Friday, September 19, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: At the Sunrise

At the Sunrise
taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

Well Said: To Confess Your Sins to God ...

To confess your sins to God is not to tell him anything he doesn't already know. Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you. When you confess them, they become the bridge.
Frederick Buechner
I knew that. But I never saw it so perfectly worded before. Worthy of writing down on a Post-It just to keep in front of me for reflection.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #42: I Wish

If you could wish for anything what would it be?

42. I Wish

I Wish 2011 ★★★★½

This delightful film left us talking about it the rest of the evening and following day. Two brothers hatch a scheme to reunite their separated parents based on an overheard rumor that a wish will come true when made from the spot where the new bullet trains pass each other for the first time.

The first half of the movie is quite slow but we enjoyed just taking in the details of Japanese life as we watched the two brothers in their separate routines. The second half is more engaging as the brothers and their friends scrounge the cash for tickets, figure out how to escape school, and embark upon their quest. Watching how wishes change or are modified, watching how some of these youngsters change their lives based on their wishes, and realizing that most of the people around them have their own wishes is what weaves the enchantment of the piece.

I will be looking for more from this director

(For more Movies You Might Have Missed go to the movie review page and scroll to the bottom.)

Which Chili Will Mom Pick?

Texas-style or Cincinnati-style? Get the recipes and the story at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In which friendship, a newspaper, and a steam fish help our heroes home.

The finale of The People of the Mist by H. Rider Haggard. Hear it at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Worth a Thousand Words: Breeze in the Autumn

Breeze of Autumn photo
taken by Calligraphy in the Landscape
Mark of harvest season approaching.
Color, and taste. It is the master of Japanese food.

The highest quality rice.

初秋や 海も青田も 一みどり 
松尾 芭蕉 (1644 – 1694)

early fall  sea and rice fields  filled with green  
Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)
I urge you to go to the post at Calligraphy in the Landscape, not only to see this photo in greater detail, but to also see all the other lovely images and poetry in the post about autumn.

Well Said: A continual remembrance

Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than it is useful.
Robert Farrar Capon
Yes indeed. Which makes the modern tendency to slam down a meal as fuel all the more deplorable. We all do it from time to time. The trick is to be sure that we are mindful. That we do not make it a habit. That we appreciate the goodness available to us, thanks to the sheer generosity and goodness of God who wants us to have something delicious.

I came across this in The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, a review book I am enjoying. However, it reminded me of Capon's wonderful book The Supper of the Lamb which I recommend to everyone, whether they cook or not.

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma Emma by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a terrific book! I'd heard about how unlikable Emma is as a character and I have to disagree. Yes, she can be infuriating but she is truly sorry for her mistakes, tries to change, and has a sense of humor when she catches herself falling back into her bad habits. I found her lively, open, and lovable. I especially loved the tender way she took care of her father.

Interestingly, everyone in the book falls prey at some point to Emma's habit of drawing completely wrong conclusions except Mr. Woodhouse and Miss Bates. I quickly grew very fond of both those characters who did everything with a great concern for those around them. It was just everyone's misfortune that they had such quirky ways of expressing their concern. Every time they would appear I'd settle back with great enjoyment to hear them talk since they were so hilarious (unintentionally on their parts, completely intentional on that of the author).

It was also interesting to see Austen work with such a closed society. Occasionally people would come or go but our focus is always on Highgate. It was almost like watching a scientific experiment as to what the effect would be on the settled social system by adding a young eligible bachelor or lowbrow social climber. And no wonder people would spend 15 minutes talking about how best to get the mail. Eventually that is one of the greatest points of interest in one's day with so few outside resources. Eventually I would begin laughing when one of those conversations would begin, wondering how long Austen could keep it going by having new people enter the conversation just when it was dying out.

I must mention that I listened to Juliet Stevenson's audiobook and it was simply superb. I credit her with the fact that I enjoyed Mr. Woodhouse, Mrs. Eliot, and Miss Bates so much. Her impeccable inflections, emphases, and characterizations made this book come alive.

All in all, a most delightful book.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Virgin and Child with Saint George and Saint Anthony Abbot

Antonio Pisanello, The Virgin and Child with Saints George and Anthony Abbot
via Wikipedia
[Pisanello's] amazing Saint George in the London National Gallery, in his mostly silver armour, and wearing an enormous straw hat to protect him from the sun-radiance of the Virgin and Child, is the most mannered picture of evil in existence.
Paul Johnson, Art: A New History
I am absolutely captivated by Saint George's hat. I also was struck by the modern feel of the painting in the way the rays of the sun radiate into the atmosphere, causing it to radiate in turn.

Well Said: The Fifth Gospel* — and Jacob's Well

Reading St. John beside Jacob's Well, one realizes that the conversation grew out of the surroundings and could not have been imagined by anyone. The water, the mountain, the road to Sychar on which the Samaritans soon appear, drawn by the news which the woman has carried to the village, are all so life-like, so vivid. And Jesus bade His disciples:

"Life up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."

Critics have written learned dissertations to prove that the fields could not have been white with the harvest: it was too early in the year. And others have provided all kinds of explanations to force this episode into Gospel chronology. But as I sat by Jacob's Well a crowd of Arabs came along the road from the direction in which Jesus was looking, and I saw their white garments shining in the sun.

Surely Jesus was speaking not of the earthly but of the heavenly harvest, and as He spoke I think it likely that He pointed along the road where the Samaritans in their white robes were assembling to hear His words.
H.V. Morton, In the Steps of the Master
Morton writes repeatedly of how his imagination is struck by the fact that the geography and natural situations bring the Gospels to life. This is a particularly vivid example and must be the sort of thing that strikes enthusiastic tourists to this day. (I hope it will be something that I am "awake" enough to catch when we visit ... if you are interested, do check out the link; there is room for more in our group!)

* Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you. (St. Jerome)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: Doge Leonardo Loredan

Giovanni Bellini, portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan
via Wikipedia
The Doge Leonardo Loredan (1501-1505) by Giovanni Bellini shows how a great master can turn a formal state portrait into both a penetrating study of character and an image of beauty. ...He had a wonderful eye for a face and huge skill at getting it down on panel. He broke the old Venetian tradition that a ruler could only be presented in a formal "medal" profile, by showing the Doge Leonardo Loredan in an almost frontal position, a faultless work which many would rate one of the best half-dozen portraits ever painted.
Paul Johnson, Art: A Modern History
All I know is that when I look at this portrait it almost looks as if someone photographed a modern face and stuck it between the hat and cape. Simply amazing.

Ancillary Justice discussion at SFFaudio

The SFFaudio gang (Jesse, Bryan Alexander, Tamahome and I) have mixed reactions to Hugo-winner Ancillary Justice (which I liked a lot, by the way).

Blog Tour for "The Feasts" - The Holy Angels

The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as CatholicsThe Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics by Donald Cardinal Wuerl

I reviewed The Feasts yesterday. Today, as part of the blog tour, we'll take a look at The Holy Angels bit of the book which includes The Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael on September 29 and the Memorial of the Guardian Angels on October 2.

Devotion to the angels is something integral to the life of God's people. It is a practice that christians and Jews have kept since ancient times, and for good reason. Angels do not move people like chess pieces. They live in relationship with us. The prophet Zechariah quizzed the angels sent to guide him. The young man Tobias spent days in conversation with his heavenly traveling companion. Saint Augustine often described our relationships with the angels as "friendship." God created us to be social, and our society is both earthly and heavenly. It includes family members who look like we do, and family members who are pure spirits and have no physical appearance whatsoever. Yet they are with us, and we should acknowledge them, and we should be grateful for their help.
The Feasts contains one of the best short summaries of angels I've ever seen. In just a few pages we are told the nature of angels and the Scriptural evidence, introduced to the archangels and guardian angels, and told about Michaelmas as a traditional day.

I know whereof I speak. I have read many books about angels.


What made me grab these feast days for the blog tour was recalling that in the fall after I entered the Church I was just beginning to observe the liturgical year a bit more than the basics. I had just splurged for the devotional In Conversation with God, Feasts July-December by Francis Fernandez when Tom's father had a stroke and we had to rush to Houston.

It was a dire time with much worse news than we could have imagined about his health. I remember brushing my teeth but needing something inspirational no matter how late it was in the day. Wanting to "do it right" I plunged in at our chronological point in time to see what upcoming feasts to expect. It was the Feast of the Archangels and the way this book did it was to not skimp over a single one. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael each had their own fascinating three-part feast written up. And right behind it — the Guardian Angels! Hey, I'd been wondering about them!

The knowledge of those angels helped hold me up during those days of trial.

That was my first introduction to the idea that I could have my own relationship not only with angels but with feast days. I now have some that I celebrate although our local parish doesn't mention them. I know that somewhere in the world there are parishes who are uniting with me in celebrating yet another unique way that our lives are united to that of Christ.

In those early days I was fumbling my way through understanding feast days and angels and many other "basics" of Catholic life. I'd definitely have welcomed a book like The Feasts which not only informs but inspires.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words: The Meeting Scene

Andrea Mantegna (1431–1506), The Court of Mantua
via Wikipedia
I love how realistic this is. I discovered it in Paul Johnson's "Art: A New History" where he tells us:
The Camera delgi Sposi, being an exercise in contemporary realism, is perhaps the most authentic presentation of court life in Italy's golden age that we possess. The painter actually witnessed it, and the two main scenes, one outdoors (The Meeting), one indoors (The Signing of the Contract), take us straight into the world of marriage diplomacy, ceremony, intrigue and secret manoeuvering we read about in letters and chronicles. That world was later described by Machiavelli in The Prince and by Castiglione in The Courtier. But Mantegna's cold brush brings it horribly to life. I say horribly because, though there is exquisite beauty in the room, particularly in the rendering of the young, their elders have hearts of ice. ... there are no tricks about the figures, which have a Flemish realism. They are the actual faces of living people--fifteenth-century Italians of the urban, courtly breed, whispering in ready ears, hiding their deepest thoughts, making honeyed speeches, dissimulating and boasting, Cutting a bella figura while keeping their poignards sharp, strutting for effect and feigning every kind of emotion ... As in all Mantegna's works, one learns a great deal because, though a master of illusionistic devices, he always tells the truth.

Lagniappe: As the sun goes down ...

As the sun goes down, a stillness falls over Egypt. Water channels that cross the field turn to the colour of blood, then to bright yellow that faces into silver. The palm trees might be cut from black paper and pasted against the incandescence of the sky. Brown hawks that hang all day above the sugar-cane and the growing wheat are seen no more and, one by one, the stars burn over the sandhills and lie caught in the stiff fronds of the date palms.

It is this moment which remains for ever as a memory of Egypt, a moment when day is over and night has not yet unfolded her wings, a strange between-time in whose tremendous hush the earth seems listening for a message from the sky. The fierce day dies and the sand loses its heat and all things are for a brief space without shadow.
H.V. Morton, In the Steps of the Master
Isn't this as good as a rest? Read it slowly, let your mind's eye place you there, and take it all in. H.V. Morton is superb at telling us the history and people of a place, but I have never seen anyone dwell upon his lyrical descriptions. They are scattered throughout this book and come to me almost with a shock as he suddenly stops talking about being a tourist and turns attention to the physical.

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.

Huzzah! Another Special Day! Reviewing "The Feasts" by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina

The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as CatholicsThe Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics by Donald Cardinal Wuerl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Church's calendar is an intricate, complex, and beautiful technology. It is the work of many human hands and human minds trained to deal with holy things. The seasons turn and the feasts interplay like the gears in a priceless clock. They regulate our religious life and enrich our spiritual life.

They seem to happen automatically, but only because the Church oversees the apparatus, averts temporal collisions, and finely tunes all the components to make the year as festive as it can be.
I am not sure exactly why but one of the things I have always loved about the Church is the liturgical year. The idea that there are a steady series of seasons and feast days linked with our calendar year enhances the richness of my life. Perhaps it is because my mother taught us to love nature and the turn of seasons simply because she herself loves them so much. Perhaps it is because, long before I was a Christian, I read and reread Rumer Godden's masterpiece In This House of Brede where the liturgical year is a continual background to the story.
“Don’t you see, it’s like a pageant. Our Cardinal has said the liturgy entertains as well as feeds us ... Yes, we’re not angels but humans," said Dame Clare, "and human nature is made so that it needs variety. The Church is like a wise mother and has given us this great cycle of the liturgical year with its different words and colours. You’ll see how you will learn to welcome the feast days and the saints’ days as they come round, each with a different story and, as it were, a different aspect; they grow very dear, though still exacting.”
Having unknowingly absorbed all that I suppose it is only fitting that I really enjoyed The Feasts. It covers the background and reasons for feast days, the liturgical calendar (and our calendar in general), and how these enrich our Christian lives. Even those of us who are well informed on the subject will find new information as well as good reminders of things we may have forgotten. For example this is supremely logical but just never occurred to me:
Sunday did not become simply a Christian version of the Sabbath. Christians were wary of enforcing a day of rest, as such enforcement had been turned on Jesus during his earthly ministry (see, for example, Mark 2:23-27). In any event, most Christians could not refrain from labor on Sunday because it was an ordinary workday in the Greco-Roman world.

Christian observance centered on the Mass, which was in most places offered very early in the morning (before work), but sometimes also in the evening (after work). ...
Certainly The Feasts is a worthy accompaniment to Cardinal Wuerl's and Mike Aquilina's previous two books, The Church and The Mass. Taken all together they provide a thorough, accessible, and much needed look at aspects of the Roman Catholic faith which seem very mysterious to outside eyes.

Tomorrow, I'll participate in the Blog Tour for this book by looking more closely at a particular feast. In this case, it will be that for The Holy Angels (which will surprise no one who is a regular reader of this blog).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

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 sweat 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, also from Magnificat.

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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekend Joke: Changing that Light Bulb

Because those are some of my favorite jokes, don't you know? Here are my favorites.
How many Proletarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None, the light bulb contains the seeds of its own revolution.


How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one but the light bulb has to want to change.


How many Boxers does it take to change a light bulb?

Doesn't matter. You can still play with the ball in the dark!