Archive for May, 2019

With such instability and suffering in our world today, we may be searching for some PERSPECTIVE as to why things are ‘as they are.’

Consider first, perspective in Art.

Perspective drawings have a horizon line, which is often implied. This line, directly opposite the viewer’s eye, represents objects infinitely far away. They have shrunk, in the distance, to the infinitesimal thickness of a line we call the horizon.

In a perspective drawing, the scene includes parallel lines that have one or more vanishing points. All lines parallel with the viewer’s line of sight recede to the horizon towards this vanishing point. This is the standard “receding railroad tracks” phenomenon.

However, this line is seen not only in Art, but also in Philosophy–the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

The French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, refers to it as The Omega Point, and thought of it as a cone–one that we are all rising through to its apex–Christ. He clarifies it like this: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” (Flannery O’Connor fans will recall this as the title of her last short story collection, influenced by the philosophy of de Chardin).

“In a Universe of ‘Conical’ structure Christ has a place (the apex!) ready for Him to fill, when His Spirit can radiate through all the centuries and all beings; and because of the genetic links running through all the levels of Time and Space between the elements of a convergent world, the Christ-influence, far from being restricted to the mysterious zones of “grace,” spreads and penetrates throughout the entire mass of Nature in movement. In such a world Christ cannot sanctify the Spirit without (as the Greek Fathers intuitively perceived) uplifting and saving the totality of Matter. Christ becomes truly universal to the full extent of Christian needs, and in conformity with the deepest aspirations of our age the Cross becomes the Symbol, the Way, the very Act of progress…..”

I will pause the quote here–because this speaks to me–in a philosophical way– as an explanation of why there is suffering in our God-created world, something so hard for a human being to accept!

But de Chardin continues…”Within a Universe of convergent structure the only possible way in which an element can draw closer to its neighboring elements is by tightening the cone. In such an order of things no man can love his neighbor without drawing nearer to God and, of course, reciprocally (but this we knew already). But it is also impossible (this is newer to us) to love either God or our neighbor without assisting the progress, in its physical entirety, of the terrestrial synthesis of the spirit: since it is precisely the progress of this synthesis which enables us to draw closer together among ourselves, while at the same time it raises us toward God.”

Another pause, because I see in this a value for suffering.

de Chardin, continuing again…”Because we love, and in order that we may love even more, we find ourselves happily and especially compelled to participate in all the endeavors, all the anxieties, all the aspirations and also all the affections of the earth….”

As a child, my grandmother –who lived to be nearly one hundred years old– never failed to comment on the pain of my skinned knees, the loss of a boyfriend, my less than good grade, or any of my youthful disappointments. Her words were always, “Offer it up.” I had no real idea what she was talking about until I reached adulthood and went through some very trying and tearful times. Her words were the same, with a little added on: “Offer it up. It will make you stronger.”

But because we are human, our physical selves find suffering hard to accept. So I think we have to be philosophical about it. We have to have a perspective. All people will suffer in one way or another, and all people ( no matter how much others intend to help) must walk through that suffering alone. It is indeed a personally lonesome valley, and yet it is universal–the cone tightens for all of us. We are in it together, and together raised toward God.

I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.
― Og Mandino

DOES MY LIFE MATTER???

Posted: May 20, 2019 in World On The Edge

In today’s world, we have so much more materially than those who have gone before us–but we have ignored ourselves spiritually. There is much confusion about who a human being is, and what his purpose is meant to be.

Some people, especially those grasping for political office, appear to see themselves as set upon the earth distinctly for their own purposes, using others to get there. They want to change our way of thinking. They want to control us, and our vote. The political and moral climate of our present America has spawned many people like this who want to change the moral and political mores of our country, and they are “not nice” in their attempt to do it.

To mask their real motives, and to confuse Americans, the people following this playbook spout ‘nice-sounding’ but self-serving phrases such as “Love conquers Hate, etc. without applying the phrase to themselves. But what they are really after are hateful things, such as abortion up until the time–and even after– a baby is born! They want the dissipation of traditional marriage. They want to “give-away” America through illegal immigration, an open door to drugs, sex trafficking, and especially the abuse of innocent children. They hold the outrageous idea that a person can manipulate his or her sex. They praise Socialism as if its track record was wonderful, rather than the cause of demise for many nations. We must open our eyes to all this, or pay the consequences, but many are keeping their eyes closed, confused by false platitudes.

The confusion is being assisted by an undisciplined media, including most of Hollywood and some of the music industry, and even misguided theologians who we might expect to know better, yet they don’t appear to. Rather, some have even joined the fake causes!

How can so many be led astray? How can so many not see the evil in all of this?

Daily, everyone chooses between good and evil. It is our human nature. A mature person recognizes the signs of evil within himself, and attempts to re-attach to the good by seeking forgiveness and moving forward.  But when someone cannot/will not admit wrong-doing, a big problem exists for him or her. Instead of admitting they are doing wrong, and trying to fix it, they go overboard to make their wrong SEEM right.  Exactly what is happening in our present America through the playbook of the very far left.

 It is important to realize that trickery is being used today by some people with intentionally selfish motives. It is important to remember that wolves have been known to wear sheep’s clothing. Let’s think for ourselves, not jump on a very dangerous bandwagon that will not only take us down individually, but our country as well. We must use our common sense.

Most of all, we should realize that LOVE is not a word to throw around when it’s convenient to our own ends. It is a word to live up to. Love is a an action that comes from our spirituality, not our physicality– an all-encompassing standard created within us by God. In fact, our ability to truly love shows that God lives within us. But today, the selfish, fake representations of LOVE that many support are shameful, and they are digging a grave for  America.

For each one of us, life here on earth goes by fast. Our time to die will come, and what we have done here WILL MATTER.  We can put on blinders and try to make evil seem good, but that is a very risky lie to tell ourselves.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.—Isaiah 5:20

fAITHUL COVER 3 BNSAVE

When The Ghosts of Faithful won First-Runner-up for Poets & Writers Magazine’s Maureen Egen Award, it was a novel in progress. Here’s what Victor La Valle, author, Professor at Columbia, and Judge of the contest had to say about it:

Faithful suggests a broad canvas–a well-rendered local; a promising war of equals in the characters, a clear desire to address/tackle the issues larger than the back and forth, and a clear understanding on the author’s part about pacing and clarity. Also, I thought the father’s chapter was really funny!

NOW, THE GHOSTS OF FAITHFUL HAS WON THE 2019 INDEPENDENT PRESS AWARD FOR RELIGION FICTION!!

‘Ghosts’ is the second novel of mine to win this prestigious award. The first–The Wind That Shakes the Corn: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman–won the same in 2018.

My novels are about everyday people, flawed people, just like you and I. But they are presented in the context of being very valuable because they are human beings created by God, and no matter what they are doing or have done, their actions are known by God who loves them. Do the characters change their ways? Some of them do, and some don’t. That’s life.

I write fiction as I do because of my Catholic faith. What’s different about that?

I.

First of all, the soul of Catholic Fiction is that God exists and works in the lives of sinful, fallen in people who have totally rejected Him–and that He does this out of love, regardless of how forcefully a character tries try to shut Him out. And we need to know that.

2.

Secondly, because Catholic Fiction points to our true identity as human beings, which is that we are not just happenstance entities placed on Earth. We are God’s children, created by Him and made in His image and likeness, and that we have a greater purpose here. And hopefully, Catholic Fiction does this through stories in which we can see ourselves, and with language and imagery that points to the divine in each one of us.

3.

And then, thirdly, Catholic Fiction attracts us to what we lack on Earth, something larger and more beautiful than what this material world can give. And honestly I think in their hearts most people know this. It may not be the underpinning of a lot of fiction as much as other subjects are, but the yearning is definitely in every person, though they may have crusted it over with ‘stuff’ that our culture says we ought to have. And this is an innate yearning that only the divine can satisfy. People are seeking the beauty of God, whether they classify it as such or not.

 

What is the key characteristic of Catholic Fiction?

The Sacramental aspect of the Catholic Church. We are bound by the Sacraments of the church and believe that they are instruments of grace. Think of our definition of grace—an outward sign instituted by God to give grace. Then go to this Flannery O’Connor quote:

From the Sign to the thing Signified
From the Visible to the Invisible
From the Sacrament to the Mystery

The Catholic sacramental view of life is one that sustains, and supports at every turn, the vision that the storyteller must have if he is going to write fiction of any depth.

 

Synopsis of The Ghosts of Faithful:

Izzy Collier runs the Food Bank in a town called Faithful, on the banks of the Suwannee River. She is the least amicable of two daughters in a frustrating family; all, keeping secrets of betrayal. Her parents are at odds with both daughters, and with each other. Her sister, always Izzy’s competition, is an unstable former beauty queen, the wife of a philanderer, and the mother of four. Now, their ninety-four year-old grandmother sees her dead husband’s ghost, accompanied by a strange little girl. At the same time, Izzy’s husband, a defense lawyer, is being forced by his boss to effect the acquittal of a teenager accused of the rape and murder of a child. When Izzy starts to see her deceased grandfather and the little girl, too, she questions her sanity. What if the little girl ghost is the murdered child? But then, why would she be with Izzy’s grandfather? Are the ghosts after revenge, justice, or something greater?

SINNER OR SAINT???

Posted: May 7, 2019 in World On The Edge

The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.–Oscar Wilde

As rare as the saints among us, a good short story is hard to find. But Kaye Park Hinckley’s collection, “Birds of a Feather,” remains with us with the power of an epic novel.

Hinckley’s expert literary craftsmanship is matched by the drama of Judeo-Christian values confronting American relativism and egoism.

ANGELUS NEWS BOOK REVIEW:

In “Birds of a Feather,” a wife and mother feels trapped by a secret. An abortion doctor’s mother would never have considered the option he offers. An Alzheimer’s sufferer feels judged and drives to his childhood home.

The birds in Kaye Park Hinckley’s short story collection, “Birds of a Feather,” all find themselves from flocks of Catholics. Their family members, or at least a shining few, believe in forgiveness, hope and redemption.

But it’s the sinners with whom we most sympathize. How can we not? Hinckley’s expert literary craftsmanship is matched by the drama of Judeo-Christian values confronting American relativism and egoism.

It’s Easter Sunday when the wife’s grandmother, on her deathbed, whispers, “We know the truth.”

The abortion doctor sees a newborn grasping for life then kills her.

The Alzheimer’s patient is frightened by the unforgiving eyes of that blonde woman, his wife. This fear leads his mind to relive his experience as a soldier crawling on his belly through enemy fire. In present day, he screams out loud — a military command to his fellow soldiers — scaring his daughter to tears.

Unlike his caretakers, the reader can see the interweaving of his past and present experiences. If you have ever stood at the bedside of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, Hinckley’s depiction helps to make sense of a beloved’s puzzling, and at times hurtful, outbursts.

For individuals struggling toward redemption, despite themselves, there are moments where the light, or, as the saying goes, the truth, hurts. “A patch of blue sky births an unblemished sun so holy in appearance I turn away.” Pain often accompanies being awoken to truth. “A ruthless streak of sunlight wakes me.”

Hinckley’s fallen humans are driving home. Many of them literally. All of them figuratively. Though some at the close of the story take “a procedural deviation from integrity,” we find ourselves hoping, alongside the practicing Catholic in the family, that they make it home.

Hinckley’s characters are alive. Their flaws and struggles create dramatic tension and lead us to reckon with the sinner and saint within. Throughout there is an uncanny presence of the Communion of Saints.

This is most explicit in “The Pleasure of Company: A Ghost Story.” The loving souls of two deceased grandparents tell us that their granddaughter, Julia, “is not alone …We are here … Ghosts from the past. Grandparents who love her.”

Each struggling character evokes a feeling of care within us. I will buy this book for all in my life on this side of the veil. It will be loved especially by the fiction aficionados and all the birds who have flown askew, losing the flock. “As one might lift a tiny, injured bird falling from a tree…”

As rare as the saints among us, a good short story is hard to find. But Hinckley’s collection, “Birds of a Feather,” remains with us with the power of an epic novel.