Saturday, August 27, 2016

Feast of St. Monica, Housewife and Mother

Painting of Augustine of Hippo and his mother Monica of Hippo,
Ary Scheffer, 1846
via Wikipedia
Widow; born of Christian parents at Tagaste, North Africa, in 333; died at Ostia, near Rome, in 387.

She was married early in life to Patritius who, a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name. His temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius’s mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. Monica’s almsgiving and her habits of prayer annoyed her husband, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence and he converted to Christianity before he died.

Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a veritable apostolate amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.

Monica had three children but all her anxiety centred in her oldest son. He was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. As he grew up, he kept seeking the truth but getting interested in heresies. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.”

There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica pursuing her wayward son to Rome, wither he had gone by stealth; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing her yield, after seventeen years of resistance.

Mother and son had six months of true peace together after his baptism. Then Monica died and her son went on to become St. Augustine, one of the one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity

  • difficult marriages
  • disappointing children
  • victims of adultery or unfaithfulness
  • victims of (verbal) abuse
  • conversion of relatives
I helped out with our parish's RCIA classes for a couple of years and would give a talk about St. Monica which included the above basics as well as my personal experience with her and St. Augustine. It made me realize that, without thinking about it, I'd grown very fond of St. Monica.

Burial of Saint Monica and Saint Augustine
Departing from Africa Master of Osservanza
via Wikipedia

Friday, August 26, 2016

Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art

Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art

"The greatest artists, in representing the life of Christ, did something even more difficult: they explored the fundamental experiences of every human life. Pictures about Jesus's childhood, teachings, sufferings and death are—regardless of our beliefs—in a very real sense pictures about us." Seeing Salvation offers pointed insights regarding the relationship between artists' representations of Christ and the evolution of Christian culture. This sweeping account of centuries' worth of history is enlivened by a wealth of detailed observations.
This book is a wonderful look at how art has reflected the changing Christian beliefs through history. What elevates this book is that the writer is always respectful both of the reality of history and of the belief of the artists. The chapters range from the Incarnation to the end of time, with each ending on an inspirational note which ties the reader into the faith which inspired the art.

A really good book whether read for art, history or inspirational purposes.

Lagniappe: Arthur C. Clarke and Reader's Digest

I believe this [A Fall of Moondust] was probably Reader's Digest's first essay into science fiction, but I have never been able to bring myself to sample the result -- not because I fear that the Pleasantville editors may have butchered my deathless prose, but because I'm scared they may have improved it.
Arthur C. Clarke, introduction to A Fall of Moondust

Worth a Thousand Words: Flaming June

Frederic Leighton, Flaming June, 1895
I simply love looking at this gorgeous painting, the fresh and beautiful young woman, and thinking about the wisp of dazzling vista presented tantalizingly behind her.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words / Well Said: Three Kings in the New World

Adoration of the Kings, Diego de la Puente
Around 1650 Diego de la Puente, a Flemish-born Jesuit priest and painter working in Peru, created an altarpiece of the Adoration of the Kings specifically designed to allow the local congregation in the Jesuit church in Juli to find their place in the story. ...

Balthazar the Spaniard presents a case of Spanish gold coins. The black Gaspar offers myrrh. But it is the native Indian King Melchior who brings frankincense, the offering due to a god. And there can be no doubt that this king comes from Titicaca — he and his retinue are shown in front of one of the sacred mountains of Juli. They have the characteristic facial features of the Aymara people that can still be seen in the streets of the town. The king himself wears the headdress, fringe and costume of a local chieftain — who thus leads his people freely, long before their conquest by Europeans, from idolatry to the worship of the one true God.

Matthew's Magi have come a long way. From the catacombs to Lake Titicaca, artists have shown them with Byzantine emperors, German Kings, Medici bankers and South American chieftains. Yet throughout all the evident political manipulations, the meaning of these representations of the Magi remains constant: they behold and proclaim the utter universality of Christ.
Seeing Salvation, Neil MacGregor

Genesis Notes: Her Seed—Resurrection and the Tree of Life

The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

We finish the look forward with some more amazing revelations. Not only did this keep opening my eyes but it left me with a whole new appreciation for the deeper meaning of Jesus's sacrifice and the cross.

Titian, Noli me tangere (Don't touch me)

The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
Who was the very first gardener on earth? It was Adam, of course. God planted a garden for Adam and put him in charge of it. Adam, however, failed in his responsibilities. He did not keep that garden safe and had to be sent away from it. For Mary Magdalene to mistake Jesus as "the gardener" is a profound clue to us of what has actually happened in this Garden of Resurrection. He is, in fact, the "Gardener." He is the New Adam, who will not fail to keep His Father’s vineyard safe and make it fruitful. All things have been made new ...

Jesus, as the New Adam, had to re-trace the human steps leading up to the first Adam’s capitulation. For Him, it came down to a choice to obey God and suffer a torturous death or to avoid suffering, putting His own welfare first. We know that Jesus embraced His suffering. He entered fully and without reserve the step that would be the final and unequivocal proof of His love for God. This was the step man was originally designed to take ...

The devil does not have ultimate power of life and death. He is only a creature; God alone has that power.
These verses suggest that the "power" the devil has in death is the fear that it produces in human nature. The fear of death keeps men in bondage to the devil. How? Think of the scene in Garden of Gethsemane. The fear of death in Jesus had the potential to turn Him away from God’s will. In Jesus we are able to see that choosing God over ourselves can be painful. It is a kind of death to ourselves. In the case of Jesus, it eventually led to a physical death as well. Think of Adam in Eden. To resist the temptation of the devil would have required a death in Adam-if not physical, then surely a death to what he wanted to gain by eating the forbidden fruit. For Jesus to die and rise again strips the devil of his most potent weapon against man. If death could not hold Jesus, He is really the One with power over it. He was "bruised" in the process, but in another Great Reversal, the death of Jesus (and the appearance of victory for the devil) turned the world upside down, and the serpent slithers away with a mortal wound (see CCC 635).

The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
We know that the first sacrament appeared in Eden, where men could have eaten fruit and lived forever. If Jesus, the New Adam, has made it possible for men to experience a new birth that restores them to the life Adam and Eve had before the fall, it should not surprise us to find that Jesus offers Himself as food and drink for those seeking eternal life. We have seen many signs in the New Testament that "the woman" and her "seed" came not only to battle the enemy but also to open a way for human creatures to return to the life of Eden. The Tree of Life was a prominent feature of that life; now we discover that the "tree" of the Cross (see Acts 5:30) has born fruit for eternal life. In the Eucharist, we eat that "fruit" and live forever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Girl in White

Girl in White (1905-1907), Ruth Pratt Bobbs

Well Said: Imagine They Were a Character From Dickens

Fr. Fulton had a deep love of Dickens. And he once confided to Fr. Michael that when he encountered people who were for whatever reason simply unlikeable (a rare occasion for this man so full of love) he would imagine they were a character from Dickens–and that made it alright.
I like that idea. I like it a lot.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #57: The Apostle

The hardest soul to save was his own.

The Apostle

Robert Duvall gives a tour de force performance as a zealous Pentecostal preacher hiding from his past. Now in a small Louisiana town, Sonny goes by the name of "Apostle E.F." and opens a new church with the help of a retired reverend.
Duvall gives us the story of a main character, Sonny, who is fully, tragically, joyfully human and who is always returning to God. Some of the scenes seem long but afterwards the viewer realizes that such immersion was needed to understand Sonny's world and soul.

At the end of this movie all I could think of was King David in the Old Testament. Beloved of God, loves God, inspirational, beloved by his people, and yet terribly a terribly flawed man who sent a trusting subordinate off to sure death so he could take his wife.

It is fascinating that Robert Duvall evokes these echoes in The Apostle, especially since watching the extras Duvall kept speaking of believers as "those people." He didn't mean it in a derogatory way but just that for him they are "other," a people who he is not a part of. He pulls it off because he's absolutely honest as a story teller and as an actor.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Princess Leia

Cover art by Mark Brooks for ‘Princess Leia’ #1 from Marvel Comics
via Not Pulp Covers

Well Said: Old Enough to Start Reading Fairy Tales Again

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be your affectionate Godfather, C. S. Lewis.
C.S. Lewis
Preface to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Scott leads music practice but gathers too large an audience. ...

Julie sprinkles dirt on the commandant's shoes. Both of them wind up in the cooler, without a single baseball. So they pass the time by discussing The Great Escape. It's Episode 140 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Well Said: On Ray Bradbury's Birthday

"They began by controlling books of cartoons and then detective books and, of course, films, one way or another, one group or another, political bias, religious prejudice, union pressures; there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past, afraid of the present, afraid of themselves and shadows of themselves."
Ray Bradbury, "Usher II" (1950)
Ray Bradbury shares a birthday with Hannah ... which I tend to forget. They both share the qualities of being smart as whips, logical, and never fearing to speak the truth. Hannah doesn't have nearly as many best sellers, but there's time.

Worth a Thousand Words: Gonna Get a Fish

Gonna Get a Fish
taken by Valerie, ucumari photography
some rights reserved

Happy Birthday Hannah!

From Coco Cake Lane
(scroll down to see many great dog cakes)
How did my sweet Hannah turn into a 28-year-old married lady?

She's been an incredible blessing in our lives over the years.

She's still the same sweet, kind, generous, loving person she's always been ... we are proud to be her parents.

Another thing that hasn't changed is her abiding love for animals, especially her dogs. Toddler Hannah and grown up Hannah would both like these dog cupcakes!

Mary, Queen of Heaven

Coronation of Virgin, Giacomo di Mino, 1340-1350
From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.

His Holiness Pope Pius XII
Encyclical on Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary
Promulgated October 11, 1954
I remember the thing that made this feast day come into focus for me was learning about King Solomon's Queen Mother who brought cases before him for special attention. I tell you, typology really helps you get a mental grip on things.

Friday, August 19, 2016

In which we become addicted to curry and a five day delay endangers our journey ...

... Around the World in Seventy-Two Days. Two more chapters of Nellie Bly's classic race against time are ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics podcast!

Worth a Thousand Words: Self Portrait with a Sunflower

Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), Self Portrait With a Sunflower, Private collection
I always enjoy seeing the personal touches that artists put into self-portraits, especially in the more flamboyant pieces, such as the one above.

Which. I. Love.

Lagniappe: Refills

“Refills are free,” the waitress tells us with a frown, like she’s hoping we’re not the kind of people who ask for endless refills. I am already pretty sure we are exactly those people.
Holly Black, Black Heart

Genesis Notes: Her Seed — Birth of the Church

The Agony in the Garden - Luke 22:39-46
The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
The Resurrection - John 19:38-42; 20:11-18. Hebrews 2:5-18
The Tree of Life - John 6:41-59
Created In God's Likeness - Gal. 3:27; 1 Cor. 15:53; Eph. 4-22-24; Col. 3:9

We are still breaking away from Genesis with Genesis: God and His Creation to look at the answer to the promise that the woman and her seed would defeat God's enemy.

Ok, how many times can I say that these connections make perfect sense yet I had never "seen" them before I was introduced to studying "types?" If you thought the connections between Mary and Eve were amazing, they are nothing to those between Jesus and Adam. You just can't make this stuff up. What an unbelievable plan God works out through Jesus. Hear that sound? That's my mind blowing.

Crucifixion of Jesus, Marco Palmezzano

The Crucifixion - John 19:1-11; 19:31-37
Thorns in Eden were another evidence of God’s curse upon man, the punishment for his sin. They represented the difficulty man would experience in fulfilling his vocation on earth, having lost his supernatural grace. As the story of Genesis unfolds, the crown of thorns we see in this gospel scene will take on more significance (most specifically in chapter 22). For now, we can understand it to be another indication that Jesus is taking upon Himself the curse pronounced on Adam, even though He has retraced Adam’s steps and has not faltered ...

Jesus, having been scourged, stands there in a purple robe and crown of thorns. Pilate’s grand introduction is meant as mockery. The angry crowd is full of contempt for Jesus. And yet, this is a human being in which the image and likeness of God has not been lost. This is man as God always intended him to be-perfectly obedient and faithful to the covenant, no matter what the cost. In this gospel scene, Jesus is the only one with real human dignity. He is the New Adam, and Pilate’s announcement of "Here is the man!" heralds the beginning of a new humanity ...

Pathologists would tell us that a wound like this one, in its place on the body of one who died as Jesus died, would actually produce both blood and water. The Church has always recognized in this detail of Christ’s death a startlingly beautiful symbol of the birth of the Church. The water of baptism initiates believers into union with Christ; the blood of the Eucharist sustains them on their journey to God (see CCC 1225). In Scripture, the Church is frequently described as "the Bride" of Christ. The Lord refers to Himself as "the Bridegroom" (Mark 2:19), and heaven will be the marriage feast of the Lamb (see CCC 796). In Eden, as Adam slept, God opened his side to create Eve, his bride, a true helper for him and one with whom he would form a permanent union in body and spirit. As Jesus slept the sleep of death on the Cross, the wound in His side poured forth the sign of His Bride, the Church. Adam, tempted by the devil, did not protect his wife with his life, but "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her" (Eph. 5:25-26).