Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hard to Find

In October of 1963,  Flannery O'Connor read her short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, to an audience at Hollins College in Virginia. This passage is taken from the comments that preceded that reading and can be found in the book, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose.
I've talked to a number of teachers who use [A Good Man is Hard to Find] in class and who tell their students that the Grandmother is evil, that in fact, she's a witch, even down to the cat. One of these teachers told me that his students, and particularly his Southern students, resisted this interpretation with a certain bemused vigor, and he didn't understand why. I had to tell him that they resisted it because they all had grandmothers or great-aunts just like her at home, and they knew, from personal experience, that the old lady lacked comprehension, but that she had a good heart. The Southerner is usually tolerant of those weaknesses that proceed from innocence, and he knows that a taste for self-preservation can be readily combined with the missionary spirit.
"The old lady lacked comprehension, but . . . had a good heart." I have to commend any student or author or reader who is willing to grant this concession to those with whom they disagree. I find that this is precisely what is lacking in our public discourse on all sides, which is tragic because it's the only thing that could possibly breach the wall that deafens both the right and left to their opposite numbers.


Friday, January 25, 2013

Well, We Don't Have to Do THAT Again for Seven Months

New Student Orientation is over at last, and things at work will slow down just a bit. It's a great relief, and hopefully I'll be able to write something when I recover.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lost and Found

The other day I noticed that a bunch of pictures that I had taken on my phone weren't there. I thought maybe the memory card was full, so I deleted some duplicate pictures, but I still couldn't get any new ones to save. Yesterday for the first time, I was able to look at the contents of the card on my computer, and I found that the phone had created a second folder that wasn't accessible from the phone, and all the pictures were there. So, here are some.

Remember the ice ghost?

Well, now there is this.

It's too soon to draw any conclusions from this evidence, but I'm keeping my eyes open.

Visitors at my granddaughters second birthday party.

Unfortunately, she had already eaten Cookie's chin and most of Elmo's left cheek.


Left behind.

I found this poor little guy in the dark storage room that one has to pass through on the way from the vestibule of the Cathedral to the restroom. It's a frequent haunt of mine. I don't know why he didn't make the cut for the crêche, but I don't see why they had to put him in front of the air conditioner in the middle of the winter. I mean, he might be an ass, but we ought to extend the warmth of Christmas to him anyway.

Chinese hobbits. Who knew?

The sign over the door says, "Speak friend and enter."

This was a shadow on the wall of the Eucharistic chapel at the cathedral. I liked the way it looked. The picture didn't come out the way I wanted, but I liked it anyway.

I like the autobalance version, too.

There's one person who reads this blog sometimes that might recognize this last picture. I went to high school at the school that is connected to the church that is now the cathedral, but at the time was not. Many afternoons after school, my friends and I walked down what is one of the loveliest streets in Memphis to get to our bus stop. One morning recently, I had some free time between Mass at the cathedral and work, so I took a walk down the street. It is lined with stately homes surrounded by wonderful old trees and lots of flowers and there is a beautifully landscaped median in the street. But, I'm not going to show you a picture of that. These are the steps that were next to the bus stop. Being teen-aged girls, I'm sure that we weren't always happy or always in complete charity with one another, but now I only have good memories of our time there.


Friday, January 18, 2013


St. Irenaeus, from the Office of Readings for Wednesday of the First Week in Ordinary Time.
Through creation itself the Word reveals God the Creator. Through the world he reveals the Lord who made the world. Through all that is fashioned he reveals the craftsman who fashioned it all. Through the Son the Word reveals the Father who begot him as Son. All speak of these things in the same language, but they do not believe them in the same way. Through the law and the prophets the Word revealed himself and his Father in the same way, and though all the people equally heard the message not all equally believed it. Through the Word, made visible and palpable, the Father was revealed, though not all equally believed in him. But all saw the Father in the Son, for the Father of the Son cannot be seen, but the Son of the Father can be seen.
The Son performs everything as a ministry to the Father, from beginning to end, and without the Son no one can know God. The way to know the Father is the Son. Knowledge of the Son is in the Father, and is revealed through the Son. For this reason the Lord said:No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son has revealed him.The word “revealed” refers not only to the future — as though the Word began to reveal the Father only when he was born of Mary; it refers equally to all time. From the beginning the Son is present to creation, reveals the Father to all, to those the Father chooses, when the Father chooses, and as the Father chooses. So, there is in all and through all one God the Father, one Word and Son, and one Spirit, and one salvation for all who believe in him.
I am continually finding things in the Office of Readings that surprise and delight me. I had never thought before about the fact that the revelation of the Father by the Son did not begin with His incarnation, but was His mission from the beginning of time. This explains so well the fact that early man understood some of the truth of who God is just from observing His creation. It wasn't just that God's works reflected His glory, it's that they were created to actively reveal His glory.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Few Things

I don't usually link to things but since I'm busy, I will give you something pretty to look at. I would love to be able to go see some of these places. At the moment, I just want to walk through The Tunnel of Love. Chand Baori is used for a scene in the movie The Fall, and if you didn't like anything else in the movie, which would not be the case, this scene alone makes the movie worthwhile. In fact, you could probably just watch the movie for the beautiful images. 

And here and here are a couple of links to some good posts on Heather King's blog, Shirt of Flame.

And a poem that Sally wrote that reminds me of home, which is where I'm going now.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Love and Reason

St. Basil the Great, From the Office of Readings for the First Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Love of God is not something that can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same--perhaps even more so--with our love for God: it does not come by another's teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God's law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God's help brings it to perfection.
As I was reading this yesterday, I was thinking that it is as good an explanation of the way that conscience works as anything that I've ever seen. What is really great about it is that it completely does away with the image of that little angel sitting on our shoulder shaking his finger at us for doing wrong, and sweeps the whole faculty into the realm of love. Love is informed by reason, and reason by love. 

This relationship of love and reason was another little epiphany for me. It's not that I couldn't have figured out that they had to be related, both proceeding from God, but that I never really think about them at the same time. I think about reason as the cold, hard light of day that illuminates the truth, but then, Love and Truth are the same.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

After the Fall

Having been sent home from work at noon to avoid getting caught in the freezing rain, or the frozen rain, Bill and I have been having a quiet afternoon. I was sitting in the living room reading, when I heard something in foyer behind me that sounded like a plastic garment bag slipping to the floor. I thought, "Hmm, that's odd. I thought Bill was in the shower (on the other side of the house). I called his name, and he didn't answer, so I figured he must really be showering. Since I didn't hear anything else, I went back to my book. 

A while later, he came through the living room on the way to the bedroom from the bathroom, and when he got to foyer he said, "Have you looked out the front door lately? You should go look." I felt like he was really punishing me by making me get up, and look, but being a sweet, obedient wife, I did get up. When I got to front door, I saw this.

When we moved here, this ornamental plum was beautiful--pinkish-white blossoms in the spring, and dark purple leaves in the summer and fall. It had a beautiful shape, and was perfect for climbing--but not by me. There was another one like it in the back yard which was visible from the window when I was washing dishes. It was the perfect shade tree for parents watching kids in the pool. It's the one with the bird's nest here Unfortunately, a few years ago both of them started dying from some sort of blight. The one in the back yard lost about three fifths of itself in a storm a few days after I took that picture. And now this. It came up right by the roots. I was wondering how we were going to get rid of the stump when we cut the tree down. Now we don't have to worry. We'll have a nice hole for a new tree. My grandson was hoping that we would have a real fire when he was here last weekend, but it was too wet. The next dry week, he'll get to see quite a fire.

It's a good thing it didn't fall in the other direction. Bill's truck is right next to my car, so it would have fallen on them both. I don't think would have done much beyond scratching the hoods, but it would have been a pain to get out from under.

I actually had something else planned to write about today, but I couldn't pass up this breaking news. Maybe tomorrow.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mystery and Manners~Occasional Quotes, Part I

Reading Flannery O'Connor is, in a way, like reading Caryll Houselander. I see something I would like to quote, and then a few lines below, I see something else, and then a third thing but that one is so good that I can't seem to find a stopping place, and would eventually end up quoting 90% of the book. She's so funny, and she just goes right to heart of whatever matter she happens to be talking about at the time. I also love the way she just spits it out--no namby-pamby mincing of words for her.

I have been re-reading Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose for my book club. For anyone who isn't familiar with this book, it is a posthumously published collection of Miss O'Connor's essays, lectures and articles. I'm about to give in to my overwhelming urge to quote her, but I'm going to restrain myself and only share a few--for the moment. I'm sure there will be more as I go along.

These from The Grotesque in Southern Fiction:
Of course, I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.
I once received a letter from an old lady in California who informed me that when the tired reader comes home at night, he wishes to read something that will lift up his heart. And it seems her heart had not been lifted up by anything of mine she had read. I think that if her heart had been in the right place, it would have been lifted up. 
There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored. The reader of today looks for this motion, and rightly so, but what he has forgotten is the cost of it. His sense of evil is diluted or lacking altogether, and so he has forgotten the price of restoration. (This really makes me think of A Good Man is Hard to Find.)
 And from The Regional Writer:
Mencken called the South the Bible Belt, in scorn and thus in incredible innocence.
Prophets have already been heard to say that in twenty years there'll be no such thing as Southern literature. It will be ironical indeed if the Southern writer has discovered he can live in the South and the Southern audience has become aware of its literature just in time to discover that being Southern is relatively meaningless, and that soon there is going to be precious little difference in the end-product whether you are a writer from Georgia or a writer from Hollywood, California. 
I think, sadly, that the prophets were rightly prophetic in this case. Out of curiosity  I googled "Southern literature" to see what I could find and came across this list of Best Southern Literature. I wonder what Flannery O'Connor would have to say about this list. I would love to hear what she thought about The Notebook. Save us.

I'm sure there will be more shortly.

UPDATE: In his comment below, Craig mentioned hearing Flannery O'Connor in her own voice, and that really is an added treat. If you haven't ever heard her voice, you can hear it here.

THEN there's this.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Not Walking, but at Least Floating

Because it's my busiest month of the year at work, and since I can't get anything done at work because every two and half seconds someone comes and asks me a question or asks me to do something, I decided to start working from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., so that I would have a chance to get something accomplished before everyone else got to work. My first day to do this was Thursday, and after getting an amazing amount of work done by 8, I decided to run over to a nearby church for 8:30 Mass. About twenty minutes, I thought--just a quick daily Mass. 

I wasn't sure if the front door of the church was unlocked for this Mass, so I went into the door that opens right into the space between the front pews and the altar rail--yes, an altar rail. So, I rushed in the door, blessed myself, and looked up to see a church full of school children. Now, I'm not opposed to school Masses in general, in fact I think that they are wonderful, but I really try to avoid them when I'm in a hurry. Still, there they all were looking at me, and I didn't want to turn around and leave so I stayed--for the whole hour.

Once I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to miss a good chunk of the work day, I was really glad that I had come. The priest at this parish is wonderful and he was great with the kids. He has a way of engaging them, but not talking down to them. During the homily, he told them the story of Jesus walking on the water. One thing he said really stood out for me. He pointed out that when the apostles saw Jesus coming to them on the water, they didn't recognize Him because of the turmoil of the storm, and so they were afraid. Of course, I've heard this gospel over and over again, and I know this, but it struck me that what he was talking about was exactly what I was talking about in my last post. Our greatest joy coming to us appearing as our greatest fear. 

I've been thinking about the comments on that post, and thinking about how I have always feared that if I said to God, "Have Your way with me," terrible things would happen to me. And yes. Yes, they will. Terrible things will happen to me whether I say that or not. The God-having-His-way part is the part where I allow Him to use that terrible thing in the way He wants for His glory and my salvation. It's the part where He calls me out of the boat and I mostly mess it up, but He takes care of me anyway. And at some time, I'm not even sure when it happened, I seem to have slipped over some invisible line where the trust became greater than the fear. It's like the first time that by some miracle you relax enough to float, and what seemed impossible before now is impossibly true, and you never again doubt that you will be able to do it.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sheer Joy and the Mark of Love

I wanted to post this passage from St. Raymond of Peñafort on his feast day, which was January 7, but I just didn't have time. It is one of my favorite readings from the Office of Readings, and on some days, I think it's my very favorite. 

I first heard it read by a speaker at a conference I attended many years ago, probably 35 years ago. I don't think that I was that crazy about it at the time. I had been involved in the Charismatic Renewal for a few years and had somehow decided that God did not want me to suffer. This was a Charismatic conference and I hadn't traveled for 15 hours in a van with 15 people and not enough rest stops to hear that the sword would fall on me with double or treble force, and that this should be considered sheer joy and the mark of love. It stuck with me, though. I suspect that day, that whole weekend, which was one of the most physically and spiritually difficult weekends I had ever endured, was a great turning point in my life.

Then came the January 7 when I woke up and discovered that a large part of my world had fallen apart in the night. I can't really talk about what happened, because it involves someone else's story, but it was one of the worst things that ever happened to me. Sometime, probably the next day, I sat down with my breviary and realized the date, and turned to this reading. Somehow, although it might not sound very comforting, it gave me great comfort. Partially, I think, it was because I knew that the Lord had prepared me for this time, and I was able to remain very peaceful for most of the next week, which was very difficult.

This year when January 7 rolled around, it came at a very joyful time, and the cause of the joy was directly related to the previous sorrow. It's almost like the deep magic that occurs in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan sacrifices his life for Edmund and Death starts working backwards. In fact, it's the same thing.

If there is one thing that has really been driven home to me in the past year, it's that joy and sorrow are the same thing, so intricately woven together that they can't be separated. I know that sounds crazy; it even sounds crazy to me. It is, however, the message of the cross--and the message that St. Raymond of Peñafort tried to convey in this letter.
May the God of love and peace set your hearts at rest.
The preacher of God’s truth has told us that all who want to live righteously in Christ will suffer persecution. If he spoke the truth and did not lie, the only exception to this general statement is, I think, the person who either neglects, or does not know how, to live temperately, justly and righteously in this world. 
May you never be numbered among those whose house is peaceful, quiet and free from care; those on whom the Lord’s chastisement does not descend; those who live out their days in prosperity, and in the twinkling of an eye will go down to hell. 
Your purity of life, your devotion, deserve and call for a reward; because you are acceptable and pleasing to God your purity of life must be made purer still, by frequent buffetings, until you attain perfect sincerity of heart. If from time to time you feel the sword falling on you with double or treble force, this also should be seen as sheer joy and the mark of love. The two-edged sword consists in conflict without, fears within. It falls with double or treble force within, when the cunning spirit troubles the depths of your heart with guile and enticements. You have learned enough already about these kinds of warfare, or you would not have been able to enjoy peace and interior tranquillity in all its beauty. 
The sword falls with double and treble force externally when, without cause being given, there breaks out from within the Church persecution in spiritual matters, where wounds are more serious, especially when inflicted by friends. 
This is that enviable and blessed cross of Christ, which Andrew, that manly saint, received with joyful heart: the cross in which alone we must make our boast, as Paul, God’s chosen instrument, has told us. 
Look then on Jesus, the author and preserver of faith: in complete sinlessness he suffered, and at the hands of those who were his own, and was numbered among the wicked. As you drink the cup of the Lord Jesus (how glorious it is!), give thanks to the Lord, the giver of all blessings. 
May the God of love and peace set your hearts at rest and speed you on your journey; may he meanwhile shelter you from disturbance by others in the hidden recesses of his love, until he brings you at last into that place of complete plenitude where you will repose for ever in the vision of peace, in the security of trust and in the restful enjoyment of his riches.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Back to Work

I haven't really had any time to write or even post pictures for the past couple of days because it's January. I came back to work to find a pile of work sitting on my desk that my boss had left for me that pile will continue to grow until the end of the month.

I hope to have something about Les Miserables this evening.

Meanwhile, today is the memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first canonized American-born saint, and patroness of many Catholic schools and homeschoolers.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I have been praying the Office of Readings for a long time, so long that I don't really even remember exactly when I started. I don't, however, keep up with the saints' feast days very well, and usually just end up reading whatever the regular readings of the day are. Even so, I can't believe that I have managed to miss the  reading for the feast of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen for all these years. The passage below is one of the most beautiful descriptions of a friendship that I've ever read.
Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together. In this way we began to feel affection for each other. When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.  
The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.  
 We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit. Though we cannot believe those who claim that “everything is contained in everything,” yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.  
 Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.  
Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.
St. Gregory Nazianzen


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mary, the Mother of God

It is truly just to proclaim you blessed, O Mother of God, who are most blessed, all pure and Mother of our God. We magnify you who are more honorable than the Cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim. You who, without losing your virginity, gave birth to the Word of God. You who are truly the Mother of God.          St. John Chrysostom

I don't have time to write anything at the moment because we are about to leave for one more round of feasting and celebrating before life returns somewhat to normal, but I wanted to at least acknowledge the feast day. May all of you have a blessed feast, and a very blessed and happy New Year. Thank you so much for reading this blog.