"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, February 27, 2015

Faith Filled Friday: Ashes on the Subway

This apparently is a true story from Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble’s blog, Pursued by Truth about a priest who was robbed on the subway on Ash Wednesday.  It’s really very funny, and the good Sister has a nice Lenten reflection on it.

A Jesuit priest who used to say Mass at our convent was on the subway making his way to visit his mother on Ash Wednesday.

At one stop a young man entered the subway car and told the priest to hand over his wallet. When the priest explained that he did not have a wallet with him, the young man made him empty his pockets.

The priest pulled out his train pass, some change, and a little silver box. The young man demanded to know what was inside the box.

The priest said, “Well, I am a Catholic and it is Ash Wednesday so I am bringing some blessed ashes to someone who is sick.”

The young man responded, “Oh, I am Catholic, can I have some ashes?”

So the priest opened the little box, said the prayer and traced the cross on the man’s forehead.

The young man left at the next stop.

Read Sister Theresa’s little homily on how we all feel like this thief, here.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lines I Wished I’d Written: Wisdom from The Book of Job

I’ve been reading The Book of Job and according to Wikipedia Alfred Tennyson is quoted as saying it’s "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times".  I hadn’t read it in a long time, so I didn’t remember it, but I would have to say Tennyson is not exaggerating by much.  It really is a great poem, and for once I am thoroughly enjoying the King James Version.  Here is the entire chapter 28, sometimes referred to as “The Poem toWisdom.”

The Book of Job
Chapter 28

Surely there is a vein for the silver,
and a place for gold where they fine it.
Iron is taken out of the earth,
and brass is molten out of the stone.
He setteth an end to darkness,
and searcheth out all perfection:
the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.
The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant;
even the waters forgotten of the foot:
they are dried up, they are gone away from men.
As for the earth, out of it cometh bread:
and under it is turned up as it were fire.
The stones of it are the place of sapphires:
and it hath dust of gold.
There is a path which no fowl knoweth,
and which the vulture's eye hath not seen:
the lion's whelps have not trodden it,
nor the fierce lion passed by it.
He putteth forth his hand upon the rock;
he overturneth the mountains by the roots.
He cutteth out rivers among the rocks;
and his eye seeth every precious thing.
He bindeth the floods from overflowing;
and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.
But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
Man knoweth not the price thereof;
neither is it found in the land of the living.
The depth saith, It is not in me:
and the sea saith, It is not with me.
It cannot be gotten for gold,
neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir,
with the precious onyx, or the sapphire.
The gold and the crystal cannot equal it:
and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold.
No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls:
for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it,
neither shall it be valued with pure gold.
Whence then cometh wisdom?
And where is the place of understanding?
seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living,
and kept close from the fowls of the air.
Destruction and death say,
We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.
God understandeth the way thereof,
and he knoweth the place thereof.
For he looketh to the ends of the earth,
and seeth under the whole heaven;
to make the weight for the winds;
and he weigheth the waters by measure.
When he made a decree for the rain,
and a way for the lightning of the thunder;
then did he see it, and declare it;
he prepared it, yea, and searched it out.
And unto man he said,
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Photo Essay: My New Kitchen

If my readers remember I had major work done on our house last summer, the bulk being a completely remodeled kitchen.  I had promised to show pictures, and I finally got around to taking them.  Since I’ve lived with this for six months now, I can tell you what I’m pleased with and what I have some mild regrets.

Let’s start with the floor tile.  I have to take responsibility for choosing them.  I’ve gone back and forth since they’ve been laid in as to whether it was a good choice or not.  I got the large 18 inch tiles, and they have a rough non-slip surface.  Somehow though they looked prettier in the store when I convinced my wife to select them.  In the store they seem to have a sheen that has worn off.  I have to say they hide dirt well, and that’s a big plus.  Our previous floor tile was snow white and it showed every speck.  Interestingly, these tiles are not cold to the bare feet; I’m not sure why.

Here are the cabinets.  We went with a light stain.  I think they are a little darker in real life than the picture shows.  The flash must blanch them out a little.  But you get the idea.  These are the complete opposite of the dark stained cabinets that were there before.  The big reconstruction to the kitchen involved switching the location of the oven with that of the refrigerator.  The oven used to be on the left of this picture, against an outside wall, and now you can see it’s along an inside wall.  My wife suggested this to be more functional.  There really wasn’t counter space near the oven in the previous location to prepare food.  The sink was in between the counter space and the oven.  Now you can see there is plenty of counter space near the oven for convenient food prep.  Backsplash was my wife’s selection, and it goes well with everything, but I think it’s a little too busy if you ask me.  But don’t go by me; everyone else thinks it perfect.

The oven is the same as before, and the almond color is similar to that of the cabinets.  The microwave above it and the dishwasher beside the sink are new.

On the far end by the refrigerator we had a cupboard built in, and I really like that.  You can see the sink and faucet we chose, and the sink is located where it was previously, beneath the kitchen window.  The refrigerator is the same, and those are roses I gave my wife for St. Valentine’s Day.  Wall paint color is also similar to the cabinets, though I think there is a little more contrast in person that the picture washes out.

Now the crowning achievement of the kitchen has to be our granite counter top.  Both my wife and I loved it immediately, so there was no dispute on this, and it really has made our kitchen.  It’s grain is called Crema Bourdeaux, and there is literally something new to see in it every time you look.  Here are a few of pictures up close. 

I’m not sure the pictures really do it justice.

We had recessed lights put in to go with our ceiling fan fixture.  Now here I’m going to get to my one real disappointment.  The recessed lights are wonderful, but placement is not ideal.  There are two rows of recessed light fixtures, one over the counter, which is fine, and one down the center of the kitchen.  I just don’t understand why the electrician didn’t shift them further to the opposite wall to balance the lighting in the room.  In addition, the rows of recessed lights are are not spread apart far enough so that when the ceiling fan is circulating, the blades pass under the recessed lights.  The shadows from the blades make it feel like helicopter blades are swirling overhead.  Anyway, I’m exaggerating; it’s not that bad, but still it irks me.  I wish I had been there the day the electrician put the light fixtures in.

Finally on opposite wall from the window, we have a “closet” space for a washer and dryer.  We closed that off with French type doors.

Don’t mind all my nitpick complaints.  Overall, it really came out very nice.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Paintings of Lorenzo Lotto

I don’t do enough art.  I caught on TV last night art that is at Basilica of Santa Casa in Loreto, Italy.    Loreto is the famous city where the supposedly the house of the Virgin Mary was transported and rebuilt, and where we get the wonderful Litany of Loreto.  One of the featured artists was Renaissance artist Lorenzo Lotto.  I had never heard of Lotto, but from the paintings highlighted I was very impressed.  So I went and looked him up.  

He comes from the Venetian school and a contemporary of Titian.  In fact on a cursory review it looks like Lotto’s art was much akin to Titian’s, and though I’m not an art scholar I would say it compares favorably.  And that’s saying a lot.  Lotto seems to have specialized in religious subjects, and ultimately becoming a Franciscan Lay brother and spending the last seven years of his life at Loreto.

Here are a few of his works that really impress me.

I’m not sure why he adds St. Catherine of Alexandria here, but the positioning of arms here is very interesting, as is the color and background.  The Holy Family with St. Catherine of Alexandria, 1533.

And here is the Holy Family with my St. Catherine, dramatizing the mystical marriage with Christ, here portrayed as a child.  The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine of Siena, 1508.

Now this Annunciation seems like a modernist surreal painting, with the Virgin facing away and a cat at the center.  Recanati Annunciation, 1534.  You can read about this one on Wikipedia.  

I really like a number of Lotto’s secular portraits.  Here’s Portrait of Gentleman with Gloves, 1543. 

Finally here’s a self-portrait from sometime in the 1540s.

He really emphasizes the artist’s eye.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: 21 Christian Martyrs and Pope Francis’ Finest Hour

I assume every human being at this point has heard about how ISIS has cut the throats of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya.  What is particularly shocking is that these poor men had nothing to do with the war.  They were in Libya strictly as laborers trying to earn something for their families.  They did nothing other than just be Christians.

Pope Francis had a magnificent statement in response, worthy of highlight:  

“They were killed simply for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said.

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” said the Pope. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.''

This was the Holy Father’s finest hour.  It brought me to tears today.  And today these savages have burned alive a number of recent captives.  The news isn’t clear on the specifics of that yet, but I think the numbers will be shocking.  They seem to be raising the ante, killing more and doing it by more horrific means.  If unchecked this will surely lead to genocide.  I’ve never seen western countries, especially my own, be so impotent.  Unless we take aggressive action, this is not going to turn out well and the consequences may be of catastrophic proportions.

On Ash Wednesday we need to pray for the lost souls, pray for peace, and pray that western governments realize what this is leading to and change the floundering and ineffectual course we’re on.  Perhaps I am not worthy of the Holy Father or of Christ Himself by saying this, but we need to do more than prayer.  We need to fight these people, if you can call them people, and frankly the only way to stop them is to kill them.  Evil must be stopped.

Two years ago I presented T. S. Eliot’s poem, “Ash Wednesday,” to commemorate this day.  Then I posted my favorite section, Part II of the poem.  This year I’ll post Part III, a mysterious section of Eliot looking at his sinful self.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

The stair case I believe is an allusion to Dante’s Purgatorio.  The person the narrator is looking down is himself!, “the same shape twisted on the banister.”  That man is me today, outraged and wishing hell for a lot of people.  Lord, I am not worthy.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Personal Note: Mama’s Back and Varicose Vein

I haven’t spoken on my mother recently.  She had been doing well.  The pacemaker implanted last year really helped with her dizziness and falling.  She had her cataracts operated in August for one eye and November the other.  The cataracts were an elective surgery, and since she had been doing well otherwise we decided to have it done.  It really made her see very well, so well that she was shocked to find out she had so many wrinkles…lol.

So things were good until just about a month ago.  She started getting a sharp pain in her left hip, the hip that she had replaced about eight years ago.  It got to the point where she could barely put any weight on it.  We made an appointment with her orthopedist, the one who replaced it.  He took x-rays and made her do all sorts of leg movements, and from a hip perspective, there is nothing wrong.  That was a blessing because if the hip had to be re-replaced then that would have been a big, big deal.  What he found was that her arthritis had really attacked her lower spine and that it had caused the sciatica nerve to inflame.  Indeed, the pain ran down her left leg and caused it to occasionally go numb down to the knee.  He gave her three epidermal shots in her lower back, and he said if this didn’t solve the pain in a week she would have to go to a pain management specialist.  It did not make the pain go away, and so we have an appointment with a pain management doctor on Monday.  She did have something like this (stenosis?) over ten years ago, and a precise steroid shot in her spine made the pain go away.  I don't recall the pain being this bad, though.  She’s been bedridden now for almost a month, and has not been a happy camper.

Then there was the adventure from yesterday.  While at work I get a panicky call from her.  Her foot is bleeding.  It’s spurting out and shooting across the room.  She had been lying in bed when she noticed blood on the sheets and her foot bleeding.  Now here’s what I’m thinking.  My mother gets these severe calluses on her feet which have to get scraped and cut away by a podiatrist.  (Yes, she’s got a doctor for every body part…lol)  Sometimes those calluses crack, and I’m thinking that’s what happened and blood started coming out.  She tells me on the phone she’s got the bleeding to almost stop; at least it’s not spurting out.  I’m debating whether I should call an ambulance.  Now my work is an hour away, and I carpooled, so I don’t even have a car to rush home.  It’s just around mid-day and I won’t be home until 5:30.  If she goes to the hospital she’ll have to stay there until evening, and since she doesn’t speak English well, there’s going to be a lot of confusion. 

So she said to hold off while she goes to look for a neighbor, and I try to call my wife at home.  My wife is out and I can’t get a hold of her, and the neighbor is not home.  She says she’ll wait but it’s starting to bleed again.  After almost an hour, the neighbor does get home, sees my mother and calls me.  We decide it’s best to call an ambulance.  When the EMT get there I get on the phone and explain her medical history and they stopped the bleeding.  It was not from a crack in a callus, but one of her varicose veins had “blown.”  By now my wife had called me back and I told her to head over, and she did.  The EMT did not think she needed to go to the hospital, but my mother’s neighbor and my wife both thought it would be best because my mother was anxious and not feeling sure.  So the EMT took her to the Emergency Room.  Actually it turned out to be good advice because the vein started bleeding again and requiring a stitch while in the ER.  The doctor at the ER said blowing a varicose vein was not uncommon, and in time it might happen to her other veins.  I guess it sucks being 81 years old.  And so I picked her up when I got home and settled her in.  There were a lot of bloody towels on her floor and blood on her bed sheet and carpet.

So that’s the adventure.  Just when you think things are going well, something unexpected comes along.   I just hope they can do something for her back.  She’s walking with a can, stooped over and favoring one side.  Just a few months ago she was still gardening.