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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Vote for Obama, go to hell?

Watching this creepy video of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki threatening people with damnation if they vote for Obama ...



... I was reminded of something that happened at Vatican II. A US Catholic article from Sept. 1995, Detour: the Commission on Birth Control (from Turning point), quotes this exchange from the last meeting of the Commission in which conservatives opine that the church can't change its doctrine because it had already sent people to hell based on it .....

[Spanish Jesuit Father Marcelino] Zalba ... "What then," he asked, "with the millions we have sent to hell if these norms were not valid?"

Patty Crowley [a married Catholic from Chicago] could not restrain herself. "Father Zalba," she interjected, "do you really believe God has carried out all your orders?"

A momentary stunned silence followed, then some chuckles at this intrusion of common sense in these austere deliberations.

Tarping

I spent most of today with my sister putting tarps on the roof - 2 down, 5 still to go. September is usually the beginning of the rainy season but with the drought, who knows. There's actually a methodology to tarping - you have to start with the ones that will be lowest and put the peaky ones on last so that they overlap and the rain slides off as it would off fish scales. I realized I've been doing this now for 11 years ... I was putting on tarps for the first time when my sister came over to help and told me she'd heard on the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

The tarps are silvery and smell all platicky ...

The pecan tree from the roof ....

While up there I saw that the walnut tree which almost died a few years ago now has a walnut :) ...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Last night I finally reached the end of season one of Once Upon a Time. I'm not sure why I like the series so much, except that fairy tales made a big impression on me as a kid. I think also it touches me because the characters and the storylines are about redemption and hope.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

William H. Macy is a priest :)

Still browsing the movie trailers at Apple and I saw a couple of upcoming films that looked worth a watch.

One is The Sessions ...

a 2012 American independent drama film written and directed by Ben Lewin. It is based on the true story of Mark O'Brien, a poet paralyzed from neck down due to polio who hired a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star as O'Brien and sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene respectively. The film debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award (U.S. Dramatic) and a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting.

In the film, Macy plays a Catholic priest, Father Brendan. Here's the trailer ...



The other movie is Chasing Ice ...

SYNOPSIS

In the spring of 2005, National Geographic photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change and a cynic about the nature of academic research. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.


There's more info about this film at the website linked to above. The photography in the trailer looks amazing ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I saw in my travels today

Dina has an interesting post on Yom Kippur .... Absalom's Pillar and Yom Kippur

Some beautiful underwater photography by Alexander Semenov ... here

Mark Goodacre has a comprehensive update on the status of the papyrus mentioning Jesus' wife ... The Gospel of Jesus' Wife: Latest News

A visit to the Apple movie trailer home to watch their Quicktime trailer for The Hobbit :) Quicktime always looks better on my computer than Flash for some reason, but I don't know how to embed that, so ...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury?

I've been reading about this at Thinking Anglicans. The way the archbishop is chosen: the Crown Nominations Committee picks two candidates and the Queen, advised by the prime minister, chooses one of them (read more about the process here). This government/religion interweaving seems so wrong from an American pov :)

Of the possible candidates mentioned, only a couple were recognizable to me ... Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, and James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool. The latter is a complicated person in that he's a strange blend of liberal and conservative ... you can read all about him in this 2008 Guardian article.

Further reading - I came upon an essay on the way archbishops are chosen - Why I would like to help choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury by Graeme Smith

Hiding something

I was watching this jay with a sunflower seed looking for a place in the grass to hide it ...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The bluejay

The bliejay died during the night. I'm afraid that by catching him we may have just made things worse for him instead of helping him. So sad :( See you in heaven, little bird.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Catching a wounded bluejay



Tonight my sister dropped by and noticed that one of the bluejays we feed peanuts to was apparently hurt and couldn't fly. We watched him for a while, hoping he would improve, but he didn't. We called a wildlife rescue place. It was closed for the day but they said we should catch him and put him in a box with some towels, leave him someplace dark and quiet, then bring him in tomorrow. First worry - no box. We decided to put him in a large cat carrier I have left from when the cats were here - will he smell the cats? Then, no thick gloves to catch him with, but he was so scared and weak that he didn't scratch or peck at all. Now he's in the cat carrier in my mom's bedroom. He seems almost catatonic - probably terrified. I hope he'll be ok.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A fallen angel at the Vatican



Another book I've just started is The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva. It's the latest novel in the series about art restorer Gabriel Allon (who's also a retired Israeli agent).

A number of the novels in the series mention the Vatican and the pope: Gabriel is often hired to restore paintings for the Vatican museums and at one point he actually saves the pope's life. In this novel, he's working on a restoration of The Deposition (The Entombment) of Christ by Caravaggio, and while at the Vatican is called in to help with investigating a suicide (or a murder?) that takes place in the Sistine Chapel - the man who asks for his help is the pope's powerful private secretary, a Jesuit :) and Gabriel's personal friend. Here's what the description at Amazon states ...

After narrowly surviving his last operation, Gabriel Allon, the wayward son of Israeli intelligence, has taken refuge behind the walls of the Vatican, where he is restoring one of Caravaggio's greatest masterpieces. But early one morning he is summoned to St. Peter's Basilica by Monsignor Luigi Donati, the all-powerful private secretary to His Holiness Pope Paul VII. The body of a beautiful woman lies broken beneath Michelangelo's magnificent dome. The Vatican police suspect suicide, though Gabriel believes otherwise. So, it seems, does Donati. But the monsignor is fearful that a public inquiry might inflict another scandal on the Church, and so he calls upon Gabriel to quietly pursue the truth—with one caveat.

"Rule number one at the Vatican," Donati said. "Don't ask too many questions."

Gabriel learns that the dead woman had uncovered a dangerous secret—a secret that threatens a global criminal enterprise that is looting timeless treasures of antiquity and selling them to the highest bidder. But there is more to this network than just greed. A mysterious operative is plotting an act of sabotage that will plunge the world into a conflict of apocalyptic proportions. . . .

An intoxicating blend of art, intrigue, and history, The Fallen Angel moves swiftly from the cloistered chambers of the Vatican to the glamorous ski slopes of St. Moritz to the graceful avenues of Berlin and Vienna—and, finally, to a shocking climax beneath the world's most sacred and contested parcel of land. Each setting in this extraordinary novel is rendered with the care of an Old Master, as are the spies, lovers, priests, and thieves who inhabit its pages. It is a story of faith and of the destructive power of secrets—and an all too timely reminder that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.


So far, I like it - lots of stuff about the Vatican and about art. I've read all the earlier Gabriel Allon novels and think they're quite good.

Rating charities

I saw a depressing article about charities today - Charities Deceive Donors Unaware Money Goes to a Telemarketer - that mentions how some well known charities, like the American Diabetes Association, sometimes mislead donors about what percentage of the money they give will actually go towards helping those the charity is for.

One way people can become aware of how their charity donations are spent is to look up the charity at Charity Navigator. It can be kind of daunting to do this - I send a tiny bit of $ to a bunch of different places and not all of them rated very well. Two that did, though, were the Animal Legal Defense Fund (see the Charity Navigator page on them here), and Catholic Relief Services (see here).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jesus and Nicodemus



Here's a clip from The Gospel of John that portrays the reading for today (Jn 3:13-17). For me, the gospel of John is particularly hard to like/accept, but I guess because I do like Henry Ian Cusick so much :) I find myself sort of engaged by the movie version of it ...



From the Episcopal Cafe ...

Meeting violence with tolerance

"I so strongly believe that the great religions of the world are stronger than any insults. They have withstood offense for centuries," said [Hillary] Clinton. "Refraining from violence, then, is not a sign of weakness in one’s faith; it is absolutely the opposite, a sign that one’s faith is unshakable."

Werewolves in Chicago



My latest book from the library is Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. It's the second book in The Dresden Files series about private eye/wizard Harry Dresden - I've been having to read the books out of order, so though I've now read all but two, I'm only just now getting to this one. When I checked the book out, the librarian told me the science fiction book club there had chosen to read all The Dresden Files books next :) Here's a little bit from one of the customer reviews at the Amazon page ...

In the final analysis, "Fool Moon" is more about learning to trust than about foiling werewolves, more about self discovery than arcane knowledge, more about the demons in Harry's heart than those in his summoning circle. In other words, it is about Harry Dresden himself, a hero of pure intention, tremendous power, and courage in the face of unspeakable danger, who just happens to be afraid to meet his own eyes in the mirror. He infers the blackness of his own soul from the reactions of others brash or foolish enough to meet his gaze. And he fears that the kind of knowledge that has so blackened him will be at least as destructive to others. Harry's struggle to come to terms with himself and those he cares about, his faltering advances and all-too-frequent backslides, are what really keep the reader turning the pages. They are also what keep Harry half a step behind the villains until it is almost too late.

I've read a few other books that mention werewolves, like Blood Trail by Tanya Huff and The Wolfen by Whitley Streiber, but as the blurb above states, it's really the evolution of the main character, Harry Dresden, that keeps me reading the books of the series. You can read a sample chapter of Fool Moon here.


- cover art of Blood Trail by Tanya Huff

Still watching LOST

A photo from tonight's episode ....


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Burning embassies


- photo from CNN

Horrified like everyone else, as US embassies are attacked in the Middle East. It appears some of the attacks were planned earlier, though the video/movie insulting Islam is also blamed. The video/movie appears to have been made by a Coptic Christian who pretended to be an Israeli. Depressing that someone would make a movies attacking another's religion and depressing that people would see fit to commit such violence over a movie.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Some hollyhocks




Monday, September 10, 2012

A prayer

Last night when I went out to change the sprinklers, I heard what sounded like some small creature crying, kind of like a puppy but up high in a tree. It was dark and I couldn't see anything and eventually it stopped, but it sounded so sad. Today when mowing the lawn, I found a small dead animal - maybe a rat or a small possum - with my bad vision, I wasn't sure. Was it related somehow to the creature that was crying?

This reminded me of a post I saw yesterday at 13.7 Cosmos and Culture, Do Birds Hold Funerals?, and also of a post from long ago at the Episcopal Cafe, Freaks for Christ: Mourning Brother Squirrel. The last post has a prayer for the squirrel, and I offer it for the little creature I found today .....

Blessed are you, O God of all creation, we give you thanks for the life of this squirrel, your creature. Now receive him into your eternal care where he might enjoy you forever according to his estate; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The prince ....

(really just a shepherd) kills the mythical wyvern ....



Still watching Once Upon A Time and a recent episode, The Shepherd, tells of Prince Charming's background.

Long story short .... King George, who couldn't have children, procured one of two twin shepherd boys to be his through the magical machinations of Rumpelstiltskin. Years later, just as King George is about to make a lucrative deal with King Midas - Prince Charming will kill a wyvern bothering Midas and George will be paid much gold - the prince is killed in a fight. King George gets Rumpelstiltskin to threaten the prince's shepherd twin brother into impersonating the dead prince and attempting to kill the beast. He does so, but it's sad, because King George won't let him go back to being a shepherd and he will never get to see his mom again, plus he has to then marry Midas' daughter who he doesn't love as his heart has been given to Snow White ... whew!

Where the prince lives ....



His shepherd self ....



The shepherd as prince says goodbye to his mother ...



And impersonates the prince ...



The prince in the mundane world of Storybrooke, Maine, works at the animal shelter - how can you not like him? :) ...



Eventually the prince and Snow White do marry, but then they're cursed .....



I'm really enjoying this series :)

More on Ignatian spirituality

I'm still slowly reading The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin SJ. Here's a bit from what I've just read that highlights what I especially like about Ignatian spirituality (pp. 51-54) .....

*******

[H]ow do I find God?

Here is where we can turn to an important insight of Ignatius [Loyola]: God can speak directly with people in astonishingly personal ways. This can lead even the doubtful and confused and lost to God. The key, the leap of faith required, is believing that these intimate experiences are ways God communicates with you.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius wrote that the Creator deals "immediately with the creature and the creature with the Creator." God communicates with us. Seekers, then, need to be aware of the variety of ways that God has of communicating with us, of making God's presence known.

In other words, the beginning of the path to finding God is awareness. Not simply awareness of the ways that you can find God, but an awareness that God desires to find you.

[...]

God wants to communicate with us. Directly

This idea would get Ignatius in trouble with the Inquisition and land him in jail. (Ignatius had his own problems with "religion" at times.) Some critics suspected that Ignatius was trying to bypass the institutional church. If God could deal with humanity directly, they wondered, what need was there for the church?

As I've mentioned, religion enables people to encounter God in profound ways in their lives. But Ignatius recognized that God could not be confined within the walls of the church. God was larger than the church ....

*******


Friday, September 07, 2012

:)



Have you played with the Star Trek interactive Google Doodle - it references the Arena episode (I think). The poor E in the red shirt is so the worse for wear by the end of it :)

One of my favorite episodes of Star Trek was This Side of Paradise. The Enterprise travels to a planet to evacuate a colony due to radiation, only to find the members of the colony in perfect health thanks to the spores of a plant. The spores also allow Mr. Spock to be at peace with his emotions ...



Prayer or performance?

I saw in the news that UK Catholics are being asked by Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton and chair of the Church's evangelisation committee, to make a regularly scheduled public performance of praying ...

[...] He said: “I would like to invite every Catholic, especially during the Year of Faith, to pause for a moment of prayer of praise and thanksgiving at 3pm if possible, or perhaps when you break for lunch, on the first Friday of every month.

“Whatever you are doing, as your responsibilities allow, stop, perhaps close your eyes, bow your head and prayerfully and silently meditate on the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross out of love for you and everyone.

“You might even want to set your mobile phone to ring at 2.55pm to remind you to pause for prayer.”

He added: "The exact words used are not so important as just pausing to be with Jesus in that moment. In this way you are not only deepening your relationship with him, but quietly and confidently witnessing to your faith to those around you."


Oh, I get what's driving this - the UK Church wants to push back because of the argument over wearing crosses at work. But I believe this is a bad idea.

I really doubt that, in a country where people are apparently threatened simply by others wearing religious symbols, many non-Catholics will be won over to Catholicism through this orchestrated action. Maybe the best kind of evangelization is done by individuals being good examples to others through how they live their lives. What's being suggested by the bishop seems instead to have the goal of confrontation.

And besides, what the bishop is proposing uses prayer as a means to a political end, when it should be an end in itself. I know my fellow Catholics hate what they call proof-texting ;) but but this all reminds me of Matthew 6:5-6.


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Thalidomide apology and Philip K. Dick

When I saw in the news that the makers of the morning sickness medication, Thalidomide, had finally officially apologized 50 years after their drug caused awful birth defects, I was reminded of a book I'd read long ago by Philip K. Dick, Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb, which had a character who'd suffered from Thalidomide induced defects. I don't remember the book very well but that one aspect of it stayed with me, in part because of the skin-crawling 'there but for fortune' possibilities of such terrible fates (you can read about the book at Wikipedia).

Here's a bit from an article in Forbes on the apology ...

Thalidomide: A Specter Still Haunts the World

[...] Personally, it was a reminder to me of the forces and events that have shaped my own sensibilities, political and otherwise. In fact, I’d group thalidomide with the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement as formative impacts in my life. I’m particularly haunted by the medium through which those impacts were made. Dead soldiers and civilian babies, hoses turned savagely on peaceful protesters, limbless children held fast by agonized parents…Then as now, visual images mold our perceptions and transform our lives.

Morally, it was a reminder that no one can escape the shadow of the past; that, somehow in some way, we eventually confront the demons of our own actions, individual or corporate. They call it karma, from which there’s no escape by simply writing a settlement check to remit ancient sins or recent misdeeds.

Historically, it was a reminder of how the thalidomide nightmare helped shape the current environment in specific practical ways. Class actions and plaintiffs’ lawyers cast as moral avengers; aggressive regulation on all business fronts (nowhere more so than with food and drugs); lobbyists enlisted to ease the burden on manufacturers and NGOs deployed in the opposing cause – the thalidomide litigation and public furor were indeed eloquent precursors to our current mélange.

Professionally, it was a reminder that, for all that companies may be learning in terms of crisis communications, there are still situations that sorely test those evolving skills. In that context, the Grünenthal Group’s current ordeal merits a closer look .

Grünenthal’s chief executive Harald Stock not only apologized for the suffering of thalidomide victims, he apologized for not apologizing. “We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us,” said Stock, speaking in the city of Stolberg, where Grünenthal is based. The occasion was the unveiling of a bronze statue of a child born without limbs – again, a reminder that powerful visual images drive events .......

"Don’t confuse me with the facts."

That line was made famous during the Watergate hearings, and it still seems to be the watchword (watchphrase?) of the Republican party. Here's the beginning of a piece in TIME about Clinton's speech at the DNC .....

The Clinton Speech
by Joe Klein

Bill Clinton talks about policy — about the substance of governing — better than any other politician I’ve ever heard. He keeps it simple and he keeps it accurate. He can make Medicare as dramatic as warfare. He did a major demolition job on the Republican Party’s economic policy on Wednesday night. He held it to the light of the facts. And it crumbled, as those of us who follow these things knew it would. After all, we’ve had 30 years of data: supply-side economics doesn’t work, tax cuts for the wealthy are more likely to encourage the purchase of dressage horses than the creation of new jobs.

He did Barack Obama a service on Wednesday, but he also did the country a service by making crystal clear the baloney slicing at the heart of the Republican argument. Where to begin? ..........





The Huntsman



Still watching Once Upon a Time. I've found my favorite character - he's the sheriff in the mundane town of Storybrooke, Maine (and he volunteers at an animal shelter :) .....



In the alternate world of the Enchanted Forest, he's the Huntsman, raised and befriended by wolves, and commissioned by the Evil Queen to kill her stepdaughter, Snow White ....



He saves her instead, and in tonight's episode his Storybrooke self remembers who he really is and is done to death. Sad.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Bill Clinton’s speech

Watched Bill Clinton's DNC speech. I thought it was pretty good. One thing that's got me down about the few speeches I have heard so far is their emphasis on the middle class. The democratic party used to be more brave about standing up for those who are below middle class ... perhaps they believe poor people don't vote :( At least President Clinton did mention what would happen to Medicaid if Romney wins: it will be bad for those below the poverty level as well as for many who are disabled ......

Now, folks, this is serious, because it gets worse. (Laughter.) And you won’t be laughing when I finish telling you this. They also want to block-grant Medicaid, and cut it by a third over the coming 10 years.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Of course, that’s going to really hurt a lot of poor kids. But that’s not all. Lot of folks don’t know it, but nearly two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for Medicare seniors — (applause) — who are eligible for Medicaid.

(Cheers, applause.) It’s going to end Medicare as we know it. And a lot of that money is also spent to help people with disabilities, including — (cheers, applause) — a lot of middle-class families whose kids have Down’s syndrome or autism or other severe conditions. (Applause.) And honestly, let’s think about it, if that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do.

Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC

Pretty good speech :) .....

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What might have been



There's an article at CIF Belief by The Tablet's Catherine Pepinster on the late Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini - 'Out-of-date' Catholic church must listen to its late cardinal. Also, you can read the translated last interview with the Cardinal at NCR. Here's just the beginning of it ...

How do you see the situation of the church?

The church is tired, in the Europe of well-being and in America. Our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous. Do these things, however, express what we are today? ... Well-being weighs on us. We find ourselves like the rich young man who went away sad when Jesus called him to be his disciple. I know that we can't let everything go easily. At least, however, we can seek people who are free and closest to their neighbor, like Archbishop Romero and the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador. Where are the heroes among us who can inspire us? By no means do we have to limit them by the boundaries of the institution.

Who can help the church today?

Father Karl Rahner often used the image of the embers hidden under the ash. I see in the church today so much ash under the embers that often I'm hit with a sense of impotence. How can we liberate the embers from the ash, to reinvigorate the fires of love? For the first thing, we have to seek out these embers. Where are the individuals full of generosity, like the Good Samaritan? Who have faith like the Roman centurion? Who are enthusiastic like John the Baptist? Who dare the new, like Paul? Who are faithful like Mary Magdalene? I advise the Pope and the bishops to seek out twelve people outside the lines for administrative positions, people who are close to the poorest, who are surrounded by young people, and who try new things. We need to be with people who burn in such a way that the Spirit can spread itself everywhere.


I had so wished he would have been chosen pope instead of Benedict - how different the church might now now be.

Links

I really look forward to the weekly Missing Links posts at Not Exactly Rocket Science. This week's post did not disappoint: most of the links are to serious articles, but some are links to neat photos (like this of jelly fish), and some are just funny. Two that made me smile were a link to this video below of hamsters, and another to the customer reviews of a pen made for women.

Here's the hamster video - I felt almost guilty giggling at this, but the little guys seem to be having fun and when one gets off the wheel he goes for a snack, so I don't think any hamster was harmed. Hamsters :) ...

Monday, September 03, 2012

In the yard

- the pecans are almost done ...


- the oranges aren't ...


- a dove waits for some birdseed ... ...

Sunday, September 02, 2012

More LOST scenery








Don't Be Shy

This song was playing in one of the episodes of Once Upon a Time. I found this version of it in which Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) says before the song, "[U]nless good people stand up to be heard then fear and cruelty will always dominate the world. So it's time for those people to stand up and lift their heads. This is a song I think talks about that."