Archive for February, 2022

Starting Lent with Children

Here are some images from beginning-of-Lent related material from a couple of my books.

The entry on “Ashes” from The Loyola Kids Book of Catholic Signs and Symbols. 

The beginning of the account of the Temptation in the Desert – always the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent – from The Loyola Kids Book of Bible Stories.

Remember, those stories are arranged in sections according to the liturgical season in which one would normally hear that particular Scripture narrative. So, this is in the “Lent” section.

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Monday Random


We’re back from a few days away – click back for a couple of sites I saw on the trip.

Some random for you:

Unseen photographs and paintings of JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings fantasy books, have been released by the writer’s estate, along with draft manuscripts and letters.

Its website has been relaunched with new material, including sections on Tolkien’s calligraphy and a timeline of his life.

Audio recordings and video clips featuring both Tolkien, who died in 1973, and his son Christopher, who died in 2020, are among the new material.

The relaunch date of 26 February is significant in Tolkien lore because 26 February 3019 was the date in the Third Age when the Fellowship of the Ring was broken at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their lonely and terrifying journey to Mordor.

Continuing down 3rd Avenue, North, Lenny crossed his head staring upward. Wondering what had transfixed his faithful companion, George pointed up in the direction of Lenny’s stare. “Lenny has pulled me out of the street. He’s pulled me to safety before, so [when] he pulled me in this direction, I knew I wasn’t going to walk against that!”

One step after another, Lenny finally got to the top of a set of stairs and pulled his master to a door. “I wasn’t sure what I was walking into. I just knew it was a pretty hefty door,” George recalls.

“I pulled [on the door] out of curiosity and walked in. Once the door shut behind me, it was silent and peaceful. I heard some footsteps approach me: I think it [must have been] the cleaning lady. I asked her where I was, and she stated that I was in the Cathedral of St. Paul.”


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‘As we begin Lent this week, I’ll be reposting condensed versions of previous entries in which I share thoughts on fasting from spiritual masters, from St. Francis de Sales to Dorothy Day.

All of the previous posts are linked here. What I’ll do this week is share briefer versions. Starting with St. Francis:

The whole, original post is here.

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner.

The first condition is that we must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally and entirely.

This is what the Church wishes to signify during this holy time of Lent, teaching us to make our eyes, our ears and our tongue fast. For this reason she omits all harmonious chants in order to mortify the hearing; she no longer says Alleluia, and clothes herself completely in somber and dark colors. And on this first day she addresses us in these words: Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return [Gen. 3:19], as if she meant to say: “Oh man, quit at this moment all joys and merrymaking, all joyful and pleasant reflections, and fill your memory with bitter, hard and sorrowful thoughts. In this way you will make your mind fast together with your body.”

This is also what the Christians of the primitive Church taught us when, in order to spend Lent in a better way, they deprived themselves at this time of ordinary conversations with their friends, and withdrew into great solitude and places removed from communication with people……

The second condition is never to fast through vanity but always through humility. If our fast is not performed with humility, it will not be pleasing to God…

Follow the community then in all things, said the great St. Augustine. Let the strong and robust eat what is ordered them, keeping the fast and austerities which are marked, and let them be content with that. Let the weak and infirm receive what is offered them for their infirmity, without wishing to do what the robust do. Let neither group amuse themselves in looking to see what this one eats and what that one does not eat, but let each one remain satisfied with what she has and with what is given to her. By this means you will avoid vanity and being particular...

The third condition necessary for fasting well is to look to God and to do everything to please Him..

And as he summarizes:

This is all that I had to tell you regarding fasting and what must be observed in order to fast well. The first thing is that your fast should be entire and universal; that is, that you should make all the members of your body and the powers of your soul fast: keeping your eyes lowered, or at least lower than ordinarily; keeping better silence, or at least keeping it more punctually than is usual; mortifying the hearing and the tongue so that you will no longer hear or speak of anything vain or useless; the understanding, in order to consider only holy and pious subjects; the memory, in filling it with the remembrance of bitter and sorrowful things and avoiding joyous and gracious thoughts; keeping your will in check and your spirit at the foot of the crucifix with some holy and sorrowful thought. If you do that, your fast will be universal, interior and exterior, for you will mortify both your body and your spirit. The second condition is that you do not observe your fast or perform your works for the eyes of others. And the third is that you do all your actions, and consequently your fasting, to please God alone, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever.

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Beams, Eyes, Tongues & Noses

I’ve mentioned this homily by St. Bernardino of Siena before, but the imagery is so strong, I thought it bore repeating on the Sunday when we hear the Gospel he mentions.

The sermon is Why God Hath Given Us a Tongue.

13. The tongue is placed below the nostrils of the nose, it is also below so that when thou sayest aught about thy neighbour, first thou touchest thyself, to see whether thou hast the same fault. I know not whether thou hast given heed to this, that when one man wisheth to speak of another, first he toucheth his nose, and then commenceth to speak, proving first in regard to himself that he is full of the very fault of which he doth accuse his neighbour.

And therefore do not point out that thou art good and thy neighbour bad ; look first to thyself, and afterwards to thy neighbour. And of such as these speaks Saint Matthew, in the seventh chapter: Hypocrita, eilce primum trabem de oculo tuo. Thou hypocrite, who wishest to show that thou art esteemed a good man, cast out first the beam out of thy own eye, and then reprove others. Thou, on the other hand, who art reproved by some one for that which thou hast not done, but which he himself hath done, say to him : Wipe thy nose !

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I took a drive that took me from St. Stephen’s Mission up through the Wind River Canyon Byway – it was beautiful, but no photos (go here for those) because I was, you know, driving. Destination? Thermopolis, Wyoming – home, they claim, to the largest natural mineral springs in the world. The whole world!

They have a state park built on the site.

As usual, I’m just as interested in the history of the use of the place, including tourism, as I am of the natural phenomenon. How the springs came to be owned and developed by the state is, of course, tied up with relations with and exploitation of Native Americans. The land was not outright stolen – it was purchased from the Shoshone and Arapahoe, but the tribes agreed to sell, and were almost desperate to do so because of the limits of their government-allowed food allotments and the increasing ill-health of their people. Here’s a somewhat detailed account.

And here’s a very detailed explanation of the geology.

I was not sorry to go there in the winter. The appeal of hot springs, in fact, is stronger in cold weather than it is in the summer. I didn’t go prepared to swim, though – the web page said that the free bath house’s hours were from 8 to early afternoon, and I wasn’t going to get there until around 3. When I arrived, however, I found that yes, it was open.

There are a couple of commercial bath houses built on the springs, and they were busy.

There’s a bison herd on the land, but sadly, I didn’t see any.

The dome thing is interesting – if you look at the sign you can see a teepee like structure. It’s a steam vent which over the decades has built up into this dome because of the condensation and calcification of the minerals it emits.

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Wyoming Mission

St. Stephen’s Indian Mission near Hudson, Wyoming:

It’s a beautiful church, inside and out. History:

A Catholic mission at St. Stephens was originally established by Father John J. Jutz, a Jesuit priest, who built a four-room mission house on land selected by the Arapaho chief Black Coal in 1884. Soon additional buildings were added for a convent and a boarding school for Indian children in grades one through 8, including a three-story brick convent (1888), a boys’ dormitory (1892) and a girls’ dormitory (1894). In 1928 a fire destroyed the mission church and the boys’ dorm, but the buildings were reconstructed the same year.

A school still exists on the property, but it is how operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The painted decor of the church, according to this page, was added in 1970. I found it beautiful, particularly the Stations of the Cross. I’m sharing a couple of images here, but will save the rest until next Friday, the first Friday of Lent.

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Friday Random


The Wordle variations continue:

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Thursday Random

Coming to you from airports….

Deacon Sandner told the Register that many dioceses are confronting the fact that they have vacant convents and rectories built at the turn of the 20th century for thousands of priests and religious that served parishes and schools. Those numbers no longer exist, even as the Church has grown.

“Times have changed. The building hasn’t,” he said.

But Deacon Sandner realized the Church had an opportunity: Turn those rooms that once housed priests, religious brothers and sisters into affordable private Catholic residences for Catholic young-adult singles, particularly those serving in the parishes. 

Especially important considering the price of housing, especially in California.

Ah, I can’t think. The rest of this will be a movie-centric version of what used to be known as a “digest” around here.

My basic view is that as dumb as some parts were, what was fascinating is that it ended up being respectful of the actual history of World War I, weaving it with ridiculous antics and exaggerations but also with some authentic human emotion and motivation.

If I were going to come up with a movie rating system, it would be “Awful,” “I didn’t mind it” and “Loved it.”

That probably sums up my basic approach to life, as well.

I do love the film, but there are messy bits about that I have to address. A lot of the feeling of mess is brought on by the fact that Vaughn and his co-writer Karl Gajdusek try to follow the history so closely. If I were to come up with a metaphor, it would be like taking a large painting, overlaying a clear sheet, and drawing a story onto the sheet that needs to be followed from one side to the other. The viewing is dominated by the background painting, but the story is actually there in the foreground, providing a structure that the painting itself doesn’t share. There are three acts, but the history kind of hides them. The first is the build up to action, the second is the involvement of the actual war, and the third is the characters ending of the conflict with personal growth at the same time.

It also has an uncomfortable balance between attacking the idea of nobly dying for one’s country while also having our main characters go to war to defend the existing order of the country, to prevent Britain from falling into a revolution like what happens in Russia. There’s an embrace of the idea that the old world order was both corrupt and needed to be preserved that it never quite finds a way around (kind of a common problem with movies that have world-hating bad guys).

  • And then I made him watch The Big Chill with me – a movie that was very formative and important to me back in the day, along with the show Thirtysomething. Are you of a certain age and demographic? You probably get it.

Now, the characters in the Big Chill are half a generation older than I am – I’m more of Meg Tilly’s Chloe generation, but not (personally) gifted with her flexibility and her proto-manic-pixie-girl persona. And their specific issue – we were all revolutionaries in Ann Arbor back in the day, but look at us now, sell-outs all – was not mine, but I did have an intense and formative college experience and then there’s the general issue, still pertinent – as the minister says at the funeral:

Where did Alex’s hope go?

I love every actor in this film – especially William Hurt as Nick – , the writing is sharp and the shaping of the plot – characters figuring out their present lives in the wake of their friend’s suicide over a weekend – is simple, straightforward and smart.

The Big Chill gets dissed for being the prototypical Boomer Movie, but I don’t think it deserve it because these characters, unlike the Boomer of stereotypical lore, is self-satisfied and confident of his choices and destiny. These characters aren’t. They’re ill at ease. They’re uncomfortable. They have settled, but somehow Alex never could, and then Alex slit his wrists.

Neither Alex nor the still-living more settled, compromised characters have dealt with the reality of past and present in grounded, sane ways. Alex couldn’t deal with the present, so he leaves it for good, our living characters can’t deal with the idealism of the past, so they just push it away, pretend they’re still living those ideals – good thing it’s not important to us, right? – and fake it, every day.

But then at the end, death has been confronted, the complexities of past and present have been accepted and maybe a few of these folks are taking steps towards not being controlled by the past and just living…now, informed by the best of who they were.

The Big Chill is definitely of its time, but then it’s not.

Wrong, a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don’t know anything about me. It was easy back then. No one had a cushier berth than we did. It’s not surprising our friendship could survive that. It’s only out there in the real world that it gets tough.

In one of the comments below the Youtube video of this scene, someone says that their dad loved this scene so much he wanted “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played at his funeral, and his mother complied.

What do you want played at your funeral? I mean, for my actual funeral Mass there will be no pagan shenanigans, but I do think that I’m going to command that this be played at graveside:

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Wednesday Random

Tines clearly had a talent for music and singing specifically from an early age, used that talent developed it, but did not major in music in college (sociology) and had thoughts of pursuing a career in arts administration, even as he sang here and there. But things came together, and, more importantly, Tines made his own way in a creative space that is the fruit of his own spirit and goals. It was a path that was circuitous, interesting, fruitful and helpful at every step.

It reminds me a bit of a conversation I had with a woman – about my age – who works as a chef/cook at the marvelous Charit Creek Lodge up in Tennessee. She has been all over and had all kinds of experiences. I commented on this and she answered, “Well, they didn’t just happen. I made them happen.”

  • I will have more to say about The Gilded Age in the next few days, but today I’ll just mention that Nathan Lane’s “southern” accent as Ward McAllister has me like:

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Tuesday Random

Newsletter edition:

No, I’m not starting one. Too much work. But I thought I’d take this Random and highlight three of the newsletters to which I subscribe. There are more, but I limit the Random Posts to three items, so here you go. I’ve mentioned them all:

By the way, today Bari features some pieces and interviews related to Black History month, including an audio interview with Condoleeza Rice, who grew up in Birmingham until the family moved to Denver when she was twelve. Her thoughts on living in segregated Birmingham and how her parents balanced acknowledgment of injustice with patriotism is interesting – as is her rueful recounting of how and why she pivoted from music study to international relations.

Okay, let’s choose one more….

  • How about Matt Taibbi, who for years was on my blacklist because of horrible things he wrote about JPII – just juvenile, gross preening. But then during the Trump Years, Taibbi popped back onto my radar as the rare journalist who was actually trying to do journalism – that is, to ask questions rather than regurgitate talking points, press releases and suppress information in support of an agenda.

So here’s his newsletter.

It is quite common today, including in Catholic circles, to be tribal about information sources and dismissive of individuals because he’s just a…..

That’s boring. I mean, sometimes sources and people do consistently meet your low expectations, but not always.

Curiosity, skepticism and questions.

Why not?

What are you afraid of?

I don’t pay for any of these – I go the cheapskate route.

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