Sunday, June 21, 2009

Smattering of things from Argentina

I'm trying to upload lots of pictures and videos, but the internet at Casa Pilar is slower than snails working on molasses in winter, as my dad would say.

Still here's a random selection of pictures and I hope a video!

Frosted Flakes have a better name in Argentina. And the slogan is something like, "Grrrrrrquisimas!".....Well, at least the name is better.

This was the beginning of a not-so-civil game of croquet at Teo's grandparents cottage.

Here is Isa (Isabel) from Ano 7B teaching us a song. These kids all speak very good English, and Isa is sort of the teacher's pet. She keeps the other kids in line and corrects their English.

And here´s a YouTube of the same class with PJ leading them in a Spanish song.

Well, that's it for now--more soon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meditation: The Name of God and Divine Dirt Clods

About a year ago, my good friend Ryan Purcell showed me this video he'd bought. It was part of a series called "Nooma," and this one in particular was called Breathe. I was going to describe the entire video, but fortunately it's available to embed:

While it's more artsy and Protestant than I typically prefer, the ideas Bell presents have stuck with me since that first viewing.

When we say our daily offerings and offer up our mouth--For Christ, With Christ, Like Christ, I offer you my mouth, Lord--one of the most important things to offer in that moment is our breath. As Bell so beautifully explains, our soul and existence comes from the Breath of Life God breathed into us at Creation. What greater gift can there be than to give back to the Lord our very life?

One of my health teachers in middle school wondered aloud if each person has a specific number of breaths and heartbeats, and once these are all used up, you die. I haven't bothered to see what the scientific world has to say on the subject. The teacher wasn't wedded to the idea, but it was clear they'd thought about it. They even said that exercise, even though it causes us to use more breaths and heartbeats in the short term, actually prolonged our lives because in times of rest we would use fewer breaths and our hearts would beat slower.

What if we really do have a limit to how much of the Breath of Life is given us? Whether it's true or not, the question underscores how important it is that every second of life we have be offered in service to the Lord.

I had many conversations in the past with someone about how young people are trained to always be looking forward. It's the attitude of the clock-watcher, who's so anxious to move on to the next thing that he wastes so much time doing nothing but watching the clock hands slowly turn.
When you're in middle school, you can't wait to get to high school where things matter. When you're in high school, you can't wait to go to college where things actually matter. When you're in college, you can't wait to graduate and go out into the real world where things truly matter. And then once they graduate college, some will get married and have a family. But many are still caught in the "always-looking-forward" mentality, and once they have no other cultural institution to act as a mile post for their life, they panic. I think this is usually the impetus behind the midlife crisis--what does one live for when there are no more tangible goals to attain?

What so many of us miss is to live in the moment. If you are in college, life does not begin when you graduate--your life is NOW. Life does not wait up for us to be ready, and if we do try to wait it can become--quite literally--a waste of breath, a waste of life. To paraphrase a saying I've heard several times, the past is dead and Christ already won us the future, so the only time that matters for us is now.

The only breath that matters is the one we draw this very instant.

To incorporate more of Bell, it only matters that we breath and proclaim the name of God in this moment, as our faith may falter from where it was in the past, and we cannot trust ourselves to persevere fully in the future.

I take this breath now, pronounce God's name, and in so doing proclaim my faith in Him. We cannot waste the breath, the time, the life we have right now. And every time we inhale we should rejoice that God is once again proving his love for us by yet again filling us with the Breath of Life, His Spirit, and His holy name.

Lord, I pray that you will forgive me for all the time I waste, for squandering the life you gave me to serve you. Help me to offer up to you every breath I take, and to always remember your remarkable love for me. I resolve to spend my life in service to you, so that in the end, like you did, I may give up my Spirit for the Father and the ones I love.

Back at it!

Now that Fragua 7 is over, I should have lots more time to continue writing on this site, so keep your eye out for new material:
-article on Procrastination
-meditation on the name of God
-Chapter 2 in the chronicles of Obama's ineptitude
-and more!
Stay tuned, faithful viewers...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"In the matter of purity there is no greater danger than the not fearing the danger: when a man does not distrust himself, and is without fear, it is all over with him."
--St. Philip Neri, from his Maxims and Sayings.

"3. O my dear Lord, have mercy upon me! I trust Thou hast forgiven me my sins—but the punishment remains. In the midst of Thy love for me, and recognising me as Thine own, Thou wilt consign me to Purgatory. There I shall go through my sins once more, in their punishment. There I shall suffer, but here is the time for a thorough repentance. Here is {346} the time of good works, of obtaining indulgences, of wiping out the debt in every possible way. Thy saints, though to the eyes of man without sin, really had a vast account—and they settled it by continual trials here. I have neither their merit nor their sufferings. I cannot tell whether I can make such acts of love as will gain me an indulgence of my sins. The prospect before me is dark—I can only rely on Thy infinite compassion. O my dear Lord, who hast in so many ways shown Thy mercy towards me, pity me here! Be merciful in the midst of justice."
--Cardinal Newman, Every Sin Has Its Punishment

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Very Rudy Saturday

I missed watching the game last night, and now I'm kicking myself even more for it.

Listen to the sound of the ball hitting the net on that 3-pointer-- just beautiful, isn't it?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Saintacular--St. Philip Neri

Some very edifying and saintly words from...well, a saint, sent to me by my friend Chris Wojnar several weeks ago:

"God in His infinite goodness sometimes sees fit to test our courage and love by depriving us of the things which it seems to us would be advantageous to our souls; and if He finds us earnest in their pursuit, yet humble, tranquil and resigned to do without them if He wishes us to, He will give us more blessings than we should have had in possession of what we craved."
---St. Philip Neri
St. Philip always sought to impart humility, an absolutely necessary virtue if we hope to receive any fruits from our faith. St. Philip is known as the "Humorous Saint," and his life further illustrates the close connection between humility and joy.

A few more quotes, via Catholic Fire and the all-knowing Wikipedia:
"A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one."

There is nothing which gives greater security to our actions, or more effectually cuts the snares the devil lays for us, than to follow another person’s will, rather than our own, in doing good."

“Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you.”

“There is no purgatory in this world. Nothing but heaven or hell.”

“Sufferings are a kind of paradise to him who suffers them with patience, while they are a hell to him who has no patience.”

“The greatness of our love for God may be tested by the desire we have of suffering for His sake.”

"Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cardinal Newman -- A Short Road to Perfection

As we are now more than halfway through Lent, we should by now be fully engaged in our pursuit of purification, with the goal of perfection and Resurrection come Easter. Cardinal Newman, as always, provides brilliantly simple analysis and motivation to that end:

A Short Road to Perfection

September 27, 1856

{285} IT is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection—short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.

I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.

We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic—not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings—but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound—we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in {286} religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.

He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.

I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim. If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first—Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.

On a happy related note, it appears that the Pope is arranging a visit to Great Britain that could by timed to coincide with a celebration of Cardinal Newman's beatification, and in regard to Newman's canonization "the Pope is understood to have taken a personal interest in his cause."
(via My Heart Was Restless)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama the Incompetent--Part 1: Receiving foreign dignitaries

There was much debate among those on the right following President Obama's election on how he would actually govern--would he be the post-partisan, world-healer the public voted for, or would he be the barely-veiled liberal ideologue many of us suspected he was? Would he follow the Bill Clinton route of triangulation, seeking to please all parties, or would he bravely stand up against his critics?

Apparently the answer to both questions is: yes.

It's impressive that not even two months into his term as Messiah-in-Chief, Obama is already in over his head--impressive not so much for the speed at which he revealed his ineptitude, but more because his ocean-lowering "This Is Our Time" speech from the campaign ought to have prevented anything from rising too high for Obama's liking (and if you believe that sort of thing, it appears the oceans might be on the fritz as well).

There have been so many episodes piling up over the last two months of the administrations incompetence that it's going to take several posts to document them. And, in honor of our new President, I will do my best to post them without any semblance of order, prudence, or rationality.

Chapter 1: Receiving Foreign Dignitaries

I know it can be difficult, especially for us men, to pick out good gifts for the people we care about. I'll also admit that I've given DVDs as gifts to said loved ones, though I always chose ones with significant meaning to me and the recipient (and whenever I could afford something better, DVDs usually fell off the gift idea list).

But if I was President of the United States, I can't imagine a situation where an appropriate gift is "a set of 25 classic American movies," much less when they're destined for the non-movie buff, vision-impaired Prime Minister of America's most important ally.

Really, when do you give somebody 25 DVDs, Prime Minister or not? Even if it's just a friend, it tells them you cared enough to remember them as you passed the dollar bin on the way to the checkout at Wal-Mart. One movie says, "This is significant to us and our relationship in someway." For example: "Here honey, I bought you The Fifth Element because it was the first Bruce Willis movie we saw together."

25 movies is both overkill and cheap--though what really underlines the parsimony is when you and your family get these gifts in return:
--"a pen holder fashioned from the oak timber of HMS Gannet, a Navy vessel that served on anti-slavery missions off Africa"
--"a framed commissioning paper for the HMS Resolute, a Royal Navy ship that came to symbolize British-American goodwill when it was rescued by the U.S. from icebergs and given to Queen Victoria. It is the sister ship of the HMS Gannet"
...and is also the desk in the Oval Office
--"a first edition of Martin Gilbert's seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill, whose World War II partnership with President Franklin Roosevelt symbolized the U.S.-Anglo alliance" know, Winston Churchill. The guy who shared a name and torso with that bronze bust Obama returned to the Brits when he took office.

And we can even include the children's gifts as well:
"For Sasha and Malia, Sarah Brown, the Prime Minister's wife, gave each an outfit from Topshop, a British chain of clothing stores, and selected six children's books by British authors which have yet to be published in the U.S.
But let's not forget what First Lady Michelle gave to the Brown boys...Marine One model helicopters. Probably not too dissimilar from the $30 kind you can get on Amazon (only four left in stock as of this writing--order soon!).

Surely we can chalk this up to stress and sleep deprivation, right?

I've suffered the effects of being stressed and sleep-deprived on numerous occasions, but I can't say I've been tired to the point that I'm compelled to give gifts so crappy they chilled international relations. Although if I had, I would like to think that would somehow temporarily disqualify me from running the most powerful nation in the world. At least until I could catch a nap or something.

For the true cherry on top, the Obama administration also canceled the customary full press conference and formal dinner. But lest there be any confusion as to whether or not the Obama administration seeks to continue America's "special relationship" with Britain:

The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.

The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: "There's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment."
Yeah Britain! You think you're better than Nauru, and Liechtenstein, and Iran? Well, you're not.

Compounding this whole mess with Britain was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton giving her own gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. But what would be suitable to give to a Russian? A "Hillary 2008" ushanka? A sherpa-lined pantsuit? Maybe they could just take shots together?

But no, Madame Secretary went the more obvious route: give the Russians a big red button to push. And make sure the Russian word that you inscribe on it is not "Reset" like you meant, but "Overcharge."

Lavrov apparently is more perceptive than the entire state department:
A few minutes later, he referred to the gift again, noting that he and Clinton had pressed the button together—a move that summoned up thoughts not of easing tension but of launching a nuclear strike.

“It is a very, very large red button,” he said. “I do hope that Russia and the United States and other countries would never ever push any other buttons associated with initiation of destructive hostilities.”

He told Clinton he would put the button on his desk in Moscow.

And then, only a week later, this happened:
White House Misspells Brazilian Leader’s Name, Bumps Visit With Obama to Saturday
Brazil leader takes regional clout to White House
Friday, March 13, 2009
By Bradley Brooks, Associated Press

Brazil´s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks at an international development seminar in Brasilia on Thursday, March 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Rio de Janeiro (AP) - His meet-and-greet with the U.S. president was bumped to Saturday, and when the White House announced his official visit, they misspelled his name.

But when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva becomes the first Latin American leader to sit down with President Barack Obama this weekend, he brings undisputed clout


Silva aides said the trip was pushed forward from Tuesday because of the St. Patrick's Day holiday -- making Latin America once again look like an afterthought. Then, the White House announcement misspelled his name as "Luis Ignacio" and put "Lula" -- a nickname that decades ago became a legal part of the Brazilian leader's name -- in quotes.
Wow. Three major meetings with leaders from three of the most powerful countries on Earth, and Obama's team somehow botched them all.

Umm, can they do any worse? What say you, Mr. President?

UPDATE (3/17/09):

Boy, that didn't take very long. Quoth's Allahpundit:

One of our resident lefty commenters was reduced to arguing in the Headlines thread that President McCain wouldn’t have any better answers to this than The One would. Which may or may not be true, but speaks volumes about the state of Hopenchange these days. From “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” to “we’re no worse than the guy who lost” in less than two months:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said Moscow will begin a comprehensive military rearmament from 2011.

Mr Medvedev said the primary task would be to “increase the combat readiness of [Russia's] forces, first of all our strategic nuclear forces“.

Explaining the move, he cited concerns over Nato expansion near Russia’s borders and regional conflicts…

Analysts say the brief war in Georgia exposed problems with outdated equipment and practices within Russia’s armed forces and led to calls for military modernisation.



I took another look at the picture of the button Hillary gave them. What kind of giant red button do you turn clockwise to activate? Did we give them a model nuclear launch dial?

UPDATE 3 (3/19/09):

Seriously? Is there nothing they can't completely screw up? Via Hotair and the Media Blog:

Remember President Obama's splendid gift to British PM Gordon Brown? The UK Telegraph reports those 25 DVDs just went from thoughtless to literally useless:

Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.

The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen. Although he mournfully had to put the popcorn away, he is unlikely to jeopardise the special relationship – or "special partnership", as we are now supposed to call it – by registering a complaint.

A Downing Street spokesman said he was "confident" that any gift Obama gave Brown would have been "well thought through," but referred me to the White House for assistance on the "technical aspects".

A White House spokesman sniggered when I put the story to him and he was still looking into the matter when my deadline came last night.