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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sir Richard Francis Burton

Lazy slug that I am, and inspired by a post on Liam's blog, I've decided to drag out a post about the Victorian era explorer, Richard Burton, from my old blog ...

Richard Francis Burton



This week's blog is evoked by a 1990 film - Mountains of the Moon ( read the NY Times review here). The story told is of two 19th century British explorers, Captain Richard Francis Burton and Lt. John Hanning Speke, who searched for and found the source of the Nile. Inspired by the movie, I dug into the life of Richard Burton (1821-90) and found him so interesting, I thought I'd share what I'd learned.



A prolific writer, a linguist, a poet and a pioneer of sexual studies, Burton was the son of an army colonel and spent his childhood traveling about Europe. A wild young man, he was dismissed from Oxford and he joined the army of the East India Company at age 21. In a posting as an intelligence officer in India, Burton recieved ann assignment that was to mar his career ... his superiors made use of his command of many languages and ordered him to go undercover in the male homosexual brothels of Karachi. His report, which showed that many of the customers at the brothels were British officers, was hushed up and, under a cloud, Burton returned home, at age 29.

He made use of his free time by writing four books on India and planning, executing and then chronicling a dangerous adventure - Burton disguised himself as an Afghani physician and traveled, undetected, to Mecca.



Turning to exploration, in 1854, Burton planned an expidition with three other men, including John Speke, to discover the source of the Nile. This area of Africa was still uncharted and the only information on the Nile's source was from Claudius Ptolemy, who lived in the first half of the second century A.D. According to Ptolemy, the source of the Nile River was the Mountains of the Moon. He based this on the story of Diogenes, who was blown off course while sailing to India, landed in Africa, and discovered the source of the Nile. The Mountains of the Moon were in actuality the Ruwenzori mountain range nearLake Victoria. Burton and his group started through Somaliland in Eastern Africa, but were attacked, wounded, and forced to retreat.

When the Crimean War broke out, he volunteereered, training Turkish irregulars at the front in the Dardanelles, though he saw no action himself. In 1857-8, Burton and Speke returned to Africa to again try to locate the Nile's source, traveling inland from Zanzibar. Their jopurney was difficult and by the time they arrived at Lake Tanganyika, both were ill. Burton was the worse off, and Speke managed to push on alone, discovering Lake Victoria, which he correctly believed to be the source of the Nile. Burton disagreed. Back in England, their friendship destroyed, the two explorers debated the issue ... Speke took credit for finding the source of the Nile, Burton felt the evidence wasn't convincing. The debate ended tragically in 1864, when Speke died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

After discovering Lake Victoria, Burton's life continued much as before ... In 1860, he made a brief visit to the US - he indulged his curiosity about Mormonism, meeting with Brigham Young in Utah, and then traveled over the plains to California. He wrote of the journey in his book, The City of the Saints. Once back in England, he married Catholic aristocrat, Isabel Arundell, amd soon joined the British Foreign Office. As consul, he was sent to an island off the coast of Africa, then Brazil, then Damascus, then finally to Trieste in 1872. All the while, he never ceased writing about the customs, rituals, and the sexual practices of the people in whose land he dwelled. He also completed many translations including The Arabian Nights, The Perfumed Garden, and The Kama Sutra. Knighted by Queen Victoria in 1886, Burton died in Trieste on October 20, 1890.


Burton's tomb -

For me, however, Richard Francis Burton will always live as one of the extraordinary men who searched for the source of the Nile. They were among the first Europeans to ever set eyes on that part of Africa ... the animals, birds, insects, exotic societies. They braved disease, predation, attacks, starvation and, of course, the possibilty of getting lost, all in order to satisfy their curiosity about the world and perhaps themselves. And they have, in a manner of speaking, taken us with them.


- Lake Tanganyika from space


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Food for Thought

When I'm out of blogging ideas, one thing I do is visit the many online religious/spiritual journals to get ideas. Here are some of my stops ...


* The Tablet

- This British journal is one of my favorites. ...
Readers can be confident that The Tablet will be a paper of progressive, but responsible Catholic thinking, a place where orthodoxy is at home but ideas are welcome. The Tablet is not controlled by the church hierarchy, which allows it a privileged perspective. Such a privilege must not be abused, but cherished. The Catholic Church represents an extraordinary number of people - one-sixth of the human race - and inevitably there are different approaches and styles, which has given it its capacity for renewal. The ressourcement, the refreshing of Catholic thinking, is as desirable today as it was 40 years ago at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and we not only hope to report on it, but to be part of it.

* The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

- This journal is hosted by the Department of Religious Studies and Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan ...
The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture is a web-based, peer-reviewed journal committed to the academic exploration, analysis and interpretation, from a range of disciplinary perspectives, of the interrelations and interactions between religion and religious expression and popular culture, broadly defined as the products of contemporary mass culture. The journal is based in Canada, but international in scope, and open to explorations of religion and popular culture in a variety of nationalities and cultures.

* Crisis: Politics, Culture & the Church

The mission of CRISIS Magazine is to interpret and shape the direction of contemporary culture from a standpoint of Catholic tradition. We are dedicated to the proposition that the crisis of modernity can be answered by a Christian humanism rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church. We bring the wisdom of the Catholic tradition into direct dialogue with contemporary politics and culture.

* The Journal of Religion and Film

-From the University of Nebraska, movies :-)
Many films, directly or indirectly, serve a "religious" purpose. Like religions, they present meanings that people give to life. They portray people and the values people embrace in life. The films themselves, then, are a part of the fundamental religious "struggle with the ultimate problems of human life." Articles in the JR & F, then, are not restricted to a denominational list that equates religion with a commonly accepted set of rituals, beliefs, and laws. "Religion," in contemporary times and in the issues of the Journal, is much more personal and interactive than that. It is the living of values constructed in a dialogue between an individual and a culture. A particular worldview is received, adjusted, reapplied, and lived by the individual. So the JR & F will consider not only films that explicitly highlight traditional religious images and themes. Although there will be analysis of films that consider such religious themes as sacred space, sacred times, savior-figures, images of god(s), and battles between good and evil, there also will be investigation of notions and assumptions that underlie everyday, "secular," human talk and action.

* Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

- here you can read abstracts of articles or download PDFs ...
The Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus provides a forum for academic discussion of Jesus within the context of first-century Palestine; accessible to the very wide non-scholarly readership interested in the way this topic is, and has been, investigated and presented.

* Theology Today

- Here you can read poems, book reviews and article excerpts ...
Theology Today, a quarterly ecumenical journal of Christian theology, publishes articles on a wide range of classical and contemporary issues in Christian theology by many of the finest theologians working today. Theology Today is published by Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Finding God in the Dark



A post at Matt's Bible Films Blog on the book, Reading the Gospels in the Dark: Portrayals of Jesus in Film, made me think of another book I'd read about at A Little Battalion

Finding God In The Dark: Taking The Spiritual Exercises Of St. Ignatius To The Movies, is a book written by two Canadian Jesuits, John J. Pungente, SJ and Monty Williams, SJ, to be used in a special kind of Spiritual Exercises retreat.

First, a little about the authors ...

John J. Pungente, SJ is the host of a monthly TV show, Scanning the Movies seen on Bravo! Canada. Fr. Pungente is also the director of the Toronto-based Jesuit Communication Project and is Sessional Lecturer, Media and Theology at Regis College in Toronto.

Monty Williams, SJ is the Director of the Loyola/Regis College Internship Program in the Ministry of Spiritual Direction and a Sessional Lecturer in Spiritual Theology at Regis College. He's also a retreat director at Loyola Retreat House, Guelph, Ontario.

Now, about the book ...

The movies chosen for Finding God in the Dark are easily available and not what you would normally call "spiritual" in a strict sense ... Lost in Translation, Big Fish, Bowling for Columbine, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Bend it like Beckham, Mystic River, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, etc. ... but they deal with human mysteries, our deepest fears and hopes.

Fr. Pungente had this to say ...

This book intends to present the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola using film. For most people, the opportunity to do the full exercises of 30 days is impossible. They have neither the time nor the opportunity. Yet most people crave a spiritual life and a spiritual life that integrates the different elements of their daily lives. This book offers the opportunity to do so without leaving their home or work. It presents a practical way to make the Exercises using contemporary popular film, where watching the film becomes the act of contemplative prayer. The book is designed to be used by individuals or by groups. Besides daily life, it can be used in retreat, pastoral, academic or parish settings. It can then provide the basis for a television series. Such a broad range is possible because the Exercises of Ignatius focus on the imagination as embodying spirituality. Imagination does not exist in particular contexts; it is the context out of which we live our lives and the context in which the Incarnation occurs - that is where God encounters us, communicates with us, and transforms us.
- jescom

The retreat can be done at home by individuals, as indicated above, but is also being given as a guided retreat at Jesuit spirituality canters. For those interested in reading the text of Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises, it can be found online here. And here is a page that tells a bit about the history of the Exercises.


- LOTR :-)


Friday, May 26, 2006

Bede Griffiths

I give you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at heaven's gate,
Built in Jerusalem's wall.
- William Blake

I was reading about C.S. Lewis today, and came across a friend of his that I hadn't heard of before ... Bede Griffiths. As Wikipedia writes of him ...

Alan Richard "Bede" Griffiths (17 December 1906 – 13 May 1993), also known as Swami Dayananda, (Bliss of Compassion) was a British-born Benedictine monk and mystic who lived in ashrams in South India. He was born at Walton-on-Thames, England and studied literature at Oxford University under professor and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, who became a lifelong friend. Griffiths recounts the story of his conversion in 1931 to Catholicism while a student at Oxford in his autobiography The Golden String.

I was especially drawn to him when I read that he was, like me, a Catholic convert who was touched by the beauty of nature in what Ignatius of Loyola might have called a "foundational" experience. An article in the National Catholic Reporter shares this bit of Bede's autobiography ...

One day during my last term at school I walked out alone in the evening and heard the birds singing in that full chorus of song, which can only be heard at that time of the year at dawn or at sunset. I remember now the shock of surprise with which the sound broke in my ears. It seemed to me that I had never heard the birds singing before and I wondered whether they sang like this all the year round and I had never noticed it.

As I walked on I came upon some hawthorn trees in full bloom and again I thought that I had never ever seen such a sight or experienced such sweetness before. If I had been brought suddenly among the trees of the Garden of Paradise and heard a choir of angels singing I could not have been more surprised.

I came then to where the sun was setting over the playing fields.

A lark rose suddenly from the ground beside the tree where I was standing and poured out its song above my head, and then sank still singing to rest. Everything then grew still as the sunset faded and the veil of dusk began to cover the earth. I remember now the feeling of awe which came over me. I felt inclined to kneel on the ground, as though I had been standing in the presence of an angel; and I hardly dared to look on the face of the sky, because it seemed as though it was but a veil before the face of God.


Along with other religious thinkers like Teilhard de Chardin, Bede eventually came to the conclusio that human consciousness is evolving, that in religion, rational thought would be replaced with a mysticism that sees the unity of all.

In his autobiography The Golden String, the late Bede Griffiths spoke of an experience .... For many years Bede Griffiths tried to recapture and express that experience. He began to see what the poet Wordsworth meant when he described the world with "the freshness of a dream". Even the smallest details of nature drew him beyond himself and helped him become aware that "we are no longer isolated individuals in conflict with our surroundings; we are parts of a whole, elements in a universal harmony".
- Love is the Golden String - the Tablet

I'm not so comfortable with mysticism but when I stand under the trees, gaze at the stars, I sometimes do feel I'm part of everything, sometimes feel what William A. Barry SJ calls "a desire for I know not what". Maybe what Bede said is true ...

The beauty to be found in nature, the cosmos, is not only truth but also Love.

***

Read about the friendship between CS Lewis and Griffiths in the Tablet article, Companions on the Way ... and in The Collected Letters of CS Lewis

The Golden String: An Autobiography


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shorts: the Entropy of Costume


- the Buddha and me (I'm the one in shorts) in Hawaii

The last couple of days, there have been posts on another blog about what people should wear to church. One brave male commenter admitted that he occassionally wore shorts to church :-)

This talk of shorts reminded me of an article I read at the Tablet (A Voice from the Bush) about poet Les Murray (see his poem The Dream of Wearing Shorts Forever below). Murray, a leading Australian poet, is a Catholic convert. Here's a bit of the article ...

With his furiously outspoken enmity towards what he calls the "confining" ideologies that dominate intellectual and academic discourse, his apparent role as "spokesman" for the poor rural whites of his childhood and, most provocative and bewildering, his Catholicism, Murray is a thorn in the flesh of the urban cultural elite. But it has not prevented him being Australia's most popular poet, considered the poetic voice of the nation - and he is among the best-known poets in the world, in the ranks of Heaney and Walcott ... (snip) ... trying to draw from Murray something of why he was drawn to the Church is difficult. From such a fluent, trenchant, confrontational wordsmith, this is curious. Finally, he says: "I joined the Catholic Church because it is the best poem." And later he adds: "You can never exhaust it. It was the mysticism, the mystery that appealed to me."


The Dream Of Wearing Shorts Forever

To go home and wear shorts forever
in the enormous paddocks, in that warm climate,
adding a sweater when winter soaks the grass,

to camp out along the river bends
for good, wearing shorts, with a pocketknife,
a fishing line and matches,

or there where the hills are all down, below the plain,
to sit around in shorts at evening
on the plank verandah -

If the cardinal points of costume
are Robes, Tat, Rig and Scunge,
where are shorts in this compass?

They are never Robes
as other bareleg outfits have been:
the toga, the kilt, the lava-lava
the Mahatma's cotton dhoti;

archbishops and field marshals
at their ceremonies never wear shorts.
The very word
means underpants in North America.

Shorts can be Tat,
Land-Rovering bush-environmental tat,
socio-political ripped-and-metal-stapled tat,
solidarity-with-the-Third World tat tvam asi,

likewise track-and-field shorts worn to parties
and the further humid, modelling negligee
of the Kingdom of Flaunt,
that unchallenged aristocracy.

More plainly climatic, shorts
are farmers' rig, leathery with salt and bonemeal;
are sailors' and branch bankers' rig,
the crisp golfing style
of our youngest male National Costume.

Most loosely, they are Scunge,
ancient Bengal bloomers or moth-eaten hot pants
worn with a former shirt,
feet, beach sand, hair
and a paucity of signals.

Scunge, which is real negligee
housework in a swimsuit, pyjamas worn all day,
is holiday, is freedom from ambition.
Scunge makes you invisible
to the world and yourself.

The entropy of costume,
scunge can get you conquered by more vigorous cultures
and help you notice it less.

To be or to become
is a serious question posed by a work-shorts counter
with its pressed stack, bulk khaki and blue,
reading Yakka or King Gee, crisp with steely warehouse odour.

Satisfied ambition, defeat, true unconcern,
the wish and the knack of self-forgetfulness
all fall within the scunge ambit
wearing board shorts of similar;
it is a kind of weightlessness.

Unlike public nakedness, which in Westerners
is deeply circumstantial, relaxed as exam time,
artless and equal as the corsetry of a hussar regiment,

shorts and their plain like
are an angelic nudity,
spirituality with pockets!
A double updraft as you drop from branch to pool!

Ideal for getting served last
in shops of the temperate zone
they are also ideal for going home, into space,
into time, to farm the mind's Sabine acres
for product and subsistence.

Now that everyone who yearned to wear long pants
has essentially achieved them,
long pants, which have themselves been underwear
repeatedly, and underground more than once,
it is time perhaps to cherish the culture of shorts,

to moderate grim vigour
with the knobble of bare knees,
to cool bareknuckle feet in inland water,
slapping flies with a book on solar wind
or a patient bare hand, beneath the cadjiput trees,

to be walking meditatively
among green timber, through the grassy forest
towards a calm sea
and looking across to more of that great island
and the further tropics.

***

Read more of Murray's poems here


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Words



Tonight I was looking through a journal I kept while taking the online Creighton retreat for the first time. In it I found a few pages set aside ... they had written on them quotes I'd taken from various places. Whenever I would get discouraged, I would look at those words to remind myself of what I hoped was true. Here are a few of them ...

On your Spiritual Exercises journey, you are the beloved and God is your lover. Father, Son and Holy Spiriit desire to share everything that they have, even their intimate life, with you.
.... To You ... From Ignatius

Just as two friends change because of their deepening intimacy, so too we are changed by a deepening intimacy with God. But the change comes about through the relationship itself, not through sheer willpower. As we relate to God in this way, we become more like God. This happens in human relationships, does it not? We become like our best friends in our likes and dislikes, in our hopes and desires, etc. So too, we become like God through the kind of prayer indicated. We become like what we love.
.... William A. Barry SJ

If you are experiencing trials or are sad, behold Him on the way to the garden. He will look at you with those eyes so beautiful and compassionate, filled with tears; He will forget His sorrows so as to console you in yours.
.... Teresa of Avila

Often one of the temptations people have on retreats - online or directed personal - is whether they are speaking to themselves or to God. One can never speak to oneself in prayer ... and even if one were to, God overhears and answers.
.... Loyola House, Guelph, Ontario

God, it would seem, is madly in love with us, is always attracted to us. The problem is that most of us do not really believe it.
.... William A. Barry SJ

Sometimes it is helpful to think of God and each of us as lovers. At first we are attracted to the good in each other and run to each other carrying all of our gifts. But unless we put down these gifts, we cannot embrace each other. When God puts down his gifts so that he can hold you, he is seen as vulnerable and human and weak. And when he comes to us that way, we tend to turn away because that is not what we want God to be for us. And when we put down our gifts to embrace God, we see ourselves as sinners and then we turn away because we are ashamed. For that embrace to happen, we both have to put down our gifts and embrace each other as we are. Then what you discover is that when you walk with someone who loves you and someone whom you love, the trials of this world do not go away but they are seen and lived out of love and that transforms doubts and fears and worries.
.... .... Loyola House, Guelph, Ontario


Monday, May 22, 2006

Diviniation

I'm still pondering how to know know what's God's Desire (for me), how to simply ask him questions (and get answers) about the things that matter.

The scripture blog to which I belong is now reading Acts. Near the beginning of that book, there was a time when the disciples (minus Judas) had to choose a new member so that they would once again be twelve. The way they determined twhat to do was through a kind of divniation ...

Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place." Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.
- Acts 1:24-26

According to what I've read, casting lots was an accepted MO for discerning God's Will, though more often in the Old Testament than in the New (example - In Joshua 18:10, Joshua casts lots to determine what portion of the promised land each tribe is to receive.). Yet, Paragraph # 2116 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says diviniation is wrong.

Confusing. And it makes me wonder about one of the old books gathering dustbunnies in my book box ... Tarot - The Handbook for the Journeyman, by Eileen Connolly :-)



If we disreguard the various forms of lot casting, I can think of two ways to get an answer, which are realted ...

One is the discernement of spirits. John Veltri SJ has a page on decision making through discernment ... Decision-Making: A More Useful Format For Discerning. It offers a number of different methods and helpful hints drawn from or based on Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. All require a committment to honesty and spiritual freedom. The Boston College page I mentioned in my last post defines spiritual freedom this way .... spiritual freedom, the power to act-not out of social pressure or personal compulsion and fear--but out of the promptings of God's spirit in the deepest, truest core of one's being--to act ultimately out of love. (no pressure :-)

The other way is to ask the question in imaginatice prayer, and wait for the answer. This is the simplest and yet the hardest way, at least for me, because it involves a trust in the process, in the relationship, and in oneself.

Yikes! Where are my tarot cards? :-)


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spritual Exercises Retreat

A comment from Jeff made me think about a question - what is a 30 day Ignatian Spiritual Exercises Retreat like? I've read about them but never taken one, so I don't really know. Given the expense, time spent, and my personal shyness, I doubt I'll ever know. But for those, like me, who would like to learn what they can vicariously, here are some links that might give us a peek, though through a glass darkly :-) ...


- St. Beuno's Spirituality Center in Wales

Here's an article at the Tablet by Austen Ivereigh -The retreat that changed my life - which tells of his taking of the Spiritual Exercises while a Jesuit novice. A bit of it ...

“Afterwards you’ll be different, you know”, a friend who had done it warned me before my 30-day retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. I believed him: who doubts the Jesuits’ centuries-old secret weapon, their portable desert peopled with angels and demons? .... (big snip) .... I was deeply grateful for an essential lesson that could not have been learned any other way: that my energies, for so long directed at self-preservation and achievement, could not win me God, or, which is the same, love. I had learned that, indeed, all is God’s gift, and over time even my heart would begin to grasp that too. It’s true: I was no longer the same.

Here's a book I've read, a kind of diary/journal of someone taking the Exercises - Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius - by by Paul Mariani - which describes his experience of the Exercises at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, MA.

Here's an interview from SJWeb with Father Joseph Tetlow SJ, on the Spiritual Exercises - link


- Aerial view of St. Beuno's


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hagia Sophia



One of the things I liked best about college was the study of art history, and one of the most enduring memories I have in that area is of Hagia Sophia.

The church, built and completed in 537 in Constantinople, was the project of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, known as the last Roman Emperor and a saint of the Orthodox Church. Hagia Sophia was converted to a mosque in 1453, when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks, and was converted into a museum in 1935.

... Hagia Sophia is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Of great artistic value was its decorated interior with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. The temple itself was so richly and artistically decorated that Justinian is said to have proclaimed "Solomon, I have surpassed thee!" (Νενίκηκά σε Σολομών). Justinian himself had overseen the completion of the greatest cathedral ever built up to that time, and it was to remain the largest cathedral for 1,000 years up until the completion of the cathedral in Seville. Justinian's basilica was at once the culminating architectural achievement of late antiquity and the first masterpiece of Byzantine architecture. Its influence, both architecturally and liturgically, was widespread and enduring in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Muslim worlds alike. The dome of the Hagia Sophia has spurred particular interest for many art historians and architects because of the innovative way the original architects envisioned the dome ..... Restoration work in the 20th century began in 1932 by the American Byzantine Institute, when most of the figures were uncovered. In 1935, under the order of Turkish president Kemal Atatürk, Hagia Sophia was secularized and turned into the Ayasofya Museum. Due to its long history as both a church and a mosque, a particular challenge arises in the restoration process. The Christian iconographic mosaics are being gradually uncovered. However, in order to do so, important, historic Islamic art would have to be destroyed. Restorers have attempted to maintain a balance between both Christian and Islamic cultures.
- Wikipedia

Some photos of the interior (click to see enlargements)...




- Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator.


- Mosaic of Saint John Chrysostom.


- The dome undergoing restoration.

****

Read what Procopios wrote of Hagia Sophia here.

Read the novel about Justinian's famous general, Count Belisarius by Robet Graves


The New World



Tonight I rented the movie The New World, starring Colin Farrell and Christian Bale. The most extraordinary thing about the movie was the beautiful cinimatography.

The film was shot on location at the Chickahominy River, a tributary of the James River not far from the site of the real events, and other nearby locations. Reconstructions of the Jamestown settlement and of the Powhatan village were created, based on archaeological evidence. The England scenes were filmed at Hampton Court Palace and Hatfield House, near London. - Wikipedia

What touched me about the film, aside from its beauty, was the quality of the relationship between John Smith and Pocahontas. As Roger Ebert writes in his review ...

The movie implies, rather than says, that she (Pocahontas) is driven by curiosity about these strange visitors, and empathy with their plight as strangers, and with admiration for Smith's reckless and intrepid courage. If love later plays a role, it is not modern romantic love so much as a pure instinctive version ... when he (Smith) first sees Pocahontas, she teaches him new feelings by her dignity and strangeness. There is a scene where Pocahontas and Smith teach each other simple words in their own languages, words for sky, eyes, lips, and the scene could seem contrived but it doesn't, because they play it with such a tender feeling of discovery.

The movie had a quiet, lyrical simplicity and also a kind of sadness that was haunting. Though it was not a sucess at the box office, I thik it's well worth a watch.



***

For those interested, below is some of the history behind the storyline of the movie ...

As Wikipedia writes .... John Smith (1580–1631) was an English soldier, sailor, and author. He is chiefly remembered for his role in establishing the first permanent English settlement in North America, and his brief association with the Native American princess Pocahontas. .... He left home at 16 to become a mercenary in the army of Henri IV of France, later fought for the Habsburgs, was captured by the Turks and, once freed, returned eventually to England to join the Virginia Company exeidition to the new world.

Captain Smith became one of the leaders of the colony of Jamestown, which suffered from lack of water, bad weather and attacks by Native Americans. He was captured by the Powhatan Confederacy, and would have been killed, but Pocahontas, the daughter of the chief, saved his life. Some time later, Smith was wounded and left Jamestown for England, later returning to continue exploring the American east coast, which he named New England.

Pocahontas (c. 1595 – March 21, 1617) was a Native American woman who married an Englishman, John Rolfe, and became a celebrity in London toward the end of her short life ... - Wikipedia.

She wasabout 12 years old in 1607 when she saved John Smith, and the exact nature of their relationship remains unknown. When Smith left for England, she was told he had instead died. In 1613, she was kidnapped by some English sailors and spent a year in Henricus, learning English and becoming a Christian, with the baptismal name of Rebecca. It was here that she met John Rolfe.

According to Wikipedia ... John Rolfe (c. 1585 – 1622) was one of the early English settlers of North America. He is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia and is known as the husband of Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy.

Rolfe wrote a letter to the govenor of Virginia, expressing his desire to marry Pocahontas, who he'd met in Henricus. Here's part of it, in which he writes that he was not motivated by lust, but ...

... the unbridled desire of carnal affection, but for the good of this plantation, for the honor of our country, for the Glory of God, for my own salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ an unbelieving creature, namely Pocahontas, to whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have been a long time so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth that I was even a-wearied to unwind myself thereout. - link

They married and had a son, eventually moving to England. There Pocahontas met the King, and also saw, once again, Captain Smith, who she had thought dead. When the Rolfe family decided to move back to Virginia, Pocahontas fell ill before the ship could put out to sea, dying.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Suffering

I've been thinking about suffering lately.

A few days ago, on another blog, someone quoted Cesare Pavese in a comment on suffering ...

To choose a hardship for ourselves is our only defense against that hardship. This is what is meant by accepting suffering. Those who, by their very nature, can suffer completely, utterly, have an advantage. That is how we can disarm the power of suffering, make it our own creation, our own choice; submit to it.

And someone else commented here about Opus Dei and their practice of mortification ... self-inflicted suffering. An article in the Tablet on Opus Dei had this to say, in part ...

... there is a tradition of physical "mortification", and the founder of Opus Dei, the Blessed Josemaría Escrivá, was famous for beating himself until the walls of his bathroom were spattered with blood. But, these days, members have to ask permission before they can beat themselves or wear the cilice – a scratchy band worn around the thigh ...

And I happened to read this quote of the Pope's recently ...

When we know that the way of love — this exodus, this going out of oneself — is the true way by which man becomes human, then we also understand that suffering is the process through which we mature. Anyone who has inwardly accepted suffering becomes more mature and more understanding of others, becomes more human. Anyone who has consistently avoided suffering does not understand other people; he becomes hard and selfish. Love itself is a passion, something we endure. In love I experience first a happiness, a general feeling of happiness. Yet, on the other hand, I am taken out of my comfortable tranquility and have to let myself be reshaped. If we say that suffering is the inner side of love, we then also understand by it is so important to learn how to suffer — and why, conversely, the avoidance of suffering renders someone unfit to cope with life.

Well, I have to say that my initial reaction to the idea of embracing suffering, and making it one's own to disarm it, strikes me as a denial of the badness of what's causing the suffering. And the idea of a person practicing mortification of the flesh for spiritual advancement brings to my mind a person tinged with self-loathing. But I must admit, what the Pope said gave me pause, because I've spent my life trying to avoid suffering and the truth is, I'm not fit to cope.

When is suffering something to be avoided and denounced as wrong and when is it to be accepted, even embraced? I don't know the answer, but I'm guessing the discernment of spirits would help one decide. Boston College's page, Do You Speak Ignatian?, describes discernment this way ...

Discernment (also "Discernment of spirits")--A process for making choices, in a context of (Christian) faith, when the option is not between good and evil, but between several possible courses of action all of which are potentially good. For Ignatius* the process involves prayer, reflection, and consultation with others-all with honest attention not only to the rational (reasons pro and con) but also to the realm of one's feelings, emotions, and desires (what Ignatius called "movements" of soul). A fundamental question in discernment becomes "Where is this impulse from-the good spirit [of God] or the evil spirit [leading one away from God] ?" A key to answering this question, says Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises* is that, in the case of a person leading a basically good life, the good spirit gives "consolation"--acts quietly, gently, and leads one to peace, joy, and deeds of loving service--while the bad spirit brings "desolation"--agitates, disturbs the peace, and injects fears and discouragement to keep one from doing good.

Now, if I was only any good at discerning ...


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code Review



My favorite movie reviewer is Roger Ebert. He's intelligent, has a sense of humor, has won a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, and it doesn't hurt that he was raised Catholic. His review of the Da Vinci Code is now posted at his site. Read the whole review, it's worth it, but for now, let's take aquick look :-)

Ebert begins with a comment on the absurditiy of the premises of Brown's book ...

Dan Brown's novel is utterly preposterous; Ron Howard's movie is preposterously entertaining. Both contain accusations against the Catholic Church and its order of Opus Dei that would be scandalous if anyone of sound mind could possibly entertain them. I know there are people who believe Brown's fantasies about the Holy Grail, the descendants of Jesus, the Knights Templar, Opus Dei and the true story of Mary Magdalene. This has the advantage of distracting them from the theory that the Pentagon was not hit by an airplane .... (snip) ...

He has this to say about some of the religious bits of the movie ...

Opus Dei works within but not with the church, which also harbors a secret cell of cardinals who are in on the conspiracy (the pope and most other Catholics apparently don't have backstage passes) .... one of the fascinations of the Catholic Church is that it is the oldest continuously surviving organization in the world, and that's why movies like "The Da Vinci Code" are more fascinating than thrillers about religions founded, for example, by a science-fiction author in the 1950s .... (snip) ....

And he ends the review, in part, like this ...

The movie works; it's involving, intriguing and constantly seems on the edge of startling revelations. After it's over and we're back on the street, we wonder why this crucial secret needed to be protected by the equivalent of a brain-twister puzzle crossed with a scavenger hunt .... Still, as T.S. Eliot wrote, "In my beginning is my end." Maybe he was on to something.

I love movies, especially ones that combine adventure with religious themes, so I'll rent this one. I know that many Catholics will not go to see it, feeling Catholicism and maybe even Jesus/God insulted by it, but perhaps if we treat the movie as the light entertainment it was created to be, both Catholics and non-Catholics will win back some perspective.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Song of Bernadette

Deloney was kind enough to mention this song by Leonard Cohen ... it's about the girl who saw the Marian apparition at Lourdes (see the previous post) ...

Song of Bernadette

There was a child named Bernadette
I heard the story long ago
She saw the queen of heaven once
And kept the vision in her soul
No one believed what she had seen
No one believed what she heard
But there were sorrows to be healed
And mercy, mercy in this world

So many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine
Torn by what we have done and can't undo
I just want to hold you, won't you let me hold you
Like Bernadette would do

We've been around, we fall, we fly
We mostly fall, we mostly run
And every now and then we try
To mend the damage that we've done
Tonight, tonight I just can't rest
I've got this joy inside my breast
To think that I did not forget
that child
That song of Bernadette

So many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine
Torn by what we've done and can't undo
I just want to hold you, won't you let me hold you
Like Bernadette would do


Marian apparitions

In my last post, the comments turned to visitations and visions of the Virgin Mary. I thought I'd write a little about the shrine of Lourdes, where, since 1858, there have been 66 verified miracles, as an example of such appartitions.

First, how does the Church feel about Marian visions? Wikipedia writes ...

According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the era of public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle and when the New Testament was finished. A Marian apparition, if deemed genuine by Church authority, is treated as private revelation that may emphasize some facet of the received public revelation for a specific purpose, but it can never add anything new. At most the Church will confirm an apparition as worthy of belief, but belief is never required .... John Paul II's particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was indicated in his coat of Arms ... He also visited many of the most famous alleged apparition sites, notably Fatima, Lourdes, and Knock, and according to some reports may have experienced another visitation on his last visit to Lourdes in 2003.


- John Paul II's Coat of Arms

Every year, Lourdes is the place of mass pilgrimages - it's estimated that 200 million people have visited the shrine since 1860. I recently read an article from the Tablet about the shrine. Here are some bits from it ...

What pulls them (the pilgrims) is the story at the heart of Lourdes: the image of a 14-year-old, poverty-stricken, asthmatic girl kneeling in ecstasy in a muddy grotto, her face utterly absorbed by a conversation with a lady only she could see. The veracity of Bernadette’s 18 visions in 1858 can never be “proved” – she was the only one who saw the lady – but despite the most formidable pressures brought on her to deny the events, Bernadette stuck to the truth of her experience, never embellishing it and never seeking to profit from it. The most diligent historical research has uncovered no lies, deceit or subterfuge.



At the heart of Lourdes today remains healing. The lady who appeared to Bernadette made no mention of cures, only that people should come and wash in the spring. But the stories of healings began almost as soon as Bernadette uncovered the spring to which the lady had directed her. And they continue to this day in increasing numbers, according to Lourdes’s “miracle doctor”, Patrick Theillier, head of the Medical Bureau. It was set up in 1883 to assess the reports of sudden, inexplicable cures as result of bathing in the waters or praying at the Grotto .... “Nowadays we have broader sense of pathology as psycho-spiritual,” he (Theillier) says .... “There’s a climate of trust here, of tenderness, which has everything to do with the presence of Mary, the presence of the feminine, of the mother.”

With all the interest in Marianism, there's a question that arises, one I read in another article elsewhere. Someone asked ... if we (Marian Catholics) could explain exactly what devotion to the Blessed Virgin contributed to our spiritual life, and why we were not satisfied to go straight to Our Lord with our petitions. In my further reading, I was able to come up with possible answers.

If nothing else, Mary exemplifies two things ... motherhood and generosity of spirit. At the time of the early church, there were those who believed Jesus was only divine, a strictly spiritual being. An emphasis on Mary as Jesus' human mother helped to show his human nature which we share with him. And then there is Mary's choice of response to God's request, through the angel Gabriiel ... Mary agreed, held nothing back. This is significant if you imagine that she had a true choice, free will. Mary cooperated with God, who needed/desired her contribution ... human/divine interdependance.

Like us, Mary was human, and it may be her human act of freely chosen relationship with Jesus/God that make people turn to her in reverance.




Sunday, May 14, 2006

Honesty

I love visiting other Catholic blogs, and those of my Protestant friends as well. In all of them I find support and reinforcement for my beliefs, and a companionship in devotion.

But there are other kinds of blogs I like to visit ... those that call themselves "biblioblogs". They're blogs devoted to the subject of Biblical Studies (check out Biblioblogs: An Aggregate of Blogs Geared toward Biblical Studies).

This wasn't always the case, however. For quite a while after I became a christian, I avoided anything to do with the study of the historical Jesus. I was afraid that I would find out something I didn't want to know, that some research would turn up an incontravertable fact that would forever spoil my faith. Actually, I'm still a bit afraid of this. But what keeps me reading about the historical Jesus is the realization that a faith that is afraid of the truth isn't worth having, that faith demands honesty, if only with oneself.

One of the biblioblogs I visit most often is Duke University Professor Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway Weblog. His post - A Brit at Duke: Reflections of an Alien Professor - ended with this paragraph, which sums up my feelings well ...

.... one of the values of the best scholarship, and this is especially true of studying religion, is that it helps to keep you honest. When you set out your beliefs and attempt to use scholarship solely to defend them, rather than to question and to test them, you are engaging in apologetics. When you subject religious claims, religious literature and your own religious ideas to rigorous scrutiny in the presence of others who have different ideas, you know that you are on the right track. Publicly available evidence, publicly coherent arguments, rigorous academic scrutiny, and honesty.


Friday, May 12, 2006

History

I tried to think of something both edifying and spiritual to write about, but it's hot here, and I'm tired, so instead I'm just going to do what's fun (for me, anyway) and chat about history :-)

* Who is your favorite Roman Emperor?
I'd have to pick Marcus Aurelius. Nope, not because he was in Gladiator :-) but because of his Meditations. I first read the book in college, when I was trying very hard not to feel anything, and Stoicism really hit the mark. Here's an example ...

If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now.

I loved this idea that we can control our feelings. Not surprising that Aurelius would like it too ... by all accounts, he had a bad marraige, and his son ... !


- Richard Harris, from Gladiator, as Marcus Aurelius

* What's your favorite historical battle?
Another one of thos burning questions that keep us up at night! My choice would be the battle of Stamford Bridge and the battle of Hastings, together. They took place in England in 1066, and things went like this ...

The king of England, Harold Godwinson, did not have an easy row to hoe. he had to defend the country on two fronts - from the attack of the Norse in the north-east(Stamford Bridge), and also from William the Conqueror in the south (Hastings). With the Norwegian forces, fighting against Harold at Stamford Bridge, was his own brother Tostig ... ouch! Individual Vikings held the bridge over the river against the English, allowing the Norse to grab the preferred higher ground before the battle was met. Lots of lives were lost, but eventually, Harold won. He then had to turn around what was left of his army and march from York to the southern coast, where he met William about two weeks later at Hastings ... there, with his army tired and depleated, with inferior arms, and a shield-wall strategy that failed, Harold lost.



* Who is the most impressive person from the old days?
I'll choose Pericles ...



Percles (495 BC-429 BC,) is perhaps the most well known statesman of the Greek city state of Athens. He can be read of in Thucydides' The History of the Peloponnesian War, he was the buddy of Socrates and was responcible for the building project which included the Parthenon. He was also a romantic, in love with a hetaera - a well educated and independant courtesan - named Aspasia, and though they couldn't marry, they lived together, their home an intellectual salon where writers and philosophers met. Pericles was a fosterer of democracy, as well as a great general. Below is a bit of his famous funeral speech from Thucydides ...

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbors', but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment ....


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Spirituality and Desire

I came across an interesting book review in the latest issue of The Way. Sadly, it can't be found online, so I searched around and found another review of the book at the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, so I could share it with you guys :-). The book is Alien Sex: The Body and Desire in Theology and Cinema by Gerard Loughlin, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religion at the University of Durham, UK.

In this dense theological study, Gerard Loughlin flies in the face of many mainstream Westerners’ assumptions by asserting that sex and Christianity are not inherently opposed but are, in fact, a match made in heaven. Using popular film as a dialogue partner, Alien Sex develops a daring new Christian body theology that defends human sexuality—whether hetero- or homosexuality—as the sphere of life where we encounter the divine most powerfully .... Although the audience capable of fully appreciating Loughlin’s wide-ranging cultural interests, his passionate championing of human sexuality, and his firm foundation in Christian theology is a small one, Alien Sex is a significant accomplishment in the field of contemporary theology.
- read the review by Christine Hoff Kraemer, Boston University

The idea of spirituality and sexuality being entwined rather than opposed is atypical, but not unheard of. William A. Barry SJ, in his book, With an Everlasting Love, has a chapter titled Eros, Sexuality, and Intimacy with God. Fr. Barry writes of the romantic mystical spirituality of Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross and also mentions the Song of Songs ...

Both Jewish and Christian writers have argued that this book speaks of the love between God and God's chosen people, and between God and the individual. Yet the book seems to be a collection of love poems that speak in starkly erotic, sensual and sexual imagery of the love between a man and a woman.

Carl W. Ernst writes in his article, Interpreting the Song of Songs: The Paradox of Spiritual and Sensual Love ...

Countless Christian writers expanded on the spiritual significance of the Song of Songs. Bernard of Clairvaux compiled an extensive series of sermons on the text. The English mystic Richard Rolle (d. 1349) wrote an intensely lyrical commentary on the three first verses of the Song. The Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross is directly inspired by the Song of Songs .... About 1573, St. Teresa of Avila wrote a little book on "Concepts of the Love of God" based upon the Song of Songs, which was fortunately saved from the flames to which it had been condemned.

Later religious writers were not exempt from equating desire with love of God, as this John Donne poem shows ...

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for you
as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend.
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me and bend
your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
labor to admit you, but, oh, to no end;
reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
but is captived and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you and would be loved fain,
but am betrothed unto your enemy:
divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
take me to you, imprison me, for I,
except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.


Finally, an excerpt from the review of Loughlin's book in The Way sums up the connectedness of love , desire, and spirituality ...

Whereas some writers have wanted to make a radical contrast between agape - divine love - and the erotic, Loughlin does not. He is following a distinctly different trajectory: it is through, and not in spite of, sexual desire that we are caught up into God's desire as Creator for us as creatures .... We learn to embrace sexual desire, not as the will's mastery of something negative and dangerous - a frequent enough understanding within the Christian tradition - but rather as a positive embrace, which is nevertheless not innocent of the danger involved. Loughlin attributes this positive embrace not just to those who are sexually active but also to celibates, whose love for God the tradition has so often expressed through the language of physical desire.
- review by Greey O'Hanlon SJ

To wrap up, I think this is a subject that's not often discussed but which is worth reading up on, for as Fr. Barry writes ... Our gender and sexuality have a profound influence on all our relationships, including our relationship with God.


The Windhover



The Windhover: To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

- Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

James Martin SJ

My friend Susan told me yesterday about an interesting interview on National Public Radio with Jim Martin SJ. The name sounded familiar to me and I remembered reading about him and his book, My Life with the Saints, at Mark's You Duped Me Lord blog, so I decided to look him up on the web.

Father Martin is an associate editor of America, the Jesuit weekly magazine. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business, he worked for six years in corporate finance before entering the Society of Jesus in 1988. As part of his Jesuit training, Father Martin worked at a hospice for the sick and dying in Kingston, Jamaica, with homeless men and women in Boston, with street gang members in Chicago, and, for two years, with East African refugees in Nairobi, Kenya. After the events of September 11, Father Martin served as a Chaplin in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the tragedy.
- John Carroll University

I wasn't able to access the NPR interview, but instead I found a three-part interview with Fr. Matin at Busted Halo, on the subject of his My Life With Saints - here's a bit of the first part ...

My hope was that people would come away from the book realizing that sanctity is not about perfection; it’s about being human. As Thomas Merton says, “To be a saint means to be myself.” A lot of books focus only on the saints’ accomplishments, as if the author thinks somehow that talking about their struggles would scandalize people. I think it’s in their struggles that the saints are most human, and that’s also where their lives intersect most with our own. What I hoped to do in this book was, in showing the saints to be human beings, people for whom I feel a great affection, to enable people to see holiness as something that’s a goal in their own lives as well .... The book took me 10 years to write, but there was never a question of whom I was going to include. One difficulty was the people I had to leave out, a choice which may be raising an eyebrow or two in heaven. Perhaps now they’re saying: “You’re praying to us but you didn’t include us in the book, huh?”.... people are looking for authentic witnesses to the gospel. Well that’s what the saints are.

***

For those obsessed with Da Vinci Code related info, see Fr. Martin's article in America, Opus Dei In the United States


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

For some reason, the word cocaine has captured my attention a few times in the last couple of weeks ... I found, while looking for something else, the song Cocaine by Eric Clapton. Pretty good. If you're interested, read more about the song at Wikipedia .... then there was the news story about Mexico's decision (nad later change of mind) about legalizing certain drugs, including cocaine ... and tonight, on a rerun of CSI, there was a reference to Sherlock Holmes and the Seven-Per-Cent Solution.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, for those not familiar with it, was a novel by Nicholas Meyer. It was published as a lost manuscript of the late Dr. Watson, Holmes' sidekick, and it tells of Holmes's recovery from addiction to cocaine with the help of Sigmund Freud, as well as his solving of a sinister kidnapping plot.

I haven't read the novel, but I have seen the 1976 movie of the same name, that was made from the novel. It stars Robert Duvall, Vanessa Redgrave, Laurence Olivier, Nicole Williamson and Alan Arkin. One of the interesting things about the storyline is the true life portrayal of Sigmund Freud as a former user of cocaine. Read the NY Times review of the movie here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

St. Margaret Mary and the X-Files



Sometimes it seems like everything I know, I learned from the X-Files :-) ... for instance, the identity of St. Margaret Mary. Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque (1647-1690) was a French Catholic nun, who entered the Visitation Convent at Paray-le-Monial at the age of twenty-four. She was a mystic, practiced a number of mortifications, and had many visions, the most well known being that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this vision, Jesus showed her his heart, burning with divine love, and told her to establish a feast in honor of his Sacred Heart.

One of the first to believe in and support Margaret Mary's vision of the Sacred Heart was a young Jesuit, her spiritual director, St. Claude de la Colombière SJ. and it was the Jesuit Order that later helped establish the devotion of the Sacred Heart. Below is a prayer by Claude, translation by John Veltri SJ ...

Act Of Hope And Confidence In God

My God, I believe most firmly
that you watch over all who hope in you,
and that we can want for nothing
when we rely upon you in all things.
Therefore I am resolved for the future ... to cast all my cares upon you
People may deprive me of possessions and status.
Sickness may take my strength from me. I may even jeopardize our
relationship by sin; but my trust shall never leave me.
I will preserve it to the last moment of my life,
and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to grab it from me.
Let others seek happiness in their wealth and in their talents.
Let them trust in the purity of their lives,
in the number of their activities, in the intensity of their prayer;
as for me, my confidence in you fills me with hope.
You are my divine protector. In you alone do I hope.
I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness,
for I firmly hope in it and all my hope is in you.
"In you, O Loving God, have I hoped: let me never be confounded."
I know too well that I am weak and changeable.
I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue.
I have seen stars fall and foundations of my world crack.
These things do not alarm me.
While I hope in you, I am sheltered from all misfortune,
and I am sure that my trust shall endure,
for I rely upon you to sustain this unfailing hope.
Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed your generosity,
and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from you.
Therefore I hope that you will sustain me against the ways
in which I deceive myself.
I hope that you will protect me against the deceitful attacks
of the evil one. I hope you will cause my weakness
to triumph over every hostile force.
I hope that you will never cease to love me
and that I shall love you unceasingly.
"In you, O God, I have hoped, let me never be confounded."

***

PHILLIP PADGETT (to Agent Scully) : I often come here to look at this painting. It's called "My Divine Heart" after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart... and so he did placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand.
- Milagro episode - Inside the X-Files


- My Divine Heart


In the News

Some stories in the news ...

Fr. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's president, has decided to allow performances of a gay film festival and The Vagina Monologues, despite stiff criticism from some faculty and students. I think Fr. Jenkins is doing the right thing.

Father Jenkins put the play's review within the overall context of integrating academic freedom with the Catholic character of the university. He said he made the decision although he believes the play's portrayals of sexuality "stand apart from, and indeed in opposition to, Catholic teaching on human sexuality." But "there must be room in a university for expressions that do not accord with Catholic teaching, and that is true in the case of this play," he added.
- Catholic News Service


China again defies Vatican with 2nd ordination; reconciliation imperiled

The government-recognized "open" church will soon ordain another bishop without papal approval, and some underground Catholics expect reconciliation with the open church to become even harder to achieve ... A Vatican source confirmed to UCA News on May 2 that neither of them has been given papal approval and both were told this before their ordinations.

There's talk of excommunicating the two bishops, but other sources have the Vatican saying that if the bishops who were ordained and those ordaining them were forced to participate, they would not be so punished ... Canon 1323 specifies that a person coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, is not subject to penalty. For more info about the Church and China, see my post of April 20, 2006.

Cardinals visit White House, Hill on immigration reform

Several U.S. cardinals had a busy morning in Washington April 28 urging humane and compassionate immigration legislation as the Senate prepared to debate immigration reform .... Cardinal McCarrick and Cardinals Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles and William H. Keeler of Baltimore started the day with a breakfast meeting on immigration reform with White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and other White House aides .... From the White House Cardinals Mahony and McCarrick went to Capitol Hill to meet with several senators on immigration reform legislation .... One of the key elements in immigration reform that the cardinals and the U.S. bishops have been working for is a program that would provide a path to citizenship for large numbers of undocumented workers already living in the United States.

Go Cardinals! :-)


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Angels



An angel can illume the thought and mind of man by strengthening the power of vision, and by bringing within his reach some truth which the angel himself contemplates.
- Thomas Aquinas

Angels are spirits, but it is not because they are spirits that they are angels. They become angels when they are sent. For the name angel refers to their office, not their nature. You ask the name of this nature, it is spirit; you ask its office, it is that of an Angel, which is a messenger.
- Augustine

There are nine orders of angels, to wit: angels, archangels, virtues, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim.
- Gregory The Great



Remember that the good angels do what they can to preserve men from sin and obtain God's honor. But they do not lose courage when men fail. Our Father has much praise for those of Ours who in this sense imitate the example of the angels.
- Ignatius of Loyola

The dignity of a soul is so great, that each has a guardian angel from its birth.
- Jerome

Angels are intelligent reflections of light, that original light which has no beginning. They can illuminate. They do not need tongues or ears, for they can communicate without speech, in thought.
- John of Damascus

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Copyright Infringement

Someone commenting on my blog mentioned that one of the reasons they like to read it is that I post many photographs. Well, today I realized the toll of posting so many photos, when another person informed me that, by using one of his photos that I found in a Google image search, I've been stealing not only his copyrighted material, but his bandwidth.

I'm seriously technically challenged, so I wasn't really aware of the stealing of bandwidth, but I must admit, I did realize I was on shaky ground by using images not my won. I decided to look into the subject further.

A helpful artocle on Blogging and image use is Bloggers' FAQ - Intellectual Property, which says, in part ...

When can I borrow someone's images for my blog post?

Images are subject to the same copyright and fair use laws as written materials, so here too you'll want to think about the fair use factors that might apply. Is the image used in a transformative way? Are you taking only what's necessary to convey your point? A thumbnail (reduced-size) image, or a portion of a larger image is more likely to be fair use than taking an entire full-size image. If you want to go beyond fair use, look for Creative Commons licensed images.


A good article on Fair Use can be found at Wikipedia, which says, in part ...

An important exception to this rule (Copyright) exists, recognized in a clause in the copyright act that describes a limited right to use copyrighted material without permission of the copyright holder — what is known as fair use (or "fair dealing" in other countries, where standards may differ) ... Images - There are a few blanket categories of copyrighted images whose use on Wikipedia has been generally approved as likely being fair use when done in good faith. These include:

* Cover art. Cover art from various items, for identification and critical commentary (not for identification without critical commentary).
* Team and corporate logos. For identification. See Wikipedia:Logos.
* Stamps and currency. For identification.
* Other promotional material. Posters, programs, billboards, ads. For critical commentary.
* Film and television screen shots. For critical commentary and discussion of the cinema and television.
* Screen shots from software products. For critical commentary.
* Paintings and other works of visual art. For critical commentary, including images illustrative of a particular technique or school.
* Publicity photos. For identification and critical commentary. See Wikipedia:Publicity photos.


If, through Fair Use, it's ok to post an image on your blog, what isn't ok is to link to the image. This means that the person who is hosting the image is having their bandwidth used everytime your blog loads (if I understand correctly).

I think that this is also true of music files ... linking to the html page that lists the link to the music is ok ... linking to the song itsself is not.

The person who brought this to my attention also told me that I'm not being very "Christian" in what I've been doing. I'd have to agree with him. My blog is often religious in content and I should have realized that I might be, to some people, an example of what a Christian is like ... Yikes!

I may never be a good enough Christian, but I'll try to be a better me, especially in the area of copyright infringement.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Proto-Saint Antoni Gaudí



I've just been reading an article at the Tablet about Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudí, who may become the first professional artist to be made a saint.

There are no professional architects – let alone musicians, artists, or novelists – in the ranks of the saints. No Mozart or Michelangelo. No Titian. There is only the Blessed Fra Angelico – but he was a friar who painted rather than a painter. Hence the excitement over the fast-track cause for the beatification – the first stage of the journey to being declared a saint – of one of the great modernist architects of the twentieth century, a scruffy mystic whose most famous work is the awesome, unfinished church of the Holy Family in Barcelona.


- read about La Sagrada Família

Wikipedia writes of the artist ...

Gaudí was an ardent Catholic and a fervent Catalan nationalist. (He was once arrested for speaking in Catalan in a situation deemed illegal by authorities.) In his later years, he abandoned secular work and devoted his life to Catholicism and his Sagrada Família. Soon after, his closest family and friends began to die. His works slowed to a halt, and his attitude changed. Perhaps one of his closest family members – his niece Rosa Egea – died in 1912, only to be followed by a "faithful collaborator, Francesc Berenguer Mestres" two years later. After both tragedies, Barcelona fell on hard times, economically. The construction of La Sagrada Família slowed; the construction of La Colonia Güell ceased altogether. Four years later, Eusebi Güell, his patron, died ....

On June 7, 1926, Antoni Gaudí was run over by a tram. Because of his ragged attire and empty pockets, multiple cab drivers refused to pick him up for fear that he would be unable to pay the fare. He was eventually taken to a pauper's hospital in Barcelona. Nobody recognized the injured artist until his friends found him the next day. When they tried to move him into a nicer hospital, Gaudí refused, reportedly saying "I belong here among the poor." He died two days later, half of Barcelona mourning his death. It was, perhaps, fitting that he was buried in the midst of his unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Família.


Antoni Gaudí worked on his great project for over 40 years, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to it ... work was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1935 and then began again in the 1950s, after the end of World War II. Today, though still under construction, it is one of the most visited sites in Barcelona. When people would comment on the fact that La Sagrada Família would not be finished in his lifetime, Gaudí would say, "My client is not in a hurry."


- detail from the Passion facade of La Sagrada Família