06 September 2011

Liturgy of the Hours: I'm a believer

I do not pray the Liturgy of the Hours regularly yet, but I'm doing better than I ever did before.

Christian Prayer, the shorter one-volume version, is harder for me to use, for some reason.  The full four-volume set is easier.

Some time ago I purchased Universalis, the iPhone/iPad app for the Liturgy of the Hours.  It was a great way to get to know what it's like to use the LotH and determine whether or not the full set would be a good purchase for me.

Even though I only do one or two hours a day at most, the blessings are already there.

For many months I've been suffering from a kind of spiritual fog.  I was going to write darkness, but it wasn't that severe, thank God.  There have been some worries.  A family business in distress, and management changes at my job that left me feeling really down.  Oh, and the economy and whatnot. :P

But then I started with the LotH.

There is structure.  One knows what one's going to be doing in a given hour.  It is predictable; routine.

I watch my beloved husband with his twin grandchildren, and I have learned a great deal.  (I never had children of my own.)  My husband's daughter, the twins' mother, started them on day one with a solid, consistent routine.  It adapts as they grow older, but every day still has predictable times of sleep, food, and play.

Growing up, I did not have much routine in my life from my teens on.  Slowly my dear one has been establishing the same kind of routines in our life together.  Slowly I am relaxing into days without shocks or terror.  I can look forward with reasonable certainty to times in our day when we share food, rest or read, and sleep.  Every day it happens just the same.  Boring?  Nope.  Reassuring.

God is our Father.  The routine of the liturgy of the hours is reassuring in the same way as the routine of home.

There is variety.  Each day one perhaps has a memorial to observe, or a feast day.  Even if one is doing the Ordinary, each day has different psalms, readings, etc.

There is little novelty.  In LotH we are praying with the ancient psalms, repeating the prayers of ancestors in faith from millennia ago.  They experienced life as did.  My problems and worries do not recede, but I see them in context.  And, through it all, we are praying to God, invoking His presence, humbly begging for His love and grace.

Today I had to do a software rollout for a very large group of meticulous and hurried people, and I've been dreading it to the point of frenzy for weeks now.  At some point over the weekend, in Morning Prayer, a little light went on in my soul.  I saw the rollout in its true perspective and realized that, with the safeguards we have in place, there is an acceptable level of risk.  How did I not know that?

I'm a devotée of the Liturgy of the Hours.

28 August 2011

Liturgy of the Hours

Finally - finally - ordered these books.  For so many years there just wasn't the money for that kind of thing.  Now that there is, I continued to dither about my identification.  Finally got the push I needed - separate story - and went ahead and ordered the set.

I got the ones in large type, and they're beautiful.  I had used Christian Prayer before, and have the Universalis app, so wasn't too lost in my first attempts. 

I like the structure of the Office, the immersion in Scripture, and the Office of Readings.  How fortunate we are to have such resources!

"White Collar" was really dumb tonight

The Spouse and I watch a few of the USA Network shows with great enjoyment, including White Collar.  However, tonight the premise was that a computer break-in had taken place at a bank.  The writers clearly were either very old, or young people who had no clue how to get any information.  The terminology was wrong, the idea impossible, and they even had one of the agents put a USB stick received from the bad guy into a networked FBI computer, with predictable results.  It was just stupid, all the way through.  They're usually not anywhere near that clueless... in fact, I wouldn't expect any show these days to not at least try to put together a plausible situation.  Makes one wonder if there was no one to vet the script, or if those writers - who all use computers, one can hope - are really that ignorant of how they work.

10 August 2011

Service dogs in the courtroom

This story has been making the rounds lately.  (I'm linking to the Hot Air mention.)  The comments are interesting:  many in favor of the dog, few against.  One clueless individual suggested keeping the dog in another room during testimony.  Yeah, that'll help.

One of the objections is that the dog in question is a Golden Retriever, generally recognized as a non-threatening, cuddly breed.  I can see how people might think it prejudicial to have a dog associated with kindness and sweetness on the stand.  Someone suggested using a pit bull.  However, I would suggest a German Shepherd Dog, or a Belgian Sheepdog.

We are talking appearance and reputation here, not fact.  The fact is, there are Goldens that will scare the bejeezus out of intruders.  Another fact is that, to the family they serve, the big shepherd dogs should always be genial and cozy companions.  But to the outside world - in the context of court, where one is testifying - if you are looking for a less warm-and-fuzzy effect, a big, well-trained German Shepherd dog will fit the bill nicely.  Few in the jury box will perceive the dog to be "cuddly."  The witness needing support and comfort will have it (most German Shepherd Dogs are fond of leaning against their trusted human companions in a confidential, friendly way), along with the confidence that the accused would have to go literally through the dog to touch her.  For extra effect, put a bullet-proof vest on the dog.  There.  No more warm and fuzzies, except for the witness, who may be able to articulate what she could not otherwise.

One commenter in the link above did note that a dog is far better than a human supporter on the witness stand, because a dog cannot influence the witness to say one thing or another.

If it is a situation where you need the witness to feel safe enough to speak without human interference, if the dog will enable the testimony, then allow the dog.

11 May 2011

Texas and big

Texas really is bigger than life in many ways.  Just this afternoon I sat working as lightning flashed and thunder rolled by and rattled the windows.  In California this would have been a reason to cut in on regular programming and deploy teams of reporters.  In Texas?  Not so much.  The weather radio treebles and squawks only when the winds are so high that there is danger of a tornado.  Otherwise it's just noisy rain.

However, our recent wildfires didn't impress the Administration (over 3400 square miles, or roughly seven times the size of Los Angeles, 50 times the size of DC, and three times the land area of Rhode Island, as Ed Morrissey pointed out this week on Hot Air).

As it happens, Texas has its own employment gravitational field, as its business-friendly policies bring more and more companies in.  You can't throw a rock without hitting a church.  It is quite common for the citizenry to be saved the cost of a trial through accurate and effective self-defense against assailants and robbers.  The city is quite diverse.  Delicious food.  Friendly people who seem to not think they are more important than you.

I like it here.

05 May 2011

About a dog

There's been some notice taken of the dogs that work with SEALs and others on combat duty.  The dogs that can fight are usually Belgian Malinois or German Shepherds.

OK, here's the deal on the Belgian sheep dogs.  Three varieties:  Gronendael (black hair), Tervuren (straight brown/black hair), and Malinois (short tan hair).  Same dog underneath.  I adopted a Belgian Tervuren mix 10 years ago. 

I trained him with Jan Fennell's 'Amichien' technique. He was a working dog for me, a companion for long midnight walks in neighborhoods where the threat was mainly from coyotes or bobcats.

These dogs are not for everyone. They need not just a job, but a career.  They are problem-solvers. When properly trained they are fearsome, able to focus in even chaotic situations, and worth enough in utility alone to justify their expensive armor.

Mine became an intuitive, attentive guardian companion who earned many, many compliments through the years for his handsome appearance and reliably impeccable manners in all sorts of situations. He was trained to gestures as well as sounds and words. His pre-adoption life had left him fearful and ignorant of home life, but with consistent training he gained poise and courage. His accomplishments were no less valuable or impressive to my family and me than those of the trained war-dogs.

I speak of him in past tense, but he's still alive, just very old and tottery.  Through the grace of God, when I left California behind, the woman who bought my house fell in love with my gentle friend, after he went up to her and leaned confidentially against her and put up his head for a pat.  It was as though he knew she would be his new leader.  Because he is nearly blind and going deaf and unsteady on his feet at times, it was wonderful to know he would be in the same house where he'd always lived, no steps, instead of in a place with steep stairs and harsh weather.  If I didn't know the two of them were going along together - he still doing his job to the best of his ability, watching the house and her - I would grieve for him terribly.  But I've been back to visit a couple of times, and he's happy with her.  She says extravagant things to him and rubs his belly and he loves it in ordinately.

He will break our hearts one day, unable to keep on going.  I hope for her sake and mine he just drops dead, or is found in the middle of a nap with no end.

I always felt like I was getting away with something, having this beautiful, intelligent being in my life when he could just as easily done all kinds of valuable work elsewhere.  How God has blessed me.

02 May 2011

John Paul II

As I read about the beatification in Rome, I think:  this is a very powerful saint.  Not only did he do amazing things for God during his journey through this vale of tears, he is still working for us in heaven.

I want to dig out the enormous New American Bible my mom got for me the year I was received into the Church.  Its language is beautiful, it was beautifully printed, and it contained an excellent dictionary/ cyclopedia in the back.  For some reason the Church didn't carry through on that, and the U.S. wing of the church continues to munge the NAB into stilted, deconstructed incomprehensibility.

But John Paul II was one of the great proponents of the vision of the Vatican II council.  He was a great man, only because he lived for the Lord.  Benedict XVI is another one of those.  They stand for the truth, in the face of a world yowling for anything but.  There were moments of beauty in the Vatican II council spirit, the idea of renewal without loss.  There were those who leveraged it for their own purposes.  They, and their self-referent ideas, are dying out.  But Jesus Christ still lives.

Jesus Christ still lives.

30 January 2011

Sunday morning reflections about music

As it happens, I am spending this beautiful morning in a location of studied luxury and comfort.  The room is really heavenly:  views out of three windows comprising mountains and city lights in panorama; exquisitely comfortable bed, unobtrusive yet effective temperature control, a bathroom which is a wonderful retreat in and of itself.  A savory breakfast brought up very early, consumed at leisure whilst perusing the newspapers.  And, through it all, the classical station played on the radio.

This classical station was playing when I checked in yesterday, and made me instantly feel at home.  It would make sense to have classical music in such a place of comfort.

This morning, the station is presenting a series of exquisitely beautiful sacred selections, including, of course, masses.

I note that I, a lapsed RC, am sipping tea and thanking God and meditating on His goodness (and would be doing those latter two, I trust, even if I were in a cardboard box under a freeway), and my thoughts of Him are enhanced and encouraged by the beautiful, beautiful music playing quietly on the radio.

Thousands of RCs more faithful than I - but nowhere near as many as there might be - will be exposed this morning to another kind of music.

I don't think it is unexpected for me to say that, if such music were presented right now on the station on the radio to which I'm listening, in this comfortable room on this lovely morning, I would leap up and turn it off in horror, as if it had suddenly emitted a burst of harsh static garble.

In surroundings of beauty and comfort and, yes, comfortable wealth, this beautiful music is offered on a Sunday morning.

There was a time when church was seen as a place of great beauty and decorum.  The world was, and is, harsh; serenity and peace are epitomized by the quiet reception of beauty in sound, visual arts, words, actions.

To say that the music of chant is not conducive to worship is like the kind of mislogic that labels abortion as "family planning."  White is black, evil is good, down is up.

God is still in control.  Whether or not He's wanted, or trusted, doesn't matter.  It's still His creation.  He exists whether you believe in Him or not.  In my experience, it is easier to humbly acknowledge His power and thank Him from the bottom of your heart, than to try to make your own way without His help and loving support... and I have tried it both ways.

06 January 2011

Bearing fruit

I had a lovely childhood.  No, really.  I was an only child of intelligent, cosmopolitan parents who shared a strong love of home and the simple but good things of life.

Things changed, as things do.  My father achieved a certain level of management which allowed him to feel it was time to move to a larger house.  We went from a comfortable, sweet two-bedroom (plus one for the staff) in the foothills to a four bedroom (plus five for the staff) in a very posh part of town.  That was depressing enough, but more than that was changing.  On the television, for example:  instead of entertainment based on talent, it became based on shock and lewd behavior.  Example:  Ed Sullivan and the Beatles (and others).  Laugh-In.  Etc.

There started to be a brittleness about the way women dressed and behaved, and a kind of poverty in architecture and furnishings as streamlining gave way to a kind of arch simplicity.  Women's brassiere cups were pointed, their hair was teased, and fashionable dresses were sheaths.  Just about everybody smoked, and those who could afford it drank regularly.  It was in that milieu that Hugh Hefner established the Playboy lifestyle.

One of the key drivers of the new louche way of living was the Pill.  Chemical contraception would free women (read:  men) from the fear of pregnancy.  If there was no danger of pregnancy, then why wait to be married before having sex?

It was supposed to be wonderful, a new and free way to live without the burden of the consequences of sex hanging over the proceedings.  Feminism told women to be assertive, independent, attentive to self instead of to others.  Somewhere along the line, the freedom from men's oppression was interpreted to mean that women should be able to be as raunchy and uncontrolled about their sex lives as the worst of men had always been.

So, let's review:  in the 60s, certain women - "feminists" - told themselves and whoever'd listen that men were keeping them as practically concubines, imprisoned in their houses with nothing to do but watch the children and clean, etc., so they "liberated" women to, eventually, become as freewheeling as the unmarried men.

Fast forward to now.  Remember Hugh Hefner?  There was a time in the late 70s when his "bunnies" were looked upon with contempt by feminists, before women decided that it was "liberating" to be sexually "free."

Here is what it's like to live the life of freedom in the Playboy mansion today.

The "freedom" that started all this was the prevention of pregnancy.  How many of those young women would prefer to have a loving husband and a family?  How many of them haven't even thought of it?  After all, the free women are the ones who own their sexuality, right?

I would suggest that true happiness lies in a different direction:  that of knowing what a treasure one's sexuality really is, and using it to forge, and maintain, a lifelong bond with a dear husband.  That means sharing one's sexuality appropriately, both with the husband and with the children, by modeling the feminine role in the way appropriate to each one's place in the family.  I suggest, only.  YMMV.

But I do know this:  for too long it has been thought "daring" and "brave" to jump into bed with someone you don't really know and with whom you have no intention of having a lifelong relationship.  It isn't daring.  Daring is getting to know a man really well before exchanging vows, and exchanging vows before going to bed with him.  That's really brave.  If you want to be downright reckless, be open to new life from the very first night.  The interesting thing is, those encounters between two people, who took the time and care to get to know and love one another well enough that they were ready to marry beforehand, can be inexpressibly sweet and fun and relaxed, in a way that a "free" relationship can never be.

01 January 2011

Fr. Z meditates on the meaning of Epiphany

I often want to write effectively on how today's love of ugliness and noise is preventing us from seeing God, Truth, but I guess I'm too close to it.  My scribbles always devolve into incoherent growls.

Fr. Z has provided an excellent meditation on the topic.  ("We need beauty now as well.")  I strongly recommend you drop over there and read the whole thing.

The Catholic Church used to be (and often still is, fortunately) famous for the exquisite art in her churches. However, there is the home environment to consider, as well.

My mother had a strong sense of art and design, and she was partial to Mission Renaissance kinds of things.  When she and my father bought the house in which I was to grow up, she got a wholesale license, and went prowling around estate sales and warehouses, looking for the kinds of things that would express her vision of a well-appointed house behind the white plaster walls and under the red tile roof.

As a result, I grew up around big pieces of elaborately carved furniture:  Savonarola chairs, side tables adorned with designs and figures, and a striking piece constructed of two white Carrera marble pillars which were busts of jaguars, I guess - beautiful, and exactly alike - on which rested a massive plinth of marble, deep emerald green and heavily, well, marbled.  On one top shelf was a lovely head-and-shoulders bust of a young noblewoman.  I know of one other which was advertised by an auction; that one was clothed in a blue dress, but ours was red and gold.  I can't readily find an image like it, but this painting is similar.

Over the fireplace was hung a large oil painting of our Lord, sitting with a scarlet red cloak arranged around him, a rod held loosely in his hand, a red gash in his side (but not bleeding), and his brown hair parted in the middle and falling down to his shoulders in gentle waves.  The expression on his beautiful face was solemn, sad, and yet gentle.  Completely Italian.  It looked like a holy card, but it was probably three feet high and almost three feet across when you counted the extremely ornate gilt frame.  It wasn't rare, or particularly good, and the canvas was - is (my sister has it now) thin enough to see through in spots.

Of course as a child I was told that it was Jesus, but there wasn't a lot of explanation that went along with that.  It wasn't until I was a convert that I was able to look at it knowingly and appreciatively as an image showing a deep respect and affection for our Lord.  Never mind that it confused the incidents of Jesus' Passion - he was dressed in the cloak by Herod's soldiers after the scourging, and the gash in his side came from the soldier's lance after He was crucified.  That didn't matter.  It was our Lord, and the expression on His face seemed to be of Him meditating on the souls who needed His self-sacrifice, even if they didn't know it.

That image of Jesus watched over every Christmas celebration, cocktail party, and piano lesson that happened in that living room.  It is now stored in my sister's house.  I couldn't bring it with me to my new home, a two-bedroom apartment with limited wall space.  But it stays in my mind, of course.

At Christmas, the wood of the elaborately carved furniture glowed with polish.  The little creche with its figures and real straw was on the octagonal table on the carved base (which I did bring with me, and which is in the corner across from me as I type).  I was allowed to play carefully with the papier-mache, hand-painted figures, which included Joseph and Mary, three wise men which included the most exotic looking Ethiopian figure, a couple of sheep, a cow, and an angel hanging above.  Mary's cloak and the angel's dress were of the same pale teal-grey blue.  The faces of Joseph, Mary and the Child on his bed of straw were all beautifully painted, and conveyed the appropriate care and love (Mary and Joseph) and intelligent look of knowing, in spite of being just a bambino (Jesus).  I spent hours with those figurines at Christmastime.  I suppose I meditated for the first time, learning as I did about the Holy Family through carols and stories.  The only time I went to church was at Easter, when we went to Mass at a nearby Mission; it was Latin, incense, lots of people, and paintings that looked a lot like the one hanging on the wall at home.

The living room was devoid of any artificial noise or entertainment except for music, which was supplied from a high-fidelity set secreted in a closet behind the piano.  As an only child, when I was by myself, it was almost always in silence.  I wasn't aware of that.  My head was full of stories, thoughts, or music.  I never felt alone in the time I spent in that room.  Over the mantel was a picture of One whose love was obvious from the expression on His face, God's Son.  I didn't know much about theology.  I just knew I wasn't alone.

Without much overt teaching, my soul was prepared to be Roman Catholic.  In time, I realized the truth of the Church and learned about her history.  I was enlightened.  It was, in truth, epiphany.