Friday, December 30, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Clara The Rhinoceros

Clara the Rhinoceros, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, 1749
via WikiPaintings
Clara was very famous and I thought this painting was fascinating.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Fiesta in Figueres

Salvador Dali, 1916, Fiesta in Figueres
via WikiPaintings
Doesn't this capture a feeling of movement and the excitement of fireworks? I love this!

A Movie You Might Have Missed #60: Departures

The gift of last memories.

Departures


When the small orchestra that Daigo plays for is disbanded, he and his wife move back to his small home town to start over. Misunderstanding a job description, he finds himself being trained as an "encoffiner" to prepare corpses before their cremation. This ceremony is carried out before the families of the deceased. This puts him in an uncomfortable position since handling the dead is a taboo subject for Japanese.

By turns moving, funny, and inspirational, this is one I've thought of a lot since I saw it. As we learn the rhythm of the encoffinments we see that this ceremony is not only a sincere expression of respect for the deceased but is also healing for the mourners.

There is much more to the movie than encoffinment, although that is the spoke around which the wheel turns. Each character from the town, the encoffinments, and Daigo's life, no matter how small, is a significant part of the whole story — much as each instrument in an orchestra comes together to play a symphony. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Lagniappe: Rule #8

Rather, very, little, pretty — these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words. The constant use of the adjective little (except to indicate size) is particularly debilitating; we should all try to do a little better, we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is a rather important one, and we are pretty sure to violate it now and then.
Rule #8, "An Approach to Style," Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Well Said: Principle and Practice

The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.
Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Monday, December 19, 2016

Well Said: Dracula and the difficulty modern man faces in accepting the supernatural as reality

Rare is the literary critic who looks at the recurring theme throughout the book of the difficulty modern man faces in accepting the supernatural as reality.

From its first page to its last, this is what Stoker is most interested in shaping his story around. The book has become so ingrained in our culture that millions who have never read it have absorbed the gist of the plot from the past century of adaptations, rip-off’s, and parodies in film, television, theater, and books.

This is part of the reason why the concept is missed, but the greater reason is the one Stoker illustrates time and again in his book – we deliberately ignore what we can’t comfortably explain.
William Patrick Maynard, Black Gate blog

How the Choir Converted the World by Mike Aquilina

How the Choir Converted the World: Through Hymns, with Hymns, and in Hymns 

by Mike Aquilina

I often catch myself humming or singing snatches of hymns when I'm cleaning the kitchen. This makes me laugh because I never in a million years would have thought I'd be the sort of person who sang hymns around the house. But it goes to Mike Aquilina's main point.
Our lives have a soundtrack, and the soundtrack has a lyric sheet. When we remember music, the words come back with it. Music is the most effective delivery system for words and ideas. And we don't need to read or study to get the message ... music is the most effective way to make a message memorable ...

The [Church] Fathers knew the power that music had over our minds—power over thoughts and feelings—and they respected that power. And they used that power to maximum effect. They knew that beautiful music could change the world. It makes us remember, it moves us to virtue, it heals us, and it makes us one.

The Fathers knew all these things—and one more important thing as well: they knew that music is a foretaste of heaven.
Aquilina talks about the power of music in the context of Jewish and Christian history. These chapters are fascinating and don't feel at all like history lessons. He takes us effortlessly into the times when music permeated the air, both from pagan rituals and Jewish worship as well as everyday life lived in the open. We learn why the Jewish music was unique and how it meant more than just a good tune to get you in the mood to think about God.

As the story continues through history we see the development of music into what we are more familiar with today. I began thinking about the music during Mass in a whole new way. In fact, I broadened my sights and began considering a lot of things in terms of the music which is often integral to them.

This book is really insightful about both music in relationship to human beings and to faith. It was much more than I was expecting from a book which I feared would be more interesting to music professionals than it is to me. I'll be honest. It was not only insightful but revelatory because it made me think about music and how integral it is to us in a way that just never occurred to me.

(I just never think about music at all, honestly. Certainly not like that. Talk about a whole new world.)

Aquilina points out that the earliest Christians used music to tell truths which helped change a violent, ugly, pornographic culture. Our culture mirrors that early one in a lot of ways, sadly. This book helps reorient us so that we can also make and appreciate music which can tell the truth to a world desperate for beauty and truth.

Note: The typesetting and layout are beautiful. That is all too rare these days and that visual beauty is especially complementary to Mike Aquilina's message that the beauty of music helped convert the world.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 18: Jeremiah

This is as far as I'm going to be able to get on the Jesse Tree this year. I have felt a real sense of connection to salvation history through Advent as I worked on this and I hope it has enriched your Advent also.

========

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 18: Jeremiah

Symbols: tears

Jeremiah, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling

Jeremiah 1:4-10, 2:4-13, 7:1-15; 8:22-9:1-11

Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet because of all the trouble he encountered in his 40 years of warning the people about the consequences of their sinfulness. He also continually expresses God's sorrow over Judah's lack of repentance.
O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears,
that I might weep day and night
I myself always think of the better known passage which expresses Jeremiah's vocation and doubts.
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth."

But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, `I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, c. 1630

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 17: Isaiah

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 17: Isaiah

Symbols: burning coal, scroll

Tiepolo, The Prophet Isaiah, 1726
Isaiah 1:10-20; 6:1-13, 9:1-7, 40:10-11; 62:1-3

You might be surprised at how many sound bites you know from the book of Isaiah. It is used fairly often in the liturgy and especially during Christmas and Easter. Almost all the familiar parts are related to the Messiah and how he will save us from our sins. He would not only be a king but a suffering servant. Here's a bit we'll hear soon.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. ... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 
Isaiah also has the roots of the tree of Jesse reference which lent itself to the Jesse Tree. And, my favorite part, there is the story of Isaiah receiving his vocation. He has a vision of heaven and a sudden vivid understanding of himself when faced with God himself. But his response is so instantaneous and honest that it can bring tears to my eyes. May I respond as honestly and as well.
And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar.

And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven."

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

12 British library, Isaiha and tree of Jesse, 12th century

Friday, December 16, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji, taken by NNE, CC-BY-SA-3.0

Well Said: The only real choice we have to make

For me to accept baptism, I had to believe in Christ’s reality—in the reality not just of his life but also of his miracles and death and resurrection.

But how could I? Such things don’t happen. Look around you. There are no miracles. There can be no resurrection. The clockwork world is all in all.

But such things don’t happen, I knew now, was the ultimate irrational prejudice of the human mind: the belief that the symbols of reality are more real than the reality they symbolize. That’s us all over. We believe that money is more valuable than the work it represents, that sex is more essential than the love it expresses, that an actor is more admirable than the hero he portrays, that flesh is more alive than spirit. That’s the whole nature of our deluded lives, the cause of so much of our misery. One by one, we let idolatry ruin each good thing. ... The choice between idolatry and faith—which is ultimately the choice between slavery in the flesh and freedom in the spirit—is the only real choice we have to make.
Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing

Jesse Tree - Day 16 - Jonah

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 16: Jonah

Symbols: whale

Jonah and the Whale
As a friend of mine once said, "Jonah is the comedy book in the Bible." It's 4 chapters long, it's an action story, and it's very funny. What's not to like?

The Church Fathers often compare Jonah's three days in the fish to Christ's three days in the tomb. I myself love the fact that Jonah is so busy running from God. Been there. Done that. Luckily without any huge fish being involved.

And I love the fact that God is so funny when he is poking Jonah at the end of the book. He cares enough to save the Ninevites who were the most hated people of their time. And he cares about each one individually, such as Jonah.

God Talks to Jonah

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan

The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ 

by Andrew Klavan
No one was more surprised than Andrew Klavan when, at the age of fifty, he found himself about to be baptized. Best known for his hard-boiled, white-knuckle thrillers and for the movies made from them—among them True Crime (directed by Clint Eastwood) and Don’t Say a Word (starring Michael Douglas)—Klavan was born in a suburban Jewish enclave outside New York City. He left the faith of his childhood behind to live most of his life as an agnostic in the secular, sophisticated atmosphere of New York, London, and Los Angeles. But his lifelong quest for truth—in his life and in his work—was leading him to a place he never expected.
I listened to this as read by the author. It was inspiring, as all conversion stories are, and worth reading for that aspect alone. However, this book was so much more. In the story of Andrew Klavan's dysfunctional family, the way literature and Western civilization led him to self discovery, and his descent into and ascent from madness, we are given the story of a truth seeker in an age of disbelief.

I found Klavan's story resonating in unexpected ways. Every conversion story is at once the same, in its discovery of ultimate truth and love, and at once unique, as is each person who discovers God. I knew I would find things that reminded me of my own journey and that showed me new facets of God's love in Klavan's experiences. What I did not know was how familiar his life story was to certain aspects of my own and how that actually helped me to understand myself better. My own difficult father was much less so than Klavan's, for example, but they were enough alike that Klavan's insights about his own personality enlightened me as well.

I will also say that his experience with prayer has haunted me, in a good way, and rejuvenated my search for closeness to God.

Much of the story was outside my own experience, of course, and I have to say that I really appreciated Klavan's feelings about his Jewish heritage which gave me insights that I'd not gotten from other sources.

Klavan is hard headed, questions himself and his experiences, and does not go easily into Christian faith or, indeed, into faith in God in general. I really liked that aspect because many of the objections he struggles with are precisely those which we have all been taught to raise these days. Whether one believes in Christ or not, no one can say that Klavan accepted him blindly. In fact, no one need worry that Klavan is trying to convince anyone else to believe. This story is strictly about his own experience.

Highly recommended.

Well Said: Hamlet and Moral Relativism

Morality especially has come to seem to [Hamlet] completely dependent on his own opinions. "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so," he declares.

How wild was this? Shakespeare had predicted post-modernism and moral relativism hundreds of years before they came into being! ...

But there was one big difference. Hamlet said these things when he was pretending to be mad. My professors said them and pretended to be sane. Shakespeare was telling us, it seemed to me, that relativism was not just crazy, it was make-believe crazy, because even the people who proclaimed it did not believe it deep down. If, after all, there is no truth, how could it be true that there is no truth? If there is no absolute morality, how can you condemn the morality of considering my culture better than another? Relativism made no sense, as Shakespeare clearly saw.

Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing:
A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ

Worth a Thousand Words: Ships

Franklin Booth, Ships
via The Franklin Booth Project

Jesse Tree - Day 15: Elijah

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 15: Elijah

Symbols: stone altar

Elijah and the priests of Baal
We all have a few vague pictures of Elijah. For one thing, he shows up during Christ's transfiguration so we should pay a bit of attention when he comes up in the Jesse Tree. Usually it is because he stands up for God before the priests of Ba'al and wins hands-down (for God is on his side). It is a spectacular showdown and if you aren't familiar with it, I encourage you to read about it.

Some may think of the ravens feeding him in the wilderness. I myself always remember the pagan woman whose grain and oil never ran out, even though there was a famine, because Elijah was boarding with her. And whose son he raised from the dead.

The Elijah story that speaks to my heart most, though, is one that I suspect we all relate to. Elijah is on the run from the Israelite leaders who want to kill him. He is weary and heart-sick and wants to give up. And God comes to speak to him.
And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
We've all looked for a big sign and wound up with a still, small voice, haven't we? And I think we've all had times when we've been "done" and wanted to curl up in a cave. Elijah performed God's miracles but in the details of his life he is more like us than we might think.

Elijah raises the widow's son, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1851-60

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Well Said: God is not susceptible to proofs and disproofs

Anyway, God is not susceptible to proofs and disproofs. If you believe, the evidence is all around you. If you don’t believe, no evidence can be enough.

Andrew Klavan, The Great Good Thing:
A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ

Worth a Thousand Words: Snow Light

Snow Light
by The French Sampler

Jesse Tree - Day 14: David

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 14: David

Symbols: shepherd's crook, harp, slingshot, 6-pointed star

Michelangelo, David and Goliath, 1509

David began as a shepherd, the youngest of the family, and from Bethlehem. When I read his story in the Bible his humanity becomes so clear. He is so often the best of what we hope from humanity. And he also is often the worst. His most famous descendant, Jesus, was also from Bethlehem and is our shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”(John 10:14, 15)

David is anointed king by Samuel, Anonymous

Punk rocker describes his return to Catholicism

Terry Chimes, the drummer for The Clash, has written a book about returning to Catholicism.
Chimes describes stumbling across a copy of CS Lewis’s book Mere Christianity at a car boot sale in 1998 and reading about Lewis’s analysis of the sin of pride.

Chimes said: “There was a chapter entitled The Great Sin. The great sin is pride, the tendency we all have to think we are better than someone else. I had always known that pride existed but wondered why it’s referred to as the great sin. That was until I realised the significance of pride as an obstacle to spiritual growth.

“The problem with pride is that those who have the most see it the least. CS Lewis said that if you have done some good works, read some spiritual books, perhaps practiced meditation or given up drinking and you take pride in that, thinking that you are more spiritual than someone else, then Satan will rub his hands with glee, because he will have caught you in a spiritual trap from which escape is very difficult.”

He continued: “As I read those words I had the chilling awareness that I have been in just such a trap for twenty years. I put the book down and went to sit on the sofa. I was reeling from the realisation that I’d been in a trap for all of that time. Within minutes I was having the most extraordinary experience of my life.”
Read the whole article in The Catholic Herald. It was also C.S. Lewis who said in Surprised by Joy:
In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for. A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. . . . God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.
Indeed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Bookplate

The Library of Congress, Bookplate of Helen Louise Taylor

Well Said: The quest for religious solace

Seen from the outside, the quest for religious solace looks preposterous. Soren Kierkegaard said that religion has a truth so purely interior that it approaches madness.
Judith Shulevitz, The Sabbath World

A Daily Defense by Jimmy Akin

A Daily Defense: 365 Days (plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist
by Jimmy Akin
The history of Christianity is one of debate. As the gospels reveal, Jesus was challenged right from the start. Rival schools like the Pharisees and Sadducees posed pointed questions to him, trying to trap him in his words and even to get him in trouble with the authorities. ...

Our world is very different from the one in which Jesus lived, but the more things change, the more they stay the same. If people posed challenges to Jesus, they will do so to us as well.
I'm really glad I received a review copy of this book because otherwise I probably wouldn't have picked it up. This excellent book provides an easy daily reminder of our beliefs and how to defend and explain them. Each day presents a challenge to the Catholic faith, a (one-sentence) defense, and an explanation of the belief. Sometimes there is also a final one-sentence tip which may range from a cogent summary to a reading recommendation to directing the reader to a related page with a different wrinkle on the topic.

Some of the objections are that I just don't encounter such as "Matthew's genealogy of Jesus omits some generations and thus is wrong" or "The Bible originally taught reincarnation, but the relevant passages were struck out by the Council of Nicaea." For me the answers to these are academic, but interesting.

Many, though, are those I am familiar with. I love the way that Akin's defense statements often turn my usual thoughts on the subject into a new direction. The explanations are thorough and often include information or positions I wouldn't have thought of. And I thought I knew a lot about how to explain some of these topics.

Highly recommended.

Jesse Tree - Day 13: Samuel

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 13: Samuel

Symbols: lamp, temple

The Infant Samuel, Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792
I must begin this by saying that I love the story of Hannah, Samuel's mother who prayed to God in the temple to give her a child. Read the first two chapters of 1 Samuel for her story and to see what leads up to Samuel's story.

With that example no wonder Samuel began life loving God and being obedient. Again we see the theme which runs throughout salvation history - obedience. Even when it doesn't make sense, this obedience works because God sees the big picture so much better than we do. Samuel must have needed to cling to his trust and faith in God when you think of some of the things he saw people doing, especially once Saul began ruling.

Samuel in the Temple, David Wilkie, 1839

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy: A Notable Story of Redemption and Joy

This is one of my favorites by one of my favorite authors. This review ran back in 2007 and I'm rerunning it since a lot of Rumer Godden's titles have just been released for the Kindle. Get this one and In This House of Brede (my favorite) and maybe also China Court. You won't be sorry.

Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy

by Rumer Godden
"I took Vivi home." Why? Lise had asked herself a thousand times. "There's a little church in England," she told Soeur Marie Alcide, "at Southleigh in Oxfordshire, which has an old, old mural painting showing a winged Saint Michael holding the scales of justice. The poor soul awaiting judgment is quailing because the right-hand scale is coming heavily down with its load of sins: but on the left our Lady is quietly putting her rosary beads in the other scale to make them even. I saw it long ago, but in a way I suppose something like that happened to me.

"It happened to me," and Lise started to tremble. "How did Vivi come to have those beads?" Lise asked that for the thousandth time. "She wouldn't say. She never said ..."

Now, in the cafe, Lise seemed to hear Soeur Marie Alcide's firm voice. "Put it behind you. That is one of our first rules. You will probably never see Vivi again." and, "It's time you caught your train," Lise told Lise.
This is an inspiring tale of conversion and redemption told in flashback sequence. We meet Lise when she is being released from prison where she has served her term for murder. She is going to join an order that ministers to those on the fringes of society. Through Lise's thoughts, we watch her go from being a young WWII staffer in Paris, become seduced by a man who has a brothel and eventually turns her into a prostitute where later on she becomes the manager. The reasons behind the murder become clear as the threads come together again in the people around Lise in current time.

The first third of the book can be tough to read as Godden is devastatingly emotionally honest as always. Despite the fact that much of the book takes place in a brothel the words used are unobjectionable so one needn't worry about that. As I read, I suddenly realize that I must have tried this book at least once before but always stopped as it was too painful. However, I was selling the book short by never pressing on as the last two-thirds took an upward swing that surprised and enchanted me.

Throughout it is strung the rosary, sometimes in surprising ways and always as a pointer toward action to be taken. Interestingly, Lise doesn't even enjoy saying the rosary but it is somehow integral to her journey of faith despite that. She cannot seem to escape it no matter how she might try.

I didn't realize how integral the rosary was to the book until I was very far into it. After I finished the book and thought about it over the next few days, I wondered about the title. What did it mean? Suddenly it came to me. Five [mysteries] for sorrow, ten [mysteries] for joy. It reflects the rosary itself. Reading the book with that foreknowledge might yield even more riches. I will have the opportunity to find out as I definitely will return to this book.
It was a revelation to the aspirants that the sisters, some of them elderly impressive nuns, filled with quiet holiness, should publicly admit their faults. Could Soeur Imelda de Notre Dame, that calm saintly person, really have snapped sharply at anyone? Could Soeur Marie Dominique have lost her temper? "Then do you go on being you until the very end?" they could have moaned. "Even after all this trying and training?" "Always," Soeur Theodore would have told them. ...

Scott searches for strings. Julie searches for a good story.

They find a paper samurai, a snow monkey, and a beetle in Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Fake News, The BBC, and Pope Piux XII

In a significant finding, the British Broadcasting Corporation has conceded that in their main evening news bulletin, seen by millions, it falsely described the Church as being ‘silent’ in the face of Nazism and that it has not reported correctly on the Church’s opposition to Hitler.

The finding was made by the BBC’s internal watchdog after Father Leo Chamberlain and I jointly lodged a complaint. Chamberlain, a Benedictine, is a historian and former headmaster of Ampleforth College.

The broadcast was made last July during a visit to Auschwitz by Pope Francis. The reporter stated as fact that, “Silence was the response of the Catholic Church when Nazi Germany demonized Jewish people and then attempted to eradicate Jews from Europe.”
No one who has read Church of Spies is surprised by the truth that the Church was not "silent" and gave the Nazis quite a bit of opposition. But that's the way it goes with even the most prestigious news organizations these days. They can be just as liable to perpetuate fake news and propaganda as everyone else.

Here is what it takes to make people report the real news — dogged determination. In the immortal words of Galaxy Quest, never give up, never surrender!

Read it all at Crux.

(Thanks to Scott Danielson for the heads up on this.)

Well Said: Show me

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint on broken glass.
Anton Chekov

Worth a Thousand Words: Quenching Thirst

Quenching Thirst
by Remo Savisaar

Jesse Tree - Day 12: Ruth

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 12: Ruth

Symbols: grain, basket

Ruth Gleaning, illustrated manuscript 1405-1415, British Library
Who doesn't know and love this story of the loving, faithful daughter-in-law who became an ancestress not only to King David, but to Jesus Christ? It is worth remembering that she was a pagan from a strange country but who God used in his mysterious ways for all of our good.

Boaz and Ruth, Rembrandt

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 11: Gideon

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 11: Gideon

Symbols: clay water pitcher, torch,

Gideon Chooses His 300, James Tissot
Gideon's story begins with a familiar pattern. After being saved and brought into the Promised Land, time passed, and the people fell back into their old, sinful ways. Sometimes, God lets you reap what you sow so that you can see the error of your ways. In this case, he withdraws his protection and ... whoosh! ... in come the Midianites for some of that land of milk and honey.

God, of course, is merciful and hearing his people's pleas, he raises up a hero in the way that so often happens, by picking most unlikely guy around - Gideon. A poor farmer who, like Moses, at first protests that he isn't worthy or capable, Gideon leads a picked force of 300 to defeat 100,000 Midianites. Sneaking up with torches hidden under water pitchers, they surprised the people so much that many of them began fighting among themselves. The victory was a total rout.

What better way to be reminded that when there is victory, it is through God? We can't depend on ourselves alone.

I love Gideon best for the story of how many times he asked God for reassurance using a sheep's fleece and dewfall. I can totally relate to that brand of skepticism. God's patience with Gideon is something I've experienced myself. On a much lesser level, of course.

Gideon thanks God for the Miracle of the Dew, Maarten van Heemskerck, 1550

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 10: Joshua

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 10: Joshua

Symbols: ram's horn trumpet

The Battle of Jericho on Ghiberti doors, Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0

Joshua had the daunting task of following Moses as the Hebrew people's leader. Yet, every time I read about Moses's life, Joshua begins to come to my attention, carefully pointed out by the author. He is stalwart, he loves God, and he is obedient. So he's the perfect leader to take this band of people who wandered in the desert for 40 years precisely because of their disobedience. And he leads them in a leap of faith that is such a crazy stunt only God would have thought it up. "C'mon everyone, let's march around the city crying aloud to God and then, we'll blow our trumpets. And the city will be ours."

As is often the case with God's "crazy stunts" this one worked because of His power and their trust and obedience. We look forward to the purpose of this tiny baby Jesus whose coming we await, and we see the one who is fully trusting, fully obedient, and fully loving ... both of us and of God the Father.

I've also always loved the story of Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land and the River Jordan parting for them. Hey, there's more to Joshua than trumpets.

The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan by Benjamin West, 1800

Friday, December 9, 2016

Well Said: The moral disaster of losing good manners

Good manners depended on paying moral attention to others; it required one to treat them with complete moral seriousness, to understand their feelings and their needs.

... How utterly shortsighted we had been to listen to those who thought that manners were a bourgeois affectation, an irrelevance, which need no longer be valued. A moral disaster had ensued, because manners were the basic building block of a civil society. They were the method of transmitting the message of moral consideration.

In this way an entire generation had lost a vital piece of the moral jigsaw and now we saw the results: a society in which nobody would help, nobody would feel for others; a society in which aggressive language and insensitivity were the norm.
Alexander McCall Smith, The Sunday Philosophy Club

Worth a Thousand Words: Sewing

Sewing (1898), William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Last Testament: In His Own Words by Pope Benedict XVI

Last Testament: In His Own WordsLast Testament: In His Own Words by Pope Benedict XVI

I actually preordered this by accident or I'd never have read it. As it turns out, I'm glad I did.

Journalist Peter Seewald continues the interview format that he used for his previous books with Pope Benedict XVI. This book serves not only as Pope Benedict's last testament but as a good overview of his entire life. I was interested in reading about the decision to step down as pope and what Benedict's life has been like since.

I was much less interested in his life story but am glad that I read it because it gave me a much better understanding of his journey in faith. I never realized that as a young man Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) was a progressive who was considered possibly dangerous and who was good friends with Hans Kung. Ultimately Ratzinger chose to adhere closely to the liturgy in his zeal to bring the church into better touch with modern times. And that has made all the difference.

I wasn't familiar with some of the theologians or controversies which Seewald kept coming back to. However, even in reading about those one gets a look at Pope Benedict and how he approaches conflict.

Very interesting overall, a super fast read, and I found it ultimately inspiring.

Jesse Tree - Day 9: Moses

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 9: Moses

Symbols: baby in basket, river and rushes

The Birth of Moses, circa 2nd century
Gabrielle Sed Rajna L'Art Juif- Citadelles Mazenod
Source
I know that Moses is a "type" for Jesus, meaning that we can see examples in his life of the larger message Jesus will bring for us. It never occurred to me until considering this scripture in relationship to Christmas that Moses escapes wholesale slaughter of baby boys - just like Jesus does. It all begins right here.

Of course, there are many more things to consider from Moses's life. He was curious, brave, and intelligent enough to investigate the burning bush and obey the Living God. He went against his natural instincts to obey God's will and engaged in a battle of wills with Pharaoh, led his people into the desert, performed miracles at God's behest, and brought them the Torah, the Law which instructs them and us to this day.

He, Qi. Finding of Moses, 2001
via Vanderbilt Divinity Library

Something Delicious: Parmesan Crusted Asparagus

Pick it up at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: December in Provence


Henry Herbert La Thangue (1859–1929), December in Provence

Well Said: We are not put into this world to avoid danger

"It was very dangerous for her."

“Yes, it was dangerous, but we are not put into this world, Mr. Burton, to avoid danger when an important fellow creature's life is at stake. You understand me?”

I understood.
Agatha Christie, The Moving Finger

Jesse Tree: Day 8 - Joseph

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 8: Joseph

Symbols: bucket, well, silver coins, tunic

Joseph sold by his brothers. Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1857–1893)
via Wikipedia
We know a lot about Joseph's story. It is one of the most beloved of the Old Testament. We're invited to think about how much Joseph endured, beginning with his brothers selling him into slavery. Then, when he has the chance to claim revenge, instead he extends love and forgiveness. Not only that, but Joseph interprets how God has brought good out of evil. "And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God set me before you to preserve life."


Joseph Weeps
Illustration by Owen Jones, 1869, via Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 7: Jacob

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  
Day 7: Jacob

Symbols: kettle, ladder

Jacob's Dream, Jusepe de Ribera
via Artbl
Look closely at the painting and right above Jacob's head you can see the wispy dream of the angelic ladder taking place. What I didn't remember until I reread this was that God actually speaks to Jacob in his dream. The ladder has been considered a symbol of reuniting earth to the divine, of the Christian life, and, of course, of Christ who is the true bridge between heaven and earth. I myself like to think about how God communicates in dreams in the Bible. It's a reminder that there is more to life than just the material world, that we often encounter God in ways others don't understand, and that he knows how to reach us when we don't expect it.

Below is a painting of one of my favorite scenes from Jacob's long and complex story. It's a bit that people often forget. When Jacob returns home with his wives and property, he's nervous to meet Esau again after having tricked him out of his birthright so long ago. Unexpectedly Esau comes forward happily to meet his brother. Esau doesn't get enough credit for this, I always think. And he is a type, perhaps, of the loving father in the Prodigal Son parable and, therefore, an example of God's lovingkindness and mercy to us no matter how deliberately we've sinned.


Peter Paul Rubens, The Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau, 1624.
via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 6: Isaac

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 6: Isaac

Symbols: bundle of wood, altar, ram in bush

Abraham's-sacrifice-from-Raduil
Abraham's sacrifice - a fresco from the Old church of Raduil. Bulgaria,
by Edal Anton Lefterov (Own work);[CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL  via Wikimedia Commons
How Abraham must have trusted and loved God above all to follow his instructions for sacrificing Isaac. In this way he is the opposite of Adam and Eve who did the "reasonable" thing instead of trusting in God's love. Perhaps he remembered that God loved Isaac even more than he, Abraham, did. Perhaps it was a continual struggle with himself to obey God's will. Or both. Did Abraham think of that star-filled night, of the promise of more descendants than he could count? And what do I do when faced with an "unreasonable" request? We saw what Christ did. He obeyed and trusted and loved God to the very end ... and to a resurrection. And that made all the difference for us.

Abraham embraces his son Isaac after receiving him back from God, 1900 Bible illustration
Via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 5: Abraham

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic CultureLoyola PressFaith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 5: Abraham

Symbols: stars, torch, sword, mountain

011.Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan
Abraham Goes to the Land of Canaan, 1866, Gustave Doré [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Gen. 12:1-3

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars at night. If, like me, you live in a city, then that promise loses a lot of its force. Think of the thick blanket of stars you see when you are in the countryside, mountains, or any other place where there isn't a lot of light. It is truly awe inspiring. And God kept that promise. Abraham couldn't have imagined how far and wide and numerous his descendants would be now, thousands of years after his lifetime. Abraham is our father in faith too, so we are some of those descendants thanks to our adoption through Jesus Christ into the family of God.


Abraham and the angels η φιλοξενία του Αβραάμ
Abraham and the Angels, By orthodox painter [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

Genesis Notes: Abram's Practicality

GENESIS 13
When Abram gives Lot the first choice of land, we begin to see not only his generosity but his wisdom. Abram is willing to put family peace above what he might want personally. We also see that there is a bigger lesson about wealth being taught here.

The Parting of Lot and Abraham mosaic from Santa Maria Maggiore
Abram's wealth meant that he and Lot could not dwell together on the land. This created strife in the family, which leads to a separation. It is worth taking note that this first mention of great wealth in the Scripture is associated with unhappiness and lack of peace. This will become a constant theme in the rest of Scripture. It is no surprise, then, when Jesus tells His followers not to bother laying up treasures on earth. If the heart of man is so closely connected to his treasures, better that he should build treasures in heaven, where there can be no threat to happiness or peace (see Matt. 6:19-21).
This also is a continuation of what God showed Noah through the rainbow, the use of physical things as sacraments.
If Abram's descendants were ever to become a "great nation," as God had promised, the first thing they would need was land. Tribes of people without land of their own remain just that-tribes of people. God told Abram to take a good look at the land itself. This was the concrete reality that lay before his eyes. The land was real to him; the promise of descendants to fill it was still a hope, which depended entirely on God's trustworthiness. This is reminiscent of God's use of the rainbow with Noah. He uses here a concrete reality within nature as a sign of His promise to act. In the Church, God continues to do this in the sacraments.

Abram may have been thinking the same kind of thoughts we think when we approach a sacrament. "All I see here is land-dirt, rocks, bushes. God says this will be the home of my great nation. I don't have any kids, and my wife is barren. Can I really believe this?" In the sacraments, we are always faced with these very human questions. "This is just water on a baby's head. Is this child really being washed from original sin and given the Holy Spirit?" "This looks and tastes like bread and wine. Can I really believe that I am eating the Body and Blood of the Lord and that it will give me eternal life?" When we think those thoughts, we are much like Abram, walking through that desert land, pondering the promises of God. That is why his response will be of interest to us.

All quotes from Genesis, Part II: God and His Family. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Jesse Tree - Day 4: Noah

Our online Jesse Tree is to help us prepare for Christ's coming by studying His roots and Salvation History. 

Jesse Trees follow the same general outline but I've found they are widely varied in some of the details. Some may have one day for Moses, others may spend 4 days on different aspects of his life. I'll be following the basic outline but, therefore, using my own discretion in a few spots.

My sources for days and symbols are Catholic Culture, Loyola Press, Faith Magazine, and A few beads short.  

Day 4: Noah

Symbols: ark, animals, dove, rainbow

Building of the ark, Illumination on parchment,
41 x 28 cm, British Library, London, ca 1423.
Via Wikipedia
I love the story of Noah. It is relatively short but has such a wealth of material for reflection. It's a bit of a shock to realize how quickly mankind became so wicked that the best solution was to eliminate almost everything. Except, of course, Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark. It's sobering to think how intimately we are connected with creation that our wickedness affected nature too.

I know many people didn't like it, but for me one of the best aids to reflecting on this story is the 2014 movie Noah. (You can hear my conversation with Scott Danielson about it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.) It vividly expresses the wickedness of those ancient times, the flood, and the love that is felt at the end when God's rainbow fills the sky as a merciful promise never to destroy the earth like that again.

Jacopo Amigoni Dankopfer Noahs,
Noah's Thanks Offering, Jacopo Amigoni
via Wikimedia Commons