Friday, September 30, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Cats on a Red Cloth

Franz Marc, Cats on a Red Cloth

Feast Day of St. Jerome

Niccolò Antonio Colantonio, showing St. Jerome's removal of a thorn from a lion's paw. Source.
I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of Gods, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Read more at Crossroads Initiative
I do not have that "friendly feeling" with St. Jerome that I have with many other saints. However, I do love the fact that he was well known to be cantankerous and had to fight his temper constantly. It gives me that fellow feeling of someone who has to fight the same failings I do. I also highly respect him for his supreme love of Scripture as the path to God. (Protestants should enjoy this Church Father's works for that very reason.)

This might be the best short summary I've ever seen of St. Jerome's life, and, specifically, why he is such a good patron saint for us bloggers.
He was a great scholar. He knew many languages. He fact-checked against original sources. He supported and was supported by fearless, scholarly and religious women. He successfully fought against the world, the flesh and the Devil.

And dang, did he understand flamewars.
Here is a wonderful poem about St. Jerome which is both accurate and hilarious. My favorite sort of poem, in fact. If you read this out loud you will get the most benefit from it.
From "Times Three" by Phyllis McGinley

God’s angry man, His crotchety scholar
Was Saint Jerome,
The great name-caller
Who cared not a dime
For the laws of Libel
And in his spare time
Translated the Bible.
Quick to disparage
All joys but learning
Jerome thought marriage
Better than burning;
But didn’t like woman’s
Painted cheeks;
Didn’t like Romans,
Didn’t like Greeks,
Hated Pagans
For their Pagan ways,
Yet doted on Cicero all of his days.

A born reformer, cross and gifted,
He scolded mankind
Sterner than Swift did;
Worked to save
The world from the heathen;
Fled to a cave
For peace to breathe in,
Promptly wherewith
For miles around
He filled the air with
Fury and sound.
In a mighty prose
For Almighty ends,
He thrust at his foes,
Quarreled with his friends,
And served his Master,
Though with complaint.
He wasn’t a plaster sort of a saint.

But he swelled men’s minds
With a Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds
To make a heaven.
Read a summary of St. Jerome's life and work at Catholic Culture.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blogging Around

A Single Phrase Helped Save This Marriage

Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself. At that moment I began to pray. If I can’t change her, God, then change me. I prayed late into the night. I prayed the next day on the flight home. I prayed as I walked in the door to a cold wife who barely even acknowledged me. That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.
Read it all here.

Beware the (Online) Culture of Wrath

Stephen D. Greydanus on how to avoid poisoning your soul, or those of others, on social media. He's got good ways to do a self examination checking for unseen problems in your own participation. And some excellent common sense guidelines.

What My Dying Friend is Teaching Everyone Around Her About Faith

Her luminous witness of a peaceful spirit despite real and ever present danger has directed the attention of everyone around her away from the cancer to the Divine Physician. She is embracing her cross like a lover, revealing thus the one she loves.
Read it all here.

Why a Hawk is a Hummingbird

You know what they say about location and real estate. Hummingbird nests often appear in clusters, but for years researchers couldn’t figure out what attracted the birds to certain areas. Turned out the answer was, “good neighbors.”
Fascinating. Read it all here.

Feast of the Archangels

This is one of my favorite feast days so I re-present one of my favorite posts about it.

St. Michael the Archangel

St. Gabriel the Archangel

St. Raphael the Archangel
The liturgy for today celebrates the feast of the three archangels who have been venerated throughout the history of the Church, Michael (from the Hebrew Who is like God?) is the archangel who defends the friends of God against Satan and all his evil angels. Gabriel, (the Power of God), is chosen by the Creator to announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation. Raphael, (the Medicine of God), is the archangel who takes care of Tobias on his journey.

I have a special fondness for angels and it is a sign of my Catholic geekiness, I suppose, that I got an excited "Christmas morning" sort of thrill when I realized today's feast.

I read for the first time about angels when we were in the hospital with my father-in-law after his stroke. That made a big impression on me at the time. I always attribute the miracle that happened to the Holy Family but the angels are divine messengers and so have their place in it as well. Because of that I always have remembered that we can call not only on our friends for intercessory prayer, but also on angels for intercession and help. The prayer to St. Michael is one of my favorites.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Some more on angels.
You should be aware that the word "angel" denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.
From a homily by Pope Saint Gregory the Great
Read more about angels at Catholic Culture.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Horse in a Landscape

Franz Marc, 1910, Horse in a Landscape
via WikiPaintings
There is something mesmerizing in this painting. Is this how the horse sees? Is it viewing a painting? The playful tone seems to invite mental hijinks. And yet, I love the painting simply as a work of art. I could look at this all day.

Checking his WikiPaintings entry I see that he painted a lot of animals and that his painting style and my taste part ways about 1912, right after his Girl With a Cat. But nothing grabs me the way this horse does.

Well Said: Tolkien's concern

The Ring is less morally ambiguous than the average realistic novel, but that's primarily because Tolkien wasn't especially interested in the problem of knowing right from wrong. His concern was to explore the psychology of the moment when you know right from wrong but aren't sure whether you have the courage and fortitude to do the right thing.
Alan Jacobs
Yep. And that is why The Lord of the Rings is endlessly fascinating.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Well Said: What wonder you do not understand...

We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.
St. Augustine

Worth a Thousand Words: Couple in Love in Moonlight

Couple in Love in Moonlight, Jakob Alt

Genesis Notes: Adam's Descendents

Genesis 5 shows the descendents from Adam to Noah and is one of those endless seeming lists of names that make my eyes glaze over.

There's nothing for modern people in these lists. Right? Au contraire!

The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah 43. Adam's descendants. Genesis cap 5. Schenck

The Bible contains several lists of ancestors, called genealogies. There are two basic views concerning these lists: (1) they are complete, recording the entire history of a family, tribe, or nation; or (2) they are not intended to be exhaustive and may include only famous people or the heads of families. "Became the father of" could also mean "was the ancestor of."

Why are genealogies included in the Bible? The Hebrews passed on their beliefs through oral tradition. For many years in many places, writing was primitive or nonexistent. Stories were told to children who passed them on to their children. Genealogies gave a skeletal outline that helped people remember the stories. For centuries these genealogies were added to and passed down from family to family. Even more important than preserving family tradition, genealogies were included to confirm the Bible's promise that the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, would be born into the line of Abraham.

Genealogies point out an interesting characteristic of God. People are important to him as individuals, not just as races or nations. Therefore God refers to people by name, mentioning their life span an descendants.

Life Application Study Bible, emphasis added
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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Well Said: The most dangerous thing you can do ...

The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials "for the sake of humanity," and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Fall Landscape

Julian Onderdonk, Fall Landscape
via Arts Everyday Living

Friday, September 23, 2016

Well Said: Wherever there is love, there is a trinity

Wherever there is love, there is a trinity: a lover, a beloved, and a fountain of love.
St. Augustine

Worth a Thousand Words: Hand in Reflecting Sphere

Hand with Reflecting Sphere, M. C. Escher
via Lines and Colors

St. Pio's Feast Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Well Said: A Seven Year-Old’s Experimentation with a Life of Crime

I walked with purpose and carefully replaced Batman in the comic’s rack. I passed the shelf with the Life Savers. I glanced at the old woman behind the register. She was reading a magazine. I bent down quickly and pretended to tie my shoe. I reached up and grabbed a roll of Wint-O-Green and jammed it into my pocket.

I was surprised by a revelation: I was already guilty. I never thought of that. I always thought that I wasn’t really a thief until I left the store. Not true. I was a thief now. I became one as soon as I demonstrated my intention to steal by putting the candy in my pocket.
Stephen Tobolowsky is a master storyteller as I've mentioned before. Be sure to read the entire piece.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Blue Grotto in Capri

The Blue Grotto in Capri, Jakob Alt

Genesis Notes: Cain's Resume

We may feel that we know much more than we want to about Cain. He is the familiar character who doesn't do what he is supposed to, defies authority, and never sees the light. The Life Application Study Bible profile helps us see the key lessons from Cain's life.

Cain, Henri Vidal, Tuileries Gardens, Paris, 1896
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • First human child
  • First to follow in father's profession, farming
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • When disappointed, reacted in anger
  • Took the negative option even when a positive possibility was offered
  • Was the first murderer
Lessons from his life:
  • Anger is not necessarily a sin, but actions motivated by anger can be sinful. Anger should be the energy behind good action, not evil action
  • What we offer to God must be from the heart -- the best we are and have
  • The consequences of sin may last a lifetime
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Near Eden, which was probably located in present-day Iraq or Iran
  • Occupation: Farmer, then wanderer
  • Relatives: Parents - Adam and Eve, Brother - Abel, Seth and others not mentioned by name
Key verse:
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7)

Cain's story is told in Genesis 4:1-17. He also is mentioned in Hebrews 11:4; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11.
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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Gloria Swanson Reads

Gloria Swanson reading “The Shulamite,” the literary basis for her film called “Under the Lash”. c. 1921
via Awesome People Reading

Well Said: Happy Enough

Miss Celia stares down into the pot like she's looking for her future. "Are you happy, Minny?"

"Why you ask me funny questions like that?"

"But are you?"

"Course I's happy. You happy too. Big house, big yard, husband looking after you." I frown at Miss Celia and I make sure she can see it. Because ain't that white people for you, wondering if they are happy enough.
Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Monday, September 19, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Canning

Joseph Susanka, Canning

Well Said: Who Knows What You Become

“Oh I know what people think. They think big, strong Minnie, she sure can stand up for herself. But they don’t know what a pathetic mess I turn into when Leroy’s beating on me. If afraid to hit back. I’m afraid he’ll leave me if I do. I know it makes no sense and I get so mad at myself for being so weak! How can I love a man who beats me raw? Why do I love a fool drinker? One time I asked him, “Why? Why are you hitting me?” He leaned down and looked me right in the face.

“If I didn’t hit you, Minny, who knows what you become.”

I was trapped in the corner of the bedroom, like a dog. He was beating me with his belt. It was the first time I’d ever really thought about it.

Who knows what I could become, if Leroy would stop goddamn hitting me.
Kathryn Stockett, The Help

Heinlein, Identical Imposters, and Politics

Jesse, Maissa, Paul, and I talk about Double Star by Robert Heinlein. Get it at SFFaudio.

Friday, September 16, 2016

What I've Been Reading: Earthrise, Stir, Kim, and Feeding Your Family's Soul

Rose Point
by M. C. A. Hogarth

(The "Her Instruments" trilogy)

This is a really fun space opera series which is continually flirting with becoming romance novels.

I'll just review Earthrise because you need to read these in order. And if you like Earthrise you'll do as I did ... run off to get the next in the series as soon as you finish the book.

Earthrise is fun Firefly-esque space opera featuring a feisty, resourceful captain and her rag-tag multi-species crew. Struggling for funds to keep them going, Reece takes on a few jobs she probably should investigated more before accepting the pay up front. The book begins with the crew heading into slaver territory to rescue one of the mysterious Eldritch race who live only in legend (and in Reece's guilty pleasure, her romance novels).

From there things go from bad to worse ... and for us, of course, the story gets more fun all the time.

Recently I read a popular space opera, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, which kept coming to mind because it had so many similar elements to this book. The big difference is that this book avoids the flaws of the other which is that it was all talk and almost no action. In Hogarth's books action always has a point, the elements come together in the end, there is character development that the characters have to work for ... and everyone isn't always happy in the end because they don't always get what they want.

In fact, I'd say the flaw with Earthrise is that the captain has a hair trigger and is so consistently angry (the long way to a small angry captain could've been the title). However, it was a forgivable flaw because of how enjoyable the rest of the book was. One of the things I liked most was how many romance novel elements this story packed in without ever really quite turning into a romance novel. As I said — fun.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home
by Jessica Fechtor

On a day like any other, 28-year-old Jessica Fechtor had an aneurysm burst in her brain. She nearly died and lost her sense of smell, the sight in one eye, and suffered a long string of setbacks that continually interfered with her long fight back to normalcy. A key part of her recovery was working toward being able to cook again.

I was interested in this book from the moment I heard of it. It was inspiring in many ways and should I, God forbid, find myself in equally dire straits I hope that I remember her courage and spirit. The story is interesting and I appreciated the author's honesty as well as wanting to try a lot of the recipes. Yet I still felt fairly detached from the book. Eventually I really just wanted to see how the story came out. If there'd been a Wikipedia entry with enough of the details I'd have gone to that about halfway through.

Which is to say, I guess, that her writing wasn't gripping although her experience was. So not a book to savor but good enough to read.

by Rudyard Kipling

Most people know at least the basics about this novel. Kim, the orphaned son of an Irish trooper, grows up as a street urchin in Lahore, India, during British rule. Befriending a holy lama, Kim sets off to help him find the "River of the Arrow" which will cleanse him of his sins.  Kim's been earning cash for some time by carrying coded intelligence messages and this when this him to the attention of the British his fate is changed.

I have tried this multiple times and never gotten past the first few chapters. A friend brought Kim up as necessary to fully appreciating Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy, which I love.

So I bit the bullet and plowed through those chapters and straight into India and the Great Game. I admit I really enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book and then lost interest toward the end. I think that's my problem, not the book's.

I can see why this is a classic. I really loved the descriptions of India and the people. The enduring love of the lama and Kim was endearing and what carried me through the book. I think I'll try it again sometime as an audio book. I kept wanting someone to read it to me.

Feeding Your Family's Soul
by Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

This is for every mother who ever wished they could transform dinner into a more spiritual experience. I feel as if many families will now have Sunday dinner with more purpose if they use the 52 lessons in this book.

Each lesson has a theme ranging from topics like one of the ten focusing on a commandments to how to live a Christian life (example: doing small things with love) to Catholic teachings (example: honoring Mary).  There's a paragraph for contemplation, opening prayer, table teaching to read aloud, reflection questions, closing prayer, optional activities for later in the week, and usually a recipe.

This is the sort of guide that would be great for any Catholic family. It's practical, not sappy, grounded, and the recipes are family friendly (both for collaborative cooking and for turning out something a wide range of people would enjoy). Also, for those who might be trying to make cooking and dinner time more of a family focus, this would be a good place to begin.

There's a GoodReads giveaway you can sign up for through Sept. 23

Genesis Notes: Abel's Resume

All we really know about Abel is that he was a shepherd and his offering pleased God. As with Adam and Eve, I like the way that the Life Application Study Bible profile makes the key lessons from Abel's life stand out.

Icon of Abel by Theophanes the Greek
The Bible doesn't tell us why God liked Abel's gift and disliked Cain's, but both Cain and Abel knew what God expected. Only Abel obeyed. Throughout history, Abel is remembered for his obedience and faith (Hebrews 11:4), and he is called "righteous" (Matthew 23:35).

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • First member of the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11
  • First shepherd
  • First martyr for truth (Matthew 23:35)
Lessons from his life:
  • God hears those who come to him
  • God recognizes the innocent person and sooner or later punishes the guilty
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Just outside of Eden
  • Occupation: Shepherd
  • Relatives: Parents - Adam and Eve, Brother - Cain
Key verse:
"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead" (Hebrews 11:4)

Abel's story is told in Genesis 4:1-8. He also is mentioned in Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51; Hebrews 11:4 and 12:24
Here are a few extra tidbits of interesting information via Wikipedia. At least they interested me.
In Christianity, comparisons are sometimes made between the death of Abel and that of Jesus, the former thus seen as being the first martyr. In Matthew 23:35 Jesus speaks of Abel as "righteous", and the Epistle to the Hebrews states that "The blood of sprinkling ... [speaks] better things than that of Abel".(Hebrews 12:24) The blood of Jesus is interpreted as bringing mercy; but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).

Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in the Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass along with those of Abraham and Melchizedek. The Alexandrian Rite commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.
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.

Worth a Thousand Words: Golden Field

Golden Field
taken by Remo Savisaar

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Blogging Around: 4 Movies and a Book Edition

What if a gun had a soul and didn't want to be a gun?

Any fan of Iron Giant recognizes the "gun with a soul" as the main theme of Brad Bird's film, which was declared an instant children's classic. We were always so sorry that it got no marketing help and died at the box office. 15 years later there's a new signature Blu-Ray edition out.

Stephen D. Greydanus has a wonderful look at a film which is a favorite in the HC household.

Two Takes on Florence Foster Jenkins

  • DarwinCatholics: Three fine performances, and a deeply unstable moral core.
  • Orson Scott Card: What could have been a cruel satire on a talentless old woman becomes a beautiful portrait of people who are trying to make the world a better place.
Both interpretations seem valid, based on the reviews, though I did have to skim a lot of Card's because it had more plot sharing than I wanted.  I'll have to wait until I see the film to decide who I agree with. Either way I want to see the movie.

Mel Gibson — Hacksaw Ridge and Passion of Christ Sequel

A Mighty Fortress by S. D. Thames

[Cue sound effect: Ringing bell.] We have a winner! From a quarter where I wouldn’t have expected to find one! A Mighty Fortress is a first (full-length) novel by an author I’d never heard of. It has so much going against it – it’s a Christian novel (which usually means low quality, let’s face it, especially when the authors are starting out). It’s a hard-boiled mystery into which the author injects supernatural and theological elements. There are even miracles. The miracle for me is how well this thing worked, and how much I loved it.
Sign me up. Read the full review at Brandywine Books.

Worth a Thousand Words: Boys Herding Donkeys

Willem Maris, Boys herding donkeys

Our Lady of Sorrows

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905), Pietà, 1876
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many is Israel and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Luke 2:34-35
Any mother suffers when their child suffers. It is like a sword piercing their heart. However, Mary was no ordinary mother and her son was no ordinary son. John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Mater, commented:
Simeon's words seem like a "Second Annunciation" to Mary for they tell her of the historical circumstances in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely in misunderstanding and sorrow ... They also reveal that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering at the Saviour's side and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.
If we stop to consider it, Mary must overcome many troubling and sorrowful circumstances through her life, beginning with trusting that Joseph will understand her pregnancy before their marriage. The circumstances of Jesus' birth, their flight into Egypt, then the trip to Nazareth where they must become established yet again, Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem, and much more are her lot. Jesus sees fit to spare her none of these experiences, including witnessing his death inflicted in the most shameful manner the Romans can invent as the result of lies and conspiracy.
Today's feast is an occasion for us to accept all the adversity we encounter as personal purification, and to co-redeem with Christ. Mary our Mother teaches us not to complain in the midst of trials as we know she never would. She encourages us to unite our sufferings to the sacrifice of her son and so offer them as spiritual gifts for the benefit of our family, the Church, and all humanity.

The suffering we have at hand to sanctify often consists in small daily reverses. Extended periods of waiting, sudden changes of plans, and projects that do not turn out as we expected are all common examples. At times setbacks come in the form of reduced circumstances. Perhaps at a given moment we even lack necessities such as a job to support our family. Practicing the virtue of detachment well during such moments will be a great means for us to imitate and unite ourselves to Christ ...

The particular circumstances are frequently the most trying dimension of sickness. Perhaps its unexpected duration, our own helplessness or the dependence on others it engenders is the most difficult part of all. Maybe the distress due to solitude or the impossibility of fulfilling our duties of state is most taxing ... We ask Jesus for an increase of love, and tell him slowly and with complete abandonment as we have perhaps so often told him in a variety of situations: Is this what you want Lord? ... Then it is what I want too.
Is this what you want Lord? ... Then it is what I want too.

That is what hit me hard about this reflection. How often in my life should I say that instead of trying to dodge around what I know I should do? Way too often is my sorry response.

Except for this last bit, everything here is either quoted directly or paraphrased from In Conversation with God: Daily Meditations, Volume Seven, Special Feasts: July - December.

Well Said: When Hatred is a Pleasure

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, "Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that," or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
This is at the end of a chapter about loving one's neighbor, even in the eventuality that the person is a real enemy. Lewis, of course, had Nazis freshly to mind. We have ISIS and the like to consider. He gives very helpful examples about how to come to grips with loving the sinner while hating the sin.

I hope, unlikely to come across a member of ISIS. I am, as we all are right now, very likely to come across someone who passionately supports a political candidate or opinion I despise. Keep that in mind and then reread the quote above.

Here is the key bit and one which I was shocked to realize I recognized in myself: "is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible?"

It is then that we realize, as Lewis puts it later, that "hatred [is] such a pleasure that to give it up is like giving up beer or tobacco."

It is that we must fight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Well Said: Gentlefolks' rock of idleness

Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward rock ahead in life — the rock ahead of their own idleness. Their lives being, for the most part, passed in looking about them for something to do, it is curious to see — especially when their tastes are of what is called the intellectual sort — how often they drift blindfold into some nasty pursuit. Nine times out of ten they take to torturing something, or to spoiling something — and they firmly believe they are improving their minds, when the plain truth is, they are only making a mess in the house. I have seen them (ladies, I am sorry to say, as well as gentlemen) go out, day after day, for example, with empty pill-boxes, and catch newts, and beetles, and spiders, and frogs, and come home and stick pins through the miserable wretches, or cut them up, without a pang of remorse, into little pieces. You see my young master, or my young mistress, poring over one of their spiders' insides with a magnifying-glass; or you meet one of their frogs walking downstairs without his head — and when you wonder what this cruel nastiness means, you are told that it means a taste in my young master or my young mistress for natural history. Sometimes, again, you see them occupied for hours together in spoiling a pretty flower with pointed instruments, out of a stupid curiosity to know what the flower is made of. Is its colour any prettier, or its scent any sweeter, when you DO know? But there! the poor souls must get through the time, you see — they must get through the time. You dabbled in nasty mud, and made pies, when you were a child; and you dabble in nasty science, and dissect spiders, and spoil flowers, when you grow up. In the one case and in the other, the secret of it is, that you have got nothing to think of in your poor empty head, and nothing to do with your poor idle hands. And so it ends in your spoiling canvas with paints, and making a smell in the house; or in keeping tadpoles in a glass box full of dirty water, and turning everybody's stomach in the house; or in chipping off bits of stone here, there, and everywhere, and dropping grit into all the victuals in the house; or in staining your fingers in the pursuit of photography, and doing justice without mercy on everybody's face in the house. It often falls heavy enough, no doubt, on people who are really obliged to get their living, to be forced to work for the clothes that cover them, the roof that shelters them, and the food that keeps them going. But compare the hardest day's work you ever did with the idleness that splits flowers and pokes its way into spiders' stomachs, and thank your stars that your head has got something it MUST think of, and your hands something that they MUST do.
Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
Yes, The Moonstone is a mystery but it is also hilarious, especially when Gabriel the steward is telling the story.

Worth a Thousand Words: Tam Gan

Tam Gan, 1914, Robert Henri

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Exaltation of the Cross, Russian icon

Some time ago I read Anthony Esolen's commentary in Magnificat about the elevation of the cross from the point of view of an English monk's meditation written in the Middle Ages from the point of view of the cross itself. It has haunted me, in a good way I hasten to add, as I would come upon small annoyances and inconveniences and then remember the image of the young Hero as a warrior striding toward the cross. Shame on me if I do not at least attempt to match that valiant attitude.
For it is not a shy and effeminate Jesus, this Savior of ours, the Healer, the Chieftain. No courageous German could respect a man who did not fight. And will Christ own us, if we do not fight for him? The poet dares to make us see Calvary in a way that we are not used to -- but in a way that is right and just nevertheless. Says the cross:

Then the young Hero ungirt himself -- that was God almighty,
strong, stiff-willed, and strode to the gallows,
climbed stout-hearted in the sight of many; intended to set men free.

Yes, Jesus sweated blood in Gethsemane. But he took the cross to himself, suggests our poet, as eagerly as the warrior takes the battlefield, or the bridegroom takes the bride. He needs no armor here. He strips himself, he climbs. And though it all the cross, as the first and most loyal follower of the Chieftain, stands firm; trembles, but does not bow; is drenched with blood and driven through with the same spikes that pierce the body of Christ.
Applying this to my daily life with its small and petty sacrifices, this helps immeasurably when I am reminding myself that my time is not really my own, that making a meal for a friend in need takes priority over my previous plans, and that even such a small thing is a step toward becoming a warrior in the young Hero's footsteps. It is surprising how contented one can be when embracing the cross with such an example.


This commentary is from 2008 and I repeat it here because it did me good to read it this morning.

It is rare that I relate to the daily reading in Magnificat from the saints who wrote a really long time ago. I always read them though because you never can tell just when something is going to hit you right between the eyes.

As did this from Saint Symeon the New theologian (died 1022):
... For Christians the cross is magnification, glory, and power: for all our power is in the power of Christ who was crucified; all our sinfulness is mortified by the death of Christ on the cross; and all our exaltation and all our glory are in the humility of God, who humbled himself to such an extent that he was pleased to die even between evil-doers and thieves. For this very reason Christians who believe in Christ sign themselves with the sign of the cross not simply, not just as it happens, not carelessly, but with all heedfulness, with fear and with trembling, and with extreme reverence. For the image of the cross shows the reconciliation and friendship into which man has entered with God.

Therefore the demons also fear the image of the cross, and they do not endure to see the sign of the cross depicted even in the air, but they flee from this immediately knowing that the cross is the sign of the friendship of men with God...

Those who have understood this mystery and in very fact have known in experience the authority and power which the cross has over demons, have likewise understood that the cross gives the soul strength, power, meaning, and divine wisdom... To the degree of the reverence which one has toward the cross, he receives corresponding power and help from God. To him may there be glory and dominion for ever. Amen.
Just a little something to remind me not to make the sign of the cross automatically, as so often happens, I am very sorry to say. I must be heedful of what that sign has cost and what that sign means for me in my relationship with God.


I like this commentary also, which I posted a few years ago, from Word Among Us, which comments upon the strangeness of the feast and the fact that we are reading about poisonous serpents. Good stuff.


This is short, but good. And says it all.

The cross is the hope of Christians.
The cross is the resurrection of the dead.
The cross is the way of the lost.
The cross is the saviour of the lost.
The cross is the staff of the lame.
The cross is the guide of the blind.
The cross is the strength of the weak.
The cross is the doctor of the sick.
The cross is the aim of the priests.
The cross is the hope of the hopeless.
The cross is the freedom of the slaves.
The cross is the power of the kings.
The cross is the water of the seeds.
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen.
the cross is the source of those who seek water.
The cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Well Said: The Lines

“She just don’t see ‘em. The lines. Not between her and me, not between her and Hilly.”

Aibeleen takes a long sip of her tea. Finally I look at her. “What you so quiet for? I know you got an opinion bout all this.”

“You gone accuse me of philosophizing.”

“Go ahead,” I say, “I aint afraid a no philosophy.”

“It ain’t true.”

“Say what?”

“You talking about something that don’t exist.”

I shake my head at my friend. “Not only is they lines, but you know as good as I do where them lines be drawn.”

Aibeleen shakes her head. “I used to believe in em. I don’t anymore. They in our heads. People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there, but they ain’t.”

“I know they’re there cause you get punished for crossing ‘em,” I say. “Least I do.”

“Lot of folks think that if you talk back to you husband, you crossed the line. And that justifies punishment. You believe in that line?”

I scowl at the table. “You know I ain’t studying no line like that.”

“Cause that line ain’t there. Except in Leroy’s head. Lines between black and white ain’t there neither. Some folks just made those up, long time ago. And that go for the white trash and so-ciety ladies, too.”

Thinking of Miss Celia coming out with that fire poker when she could’ve hid behind the door, I don’t know. I get a twinge. I want her to understand how it is with Miss Hilly. But how do you tell a fool like her?

“So you saying there ain’t no line between the help and the boss either?”

Aibleleen shakes her head. “They’d just positions, like on a checkerboard. Who works for who don’t mean nothing.”

“So I ain’t crossing no line if I tell Miss Celia the truth, that she ain’t good enough for Miss Hilly? I pick my cup up. I’m trying hard to get this, but my cut’s thumping against my brain. “But wait, if I tell her Miss Hilly’s our of her league…then ain’t I sayin’ there is a line?”

Aibeleen laughs. She pats my hand. “All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”
Kathryn Stockett, The Help
I just listened to the audiobook which makes a wonderful book even better.

Worth a Thousand Words: Portrait of Father

Portrait of Father, 1884, Bruno Liljefors

Monday, September 12, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Cat on a Flowerbed

Bruno Liljefors, Cat on a Flowerbed (or in a Meadow), 1887
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: Bibles in need of customized repair

And he had a couple of Bibles in need of customized repair, and those were an easy fifty dollars apiece – just brace the page against a piece of plywood in a frame and scorch out the verses the customers found intolerable, with a wood-burning stylus; a plain old razor wouldn’t have the authority that hot iron did. And then of course drench the defaced book in holy water to validate the edited text. Matthew 19:5-6 and Mark 10:7-12 were bits he was often asked to burn out, since they condemned re-marriage after divorce, but he also got a lot of requests to lose Matthew 25:41 through 46, with Jesus’s promise of Hell to stingy people. And he offered a special deal to eradicate all thirty or so mentions of adultery. Some of these customized Bibles ended up after a few years with hardly any weight besides the binding.
Tim Powers, The Bible Repairman

The Father Had Two Sons

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1669, via Web Gallery of Art

The parable of the prodigal son is my very favorite parable.

I know I'm not alone in this. It is one of those with so many layers of meaning and also one to which we all can relate, whether it is with the prodigal or elder son.

I'd bet, though, a lot of parishes heard homilies about the prodigal son, while the elder son wasn't even mentioned. That's what happened to us. It is easy to understand why. We love the father's forgiveness, kindness, and mercy. Many people relate to the prodigal son so that makes his reunion with the father even more poignant.

What gets forgotten is the context that made Jesus tell the parable in the first place.

It is not really equally about the two sons. The struggles of both are important but Jesus is telling this parable to the Pharisees in response to their complaints about the time he spends with sinners. He's trying to get them to understand the prodigal son's journey, the father's joyful love, and the problems with the elder son's response.

The whole point of this parable is the complaints of the elder son and the father's pleading with him.

Sadly, it took me a very long time to even understand what the problem was with the elder son's complaints. They seemed pretty reasonable to me. Which says a lot about my basic personality. But once I did, it put a whole new cast on the story, one that stuck with me.

I wonder if many of us don't have a lot more in common with the elder son than we'd like to think.  How many times have I issued internal judgment on those around me? How many times have I patted myself on the back for how good I am and, therefore, how much better? How many times have I craved praise while deploring the "less worthy" who received it instead?

And that is part of the point too. Just as our fellow Christians are equally sons, we are equally sinners ... just maybe not in as public a way as those we judge. Reading the parable, we notice that Jesus leaves it open-ended. We don't know what the elder son does. Is there a conversion of heart? Not all Pharisees were hostile to Jesus. Was it partially because they reflected on parables like this one?

Our priest drew a final conclusion about the prodigal son that we shouldn't love God just for the things he can give us, that we need to seek out a personal relationship with Him. That is insightful and can be applied equally to the elder son. He talks to his father as if he were an employer, not someone he loves. As in the Rembrandt painting above, he stands in judgment of his father's mercy and forgiveness. There is nothing personal or loving in him.

Here is the parable, having removed the parables of the sheep and coin that Jesus tells first to make His point. Those have value and do add to the meaning of the main parable, but I thought I'd put the streamlined version here to make it easy to look at the family's journey.
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

So to them he addressed this parable.

Then he said, "A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' So the father divided the property between them.

After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.

Coming to his senses he thought, 'How many of my father's hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers."'

So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.'

But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' Then the celebration began.

Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, 'Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'

He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, 'Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.'

He said to him, 'My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11: Still We Mourn

The northeast face of Two World Trade Center (south tower) after being struck by plane in the south face.
Via Wikipedia
It still hurts. I guess this date will hurt until the day I die.

These say what still is in my heart:

Still the best tribute video.

• September 11: Our Memories and Our Determination

• Remembering the tragic, sudden, and violent loss of 2,996 innocent Americans

• Captain Daniel O'Callaghan: Have Mercy on Me Now and at the Hour of My Death. Amen.

• 9/11, Our Choices and Making a Stand

Piece of Flight 93 fuselage found at crash site
Via Wikipedia

Friday, September 9, 2016

Well Said: Time to pause and reflect

Whenever you find you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Mark Twain
Note that Twain is not telling us to have a knee-jerk reaction against being part of the majority, but that we should be sure we understand what we are participating in. 

That sort of self-examination is valuable no matter what the issues, if for no other reason than to make sure we really understand both sides.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Reding Fountain

Guillermo Gómez Gil, La fuente de Reding (The Reding Fountain)

Day of Prayer for Peace

Nothing could be a more perfect day for this than St. Peter Claver's memorial day.
In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has invited faith communities across the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities on September 9th.

To assist in observance of this occasion, USCCB is offering a Prayer for Peace in Our Communities prayer card that you can download. Here's the prayer:
Let us pray …

O Lord our God, in your mercy and kindness,
no thought of ours is left unnoticed, no desire or
concern ignored.

You have proven that blessings abound
when we fall on our knees in prayer,
and so we turn to you in our hour of need.

Surrounded by violence and
cries for justice, we hear your voice telling us what is
required . . .
“Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God”
(Mi 6:8).

Fill us with your mercy so that we, in turn, may be
merciful to others.
Strip away pride, suspicion, and racism
so that we may seek peace and justice in our

Strengthen our hearts so that they beat only to the
rhythm of your holy will.
Flood our path with your light as we walk humbly
toward a future
filled with encounter and unity.

Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts, for only by the
prompting of your grace
can we progress toward virtue.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.


St. Peter Claver's Memorial

Peter Claver was born of a distinguished family in Catalonia, Spain. He became a Jesuit in 1604, and left for Colombia in 1610, dedicating himself to the service of black slaves. For thirty-three years he ministered to slaves, caring for the sick and dying, and instructing the slaves through catechists. Through his efforts three hundred thousand souls entered the Church.
I have loved Peter Claver from the first time I read about him. I can't believe I haven't mentioned him here before. The brief description above doesn't do justice to his heroic efforts: going to the slave ships with water, medicine, food, and clothing; working and living among slaves on plantations in order to minister to them; ministering to all levels of society in Cartagena from the wealthy to Muslims to criminals.

Take a few minutes and read more about this saint who shows the extraordinary difference that ordinary people can make when they follow God's promptings.

O God, who made Saint Peter Claver a slave of slaves
and strenghtened him with wonderful charity and patience
as he came to their help,
grant, through his intercession,
that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ,
we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Well Said: Meaning for Your Life

Don't invent a meaning for your life. It is there. Find it.
Dr. Viktor Frankl
This makes me think of Mother Theresa (now Saint TeresA) saying, "Find your own Calcutta." What are we overlooking in our own lives in our efforts to become more important, glamorous, or meaningful somewhere else? There is nothing wrong with striving for more and that sometimes takes us somewhere else. But often there is the ignored neighbor, the friend with annoying habits, the old person in our lives who is silently crying out for human attention. A cup of coffee with one of them may mean just as much, in the Divine scheme of things, as a day on the streets of Calcutta for someone else. Because we are right here, right now, for God to use.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Beach at Heist

George Lemmen, Plage a Heist (The Beach at Heist), c. 1891-92

Feast of the Nativity of Mary

Responsory Prayer from today's readings
Let us celebrate today, with great devotion, the birth of Mary, the every-virgin Mother of God, whose virtues shed light upon the Church throughout the world.

Let us glorify Christ with heart and soul on this feast of Mary, the noble Mother of God, whose virtues shed light upon the Church throughout the world.
More about this feast day and the symbols, customs, and activities associated with it can be found at Catholic Culture.

Icon via The Deacon's Bench.

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Short Review: Brilliant fantasy from a world class writer. Super, super, super good. This book comes out in a week and is part one of two. (Because I realize my super-long review ... which you should read anyway ... might be a TLDR for some.) 

The world was made from the blood of gods. The blood of men sustains it now. So said the Sisters of Thorn. Runajo did not believe in the gods, but she didn't doubt the power of spilled blood.

Nobody in Viyara did.
Rosamund Hodge retold Beauty and the Beast in Cruel Beauty and she retold Little Red Riding Hood in Crimson Bound. Not that you'd necessarily know that if you weren't told before you began reading.  Hodge weaves complex tales in completely unique worlds of her own imagining, with heroes and villains whose imperfections make them fascinating and compelling.

Now Romeo and Juliet serve as a springboard into a dystopian fantasy world where there is one city left standing. Without blood the magic will fail and the walls will fall. And when that happens ... the zombies will get in.

This book shows the originating tale a little more clearly than her previous books. There are feuding clans following entrenched beliefs, there are Shakespearean quotes and poetry, there are masked balls, there is forbidden love, and even an apothecary. Romeo and Juliet can never acknowledge their love publicly. However, these elements come in a tale where Romeo and Juliet are side characters compared to the the two narrators.

The righteous atheist Runajo has joined the religious order who maintains the walls because she knows the magic is failing. Seeking long-forgotten spells means finding a way into the Sunken Library, awash in the living dead. When she encounters Juliet, they must offset each other's weaknesses if they are to succeed in averting disaster.

Paris is a pure-hearted true believer in his clan's destiny to help save their people. When his life becomes inextricably bound with Romeo's, his world turns topsy-turvey in a quest that takes them through the lawless underworld of the Lower City.

Paris and Runajo are fully realized, fully complicated human beings with faults, hopes, and internal struggles. We can recognize something of ourselves in them, even as their flaws drive us crazy.  We want them to succeed, even as we wince at some of their assumptions and decisions.

This is told against the backdrop of a culture that can never forget tragedy and death are inevitable, and that the price of life is someone else's blood. The themes are big and the devices, such as doubling, work to give the story depth and complexity beyond the usual dystopian story.
Juliet shook her head. "The word for justice is … I can feel it. Not just as an idea in my head, something I was told or that I made up. It's like the way the sun rises, or stones fall to the ground. It's infinite and eternal and closer than my heartbeat. And when people are hurt—even people who die and are gone and become nothing in the darkness—people my family would say I should care nothing about—I can feel justice scream against it. Nobody in my family understands that. They all think justice is just for use, some kind of—of instructions on how to keep us safe and headed toward the Paths of Light. It's not. It is real and it wants. It wants to reach into every corner of the world, and I was to make that happen. That's what I wanted. To bring justice to the whole city, and not just my people" She drew a ragged breath and fell silent.

Oh, thought Runjo. Her too.

She hadn't known there was anyone else.
A third of the way into this book I realized I was reading a major work of fantasy by an author of immense talent. Is this how people read when Dune was being serialized in Analog magazine? When the Lord of the Rings only had The Fellowship of the Ring published? That they were witnessing something extraordinary?

I can't tell if this book will measure up to those standards yet because it is, unfortunately, being published in two parts. That's annoying. So very annoying. I don't know who planned it that way but whoever did it was wrong to chop it in half. Chop being the operative word.

Nevertheless, my gut feeling remains. This is an incredible book that I cannot wait to finish.

NOTE: The most unfortunate part of the review galley is that it didn't mention that this was the first of two parts. The end was incredibly confusing until I wrote the author to find out what was going on. So if they haven't had the courtesy to make it obvious in the final book, I'm mentioning it here.

Oh yes - Got a review copy. Didn't affect my opinions.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Dezertiri Market

Dezertiri Market
from Eating Asia

Well Said: Belief and the Gospels

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.
St. Augustine
From an old pal of mine, St. Augustine. As is often the case with his observations, nothing could be truer.

Blogging Around: If the mainstream media covered Jesus the way it covered Mother Teresa

“Why didn’t he heal everyone in Capernaum?” asked Rachel, echoing a question found in the new book The Ridiculous Messiah, a lacerating critique of Jesus by Cyrus of Caesaria, the popular Cynic. One of the most damaging charges from the bestselling book is what the author calls the “selectivity” of Jesus’s healing.

Rachel noted, accurately, that many others in Capernaum were known to be ill that day. “My mother has dropsy. My brother has a bad back. And I had a migraine. Jesus didn’t bother to ask if we wanted to be healed.”

Also, say critics, if Jesus was concerned about the sick, why would he not build a proper hospital or shelter?

“He’s a carpenter, isn’t he?” said Rachel. “Build us a hospital!”

Matthew, a former tax collector from Capernaum who follows Jesus as an “apostle” grew animated when he heard that criticism.

“That’s not what he’s here for!” he said. “Others do that. He simply helps people as he meets them.”

“That’s a common defense of him,” says Cyrus, contacted by this reporter through a messenger. “And it’s absurd.”
A classic piece from America magazine. Definitely go read the whole thing. Via Brandon Vogt.