Saturday, December 16, 2006

The 12 Days of L.A. Christmas

Received this as a Christmas card at work last week. So true.... so, so true.
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe 12 Days of L.A. Christmas
The artist is David Price (1998).

More info on the Church of the Ark of the Covenant found in the West Bank...

The following link has great high-res pix of Tel Shiloh - the "Church of the Ark of the Covenant" - recently found during an archaelogical excavation on the West Bank in Israel.

Barnett tackles the confusion over Shiites and Sunnis

Dean Barnett over at Hugh Hewitt's blog had an informative post on Shiites and Sunnis in a Q&A format. He also follows up with a response to one point of contention to a specific answer have originally gave.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The ACS Blog Anniversary Game...

I've been tagged by Nancy over at the American Chesterton Society blog (the society of which I'm a new member). Friday was their blog's first anniversary (woo-hoo), although the ACS itself has been around a lot longer than that (and we're all the better for it).

To celebrate, we thought we'd play a game, as Chesterton was quite fond of games; and like Chesterton, we've completely made it up our of our heads.

Here's how you play. You answer the following questions on your own blog (if you've got one--if not, answer in the combox). Then you send me the link, and after we get all the players' answers, I'll make a big post with all the links. I'm pretty sure this is an original idea. ;-)

So, get out your thinking caps, and answer the following:

1. When did you first read a Chesterton book, story, or poem, and which was it?
2. What was the most recent of GKC's writings you read?
3. Which is your favorite book, poem - or quote?
4. Which would you recommend to a beginner?
5. What is the most unusual fact or quirky detail you know about G.K.Chesterton?

In addition to playing our game, you are required, yes- required, to celebrate in one of the following ways: have a party on the roof, eat a meal on the floor, go outside your house and knock on the front door, entering it as if you've never been there before, play a long round of gype, go out your front door, traipse around to the back door, and knock.

Okay, here it goes:

1. When did you first read a Chesterton book, story, or poem, and which was it?
It was approximately six years ago. It was "The Man Who Was Thursday" and I was both thrilled and totally confused (GKC does that to you). I then read "Manalive" which was less confusing and even more hilarious.

2. What was the most recent of GKC's writings you read?
I'm 3/4 of the way through "Orthodoxy" (and I've underlined a lot because I know I'll need to re-read it again - at least twice more - in order to really let it sink in).

3. Which is your favorite book, poem - or quote?
When I finish reading at least a dozen more of his books I'll be better able to say which book is my favorite. I've read three so far (plus Dale's book "G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense", as well as Dale's wonderful series of the same name on EWTN.) Once I finish reading "Orthodoxy," and then finish GKC's "Heretics," "The Everlasting Man," "St. Thomas Aquinas," "St. Francis Assisi," "The Ball & The Cross" and "The Flying Inn" (all of which are patiently waiting on my bookshelf, along with Dale's latest book, "Common Sense 101"), then I'll tell you which is my favorite Chesterton book.

As far as quotes are concerned, there are many in "Orthodoxy." Here's one that he uses to sum up one series of arguments in the section titled "The Paradoxes of Christianity":

"The state of the Christian could not be at once so comfortable that he was a coward to cling to it, and so uncomfortable that he was a fool to stand it."

4. Which would you recommend to a beginner?
Yikes! I'm too green to be able to accurately answer that question. I think everyone says that it's not the one that they had read first themselves. Chesterton tends to do that to you. He makes you think, and he forces you to read the book again to get a clearer understanding of what he's trying to say... which is both utterly simple yet strangely complex.

5. What is the most unusual fact or quirky detail you know about G.K.Chesterton?
The fact that he (at least) once pulled out a gun and offered to shoot someone (context is everything with regard to this hilarious fact).

And, to celebrate, I knocked on my front door. Then, when I entered I said, "Honey, I'm home!" It's very depressing because I don't have a "Honey" to come home to. But, it is a home to one day have "Honey" in.

One day... hopefully. *sigh*

On the Miracle of Stars...

Orion is my favorite constellation, for a number of reasons. Paul Cella (over at RedState) has a nice little post on the wonderment we desperately need, and sometimes forget... until a child reminds you. And he mentions G.K. Chesterton in the process (a double bonus).

Just a fun website to check out...

Dark Roasted Blend has a lot of cool, quirky and hilarious pics throughout the various posts of this picture blog.

The "Flying Imams" Round-up...

What you wouldn't know about if you only got your news for the MSM. Great investigative reporting and commentary here and here.

Curt over at Flopping Aces has done an incredible job digging into this story.

Scanning the Political Playing Field for 2008...

This is still way too early, but John Hawkins (from RWN) has an article in Human Events in which he evaluates each of the suspected (or is that "suspect"?) and a few unsuspected candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008. I'm sure he's do one for the Democrats in the near future.

I'm still recovering from last month's election cycle.

Call To Action called to account...

'Tis about time!

Now... if only the Pope would install Bishop Bruskewitz into the L.A. Archdiocese. One can only hope and pray.

A Little Biblical Archaeology...

"Archaeologists claim to have uncovered one of the world's first churches, built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, reported the London Daily Telegraph."

This fascinating article can be read here.

Information Round-up on Pope Benedict's Trip to Turkey...

Dr. Robert Moynihan (over at Catholic Exchange) has a great article on Pope Benedict XVI trip to Turkey a little over a week ago.

Also, Against The Grain has an incredibly extensive round-up (text and links) on the entire 4-day Papal visit to Constantinopl.... ummm.... uhhh... to Turkey.

Wandering Throught the Desert with 50-year-old Adolescents...

Elizabeth Powers over at First Things touched on something that I have thought for some time. I call it, "Wandering Through the Desert with 50-year-old Adolescents." I'll have to expand on that thought some day.

"...There is a noisy contingent still trapped in [the 60s] and whose opposition to the war in Iraq comes straight from the sixties playbook, but such overtly anti-American attitudes haven’t, in the current conflict, gained much traction. After all, the Boomers have grown up, chronologically at least, and the liberals among them don’t relish camping in tents in Crawford, Texas, or even marching in the streets. They have also benefited most from America, Inc. By now, they have made it through the institutions, the media, the law, and the universities. They have paid off their mortgages. They enjoy the advantages of the best health care system in the world. They are about to receive not only Social Security but also the fruits of their considerable investment in retirement plans. The terms of their opposition to war and to authority have changed—the president is an incompetent—but, as in their youth, they remain averse to sacrifice. Their priorities are now those of people who have had a good life and don’t want to jeopardize it..."

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's time to take a shower again... a Leonid Shower!

Yep! Tonight's the night for the annual Leonid Meteor Shower. Things will be flaring especially in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada tonight. Hopefully, there will be clear skies for optimal viewing.

So, once again... make a wish upon a "falling star" (just remember to dress warmly).

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


John Hawkins (of RWN) sums it up perfectly here at Human Events.

John goes into detail about each of the following key issues:
* Bush's Approval Rating
* Harriet Miers
* If Bush Won't Defend Himself, Then Who Will
* Illegal Immigration
* Gas Prices
* National Security Slippage
* Out-Of-Control Spending
* Republicans Behaving Badly

Then he sums up:
The bad news is that... the American people rejected the Republican Party. The good news is that they didn't do that because they rejected conservative principles, they rejected the Republican Party, for the most part, for not living up to those principles. That is a problem that can be corrected, especially since the voters don't like the Democratic Party very much either.

Read the whole thing.

I’m just disappointed that Rick Santorum (a great conservative and a great Catholic) got caught in the riptide. Part of it was political payback for his dis’ing Pat Toomey in the ‘04 Republican Primary challenge against incumbent R Sen. Arlen Spector. Part of it is that Casey “Empty Suit” Jr. has a famous family name (his dad was former governor of PA) and claims to be one of those extinct pro-life Demo-birds. I don’t buy it, given that Casey is now beholden to the hardcore left wing of the Democratic Party (with John Kerry having given him over half a million dollars to his campaign).

It’s now going to be that much tougher to get another Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas/Rehnquist onto the U.S. Supreme Court once Stevens and Ginsberg retire (both possibly very soon).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Ask yourself one simple question before voting.

Don't know what that question is?

That's okay. Because your answer can be summed up in this one political cartoon. Remember it before you head to the polls today. And, yes, please do go to the polls today and...


Sunday, November 05, 2006

So, who do the Terrorists want you to vote for on Tuesday???

If you have at least half a brain, you'd vote for the candidates they want to lose.

Iraq, Nukes, and Saddam to be Hanged...

Yes... Iraq was pretty far along in the process of manufacturing nuclear weapons. (surprise... surprise)

Meanwhile, Saddam has been sentenced to death by hanging.

Casey in PA (and another reason to vote to Santorum)...

Bob "Empty Suit" Casey, Jr., and the company he keeps. And then there's the pact he and a few others have made regarding future Supreme Court & Federal Appellate Court judicial nominations.

All the more reason to vote for Santorum on Tuesday!

A variety of Catholic news stories....

First up is Fr. Richard Neuhaus' take on the inner wranglings at the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management. It makes for some interesting reading.

Things are also afoot at Georgetown University. It's already not my favorite place of higher education, given that I'm a Villanova graduate. But, an endowment chair in the name of a pro-abortion priest? You're kidding me, right? *sigh*

Pope Benedict ends a short-termed indult regarding the purification of Communion vessels. To help stem sacrilegious abuses during and after masses, Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers are no longer allowed to do the purifications.

Papa Ben has also been giving audiences on the 12 Apostles. Jimmy Akin has the links to the text of his talks here. Apparently, the Pontiff is not done yet (more to come).

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, recently chosen by Pope Benedict XVI as Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, issued two statements last week. One was in reference to the controversial and short-lived "liberation theology" (which got several priests and religious in trouble in the 80s), and its ties to Marxist Communism. The second on the need to set higher standards in seminaries for priest and religious formation.

And, finally, the BBC has admitted to anti-Christian bias.

(hat tip to RCB for that last story, as well as the one on Communion vessels)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Zell Miller stumping for Santorum!

This just in from CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Sen. Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat who supported President Bush in 2004, will head a new group of Democrats supporting Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Rick Santorum's reelection bid.

"I am not involved in any other race in the country," Miller said during a radio interview Monday, according to a news release from Santorum's campaign. "I am only doing this for Rick Santorum. I believe in Rick Santorum's leadership that much."

Santorum is trailing in public polls to his Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr.

Miller alienated his Senate Democratic colleagues two years ago when he endorsed Bush and campaigned for him in his successful reelection bid against Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts. And in a fiery speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Miller criticized Kerry's military strategy.

"This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces," Miller said. "U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?"

(Hat Tip to PoliPundit)

I've been saying a Novena (to St. Jude) for Rick, leading up to election day. I voted for him in 1994 when I was still a Pennsylvania resident. Can't vote for him now, since I'm a Californian, but I can certainly pray for him.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

End of Ramadan Warnings...

Could be real... or it could be just rhetoric, but here's a recent warning regarding possible new strikes against the West (both here and abroad):

"The new al-Qaida field commander in Afghanistan is calling for Muslims to leave the U.S. – particularly Washington and New York – in anticipation of a major terror attack to rival Sept. 11, according to an interview by a Pakistani journalist..."

Read the full story here.

Another story comes a month later, reiterating the warnings:

"Another Pakistani journalist is reporting receiving another threat – this one from a senior Taliban leader – warning all Muslims to leave the U.S. in anticipation of a major terrorist attack before the end of Ramadan.

The head of the Islamabad-based al-Quds Center reported receiving an audio message from Mullah Masoom Afghani urging U.S. Muslims to get out of the country "because Allah's punishment would fall on America in the month of Ramadan."

Muslims are observing Ramadan this year Sept. 24 to Oct. 23..."

Read the full story here.

Another Foiled Plot...

"A British Muslim terrorist mastermind faces life in jail after he admitted plotting a radioactive 'dirty bomb' attack in the UK and a string of devastating atrocities in the USA..."

Read more here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

November 7th Election... in just 50 words

The reason why we all should be voting for U.S. Senators and Representatives with an (R) next to their name come this November 7th... in just 50 words:

Ted Kennedy
John Kerry
Hillary Clinton
Harry Reid
Patrick Leahy
Barbara Boxer
Patty Murray
Russ Feingold
Chuck Schumer
Richard Durbin
Christopher Dodd
Joe Biden
Barbara Mikulski
Paul Sarbanes
Frank Lautenberg
Nancy Pelosi
John Conyers
Charles Rangel
Barney Frank
Dennis Kucinich
Jim McDermott
John Murtha
Henry Waxman
Maxine Waters
Howard Dean

(do you really want these people in power???.... 'nough said)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

An extremely quick series of reviews of seven films now out on DVD...

(1) The Pink Panther (with Steve Martin and Kevin Kline) --- has a few laugh-out-loud moments, but the flick falls flat too often. It's hard to live up to Peter Sellers classics, even if you're Steve Martin. The opening animation is the best part of the movie. I'd love for someone to put all of the opening credit animations from all of the Pink Panther films back-to-back for a nice 30-minute short! This one gets only 2 wine bottles out of 5.

(2) The Unfinished Life (with Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez) --- a nice drama, though a bit slow-paced. I get really tired, though, of Redford and Freeman playing the same exact characters they always play in every friggin' movie. And JLo can't act her way out of a paper bag. It's a decent family drama (with an ending that doesn't quite cover all the bases). This one gets a modest 3 wine bottles out of 5.

(3) The Inside Man (with Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster) --- a decent thriller that keeps you guessing. It's a popcorn movie that's really not meant to be over-thought, 'cause you figure out the end of the film by listening to Owen's character at the very beginning of the film. It's a surprising turn for director Spike Lee, and for that I'll give this film 3 wine bottles out of 5. But you're average police department would have everyone behind bars without any problems. So, enjoy the popcorn.

(4) The Lost City (with Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray) --- Garcia is the director and producer of this pet project set in Cuba in 1959 (just as the revolution was about to hit the island nation). The film is beautifully shot, with absolutely wonderful music throughout. The film is a little long (approx. 2-1/2 hours), but it's a glorious film that peels back the nearly 50-year facade of Castro's communist state. The documentary in the extras on the DVD is worth watching afterwards, as well. This Casablanca-esque film is worth a good 4 wine bottles out of 5.

(5) Mother Theresa (with Olivia Hussey) --- a wonderful film about the life and missionary work of Mother Theresa, portrayed incredibly by Olivia Hussey (of "Romeo & Juliet" fame). There are a couple points towards the end of the film that feels rushed, and it causes some confusion in the storyline. But, overall, it's a decent film about an extraordinary woman of profound spirituality. It's on par with the ABC mini-series on Pope John Paul II with portrayals by Cary Ewes and Jon Voight). Actually, both films mentioned here get 4 wine bottles out of 5.

(6) Three Buriels of Melquiades Estrada (with Tommy Lee Jones as lead actor and director, and Barry Pepper) --- The most convoluted, condescending, stupid, ill-written, poorly acted waste of 2+ hours of film in quite a few years. Set in modern day southwestern United States, where everyone is crude and immoral (except for the illegals coming across the border, of course). The film doesn't even make sense (such as when Jones' character takes a very long, roundabout way to cross the border into Mexico when he was originally only a couple minutes away from the border with plenty of lead-time to do so). Or when Pepper's character (whom Jones has been dragging across into Mexico) is completely passed out, then suddenly is wide awake when it's time to cross the river, then once they cross the river he's passed out again. Or when - in that same scene - the authorities have them cornered (with a helicopter, too) - yet suddenly they're able to cross the border unscathed in silence. Or when Pepper's character is bit by a poisonous snake and is hiding in a cave dying from his wound, but is suddenly found with ease and is later "cured" by poking a hot knife on the bite wound. Or the fact that the ONLY person throughout the entire film to be able to smell the decaying corpse of Melquiades Estrada (aside from Pepper's character) is a blind man in the outback. No one - and I mean NO ONE - else smells the corpse. This film is so bad (with a blatant pro-illegal immigration agenda, despite its surreal ending) that I rate it with one-half of one glass of “corked” (spoiled) wine. I’d have rather sipped from a glass of vinegar. In a word... bad. Jennifer Lopez’ “Gigli” bad.... Mariah Carey’s “Glitter” bad. Stupid and bad!!! But what do you expect from Al Gore's college roommate?

(7) Three Times (foreign film out of Taiwan, with subtitles) --- three wonderful stories about various aspects of love (requited and unrequited), set in three different eras in Taiwan: a pool hall in 1966; a brothel in 1911, and a contemporary setting in 2005. This film moves very, very slowly. But it's enticing with its call for patience from the viewer while showing a lack of urgency from its characters in a trio of vignettes. If you like Kirosawa's "Dreams", then you'll like this film. I give it 3-1/2 wine bottles out of five.

A more comprehensive reading list on the B16 kerfluffle at Regensburg...

First... read the entire speech by Pope Benedict XVI on September 12 at Regensburg University to get it in its proper context.

Next thing to read are excellent commentaries at First Things by Robert Louis Wilken, then by Ryan T. Anderson, and two by FR. Richard John Neuhaus (here and here).

Then read this great commentary by Fr. Joseph Fessio (Provost of Ave Maria University and founder of Ignatius Press - which publishes all of Pope Benedict's books in English). And follow it up with another great commentary by Sandro Magister in Rome.

Then read this follow-up speech by Pope Benedict upon meeting the Muslim leaders on September 25.

Next is a brief history lesson on the crusades here (by Jimmy Akin) and here (by Thomas Madden). Plus further information about Islam and violence here.

And, finally, there is this intriguing summation about the intercession of the Virgin Mary here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Plaintiff in Doe v. Bolton case says ACLU attorney pushed her to have abortion...

Something you do not get the chance to read about in the news:
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to reconsider next week its landmark 1973 Doe vs. Bolton abortion decision, in response to a lawsuit brought by the case's original plaintiff, who claims she was pressured by ACLU attorneys to opt for abortion and that the case was based on fraud.

Like Norma McCorvey, the original "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, Sandra Cano was "Mary Doe" of 1973's other historic abortion decision. Together, "Roe" and "Doe" eliminated all state laws prohibiting abortion and legalized abortion. Cano's case in particular – because of the "health exception" for the mother it created – opened the door to abortion on demand, for virtually any reason, at any stage of pregnancy up to the moment of birth...

...Both Cano and McCorvey are attempting to overturn the two abortion cases that bear their names, each claiming their case was based on fraud...

... On June 23, 2005, Cano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee for the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights...

..."I am Sandra Cano, the former 'Doe' of Doe v. Bolton. Doe v. Bolton is the companion case to Roe v. Wade. Using my name and life, Doe v. Bolton falsely created the health exception that led to abortion on demand and partial birth abortion. How it got there is still pretty much a mystery to me. I only sought legal assistance to get a divorce from my husband and to get my children from foster care."

Read the entire news story here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Terrorism Timeline...


What is the common denominator with regard to the following list of events (and this is by no means a complete list)?

Sep 19, 2006 --- Military coup in Thailand by a Muslim General.

Sept 2006 --- Threats to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI.

Sep 12, 2006 --- Failed U.S. embassy attack in Damascus, Syria.

Aug 10, 2006 --- UK to USA flights (arrests made - foiled plot to involve 10 airplanes over Atlantic Ocean)

Jul/Aug '06 --- Hamas & Hezbullah (kidnapping and bombing of Israel)

Jul 31, 2006 --- Koblenz & Dortmund, Germany (two unexploded suitcase bombs on trains found)

Jul 11, 2006 --- Mumbai (Bombay), India (train bombings)

Jun 3, 2006 --- Toronto, Canada (17 arrested - foiled plot to use 3 tons of explosives in Toronto)

Mar 7, 2006 --- Varanasi, India bombing

Oct 1, 2005 --- Bali bombing (two locales)

Jul 7, 2005 --- London bombing (trains/underground)

Thru-out '05 --- repeated suicide bombings throughout Israel

Thru-out '05 --- Paris riots

Sep 9, 2004 --- Bali bombing (Australian embassy)

Sep 4, 2004 --- Beslan school hostage (Chechen)

Mar 11, 2004 --- Madrid bombing (trains)

Aug 5, 2003 --- Jakarta bombing (Marriott Hotel)

Oct 26, 2002 --- Moscow theater (Chechen)

Oct 12, 2002 --- Bali bombing (Kuta)

Thru-out '02 --- Daniel Pearl and others kidnapped and beheaded

Dec 13, 2001 --- New Delhi, India (Parliament bombing)

Oct 29, 2001 --- New Delhi, India (bombing)

Sep/Oct, ‘01 --- Anthrax letters in the U.S. Postal delivery (5 dead, 21 illnesses)

Sep 11, 2001 --- WTC/Pentagon/Western PA

Oct 12, 2000 --- USS Cole attack

Dec 31, 1999 --- The failed attempt at major terror attacks on the Millennium (thanks to a sharp Washington State border patrol officer who stopped one of the terrorists trying to drive across the border, and found explosive materials in the trunk of the car.)

1999 --- Second planned attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Manila (the Pope cancelled trip due to illness)

Aug 7, 1998 --- Nairobi (bombing of US Embassies – Kenya and Tanzania)

Jun 25, 1996 --- Saudi Arabia (Kobar Towers bombing)

Jan 1995 --- Planned assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in Manila (Ramzi Yousef injured himself before the attempt)

In 1995 --- attempted airline bombing plot over Pacific Ocean

In 1994 --- Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing

Oct 3, 1993 --- Mogadishu, Somalia (Black Hawk Down)

Feb 26, 1993 --- NYC (the first WTC bombing)

Dec 21, 1988 --- PanAm 103 (Lockerbie, Scotland)

In 1985 --- TWA flight 847 hijacking (Athens, Greece)

Oct 7, 1985 --- Achille Lauro (cruise ship killing)

Oct 23, 1983 --- Beirut (US Marines barracks bombed)

May 13, 1981 --- Assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II by Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Ağca (hired by Soviets)

1979-80 --- Iranian hostage crisis (444 days)

Sep 5, 1972 --- Munich (Olympics - Israeli hostages killed)

Saturday, September 30, 2006

An evening at the Key Club in West Hollywood...

My nephew, Vinny, was performing at the Key Club in West Hollywood last night, and it's been quite a while since I've done the night clubbing scene. Looking around at the age group present, needless to say I felt a bit old (ahhh, the memories, though). Vinny was playing bass for Peter DiStefano (formerly of the 90s rock band "Porno For Pyros"). Pete was on guitar and vocals, and Carl DiStefano was on drums. A power-trio for sure! They got bumped up to start their set early (I was glad I got there in time), and then the club cut their set short (they were the last opening act for some local wannabee rock band having a CD release party). The headline act was boring; sounding like every other wannabee rock band out there right now. But Vinny was rockin' the stage during Pete's entire short set.

Way to go, Vinny!!!

P.S. You know you're gettin' old when one beer and a couple hours of ear-splittin' rock-n-roll gives you a hangover the following morning (ugh!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What we've known about DDT for many, many years...

What we've known about DDT for many, many years, and it's about time its proper and regular use be employed. How many hundreds of thousands of lives have been needlessly lost due to it's prohibition in eradicating malaria?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Morning with Dale Ahlquist (and G.K. Chesterton)...

Last Friday morning, I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dale Ahlquist speak at the monthly meeting of the Catholic Professionals & Business Club of Ventura County. Dale is an author of two books on the voluminous writer G.K. Chesterton (“The Apostle of Common Sense” and “Common Sense 101”). He is also the host of the successful, informative and highly entertaining TV program, “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense” which is broadcast on EWTN. [You can purchase copies of the series here.]

On a note of serendipity, a week before I even knew that Dale was coming to the area, I had officially become a member of the American Chesterton Society. So I was glad to have this unexpected opportunity to meet him face-to-face and to hear him recite some Chestertonian words of wisdom.

It was early (very early) on a foggy Friday morning at a banquet center near a Ventura golf course. Dale entered through a side door with his satchel briefcase slung over his shoulder, and I was able to shake his hand and tell him that I thoroughly enjoy watching his program.

Approximately 30+ people were in attendance - with a 6:30 mass to begin the event, then a buffet breakfast followed. Several people from my parish were in attendance, including Lee and Dick (both from my Wednesday morning bible study group), and Dick’s wife Judi. I was one of the last to go through the line for food, and I turned to walk toward the table where Dick & Judi were sitting. I place my plate on the table, pull out a chair, sit down, look up… and right across from me is Mr. Ahlquist himself. (!) I was just waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder to tell me that the table was reserved for others. But that didn't happen, and we were able to banter about with some nice table conversation.

Dale mentioned his own strange case of serendipity on how he came about meeting John “Chuck” Chalberg (the actor who portrays Chesterton in the TV series). Dale told us that he had heard of this teacher in the Minnesota area who was known for coming into his classroom on occasion dressed as a particular historical figure and acting out certain dialogue or commentary (including G.K.C.). But Dale had never met the man.

When Dale was in Alabama for a taping of his appearance on the program “The Journey Home” (to speak about his conversion to the Catholic faith, as well as his fascination with G.K. Chesterton), he was approached by several people at EWTN who wanted to do a program on Chesterton. Dale said, “Sure. I’ll see if I can find someone who’d want to do it.” But they wanted him to do the program. He thought that maybe they wanted just one 1-hour program, not realizing that they wanted a whole series on G.K.C. Yet, they wanted something different for this new series. They didn’t want another “talking head” like all of their other series. They wanted something unique and entertaining.

They asked Dale if he knew about this Chalberg guy who was known for portraying Chesterton. He said he knew of him, but that was all. Upon his return to Minnesota, Dale went about finding him. It turns out that they lived just a few blocks away from each other. And the two have been good friends, doing the TV series ever since.

After breakfast, I hear a voice behind my left shoulder. I turn my head to see a wooden podium right in my face, with the head of the organization giving the chapter minutes (the podium was not there when I initially sat down at the table). Again, I started to feel reeeeeally small right at that point, wondering if I should have been at this table. But, again, no one said anything. (whew!). Then, after a few brief minutes, Dale was introduced to give his 30-minute talk. And, of course, Dale was in fine form.

He talked about how Chesterton was known as a deep thinker, but who was also humble and witty - wanting to be able to “explain the faith to a cab driver.” He respected his opponents as individuals; never getting personal in his criticisms. In a debate, G.K.C. would start with agreeing to a point given by his opposition… and then would proceed to poke holes in their philosophy.

Dale said that Chesterton believed that it was important to talk about the controversial issues of religion and politics because “religion is about the relationship between us and God, and politics is about the relationship between each other.” He went on to say that “Christianity is true. And if it is true, then everything is connected to it,” and education is [supposed to be] “truth in transmission.”

Relativism (as Pope B16 had also stated in his Papal Enclave homily in the spring of 2005) deals with “excepts instead of the rules,” and that the current state of news and media is “all about exceptions, not the norms.” (You read about the one person murdered rather than the millions who were not murdered, you hear about the one who scandaled rather than the many who did not engage in scandal, etc.)

G.K.C. also defended the foundation of family and marriage (which he considered a “dual to the death” where man and woman are "completely incompatible," and they "spend their entire married lives working out their incompatibilities").

Dale said that upon reading Chesterton (who wrote during the early portion of the 20th century) it unveiled the stunning fact that “he was very prophetic, yet also very life affirming and full of grace.”

Mr. Ahlquist took questions after his 30-minute talk, and the first was about whether there was a canonization process in the works for Chesterton. Dale said that he always felt (even when he was a Baptist before his own conversion to the Catholic Church) that it would be good to have a 300-lb cigar-smoking journalist as a saint. Upon his investigation, he found that after a brief period of interest at one point, there wasn’t anything officially in the works. He then contacted the Bishop of Northhampton in the UK (who would be in charge of any formalization of the process), and his recent successor, and the ball is finally rolling to get the cause moving forward. Although Dale certainly advocates the cause, he has absolutely no interest in being the Advocate for the cause (knowing the tremendous amount of work required).

I had the chance to shake Dale’s hand once more before leaving, buying a copy of his latest book “Common Sense 101: Lessons From G.K. Chesterton(which he graciously signed for me) as I headed out the door. I intend to start reading this book (and G.K.’s “Orthodoxy”) this coming weekend. And I highly recommend reading Chesterton as well as the books by Dale Ahlquist. Better yet, join the ACS!

I then spent the rest of the day down in Malibu at the newly-reopened Getty Villa (the original Getty museum off the coast). It had been closed for nearly a decade for renovations and expansion. The newer and much larger Getty Museum is off the 101 between L.A. and the Valley, but the Villa now houses mainly the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. The statues, sculptures, pottery, jewelry, mosaics, etc. are amazing, and the architecture (with the garden and the inner and outer peristyles) are gorgeous.


I forgot to mention that The Anchoress has some great GKC quotes in her post here. You can also get a whole slew of Chesterton quotes from the ACS web site here. And you can even attempt to stump the GKC Quotemesiter here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Science & Religion (and an unrelated Medjugorje investigation link)...

Great post on Science and the Catholic Church here at First Things.

Investigations moving forward at the Vatican on Medjugorje here. (Personally... at this stage... I think Fatima, yes.... Lourdes, yes... Guadalupe, yes... Medjugorje?... not so much.)

Why I am not caught up in the Rudy G. for '08 fervor...

John Hawkins of RWN posted a lengthy post pointing to the policy weaknesses of Rudy Giuliani (whom way too many people think should be the next prez in 2008). Human Events felt it was so good that they wanted to publish it in their publications. John expanded his post, and it can be read over at Human Events here.

Rudy did some great things in NYC as mayor (mainly cleaning up the crime-ridden and filthy city that he inherited, and his handling of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan). But there are crucial national policy points on which I vehemently disagree. Hawkins spells them out perfectly. Rudy'd make a great Secretary of State, Defense, or Homeland Security. But not President (in my humble opinion). I don't think he'd get out of the primaries, anyway.

He also tackled McCain, here.

Katrina (something you did not know)...

This is a must-read expose' on the proper understanding of the main reason for the New Orleans devastation due to last year's Hurrican Katrina.

Latest GWOT news and links...

Lots of Democrats were having a cow over this past weekend regarding the ABC mini-series, "The Path to 9/11". ABC caved to some (but not all) of the pressure, and made some edits before broadcasting. But that's okay, because you can view the edited clips here. (heh!)

Peggy Noonan wrote an incredibly emotional and reflective column commemorating the 5th anniversary of 9/11.

RWN posts the before and after comments of certain Democrats regarding their stances on Iraq.

Good (but developing) information regarding recently captured terrorists in Afghanistan here.

Hugh's great post on the San Francisco attack here.

Clarification of the evidence on the links between Iraq & Al Qaida.

OBL and Al Qaida's latest series of threats.

And concerns about someone potentially already inside the U.S.

Intriguing information from the Vatican regarding the Israel-Hezbollah/Hamas situation here.

In addition is a verrrrry interesting talk given by Pope Benedict XVI regarding the violent aspects of Islam today.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I haven't gone anywhere...

... I've just been really busy lately. Stay tuned, as I'll be posting quite a bit within the next week or so. Topics will include reviews of the following films:

"The Lost City"

"Mother Theresa"

"The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada" (you do NOT want to miss THAT review)

"The Inside Man"

and maybe "Unfinished Life".

Also, I'll be posting on:

The Ventura County Fair from last month,

The tri-annual Ventura Art Walk from last month,

My up-coming visit to the Getty Villa (the original Getty Museum in Malibu, which went thru many years of renovations and has finally reopened),

This coming Friday's breakfast event with guest speaker Dale Ahlquist giving a talk on his favorite topic (G.K. Chesterton),

And additional links and news related to the GWOT, the Catholic faith, and other social and political issues.

Perhaps also a humorous retelling of an incident with a flight attendant while preparing to fly out of Alabama last May.

So... stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Disturbing bits of news within the U.S. over the past 12 months...


August 29, 2006 - Hit & Run in San Francisco today. More update info here.

August 26, 2006 - Continental Airlines flight from Argentina diverted due to dynamite found.

August 23, 2006 - Flammable liquid found placed on United Airlines flight.

Potential vunerabilities with the trucking industry.

July 29, 2006 - Seattle shooting/killing at a Jewish Center.

March 7, 2006 - UNC attack with a Jeep Cherokee on University of North Carolina campus.

October 1, 2005 - Student with bomb jacket commits suicide at Oklahoma Univerity campus after failing to gain entrance into a packed football stadium.

Also, remember the July 4, 2002 incident at LAX?

Monday, August 21, 2006

These crucial next 48 hours...

Key an eye on the Middle East over these next 48 hours. Especially in relation to Iran. Prayers should be standard operating procedure.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Terrorism Timeline...

With a major hap-tip to The Anchoress and Gerald at Closed Cafeteria (both of whom beat me to the punch in compiling and posting aspects of this list), I now ask you plainly...

What is the common denominator with regard to the following list of events (and this is by no means a complete list)?

Sep 19, 2006 --- Military coup in Thailand by a Muslim General.

Sep 12, 2006 --- Failed U.S. embassy attack in Damascus, Syria.

Aug 10, 2006 --- UK to USA flights (arrests made - foiled plot to involve 10 airplanes over Atlantic Ocean)

Jul/Aug '06 --- Hamas & Hezbullah (kidnapping and bombing of Israel)

Jul 31, 2006 --- Koblenz & Dortmund, Germany (two unexploded suitcase bombs on trains found)

Jul 11, 2006 --- Mumbai (Bombay), India (train bombings)

Jun 3, 2006 --- Toronto, Canada (17 arrested - foiled plot to use 3 tons of explosives in Toronto)

Mar 7, 2006 --- Varanasi, India bombing

Oct 1, 2005 --- Bali bombing (two locales)

Jul 7, 2005 --- London bombing (trains/underground)

Thru-out '05 --- repeated suicide bombings throughout Israel

Thru-out '05 --- Paris riots

Sep 9, 2004 --- Bali bombing (Australian embassy)

Sep 4, 2004 --- Beslan school hostage (Chechen)

Mar 11, 2004 --- Madrid bombing (trains)

Aug 5, 2003 --- Jakarta bombing (Marriott Hotel)

Oct 26, 2002 --- Moscow theater (Chechen)

Oct 12, 2002 --- Bali bombing (Kuta)

Thru-out '02 --- Daniel Pearl and others kidnapped and beheaded

Dec 13, 2001 --- New Delhi, India (Parliament bombing)

Oct 29, 2001 --- New Delhi, India (bombing)

Sep/Oct, ‘01 --- Anthrax letters in the U.S. Postal delivery (5 dead, 21 illnesses)
Sep 11, 2001 --- WTC/Pentagon/Western PA

Oct 12, 2000 --- USS Cole attack
Dec 31, 1999 --- The failed attempt at major terror attacks on the Millennium (thanks to a Washington
1999 --- Second planned attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Manila (the Pope cancelled trip due to illness)

Aug 7, 1998 --- Nairobi (bombing of US Embassies – Kenya and Tanzania)

Jun 25, 1996 --- Saudi Arabia (Kobar Towers bombing)
Jan 1995 --- Planned assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in Manila (Ramzi Yousef injured himself before the attempt)
In 1995 --- attempted airline bombing plot over Pacific Ocean
In 1994 --- Buenos Aires Jewish Center bombing

Oct 3, 1993 --- Mogadishu, Somalia (Black Hawk Down)

Feb 26, 1993 --- NYC (the first WTC bombing)

Dec 21, 1988 --- PanAm 103 (Lockerbie, Scotland)

In 1985 --- TWA flight 847 hijacking (Athens, Greece)

Oct 7, 1985 --- Achille Lauro (cruise ship killing)

Oct 23, 1983 --- Beirut (US Marines barracks bombed)
1991 --- Assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II by Turkish Muslim, (hired by Soviets)

1979-80 --- Iranian hostage crisis (444 days)

Sep 5, 1972 --- Munich (Olympics - Israeli hostages killed)

Need help figuring it out??? Read the following link at First Things to get a clue. Meanwhile, what's happening here in the USA? Check these stories here and here.

Not listed here are the multiple opportunities we had to capture or kill OBL throughout the 90s (two offers from Saudi Arabia, one offer from Sudan in '96, two opportunities with the help of General Massoud in Afghanistan).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

And now for something completely different... let's take a shower... a meteor shower!

Yes! That's right. Tonight is the peak period for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. After sunset, look up into the Northeast and catch a glimpse of a few falling stars. Those of you in or near cities might have a more difficult time due to the light pollution. And the full moon will also diminish the viewing ability somewhat. But, if you can find a nice isolated area (with a clear sky, of course), you may be able to see one or two per minute. Your chances of catching a glimpse of this annual wonder will improve later in the night and into the early morning hours. So take a look! Make a wish! And say a prayer!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Some new links as a follow-up to yesterday's post...

Obvious concerns about the missing "students" here and here.(Montana???.... uh-huh)

More concerns about Iran and August 22nd here (it helps that that date is also the Queenship of Mary on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar).

And good news out of Iraq here regarding the security transfer process (hattip to the Anchoress).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Some links of note regarding the #1 issue for the last five years...

Regarding the proper understanding of the Just War Doctrine: here

Regarding WMDs in Iraq: here, here, here and here.

A more accurate report on Pope Bendict's position regarding the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict: here.

Regarding Hezbollah using Christian villages in Lebanon: here and here.

Regarding the Mainstream Media and doctored photos of the Middle East conflict: just follow the on-going stories at PowerLine and Little Green Footballs.

And some great commentary by Dennis Prager here, here and here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

EC:WC FCA – They Came Back

The EC:WC FCA is the East Coast:West Coast Film Critics Association - an exclusive organization consisting of myself on the west coast and one of my older brothers on the east coast. We occasionally commiserate via phone or email regarding the latest film we’ve seen either in the theaters or on DVD. Our recommendation scale is anywhere from 1 to 5 wine bottles. We take our movies as seriously as we take our vino (both of which need to be palatable yet refined, either entertaining whimsy or sparking contemplation, and always requiring a lack of pretension).

This quietly haunting foreign film posits a sobering if improbable premise – what if, all across the world, our recently deceased loved ones suddenly returned. The film opens in a present-day nondescript French town. Thousands of people are slowing streaming down streets, wandering as though they have just woken from a deep coma or a serious concussion. In fact, over 70 million people worldwide are reappearing, all having been deceased within the last 10 years. No one knows how or why this is occurring, not even those who’ve been “resurrected.”

The film centers on how this disturbing event affects both individual families and society in general. The pace is methodical and introspective, forcing us to ask previously unthought-of questions: How would you react if your recently deceased spouse, child, lover came back? What if you are still grieving the loss? What if time had passed and you had moved on with your life? Shock, joy, sadness, anger, resentment, confusion, fear – all of these emotions come to the surface along with the loved ones.

And how do a city, a business, and society as a whole deal with and adjust to the crisis? How to arrange temporary housing, medical testing and psychological evaluation of the returnees? What about counseling for the “surviving” family members? What to do about the previously held jobs and the pensions of the returnees?

As time passes we begin to learn that those who’ve returned are not quite the same as they’d been before they passed, and may never be so. They remain detached and restless, acting and reacting in a slow and measured pace. Then, after a brief period of adjustment, they all just begin to leave nearly as mysteriously as they had returned.

This is a deeply interior film that develops a disturbing aura of horror where too many Stephen King flicks repeatedly fail. No traditional zombies, werewolves, or rabid dogs. No slashing and splattering of blood and guts. It’s also a film where deeper social and societal issues are brought to the fore. Although the film fails to broach the obvious topic of faith and belief systems in the context of the event, it is a well-presented glimpse into the “twilight zone.” It’s a film that would make Rod Serling proud.

I would NOT recommend this film for someone who has recently lost a loved one, or who is still going through the intensely personal grieving process. But for everyone else I would highly recommend it, giving it 4-½ wine bottles out of 5.

Ethereal and even-paced, it’s a thought-provoking film about mourning and attachments. It’s finely acted, and the accompanying documentary on the making of the movie is definitely worth viewing immediately after the feature. The comment made by the director at the end of the documentary poses one more question: What if they never actually did return? What if we just couldn’t let go?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

EC:WC FCA – The Matador

The EC:WC FCA is the East Coast:West Coast Film Critics Association - an exclusive organization consisting of myself on the west coast and one of my older brothers on the east coast. We occasionally commiserate via phone or email regarding the latest film we’ve seen either in the theaters or on DVD. Our recommendation scale is anywhere from 1 to 5 wine bottles. We take our movies as seriously as we take our vino (both of which need to be palatable yet refined, either entertaining whimsy or sparking contemplation, and always requiring a lack of pretension).

Today’s review – of the newly released DVD “The Matador” – is from moi (the West Coast Critic). It’s a strange comedy/thriller that follows the unlikely friendship between two diverse individuals: Danny Wright, and affably average family man, and Julian Noble, an ageing loner assassin.

Julian is played hilariously by Pierce Brosnan who gets the chance to tweak his own nose with a couple subtle jabs at his previous incarnation as James Bond. Mr. Noble is a hired killer who’s beginning to lose his nerve after one too many jobs. Meanwhile, Danny (performed by Greg Kinnear) is in Mexico City on a business trip with his partner to try a close a deal that could make or break his career (and possibly his marriage).

After a successful pitch session a tipsy Danny tries to strike up a conversation with equally tipsy Julian at the hotel bar, and thus is born the beginning of the oddest of “odd couple” friendships. Watching these two characters interact with mutual fascination and indignation is a joy as we observe each struggle through their current crises, and then offer each other support and advice.

Aside from this being a comedy and thriller, this movie is also a fascinating morality tale. It’s not perfectly executed (pardon the pun), but we do witness two men on opposite ends of the moral extremes meeting at crucial moments in their lives. Note: pay close attention to Julian’s tattoos and to his two rings.

This is an R-rated film, due less to violence (with quick cutaways and edits, you never see any of the killings) but due more so to some occasional salty language and a couple brief sex scenes. There’s clever dialogue throughout, and the story is very well constructed by writer/director Richard Shepherd.

I ended up renting this DVD twice, and I still found it fascinatingly funny, with brilliant performances by the two leads (Hope Davis is also wonderful as Danny’s inquisitive wife). The Matador also brings to the fore the consequences of serious choices and actions. Again, the ending doesn’t make it a perfect morality play, but I found it enjoyable enough to give it 4 wine bottles out of 5 (maybe they should be margaritas instead?).

8/7/06 UPDATE: The East Coast critic writes:
I rented the “Matador” over the weekend, but quite frankly, I really didn’t like it that much. It was funny at times, but the vulgar dialogue and lack of sufficient (genuine) moral retrospect by both leads, made it to sour for my taste buds (2 wine bottles out of five).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Two important stories in the news on the Pro-Life issue...

From comes an eye-opening information about the so-called "philanthropic" donation of Warren Buffett's vast fortunes to the Bill Gates Foundation. It doesn't bode well for Pro-Life causes. Read the details here.

Meanwhile, Ted Harvey (the assistant Minority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives) and a brave young woman by the name of Gianna Jessen did something very bold, poignant, and inspirational on the last day of the House's assembly in early May. Read the details here.

Truth hurts... and it can also heal.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Trying a different layout...

... hope you like. Not sure yet if I'll keep it, though.

Is it easy on the eyes? It might need some tweaking with the fonts.

P.S. Go into the June 2006 archives to access the complete 8-part series titled "A Personal Spiritual Journey."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Personal Spiritual Journey (Part 8 of 8)

As I moved through this entire journey – from California, to Philadelphia, to Alabama and back; visiting family and friends, then visiting EWTN and the Shrine – I found myself going through a gradual shift, centered away from self and centered more towards God. It’s not as though I wasn’t already aware of this need, or that I wasn’t already on this path. I was. I guess it just became a little less mentally cluttered and a bit more focused.

There are vocations to the religious life, and there are vocations toward marriage. One day, through God’s providence, I’ll have a family of my own. For I know that the Lord keeps his promises. In the meantime, I remain single. And I begin to realize more fully that that is a vocation, too. I just need to continue to rely on God to lead me in the right direction, as is true for all of us. To help us discern the best use of whatever skills and talents He has given us in order for us to grow in our faith and bring glory and honor to Him.

We must work towards having a discerning mind, an open heart, a sanctified body, and a centered soul. I say a discerning mind meaning one that is set in wisdom, as opposed to a so-called "open mind" which can too easily believe or accept any random whim or fad that happens to sound good at the moment. Having an open heart which allows us to be vulnerable and compassionate, not one that quickly closes to hurt or resentment or indifference. A respect for the body as the temple of the Lord, not one that is treated as an end unto itself. And a soul focused away from self, and centered towards Christ.

That’s a tall order. As for me (being my own worst critic), aside from the Lord Himself, I know better than anyone exactly where I need to continue to make changes, adjustments, and improvements in myself and my outlook on life. And if I'm not aware, I'm sure someone else will be more than obliged to let me know.

St. Francis de Sales wrote in one of his sermons, “We must be very faithful, but without anxiety or eagerness; we must use the means that are given to us according to our vocation, and then remain in peace concerning all the rest.” ~ Lenten Sermons of St. Francis de Sales (pg 120)

It was time to leave Hanceville, and head back to Birmingham. The following morning would begin a return to my home in California. I slowly walked back to my car with the seed of inner peace having been planted. I drove away, passing under the modest archway, down the rural road, past the long winding rows of white fences, and eventually turned south onto the remote county road.

The clouds shifted and began to block the sunny haze. And once again the skies opened to release a wild torrent of rain.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders… The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning… The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.” ~ Psalm 29:3,7,20

I drive past a myriad of trees to the left and to the right, countless trees. And I’m reminded of the early morning sparrows crying out for sustenance, and I heard the owl questioning his purpose, and I heard the woodpecker oblivious to the nails of sin he was hammering into his Savior. I saw the Cross, and Jesus hanging there in his mercy. And I saw the countless crosses that each of humanity bears on its shoulders as we strive to unite ourselves to Christ. And I saw the rain transformed, as tears from Heaven cleansing our souls and washing away our pains.

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” ~ Hebrews 10:22

With yet another rapid shift of the clouds, ever moving eastward, the rain ceased, and the hazy sun reappeared. And I drove passed the deep gorges in the landscape before me. And I’m reminded of the depth of God’s love. On my left I pass a massive wall of rock stretching out from the tree line, solid yet multi-layered granite in a horizontal slate-like formation. And I recall Christ as our “Rock” and our foundation. And the many layers of his grace and mercy

“Banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body.” ~ Ecclesiastes 9:12

Continuing down the road I noticed that water is pouring forth from the rock - gushing not just over the rock but also from within, between the many layers.

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~ John 4:14

“For the Lamb… will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” ~ Revelation 7:17

As I come closer to the Interstate, I reach a clearing in the road. And under the blazing sun I behold the freshly baptized trees shimmering in varied hues of jasper and jade and emerald across the corrugated horizon.

So, what does this whole journey say to me, and also to you? Three things:

1) Regarding the past - forgiveness of self and of others. Seek first the Lord's forgiveness for the mistakes you've made, and as He has forgiven you, so should you forgive others.

2) Regarding the future - release the anxiety about the future, and the eagerness to control it. You can make plans, but don't try to control something that's not yet here and uncontrollable, for you may be blindsided or surprised by unforseen events. So, trust in the Lord.

3) Regarding the present - patience and humility. As Bro. Leo said, "be in the moment." And, as St. Peter (the man whom Our Lord and Savior named as the “Rock” on which to build His Church) gently instructs in his letter to “God’s elect, strangers in the world”:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6-7

So... pray, persevere, be thankful... and turn down the volume of your life so that you're better able to listen to God... so that He is better able to release the seed of inner peace that he's already planted inside of you. Sure, we'll continue to stumble and fall during our journeys. But at least we'll be falling forward.


Source Materials:

Biblical Quotes: the Revised Standard Version – 2nd Catholic Edition and the New International Version

“The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales (for Lent given in 1622)” ~ (TAN Books)

“The Confessions of St. Augustine” ~ (Doubleday Image Books)

Pilgrimage Talk ~ given by Brother Leo, MFVA, at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament (May 17, 2006)

“Come And See: A Pilgrim’s Picture Book of The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament” ~ Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (self-published)

“Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles” ~ by Raymond Arroyo (Doubleday)

Web Link Sources:

Suggested Reading List (by author):

The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi (patron of the Franciscan order – MFVA - at EWTN)

The Writings of St. Clare of Assisi (patroness of the Poor Clare order – PCPA - at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery)

G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man, What’s Wrong With The World, and his biographies on St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thomas Aquinas)

Scott Hahn (Rome Sweet Home, The Lamb’s Supper, Lord Have Mercy, Swear To God, Hail Holy Queen)

Rod Bennett (The Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words)

Patrick Madrid (Surprised By Truth, Pope Fiction)

Rabbi David Dalin (The Myth of Hitler’s Pope)

Norma McCorvey (Won By Love)

Psalm 139


EWTN is available on these channels:

• DishTV - channel 261
• DirectTV - channel 422
• Sirius Satellite Radio – channel 160

(check your local cable and AM/FM radio listings for local stations)

See the Chapel on EWTN with each broadcast of the Daily Mass.

See the Shrine on EWTN's Sunday broadcasts of “Benediction & Devotion” (3pm pacific)

A Personal Spiritual Journey (Part 7 of 8)...

Upon entering through the side door, you are stunned by the awesomeness, the power, the spaciousness, the beauty, the silence, and the peace.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” ~ Psalm 37:7

White marble, precious gold adornments, rare woods, intricately designed stained glass windows, vaulted ceiling. Tall white columns – wide, firm and secure. The floors and wainscot portions of the walls laid with various shades of marble and red jasper (jasper being the first foundation of the New Jerusalem, the City of God in Revelations 21).

Sanctus-Sanctus-Sanctus written in the three steps to the Altar. And on the face of the altar is a detailed mosaic image of a Pelican feeding its young by piercing its own breast and offering its own blood. A symbol of Christ that dates back to the beginnings of Christianity. And I’m reminded of that early morning one week prior, when the sparrows were crying out for nourishment and comfort in the pre-dawn hours. And I’m reminded of my own late night cries for comfort – as a small child for its parent, and even today for my Eternal Parent, my Eternal Father.

The backdrop of the main altar is the ornately-speared Reredos (55’ high at it's highest point - made of rare cedar and shimmering in 24-karat gold-leaf).

The golden Tabernacle in the reredos behind the altar.

And the unmistakable and undeniably impressive Monstrance (nearly 8 foot tall gold and bejeweled). At its center - the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ exposed for perpetual adoration.

“Times must be set and hours must be assigned to provide for our health of soul.” ~ St. Augustine, Confessions: Book 6, Chapter 11.

The resident order of nuns, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, are sectioned off sight unseen behind the reredos (approx. ¼ of the church). Most of them only appearing in public in a section behind a grill to the south of the altar during mass. Otherwise, most of the time they remain cloistered, maintaining adoration of the blessed sacrament, saying the rosary or novenas, singing hymns and chants, going through the liturgy of the hours, doing their daily functions and chores throughout the monastery.

There are 8 Large Stained Glass Windows (four along the north wall, four along the south wall) depicting eight scenes during the life of Christ, again with his Mother present:

- The Annunciation
- The Visitation
- The Adoration of the Magi
- The Hidden Life (depicting Jesus as a young boy with Joseph the Carpenter & Mary, His Mother)
- The Resurrection
- The Ascension
- The Descent of the Hold Spirit
- The Assumption and Coronation of Mary (Revelation 12)

Above these larger stained glass windows, in the second level, are 14 smaller Stained Glass Windows (seven along the north wall and seven along the south wall) representing:

- Each of the Nine Choirs of Angels (as enumerated in the Bible)
- The three archangels mentioned in the Bible by name: Michael, Gabriel & Rafael
- The Angel of the Apocalypse (mentioned in the Book of Revelation)
- And a Guardian Angel (representing the legion of these angels who’re charged
with watching over, guiding, comforting & protecting each one of us, individually)

And the angels in these windows were designed so that each one (depending on where it was placed along the walls) is facing towards the Real Presence of Christ in the Monstrance and Tabernacle.

Above the west wall in the back of the church is what is called the West Rose Window (depicting God the Father) and above the east wall behind the altar is the East Rose Window (depicting the Holy Spirit in the image of a dove).

Behind the reredos, the Poor Clare nuns begin reciting The Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel, and their angelic voices rise above and float ethereally in this shrine to our Lord and our God.

After trying to absorb and comprehend all of this breathtaking beauty, I am silenced like Zachariah. No. More accurately, I’m silenced like Job, who after reciting his litany of complaints (valid as they might be) and receiving weak excuses and poor advice from his friends (as well intentioned as they were), is suddenly questioned by the Almighty Lord, saying - “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the universe?”

“For He Himself is our peace.” ~ Ephesians 2:14

Upon leaving the church, I (as several others also do) I take the time to write down a note for special intentions and deposit it in the prayer box on the way out the door, ensuring that the nuns and friars here at this blessed place will offer their own fervent prayers. And all one can do is meditate on the experience as you quietly stroll the grounds amongst the deafening silence.

Now, this whole monastery was inspired by a trip Mother Angelica made to South America in preparations for starting a Spanish language television network for Latin America. While on a pilgrimage in Bogotá, Colombia, she went to the Sanctuary of the Divine Infant Jesus (founded nearly a century earlier by a Father John Rizzo – the same name as her own father). She was praying while staring at the beautiful statue of the Child Jesus there, when suddenly she saw the Child Jesus turn towards her and say, “Build me a Temple and I will help those who help you.” As soon as she returned to America, she began making plans to find a location and build this Shrine and monastery.

And what is even more amazing about this entire sacred, inspired and inspiring place named The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery is this important fact – (quoting Mother Angelica in her introduction to “Come and See: A Pilgrim’s Picture Book of The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament”):

“We had no money to build, but we never tried to raise funds, and EWTN had no participation in paying for any part of the Temple. This was totally a project of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery… The entire edifice – Church, Piazza, Monastery, Enclosure Walls, roads – everything was paid for by [just] five families who wanted their donations to remain anonymous.” ~ Mother Angelica


Monday, June 19, 2006

A Personal Spiritual Journey (Part 6 of 8)...

Upon entering the Lower Church you are faced with massively thick white marble columns, supporting a low ceiling, and along the back wall are the crypts for those cloistered nuns who eventually pass from this life and enter the glory of Heaven. Only two or three of the order have been laid to rest at this point in time.

Brother Leo (one of the Franciscan brothers) was asked on a moments’ notice to fill in for another brother to give a talk to a group of people on their pilgrimage retreat. These talks are open to anyone who enters the church and are not exclusive to the small groups attending. And in his half-impromptu/half-prepared presentation, Brother Leo said some profound things.

He started off with a whimsical hypothesis of what Heaven must be like. Or more specifically, what would we be like in Heaven. He gleaned from scripture the images of Jesus after his resurrection. He was able to suddenly appear to His disciples who were cowering in a locked room, so we may be able to walk through walls. Jesus ate fish with His disciples, so we may be able to eat as well. We would be able to move at the speed of thought, at one moment being in one place, then immediately appearing somewhere else far away. In considering the transfigured body of Christ, we would be filled with bright white light. And, of course, as scripture states, “[there will be] no more pain, or tears, or suffering, or death.” (Revelation 21:4)

St. Francis de Sales, in his Lenten Sermons, comments further that we will be able to “see, hear, consider, [and] understand more perfectly” when we reach the glory of Heaven. That we will be able to recognize those whom we’ve never met while here in this life, and that we will “know each other by name.” That our level of awareness and the “power” and “harmony of [our] actions [will be] perfected with divine consolation.”

“All is perfected and brought to perfection in the eternal beatitude of Heaven.” ~ Lenten Sermons of St. Francis de Sales (pgs 54, 57)

But, until then, we are left on this earth - where we tend to strangle ourselves with countless anxieties. Then Bro. Leo quoted the passage from Matthew that I read earlier in which Jesus says to “not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… [and] therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Brother Leo went on to say, “The more you complain, the more you need to thank God for all of the little things.” That “everything you have is a gift from God.” Your eyes, your hands, your ears, yourself, your life, your family, your job, everything. Even your pains and disappointments.

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.” ~ Psalm 3:5

Bro. Leo continued, “The past is gone… The future is not yet here... You only have the present… Be in the moment.” For there is “a reason for being where you are at, whether [that reason is] for you, or for someone else.”

How quickly we complain about a certain trial someone may be going through, or shake our heads at some injustice witnessed from a distance, or rationalize an abomination all in the name of convenience. Or we cry out to God wondering why we’re continuing to go through whatever trial we’re facing at the moment. And, in doing so, we blind ourselves to the possibility that through our own struggles someone else may finally open themselves up to God’s grace. Or when we witness someone elses struggles we obscure ourselves from the very parts of our own nature God is wanting us to confront and challenge and change.

Bro. Leo instructs, “Humble yourself.” And “think of Jesus as a good friend.” And your house as your heart. Brother Leo relayed the imagery of Jesus standing at a door, and the handle to that door is only on your side. So waits for you to open the door to your heart and to be invited in. And, even when you do let Him in, Jesus (like any gracious guest) “will only go into the rooms of your house in which you invite Him.”

Will you invite Him into your living room where the TV is? Your kitchen & dining room where you prepare and eat your meals? Your bedroom? Your telephone? Your computer? Your basement or attic? Your closets? And, of course, we have many closets, don’t we?

Brother Leo continued, “A person wounded is afraid to love. Afraid to be wounded again.” And it’s that person who needs to learn to forgive. “The things we bury inside and don’t want to talk about are the areas where Jesus wants to enter, and to heal, and to comfort.” It pleases Him “when you seek forgiveness” from Him, as well as when you yourself forgive others. “Pray for the person who did you harm, and pray for yourself to be able to forgive.” And pray to be forgiven yourself.

And then Brother Leo said this: “There is joy in the midst of suffering.” When you are in pain, suffering, anxious or depressed… it is then that Jesus is closest to you. It is at that moment that "Jesus is kissing you." And you may ask, “How could that be? My wife is seriously ill. My husband has left me. My child was killed in the prime of his life. I’m struggling to pay the bills. I’m overwhelmed with my job. I’ve been betrayed. I’m so lonely. I’m depressed and filled with despair. How could it be that Jesus is kissing me when it hurts so much?”

The reason why it hurts so much is because at those moments “Jesus is kissing you while still wearing His crown of thorns.” And I think back to the display just outside the door to the lower church. And the gnarled and twisted crown of shockingly thick yet needle-sharp finger-length thorns. And the wounds of suffering He endured for all of humanity.

And an image flashed in my mind of Jesus carrying the cross on His back. And that wooden cross was me. That very cross onto which He was nailed… was me… and you… and you… and you. Christ nailed with spikes onto the tree of our sins. And we are intimately and permanently embraced by his love and grace and mercy in His suffering and death.

Brother Leo said, “Unite you pains to the cross. Unify yourself to Jesus. Purify your life. [And] Grow in holiness.”

“In becoming man, He has taken our likeness and given us His.” ~ Lenten Sermons of St. Francis de Sales (pg 91)

Brother Leo ended his talk with these words: “Your Guardian Angels are protecting you, even if you don’t know it.”

“Some have entertained angels unawares.” ~ Hebrews 13:2

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” ~ Psalm 91:11

In speaking on when we reach Heaven, St. Francis de Sales said, “There our good angels will give us greater joy than we can imagine when we recognize them and they speak to us so lovingly of the care they had for our salvation during our mortal life.”

After taking some time to ponder and reflect on Bro. Leo’s comments, I and the others on pilgrimage began to make our way up to the Main Church.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Personal Spiritual Journey (Part 5 of 8)...

The following morning I drove up the Interstate to Hanceville and The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, located in a remote section of the state. Once I got off the main highway, I began to travel down rural roads and county routes, passing fields with cows & horse ranches, the occasional home (some new, some old, some buildings being dilapidated barns). The remoteness and the richness of the greenery begins to prepare me as I make a final turn down a long yet simple stretch of roadway.

Horses grazing in the distance. White fences lining the road, leading toward the Shrine ahead. And I’m struck by the shear expanse in front of me as I crest the last hill. 380 acres of isolated farmland - 19 acres of which are behind the Monastery, sectioned off by a wall for the cloistered nuns in residence.

It’s mid-morning on a Wednesday. I park the rental car in the lot (which is purposely some distance away from the Shrine), and gradually make my way past two monuments of “The 10 Commandments” and “The Beatitudes,” behind which is a copper sculpture of Mary the Mother of God, gleaming in a polished green patina.

Then, some distance further ahead, is the wide Piazza paved in a herringbone pattern. Used for outdoor processions, and can hold up to 30,000 people. The Church at the far eastern end of the expanse.

At the west end of the piazza is Castle San Miguel - the gift shop and conference room facilities, built in a 13th century architectural design. Inside, by the east and west entrances, are tall statues of St. Michael the Archangel and St. Joan of Arc. Also in the foyer, just outside the gift shop entrance, are various tapestries, medieval manuscripts, and full-sized suits of armor (calling to mind the spiritual armor of God as enunciated in the books of Isaiah and Ephesians).

Just outside Castle San Miguel, towards the south, is a modest doorway leading into a mound in the field. Inside is the Crèche - an approx. ½-scale Nativity Scene open year-round for contemplation of the birth of Christ. A modest chapel-like setting with six small pews in front of the glass-enclosed scene. A large stone slab floor, with adobe-like walls and low ceiling. Two opposing stained glass windows with flickering wall lamps beside. Holy Water founts in the corners. And in front of the Nativity Scene is a kneeler and two banks of offertory candles to be lit by those who come with prayers and special intentions. Sacred Music gently plays from a hidden speaker system.

Back towards the piazza, in the center is the El Nino sculpture (the Monument of the Divine Child Jesus). Engraved in the steps leading up to it is a quote from Isaiah 11:6 “and a little Child shall lead them.” Behind this scuplture is the front of the church with a Romanesque/Gothic façade, and off to the side towards the back is the Bell Tower.

Atop the church you’ll notice a cross with its top piece missing. It was not like that originally. A severe storm damaged and sheared off the upper portion of that cross. But Mother Angelica chose not to have it repaired. The Tau Cross (tau is Greek for the letter “T”) was preferred by St. Francis of Assisi, using it as the signature of his writing. And being that EWTN and the monastery houses the Franciscans and the Poor Clares (St. Clare also being from Assisi), they decided to keep the damaged cross as it is.

Above the doors are the Three Rosettes (or seals). One with the Greek letter Alpha, another with the Greek letter Omega, and center one with a Latin inscription which says, “Let us adore for all Eternity the Most Blessed Sacrament!”

Leading up to the front of the church are The Seven Steps (symbolic of the seven days of creation, the seven sacraments, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit).

These steps lead you up to the two huge central doors called the Great Doors, made of bronze (adorned in great detail with the images of the Seven Joys of Mary on the left, and the Seven Sorrows of Mary on the right) reminding you that his Mother was there at every moment of our Lord’s life (from His conception to His ascension):

The Seven Joys
- The Annunciation
- The Visitation
- The Nativity
- The Adoration of the Magi
- The Finding of [the young] Jesus in the Temple
- The Rejoice of the Resurrection
- The Assumption & Coronation (Revelations 12)

The Seven Sorrows
- The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
- The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18)
- The Loss of [the young] Jesus in the Temple
- Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary
- Jesus Dies on the Cross
- Jesus Taken Down from the Cross
- Jesus Laid in the Tomb

On either side of these main doors are the two bronze Minor Doors (topped with the images of the two patrons of the resident orders - Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi).

I entered the building through a side door to the left, and headed down a long hallway towards the staircase to the Lower Church. In the antechamber of the Lower Church is a full-sized photographic replica of the Shroud of Turin, in tall vertical backlit display cases. Both the front and the back, side by side. And the full-sized photographic negatives against opposing walls. Even though it’s a photographic copy, it’s a rare opportunity to see this cloth up close and personal. [more Shroud links here]

Even after the suspect carbon dating that was done on the Shroud some years ago, more scientific data accumulates (from the weave of the fabric, to the types of pollen found on the cloth, to the scientific discrepancies with the carbon dating process that was used). And its authenticity becomes less and less suspect. The Shroud has never been a required article of faith (literally or figuratively) within the Catholic Church, but its beauty as well as its mystery continues to inspire, and summons reverence. Witnessing the extent and severity of the wounds as it is faintly depicted on the cloth is breathtaking.

And between these displays are replicas of the types of implements used at the time of Christ to flog, torture and crucify our Lord - including an arm-length sized whip with small dumbbell-shaped weights at the ends of the lashes, the large crucifying nails, and a crown of thorns.