Friday, April 28, 2017

Well Said: Learning from Children

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.
Franklin P. Jones
Just one more way families help us be better people!

Worth a Thousand Words: Le Morte d'Arthur

Le Morte d'Arthur Cover Illustration, Himmapaan

Through Darkest Zymurgia!

Will Duquette has a new book out.
My latest book, Through Darkest Zymurgia!, is now available in print or as an e-book. It’s a Ripping Yarn of Exploration and Adventure in a faux-Victorian world with some surprising features and a good deal of understated humor. You’ll like it, I promise.

It’s cheaper as an e-book, but buy the print edition—it’s gorgeous.
How much do I love this humorous take on a Victorian tale of exploration and adventure? So much so that I volunteered to do the layout.

I'll do a proper review soon but wanted to give y'all a heads up on this one. Check the link for a longer description. It's highly enjoyable.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: A Day Full of Rain

A Day Full of Rain, Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: "Me," said Poirot, "I lead a very moral life."

"The English," said Poirot, "are a very moral people."

Lord Dittisham said: "Confound them, they are!"

He added, looking at Poirot, "And you?"

"Me," said Poirot, "I lead a very moral life. That is not quite the same thing as having moral ideas."
Agatha Christie, Five Little Pigs

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pope Francis's TED Talk: "The future does have a name, and its name is Hope."

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: "Why them and not me?" I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today's "discarded" people. And that's why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: "Why them and not me?"
If you'd rather not watch the video, you can read the transcript of Pope Francis's TED Talk.

Worth a Thousand Words: A Parrot Ara macao

A parrot Ara macao, Edward Lear

Well Said: Stories and Spiders

Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Genesis Notes: What Abraham's Life Means to Us

GENESIS 22 & 23
Abraham's story with all the drama and events and lies and faulty humans is actually a story that shows us God's faithfulness and love. I never would have thought of it this way before going through this study but it is undeniable.

The vision of the Lord directing Abraham to count the stars,
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860
The story of Abraham's life is a story with almost limitless meaning. It includes examples of faith, prayer, and sacrifice. It contains many lessons for those who, like Abraham, live their lives by putting their faith in God. Yet perhaps the greatest significance of the story of Abraham is that it is the story of God in love with man.

From the earliest chapters of Genesis, we have traced out the evidence of God's profound love for the human creatures who bear His image and likeness. The rebellion of Adam and Eve not only did not conquer God's love, it actually became an occasion for Him to demonstrate its depth and breadth and height. For not only did God love humans when they behaved, but He even loved them when they sinned. How? He gave them promises to live by and punishments to purify them. Over and over again, God bent down to reorganize and restore the family life that was shattered in Eden. First, He promised to defeat His enemy through human beings. Then, in Genesis 12, He promised to create, from one man, a whole nation that would belong to Him; through that nation, He planned to reverse the curse of Eden into universal blessing.

The context for comprehending the significance of Abraham's story is the initiative and action of God in pursuit of humanity. His call to Abram in Genesis 12 begins a detailed, engaging account of how one ordinary human being, a creature of flesh and blood like us, is singled out by God to be transformed from sinner to saint. The story of his life is the first extended account we have of intimacy between God and man. It is a story of God's love from beginning to end.

Yes, even at the end, when God asks Abraham to give up, to put to death, that which gives his life its only true meaning, He is acting out of passionate love for him. How can that be? God knows that in losing our lives, we find them. He knew that in Eden. He knew that on Moriah. He knew it on Calvary. The source of perfect human happiness is perfect obedience to God, even if it costs us everything.
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.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Early Saturday Morning

Early Saturday Morning
by Karin Jurick
The painting is an homage to Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning and Summertime. Check out the Hopper painting at the link and you can see what a wonderful homage Jurick's painting is.

Well Said: The Value of Kneestem

"A lot of what you've been teaching me sometimes seems kind of useless. Like that kneestem you've got—I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with magic. It's just a weed. You said yourself it's worthless."

"It is worthless to us and to animals, having no value either as medicine or as food," Ingold agreed, turning the dry wisp in his mittened fingers. "But we ourselves are useless to other forms of life—except, I might point out, as sustenance to the Dark Ones. Kneestem, like you and me, exists for its own sake, and we must take that into account in all our dealings with the world that we hold in common with it.
Barbara Hambly, The Walls of Air
Of course, I'm thinking of this in relation to a lot of issues that have nothing to do with the obvious application, such as our environment. It's a very Catholic way of looking at the world.

Books In the Pipeline

I just realized that between podcasts and my book club I've got a lot of varied reading coming up. I would say this interferes with my 2017 book goals but I tossed them out the window about a month ago.

I'd kind of forced the list this year just because I'd done a reading goals in previous years. Note to self - no need to force a reading list. The books will come to you anyway. And the reading will be both varied and wonderful.

This is my "assigned" reading for the next few months.  (Title links go to my reviews.)
  • THE ROSIE PROJECT - rereading this for my Catholic women's book club. Proof that a book can be light and fun and still say something meaningful.

  • THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - it's been years since I've read this one. It's Scott's selection for our next book on A Good Story is Hard to Find.

  • DRACULA - rereading for SFFaudio podcast. I love this book so much. So. much.

  • BURGLARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS - also for SFFaudio. Never read it but Lawrence Block's "burglar" series is supposed to be good.

  • NOSTRA AETATE (Vatican II doc: The Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) - Catholic women's book club choice. The Vatican II documents are surprisingly easy reading.

  • A TALE OF TWO CITIES - the book that introduced me to Dickens as an adult. This will be my next book choice for A Good Story is Hard to Find.

  • THE MALTESE FALCON - the movie's good but the book is better. This one's also for SFFaudio.
Elements of Faith book club - live in Dallas? Join us!

A short interview about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

In this short Interview Extra, Scott sits down with Julie to discuss her new book Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: Prayers and Reflections for Getting Closer.

Hear it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: The Three Bears

Arthur Rackham, The Story of the Three Bears, 1837
via Wikipedia

Well Said: The Marvels of Rome and the Length of Human Memory

One of the marvels of Rome is that the traditional portraits of St. Peter and St. Paul have been preserved in the catacombs, and every artist who has painted the two Apostles owes something to this tradition. The portraits were engraved in gold leaf on the bases of the glasses or chalices which, as the Salesian Father had told me, were embedded in the plaster round the bodies. There are hundreds of these glasses to be seen in the Vatican Museum, and the type of portrait never varied. Both Apostles are shown as men of middle-age and both are bearded, but while St. Peter has a fine head of curly hair, St. Paul is almost bald. Those who have studied the portraits believe that they embody a tradition which goes back possibly to the days of Nero and to those who knew the Apostles by sight.

I was reminded of a story which the late Monsignor Stapylton Barnes was fond of telling to illustrate the length of human memory. His mother, who died in 1927 at a great age, could clearly remember, as a small girl, hearing Victoria proclaimed queen in 1837. When a child she was often taken to see a very old lady who remembered the French Revolution and the execution of Marie Antoinette in 1793. This old lady had spent her childhood in Philadelphia and had known Benjamin Franklin, who was born in 1706. Thus it would have been possible for Franklin to have described some event of his early childhood--perhaps the great fire in Boston of 1711--to the little girl, who could have told it in her ld age to another little girl, Mrs. Barnes, who could have passed on the story to her son in the twentieth century.

In his book The Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, Monsignor Barnes refers to the great sweep of human events commanded by such lives, and says 'it would have been possible for a Christian child in rome in the year 67 to have been actually present at St. Peter's martyrdom and to have seen him nailed to the cross, and still to have been alive and able to tell the tale in 150. And the child to whom he told it then could have told the story again in his extreme old age to one who lived to see the peace of the Church in 312 under Constantine.'
H. V. Morton, A Traveller in Rome
This is lengthy but I love the vivid illustration of how few generations it takes to span a very long period of time when passing along memories.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why You Should Go to Church (Even If You're Not Sure of Your Beliefs)

I'm not sure tho compelling this would've been before I became a believer. Now, though, having gone to church for a couple of decades, I can attest to the truth of this piece from The Art of Manliness. So I can assure you they're on point here.

These are just a few of the topics they touch upon:

  • A Chance to Remember/Reorient/Reflect/Re-center
  • Builds Discipline
  • Rare Chance for Communal Singing
  • Breaches Your Echo Chamber and Connects You With People From Different Walks of Life
  • Contributes to Greater Free-Thinking and Your Diversity of Ideas
  • Ample Opportunities (and More Motivation) for Service

Worth a Thousand Words: Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere, Lavinia Fontana, 1581
via Elizabeth Lev
Fontana’s version emphasized accuracy: Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener, and so she paints him in a broad-brimmed hat holding a shovel. Yet once she has emphasized the literal sense, Lavinia also evokes a beautiful scene. The atmosphere is permeated with warm golden light as a new age is dawning. A little flashback scene in the distance shows the women who have left the city arriving at the tomb where an angel tells them Christ is gone. Mary’s pose in the further scene shows her with the slumped shoulders of dejection, but in the foreground her face becomes radiant with hope. Christ puts out his hand, ostensibly to tell her not to touch Him, but also in a gesture of affectionate blessing. Mary’s gaze is directed toward the wound on his hand made visible for her, but she seems to look beyond it, trying to gaze at his face under the shadowy brim. Proof of his resurrection is not her primary concern as she sinks to her usual place by his feet. The light, setting, and positions evoke a love story, a compelling language that the Counter-Reformation will employ in its time.
There's more where that came from. I love being shown beneath the surface of paintings for deeper meaning. Elizabeth Lev's piece discusses the goals of Counter-Reformation art and opens another piece up for our edification. Be sure to check it out.

Genesis Notes: Jews, Christians, Muslims ... and Abraham

We know that all three religions have a basic connection through Abraham. A succinct summary in The Complete Bible Handbook shows where they agree and disagree about Abraham's example for us.

Abraham Serving the Three Angels by Rembrandt
A common reverence for Abraham as a model of true human response to God and as ancestor of subsequent believers is one of the prime links between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Abraham's responsiveness to God is summed up in his epithet as "the friend of God." This title is first given in Hebrew scripture (Isa 41:8; 2 Chr. 20:7); it is taken up in the New Testament (Jas. 2:23); and in Islam, Abraham (Ibrahim) is known simply as "the friend" (Al Kahlil).

Each religion gives content to Abraham's friendship with God in terms of its own characteristic emphases, on the supposition that Abraham is best understood in terms of that to which he helped give rise. Thus for Jews (appealing to Gen. 26:5 as well as to more general considerations), Abraham is an example of one who was obedient to God's commandments, or Torah, even before Torah was given to Israel at Sinai. For Christians, following Paul's exposition (Rom. 4), Abraham is a model of one who has faith (pistis) in God. For Muslims, Abraham demonstrates islam, unconditional submission to the will of God, as in his willingness to sacrifice his son. Though Jews, Christians, and Muslims differ about the true human response to God as exemplified by Abraham, they agree that he provides a model of how human life should be lived.
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.

San Jacinto Day! Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!

Thank goodness that my friend Don never forgets ... he's the one always reminding me it is San Jacinto Day He has told me many a time:
I try to remember all of these good Texas holidays. They really bring home how unique the state –and future Republic?—truly is. This one is a real holiday, not like Cinco de Mayo. I mean, if you have a holiday to celebrate beating the French, then every day would be a holiday!
Ha! No kidding!

Let's all go get a few margaritas and lift them high to the Texian heroes of the decisive battle of the Texas revolution!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel!"

Watch the news anchor's reaction to the forgiveness expressed by the widow of the gatekeeper who prevented a suicide bomber from entering an Alexandria church yard on Palm Sunday, thereby saving countless lives.

It is truly moving. This is why the blood of the martyrs [and the forgiveness of the faithful] is the seed of the church.

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel! These people have so much forgiveness!"
Via The Deacon's Bench.

Worth a Thousand Words: Tea Service

Albert Anker, Tea Service, c. 1910
via Arts Everyday Living

A "Fast Take" Interview on Aleteia

Elizabeth Scalia graciously offered me a "fast take" interview on Aleteia about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. Aleteia is a worldwide Catholic network with all sorts of fascinating articles.

Among other things, find out what person I identify with most in the book, what writing it taught me, and ... perhaps most importantly of all ... what the ideal beverage is that you should have in hand while reading your copy!

Challenging Opinions Interview: Sticking Up for the Faith

William has relaunched his podcast and I feel honored that my 2016 interview was one he carried over. So I'm reposting this in case you're interested.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
I Peter 3:15
William Campbell invited me to chat with him at his podcast, Challenging Opinions. The podcast exists to "test all ideas, left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and libertarian."

That idea in itself is pretty challenging but when I listened to sample episodes William was a fair and impartial interviewer, which is a rare quality these days.

I thought we were going to discuss my post Obedience: The Dirtiest Word in America so I was prepared to talk about being an American Catholic during the political season. I think that post was only what drew me to William's attention. We never actually discussed that topic, but wound up covering everything from faith in God to Catholic misdeeds to the future of the Church.

I was going completely off the cuff, which I think shows sometimes, but that in itself was fair. Shouldn't we be able to shed some light on faith and the Church when we're asked about it? It was a like a particularly invigorating workout and I really enjoyed talking with William.

Listen at Challenging Opinions or iTunes.


The Reason for My Hope and Why I'm a Happy Catholic
This didn't come up in our fast-paced conversation, but I wanted to share it anyway. This quote perfectly echoes my feeling.
I have looked for happiness everywhere: in the elegant life of the salons, in the deafening noise of balls and parties, in accumulating money, in the excitement of gambling, in artistic glory, in friendship with famous people, in the pleasure of the senses. Now I have found happiness, I have an overflowing heart and I want to share it with you. … You say, “But I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.” I say to you, “Neither did I and that is why I was unhappy.
Hermann Cohen, letter to a friend
All my life I searched for Truth, wondering if there were such a thing. And I found it in Jesus.


On the documents I hadn't heard of, allegedly Vatican blueprints for methodically concealing sex crimes, the news articles had responses from both the Church and other experts which point out that they aren't a "smoking gun" and that "it's a church law that deals only with religious crimes and sins. And that the secrecy is meant to protect the faithful from scandal." All this proves is that there are two sides to any issue and that we can't make quick assumptions without very careful study.

A friend of mine is a canon lawyer. I've often heard him speak about how easy it is to misunderstand a law by only a looking at it through one frame, especially when it has been misused so that is the only lens we are using. Often these laws reflect long ago history and problems which were very different than the current issues.

Can such documents be misused? Absolutely. Was there a terrible sexual misconduct and a mistaken idea of protecting the Church implemented by moving predators around? No doubt. These are the sins we, the faithful, mourn and must keep from ever recurring.

But, it is equally a mistake to read our current mindset backwards into documents whose roots lie deep in the past. Jumping to conclusions about intention is as much of a mistake as ignoring victims to protect an institution.

Which is all a way of saying ... it's complicated.

Easter Thursday: Litany for the Easter Season

A beautiful litany full of praise and joy. And, not too long. What could be better?
Litany for the Easter Season
Father of life, we give you praise and glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have given Jesus victory over sin.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have raised him from the dead.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have made his cross a sign of glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

You have made us sharers in your life.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

With Christ, you have buried us in death to sin.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

With him you have raised us to new life.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

He is seated with you in glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

He sends his Spirit to guide our lives.
Christ is risen, alleluia!

Jesus will come again in glory.
Christ is risen, alleluia!
Now don't forget, Easter doesn't end until Pentecost, so keep on celebrating right up to June 4!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: "Are you ready to hit the reset button on your practice of the faith? Here it is."

A friend had a relative who’d just turned to God for the first time in the midst of a serious end-of-life crisis, but now what? How do you help someone who’s ignored God for a lifetime to even know how to pray? I recommended this book.

Starting with “Beginning to Pray” as the zero point, Julie walks the reader from I’ve-got-nothing all the way into the depths of the Christian life.
Jen Fitz has a lovely review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. Please do read the whole thing at the link.

Easter Wednesday: Via Lucis - Stations of the Resurrection for Easter

Nikolay Koshelev, Harrowing of Hell, 1900
Via Lucis, The Way of Light substitutes meditations on the Stations of the Resurrection for the Stations of the Cross.
As with the Stations of the Cross, the devotion takes no fixed form, but typically includes for each Station a reading from Scripture, a short meditation, and a prayer. Where a series of pictures is used to aid the devotion, it takes the form of a procession, with movement from one Station to the next sometimes being accompanied by the singing of one or more verses of a hymn. (Source: Wikipedia)
I first came across this practice in Magnificat, which typically features a version in their Easter edition.

For Easter meditation, this devotion parallels the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary just as the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) complements the Sorrowful Mysteries. These stations were discovered in the Catacombs of St. Callistus in Rome.

If you check the Wikipedia link there are a couple of different lists of meditative stations. As with the original Stations of the Cross, it is evolving as the practice is taken up by growing numbers of people. I like getting to see that happen, actually.

This link is to a pdf from the Archdiocese of Detroit which can be printed out. I'm grateful these are provided.

Note on the art
Just to keep that fluid Via Lucis meditation going, one of my favorite things to contemplate is when Christ brought salvation to the righteous who had already died but were waiting for this moment.  That is not part of any of the Via Lucis lists that you'll find but, hey, I don't always stick to the "assigned" mysteries when praying the rosary either.

Maybe it's because I've been reading the Divine Comedy. In Hell, Dante has several spots where the architecture and ground were ruined by Christ's coming and the resultant earthquake. I love that so much. (The Harrowing of Hell is complicated. You can read more here.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: A Spring in the Heart

A Spring in the Heart
taken by Remo Savisaar

After a bizarre podcasting accident leaves Julie and Scott in the hospital ...

... the nurses confiscate their copies of The Daughter of Time to stop them arguing about Richard III. It doesn't work. We discuss The Daughter of Time by Joesphine Tey on Episode 156 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Easter Tuesday: Living Under Enemy Occupation in the Light of Victory

I've been posting this one since waaaay back in 2007. It is still as valid now and I, personally, need the  reminder.
Now think of the cross and resurrection of Jesus as breaking the power of sin. But if the power of sin, death and evil has been broken, how can we make sense of the fact that it still continues to plague us? Human history and Christian experience tell us of a constant struggle against sin and evil in our own lives, even as Christians. There is a real danger, it would seem, that talking about "the victory of faith" will become nothing more than empty words, masking a contradiction between faith and experience. How can we handle this problem?

A helpful way of understanding this difficulty was developed by a group of distinguished writers, such as C.S. Lewis in England and Anders Nygren in Sweden. They noticed important parallels between the new Testament and the situation during the Second World War. The victory won over sin through the death of Christ was like the liberation of an occupied country from Nazi rule. We need to allow our imaginations to take in the sinister and menacing idea of an occupying power. Life has to be lived under the shadow of this foreign presence. And part of the poignancy of the situation is its utter hopelessness. Nothing can be done about it. No one can defeat it.

Then comes the electrifying news. There has been a far-off battle. And somehow, it has turned the tide of the war. A new phase has developed, and the occupying power is in disarray. Its backbone has been broken. In the course of time, the Nazis will be driven out of every corner of Europe. But they are still present in the occupied country.

In one sense, the situation has not changed, but in another, more important sense, the situation has changed totally. The scent of victory and liberation is in the air. A total change in the psychological climate results. I remember once meeting a man who had been held prisoner in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Singapore. He told me of the astonishing change in the camp atmosphere which came about when one of the prisoners (who owned a shortwave radio) learned of the collapse of the Japanese war effort in the middle of 1945. Although all in the camp still remained prisoners, they knew that their enemy had been beaten. It would only be a matter of time before they were released. And those prisoners, I was told, began to laugh and cry, as if they were free already.

... And so with us now. In one sense, victory has not come; in another, it has. The resurrection declares in advance of the event God's total victory over all evil and oppressive forces -- such as death, evil and sin. Their backbone has been broken, and we may begin to live now in the light of that victory, knowing that the long night of their oppression will end.
Alister E. McGrath, quoted in Bread and Wine: Readings For Lent And Easter
This is a point of view that hadn't occurred to me. I especially like it for those times when the world is too much with us and the cynicism of modern times begins to get us down. The deciding battle is over, the victory won, but there remain all the small skirmishes (which are not at all small to those caught up in them ... like us) that go on afterwards in any war. By virtue of simply being human and alive we are caught up in the skirmishes of resistance to the enemy occupation. Even when fighting, though, we know ...
The strife is o'er the battle done;
Now is the Victor's triumph won:
Now be the song of praise begun: Alleluia!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lagniappe: The ringing bell had a sinister sound, for no reason of itself, but because of the ears to which it rang.

I got a shoulder holster out of the desk and strapped it on and slipped a Colt .38 automatic into it, put on hat and coat, shut the windows again, put the whiskey away, clicked the lights off and had the office door unlatched when the phone rang.

The ringing bell had a sinister sound, for no reason of itself, but because of the ears to which it rang. I stood there braced and tense, lips tightly drawn back in a half grin. Beyond the closed window the neon lights glowed. The dead air didn’t move. Outside the corridor was still. The bell rang in darkness, steady and strong.

I went back and leaned on the desk and answered. There was a click and a droning on the wire and beyond that nothing. I depressed the connection and stood there in the dark, leaning over, holding the phone with one hand and holding the flat riser on the pedestal down with the other. I didn’t know what I was waiting for.

The phone rang again. I made a sound in my throat and put it to my ear again, not saying anything at all.

So we were there silent, both of us, miles apart maybe, each one holding a telephone and breathing and listening and hearing nothing, not even the breathing.

Then after what seemed a very long time there was the quiet remote whisper of a voice saying dimly, without any tone:

“Too bad for you, Marlowe.”

Then the click again and the droning on the wire and I hung up and went back across the office and out.
Raymond Chandler, The High Window

Worth a Thousand Words: The Fantasy World

Column header from Stirring Science Stories, Feb. 1941
via SFFaudio

Easter Monday: When Easter Makes You Want to Act Like Scrooge on Christmas Morning

This is from a few years ago, but I think it's worth reading again.
After the last egg is found – what next? While I had come to know a little more about Easter and its connection to Jesus – I was still more interested in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans than what I thought of as the mythology of the Christians. Even secular Christmas has some power to let you hear the Gospel even if only via the Carols and the watered-down version of Christmas in a Christmas movie. Secular Easter is another story where hardly and bits of the Gospel make it through into the culture. On the pantheon of holidays Easter for me was less than President’s Day. At least for President’s Day you don’t feel that loss of something you feel should be there, but don’t know why you are lacking something.
Read The Curt Jester's conversion story and his experience with Easter.

I concur in most of the feelings he mentions. In reading through this I noticed that Jeff and I also share that experience of having to wait for a year to be confirmed in the Catholic Church. In my case, unlike his, I needed the RCIA instruction as well receiving the unexpected spiritual growth from the classes.

No matter what your case, read his story. It will remind you of the joy of Easter.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday: Joyful, Joyful

Maurice Denis. Holy Women Near the Tomb/Saintes Femmes au tombeau. 1894
This is the great truth which fills our faith with meaning. Jesus, who died on the cross, has risen. He has triumphed over death; he has overcome sorrow, anguish and the power of darkness ... In him we find everything. Outside of him our life is empty (J. Escriva, Christ is passing by).
After the somber tone and reflection of Holy Thursday and Good Friday I can hardly wait to get to Mass to hear the joy and triumph of our Easter celebration.

May you all have the same delight and joy in your Easter celebrations both in church and at home.

To all the new Catholics around the world who are joining the Church this year, welcome home! This is my 16th birthday as a Catholic and well I remember how wonderful it was sitting with my sweet and wise sponsor, the smell of the chrism (I wanted to never wash it off), and that glorious Mass where it all happened. I will leave you with some funny but wise words from another convert. If you remember these, it will make the good times better and any disillusionment with the Church less.
First, the good news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family.

Second, the bad news about the Catholic Church is: it's like a big family.
Mark Shea

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Week: Holy Saturday - The Sepulchre of Jesus' Body

Hans Holbein. The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. 1521.
Click through on this to see it properly large.
The Body of Christ lay in the tomb. The world was in darkness. Mary was the only light still burning on earth. The Mother of Our Lord -- my Mother -- and the women who have followed the Master from Galilee, after taking careful note of everything, also take their leave. Night falls.

Now it is all over. The work of our Redemption has been accomplished. We are now children of God, because Jesus has died for us and his death has ransomed us. "Empti enim estis pretio magno (1 Cor 6:20), you and I have been bought at a great price.

We must bring into our own life, to make them our own, the life and death of Christ. We must die through mortification and penance, so that Christ may live in us through love. And then follow in the footsteps of Christ, with a zeal to co-redeem all mankind. We must give our life for others. That is the only way to live the life of Jesus Christ, and to become one and the same with him (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Fourteenth Station).

Nicolas Poussin. The Lamentation over Christ. 1655-1657.

This is the loneliest day of the year. Our Lord is gone ...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Part 5 - The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (back, predella): The Wedding at Cana. 1308-11.

The final part of Fulton Sheen's reflections on the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
The Cross is everywhere. When a man stretches out his arms in relaxation, he unconsciously forms the image of the reason for the Son of Man's coming. So too at Cana, the shadow of the Cross was thrown across a "woman," and the first stroke of the "Hour" was sounded like a bell of execution. In all the other incidents of His life, the Cross came first, then the joy. But at Cana, it was the joy of the nuptials that came first--the nuptials of the Bridegroom and the Bride of redeemed humanity; only after that are we reminded that the Cross is the condition of that ecstasy.

Thus He did at a marriage feast what He would not do in a desert; He worked in the full gaze of men what He had refused to do before Satan. Satan asked Him to turn stones into bread in order that He might become an economic Messiah; His mother asked Him to change water into wine that He might become a Savior. Satan tempted Him from death; Mary "tempted" Him to death and Resurrection. Satan tried to lead Him from the Cross; Mary sent Him toward it. Later on, He would take hold of the bread that Satan had said men needed, and tee wine that His mother had said the wedding guests needed, and He would change them both into the memorial of His Passion and His death. Then He would ask that men renew that memorial, even "unto the consummation of the world." The antiphon of His life continues to ring: Everyone else came into the world to live; He came into the world to die.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen

UPDATED - Holy Week: Good Friday - Jesus Dies on the Cross


The Cross was his glory. Jesus did not speak of being crucified; he spoke of being glorified. [John 17:22-26] Therefore, first and foremost, a Christian's glory is the cross that he must bear. It is an honour to suffer for Jesus Christ. We must never think of our cross as our penalty; we must think of it as our glory. The harder the task a knight was given, the greater he considered its glory. The harder the task we give a student, or a craftsmn, or a surgeon, the more we honour him. In effect, we say that we believe that nobody but he could attempt that task at all. So when it is hard to be a Christian, we must regard it as our glory given to us by God.
William Barclay, Gospel of John , vol. 2, Daily Study Bible


The fruits of the Cross were not long in coming. One of the thieves, acknowledging his sins, turns to Jesus: Lord, remember me when you are in your Kingdom. ... He has not needed to see any miracle to be converted into a disciple of Christ; to be a first-hand witness to Christ's suffering has been sufficient. Many others were to be converted on meditating on these same events of the passion related in the Gospels.
In Conversation With God Vol 2: Lent and Eastertide


Says the Cross:
Then the young Hero ungirt himself —
that was God almighty,
Strong, stiff-willed, and strode to the gallows,
Climbed stout-hearted in the sight of many;
intended to set men free.

I trembled when the bold Warrior embraced me, yet I dared not bend to the earth,
fall to the ground for fear; to stand fast was my duty.
A rood was I reared up, bore the rich King,
the Guardian of heaven; I dared not give in.
The Dream of the Rood, Anthony Esolen translation


The Lord is firmly nailed to the cross. He has waited for this for many years, and this day He is to fulfill his desire to redeem all men ... What until now has been an instrument of infamy and dishonor, has been converted into the tree of life and the stairway of glory. A deep joy fills him as he extends his arms on the cross, for all those sinners who will approach him will now know that he will welcome them with open arms...

He saw -- and this filled him with joy -- how the cross was to be loved and to be adored, because he was going to die on it. He saw the witnessing saints who for love and in defence of the truth were to suffer a similar martyrdom. He saw the love ofhis friends; he saw their tears at the foot of the cross. He saw the triumph and the victories Christians would achieve under the standard of the cross. He saw the great miracles which, with the sign of the cross, would be performed throughout the world. He saw so very many men who, with their lives, were going to be saints, because they would know how to die like him, overcoming sin (L. de la Palma, the Passion of the Lord) ...

It was not necessary for him to undergo so much torment. He could have avoided those trials, those humiliations, that ill-usage, that iniquitous judgment, and the shame of the gallows, and the nails and the lance ... But he wanted to suffer all this for you and for me. And we, are we not going to respond?

Very likely there will be times when, alone in front of a crucifix, you find tears coming to your eyes. Don't try to hold them back ... But try to ensure that those tears give rise to a resolution. (J. Escriva, The Way of the Cross, Eleventh Station).

In Conversation With God Vol 2: Lent and Eastertide

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coptic Priest: "To those who kill us. Thank you."

Fr. Boules George, St. Mark, Cleopatra (Cairo, Egypt)

What will we say to them?


The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.



The second part of the message we want to send to you is that we love you. And this, unfortunately, you won’t understand at all. Maybe you won’t believe us when we say we’re grateful. But this–you won’t even understand. Why won’t you understand it? Because this too is a teaching of our Christ. I want to explain to you about our Christ. I want to tell you about how wonderful He is.
There is much more and it is worth reading and reflection, especially on Holy Thursday.

Via Eve Tushnet.

As an additional note on martyrdom, the cause for beatification of Fr. Jacques Hamel, priest and martyr, has been officially opened.

Holy Week: Holy Thursday - The Lord's Last Supper

Singular events took place in that period, which the evangelists have recorded for us; take, for instance, the rivalry between the apostles, who began to discuss who was the greatest; think of Jesus' surprising example of humility and of service when he carried out the menial task of the lowest of the servants -- he began to wash their feet; consider, too, how Jesus went out of his way to show his disciples his love and affection. My little ones, he actually calls them. Christ himself wished to give that gathering such a fullness of significance, so rich in memories, scene of such moving words and sentiments, such new actions and precepts, that we will never come to an end of meditating on them and exploring them. It was, you might say, a testimonial dinner: it was an affectionate and yet a somber occasion, a time mysteriously revealing divine promises and far-reaching visions. On top of that was the sad presentiment of death, with unprecedented omens of treason, of abandonment, of immolation; the conversation dies away, while Jesus' words flow continuously in his gentle and winning voice, though there is an unwonted tension in his grave allusion to profound revelations, the matter of which hovers between life and death (Paul VI, Homily, Holy Thursday).

What Christ did for his own may be summarized in a few words from St. John: he loved them to the end (John 13:1). Today is a particularly appropriate day for mediating on the love Jesus has for each one of us, and how we respond to it; in regular dealings with him, in love for the Church, in acts of atonement and reparation, in charity towards others, in preparation and in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, in our desire to co-redeem with him, in our hunger and thirst for justice ...

Part 4 - The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Gerard David. The Marriage at Cana. c. 1503.

More of Fulton Sheen's observations about the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
The six water pots were filled, making about one hundred and twenty gallons, and in the beautiful language of Richard Crashaw, "the conscious water saw its God and blushed." The first miracle was something like creation itself; it was done by the power of "the Word." The wine He created was so good that the bridegroom was reproached by the steward with the words:
Everyone serves the best wine first, and waits until the guests have drunk freely before serving the poorer sort; but you have kept the best wine till now. John 2:10
Truly the best wine was kept. Up until then in the unfolding of revelation, the poor wine had been the prophets, judges, and kings, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Josue -- all were like the water awaiting the miracle of the Expected of the Nations. The world generally gives its best pleasures first; afterward come the dregs and the bitterness. But Christ reversed the order and gave us the feast after the fast, the Resurrection after the Crucifixion, the joy of Easter Sunday after the sorrow of Good Friday.
This deed at Cana-in-Galilee is the first of the signs by which Jesus revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him. John 2:11
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 5 will be tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I'm Reading: A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

When life gets serious, my reading gets light. As frequenters of these pages already know, for me that often means Georgette Heyer, the queen of the Regency romance novels. I've written about Heyer's novels in general so if you are rolling your eyes over romance novels, please do read it for a bit more explanation.

I've been struggling much more than usual this week over my Lenten penance. So many times I've stepped to the brink and then “So, could you not watch with me one hour?" comes to mind. And I turn away.

Between that and the Triduum beginning tomorrow, I think you could say I'm in a serious mood. Time for Heyer! Though, to be fair, this is a bit more serious Heyer than many.

A Civil Contract 
by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer wrote two types of romance novels. One type was lighter, often verging on farce or containing large doses of adventure, such as Faro's Daughter or The Talisman Ring. The other type was more serious such as These Old Shades or this book, A Civil Contract.

We hear a lot in romances about couples who married for money but they tend to be couples on the periphery of the main action. In this book, Heyer took the bold action of making a distinctly unromantic match the main story. Adam Deveril must marry money or lose the family estate. Jenny Chawleigh's father is vulgar but rich and wants to boost his daughter into society. Complicating matters is the fact that Adam has been in love for some time with their one mutual acquaintance, Jenny's friend Julia who is everything that Jenny is not — cultured, sensitive, and beautiful. Jenny is painfully shy, direct, and plain.

Overall, this is a look at marriage and how one makes one's life work when our plans for the future are torn away from us. I remember when I was a college student, first discovering Heyer, this was one of my least favorite books. Now, with much time behind me and a 33-year marriage, it is one of my favorites.

Holy Week: Wednesday - The Way to Calvary

Maurice Denis. The Road to Calvary/
Montace au calvaire ou Le Calvaire. 1889.
Forming part of the procession, their presence making his impending death yet more shameful, are two convicted criminals, described as two thieves. A recently-arrived spectator to the scene would see three men, each laden with a cross, walking towards death. But only one is the Saviour of the world. Only one of the crosses is the redeeming Cross.

Today, too, the cross can be carried in different ways. There is the cross carried furiously or sullenly, in a rage; man writhes and squirms, filled with hate, or at least, with a deep and burning resentment. It is a cross without meaning and without any explanation, useless; such a cross may even separate one from God. It is the cross of those in this world who seek comfort and material well-being, who will put up with neither suffering nor setbacks, for they have no wish to understand the supernatural meaning of pain. It is a cross which does not redeem. It is the cross carried by one of the thieves.

On the road to Calvary is a second cross, carried this time with resignation, perhaps even with some dignity, with an acceptance of the situation simply because there is no alternative to it. This is the one carried by the other thief. Little by little he realizes that close by him is the sovereign figure of Christ, who will radically change the final moments of his life on earth, and for eternity; he will be the one converted into the good thief.

There is a third way of carrying the cross. Jesus embraces the saving wood and teaches us how we ought to carry our own cross: with love, co-redeeming all souls with him, making reparation at the same time for our own sins. Our Lord has conferred on human suffering a deep meaning. Being able, as he was, to redeem us in a multitude of ways, he chose to do so through suffering, for greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Part 3: The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Giotto. The Wedding Feast at Cana. 1304-1306.

Continuing with Fulton Sheen's insights connecting the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
At the Resurrection He gave Himself back to her, to show that while she had gained new children, she had not lost Him. At Cana the prophecy that Simeon had made to her in the temple was confirmed: henceforth, whatever involved her Son would involve her, too; whatever happened to Him would happen to her. If He was destined to go to the Cross, so was she; and if He was now beginning His Public Life, then she would begin a new life too, no longer as just the mother of Jesus, but as the mother of all whom Jesus the Savior would redeem. He called Himself "Son of Man," a title embracing all humanity; she would be henceforth the "Mother of Men." Just as she was at His side as He began His Hour, so would she be at His side at its climactic finish. When she took Him away from the temple as a boy of twelve, it was because she sensed that His Hour had not yet come; He obeyed her then and returned to Nazareth with her. Now, He told her that His Hour had not yet come, but she bade Him begin it, and He obeyed. At Cana she gave Him as a Savior to sinners; on the Cross He gave her as a refuge to sinners.

When He suggested that His first miracle would lead unerringly to His Cross and death, and that she would become henceforth a Mother of Sorrows, she turned at once to the wine steward and said:
Do whatever he tells you. John 2:5
What a magnificent valedictory! She never speaks again in Scripture. Seven times she had spoken in the Scriptures, but now that Christ had shown Himself, like the sun in the full brilliance of His Divinity, Our Lady was willingly overshadowed like the moon, as John later on described her.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 4 will come tomorrow.

Illustrated Guide to the Triduum

Triduum. What a word. What a concept! I remember how hard it was, as a new convert, to understand what happened then and why.

That's why I was so happy to come across Focus on Campus's Illustrated Guide to the Triduum.

There's also the fact that I'm a sucker for illustrated guides. So we've got the double attraction.

This isn't a full sized version. It's just enough to give you an idea of what is contained. To get your very own downloadable PDF version, go to Focus on Campus. As revisions and changes are pointed out, they've been updating it so you'll get the latest version.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Will Duquette's review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

I'm here to tell you that there isn't any deadwood. If you're interested in learning to pray, or to pray "better", which is to say if you want to draw closer to Jesus Christ, this is an ideal book to spend time with.
Will Duquette's very nice review - go read the whole thing! Thanks Will!

Holy Week: Tuesday - Before Pilate

Nikolay Gay. "Quod Est Veritas?" Christ and Pilate. 1890.
The Passion of Our Lord
Thinking that in this way he might placate the hatred of the Jews, Pilate, took Jesus and scourged him (John 19:1). This is the scene we contemplate in the second sorrowful mystery of the Rosary, Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds.

The blows of the lash sound on his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More blows. More fury. Still more ... It is the last extreme of human cruelty.

Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and falls, limp, broken and half-dead.

You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed. Look at him, look at him ... slowly.

After this ... can you ever fear penance? (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, Second Sorrowful Mystery)

When this has happened, the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, "Hail King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands (John 19:4-5). Today as we contemplate Jesus proclaiming his kingship before Pilate, we should also meditate upon that scene contained in the third sorrowful mystery of the Rosary.

The crown of thorns, driven in by blows, makes him a mock king ... And with their blows they wound his head. And they strike him ... and spit on him ...

You and I ... haven't we crowned him anew with thorns and struck him and spat on him?

Never again, Jesus, never again ... (J. Escriva, Holy Rosary, Third Sorrowful Mystery)

Caravaggio. The Flagellation of Christ. 1607.

Part 2 - The Wedding at Cana and The Passion of Christ

Hieronymus Bosch. Marriage Feast at Cana.

Continuing the connections Fulton Sheen makes between the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.
As soon as He has consented to begin His "Hour," He proceeded immediately to tell her that her relations with Him would be henceforth changed. Until then, during His hidden life, she had been known as the mother of Jesus. But now that He was launched on the work of Redemption, she would no longer be just His mother, but also the mother of all His human brethren whom He would redeem. To indicate this new relationship, He now addressed her, not as "Mother" but as the "Universal Mother" or "Woman." What a ring those words had to people who lived in the light of the Old Testament. When Adam fell, God spoke to Satan and foretold that He would put enmity between his seed and "the Woman," for goodness would have a progeny as well as evil. the world would have not only the City of Man which Satan claimed as his own, but also the City of God. The "Woman" did have a seed, and it was her Seed that was standing now at the marriage feast, the Seed that would fall to the ground and die and then spring forth into new life.

The moment the "Hour" began, she became "the Woman"; she would have other children too, not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. If He was to be the new Adam, the founder of a redeemed humanity, she would be the new Eve and the mother of that new humanity. As Our Lord was a man, she was His mother; and as He was a Savior, she was also the mother of all whom He would save. John, who was present at that wedding, was also present at the climax of the "Hour " on Calvary. He heard Our Lord calling her "Woman" from the Cross and then saying to her, "Behold thy son." When Our Lord raised the son of the widow of Naim from the dead, He said, "Give him back to his mother." On the Cross, He consoled His mother by giving her another son, John, and with him the whole of redeemed humanity.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 3 will come tomorrow.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Curt Jester's Review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

She has a Chestertonian ability to see things afresh and to illustrate that freshness to you. There is gratitude and wonder in her reflections that inspire me to want to imitate that viewpoint more consistently.
Jeff saw something in my book that I certainly wasn't aware of ... but am highly complimented to read in his review. I was especially pleased when Jeff told me he was using my book as intended, as a daily devotional. That makes his thoughtful remarks even more meaningful to me. Thank you Jeff!

Holy Week: Monday - Peter's Denials

Duccio di Buoninsegna. Maestà (back, central panel): 
Jesus Accused by the Pharisees. 1308-11.
The Passion of Our Lord
Jesus having been much ill-used, is led into one of the courtyards. He then turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61). Their looks meet. Peter would like to bow his head, but he cannot tear his eyes from Him, Whom he has just denied. He knows the Saviour's looks well; that look that had determined his vocation, he had not been able to resist either its authority or its charm; and that tender look of the Master's on the day He had affirmed, looking at His disciples, "Here are my brethren, my sisters, my mother!" And that look that had made him tremble when he, Simon, had wanted to banish the Cross from Jesus' path! And the affectionately pitying look with which he had invited the too-rich young man to follow him! And His look, clouded with tears, before Lazarus' tomb ... He knows them well, the Saviour's looks.

And yet never, never had he seen on the Saviour's face the expression he sees there at this moment, the eyes marked with sadness but without any severity. A look of reproach without a doubt, but which becomes suppliant at the same time and seems to repeat to him, "Simon, I have prayed for thee!"

This look only rests on him for an instant; Jesus is violently dragged away by the soldiers, but Peter sees Him all the time (G. Chevrot, Simon Peter).
He sees that compassionate look of Jesus fixed upon the deep wound of his guilt. He now understands the enormity of his sin, and the fulfillment of Our Lord's prophecy about his betrayal ...

Contrition gives special strength to the soul; it restores hope, makes the Christian forget himself and draw close to God once more with a deeper act of love. Contrition proves the quality of interior life and always attracts God's mercy; ... this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit ... (Isaiah 66:2)

Christ found no difficulty in building his Church upon a man who was able to fall and who did fall. God also counts on weak instruments, provided they repent, to carry out his big project: the salvation of mankind.
I will never forget when I first read the Gospel where Jesus turns and looks at Peter. What a terrible moment of sudden knowledge that must have been. I know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are "found out" and the remorse and shame that flooded Peter on that instant. How many times have I given Jesus reason to look at me like that?

On the other hand, I also read a commentary mentioning that Jesus turned and looked at Peter first ... indicating that God always looks first (echoes of the parable of The Prodigal Son to meditate upon there). Which is a comforting thought especially when we, like Peter, have fallen so far and need to get up again.

Part 1 - The Wedding At Cana and the Passion of Christ

Jan Steen. The Marriage Feast at Cana. c. 1665/70.

Fulton Sheen makes some wonderful connections between the wedding at Cana and Christ's Passion, death, and resurrection in his excellent Life of Christ. (You can refresh your memory about the wedding at Cana here.)
There were, in His life, two occasions when His human nature seemed to show an unwillingness to take on His burden of suffering. In the Garden, He asked His Father if it be possible to take away His chalice of woe. But He immediately afterward acquiesced in His Father's will: "Not My will, but Thine be done." The same apparent reluctance was also manifested in the face of the will of His mother. Cana was a rehearsal for Golgotha. He was not questioning the wisdom of beginning His Public Life and going to death at this particular point in time; it was rather a question of submitting His reluctant human nature to obedience to the Cross. There is a striking parallel between His Father's bidding Him to His public death and His mother's bidding Him to His public life. Obedience triumphed in both cases; at Cana, the water was changed into wine; at Calvary, the wine was changed into blood.

He was telling His mother that she was virtually pronouncing a sentence of death over Him. Few are the mothers who send their sons to battlefields; but here was one who was actually hastening the hour of her Son's mortal conflict with the forces of evil. If He agreed to her request, He would be beginning His hour of death and glorification. To the Cross He would go with double commission, one from His Father in heaven, the other from His mother on earth.
Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen
Part 2 will be tomorrow.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Beginning of the Celebration of Our Lord's Paschal Mystery

This post is from a couple of years ago ... when I rediscovered it, I was so moved that I wanted to share it. Some of the liturgy quoted may not relate to this year because it is older, but it is all close enough.
... we gather together to herald with the whole Church
the beginning of the celebration
of our Lord's Paschal Mystery,
that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
Palm Sunday, Commemoration of the Lord's Entrance Into Jerusalem
In his commentary on this portion of the Mass last year, our priest pointed out that the Triduum is one extended liturgy.

For the first time I understood why we read the entire passion and crucifixion during Palm Sunday's liturgy. It is to give us a preview of what we are to be meditating on during this week. It is to give us a chance to enter fully into that journey Jesus is taking which culminates with his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. It is to give us the chance to accompany him not just as a spectator, but as a friend.

Let us put aside our differences. It changes nothing. It is fruitless self preoccupation. It distracts and divides us at a time when we should be focusing on Jesus. I thought of those squabbles when I heard this part of the gospel:
His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked,
“Lord, shall we strike with a sword?”
And one of them struck the high priest’s servant
and cut off his right ear.
But Jesus said in reply,
“Stop, no more of this!”
Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.
Let us "Stop, no more of this" as we concentrate on what matters most now.
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This year, our priest had a three sentence homily and it hit the nail on the head. When talking to his spiritual advisor about troubles and trials, he was told, "You are having these problems because you are avoiding the Cross."

Aren't we all? For my own part, I faced a severe internal struggle last week. Then God in his goodness made me understand that I was causing my own turmoil because I was trying to squirm out of the Cross.

Ah yes.

At that point I gave up wanting my way. And I was able, with St. Josemaria Escriva, to say, "Is that what you want? Then I want it too." that I regained peace and calm. I still had to face the Cross, but it was not so big a cross as the one I was creating for myself.

This is why I need Lent every year. I forget this lesson so easily. And life is so much simpler when I live without avoiding the Cross. Let's face it ... I'd face that Cross anyway. But when I do it squirming and turning away it is so much more difficult than when I slip my hand in God's and follow my Savior's example.

Let us walk with him this week.

Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 173v - The Entry into Jerusalem the Musée Condé, Chantilly.

Praying for our Egyptian brothers and sisters

These Palm Sunday church bombings  hit me hard. It's hard not to become inured to a lot of the violence that is epidemic these days. I can deplore it, and do, but not feel it.

Maybe it's because we went to Palm Sunday mass yesterday evening, beginning the holiest week of the year. I felt that ... and when I read about these attacks on these Christians it was as if my own family had been attacked. As indeed it has. We are all one body in Christ.

Let us pray for these victims, who are hated only because they follow our Lord Jesus. Let us pray for the attackers, that their hard hearts may soften and their blind eyes will be opened.

May God have mercy upon us all.

Palm Sunday

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Jesus and his apostles entering Jerusalem

"How different the cries," St. Bernard comments, "'Away with him, away with him, crucify him,' and then 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest!' How different the cries are that now are calling him "King of Israel" and then in a few days time will be saying, 'We have no king but Caesar!' What a contrast between the green branches and the cross, between the flowers and the thorns! Before they were offering their own clothes for him to walk upon and so soon afterwards they are stripping him of his, and casting lots upon them." (St. Bernard, Sermon on Palm Sunday)

The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem asks for loyalty and perseverance from each one of us, it calls us to depend in our faithfulness, and for our resolutions to be more than just bright lights that sparkle for a moment and then fade away. There are some striking contrasts in the depths of our hearts, for we are capable of the very greatest things and also the very worst, and so if we wish to possess the divine life and triumph with Christ, we need to be constant and through penance deaden within us anything that separates us from God and prevents us from following Our Lord unto the Cross.