Everything You Wanted to Know about the Banner

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. What do these mysterious attributes have to do with this blog, or with your humble blogger? Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, that message is all spelled out for you in the new YIMCatholic banner image you see above. [Read more...]

Jackson Pollock Meets Christ?

Something like that. Have a look at what follows. It’s where modern art meets the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Are any of these artists Catholics? I have no idea, but I do know that these inspired men produce works that well over with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  [Read more...]

Gone Readin’ Helena by Evelyn Waugh

Why haven’t I been posting much lately? You can blame Fr. Steve Grunow, who suggested the book you see above to me a few days ago. I’ve never read anything by Evelyn Waugh, and I’m not ashamed to say that for most of my life I figured Evelyn was a lady, and I wasn’t much interested in what she had to say.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve got me a college degree and all, and after I became a Catholic and snooped around a bit I learned that Evelyn was a man, a Catholic, and he wrote some great novels that were turned into classics for Masterpiece Theater. Still, I was about as excited to read anything written by him as I was interested in say…watching paint dry, or grass grow. Yawn.

But then I found that neat book about the True Cross by Louis de Combes, and Fr. Steve suggested Waugh’s book. I checked the catalog at the library, noted a copy was on the shelf, and I strolled over there and picked it up pronto. I haven’t been able to put it down since. Here’s a taste:

“Chlorus, is it true what they are saying in Ratisbon: that you are going to be Caesar?”

“Who say that?”

“The governor’s wife, the widow of the banker, all the ladies.”

“It may be true. Aurelian and I have spoken of it before. After the battle, he spoke of it again. He has to go to Syria now, to tidy up trouble there. After that he will return to Rome for his triumph. Then we shall see.”

“Do you want it?”

“It’s not what I want, ostler; it’s what Aurelian wants that counts, he and the army and the empire. It is nothing to be shy of, just another, larger command—Gaul, the Rhine, Britain, possibly Spain. The empire’s too big for one man; that’s been proved. And we need a secure succession, a second-in-command who’s been trained to the job, knows the ropes, can step in straight away when the command falls vacant; not leave each army to declare for its own general and fight it out as they’ve done lately. Aurelian is going to talk to the senators about it when we go to Rome.”

See? Clear thinking like that is what I was just talking about a few days back. And does everything go according to plan? As if!

I’m not going to tell you anything more about the book but this: Helena has just embarked on her quest to find the True Cross and you can forget about me posting anything remotely intelligible until I finish this book. Color me gone!

For the Earth and Its Fullness…UPDATED!

I have no idea what kind of bird this is, where it is from, or who shot the photograph. I’d love to give credit for all three. But I do know Who created the bird. What a magnificent Artist!

The tree which thou sawest which was high and strong, whose height reached to the skies, and the sight thereof into all the earth: And the branches thereof were most beautiful, and its fruit exceeding much, and in it was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and the birds of the air had their abode in its branches.

It is thou, O king, who art grown great and become mighty: for thy greatness hath grown, and hath reached to heaven, and thy power unto the ends of the earth. (Daniel 4:20-22)

Which brings to mind this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians,

For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist.

And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy. Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.

Thanks be to God.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Ramona, the bird has been identifed (and the photographer as well)! That is a Fomosan Blue Magpie (Urocissa caerulea), in Taiwan, photographed by John Fish. A Bravo Zulu for Ramona, and a link to her blog.

The Rainbow (A Few Words For Wednesday)

A wiser man than I once said,

When, indeed, the artist desires to teach us a great spiritual truth, he invariably expresses it under the form of an allegory or symbol. For the soul dreams ‘neath the star-sown sky of symbol. It is spiritually its lisping language—the divine form of its expression.

…Yes, verily, the true gods do sigh for the cost and pain in making a poet out of a man. He shall henceforth see all things not through a colored glass, darkly, but with that inner eye, which, to the material and gross is sealed, but which is full of vision to the inspired and chosen few. His soul henceforth shall be in touch with both the lowly and Divine, for the function and office of poetry is to interpret unto man the glory of God in the universe.

The words above are those of a man of letters, a teacher, a poet, a Canadian, and a Catholic. His name is Thomas O’Hagan, Ph.D., the son of Irish immigrants. His biography reads as follows,

The youngest son of John and Bridget (O’Reilly) O’Hagan, natives of County Kerry, Ireland, was born in ‘the Gore of Toronto,’ on the 6th of March, 1855, and was a babe in arms, when his parents, three brothers, a sister and himself, moved into the wilderness of the county of Bruce, Ontario. They located in the township of Elderslie, three miles from the village of Paisley. The other settlers were mostly Highland Scotch, and Thomas as a lad learned to speak quite fluently not only the Gaelic tongue of his neighbours, but also the Keltic Irish, which was spoken freely by his parents. He attended the public school of the settlement where the teachers were Scotch, and where he applied himself with such diligence and ability that he won a Second Class Teacher’s Certificate at the early age of sixteen

Few Canadians have devoted so much time to academic study as Dr. O’Hagan. After graduating from St. Michael’s College, a prize winner in Latin and English, he entered the Ottawa University and graduated B.A., in 1882, with honours in English, Latin, French and German. Three years later the same University conferred on him the degree of M.A. In 1889, he received the degree of Ph.D. from Syracuse University: and in subsequent years took postgraduate work at Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Louvain, Grenoble and Fribourg Universities. In September, 1914, Laval University, Montreal, conferred on him the honorary degree of Litt.D.

What tipped me off to him was a slim volume I had added to the Bookshelf over yonder (see right sidebar) a while back. Entitled, Essays on Catholic Life, I perused it anew in search of a poem. In it I found the thoughts that began this post, as O’Hagen presented poems of Tennyson, Browning, and Elizabeth Barret Browning in an essay on The Office and Function of Poetry. Go check it out.

But I also found some of his own poetry and you can now find a number of his books on the handy, dandy, YIMCatholic Bookshelf, you know, over yonder. I’ll share this short poem he wrote because this has become an altogether too long, and probably the longest post, that has ever run under the title “A Few Words for Wednesday.”

The Rainbow
A covenant of the peace that reigns
Between two great strong lands,
Whose glorious heritage of worth
Is gift of God—not hands;
Where Truth and Honor have a home
An altar bright and fair—
Pure as the lily of the field,
Wrapt in deep slumb’rous air.
O beauteous arch of faith and love!
Shine through the mists of life,
And fill our dreams of toil and care
With gift of prayer—not strife;
Light with thy beams our darkest days,
Rain down in mystic love
The joyance of the star-clad hours
That fills each life above.
Link with a bond of sweetest joy,
In memory fair as thine,
The hearts that plan, the souls that pray,
Within Loretto’s shrine,
That in the blossoming years afar
May shine out nobly good
The virtues of that Convent home
Where dwells true Womanhood.

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow Poland
Photo Credit: Sonia Marcus

Thoughts On New Media And Evangelization

I’m not a “new media” expert.
But to me,
“New Media” is old media
without editors,
without barriers,
without bosses.
At least not in its initial form.

Through this medium,
I can risk looking silly
by writing thoughts
in a strange style
with no fear of damaging
“the brand,” you see.

But “new media”
is quickly being co-opted,
if not dominated,
by old media companies.
Repackaging their messages,
paying people to share them,
and you wouldn’t even know that
if you weren’t careful.
Then, of course,
there are the revolutionaries.

The “new media” and “new evangelization”
are the old ways, actually.
But with direct access
to connecting people
globally,
electronically
instead of personally.
You know,
face to face,
working alongside them,
witnessing to them
by our daily
observable habits.
Sharing our stories
and struggles with them.
Falling down,
and picking each other up
As people naturally do.

New Media can fool you
into thinking you know the person
who is sharing that message with you today
this recommendation,
that hint or thought.

Again, I’m no expert
but I think these new ways
are very good,
but easily manipulated.
Orson Wells caused a panic
with a mere radio show
and we laugh
at the people’s naïveté
from our lofty perch.

How different are we
from them?
I suspect not very.
As Qoheleth said so
long, long ago:

Nothing under the sun
is new,
neither is any man able to say,
“Behold this is new!”
For it hath already
gone before
in the ages
that were before us.

Of course, Qoheleth could not
send his message
at the speed of light
from where he sat
to where it would be found
by someone
in a remote village
in Bhutan.
Today.
Right now.

That is the promise
of the New Media and
the hope of the
New Evangelization.
The peril
is that the message
of Christ’s love,
for the whole world,
is forgotten
in our awe of
the Medium.

Just a reminder
(If only for myself).

Around the World in 3 Minutes: Move, Learn, Eat

One of my favorite lines from scripture concerns “the earth and its fullness.” As a Catholic Christian, you should know that this broad, nay, “catholic” expression describing the world and its wonders is to be lived and experienced with joy by us all.

The reality of the present day, the same reality faced by mankind since civilization began, is that try as we might, we cannot afford to drop everything and go experience the world as we were meant to. But Qoheleth counsels that living only for tomorrow is no way to live. Our Lord states that,

I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.

So for the next three minutes, have a look at these three videos commissioned by STA Travel Australia. As you watch them, remember the two greatest commandments, which the entirety of the whole shebang rests upon.

3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage… all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ….into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films…..

= a trip of a lifetime.

move, eat, learn

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

LEARN from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Share these with your friends!

Jesus Goes Mainstream, Classical Music Edition

Over the last several weeks here on Music for Mondays, I’ve been exploring Jesus in mainstream culture through music. So far I’ve covered pop hits from the 1960′s and 70′s, as well as the 1980′s up through the early 2000′s. Last week I took you back to the times of Spain shortly after the Protestant Reformation.

Yes, I’m zig-zagging all over the timeline. For this week, I’m moving forward a bit starting in 1723 with pieces by Bach, then to the mid 1700′s with Handel (that’s him in the portrait above) and ending in 1825 with something by Franz Schubert.

First up is a selection that I always remember fondly because my wife chose it for our wedding. What, you too? Ain’t it grand?

Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach. Performed to a standing ovation of proud parents and admirers, kids from the Joven Orquesta del Club Argentino do Bach’s piece justice here,

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St. John’s Passion, J.S. Bach (1724). Performed by The Chamber Orchestra of Kazan State Conservatoire. You know what is neat about this performance from Russia? It’s so well done, and since the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima was last Friday, what better than to hear classical Jesus music from Russia? Thank God folks are able to worship there again! And play music like this too.

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St. Matthew’s Passion, J.S. Bach (1727). Bach also wrote a Passion from the gospel of Matthew. Possibly the gospels of Mark and Luke as well. This selection is performed by the Brandenburg Concerto with tenor Martyn Hill. I love the oboe in this piece, don’t you?

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Behold the Lamb of God, George Frideric Handel. This is performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus from Handel’s “Messiah.” Handel wrote this in 1741, and revised it in 1754. FYI, Handel is buried in Westminster Abbey and has a feast day on the Episcopal Church calender.

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And the Glory of the Lord, George Frideric Handel. Also from “Messiah,” this time performed by the Bow Valley Chorus, from Alberta, Canada.

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Ave Maria, Franz Schubert This was played at my wedding too (I married a Catholic girl, remember?). From Schubert’s Lady in the Lake, based on poems by Sir Walter Scott, this is the prayer of the character Ellen Douglas, sung to Our Lord’s (and our) Mother. Led by violinist Joshua Bell, this is the Verbier Fesitval Chamber Orchestra, with guest Angelika Kirchschlager as the mezzo soprano. Bravo!

That’s about all the time we have for today. I promise more for next Monday. Ciao!

To Remember to be Childlike (An Artful Reminder)

This morning my wife shared a video with me from a Japanese “pop” group that calls itself World Order. I posted the “New York City” version on my Facebook page, along with another version that was shot in Tokyo, Japan, which is where the group hails from.

My blogging friend Deacon Greg Kandra, whom I sent the video and back story to, posted it on his blog The Deacon’s Bench. You may have seen it and enjoyed it there.

I, of course, can’t speak a lick of Japanese beyond “yes” and “hello,” so I have no idea what the lyrics, that the singer/leader Genki Sudo is warbling here, mean. I only know that this tune is stuck in my head, and I like it.

I also like the visual performance— alot! To me, see, this is performance art of a very high caliber. Though Sudo’s group, called World Order, is labeled as being a part of “popular culture,” I can’t help but look at their art through the lens of Catholicism, and from a contrarian perspective as a result. You see, this is how I look at everything now.

The Lenten season, you know, is right around the corner, and another blogging friend, Elizabeth Scalia, manager of the Catholic Portal at the website Patheos, announced that to help us prepare for Lent, a new columnist has come on board there. It is Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who will be posting twice weekly under the heading Slubgrip Instructs. The posts (I believe) will be based on Fr. Dwight’s book entitled The Gargoyle Code, which is inspired by author C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, but modernized and specifically adapted for Catholics.

Blogger Eric Sammons reviewed Fr. D’s book over at his blog last year. The first installment at Patheos is up and it is about “the purpose of popular culture.” I suggest you go read it just like I would recommend that you read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. But I also suggest that you approach popular culture from what military strategist B.H. Liddell Hart called “the indirect approach.” I call it viewing popular culture from an oblique perspective. Here is what I mean.

View and enjoy the video below by Sudo’s group. Shot in Tokyo with five dancers, notice how most of the adults ignore Sudo & Company. The adults are very focused on “adult stuff” almost to the point that they don’t even see Sudo & the gang. While you are watching, notice too how the children notice and interact altogether differently with the group than the adults do. Have a look,

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Uh-huh, the city is loud! Did you see the difference in the way the children and adults interacted with the artists? Here is another song by World Order, again shot in Tokyo, but with seven performers. Note the children vs. adult behaviors again,

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Isn’t that great? Did you see the children on the playground? What joy, what fun, what joie de vivre! I especially enjoyed when the performers all lined up behind Sudo, and all you could see were the hands, or heads of the others. And then an adult came in and threw the light switch on. Exit stage right!

So what are you getting at Frank? Oh nothing, really, except while watching the children in these videos, obliquely you see, these words popped into my head over and over again,

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)

Do you see now what I see? Now you can go and read Fr. Dwight’s postwith the mindset of the guerilla cultural warrior that you are called to be.

For the Art and Poetry of Wu Li, SJ (1632-1718)

Remember me and the pleasure I get from finding things out about our faith and sharing them with you? Well, I’ve been called Mister Google around these parts. But after this find, maybe it should be Doctor Google. You be the judge. [Read more...]


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