16 November 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. XXXIV)

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This is absolutely fascinating -- bridges constructed from the roots of fig trees in India:

A hat-tip to New Advent for this video.

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Pictures from this past weekend --

Last of the leaves at the park.

Weeping willows on the banks of an inlet on the Charles River.

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There is quite the chorus of late around the Catholic blogosphere about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, urging people to go to Confession in the next few weeks and months.  I wrote about my own love of the Sacrament last week. To repeat a theme from that post: there is really is something more going on with the Sacrament than just a juridical and external pardon:
When people ask me, or indeed anybody else, “Why did you join the Church of Rome?” the first essential answer, if it is partly an elliptical answer, is, “To get rid of my sins.” For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people’s sins. It is confirmed by the logic, which to many seems startling, by which the Church deduces that sin confessed and adequately repented is actually abolished; and that the sinner does really begin again as if he had never sinned.

And this brought me sharply back to those visions or fancies with which I have dealt in the chapter about childhood. I spoke there of the indescribable and indestructible certitude in the soul, that those first years of innocence were the beginning of something worthy, perhaps more worthy than any of the things that actually followed them: I spoke of the strange daylight, which was something more than the light of common day, that still seems in my memory to shine on those steep roads down from Campden Hill, from which one could see the Crystal Palace from afar.

Well, when a Catholic comes from Confession, he does truly, by definition, step out again into that dawn of his own beginning and look with new eyes across the world to a Crystal Palace that is really of crystal. He believes that in that dim corner, and in that brief ritual, God has really remade him in His own image. He is now a new experiment of the Creator. He is as much a new experiment as he was when he was really only five years old. He stands, as I said, in the white light at the worthy beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old.
-- G.K. Chesterton, Autobiography (A hat-tip to Fr. Z. for this quote.)
You become again five minutes old, truly; forgiveness that is not merely legal, but ontological as well -- as Fr. Stephen Freeman often writes: Christ came not to make bad men good, but to make dead men live -- pretty cool, eh?

Why not go to  Confession soon?  I will be praying for you as you go; please pray for me, as I will be going soon myself.

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Harvard/Yale game tomorrow with Dad! Rah, rah, rah! Siss boom bah! Twenty-three skidoo!  Time to sing "Freddy the Freshman":

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I leave Saturday evening after the game for the Thanksgiving holiday, and will be gone for a week.  I'm not sure if I will have any recipe posts for you during the coming week, since others have control of the kitchen during the holidays.  In any event, I'll try to have a Quick Takes post for you next Friday, time permitting.

Do you have favorite Thanksgiving recipes or memories?  Feel free to share them in the combox, if you feel comfortable doing so.

My favorite memory: Thanksgiving dinner at my Italian grandmother's.  Fasting the day before was generally a good idea, and you learned to pace yourself during the day, to not fill up before the main meal.  Always family in and out all day long, lots of laughter, companionship, and football on the television.

There were appetizers of all sorts from the time you arrived until dinner -- cheese, crackers, vegetables, shrimp, sausages, olives, and more.  Dinner was always five courses: soup & salad; pasta (which included meatballs and sausage); vegetables; turkey (and sometimes other meats); and dessert.  Every part of it was delicious.

St. Anselm of Canterbury
Oh -- I can't forget to mention Grandpa's gravy.  The turkey was accompanied by my grandfather's famous brown gravy, which I later came to call (to myself) St. Anselm Gravy: gravy of which no greater could be conceived.

Okay, it may be a bit too irreverent to compare Grandpa's gravy to the good saint's theistic proofs.  Still, the gravy was perfect, and I mean that truly -- no lumps; smooth, flavorful, a rich dark brown color perfect not only for turkey but for other meats as well.

Sadly, no one knows to this day how he made it.  He would get up at 2 am the morning of Thanksgiving and other holidays to make it, even before my grandmother rose, so that no one would see how he made it.  It was a secret he took to his grave. 

Happy memories, for which I am eternally grateful.

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Quoted in Chapter 6 of Ahlquist's The Complete Thinker, pp. 92-93:  
If our life is ever really as beautiful as a fairy-tale, we shall have to remember that all the beauty of a fairy-tale lies in this: that the prince has a wonder which just stops short of being fear. If he is afraid of the giant, there is an end of him; but also if he is not astonished at the giant, there is an end of the fairy-tale. The whole point depends upon his being at once humble enough to wonder, and haughty enough to defy. So our attitude to the giant of the world must not merely be increasing delicacy or increasing contempt: it must be one particular proportion of the two—which is exactly right. We must have in us enough reverence for all things outside us to make us tread fearfully on the grass. We must also have enough disdain for all things outside us, to make us, on due occasion, spit at the stars. Yet these two things (if we are to be good or happy) must be combined, not in any combination, but in one particular combination. The perfect happiness of men on earth (if it ever comes) will not be a flat or solid thing, like the satisfaction of animals. It will be an exact and perilous balance; like that of a desperate romance. Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt in himself to enjoy them. 

-- G.K. Chesterton
Simply too good not to share.

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Finally, this week --
If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "Thank You," that would suffice.

-- Meister Eckhart
When I was a wee lad in nursery school, we learned this simple grace before meals:
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.
It quickly became the blessing before the holiday meals in my family.  In my teens and early twenties (unsurprisingly), this blessing seemed corny, but now, understanding more deeply how all is grace and all is gift, I'm learning to enjoy it anew.

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If I do not get a chance to write again before I return from holiday, have a blessed and graced Thanksgiving, everyone! May bounty and gratitude of every kind be with you and yours this coming week!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


  1. I really enjoyed reading this Jason. I do have to debate with you over the gravy though-I've always considered that my mother made the best gravy in the world! lol! She is Italian; but my English grandmother from southern Idiana taught her how to make excellent gravy, fried chicken and biscuits (still among my favorite foods). But I think it' the love that goes with it all is what makes it the best-the most delicious! No one can make sauce like my Granma Barlotta (may she rest in piece). If any restaurant compares, they get 4 and a half stars from me! Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal-and a break one day from the kitchen! I always do at other's homes! Chris O.

  2. #7 said with reverence in the heart, even the corniest of prayers lacks for nothing in the eyes God.

  3. Chris -- :) Agreed. Everyone's [insert favorite relation] makes the best [insert favorite dish]. And they're all delicious and perfect.

    Thomas -- I hope so. If God doesn't have a sense of humor, I'm hosed. ;)


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