever need you have. I've been reminded of the fact that the reason God can work miracles is because he made nature ... and so he has power over it.

And, I've been reminded that faith and reason go hand in hand. I'll be honest. I didn't need reminding of this particular concept, but I like the way St. Thomas More puts it so much that this is the one I'm going to share. For one thing, look at his commonplace examples of the handmaid and of eating. They get the point across perfectly and also make me laugh just thinking of them.
Day 4
Faith and reason

Faith and reason should not be opposed, St. Thomas More reminds us; they should go hand in hand. The use of reason is necessary in matters of faith, but it must always be in service to faith.

Whoever would grasp what he must believe must use reason. Yet reason must not resist faith, but rather walk with her, waiting on her as her handmaid. And even though at times reason seems contrary to faith, yet in truth faith never gets along without her.

The handmaid who loses all restraint, or gets drunk, or grows too proud, will then chatter too much and argue with her mistress, and act sometimes as if she were insane. In the same way, reason--if it's allowed to run riot and lift up its heart in pride--won't fail to rebel against her mistress, faith. On the other hand, if she's brought up well, and guided well, and kept in good temper, she'll never disobey faith because she'll be in her right mind. So let your powers of reason be well trained, for surely faith never gets along without her.

The study of Scripture involves deciphering its meaning, considering what you read, pondering the purpose of various commentaries, and comparing various texts that seem contradictory, even when they aren't. Now in doing all this, I don't deny that the most important thing is to have grace and God's special help. But at the same time, in our Scripture study he uses our human reason as an instrument as well. After all: God also helps us to eat--but not without our mouth!
-St. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies,
I, 23; Letter to William Gonell

In God's Presence Consider...
Do I consider my reason a gift from God to be used in support of my faith? Do I make the best of my reasoning skills when interpreting Scripture by using helpful commentaries and other study resources?

Closing Prayer
Lord, let the reasoning powers you've given me always be employed in the lively service of the faith that's also your gift.

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints XI

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany every day (when I remember) throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add your favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint John Eudes: "With his own hand God the Father has impressed on Mary's heart a perfect semblance of the divine qualities of his love." R

Saint Claude de la Colombiere: "My Jesus, let me live in your heart and pour all my bitterness into it where it will be utterly consumed." R

Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque: "All my pleasure in this land of exile is that of having every other kind of suffering found on the cross, deprived of every other consolation except that of the Sacred Heart." R

Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort: "In Mary alone, by the grace of Jesus Christ, man is made godlike as far as human nature is capable of it." R

Saint Paul of the Cross: "The soul whom God wants to draw to deepest union with him by means of holy prayer must pass through the way of suffering during prayer." R

Saint Alphonsus Liguori: "We must love God in the way that pleases him, and not just in a way that suits ourselves." R

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton: "O Jesus, sure joy of my soul, give me but a true love of you. Let me seek you as my only good." R

Monday, October 28, 2013

Friday is a Holy Day of Obligation

Friday is All Saints' Day, a holy day of obligation that is surprisingly old. The current date of November 1 was set by Pope Gregory III (who died in 741 AD).

Read all about All Saints' Day.

Read about Holy Days of Obligation.

I'll have a post on All Saints' Day but I wanted to give anyone interested a chance to read up ahead of time.

Why Are Catholic Churches Like That? Reviewing "The Church" by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aqulina

The sacramental principle tells us that, since the Word became flesh, God has begun to heal and restore his creation. Spiritual light can now shine through the material world. On one level, bread and wine; on another, oil, candles, fabrics and paint, bricks, blocks, and filigree--all these can mediate God's presence in the world.
I honestly thought I already reviewed this book. When I saw it on my "to review" stack, I thought it was misstacked (I'm pretty sure that's a word ... or, like Shakespeare, I just invented it). Anyway, my apologies for not telling you about this one sooner. Now, let's get down to why I feel that way.
In every church, invisible realities shine through the visible ornaments. Something spiritual shines through all the material elements, inside and out. The ritual book for blessing a church offers a basic explanation of this symbolism: "The church is a visible building that stands as a special sign of the pilgrim Church on earth and reflects the Church dwelling in heaven."
One of the things I love most about the Catholic Church is her insistence that the material matters just as much as the spiritual. Like a pair of folded hands, you can't fully see reality as God intended it without both body and soul. The Catholic attitude to church buildings reflects that same reality. Symbolism is key to all of this because it helps us unlock all the places we can find God shining through into our lives.
God created our bodily senses to lead us to spiritual truth. Thus, Catholic churches engage the human body as God created it. Eyes delight in seeing the play of light through stained glass. When Christians gather for worship, the church is full of the sound of music and sometimes the aroma of incense. Fingers touch stone and wood and dip into holy water. A church well built is a feast for the senses, a festival of praise for the God who fashioned the human body.

Grace builds on nature, heals it, and elevates it. This is one of the fundamental notions in Catholic theology, and is also a key to understanding what one sees and hears and senses in a church.
Sometimes the symbolism is obvious but often the meaning has been lost over time or not passed on due to poor instruction in the faith. That's why we need this book.

The Church: Unlocking the Secrets to the Places Catholics Call Home does exactly what it says in the subtitle. It gives you a key to why there are all those statues, what's up with the kneelers, and why a crucifix holds place of pride at the front of the church. In short, Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina aim to demystify things so that the next time you go into a Catholic church you can recognize the reminders of God's grace that surround you.

This book will be just as important to Catholics as it is to non-Catholics. The example often told to show how Catholics don't understand their own faith well is that if you ask one why they cross themselves with holy water when entering the church, you rarely find someone who knows the answer. (It's a reminder of your baptism, just in case you're curious.) The Church has both pictures and words that help anchor those important facts in your heart.

This is a companion piece to an earlier book, The Mass. As with that book, I found The Church not only instructive but inspirational. Just to share one example, we are reminded of the scandalous nature of the cross in this book and it helps us understand a Protestant friend who is horrified by the crucifix in the front of our church. Not only that, we are reminded of just how much humiliation Jesus Christ took on for our sakes and how, as St. Paul said, "The cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Ultimately, for my own part, I was reminded that just as Christ turned that humiliation into glory, so too His grace and redemption can turn my shortcomings and sins into something good, something greater than I could ever achieve on my own.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It will open your physical eyes so that your soul can also see the glory that is all around you. You may, like me, find yourself seeing your surroundings in an entirely new way. I can't resist sharing this last bit.
Perhaps the earliest precursors of motion picture photographers were the builders of the great medieval cathedrals. They created images that were invisible to the surrounding world, yet spectacularly beautiful to worshippers inside the church. Catching sunlight, the bits of glass seem to coalesce and come alive, revealing the forms of standing saints in heavenly splendor.

The windows provide motion pictures really: the images change slightly as the earth slowly makes its rounds and clouds pass now and then before the sun.
This never occurred to me and I now look at stained glass windows in an entirely new way. Because, of course, what the building shows our eyes also reflects what is being done in our souls. But I'll let you read more about it for yourselves when you get the book.

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints X

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany every day (when I remember) throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add your favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Philip Neri: "My Jesus, if you want me, cut the fetters that keep me from you." R

Saint Robert Southwell: "Jesus, possess my mind with your presence and ravish it with your love, that my delight may be to be embraced in the arms of your protection." R

Saint Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi: "Who doesn't know what God is, should apply to Mary. Who doesn't find mercy in God, should apply to Mary. Who doesn't have conformity of will, should apply to Mary." R 
Saint Francis de Sales: "We must fight our battle between fear and hope in the knowledge that hope is always the stronger because he who comes to our help is almighty." R

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal: "Oh, how happy is the soul that freely lets herself be molded to the liking of this divine Savior!" R

Saint Isaac Jogues: "My hope is in God, who needs not us to accomplish his designs. We must endeavor to be faithful to him." R

Saint Peter Claver: "Man's salvation and perfection consists in doing the will of God, which he must have in view in all things, and at every moment of their lives." R 
Saint Vincent de Paul: "But for divine grace in would be in temper hard and repellent, rough and crabbed." R

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekend Joke

We're pretty close to Halloween. I like this list from TrailerGhost.

How to Tell if Your Mobile Home is Haunted
  1. A can of Skoal mysteriously floats through the air.
  2. Blood drips out of your simulated wood paneling.
  3. The eyes on the velvet Elvis painting move.
  4. The room is spinning, and you’re not even drunk yet.
  5. That car in your front yard isn’t on blocks -- it's levitating by itself.
  6. Your dog, Bo, gets sucked into the TV set, and he's blocking your view of rasslin'.
  7. That mysterious scratching below the floorboards? The Telltale Raccoon.
  8. The chain the ghost rattles is attached to his wallet.
  9. You feel an eerie presence every time "Freebird" plays on the radio.
  10. The trailer is shaking, but there’s no tornado in sight.
  11. Your Dale Earndhart bed sheets have eyeholes cut in them.
  12. The ghost is completely invisible except for the tobacco juice running down his chin.
  13. Mysterious footsteps seem to be stomping out “Achy Breaky Heart.”
  14. There's a funny howlin' noise comin' from the corn crib--no wait that's Jimmy.
  15. You hear strange moaning—but only during Shania Twain videos.
  16. You're missing four PBR's, and the missus only drinks Old Milwaukee.
  17. The lights turn on and off even though you paid the power bill.
  18. You hear blood-curdling screams, but both neighbors are still in jail.
  19. You get a mysterious phone call that says, "I know what you did last NASCAR race."
  20. Instead of saying "boo" the ghost says "boo-ya'll!"
  21. The veneer of window grime looks just like Calvin... and he's peeing on YOU!!
  22. Instead of naked women, your playing cards, all of a sudden, have pictures of covered bridges on them.
  23. The folks on Jenny Jones discuss domestic problems that eerily resemble your own.
  24. You get a creepy feelin' and it ain't because Richard Simmons is on TV.
  25. You come home one day and it's clean.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Well Said: All Mankind is of One Author

A movie discussion group I belong to selected 84 Charing Cross Road to watch. I wasn't crazy about the movie although everyone did their best with a very thin subject, but ... and finally we come to the point ... at one point Anne Bancroft's character reads aloud from John Donne. I liked it well enough to want it in my quote journal and was stunned to find it came from the famous "ask not for whom the bell tolls ... no man is an island" meditation. So I'm giving you the bit she read aloud, but do go read the whole thing. It isn't very long but is really wonderful.
All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another ...
John Donne, Meditation XVII

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints IX

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany every day (when I remember) throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add our favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Angela of Merici: "Strengthen, O Lord, my senses and my affections that they may not stray into any betrayal of trust." R

Saint Francis Xavier: "God our Lord knows the intentions which he in his mercy has wished to place in us, and the great hope and confidence which he in his goodness has wished that we should have in him." R

Saint Ignatius of Loyola: "As long as obedience is flourishing, all the other virtues will be seen to flourish and bear fruit." RSaint Teresa of Avila: "Be joyful for there is someone who loves your God as he deserves, who knows him as her only Son." R

Saint Charles Borromeo: "The candle that gives light to others must itself be consumed. Thus we also have to act. We ourselves are consumed to give a good example to others." R

Saint Catherine De' Ricci: "You have been reborn with him through a holy desire to live a new life, looking at yourselves as reflected in his life." R

Saint John of the Cross: "You considered/That one hair fluttering at my neck;/You gazed at it upon my neck/And it captivated You." R 
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga: "As God is above all created things, honors, possessions, so should our internal esteem of his Divine Majesty surpass our esteem or idea of anything whatever." R

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wait. That Guy is in That Thing? Now I've Got to Watch It.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, seeing that Karl Urban was going to be in Almost Human piqued my interest.

As an aside, I notice that there were several comments about Karl Urban's looks (ok, ok, including mine) ... but none about Andre Braugher's excellent acting which is what makes me doggedly watch whatever he's in, in the usually vain hope that it won't be cancelled after the first four episodes. Luckily Brooklyn Nine Nine seems good to go for a while.

Back on topic, this made me look for a list I had of actors who will make me take a second look at a show or movie I'd never have considered otherwise. Hey. I told you already ... I make lists. Lots of lists.

This particular list seems embarrassingly long, but I'm going to share it anyway. It seems rather eclectic now that I'm rereading it several months after I first made it. Some of these are just plain American. I mean, really, Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. are on everyone's list, am I right?

In no particular order except how they popped out of my pen and onto the paper:

  1. Sam Rockwell
  2. Paul Bettany
  3. Nathan Fillion
  4. Andre Braugher
  5. Steve Carrell
  6. Guy Pearce
  7. Jim Caviezel
  8. Alan Rickman
  9. Tyrone Power (yes, you read that right)
  10. Boris Karloff (and yes, you read that right)
  11. Toni Collette
  12. Will Smith
  13. Rachel Weitz
  14. Bruce Willis
  15. Victor Garber
  16. Daniel Craig
  17. Scott Glenn
  18. Robert Downey Jr.
  19. Sean Bean
  20. Emma Stone
  21. Jesse Eisenberg
  22. Benedict Cumberbatch
  23. David Tennant
  24. Karl Urban
Obviously this is a work in progress based on the fact that Karl is last on the list. I only realize these things when I've got to fight off an urge to see The Fifth Estate despite (and strangely enough, because of) Benedict Cumberbatch's weird wig. And then the list gets another name.

Who's on your list?

Notes on Mark: Radiant Glory and the Cloud

MARK 9:2-8
I like the way Mark's description translates to my mind's eye. It is much different than I had pictured, which was more of a white, glowing process. Also, it is fascinating to see connect the overshadowing cloud with events from the Old Testament.
... Mark tells us that the garments of Jesus became radiant. The word he uses (stilbein) is the word used for the glistening gleam of burnished brass or gold or of polished steel or of the golden glare of the sunlight. When the incident came to an end a cloud overshadowed them.

In Jewish thought the presence of God is regularly connected with the cloud. It was in the cloud that Moses met God. It was in the cloud that God came to the Tabernacle. It was the cloud which filled the Temple when it was dedicated after Solomon had built it. And it was the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God's presence would return to the Temple. (Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 1 Kings 8:10, 2 Maccabees 2:8.) The descent of the cloud is a way of saying that the Messiah had come, and any Jew would understand it like that.
The Gospel of Mark
(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)

If You Will Not Ask The Right Questions - Why Bother to Ask At All?

Tom takes it to Black and Decker ... and most retailers who put surveys out there. Read his experience and, more interestingly, his analysis at the General Glyphics blog.

(OMG, Black and Decker ... your "factory service center" doesn't even have an answering machine? The phone just rings and rings? You've really given up, haven't you ...)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Firm

The FirmIn a conversation about movies recently, people were lauding The Firm which I'd never seen. (extreme shock and wonder at such a hole in my movie viewing, though I redeemed myself by expressing my love of Runaway Jury, also originally a John Grisham novel)

That was when I realized I'd never read a John Grisham novel.

"Why ever not?" I was asked. It just never occurred to me to pick one up. I guess I just don't move in the circles where people read or talk about Grisham novels.

Hard upon the heels of that conversation came a featured interview with Grisham in the Wall Street Journal's weekend book section. I don't know much about Grisham but I fell in love with his wife solely based on the comments she gives him on his books.

"What the heck," I thought. "Why not try one?" I'm a Scott Brick fan, so when I saw the library had the audio version that was what I requested.

And here I am, with one CD down and 13 to go. So far, so good. The hook is baited with lots and lots of money and Mitch McDeere is getting ready to bite on a deal that sounds way too good to be true. In fact, I'm positive it is too good to be true because otherwise it's going to be a very boring book.

I've got my seat belt on and am hoping for an entertaining ride.

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints VIII

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany every day (when I remember) throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add our favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Thomas Aquinas: "The life of man consists in the love that principally sustains him and in which he finds his greatest satisfaction." R

Saint Gertrude the Great: "Once again I give you thanks for your merciful love, kindest Lord, for having found another way of arousing me from my inertia." R

Saint Bonaventure: "God created all things not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it." R 
Saint Catherine of Siena: "When we love something we don't care what sort of abuse or injury or pain we might have to endure to get it; we are concerned only with satisfying our desire for the thing we love." R

Saint Bernardine of Siena: "If we but recollect the name of Jesus, it is to fight with confidence -- for this name subjects all the fury of our enemies to us." R

Saint Catherine of Genoa: "God lets the soul share his goodness so that it becomes one with him. The nearer the soul comes to him, the more it partakes of what is his." R 
Saint Thomas More: "The brothers of the patriarch Joseph could never have done so much good with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred." R

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Family That Trick or Treats Together...

I love this so much ... the entire family in Star Wars theme costumes. Especially the Baby Princess Leia on the front of her daddy's Jabba the Hutt costumer. And little pug Darth Vader. So clever and funny...

Karl Urban on TV -- I'm There

I'd seen mentions of Almost Human, almost endless tv commercials actually during any football games on Fox.

"In a not-so-distant future, human cops and androids partner up to protect and serve." The ads didn't grab my interest. Although it did make me think that someone was updating Isaac Asimov's "Caves of Steel" about a robot-hating detective who was teamed up with (you guessed it) a human-looking robot to solve a murder.

Until Hannah pointed out the star is Karl Urban.

Wait. What?

Eomer from Lord of the Rings?

Doctor McCoy from Star Trek?

Those are the movies where I noticed that chameleon, that darned good looking chameleon I might add.

He's just one of those guys who will make me watch something because he's in it.

Much the same way that seeing Andre Braugher got me to watch Brooklyn Nine Nine, which much to my relief came out of the starting blocks as a solid and smart comedy. I mean really. Andre Braugher. Of course, I was going to try it.

And now Karl Urban.

November 4, I'm there.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux

Matins : Arrest of Christ - The Annunciation
Jean Pucelle, 1324-1328

This is via French Painters where there are a wealth of images from Pucelle's fabulous creations of breviaries for private devotions.

I'm always fascinated by these sorts of books and wish something like them were readily available today. They combine the best of words and images to help draw you out of yourself and into an encounter with God. There is also usually a playful element that I really love, as witness from this closeup.

I published this last year too, but I'm a sucker for it and thought y'all might also like it again.

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints VII

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany every day throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add our favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Gregory the Great: "We have been truly set free from subjection to sin because we are united to him who is truly free." R

Saint Maximos the Confessor: "God made us so that we might become partakers of the divine nature and sharers in his eternity, and so that we might come to be like him through deification by grace." R

Saint Bede the Venerable: "We should rejoice that the Lord deigns to visit our hearts, and that he deigns to illumine this Passover of our good actions by his benevolent presence." R 
Saint Bernard: "In the measure that grace's kingdom is extended, sin's power is weakened." R

Saint Dominic: "I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you more effectively than during my life." R

Saint Francis of Assisi: "May I feel in my heart, as far as possible, that abundance of love with which you, Son of God, were inflamed." R

Saint Anthony of Padua: "Let us pray that the Lord Jesus Christ pour his grace into us by means of which we ask for and receive the fullness of true joy. R 
Saint Clare: "Live and hope in the Lord, and let your service be according to reason." R

Friday, October 18, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words:

Figure representing "Architecture" from Hunt Memorial
drawn by Melissa B. Tubbs

Notes on Mark: On the Mountaintop

MARK 9:2-8

I am going to take several posts to quote William Barclay* on the transformation as I like how he explains both some of the details of this important event. Here we will look at when it happened and just which mountaintop they were on.
Mark says that this happened six days after the incidents near Caesarea Philippi. Luke says that it happened eight days afterwards. There is no discrepancy here. They both mean what we might express by saying, "About a week afterwards." Both the Eastern and Western Churches hold their remembrance of the transfiguration on 6th August...

Tradition says that the transfiguration took place on the top of Mount Tabor. The Eastern Church actually calls the Festival of the Transfiguration the Taborion. It may be that the choice is based on the mention of Mount Tabor in Psalm 89:12, but it is unfortunate. Tabor is in the south of Galilee and Caesarea Philippi is away to the north. Tabor is no more than 1,000 feet high, and, in the time of Jesus, there was a fortress on the top. It is much more likely that this event too place amidst the eternal snows of Mount Hermon which is 9,200 feet high and much nearer Caesarea Philippi and where the solitude would be much more complete.
The Gospel of Mark
(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)
* (Do keep in mind that I like Barclay's insight into language and bygone customs, but his theology can be a bit wacky. That's not to say that I often don't find him inspiring. He can be. But just know that he should be read with caution.)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scott and Julie look at the chalk for proof of reality ... and to find their way out of that maze.

Pan's Labyrinth is the movie we're discussing at A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Artist in His Studio

Rembrandt, The Artist in His Studio
via Wikipaintings
I am endlessly fascinated by artists who show themselves painting or in somehow in their work environment. This one grabbed my attention because of the looming size of the canvas and the small figure of the artist who surveys it from a distance.

Is it just a reflection of my own psyche when facing a writing session that I see intimidation in beginning or continuing a project in this piece? I guess that's the interest in such a piece of art. It has left the artist's hands. Now, what does it say to us?

Well Said: Predestination

From my quote journal.
I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.
Stephen Hawking

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints VI

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany every day throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add our favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Leo the Great: "Let us be raised to the one who made the dust of our lowliness into the body of his glory." R

Saint Patrick: "I arise today through the strength of Christ with his baptism, through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, through the strength of his Resurrection with his Ascension." R

Saint Benedict: "What is more delightful than this voice of the Lord calling to us? See how the Lord in his love shows us the way of life." R

Saint Columba: "Loving Savior, inspire in us the depth of love that is fitting for you to receive as God." R

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Mother and Child

Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child, 1905
sketch-and-study, via Wikipaintings

Notes on Mark: Transfiguration as Suspension of Miracle

MARK 9:2-8
The transfiguration is a mystery pure and simple. I would have been just as dumbfounded as the disciples who were there to witness it. 

I am not sure where I picked up this particular note (perhaps our parish Bible study?), however, it is fascinating to see that St. Thomas Aquinas said the transfiguration was actually the cessation or suspension of a miracle. This is because Christ pulled aside the veil of flesh to allow His natural glory to be seen.

Mind-blowing, am I right?

Let's just wrap our minds around that for a bit and then I'll have some other people's take on the transfiguration for further mind-bending.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

These Books Just In: Angels, Bones, Marriage, Buckets, and Modern Martyrs

It's book publishing time and often when I check my mailbox I get that wonderful feeling of receiving an unexpected gift. I haven't read these books ... yet ... for the most part, but I will be.

However, I wanted to give a heads up on these because I don't want you to wait on me.

Entertaining Angels by Mike Aquilina
Catholic Scripture Study
Every Sunday Roman Catholics (like many other Christians) stand to profess our faith in God who created "all things visible and invisible." and we confess our sins the presence of "all the angels and saints." Discover that angels are spiritual, personal, and immortal creatures, with intelligence and free will, who glorify God without ceasing and who serve God as messengers of His saving plan!
We all know that I'm a fan of Mike Aquilina's books and anyone who, like me, read his book Angels of God knows that he's wonderful at explaining the ethereal in ways we can relate to. This is a 10-lesson scripture study that covers angelic information from creation to salvation history to spiritual combat and beyond. I've been a fan of the Catholic Scripture Study program since they used to be featured free on Catholic Exchange (yes, waaay back in the day). Aquilina and CSS make a good combo.

These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body by Emily Stimpson
It was Blessed John Paul II's greatest gift to the Church: The theology of the body. A window into who we are, the theology of the body is a theology for the rooms where we make love. But it's also a theology for the rooms where we work, where we eat, where we laugh, and where we pray. These Beautiful Bones takes you on a walk through those rooms. With both humor and practical wisdom, it sheds light on what the theology of the body has to say about life beyond the bedroom, about the everyday moments of life, helping you discover how to let grace enter into those moments and make of them something extraordinary.
For everyone who thought that the Theology of the Body is only about sex ... which it is ... and it isn't. Full disclosure: I did the graphic layout on the cover and text for this book. I read just enough of it here and there in the course of my work to know that this was a book I wanted to read. Relatable and thought provoking ... at least the parts I read as I went.

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak
Nationally syndicated radio hosts and international family life speakers Greg and Lisa Popcak combine decades of counseling, the latest findings in marriage research, twenty-three years of marriage, and the wisdom of Catholic teaching to offer newlyweds a master plan for creating a strong bond in the first five years of marriage.
I know, I know ... blah, blah blah ... self-help ... and so forth. This one I've actually read, albeit super fast. So let me give you the short version: this is now the book I'm going to give newlyweds. I wish we'd had it when we got married. I wasn't religious at all then and my husband was not a practicing Catholic. Nevertheless, I stand by that. It would have helped us tremendously. And it's good for those married longer than that too.

God's Bucket List: Heaven's Surefire Way to Happiness in This Life and Beyond by Teresa Tomeo
Scripture tells us only God knows the desires of our hearts. It was, after all, God who placed them there because they are designed to lead us to His will for our lives. Why, then, is it so challenging at times to figure out if we are on the right track when it comes to what we believe we want or need? God's Bucket List will examine what God wants for each of us: mercy, fruitfulness, fellowship, and peace, just to name a few, and will explain what the Christian faith teaches about these gifts and how we can begin to achieve and cross out, one by one, the items on that heavenly list.
Not being into bucket lists, this didn't sound like the sort of book I wanted to spend time on. However, when I read an excerpt Tomeo was talking about exactly the sorts of things I agree with and struggle to accomplish, like being able to just sit in the back yard and enjoy the day ... without having to be doing anything. And, it was something I needed to hear right then, which is kind of the point of this book. So ... I'm interested.

The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution by John L. Allen Jr.
This book is about the most dramatic religion story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening: the global war on Christians. We're not talking about a metaphorical "war on religion" in Europe and the United States, fought on symbolic terrain such as whether it's okay to erect a nativity scene on the courthouse steps, but a rising tide of legal oppression, social harassment, and direct physical violence, with Christians as its leading victims. However counterintuitive it may seem in light of popular stereotypes of Christianity as a powerful and some­ times oppressive social force, Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence. ...

This is a truly ecumenical scourge, in the sense that it afflicts evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholics, and Pentecostals alike. All denominations have their martyrs, and all are more or less equally at risk. A 2011 report from the Catholic humanitarian group Aid to the Church in Need described the worldwide assault on Christians as “a human rights disaster of epic proportions.”

This book looks to shatter that silence.

The mere introduction dealt with horrifying images of what Christians are subjected to, right now, specifically because of their faith. I cringed away from the idea of reading an entire book about this, but felt that if I didn't at least try then I was failing them somehow, was denying that they were actually in the dire straits they suffer. So I accepted the review copy. I trust Allen and I think looking away is not an option for me right now.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints V

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add our favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Athanasius: "It is the Father's glory that man, made and then lost, should be found again' and, when done to death, that he should be made alive, and should become God's temple." R

Saint Ephrem the Syrian: "O Jesus, in that hour, when darkness like a cloak shall be spread over all things, may your grace shine on us in place of the earthly sun." R

Saint Cecilia: "To die for Christ is not to sacrifice one's youth, but to renew it. Jesus Christ returns a hundred-fold for all offered him, and adds to it eternal life." R

Lagniappe: The Mind's Construction in the Face

From my quote journal.
There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face:
He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.

Enter Macbeth ...
William Shakespeare, Macbeth
I love this because King Duncan is actually talking about someone else, a traitor who he trusted. But to have Macbeth enter right after those words, especially when we know Macbeth will become another such traitor ... well, timing is everything. Shakespeare, you genius you!

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 38

Martin Scorsese remade this as The Departed. Watch the original instead.

38. Infernal Affairs
(Hong Kong)

This stylistic, smart movie takes the classic crime plot of police versus criminals and turns it into an exciting battle of wits.

Police Superintendent Wong takes his best police cadet, Yan, and has him go undercover to become a mole in the drug-running Triad gang. Unbeknownst to them, the Triad’s leader, Sam, is doing the exact same thing with a young gang member, Lau, who has a clean record and will be accepted into police cadet school.

After years pass both Lau and Yan have become accepted, valuable members of their respective groups. During a drug bust, both the police and the Triad gang become aware that each has been infiltrated by a mole. In an ironic move, the moles are both so trusted that each is tasked by his superior with discovering who the mole is within his own group. Simultaneously, each is contacted by his real boss and told to discover who the mole is in the other group.

What follows is a fascinating plot twist in which each mole struggles to retain his anonymity. while discovering the other’s identity. This movie is gripping until the very end and keeps you guessing the entire time. Everything is masterfully brought together in the last ten minutes with a denouement that gives the entire movie unexpected depths.

This movie was so popular in Hong Kong that it inspired two sequels, Infernal Affairs II which actually was a prequel, and Infernal Affairs III which continues the story begun in the original movie. We watched this movie in the original Cantonese with English subtitles. It was fascinating to hear the large quantity of English scattered through regular conversation. “Channel,” “sorry,” “entrance,” “ok,” “bye,” and “sir” are just a few of the words constantly breaking the pattern of Chinese dialogue.

Worth a Thousand Words: Velo

by Edward B. Gordon
As I have said many a time, I love it when modern art reflects modern life in a way that people in the future can get a feel for how we live. No one does it better than Edward B. Gordon.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Julie's Take - Christianity in Three Books [UPDATED]

These things used to be called memes ... but whatever they're called, I find them difficult to resist.  Basically Rod Dreher has asked his readers, and the internet at large, what three books they would recommend to provide a basic familiarity with Christian theological ideas to someone with little background on the topic. Read all the guidelines here, which is where Jen Fitz found it.

This came to my attention when I saw Jen's answers (and was insanely flattered, by the way, thank you Jen!).

Ahem. Anyway, here is my list. Pick it up, pass it on ... and so forth.

1.  The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.

Same as Jen's #1 but that's because this is such a great book. I recently reread it and made it a goal to reread it annually. It is a great story and, not coincidentally, is Christianity in a nutshell.

Sheltered spinster, Corrie Ten Boom is 50 years old when the Nazis invade Holland. She and her family shelter Jews targeted by the Nazis and when they are caught, they are sent to prison and eventually concentration camps. This sounds gloomy and like a familiar story. It is not. Every Christian should read this book. If you get the audio, it is even better. Simply fantastic.

2. The Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger 

The classic story of a young Spanish nobleman, Pedro de Vargas, who goes with Cortes to conquer Mexico. Rereading it, Washington Post critic and Pulitzer Prize-winner Jonathan Yardley says in his introduction he "was astonished at how well it has survived. . . . It is accurate, meticulously researched history, and it is a sympathetic, nuanced account of a young man's moral education..." Precisely. Such is also the same of Shellabarger's other books. A prime example of how an excellent piece of fiction can communicate "Truth." Also a favorite, more than this book to be truthful, is Prince of Foxes by this author.

3. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

One of the finest authors of our time, largely forgotten, but who always wrote from a deep background of faith. This is the story of Philipa who at the height of a brilliant career and in her 40s decides to enter a cloistered convent. Yes, this is the story of nuns, but the Christianity they practice should be recognizable to Christians of any sort. Not only is it a fascinating tale of what it is like to live in a convent, but it contains a riveting mystery too.

I didn't notice we weren't allowed to have books about a "flavor" of a particular religion, which knocks out my original third choice, which I leave below for your edification. That's ok, it made room for a book I originally was going to include but had dropped in favor of something more obviously theological. Woohoo!

3. Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft

Puts the muscle on the "skeleton" of the Catechism, so to speak. This is the book that I read after converting and which brought my understanding fully into line with the teachings of the Church. Eminently logical.

Notes on Mark: The Cost of Discipleship

MARK 8:34-35
This is the famous "take up your cross and follow me" instruction which is followed immediately by "whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."

How often do I really ponder these words and think about what they meant when Christ said them versus how I translate them into my own everyday life? Not often enough, I fear. Christ never lied to anyone about the cost of discipleship, as Mary Healy points out here.
Jesus does not call his disciples to read this path alone, but following him. Discipleship is a continuous contact with the Master who leads the way at every step.

With the phrase for my sake, the absoluteness of Jesus' claim appears for the first time. Jesus is asking more than any general ever asked of his soldiers or any religious leader ever asked of his adherents. He is not merely demanding a willingness to die for a great cause; he is calling for an unconditional personal allegiance to himself. Whoever loses his life is to do so for the sake of Jesus and his good news. No greater motive is necessary or possible. But this is the very thing that Jesus will do for us: he will give his life (psyche) as a ransom for many (10:45).

Well Said: Jack and Jill

From my quote journal.
If Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty.
Benjamin Franklin
Isn't that great? Ben Franklin, master wordsmith.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Worth a Thousand Words: Piano Poster

Piano poster for Club. Mads Berg.
via Books and Art

Well Said: Crosses Finish God's Work In Us

I was out of regular life yesterday because I finally gave in to my doctor's nagging and had a colonoscopy. Oh my word. Ugh.

Anyway, the only reason I mention all that unpleasantness to you is to say that I was more thankful than ever for the Catholic practice of "offering it up." When things got tough, I'd offer again this sacrifice for a friend who needs prayer. It didn't make things any more pleasant, of course, but somehow with underlying meaning ... not "wasting" the pain ... it made it easier to get through.

Also, I was continually grateful for Christ's example on the cross. I'd think, "well this is nothing like facing nails through my feet" and it did put everything in proportion for me.

The final thing that came to mind was this lengthy quote which Magnificat magazine featured sometime in the last month or so. It is a good meditation and gave me another reason to "embrace" my cross with the best grace I could (sometimes not too gracefully but ... still ... I kept trying).
Crosses are the great means God employs to deny self-love in us and to increase and purify his love within us. While we, on our side, labor for these two ends by the means which he has placed at our disposal.

The crosses finish the work; without them it would be imperfect.

The reason of this is clear. Self cannot kill itself; the blow must be struck from elsewhere and self must rest passive in receiving it.

As long as I act I live; I shall mortify myself in vain, I shall not succeed in dying spiritually by my own efforts.

God must do this for me. He must act within me, and the fire of love must consume the victim.

There are so many different kinds of crosses that it is impossible to enumerate them all; and the same crosses are capable of infinite variety.

They change according to different characters, different circumstances, different degrees. Some are simply painful, others are humiliating, others unite humiliation to pain.

Some assail a man in his worldly possessions, in those who are dear to him in his health, in his honor, even in his life.

Others assail him in his spiritual interests, in that which touches his conscience, in that which concerns his eternal salvation; and these are undoubtedly the most frequent, the most destructive, and the most difficult to bear ...

All have an effect upon us which inward mortification is unable to produce, and without them we cannot expect to attain to an eminent degree of holiness.
Father Jean-Nicholas Gage
Even typing this in it became clear to me how many opportunities there were in my experience. I had to humble myself to the doctor's authority in agreeing to this "check up" test (I'd fought him off for several years on this issue). I realized how out of proportion my desire for regular meals had become. Yes, it's only natural to like regular meals, but my internal resistance to a clear liquid diet for a day was much more rebellious than natural dejection at this idea. And so on and so forth.

I am thankful for the mindset that allows me to take this experience and learn lessons, offer my suffering for others so it has deeper meaning, and reset my humility. I wouldn't have those without Christ and the Catholic Church. So much to be grateful for ... including those crosses to help finish God's work in me.

Countdown to Halloween

Don't forget that Amy H. Sturgis has her annual countdown to Halloween ... something special on her blog every day in October. Tons of fun!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Well Said: The Destiny of the World

From my quote journal and originally from a book that is so wonderfully written that I may have to keep checking it out of the library forever.
The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.
Harold C. Goddard,
The Meaning of Shakespeare, Vo. 2

The Litany of the Counsel of the Saints IV

Magnificat has this wonderful litany this month leading up to All Saints' Day. Just as in Octobers past, I thought it might be good to divide it up with a few every day so that I could reflect on them better. So I'm sharing it with y'all ... there will be a posting of part of this litany throughout October.
This litany is a meditation on what some of the saints have spoken or written. As we listen to these saints, we pray for a deeper personal participation in their sanctity. This litany represents only a small sampling of the vast communion of the saints. Feel free to add our favorites to it. One option is to sing the litany and its response.

R. (Saint's name), pray for us

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons: "The glory of God is man fully alive." R

Saint Agatha: "Lord Jesus Christ, you created me, you have watched over me from infancy, kept my body from defilement, preserved me from love of the world, made me able to withstand torture, and granted me the virtue of patience in the midst of torments." R

Saint Cyprian: "Our union with Christ unifies affections and wills." R

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Spirit of Food: Thirty-Four Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God

The Spirit of Food: Thirty-Four Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward GodThe Spirit of Food: Thirty-Four Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God edited by Leslie Leyland Fields

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even as I ask these questions, I know something is missing. Something our grandmothers and mothers knew at their church potlucks, as they carried to the communal tables Velveeta broccoli casseroles and Jell-O salads greener than any fruit dared to grow. In our zeal for purity and right living, we may have forgotten something other generations and cultures knew. That food is more than politics; food is more than economics; food is more than culture, entertainment, nutrition, even justice. As important as each of these is, none of them singly identifies or describes all that food is and does and is meant to be.

Food is nothing less than sacrament. All food is given by God and is given as a means to sustain not just our bodies, but also our minds and our spirits. In all of its aspects--growth, harvest, preparation, and presentation--food is given as a primary means of drawing us into right relationship toward God, toward his creation and his people. Even its intentional absence, through fasting, pulls us toward a deeper dependence on God and one another.

As I turn to the Scriptures now, I am amazed at the centrality of food in its pages ...

From the introduction
As can often be the case with anthologies, even those for whom the essays are specifically written, one gets a mixed bag. Some of these 34 essays relating food to spiritual search were very moving and hit the mark for me. In particular, the introduction by the editor, the pig farmer's meditations, and the bread baker all had points that moved me and have come back to me frequently in daily life.

Several of the pieces take Father Capon's seminal The Supper of the Lamb as a jumping off point. There is a key chapter of Capon's book included and you can see why it is probably his most reprinted excerpt. Indeed, if you haven't read his book, then save this one for later and read that first. Capon pulls off conveying how the world around us, beginning in our own kitchens, reflects God ... all the while also giving us a functional cookbook. In fact, it is on my Desert Island book list and I probably should read it once a year.

If I could give half stars, this would probably be a 3-1/2 but I am going to give it the benefit of the doubt. Some of the essays struck me as covering very familiar food-writing ground in using their pieces as platforms for complaining, condescending, or posturing. However, these may very well strike others in a different way, especially since few of us are ever in the exact same place in our spiritual journeys, not to mention our levels of exposure to food writing.

Each of the essays has a recipe at the end but, of course, finding new recipes is actually not the point, even if I did find a few I'm going to try out. It is to feed both body and soul that this collection exists and it does a good job.

Worth a Thousand Words: Evening Glow

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Evening Glow
Source: Wikipedia
via Lines and Colors

The Dallas versus Denver game: It's how football was meant to be played

That game was like the Cowboys I remember from times of old, willing to take risks and make the big plays. When you've been refusing to give up and fighting until the end, there's no shame in losing. As Steve Martin said, a game like that was why football was invented. Well done, Cowboys!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thumbs Up for The Great Movies by Roger Ebert

The Great MoviesThe Great Movies by Roger Ebert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I miss Roger Ebert. Even when I disagreed with his online personal journal entries, which happened fairly frequently, I still loved reading him.

Most importantly, of course, I miss reading his movie reviews every Friday. They were the anchor against which I measured all other critical opinions of a film. Again, I might disagree with him because his range and experience and desires when watching a film were often different from mine. Again, it didn't matter. I loved his way with words, the way he made you understand that his point of view was very valid even if you did disagree, and the way he was unafraid to champion movies others despised. He began this with early support of 2001: A Space Odyssey and later won my heart with his embrace of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. This is something few movie critics achieve.

The Great Movies collects a series of Ebert's of critical appreciations of movies which deserved a deeper look than a simple review. It ranges across time and genres to choose the best of the best, movies which make you want to grab your friends and force them to watch.

This is one of those books not to read from beginning to end but to flip open and see what catches your eye. Or to pick and choose from the table of contents, either the films you love or the films you never heard of. No matter your method, you will come away both missing Roger Ebert and grateful that his "voice" is still with us in print.

This book makes me appreciate the movies I love even more, makes me realize some movies that I never want to watch, and ... yet ... also makes me appreciate that both sorts can be connected in a way that makes my own viewing richer. This just happened in reading Ebert's comparison between the noir masterpiece Sunset Boulevard (much loved by me) and the Japanese existentialist film The Woman in the Dune (in which simply reading the description was enough, thank you very much).

There are some reviews which I won't read now because those movies, such as Jean Renoir's The Grand Illusion, are on my list to watch. Ebert can't fully discuss these as "great movies" without giving spoilers, so I will deny myself the pleasure of knowing his reasons for recommendation. It is enough to know that I can come back to his discussion when I am ready.

Above all it makes me want to watch some of these great movies again ... or for the first time. Surely that was Ebert's goal and he hits the target with sureness and grace. If you love movies, if you love intelligent and insightful writing, and, above all, if you miss Roger Ebert, then you owe it to yourself to read this collection.

Worth a Thousand Words: Fight

A stunning moment captured by my favorite nature photographer, Remo Savisaar. Go to his blog to see this photograph in more detail as well as peruse the other wonderful images there.

Well Said: A Consummate Rascal

This just goes to show that human nature never changes. Dickens shows the danger signals to Little Dorrit readers far ahead of the market crash that moves many of his characters from riches to poverty, so I don't feel as if I'm spoiling the book for anyone who hasn't read it. I just kept thinking of the recent Wall Street crashes and how shocked (shocked!) everyone was, as if it had never happened before.

Ferdinand Barnacle sums up very neatly here as he discusses the person who caused the market crash.
"He must have been an exceedingly clever fellow," said Ferdinand Barnacle.

Arthur ... was silent.

"A consummate rascal of course," said Ferdinand, "but remarkably clever! One cannot help admiring the fellow. Must have been such a master of humbug. Knew people so well—got over them so completely—did so much with them!"

In his easy way, he was really moved to genuine admiration.

"I hope," said Arthur, "that he and his dupes may be a warning to people not to have so much to do with them again."

"My dear Mr. Clennam," returned Ferdinand, laughing, "have you really such a verdant hope? The next man who has as large a capacity and as genuine a taste for swindling, will succeed as well. Pardon me, but I think you really have no idea how the human bees will swarm to the beating of any old tin kettle; in that fact lies the complete manual of governing them. When they can be got to believe that the kettle is made of the precious metals, in that fact lies the whole power of men like our late lamented. No doubt there are here and there," said Ferdinand politely, "exceptional cases, where people have been taken in for what appeared to them to be much better reasons; and I need not go far to find such a case; but, they don't invalidate the rule."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Well Said: A Marked Stop Brings Right Perception

Taking into account where he was, the interest that had first brought him there when he had been free to keep away, and the gentle presence that was equally inseparable from the walls and bars about him and from the impalpable remembrances of his later life which no walls nor bars could imprison, it was not remarkable that everything his memory turned upon should bring him round again to Little Dorrit. Yet it was remarkable to him; not because of the fact itself; but because of the reminder it brought with it, how much the dear little creature had influenced his better resolutions.

None of us clearly know to whom or to what we are indebted in this wise, until some marked stop in the whirling wheel of life brings the right perception with it. It comes with sickness, it comes with sorrow, it comes with the loss of the dearly loved, it is one of the most frequent uses of adversity.
Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit
I read this to Tom and he said, "That is just simply true." Yes. It is. Little Dorrit ... what a book.