Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Don't know much about philosophy...

I really have a very dull life. Sometimes I wonder what the heck I'm doing blogging at all.

Not so my dear (old) friend, The Philosopher-Mom, who's upcoming visit to the big square state has me nearly giddy with delight. Yes, she has a PhD, and it don't stand for PhillyDelphia...

I am in awe of her and her boundless energy and amazing mind and I'm hoping some of it will rub off on me when she comes for a visit next week.

Never mind that she arrives two days after my daughter, Lizzy returns from the south of France with our 16 yr-old French guest and their room is currently trashed.

Never mind that the lovely mutt (yep, dog #2) we were supposed to acquire today is coming tomorrow instead...(perhaps Blog Dog will fill us in on the finer details at a later date).

Never mind that two of my dramatic kids are in two separate plays that week and doing technical rehearsals the entire week preceding the performances.

Never mind that our illustrious taekwondo instructor will be back from his honeymoon and expecting us to be in class, eager and ready to endure his workouts all week.

Never mind that my house is in utter chaos, my dishwasher died, my sofa is an embarrassment and the hailstorm destroyed our siding.

Never mind that my eldest is planning a trip, for which she leaves tomorrow, which entails driving to Oregon; flying to Vancouver, BC; flying to Tokyo; flying to Singapore; hoping boyfriend's father will then buy them tickets to fly to Bali where dear daughter and boyfriend will stay with his parents while touring the islands of Indonesia where said boyfriend grew up, then repeating the entire trip backwards before college classes begin again in late August.

I hope Philosopher-Mom will give me some of whatever keeps her going...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Miracle of Sharing: The loaves and the fishes

Today's Gospel reading from John 6:1-15 is about the miracle of the multiplication of the five barley loaves and two fishes to feed the five thousand. Or at least I used to think it was about a miracle of Jesus' multiplying loaves and fishes until I heard the homily today and learned it was all about sharing.

It turns out the miracle was similar to going to a parish potluck and finding lots of people but very little food. But as we let our guards down and open up and share what we have brought with others we find we are less concerned about getting our fair share and more concerned about sharing what we have with our neighbors.

Silly me! And all this time I thought it was about Jesus actually performing a certifiable miracle. I though it had something to do with prefiguring the Eucharist, where Jesus feeds us with His own flesh and blood.

Christianity itself is based upon a miracle without which there could be no Christianity. That is the miracle of the Resurrection. Catholics share in another miracle every day at the sacrifice of the Mass. That is the miracle of Jesus coming down to earth on the altar and becoming the bread and wine at Mass. He is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity but because He cares so much for us, He takes on the appearance of bread and wine (so we won't be grossed out, I believe). This is what Catholics call transubstantiation, and it is one of the foundations of our belief.

So the God who became an Infant who died on the cross for us and rose again from the dead becomes bread and wine to nourish our souls as well as our bodies. But even He knew better than to try to feed 5,000 when they could've just shared what they brought with each other...right?

But then again, maybe that's just my parish. Maybe there are still others out there who actually believe the account of the loaves and fishes is a certifiable miracle, since it is the only miracle (other than the Resurrection) which appears in all four Gospels.

Here's what Steve Ray had to say about it.

(Note to Dear Readers: My husband says I'm being way too harsh and sarcasm doesn't become me, but I'm really hacked off right now, so please be understanding.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hope and Inspiration from the Rwandan Genocide

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I've had this book sitting on my nightstand for several weeks, after checking it out from the library thanks to many recommendations from friends and acquaintances. I'm so glad I finally made the time to read it. It really is a page turner and doesn't take long to get through it. Once you begin you can't put it down, in part because you want the suffering to end.

Left to Tell is the true and horribly detailed account of a tremendous evil that left over one million dead--most of them chopped to death with machetes by their own friends and neighbors at the urging of the government, while the United States and the rest of the civilized world did nothing. The Rwandan genocide lasted only about one hundred days, but in that brief span of time, the ruling Hutus brutally murdered over their Tutsi countrymen. Any Hutu who resisted or sheltered Tutsis was also brutally murdered. Husbands were made to watch their wives being gang raped before they were slaughtered. Mothers watched their babies being slashed to death, or had their babies left motherless on the road while they were killed. The atrocities that were committed are mind-boggling and left me feeling bitter and angry at the perpetrators and our own government for doing nothing.

But the message of this book isn't about violence or atrocities or retribution or blame. It is about forgiveness, love, hope, prayer and God's loving kindness.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. I know I needed a shot in the arm to remind me of the bounteous blessings I have living in this country. Despite my concern about the Obama presidency and their blatant anti-life agenda, their smug arrogance regarding global warming and their socialistic ideas of big government, I have it pretty darned good. For starters, I can walk down the street without fear that my neighbors could chop me to pieces.

Another thing I loved about this book is how the author, Immaculée, immersed herself in prayer during her 91 day stay in a tiny bathroom with six other women. She learned to connect herself to God and He gave her the strength she needed to endure the tremendous hardships of her bathroom imprisonment as well as facing the heart-wrenching horrors of apocalyptic proportions during and after the genocide.

Don't let the forward by Dr. Wayne Dyer distract you from the amazing book. I was a little put-off by his description of Immaculée as "Divine" and his comparison of her to an Indian woman "who some believe is the Divine Mother."

Immaculée, (as her name suggests), is a devout Catholic, whose inspiring story speaks to all Christians, but especially to Catholics who can see in her story some glimpse of the lives of the saints. Surely there are a host of Rwandan martyrs looking down on us from heaven. After reading this story, I'm convinced among them must be the family of Immaculee and that she may be a living saint.

To read more about Immaculée, or to order the book, visit the website for her book here or her personal website here.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Happy Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!

I couldn't let this momentous week pass without wishing everyone a Happy Natural Family Planning Awareness Week! My goodness, how time flies when one is busy spreading the good cheer of large families, driving one's progeny hither and yon to various and sundry classes, events, museums, oral surgeons and grocery stores. (Just a brief glimpse into the joys of motherhood...)

To commemorate this week, I'd like to direct my dear readers to a pertinent article which proposes the rallying cry: "Use NFP: It Doesn't Work!"

Have a happy week and go out and be NFP aware.

Cats are God's way of showing us not everything in life has a purpose

The cat has me well-trained.

Whenever he wants to go in or out (usually several times in the middle of the night since he needs to catch up on his sleep during the day...and besides, who wants to go outside in 90-plus degrees in mid-summer?) all he has to do is come yowling at my second-story bedroom window (to be let in), or yowling outside my bedroom door (to be let out). Sometimes I try to ignore him outside my door, hoping if I put my pillow over my head he'll give up and yowl outside someone else's door. Unfortunately, he seems to have figured out how to reach a paw up to the doorknob and turn it after several attempts and lots of scratching at the door, ensuring I'm already wide awake. Once the door swings open with a rather loud clanging sound, he prances in the room continuing his annoying yowling and jumps onto the dresser beneath his favorite window until I open the screen to let him out on the roof, whereby he descends to his happy hunting grounds by way of a large tree.

Thus he did the other night post-hail storm. The roof was still very wet and had several inches of marble-sized hail on it, so I assumed he wouldn't want to go outside. He wanted out, so I let him out onto the roof. About five minutes later he evidently decided he would prefer to be inside, so he yowled to be let in again. A few minutes later he must've had another change of heart, so he yowled to go out again (perhaps hoping the hail had melted?) At this point, I decide enough was enough and I would never get any sleep if this continued. I decided to lock him in the downstairs laundry room where the only one who could possibly hear his plaintive cries for help was the dog, who wouldn't really notice anyway. This I did, but since we were out of cat food, and he wasn't going to be able to obtain his nightly ration of baby bunnies, I actually gave him half a can of tuna to ease the pain.

The next night he came to my room as I was reading in bed and asked to be let out the window, which I did and went back to my reading.

Not fifteen minutes later he was back at the window yowling to be let in again. I thought this was rather odd since the weather was nice and he hadn't been out long, but I figured he'd have to spend another night locked in the laundry room. I opened the screen to let him in and he jumped into the room quickly...with a baby bunny in his mouth.

I gasped (expletive deleted) and he dropped the (fortunately dead) carcass at my feet. Was this a gift to thank me for the previous night's delicacy? Or was this a warning of future carnage to come if I threatened his nightly freedoms again? After all, the screens are now ripped to shreds, (thanks to the hail storm). And because we don't have air conditioning we sleep with the windows OPEN.

Needless to say, we (that is my knight-in-shining-armor husband) bagged the dead bunny and I locked the kitty in the laundry room for yet another night of solitary confinement.

The next morning upon being freed he promptly left me some baby bunny guts on the front stoop which we affectionately call the "altar of sacrifice."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Acts of God (not the good kind)

Last night around 10:30 p.m. we had a whopper of a hail storm. This spring had been pretty quiet for us weather-wise. We'd had more rain than normal (waaayyy more rain than normal), but had escaped all the hail and tornadoes that had done damage to other parts of the Denver metro area earlier in the summer.

There were still piles of hail, several inches deep the next morning.
This used to be lettuce.

This used to be pumpkins and winter squash.

This used to be cucumbers and beans.

There used to be lettuce, kale, cabbages, broccoli and peppers here.

Only a few grapes remain on the vine.

The remnants of the sunflower house and bean teepee...

Whats left of the tomato plants in the cages (a dozen different heirloom varieties!) and some shredded beans by the poles...

At least we just had minor damage. My garden was pretty much wiped out, our siding has some holes in it, some of our window screens are ripped and we had some water seep into the patio room...

The front of the house covered in leaves (and some hail still on the roof from the night before).

...and our lovely dining canopy was shredded.

But, by the grace of God, we didn't have anything terribly serious. No major structural damage, no big tree limbs down, no loss of power, nobody hurt. Now we'll see if any of the garden recovers. Maybe the tomatoes can bounce back. I'm pretty sure the pumpkins, grapes and basil won't. I can re-plant the lettuce and some cabbages for the fall. The beans and sunflowers will probably recover. I'll take more pictures as soon as something new and green begins to grow!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book review: The mysterious hand of God

A Memory for Wonders: A True Story A Memory for Wonders: A True Story by Veronica Namoyo Le Goulard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this book from Ignatius Press many years ago. Mother Namoyo wrote her autobiography out of obedience to her religious superior, who directed her to write her story, much like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, in Story of a Soul. The forward is written by Mother Mary Francis, who wrote A Right to be Merry, another excellent book about the religious life.

Mother Namoyo grew up the only child of socialist atheist parents who kept their daughter from ever hearing any stories about God. Although she was born in France, her parents moved to North Africa, in part to keep her from any religious influence. Little did they know, her grandmother secretly baptized her before they left and planted a seed which would grow. Despite growing up without any religious instruction whatsoever, Mother Namoyo tells of the tremendous graces that were showered upon her and the how interior knowledge of Christ and his passion were made known to her.

This is a remarkable story with an equally remarkable ending. An inspiring read that I need to re-read soon.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Finding God in War and Peace

A Table in the Presence: The Dramatic Account of How a U.S. Marine Battalion Experienced God's Presence Amidst the Chaos of the War in Iraq A Table in the Presence: The Dramatic Account of How a U.S. Marine Battalion Experienced God's Presence Amidst the Chaos of the War in Iraq by LT. Carey H. Cash

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this book because it was recommended to me by a dear friend and the person who baptized me, the author's father-in-law. I saw a great deal of influence of his saintly father-in-law in these pages.

This book tells the true story of the first Marine Battalion in Iraq, and their spiritual as well as military struggle there. LT. Cash, who is currently the President's chaplain at Camp David, is a man of true Christian faith, expressed as a Baptist Navy chaplain, but open to the ideas of a liturgical and sacramental faith such as is found in the Catholic form of worship.

As a Catholic, I found it reinforced my beliefs on the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the benefits of confession to a priest, the healing power of sacramentals, and the intercessory power of prayer. In fact, I was astounded as I read time after time of Chaplain Cash's account of God's providence in Iraq, how closely it aligned with my Catholic faith.

For example, Chaplain Cash explained how, as a Baptist minister, he was trained to explain the scriptures in order that worshippers could apply it to their daily lives. But he found the men going into battle didn't have the time or the inclination to listen to fine sermons. They primarily desired two things: confession (with absolution) and holy communion. As a Protestant, Cash could hear confessions and advise the penitent of their saviour's forgiveness, but he couldn't offer sacramental absolution. Also, I believe Chaplain Cash understood the men's need for holy communion as something greater than words. Despite the fact that the communion wafer was merely a symbol of Christ's body, the men desired mystical union with Christ before they went off into battle.

Chaplain Cash also spoke about seeing angels protecting them and the power of intercessory prayer and how much it meant to the men to know that people back home were praying for them.

Just as his father-in-law, Chaplain Larry Ellis, told me I would, I loved it.

If President Obama and his family spend more time at Evergreen chapel at Camp David, as Time magazine suggests, Chaplain Cash may have the opportunity to share his tremendous faith with our chief executive. I know, the White House "denies" these rumors. But perhaps the Obamas will find the spiritual solace they need at Camp David.

I can't help but think that is a good thing.

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The reasonableness of Christianity

What's So Great About Christianity What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had the opportunity to hear Dinesh D'Souza debate atheist Christopher Hitchens at CU Boulder this past winter (see my blog) and I heard this book mentioned.

D'Souza takes the opportunity to go into great depth into the topics that were touched upon at the debate. When I first began reading this book, I though it was just going to be a retelling of the debate I heard, but D'Souza goes into much greater detail here and without interruption and snide remarks from Hitchens.

This book should be on the required reading list of all Christians. D'Souza uses science, philosophy and atheism's own words to show the utter truth, beauty and logic of Christianity.

D'Souza denounces the atheism of Darwinism, while at the same time praising evolutionary theory as our "best guess" for the current type of life we have on earth. But don't sit back and think the argument is over. D'Souza goes on to point out all the questions that evolutionary theory can't answer, such as the complexity of the cell, or DNA strands or even the origin of life itself. Darwin's theory assumed life already existed, so current Darwinists' (such as Richard Dawkins) attempts to explain away evolution as a great way to avoid needing an Intelligent Designer, have basically shot themselves in the foot. They look very foolish trying to come up with increasingly complex ways of describing the origins of life, the origins of the universe and how it all began. D'Souza reveals Dawkins' bias against God and for atheistic evolution using Dawkins' own words: "The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity. Even if the evidence did not favor it, it would still be the best theory available."[emphasis mine:].

One of my favorite chapters in the book is "The World Beyond our Senses: Kant and the Limits of Reason." I have never taken a class in philosophy and I know very little about the topic. But D'Souza does an excellent job at explaining the thinking behind the philosophical underpinnings of Kant and the limits of our senses. In brief, we can't use our senses to know God, "so", the atheists tell us, "He must not exist." Kant's reasoning was that reality is not what our senses tell us. In fact, there is much about reality and knowing and being that our senses can not inform us. For example, I can know what a dog is: what one looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like. I can even cut him open and examine his insides and tell much about the biology of the dog. One thing I can not do, however, is know what it is like to actually "be" a dog. The reality of being a dog is something we, as humans can never know. It is beyond our reach. If we could put a camera inside a dogs head and follow it around and monitor brain waves and measure internal temperatures we still would only know what it is like to be a human observing a dog. We can never "be" a dog.

As D'Souza so aptly puts it, "Kant's accomplishment was to unmask the intellectual pretension of the Enlightenment: that reason and science are the only routes to reality and truth." Certainly modern education today, particularly at the university level, tells us that all we need to know we can know through reason and science. Religion is the crutch for the weak. The fairy tales for the unenlightened and uneducated.

But D'Souza continues steering us on the path he has laid. After our introduction to Kant, he takes us into the realm of miracles. Did you know that Christianity is the only major religion in the world today that depends upon miracles? Other religions may support or allow them, but only Christianity depends upon the miraculous. That would be the central tenet of Christianity--Christ's resurrection. At this the atheist scoffs. Virgin births and dead men come to life! How utterly absurd. Yet we have already read that Kant's secular reasoning has led us to the conclusion that we can't know everything through our senses alone. And the physicists have told us our physical laws are such that if altered even one iota (such as the gravitational force), we would not exist. Therefore, we have some indication that there is a great force beyond ourselves that we can't quite perceive. If that force is God, and God has created nature and the physical laws, then what sane person could deny He can alter them according to His plans? Thus we see the reasonableness of believing in miracles.

I can't recommend this book more strongly. I believe D'Souza's book ranks up there with Mere Christianity as being one of the foundational books every Christian should read.

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An Evangelical returns to Rome

Return To Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic Return To Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic by Francis J. Beckwith

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Francis J. Beckwith stunned the Protestant Evangelical world when he returned to the Catholic Church of his youth on April 29, 2007. This brief account from the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) of why he left his prestigious post to return to the Catholic Church is a quick read, but at times extremely deep.

Francis Beckwith has a PhD from Fordham University and currently is a professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Balylor University (a Baptist school). Prior to his return to the Catholic Church he had written and co-authored many treatises on Protestant Reform theology, which he knows inside-out. He discusses the theological implications of Reform thinking with traditional Catholic understanding of issues from salvation and good works to the efficacy of the sacraments and Biblical inerrancy.

At times he seems almost too reserved in his attempt to avoid alienating any of his Protestant colleagues, but his charity and good will makes him all the more accessible to non-Catholics. He even has a blurb on the back cover of his book from the 2006 ETS president.

But I do like a good argument, so my favorite part of the book has to be the final chapter, where he explains the differences (as he sees it) between faithful Catholics and faithful Evangelicals. He even re-prints the ETS press release which they issued immediately after his resignation and his counter response to them.

Overall this is a very charitable and at the same time thoroughly engaging and readable book.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009