"Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, October 24, 2014

Faith Filled Friday: Letter to the Romans 1:1-17

I started reading St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and I was really struck with the opening seventeen lines.  Here’s the New American Bible translation which divides the seventeen lines in a greeting, a thanksgiving, and a profession of the Gospel.  I took a few liberties with the arrangement on the page so I could emphasize the individual sentences.  I put the line number in parenthesizes and did not separate according to established line numbers so that one could read the sentence as it flows. 

The NAB translation has been criticized for its lack luster English, and while the diction may not be elevated I find the rhythm of the sentences rather pleasing.  When people criticize bible translations for not having lofty or sublime language, they are usually reacting to the diction.  But diction should be a function of the original text.  It should approximate the original language’s style, elevated or low, simple or flowery.  If the original text is not lofty in its original language, then I don’t see any reason why the translation should be.  I can’t speak to the diction choices made for any of the translations since I don’t read the original Hebrew or Greek. But I can appreciate the sentence arrangement.  Here it should also approximate the original style but it should have modern rhythm.   

Quick orientation: Paul is writing to the Christian community in Rome for an upcoming visit.  He has been planning such a visit for many years, but his plans have been repeatedly disrupted, mainly because he’s been incarcerated for preaching Christianity. 

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans


(1) Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, (2) which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, (3) the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, (4) but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

(5) Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, (6) among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; (7) to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


(8) First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world.  

(9) God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in proclaiming the gospel of his Son, that I remember you constantly, (10) always asking in my prayers that somehow by God’s will I may at last find my way clear to come to you.

(11) For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened, (12) that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine.

(13) I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I often planned to come to you, though I was prevented until now, that I might harvest some fruit among you, too, as among the rest of the Gentiles.

(14) To Greeks and non-Greeks alike, to the wise and the ignorant, I am under obligation; (15) that is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome.

God’s Power for Salvation

(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel.

It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek.

(17) For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”

I love that part about mutually encouraging one another’s faith.  Faith does seem to increase as more participate together.  I hope you got to appreciate the rhythm of the sentences, but more importantly I hope it provided a touch of faith for this Friday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Priest and the Prostitute by Victor S E Moubarak

This is neither a book review nor an analysis.  This is a strictly a plug for a fun book written by a frequent visitor to this blog.

While I was traveling last week and in my personal time while not working, I grew a little tired from Dante’s Paradisio and flipped through my Kindle and came to a recent purchase of a lighter read.  One gets mentally exhausted traveling, going through tedious engineering meetings, and reading complicated literature.  A mental break was in order for something less stressing and recreative.   

There on my Kindle was Victor Moubarak’s book.  You may know Victor (the Victor I call Victor M. since there is another frequent visitor also named Victor) from his comments here or from his own blog, Time For Reflections.  It’s a fun blog and I stop there frequently myself.  On Victor’s blog he occasionally tells tales of a certain Father Ignatius.  He also has a short story collection pertaining to Fr. Ignatius’s activities and adventures, The Adventures of Father Ignatius, which I also own.   Between the short stories and the blog posts, I had come to the conclusion early on that Victor was an actual priest and that he was writing from experience because he writes so convincingly.  Well, I found out he isn’t; he’s married with children.  But he has an incredible insight into priestly life and experience (I don’t know how). 

He recently wrote a full novel, The Priest and the Prostitute, with the Fr. Ignatius character, and when it came to my attention I quickly bought it off Amazon as a Kindle ebook.  So I read it this past week to get a mental break and I couldn’t put it down.  What a fun book, though the situation for Fr. Ignatius isn’t so fun since he’s accused of murdering a prostitute.  Here’s a short section, from the beginning of Chapter 4.

Three months on and Father Igantius had truly settled at St. Vincent.  His original apprehension that returning was perhaps an unwise move had all but faded away.  It’s surprising how quickly one settles back to an old routine when feeling comfortable and at peace with oneself.

He celebrated Mass each morning at eight, visited the homeless shelter twice a week, spent most afternoons dealing with paperwork or visiting the sick at the hospital or at home, or going one or two parishioners temporarily in jail.  And every Friday evening he sat by the log fire in the large room listening to Verdi in company with Sister Martha who too had fallen back into the old routine of calling on him on her way to the convent. 

One fresh late-August evening Father Ignatius arrived at St. Vincent at about nine o’clock just as it was getting a little darker.  He got out of the car and was on his way towards Parish House when he was approached by a blonde woman in her late thirties who’d just walked out of the church and made her towards him.  He was surprised that the church was still open at this hour and he made a mental note to lock up before he got into the house.

“Hello Father Ignatius,” said the woman as she stopped some four feet away.

It was a moment when one’s brain works at a million miles an hour trying to work out a situation and getting nowhere.  Her voice sounded so familiar.  So did her face.  Father Ignatius tried hard to remember who she was and where he had met her before but it seemed his “little grey cells” had let him down.

“Don’t you remember me Father?” she said eventually, “I’m Joanna!”

“Oh yes, hello!” he heard himself mutter.

Joanna was an occasional visitor to the church on Sundays many years ago.  She was politely known as a lady of the night, and made no secret of the fact.  Many surmised that most gentlemen of the parish had at one time or another been entertained by Joanna.  Indeed she had confessed her sin many a time to Father Ignatius although she never named names.

“Just hello,” she said, “No hug?”

“I remember what happened the last time Judas hugges someone,” said Father Igantius and regretted saying it almost immediately.

I’m going to stop there, because that’s a really good hook.  Isn’t that enticing?  The characters are idiosyncratically charming, and you really feel for Fr. Ignatius’ predicament.  Set in a North England town, presumably one where Victor lives, and though I’ve never traveled there it felt very immediate.  He captures it well I think.

Victor who apparently has skills in various media has put together a little video to advertise  the book.

You can get it at Amazon, and the Kindle version is only $4 at the American site.  It’s worth it.  It’s not high literature like I normally read, but I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Literature in the News: Famous Dogs in Literature

Now that we have a new canine in the family,  it must be Divine Providence that sent this blog post my way from the Books section of the HuffPost, titled “7 Memorable Dogs from Literature” by Mikita Brottman.  Being a dog lover, dogs in literature has occasionally crossed my mind, but I’ve never gone out of my way to note them down.  This was a useful and fun exercise.

Brottman starts her list with with why dogs are particularly memorable in literature.

Who could forget Old Yeller, or the dog of Anton Chekhov's short story, "The Lady with the Dog"? Fictional pups have the ability to tug at our heartstrings in a way their human counterparts sometimes cannot.

I can’t remember if I read Old Yeller in school.  I may have but none of my synapses can find trace of it.  Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog” came quickly to mind.    It’s one of those must read short stories.  But Brottman doesn’t list either of those as a “memorable” dog.  I’m just going to list her seven, and you can go over to see why she finds them memorable.

Bull's-eye from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Caesar III from “Coming, Aphrodite!” by Willa Cather
Flush from Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
'Issa' from Marcus Valerius Martialis' poetry
Jip from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Kashtanka from "Kashtanka" by Anton Chekhov
Shock from 'The Rape of the Lock' by Alexander Pope

Now that’s a rather interesting list.  I think Brottman was trying for the obscure.  The only one I have read on that list is David Copperfield and I didn’t think of Jip initially but I do recall him now.

Who would I add?  Here are the ones that came to my mind.

Argos for Homer’s The Odyssey.  How can anyone forget Odysseus’s dog who recognizes his master in disguise having returned after 20 years away?  Of course it’s a stretch since dogs don’t live twenty years, and for the dog to have been so attached to his master they would have needed a few years of bonding on top of the years away.  But Argos is the epitome of a faithful dog.  

The hound from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Was there ever a dog in literature that caused so much terror?  What a great story.    

Bendicò from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s great Italian novel, The Leopard.  Few people will probably identify this one, unless you’re into Italian literature, but that Great Dane in the story was most memorable.  

Buck from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.  How could Buck not make Brottman’s list?  It’s a whole novel from the point of view of the dog.  If he’s not the most famous dog in literature, he’s probably the most heroic.  

Sounder from the young adult novel Sounder  by William H. Armstrong.  I definitely remember reading this in school, and in the little research I did here I was surprised to find that Armstrong was not African-American.  He was a white man from the south.  I can’t recall a better story of love for a dog than this one.  

Would it surprise you that Wikipedia has a page of a List of Fictional Dogs?  Of course it shouldn’t surprise you.  Peruse the list.  I have to say, it is way incomplete.  But it’s an interesting list.  The one that surprises me is Blue from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.  I’ve read that novel at least three times and for the life of me I can’t recall a dog in the novel.  Is it there at the beginning when the children are playing outside and we’re in Benjy’s mind?

Well which fictional dogs do you find memorable?  I’d love to hear.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Notable Quote: Slow Reading by Richard A. Lanham

This comes from my read of Richard Lanham’s Style: an Anti Textbook.  Lanham has been on a discourse on prose rhythm.  To set up one of his points he contemplates the notion of speed-reading:  “And the speed-reading course is plain lunacy.  Its mere presence horrifies: reading is something to be gotten through.”

Here’s his developed thought:

Before prose rhythm can be sensibly considered, one must redefine reading.  It cannot be a jet flight coast-to-coast.  It must be a slow walk in the country, taken, as all such walks should be, partly for the walking itself.  Every course in composition ought to be a course in Slow Reading.  To read a prose text aloud, again and again, is the most important single act you can perform, if you are to understand its style.  As for rhythm, if you do not read aloud (at least with the mind’s ear), there will not be any.  Rhythm cannot be studied by itself, directly.  Until a text is read aloud there is no rhythm to study.  Of course we can silent-read for rhythm, but only if we have learned, paradoxically, how to read aloud silently.  Until you have explored this dimension of prose style, you will not know it is there.  Once you have explored it, you’ll find a passage of mumblespeak literally unreadable.  With luck, you may not write any more of it yourself. 

That is actually quite satisfying to hear.  I am a notoriously Slow Reader.  I savor sentences and rhythm.  I listen with my “mind’s ear” all the time.  Lanham also goes on to say that audio books are excellent vehicles for acquiring the nuances of English prose rhythm.  I love audio books.  But I listen to them in a very unconventional way.  I really don’t like listening to an audio book without the written words in front of me.  I can’t follow the sentence structures if I’m just listening.  What I love to do is listen to an audio book while I read.  This way I get a professional performer and reader to articulate the language.  With the words right in front of me, a great reader provides what might be for me the best form of entertainment possible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Music Tuesday: “And the Waltz Goes On” by Sir Anthony Hopkins

Yes, don’t pause too long over the composer’s name.  It’s thee Sir Anthony Hopkins of Hannibal Lector and other acting roles fame.  Apparently this has been going viral across the internet.  Unlike Ebola, this virus is harmless, and perhaps even entertaining.   This is the note I got in my email.

A famous actor wrote a waltz as a young musician, but had never heard it played by an orchestra.
He went into acting, became a famous movie star and gave up on the music end of his talents.
As you will hear, that is a real shame, cause after you have heard the music (almost Liszt, Dvorak
and of Brahms – Slavonic in style), you will agree that this very high quality composing!
This is not Andre Rieu embellished music! This is the real thing!!
This video shows him hearing it being played for the first time.

That is a lovely piece.  Waltzes are quite charming.  I had no idea Hopkins was a composer.  According to this little biographical note he’s even released a classical album of his compositions.  

In spite of following an acting career, Sir Anthony Hopkins' first love was for classical music. However it wasn’t until 2012 when he finally realised his dream by releasing his first classical album, ‘Composer’.

I have to say I love Hopkins as a person.  There’s something genuine about him.  I remember seeing him interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS where Rose—Liberal that he is, and I don’t usually watch Charlie Rose but I must have scanned through and caught Hopkins—was surprised to find out that Hopkins believed in God, and not just a deistic God, but a personal God.  Imagine.  The shock.  There was even a bit of ridicule in Rose’s tone, which really surprised me because he seemed to go over the top.  But Hopkins stuck to what he believed and said so.  God bless him.

However, the note I got in my email was not quite accurate.  Here’s an interview where Hopkins says he composed the music but Andre Rieu did arrange it.  So it’s not all Hopkins.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Matthew Monday: Matthew and Rosie

We’ve now had Rosie one week and while she’s sweet little pup, she is a pup and nipping at all of us.  My wife and I can handle it.  We’re used to it, but I’m afraid Matthew doesn’t know how to handle her.  Rosie does seem to be extremely mouthy.  It’s certainly a retriever trait, but I don’t recall my other retriever pups being this mouthy.   Perhaps memory is vague and this is no different. 

But what’s happening with Matthew is that when Rosie starts nipping at his legs and feet, he just stands there paralyzed and starts to cry and whine.  For the most part, she’s not nipping hard, but I can see how a little child gets intimidated.  And Rosie has identified Matthew with play.  He runs and she chases and for her, nipping is part of play.  She’s not being vicious, but what I’m afraid of is that Rosie gets it into her mind that she’s the alpha over Matthew, and that sticks as she matures.  That could lead to a problem.  Matthew is taking it in stride.  He keeps going over to her to play. 

Here are some pictures.  The first two you can see Rosie being aggressive. 

But here are some better times too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2014 Reads, Update #3

The third quarter was a tough quarter to do a lot of reading.  It seems I actually read less during the summer, which I think is not what happens with most people, but this summer was even more complicated.  We had the kitchen, dining and living rooms remodeling, and that did take up time.  It made living at home difficult, which made reading difficult.  (I haven’t forgotten that I promised to post pictures of the remodeled rooms.  It came out very nice, and I’ll post soon.)   Plus, the Baltimore Orioles, my favorite baseball team of which I’ve been a fan since I was eight years old, had a magnificent season, and I was on the computer following almost every game.  They had a great ending to the season where they pulled away from their division rivals and won by double digits.  Now they’ve won their division playoff and will be playing for the American League Championship.  If they win that, they’ll be going to the World Series.  So they could be playing for the whole month of October still.  I’m praying that they do!  It’s been 31 years since the Orioles won the World Series, which is a considerable part of my adult life.  So all summer long, reading has taken a lower priority in my past time.

So what have I accomplished?  Well, I read six short stories, which is about par for three months.  I read one book of the Old Testament (Second Maccabees), and I completed three full length books—a novel, a non-fiction work, and a book of personal essays—which would be about average as well except that two of them I was already half way when the quarter started.  I have started Dante’s Paradiso.  I’m only through canto ten, which is just less than a third.  But when you count the commentary, it’s over a couple of hundred pages of reading.  Just like last year’s read of Purgatorio, it’s slow reading, though good reading.  It’s poetry in translation, and I occasionally try my hand on the Italian, and then there are about two pages of commentary to every page of poetry. 

To my credit I did get beyond half way on this year’s read on writing, Lanham’s Style: An Anti Textbook.  I’ve posted twice on it.  The novel read was Stephan King’s The Shining, which I had promised to post my thoughts, and I haven’t.  I hope I can remember enough of it.  The book of personal essays was Brian Doyle’s The Thorny Grace of It, and I have posted on it, but I have thoughts for one more post.  The non-fiction work was an unplanned read, a book of sociology on why and how faith has diminished in western civilization.  I don’t plan on posting on it, but let me just say it’s an important work.  Mary Eberstat’s thesis has more to do with the breakdown of the family rather than any conventional theory that’s out there now.  Of course I was still reading Hopkins’ poetry, and putting out a few posts on some poems.  I did put out a really detailed analysis of which I’m proud of in two separate posts on his great poem “The Windhover.”  I did not read at all this quarter my historical read for this year, Goldsworthy’s biography, Julius Caesar: Life of a Colossus.  I remain about a quarter into the book.  I keep starting and then stopping the Kipling short story.  Not that it’s bad or anything like that, but I keep getting distracted.  It’s on the longer side for a short story.

So what’s left for my final quarter?  I have to finish Dante’s Paradiso, Lanham’s Style: An Anti Textbook, the Hopkins poetry, and the Goldsworthy biography.  If I’m going to read 24 short stories for the year, I need seven more.  I went looking and I’ve listed seven that have caught my eye, including a Sherlock Holmes and a Father Brown detective stories.  I am definitely going to read Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  I have to get one play read this year.  I do want to read Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther.  It’s a lot, but not impossible.  We’ll see how far I get.  What’s left over will go into next year. 

Read in Previous Quarters:

“The Doom of the Griffiths,” a short story by Elizabeth Gaskell.
The Book of Tobit, a book of the Old Testament.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter,” a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Life on the Mississippi, a memoir by Mark Twain.
The Book of Judith, a book of the Old Testament.
“The Ransom of Red Chief,” a short story by O. Henry.
Washington Square, a novel by Henry James.
84, Charing Cross Road, a collection of correspondence by Helene Hanff.
“Fifty Grand,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
“A Simple Enquiry,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.
“The Pitcher,” a short story by Andre Debus.
“After Twenty Years,” a short story by O. Henry.
Happy Catholic, a non-fiction devotional by Julie Davis.
The Imitation of Christ, a non-fiction devotional by Thomas à Kempis.
“Paul’s Case,” a short story by Willa Cather.
Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity, a non-fiction work of literary criticism by Prue Shaw.
The Book of Esther, a book of the Old Testament.
“Wee Willie Winkie,” a short story by Rudyard Kipling.
Fantine, the 1st Volume of Les Misérables, a novel by Victor Hugo.
“The Peach Stone,” a short story by Paul Horgan.
Some Do Not…, the 1st novel of the Parade’s End Tetralogy by Ford Madox Ford.
First Book of Maccabees, a book of the Old Testament.
“Ten Indians, a short story by Ernest Hemingway.

Read This Past Quarter:

“The Wood-Sprite,” a short story by Vladimir Nabokov.
The Shining, a novel by Stephan King.
How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization, a non-fiction work of sociology by Mary Eberstadt.
Second Book of Maccabees, a book of the Old Testament.
The Thorny Grace of It: And Other Essays for Imperfect Catholics, a collection of personal essays by Brian Doyle.
“Russian Spoken Here,” a short story by Vladimir Nabokov.
“Greenleaf,” a short story by Flannery O’Connor.
"Sredni Vashtar,” a short story by Saki (H.H. Munro).
“The Gift of Cochise,” a short story by Louis L’Amour.
“A Canary for One,” a short story by Ernest Hemingway.

Currently Reading:

Gerard Manly Hopkins: Poems and Prose, Selected and Edited by W. H. Gardner.
Julius Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy.
Style: an Anti-Textbook, a non-fiction book on writing by Richard A. Lanham.
Paradisio, the 3rd Cantica of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, a Verse Translation by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.
 “The Drums of the Fore and Aft,” a short story by Rudyard Kipling.
"A Letter to the Romans, " an epistle by Paul in the New Testament, KLB and NAB Translations.
"First Letter to the Corinthians," an epistle by Paul in the New Testament, KLB and NAB Translations.

Upcoming Plans:

Mansfield Park, a novel by Jane Austen.
The Sorrows of Young Werther, a novel by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe.
The Tempest, a play by William Shakespeare.
“The Letter to the Romans,” an epistle by St. Paul.
“The First Letter to the Corinthians,” an epistle by St. Paul.
“The Gentleman from Cracow,” a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
“ Colorado,” a short story by Ann Beattie.
“Jacob’s Ladder,” a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“The Walk with Elizanne,” a short story by John Updike.

“A Scandal in Bohemia, a Sherlock Holmes short story by Arthur Conan Doyle.
“The Queer Feet,” a Father Brown short story by G. K. Chesterton.

UPDATE: Oops, forgot to include my read through the Bible.  Last quarter is always devoted to New Testament and I'm up to Paul's Epistles.  I wasn't sure if I should read them in chronological order (as historians best date them) or pick and choose on whim or as ordered in the New Testament.  I decided on the latter, so I'm reading the first two.  For New Testament I read both KJB and NAB translations, with commentary from NAB/Catholic theologians.

You can read my initial 2014 reading plans heremy first quarter update hereand my second quarter update here.   Do I seem like too much of a project manager?  J