28 May 2015


Theme Thursday 15

I can't end the blog mini-series on Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales without sampling one of its passages for Theme Thursday. If you've been reading along, you know that this is the sort of meme that was made for St. Francis, who seems to have worked everything in the world into a metaphor.

Well, actually, not quite . . . Believe it or not (and I was shocked), I couldn't find any imagery with Buildings, which you will recall was the theme a couple of weeks ago. St. Francis seems to prefer imagery from nature most of all, so he does have something for the theme from 31 March 2001 . . .

This Week's Theme:

27 May 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 121

Something I figured out early on was that St. Francis de Sales's Introduction to the Devout Life isn't really a book that you can read on a strict schedule. And as you can see, it took us two whole liturgical seasons to get through it! Thanks so much to everyone who joined this readalong: Bat, Brandon, Entropy, Hans-Georg, Michael, Mrs. Darwin, Sheila, Terry, and of course, Jenny, whose participation tipped the discussion into ecumenical territory!

We can be done with a book, but never with devotion. Accordingly, the last part is all about keeping the gains we have made.

Human nature easily loses ground in what is good, through the frailty and evil tendencies of the flesh,which weighs upon the soul and is ever dragging her down, unless she raise herself forcibly by fervent resolution, even as birds would soon fall to the ground if they did not continue in flight by continual effort and the movement of their wings.

To this end you likewise require frequently to repeat and renew your devout purpose of serving God, for fear that if you do not, you may relapse into your former condition, or rather into a worse one, for it is the peculiarity of spiritual falls that they always cast us down to a lower level than that whereto we had attained towards devotion. However good a clock may be, we must wind it daily; and, furthermore, at least once a year, it will need being taken to pieces, in order that its rust may be removed, those parts which are displaced be put back, and those which are worn, renewed.

The clock metaphor is a great one, but our digital age has stripped it of most of its impact. You'd be really lucky if you had a clock that needed that sort of annual maintenance--or from another perspective, really unlucky. What a lot of trouble for a timepiece, aye? But the fact is that we are, by nature, unlucky sorts who must take a lot of trouble with our souls if they are to keep ticking properly.

23 May 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Eighteen!

May at the Movies arguably peaked last week, when I blogged about the best movie house ever seen in a movie house (and in living rooms . . . and during modern film festivals, in some cineplexes as well). But that's no reason to stop going. Not when I had my "TV Edition" post all planned. My only real goal for my blogging is to keep going for as long as I can--and if that means tiring everyone out after I've jumped the shark, so be it. So are you all ready for the anticlimax???

20 May 2015


Talking to You about Big Daddy Kane
(Part of my series on Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran)

After [my grandfather] went to bed, I'd stay up and watch Yo! MTV Raps for my fix of De La Soul and Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy. I would switch it back to the Eternal Word Network so he could get the first of his seven daily Masses. If I forgot to change the station back, we'd have the same conversation about it. "I got your jokers this morning," he said. That meant he'd turned on the TV expecting Mass and got Club MTV or Remote Control.

When he tried watching MTV with me, he found it hilarious. The one tape of mine he liked, oddly enough, was The Smiths. His favourite was "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want." He said, "At least that's got a bit of an air to it."

He preferred the radio in the kitchen, which would sing him the songs of the old country, even though when he was my age, he couldn't wait to get out of the old country . . .

The late 80s rap soundtrack aside, this is easily the most beautiful and emotional chapter in Rob Sheffield's memoir. And no, I'm not projecting just because my grandmother, with whom I also shared both MTV and EWTN, died last year--though maybe I appreciate it better because of that.

There are few things better than music for both highlighting the generation gap and helping us to bridge it. I still chuckle at the memory of my grandmother's first exposure to Oasis, my favourite band of the 90s. She thought that Liam Gallagher's voice in Wonderwall was the most annoying sound known to man. (ROFL!) Although she let me watch MTV on the TV in her room, she insisted on control of the radio in her car--and she always picked the station that played oldies from the 1940s and 1950s, the decades when she had been my age. To this day, the sound of Johnny Mathis's voice brings on a mild wave of that motion sickness I always got from her accelerate-brake-accelerate-brake-accelerate-brake driving style. But as with Sheffield and his grandfather, there is one song that we both "oddly enough" liked.

19 May 2015


Early Edition: Vigilante Justice

The twist in this Early Edition episode is that The Paper doesn't initiate the action. Gary gets tangled up with his latest "assignment" thanks to a more natural sort of "meet-cute." It's such a big break from the formula that although The Paper does get to play a perfunctory part, we might as well be watching a different show. I'm all for writers pushing the envelope now and then, but not at the expense of the whole conceit of the series they're building a mythology for.

Here, one "crazy" idea (getting tomorrow's news today) is replaced with another "crazy" idea (meeting someone who died 70 years ago). But Gary gets to remain constant. And well, he has to: only someone who already takes the former idea for granted could ever take the latter idea seriously.

16 May 2015


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Seventeen!

This May at the Movies, we're really going to the movies. The special theme is Movie Houses, and so far, I've been having a blast revisiting those from movies I've already seen. Today, I'll take you to one that I first watched in childhood . . . and did not watch again until this weekend. If you haven't seen it, please note that it comes with my highest recommendations.

15 May 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 120

Let's look at the infrastructure of devotion that St. Francis de Sales has so far. He began with the cornerstone, the love of God, and built everything else on it layer by layer: individual mental prayer, the traditional and communal prayers of the Church, and virtues to practice alone and in society. Having laid all that down, he can get started on the biggest challenge faced by those who are truly serious about being holy.

As soon as the men of the world perceive that you seek the devout life, they will launch forth all their raillery and slander against you; the most ill-natured will pronounce your altered ways to be hypocrisy, affectation, or bigotry; they will assert that the world having slighted you, rejected by it, you turn to God; and your friends will overwhelm you with a torrent of what they hold to be prudent and charitable remonstrances. They will tell you that you will grow morbid and melancholy, that you will lose your position in the world, will be considered insupportable, will become old before your time, that your domestic affairs will suffer, that in the world we must do as the world does, that we can surely be saved without such extravagances . . .

Whatever we do, the world will find fault; if we spend a long time in at Confession, it will ask what we can have to say. If we take but a short tie, it will say that we do not tell everything; it will spy out all we do, and from one little hasty word it will pronounce our temper unbearable; it will denounce our prudence as avarice, our gentleness as folly; but to the children of the world their passions will pass as the fruit of a generous spirit, their avarice as forethought, their lusts as honourable. Spiders invariably spoil the bees' labour.

This shouldn't be surprising. After all, Jesus Himself promised that those who follow Him would be hated as He was (and still is) hated. On the other hand, we all know religious people who seem to think that Christian virtue means giving Jesus good PR by showing off how good they themselves are (a view that St. Francis totally took apart in an earlier chapter, by the way)--and our reactions to their priggishness hardly amount to persecution of them. So when we start inspiring similar reactions in others, shouldn't we at least consider the possibility that we should take the holiness down a notch?