Monday, October 31, 2016

St. John Bosco's Ghost Story

This is a little reminder that tomorrow is All Saints' Day (formerly known as All Hallow's Day), without which we would not have Hallowe'en (formerly known as All Hallow's Eve).

Nothing like a saint telling a ghost story to both celebrate spookiness and also ... saintliness!
While a young man, St. John Bosco (1815-1888) and his friend, Comollo, agreed that whoever died first would return and give a sign about the state of their soul. Comollo died on April 2, 1839. The evening following the funeral, Bosco sat sleepless on his bed in the room he shared with twenty seminarians.

“Midnight struck and I then heard a dull rolling sound from the end of the passage, which grew ever more clear, loud and deep, the nearer it came. It sounded as though a heavy dray were being drawn by many horses, like a railway train, almost like the discharge of a cannon…While the noise came nearer the dormitory, the walls, ceiling and floor of the passage re-echoed and trembled behind it…

Then the door opened violently of its own accord without anybody seeing anything except a dim light of changing colour that seemed to control the sound…Then a voice was clearly heard, ‘Bosco, Bosco, Bosco, I am saved.’… The seminarists leapt out of bed and fled without knowing where to go. … for a long time there was no other subject of conversation in the seminary.”

Happy Halloween!

Jack O Lanterns
From morganglines at Flickr, some rights reserved

"Hallowe'en in a Suburb" by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset's gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves through the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral power
Spreads sleep o'er the cosmic throne,
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb's black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penned,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

Julie never knows what to cook for the mummies in her closet. Scott soars on the tail of a kite ...



... which is harder than you'd think since he's dressed as a gargoyle. Together they go to unexpected places on the trail of The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury. Episode 145 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Halloween

Halloween, Grandma Moses
via WikiArt
You know, I've never been a Grandma Moses fan. However, I do love this painting because of all the little details of what the community is doing for Halloween. And that made me take another look at more of her paintings. Along that same line of thinking, I actually can appreciate them more now. Go to the link to see more of her work. And take a look at this one up close. Very enjoyable and Halloweeny.

Padre Pio's Ghost Story

Speaking of ghosts, since Halloween is upon us ...
Padre Pio told the story of being in the choir alone one evening to pray. He heard rustling and looked up to see a young monk dusting and straightening up the altar. When he asked who the monk was, he was told: “I am a brother of yours that made the novitiate here. I was ordered to clean the altar during the year of the noviciate. Unfortunately many times I didn’t reverence Jesus while passing in front of the altar, thus causing the Holy Sacrament that was preserved in the tabernacle to be disrespected. For this serious carelessness, I am still in Purgatory. Now, God, with his endless goodness, sent me here so that you may quicken the time I will enjoy Paradise. Take care of me.”
Portrait of Padre Pio by Solomenco Bogdan
via Wikipedia

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Isle of the Dead

Arnold Böcklin, Isle of the Dead: "Basel" version, 1880
This was so popular that the artist did several different versions of it. Read all about it at Wikipedia. Here's a bit.
All versions of Isle of the Dead depict a desolate and rocky islet seen across an expanse of dark water. A small rowboat is just arriving at a water gate and seawall on shore.[2] An oarsman maneuvers the boat from the stern. In the bow, facing the gate, is a standing figure clad entirely in white. Just behind the figure is a white, festooned object commonly interpreted as a coffin. The tiny islet is dominated by a dense grove of tall, dark cypress trees—associated by long-standing tradition with cemeteries and mourning—which is closely hemmed in by precipitous cliffs. Furthering the funerary theme are what appear to be sepulchral portals and windows penetrating the rock faces.

Halloween Lagniappe: Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum

"Our schools are orderly, sanitary places where students dwell in blissful ignorance of the chaos that awaits," West said. "Should our facilities be repaired? No, they must be razed to the ground and rebuilt in the image of the Cyclopean dwellings of the Elder Gods, the very geometry of which will drive them to be possessed by visions of the realms beyond." ...

"Charles sure likes to bang on that madness drum," fellow school board member Danielle Kolker said. "I'm not totally sold on his plan to let gibbering, half-formed creatures dripping with ichor feed off the flesh and fear of our students. But he is always on time to help set up for our spaghetti suppers, and his bake sale goods are among the most popular."

"I must admit, he's very convincing," Kolker added.
This excerpt is from one of my favorite of The Onion's pieces. Do go read it all.

Friday, October 28, 2016

"My marriage works and I'm going to tell you why."

This is a great reminder of the real priorities of our marriages. Thought I'd pass it along.
Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about a term that’s become popular in reference to marriages. People are always asking, does (or will) this marriage “work.”

Everyone seems to speak like this, including couples themselves. But to think of marriage as something that does or does not “work” is to fall into the frenetic spiral of functionalism and utilitarianism that so characterizes our a materialistic world.

We don’t “make a marriage work.” We simply make a marriage. And, if I may, here is how it “works.”

  1. My marriage works because my wife and I are different. This seems obvious, but it’s actually quite difficult to accept all this statement implies. We are different because each of us is unique and unrepeatable, both of us made in the image of Christ. We are different because I am a man and she is a woman. We are different because our bodies are different, because we enjoy life differently, because we listen to others and to God differently. We caress with different styles. What we think and even what worries us and stresses us is … different.
He's got six reasons and each one was good. Read the whole thing here.

Worth a Thousand Words: St. James Church Cemetery

St. James Church Or Goose Creek Church And Cemetery, 1872 Engraving
Deliciously spooky!

The Real Estate Agent and the Haunted House

A little something to get you in the mood for Halloween ... no jump scenes, just humor.

Halloween Lagniappe: The Autumn People

For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ's birth, there is no Bethlehem star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles -- breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them.
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Proof that horror fantasy can also be poetic.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: A Lane

John Atkinson Grimshaw, A Lane
John Atkinson Grimshaw's work all seems wonderfully gloomy, which is perfect for this time of year. Who is that figure in the moonlight, dwarfed by the trees and sky? An innocent traveler out late? Someone sinister? Someone in need? We are left to wonder.

Halloween Lagniappe: No live organism...

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
The opening paragraph from the book I consider to be the best ghost story ever written. A bold claim but true.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: El Gato Negro


Sometimes foreign movie posters capture the essence of the thing so much better than the American ones. That cat looks like a panther, ready to strike!

Halloween Lagniappe: H.P. Lovecraft

Through all this horror my cat stalked unperturbed. Once I saw him monstrously perched atop a mountain of bones, and wondered at the secrets that might lie behind his yellow eyes.
H.P. Lovecraft, The Rats in the Walls
Another of my favorite horror authors chimes in for Halloween from one of my favorite of his stories. A lesser tale, but still a good 'un.

Genesis Notes: Covenant Renewed

GENESIS 9-10
After all that Noah has endured and all that he has seen God do it is pretty disappointing to watch him get drunk and act just like a regular person. I always accepted it as part of Noah's human nature. However, there is a deeper lesson to be seen here.

I'll add that it took me watching the movie Noah to realize that wine wasn't invented until after the ark landed again — so we can soften our judgment of Noah. Though the commentary below still holds true in thinking of how we feel about flawed heroes.
Did you feel disappointed when Noah, a man so bright in faith and obedience, succumbed to drunkenness, which led to something even darker? In the bleak wasteland of a world given over to evil, Noah seemed like a man we could trust. He looked like a hero.

Why is it so difficult to accept flawed heroes? Is it because all humans long for a perfect human, one who will not disappoint us and let our dreams die? Ever since Adam, we have been looking for one who won't botch things up. We want to see a human be all that God meant for us to be.

The characters of the Old Testament, like Adam and Abel and Noah, begin to prepare us for just such a Person. Even though humans in the story until His arrival disappoint us from time to time, we should never let their humanity sour us or tempt us to be contemptuous of them. We must never forget that God's promise in Gen. 3:15 to defeat His enemy through humans means that step by step in this battle, God's work will have a human face on it. This is the magnificent condescension of God to man. It is also God's resounding confirmation that He did not make a mistake in creating him. God knows very well what weaknesses beset humanity. Nevertheless, He works relentlessly to make sure that someday our dream of human perfection will be a reality, not a dream. To be a Christian means not being squeamish about human beings doing divine work. This is especially true for Catholics, because sometimes our Protestant brethren protest that we have too many "mere humans" in our understanding of redemption. We have Mary, "just a woman," as Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church. We have a pope, "only a man," who sits in the line of Peter and holds the keys of the kingdom. We have saints, men and women who are "just like us," to serve as our examples and advocates in their lives as God's friends. When this charge is raised against us, we should bow our heads, give thanks to God, and smile deeply in our souls. A "human" Church? Exactly.

I always loved the rainbow as a sign of God's promise to man. I never thought of it being a so called "risky" move on God's part until this reflection pointed out how man has a tendency to worship God's creation instead of the creator Himself. Certainly I never saw it as affirmation of the sacraments but that is pointed out as well.

Dankgebet nach Verlassen der Arche Noah, Domenico Morelli
Man, weakened by sin, has the potential to miss the messages God gives him. Was it possible that men would see the importance God attached to that beautiful rainbow and begin to worship it instead of God, Who created and used it? Certainly. We know for a fact that men regularly worshipped what God created instead of the Creator Himself. Nevertheless, God took that risk in order to communicate with man in a truly human way. As the Catechism says, "In human life, signs and symbols occupy an important place. As a being at once body and spirit, man expresses and perceives spiritual realities through physical signs and symbols. As a social being, man needs signs and symbols to communicate with others, through language, gestures, and actions. The same holds true for his relationship with God." (CCC 1146) In our human lives, we make use of natural and social symbols all the time. In fact, we can't imagine life without them. God, in the rainbow, joins Who He is and what He does to an element in nature that will have meaning to mortals. We call these actions "sacraments." Scripture is full of examples of God working this way among His people. The culmination, of course, is the Incarnation-God taking on the most profoundly human form of communication, flesh, to reveal to men Who He is. The sacramental nature of Catholic life is deeply rooted in this biblical truth about how God works among men, glimpsed first in the beautiful bow in Noah's sky. [emphasis added]

All quoted material is from Genesis: God and His Creation. 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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: On the Sea

On the Sea by Edward B. Gordon

Halloween Lagniappe: Edgar Allen Poe

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.
Edgar Allan Poe
Next Monday is Halloween. Of course, we've got a Poe quote here. I'd be remiss not to.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Back from the Dead Cemetery Walk

Perhaps it goes without saying that it’s held in the dark. You must reserve tickets for the free event in advance and then groups of 8-15 people are let in at a time, greeted by a lantern-carrying grave digger who welcomes the participants and sets the stage for what they’ll encounter. During the approximately 40-minute walk, many familiar people show up, like St. Therese of Liseux, St. John de Brebeuf, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. John of the Cross, St. Gianna Molla, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). There are souls in purgatory, two young children from heaven, and even a Screwtape devil. Sometimes these characters even know participants by name, which enhances the personal experience, and provides an extra surprise.
I'm not into haunted houses but this? This I would do in a heartbeat.

This is in Maryland so if you're near there give it a try. Read more at Bringing Back the Dead ... Catholic Style.

Worth a Thousand Words: Souvenirs

Souvenirs by Karin Jurick

The Ghost House

A melancholy and evocative poem by Robert Frost.

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me—
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,—
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.

In which we encounter deserted mansions, flying bullets, dancing, and arms about each other.

Chapter 5 of Oh, Murderer Mine by Norbert Davis is ready for your listening pleasure at Forgotten Classics!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: For president, Abram Lincoln

For president, Abram Lincoln. For vice president, Hannibal Hamlin
via Library of Congress
Print shows a large campaign banner for Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln and running mate Hannibal Hamlin. Lincoln's first name is given here as "Abram." The banner consists of a thirty-three star American flag pattern printed on cloth. In the corner a bust portrait of Lincoln, encircled by stars, appears on a blue field.

Well Said: Horror, Monster, and Monstrance

Next week we'll begin counting down to Halloween with some of my favorite spooky quotes and images. But let's put it in perspective first ... Catholic perspective that is!
By Toby Ord
Most people don't think of horror as a genre of literature or film that is particularly agreeable to Christian sensibilities. However, two of the great practitioners of horror on both page and screen consider their work to be an extension of the gospel. Stephen King, author of many a scary tale, says that he considers himself the spiritual heir of the great Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards (who preached the famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"). William Peter Blatty, who penned "The Exorcist" wrote the story precisely in order to show both the depths of demonic evil and to remind the world of the reality of Christ-like self-sacrifice.

By Broederhugo
It is the depth of the darkness of the Enemy that paradoxically highlights the brilliance of the light of Heaven. Indeed, the word "monster" comes from the same root as the word "demonstrate" and "monstrance." A "monster" demonstrates what we can and will be apart from Christ. A monstrance shows forth the saving eucharistic, and self-sacrificial power of him who underwent the worst horror the world has ever known to save us from the terrors of Hell. He has prepared a eucharistic table for us in the presence of Satan himself--and deprived him of his prey.

This Halloween, be not afraid.
Catholic Exchange, Word of Encouragement, Oct. 31, 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: The Green Parasol

Guy Rose, The Green Parasol, c. 1909-1911
via Arts Everyday Living

Lagniappe: Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings, where huge stone gods loomed above. Dust shifted in a strange downpour of tears from their eyes, tears made of sand and powdered rock.

The boys leaned into the shadows. Like a dry river bottom, the corridors led down to deep vaults where lay the linen-wrapped dead. Dust fountains echoed and played in strange courtyards a mile below. The boys ached, listening. The tombs breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon, and powdered camel dung. Somewhere, a mummy dreamed, coughed in its sleep, unraveled a bandage, twitched its dusty tongue and turned over for another thousand-year snooze ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Genesis Notes: Symbolism in Noah's Story

GENESIS 6-8
In that glorious way that Scripture has, the story of Noah and the flood work on more than one level. There are worlds of symbolism therein as the early Church Fathers found. Genesis: God and His Creation elucidates for us.

Noah's Ark, Tecamachalco Church in Puebla, Mexico
via SMU

THE ARK AS THE CHURCH
The Fathers of the Early Church saw the ark as a figure of the Church. "God ordered Noah to build an ark in which he and his family would escape from the devastation of the flood. Undoubtedly the ark is a symbol of the City of God on pilgrimage in this world; that is, a symbol of the Church which was saved by the wood on which there hung the Mediator between God and men-Christ Jesus, Himself a man. Even the measurements of length, height, and breadth of the ark are a symbol of the human body in which He came ... The door open in the side of the ark surely symbolizes the open wound made by the lance in the side of the Crucified-the door by which those who come to him enter in the sense that believers enter the Church by means of the sacraments which issued from that wound." (St. Augustine, De civitate Dei, 15, 26; quoted in The Navarre Bible: Pentateuch, Princeton, NJ: Scepter Publishers, 1999; pg. 70)
THE NUMBER SEVEN AS REMINDER OF GOD'S COVENANT
The number seven should remind us of the hallowing of the seventh day of the first creation, which became a sign of the covenant God made with all creation. We are to comprehend that God is undertaking a re-creation of the earth and even of man himself, in a sense. He wants to renew the covenant. We should not mistake this for just another attempt to get things right. Rather, we are to absorb from all the details that evoke the creation that it is God Who desires to free man from his problems. God's unrelenting initiative in seeking to restore man to his original destiny is unequivocal proof of His love for us. The enormity of God's persistent love should rise up above all the details of man's early history as the sun rises in the morning sky. We dare not interpret any of it apart from the illumination of that bright light. Behind, above, beneath, before, and throughout everything is the glorious love of God for mere mortals. "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy Name in all the earth!" (Ps. 8:9)
MOVING OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS AS RE-CREATION
"In the beginning," the earth was without form and void, and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). To read in Genesis 8:7 that "the wind" of God, which is His breath, the Holy Spirit, is blowing over the earth helps us to recognize the beginning of the re-creation. The repetitive use of language from the original creation story teaches us that God's original plan for the universe and for man was a perfect plan. That is why the re-creation scenes in Scripture, wherever they appear, always use language from the original one. God doesn't keep trying out new ideas until something works. He is determined to make His original plan work, no matter what rises up to derail it. No fault can be found with the plan. Human history will reveal where the problem lies.
THE DOVE AS THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Church helps us to see the Holy Spirit as the dove that looks for habitable ground. In the days of Noah, it was dry earth that the dove sought and finally found. The appearance of the dove with the olive branch was a sign that a new life for man on the earth was about to begin. At the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descending on Him in the form of a dove is a powerful sign that finally the soil of the human soul will be fit for the presence of God's Spirit once again. Is there any thought more beautiful than this?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Starling

Starling
taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

October Lagniappe: The Ghosts' High-Noon!

From Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan.
When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls, and the bat in the moonlight flies,
And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds, sail over the midnight skies –
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail, and black dogs bay at the moon,
Then is the spectres' holiday – then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

As the sob of the breeze sweeps over the trees, and the mists lie low on the fen,
From grey tomb-stones are gathered the bones that once were women and men,
And away they go, with a mop and a mow, to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

And then each ghost with his ladye-toast to their churchyard beds takes flight,
With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps, and a grisly grim "good-night";
Till the welcome knell of the midnight bell rings forth its jolliest tune,
And ushers in our next high holiday – the dead of the night's high-noon!

Ha! ha!
For then is the ghosts' high-noon!

Julie and Scott head out to live in the woods because, frankly, everyone else is just doing it wrong.

Sure, they'll miss butter and glass windows and apples, but they'll have more pointy sticks than anyone has ever had.

And a witch.

Or two.

The Witch (2015) is the subject of Episode 144 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Well Said: The Church is something alive ...

The Church is something alive, a force at work; but many pious people seem to believe, or pretend to believe, that she is simply a shelter, a place of refuge, a sort of spiritual hotel by the roadside from which they can have the pleasure of watching the passers-by.
Georges Bernanos
via Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South
by Ralph C. Wood

Worth a Thousand Words: Ceiling Fresco by Salvador Dali

Ceiling Frescoes by Salvador Dali at Palace of the Wind, Dali Museum
taken by Barcelona Photoblog
I love the way that Dali gives us unique perspectives that turn us upside-down.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Memorial: St. Theresa of Avila

Saint Theresa of Avila
Saint, Mystic, Doctor of the Church
Memorial

Saint Teresa of Ávila by Peter Paul Rubens
St. Theresa of Avila is probably the second saint who ever "caught" my attention. She did so by force of her remarkable personality which comes to us down through the ages as vital and sparkling. She was a profound contemplative, a zealous reformer of religious life, and the first female doctor of the Church. Those things make us expect a person so far above us in prayer, thought, and accomplishments that we can never hope to understand her. Indeed, she is far above me in all those things. However, it is impossible not to love and relate to someone with this amount of sass:
Those watching from the river bank saw the carriage she was in swaying on the brink of the torrent. She jumped out awkwardly, up to her knees in water, and hurt herself in the process. Wryly, she complained. "so much to put up with and you send me this!" Jesus replied, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends." She was not lost for an answer: "Small wonder you have so few!"
That's so very human and Theresa lets her humanity hang out in a very real way.
From silly devotions and from sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us.
She scandalized people when they came upon her teaching the nuns in her convent to dance. When they received a donation of pheasant on a fast day, she instantly cooked them up for all to feast upon. "Let them think what they like, she said. "There is a time for penance, and there is a time for pheasant."

When I have trouble praying I remember that St. Theresa too said that she often needed to have a book to help her pray (obviously a soul sistah!). She was often distracted and couldn't calm her thoughts.
This intellect is so wild that it doesn't seem to be anything else than a frantic madman no one can tie down.
Heaven only knows that I have had more times like that than I care to admit. When I have trouble sticking with prayer at all, Theresa's open and honest avowal helps me hang in there just a little longer.
For many years I kept wishing the time would be over. I had more in mind the clock striking twelve than other good things. Often I would have preferred some serious penance to becoming recollected in prayer.
These things are those which give me hope that I could come near to loving God and serving Him the way that she did. Here is a little more information about her.

Last, but not least, here are a few of my favorite inspirational quotes (since I have already favored you with the more humorous above).
How is it, Lord, that we are cowards in everything save in opposing Thee?

Give me wealth or poverty, give me comfort or discomfort, give me joy or sorrow...What do you want to make of me?

As to the aridity you are suffering from, it seems to me our Lord is treating you like someone He considers strong: He wants to test you and see if you love Him as much at times of aridity as when He sends you consolations. I think this is a very great favor for God to show you.

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.

It is only mercenaries who expect to be paid by the day.

Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Vanity

Vanity, 1907, Frank Cowper

Lagniappe: Distressed Jeans

She wore the kind of distressed jeans they distress by rubbing money on them and a T-shirt that said HELLO, RUST BELT! in what looked like real rust and probably cost #300.
Timothy Hallinan, Crashed

Pope St. Callistus, Martyr

St. Callistus
Imagine that your biography was written by an enemy of yours. And that its information was all anyone would have not only for the rest of your life but for centuries to come. You would never be able to refute it -- and even if you could no one would believe you because your accuser was a saint.

That is the problem we face with Pope Callistus I who died about 222. The only story of his life we have is from someone who hated him and what he stood for, an author identified as Saint Hippolytus, a rival candidate for the chair of Peter. What had made Hippolytus so angry? Hippolytus was very strict and rigid in his adherence to rules and regulations. The early Church had been very rough on those who committed sins of adultery, murder, and fornication. Hippolytus was enraged by the mercy that Callistus showed to these repentant sinners, allowing them back into communion of the Church after they had performed public penance. Callistus' mercy was also matched by his desire for equality among Church members, manifested by his acceptance of marraiges between free people and slaves. Hippolytus saw all of this as a degradation of the Church, a submission to lust and licentiousness that reflected not mercy and holiness in Callistus but perversion and fraud.
Today we celebrate St. Callistus, a saint who was merciful. For this he was castigated by someone who also became a saint. And his history is written by those who hated him.

It strikes me that he is particularly suited to lend us his aid and wisdom. The upcoming elections are generating a level of finger pointing, castigation, and general wrath which I fear will continue afterwards. Unless we are ready to repent if we have contributed to that condition ... and to forgive those who repent.

Read all of St. Callistus' story at Catholic Online.

St. Callistus, pray for us, pray for our country.

Blogging Around: "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" Edition

Clinton's Campaign Team and a "Catholic Spring"

“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.” – Sandy Newman, president and founder of the Voices for Progress, in an email to John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign for President.

In response, Podesta — a Catholic — tells Newman that structures have been put in place to work toward that end. A headline in the Washington Post would suggest that the line of thinking in these Wikileaks-obtained emails was mere joking, but the conversational back-and-forth appears to be in dead earnest.

It also seems shockingly ignorant.
If you haven't heard of the email leaks about a disturbing exchange which shows an ignorance of Clinton campaign heads about both Catholicism and religious faith in general, you can read basics at The Washington Post. It also shows a sophomoric sense of humor. However.

For a thoughtful analysis and response, read Scalia's piece.

Interfaith Group Asks US Government to Reject Report that Stigmatizes Religious Americans

A letter to Barak Obama, Orrin Hatch and Paul Ryan was sent by a widely diverse group of religious leaders representing Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, the Church of Latter Day Saints, the African Methodist Church, Evangelicals, Krishna Consciousness, and many more. They were responding to troubling statements in a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
The Commission asserts in its Findings that religious organizations “use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate.”

What we find even more disturbing is that, in a statement included in the report, Commission Chairman Martin Castro writes:
“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
Read the whole letter. This is important.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

It's been a troubling last few days with a couple of stories about targeting Catholicism and freedom of religion. Luckily, this Sunday's readings are perfect for the situation. They're all geared to encourage and remind us to pray (while we do all we can) and to trust God.

In fact, it includes one of my favorite parables, about the judge who delivered a just decision because he was afraid the widow would "poke him in the eye" (specific translation from the Greek which is often toned down in different translations). Makes me laugh and recall that we often forget Jesus' sense of humor.

I was greatly inspired and encouraged after hearing commentary from two different sources.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Well Said: Five Peas

There were five peas in one shell: they were green and the pod was green, and so they thought all the world was green; and that was just as it should be.
Hans Christian Anderson, Five Peas From a Pod
Who knew? Hans Christian Anderson foresaw social media.

Tacos of Tomatillo Chicken with Wilted Greens and Fresh Cheese

It's what was for dinner a couple of nights ago. Delicious! Recipe is at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Worth a Thousand Words: Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon

Mrs. Walter Rathbone Bacon, Anders Zorn, 1897

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Una Muchacha

Tom Roberts, Una Muchacha, 1883
via Wikipedia

Well Said: Who is the most holy?

It is not those who commit the least faults who are most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love, who make the boldest efforts to overcome themselves, and are not immoderately apprehensive of tripping.
Francis de Sales

Genesis Notes: Noah and the Flood

GENESIS 6-8
The last study looked at how the people cleansed in the flood had a clear choice between right and wrong. This brings us to the other question my girls asked when little, "What about the poor animals? It isn't fair to them." True enough and a question that always tugged at my heart strings also. When I read why the animals had to be included the light bulb really went on. This explanation ties in with things I've read in other sources (notably Peter Kreeft's work) which talks about the universe being created for man.

Noah's Ark (1846), Edward Hicks.
For animals to be included in the cleansing of the earth suggests the inseparable relationship between man and the rest of creation. The dominion God had given him has real meaning - when man goes down, so does all the rest of the earth. This helps us to see clearly how all the elements of creation led up to the creation of man. He was not just one player among many. Without man, the rest has no meaning. (Genesis: God and His Creation)
The other question that comes up every time in this classic tale is just how the animals were collected in the first place.
Many have wondered how this animal kingdom roundup happened. Did Noah and his sons spend years collecting all the animals? In reality the creation, along with Noah, was doing just as God had commanded. There seemed to be no problem gathering the animals. God took care of the details of that job while Noah was doing his part by building the ark. Often we do just the opposite of Noah. We worry about details over which we have no control, while neglecting specific areas (such as attitudes, relationships, responsibilities) that are under our control. Like Noah, concentrate on what God has given you to do and leave the rest to God. (Life Application Study Bible)
I also liked reading this description of the size of the ship, which boggles the mind. It's bad enough to build a regular boat with no visible hope of water to float it but what God asked Noah to do seemed preposterous if you didn't have faith.
... Picture yourself building a boat the length of one and a half football fields and as high as a four-story building. The ark was exactly six times longer than it was wide -- the same ratio used by modern shipbuilders. This huge boat was probably built miles from any body of water by only a few faithful men who believed God's promises and obeyed his commands. (Life Application Study Bible)
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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Ornamental Typography

Via BibliOdyssey

Lagniappe: Faithful even in their infidelity

... according to the characteristic modesty of a Frenchman, Albert had quitted Paris with the full conviction that he had only to show himself in Italy to carry all before him, and that upon his return he should astonish the Parisian world with the recital of his numerous love-affairs. Alas, poor Albert! none of those interesting adventures fell in his way; the lovely Genoese, Florentines, and Neapolitans were all faithful, if not to their husbands, at least to their lovers, and thought not of changing even for the splendid appearance of Albert de Morcerf; and all he gained was the painful conviction that the ladies of Italy have this advantage over those of France, that they are faithful even in their infidelity.
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
I'd forgotten that Dumas has a sly humor like this. He made me laugh twice in this brief bit.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #59: Chuck Norris vs. Communism

A documentary about the magic of film and the power it has to change lives.

Chuck Norris vs. Communism

As good as its name and you've got to admit it — that name is pretty darned good.

I had no idea that bootleg, dubbed video tapes were ever available in communist Romania. Certainly I didn't realize they were a widespread source of information about the West and inspiration for how life could be.

That's the subject of this documentary which is a well told tribute to the power of story as well as a previously untold chapter of the fight against communism.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

In which we fix Carstairs breakfast. And find out more about Heloise and Handsome Lover Boy.


Chapter 3 of Oh, Murderer Mine at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Rated G for sassy girl teachers, Handsome Lover Boys, gigantic Great Danes, and deceptively pudgy detectives.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Europa, Discover Life Under the Ice

Europa
via my husband who recalled Will Duquette featuring these on Facebook
From NASA/JPL Visions of the Future, a wonderful series of "what if" travel posters.
Astonishing geology and the potential to host the conditions for simple life make Jupiter's moon Europa a fascinating destination for future exploration. Beneath its icy surface, Europa is believed to conceal a global ocean of salty liquid water twice the volume of Earth's oceans. Tugging and flexing from Jupiter's gravity generates enough heat to keep the ocean from freezing. On Earth, wherever we find water, we find life. What will NASA's Europa mission find when it heads for this intriguing moon in the 2020s.

Well Said: None of the virtues are simple.

"Dealing with him was distasteful," she said. "He was similar to some of our donors. Outwardly quite charming, but I don't value charm. There are other qualities I value, such as perseverance and honesty." My face must have change. She smiled again. "You have a right to disbelieve that, after what you've heard, but honesty is a complicated virtues."

"I always thought it was one of the simpler ones."

"None of the virtues are simple," Margaret O'Connor told me. "Only the sins."
S.J. Rozan, Concourse

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lagniappe: Still like that.

"Lydia. You're still like that, huh?" He shook his head, smiling. "You're still like that."

I wasn't completely sure what it was I was still like, but I knew I was still like that.
S.J. Rozan, China Trade

Two Mysteries by S.J. Rozan

China Trade 

(Lydia Chin & Bill Smith, #1)
by S.J. Rozan

Lydia Chin is an ABC (American Born Chinese) living in New York's Chinatown with her mother. She's also a private investigator and we follow her on a case tracking down stolen porcelain from a small, private Chinese museum. Thus we get first-person insight into life in Chinatown, Chinese gangs, Chinese mothers (and brothers) and many other details of daily life in this unique environment.

Lydia often partners with Bill Smith who provides both brains and muscle to complement Lydia's own particular skills. The partnership contrasts work well both for mystery solving and as a story telling device.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and was interested to see that the next book is one of Bill Smith's cases, told from his point of view. So I dove right in.


Concourse

(Bill Smith & Lydia Chin, #2)
by S.J. Rozan

I now understand why people say that the first book about Lydia Chin and Bill Smith was good but this one blew their socks off. Yes. It is a powerfully written book, from Bill Smith's point of view this time, and one that somehow has a different feel and style. The mystery is similarly labyrinthine, it is filled with interesting characters (some we loathe and some we love), and it held my interest the entire way through.

When Bobby Moran's son is killed working in his security firm, Bobby hires Bill Smith to investigate. Bobby was Bill's mentor and Bill knew the victim growing up so this one's personal. The murder was during a run-of-the-mill assignment at an elegant retirement home that is in the middle of a badly deteriorated neighborhood. With Lydia Chin working backup, Bill wades through the clues while additional murders pile up.

Interestingly, we get a nuanced look at urban blight which ranges from the victims to the exploiters to the non-profits trying to help. Not what I expected from investigating a murder in a senior community, but it was really well done.

Prayers for Family in Hurricane's Path

My mother, sister and BIL (haha, his name is Bill too) are in Melbourne, Florida, in the path of Hurricane Matthew.

They're hunkering down at Mom's place and hopefully will have the cheerful hurricane party experience that my husband recalls from his Houstonian childhood experiences.

Please keep them in your prayers.

As well as all of those in the storm's path, like Bridget!

St. Medard, patron saint for protection against bad storms, pray for them!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lagniappe: Trembling Inside

Mike's widow, to whom I'd said a few clumsy words, sat by the coffin. She was quiet, but she seemed to be trembling inside, like a teardrop.
S.J. Rozen, Concourse

Worth a Thousand Words: The Avenue

Claude Monet, The Avenue, 1878
via Arts Everyday Living

Genesis Notes: Left Behind

GENESIS 6-8
Now Genesis brings us to a character who even the smallest child is familiar with, Noah and his ark of animals. When the girls were little and we would read picture books of this story they always were saddened by the animals and people left behind. Truth to tell, I was saddened by those pictures too. I never had a good reason as to why they got left behind. That's because I hadn't yet looked below the surface of Genesis. Get ready to look into Romans for some help with this subject in a way that relates directly to life today.


Noah mosaic

When you read the account of the Flood, realizing that everyone except Noah's family died because of God's judgment, did you ever have a twinge of wondering if that was fair? After all, if some human civilizations developed away from the covenant-keepers, thus becoming intensely evil, perhaps we want to say that they didn't know any better. Maybe we think they never really had a chance to live their lives the way Noah did.

St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans (1:19-25), helps us to understand better just exactly what was going on among men whose lives were given over to wickedness ...

Here we see that St. Paul says that anyone who lives on the planet Earth, whether he lives among covenant keeping people or not, knows enough about God to live in the right way. Why? Because God has revealed Himself in His works. Looking around at the world in which he lives, a man is capable of recognizing that (1) there is a God (2) He is powerful (3) He deserves to be honored and thanked (Rom. 1:20-21). When a man chooses not to act on what he knows to be true, he suppresses the truth. It isn't that he has been deprived of it-he simply refuses to live by it.

When that happens, things go downhill fast, as St. Paul tells us (Romans 1:28-32) ... This is a description of what happened in the early history of man and what continues to happen when men, like Cain, know what is right to do but refuse to do it. When that happens, the most merciful thing God can do is to punish man. It is often only when men are faced with suffering and death that their autonomy crumbles to ash, and they are willing to cry out to God, Whom they are finally ready to acknowledge as the only One who can help...

The people swept away in the Flood were not necessarily eternally lost. Their death was a temporal punishment until Christ preached to them the message of redemption they needed to hear. Those who were merely ignorant surely responded with great joy. But those who, like Cain, had hardened their hearts through sin, might well have had the same reaction to Christ as Cain had to God — "Thanks, but no thanks." We should never worry about the justice and fairness of God (see CCC 632-635).

When they get to why the animals had to be included the light bulb really went on. This explanation ties in with things I've read in other sources (notably Peter Kreeft's work) which talks about the universe being created for man.
For animals to be included in the cleansing of the earth suggests the inseparable relationship between man and the rest of creation. The dominion God had given him has real meaning — when man goes down, so does all the rest of the earth. This helps us to see clearly how all the elements of creation led up to the creation of man. He was not just one player among many. Without man, the rest has no meaning.

The other question that comes up every time in this classic tale is just how the animals were collected in the first place.
Many have wondered how this animal kingdom roundup happened. Did Noah and his sons spend years collecting all the animals? In reality the creation, along with Noah, was doing just as God had commanded. There seemed to be no problem gathering the animals. God took care of the details of that job while Noah was doing his part by building the ark. Often we do just the opposite of Noah. We worry about details over which we have no control, while neglecting specific areas (such as attitudes, relationships, responsibilities) that are under our control. Like Noah, concentrate on what God has given you to do and leave the rest to God.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Movie You Might Have Missed #58: The Search for General Tso

Who was General Tso, and why are we eating his chicken?

The Search for General Tso

This feature documentary explores the origins and ubiquity of Chinese-American food through the story of an iconic sweet and spicy chicken dish.

Incredibly enjoyable. I knew a lot about Chinese food in America already and this still held my attention. When they did the profile on Springfield, Missouri's Chinese specialty of Cashew Chicken I knew these people had done their research. I spent many formative years in Springfield and you just weren't living if you hadn't had some Cashew Chicken recently.

It is just as described, delightfully insightful, bringing out all the important elements without dwelling on any of them so long that the story gets bogged down.

Worth a Thousand Words: Le Journal des ventes

Le Journal des ventes, Georges de Feure

Lagniappe: A dozen scientists and engineers

Confine a dozen scientists and engineers to a seemingly endless desert of hard-packed sand with no recreational diversions and, inevitably, they will design and build a golf course.
P.J. Tracy, The Sixth Idea

Julie plans to use the flu ... Scott heads to Pomeroy's ...


Julie plans to use the flu to her utmost advantage, as it is a disease with endless possibilities. Scott, his wig and gown a complete disgrace, heads down to Pomeroy's for some plonk.

Episode 143. Rumpole. Of the Bailey. A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Another of my favorite feast days. This year it falls on Sunday which is reserved for worship of Jesus. He trumps all else. But we still want to consider the guardian angels, don't we? So I'm posting this for you to read Monday.


Devotion to the Guardian Angels goes back to the beginnings of Christianity. Pope Clement X proclaimed the feast a universal celebration in the seventeenth century. The Guardian Angels serve as the messengers of God. The Almighty has allocated a Guardian Angel to each one of us for our protection and for the good of our apostolate...

We have to deal with our Guardian Angels in a familiar way, while at the same time recognizing their superior nature and grace. Though less palpable in their presence than human friends are, their efficacy for our benefit is far greater. Their counsel and suggestions come from God, and penetrate more deeply than any human voice. To reiterate, their capacity for hearing and understanding us is much superior even to that of our most faithful human friend, since their attendance at our side is continuous; they can enter more deeply into our intentions, desires and petitions than can any human being, since angels can reach our imagination directly without recourse to the comprehension of words. They are able to incite images, provoke memories, and make impressions in order to give us direction.

As devoted as I am to the Archangels, I am especially fond of my Guardian Angel. He is always there when I need him and has a wicked sense of humor. Perhaps wicked is not the right word. He must, therefore, have an angelic sense of humor! This is one of my favorite feast days.

For my personal angel stories, as well as some general information, you can read more here, here, and here.

Prayer to One's Guardian Angel

Dear Angel,
in his goodness God gave you to me to
guide, protect and enlighten me,
and to being me back to the right way when I go astray.
Encourage me when I am disheartened,
and instruct me when I err in my judgment.
Help me to become more Christlike,
and so some day to be accepted into
the company of Angels and Saints in heaven.
Amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Feast Day of St. Therese of Lisieux: The Strong Woman Called the "Little Flower"

What broke open connecting with St. Therese for me? A good translation and a second book. I wrote about it for Patheos several years ago and Therese's feast day seems a good time to share it here.

Brede, No Treacle*: St. Therese and Rumer Godden


Canonized less than thirty years after her death, Thérèse's only book, The Story of a Soul, was enough to get her named a saint, and more recently a Doctor of the Church. Thérèse is the youngest person to be so named and only the third woman to receive this honor.

This all is quite praiseworthy. What is it, then, about this saint that divides Catholics sharply into two camps: those who love her unreservedly and those who are pointedly indifferent when her name is mentioned?

In a nutshell, it is Thérèse's own words that lead many to distastefully associate her with saccharin piety. Her autobiography was written as a young girl to her sister in the flowery, sentimental French style of the late 19th century. Older translations, if anything, heighten the over-wrought style. The other problem is the subject matter: early childhood devotion to Jesus, testimony about her relationship with Jesus, and Thérèse's struggles in the convent to do small things for Christ. Even talented writers might struggle to communicate these concepts well, much less a young woman with limited writing experience.

I read The Story of a Soul long ago because I was urged to do so by many devotees of "The Little Flower," as she is called. Wishing to politely turn off those suggestions, I read the book as fast as possible. Naturally, I got little from it.

The key, as I discovered recently, is not only to read St. Thérèse with attention, but to have a translation that cuts through her "treacle." Robert Edmonson's translation from Paraclete Press does precisely that. Thérèse's trademark piety, sincerity, and liveliness cannot be denied, but this translation makes it easier to see beneath her superficial-seeming surface to the complex person underneath. She emerges as tough, uncompromising, and heroic with a strong core of common sense.
The second experience that I had concerns the priests. Never having lived close to them, I couldn't understand the principal goal of the Carmelite reform [to pray for priests]. To pray for sinners delighted me, but to pray for the souls of priests, whom I thought of as purer than crystal, seemed astonishing to me. ...

For a month I lived with many holy priests, and I saw that if their sublime dignity raises them above the Angels, they are nonetheless weak and fragile men . ... If holy priests whom Jesus calls in the Gospel "the salt of the earth" show in their behavior that they have an extreme need of prayers, what can one say about the ones who are lukewarm? Didn't Jesus add, "But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?" [Mt 5:13]
Her observation sadly resonates all too well with the modern reader. The 15-year-old Thérèse is revealed as someone who faces the truth and applies the only action she can take, which is prayer.

Thérèse also reveals her extreme struggles to love her neighbors in the convent, often accompanied by a lively sense of the ridiculous. There is the example of her determination to assist an elderly Sister down a long hallway after dinner, which begins with the aged woman shaking her hourglass at Thérèse to get her attention. This contains so much truth, conveyed with such good humor, that we can see the Sister's personality exactly because we know people just like her. Thérèse is never afraid to laugh at herself either.
... I've made a sort of speech about charity that must have tired you out reading it. Forgive me, beloved Mother, and remember that right now the nurses are practicing on my behalf what I've just written. They're not afraid to go two miles when twenty steps would suffice. So I've been able to observe charity in action! ...

When I begin to take up my pen, here's a good Sister who passes near me, a pitchfork over her shoulder. She thinks she's entertaining me by chatting with me a little. Hay, ducks, hens, a doctor's visit, everything's on the table. To tell you the truth, that doesn't last long, but there's more than one good, charitable Sister, and suddenly another hay cutter drops some flowers in my lap, thinking that perhaps she'll inspire some poetic ideas in me. Not seeking out flowers right then, I would prefer that they remain attached to their stems.
It has become fashionable to discount St. Thérèse's spiritual struggles by filtering them through modern perspectives. Biographers look at the girl whose mother died when she was very small, at her "abandonment" by her older sisters as they one by one entered the convent, at her early entry into the cloister. They speak of neuroses and a stifled personality by living in the unrealistic atmosphere of the convent.

It's better to take Thérèse at her word. Many people suffered similar life circumstances and worse, but were never suffused with the love of God, or the wisdom, that Thérèse relates.

An antidote to the heaping of modern perspectives onto Thérèse's insights might be to read one of the finest books ever written about convent life. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden is fictional but it portrays cloistered convent life in such a real, luminous way that it could be mistaken for an autobiography.

Philippa Talbot, a successful career woman in her 40s, leaves London to join a cloistered Benedictine community. Once she enters, the narrative never leaves that setting, yet the story is riveting. There are mysteries and minor intrigues, but the focus is on the characters, who are fully realized with flaws and virtues alike. Readers soon realize that life among the religious is no easier path; an enclosed community requires more Christian development from the souls within, not less.

Rumer Godden lived at the gatehouse of an English enclosed community for three years while writing In This House of Brede, during which time she converted to Catholicism, and eventually became a Benedictine Oblate. The deep understanding that comes from real exposure to the life infuses the novel with such authenticity that the book is still recommended by actual cloistered religious to those who wonder what such life can be like.

Godden had a talent for looking into the heart of what makes us truly human, both good and bad. In holding up her characters' flaws, she holds up a mirror into which we blush to look, even when the flaws seem relatively minor.
... Odd, she [Philippa] had thought, I never seriously visualized coming out of Brede again; it had not occurred to her, but in those minutes it occurred painfully. She could have blushed to think how once she had taken it for granted that, if she made enough effort—steeled herself—it would be settled. "I know," Dame Clare said afterwards. "I was as confident. Once upon a time I even thought God had taste, choosing me!"

Dame Perpetua had been more blunt. "Weren't you surprised that God should have chosen you?" a young woman reporter, writing a piece on vocations, had asked her. "Yes," Dame Perpetua had answered, "but not nearly as surprised that he should have chosen some of the others—but then God's not as fastidious as we are."
Rumer Godden is the talented writer who provides perspective for the cloistered life that Thérèse experienced. Her insights into the rich, full life that can be had in the convent are the final antidote for those who believe otherwise.

I am no longer indifferent to St. Thérèse. She has become a solid friend who has provided good advice for overcoming my faults and loving my neighbors better. Thanks to Robert Edmonson and Rumer Godden, there are new lessons to be learned both for those who are devoted to St. Thérèse and those who are indifferent.

*Clarification
Treacle = British for molasses (sort of)

Wikipedia sez: The most common forms of treacle are the pale syrup that is also known as golden syrup and the darker syrup that is usually referred to as dark treacle or black treacle. Dark treacle has a distinctively strong flavour, slightly bitter, and a richer colour than golden syrup,[3] yet not as dark as molasses.