Quick Takes: Turkish-style Coffee and Other Things

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Welcome to a suitably random series of quick takes, as you can tell from the first topic.  Those who wish to read a random assortment of things about yours truly are encouraged to continue.  Which reminds me, there are two award posts I should do in the near future from Josh W and Lynlynsays.  Look forward to them!

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I’ve determined that my favorite method of brewing coffee is the Turkish method: stirring very fine coffee grinds into some water, simmering it for five minutes (I try to keep it between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit), and then stirring before pouring it into a cup.  My grandmother uses this method, though I never employed it myself until the past month.  One interesting thing about this method is how one can stir up the grinds on the bottom of one’s cup to heighten the flavor.  The end result is very strong–especially with the Death Wish Coffee (the most caffeinated coffee in the world) I’m using now.

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Spiritual Books for May

Those of you who remember my Candlemas Resolutions, recall my wish to write a review of one religious book per month.  Spiritual reading is of great necessity for Christians.  The Bible holds first place, but the Bible has been called “God’s Hidden Book” with good reason: it can be hard to understand, and the reader needs the special grace of the Holy Spirit to properly learn from it.  (Happy Pentecost, by the way!) However, there are three things which shed light on how to apply and understand Scripture: 1) the lives of the saints; 2) theology; and 3) devotional/spiritual books.

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I said that I wished to concentrate on theological works in that past article, but they are slow reading.  I’m still not finished with Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology, which was reviewed in February of last year.  (Mostly due to laziness, it is true.) Now, my theologically heavy book is Matthias Joseph Scheenben’s A Manual of Catholic Theology.  It’s very interesting, but don’t expect a review of it any time soon.  In any case, I hope that one of the following three books, two saint’s lives and one devotional work, peaks your interest and enriches your life.

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1) Humility of Heart by Cajetan Maria de Bergamo

This book was written by the esteemed Capuchin missionary Cajetan Maria de Bergamo.  This might be the only work of his to have been published in English, even though his eulogist praises him as “second to none in religious life and easily first in all types of writing” and Pope Benedict XVI claims his work as equally satisfying the heart and the mind.  So, it should come as no surprise that his work on humility is considered one of the best on the virtue.

Humility of Heart does its best to paint a picture of how beautiful humility is and how ugly is its opposite, pride.  He uses many apt examples, especially from Scripture.  Most striking for me is how he reminded us that if humility is enough to move God to save us, then pride alone can cause damnation.  Indeed, that unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost, refusal to repent, is rooted in pride; and many persons who are considered decent or even virtuous go to hell because they refuse to let God in their lives. 

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How Re-Kan’s Amami Reminds Me of a Prayerful Catholic

Happy Feast of the Guardian Angels!  How blessed we are that God has given us each a guardian angel who never leaves us for one moment–even when our actions displease our angel.  And no, our guardian angels don’t leave us when we grow up, as if we should need less help against the forces of evil the further along our road to holiness.  So, take a moment to thank God for your guardian angel, and thank your angel for all the help and graces God has seen fit to convey you through this angel.

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In today’s materialistic world, such a feast strikes many as superstitious.  Anything touching upon the supernatural, whether souls, ghosts, miracles, the saints, the sacraments, or even God, is usually treated with distrust or contempt.  Sometimes, these responses are quite healthy.  After all, even though the Church herself approves certain events as miracles, she only requires us to believe the miracles of Scripture as articles of faith.  I am reminded of a Father Brown story where our hero is presumed dead and then rises back to life in the midst of his own funeral.  As the people rejoice over a miracle, Father Brown declares that miracles are not so cheap.  Hurrying to a phone, Father Brown rapidly explains to his bishop how a criminal drugged him so that he would appear dead and awaken during his funeral.

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Happy Feast of St. Padre Pio

Today is the fourty-seventh anniversary of the death, or rather natalis (the Latin word for birthday, often applied to the last day of a saint’s life on earth), of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcino.  Padre Pio lived the life of a Capuchin monk at the town of San Giovanni Rotonda, Italy.  He won renown during his life as the greatest miracle worker of the 20th century, and through his stigmata and charisms  lead perhaps hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.  Often, he would spend over fourteen hours in the confessional to shrive the multitudes of pilgrims from across the globe who sought to see him.  For which reason, when the pope asked a priest what Padre Pio did at San Giovanni Rotunda, the priest responded: “He takes away the sins of the world.”  Pio’s last words were “Jesus, Mary,” persons to whom St. Pio had dedicated his entire life.

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At any rate, I hope that my Catholic readers celebrate this feast by asking Padre Pio’s intercession and even possibly going to mass.  May my other readers be edified by reading about Padre Pio’s example or delighted to learn something new.  A while back, I linked to this page on Padre Pio for some anecdotes.  That link also has a ton of pictures of the saint.  And I shall link other pages below for your pleasure.

St. Pio carrying Christ's cross

At the Padre Pio shrine in Italy, Pio is shown holding the place of St. Simon in the Fifth Station of the Cross.

EWTN’s Two Page Biography of Padre Pio

Quotes from Padre Pio

 

De Hilaritate

My dear readers, unfortunate gravity and perfectionism have seized and bound my pen of late.  The desire to write well has stymied me from writing at all.  As the Italian proverb has it, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”  The only solution, since I cannot convince myself that I write well, lies in writing badly.  After all, Theodore Roosevelt advises that the best thing to do in any situation is the right thing, the next best is the wrong thing, and the worst is to do nothing at all.  This advice may actually be false in regard to politics, but in the realm of writing it bears certain truth.  And so, I have proposed to myself to write one post per diem–not necessarily on this blog–for a fortnight.

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The title of this post, “De Hilaritate,” is the closest I could translate “On Levity” into Latin.  If I had written “De Levitate” instead, the present article would be praising fickleness or changeableness, which deserve no praise at all.  When I speak of levity, I speak of that virtue related to cheerfulness and humility, which all the saints have and often reveal in the most dour of times–as when the martyr St. Lawrence, as he roasted alive over a grill, said: “I’m well done on this side.  Turn me over and eat!”  At the same time, the excess of gravity, rooted in pride and despair, is shared by all the citizens of hell.  This might strike many of you with surprise as many religious types, myself included, have a tendency to face life with a serious countenance, as seems reasonable considering an eternity of heaven or hell awaits us depending on how we have lived.  However, the devout always carry joy in them–the joy of being united to Christ, and extra seriousness at the beginning of conversion must give way to levity as our faith in God’s goodness and salvific will increase.

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Liebster Award Again!

Medieval Otaku has once again nominated for a Liebster Award, my dear readers!  At first, I thought that I would have to refuse since my site now boasts more than two hundred followers, but the rules have been amended since last I received the award.  This time, I must thank three fellow bloggers for their nominations: Masq of Behind the Masq, Tobby of The Overlord Bear’s Den, and Josh W of Res Studiorum et Ludorum.  (I love that pretentious Latin title.)  Masq nominated me back in February, but I kept putting off this post.  The other two nominated me recently, and so reminded me.  I shall answer all of their questions and hope that this post amuses you for the two hours or so it will take to read.  (Just kidding!)

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Let me post the most current rules for the Liebster Award, which Wording Well displays on that site:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Hajime Saito

To my mind, it seems more orderly to list the random facts about myself first.  Here they are:

1.  I love swords.  I currently own four of them: a Norman sword (a broadsword which favors the cut but has enough of a point to stab with), a viking sword, a Catalonian sword (circa 14th century.  A light sword which cuts as well as it thrusts.), and an O-katana (a katana with a thirty-six inch blade–the kind only carried by the strongest samurai.)

2.  My favorite composer is Antonio Vivaldi, especially for his La Stravaganza.

3.  My favorite work of Tolkien’s is The Hobbit.  I like that book so much that I even bought the Latin translation of it, Hobbitus Ille.

4.  Despite my avatar being Sven Vollfied, I’d have to say that my favorite anime character is Hajime Saito of Rurouni KenshinAku Soku Zan!

5.  My first experience of the Japanese came through watching WWII films, from which I concluded that the Japanese were the most lousy, underhanded, and cruel race upon earth.  If not for my interest in martial arts, I might have retained that unfortunate opinion–only applicable to certain Japanese of the Second World War.

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6.  My favorite Japanese actor of all time is Toshiro Mifune, especially for his samurai roles.  He became an actor by his friends applying to a “new faces” contest in Mifune’s name without his knowledge!

7.  I learned Japanese so I would not have to wait for Viz Media to translate Inuyasha.  They’re abominably slow, I tell you!

8.  One work in my possession, The U.S.S. Seawolf: Submarine Raider of the Pacific, was a Christmas gift to me from my grammar school library, because no other student wanted to take it out.

9.  Arizona is my favorite state.  I hope to be able to retire there if I cannot find a way to become a permanent resident sooner.  My brother’s beating me to it by going to law school there.

10.  I am part of a very small minority who not only likes Lost Universe, but considers it one of their top twenty anime.  As a matter of fact, the existence of another such person is highly improbable.

11.  When I was young, I used to be part of the Sea Cadets.  At the time, I hated the experience, but it gave me many fine stories to tell and made me a little less shy.

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Now, onto the bloggers’ questions!  Here Masq’s list with my answers:

1. Why did you start blogging?

My dream has always been to write fiction, particularly fantasy fiction a la Tolkien.  But, the desire to write fell dormant after I won placed third in Athanatos Christian Ministries’ Short Story Contest for The Death of St. Magnus of Orkney until the writing bug hit me again two years ago.  This blog covered all my hobbies with the hope that my writing muscle would become stronger by doing so.  Now, my writing serves an aspiring cartoonist, and I hope to have a couple of novels out before the end of the year–sans blague!  (That’s French for “no kidding!”)

2. What is your favorite anime to date and why?

Rurouni Kenshin.  The characters have great personalities and compelling back stories, the animation is beautiful, the fights are awesome, the story arcs mesmerize the viewer, the characters defend interesting philosophies with both their blades and their words, and it gives surprisingly accurate historical information on Meiji Japan.  I doubt a better anime will ever come out of Japan!

3. What is your favorite video game and why?

Crusaders of Might and Magic.  Ask my brother and he’ll tell you that the frequency with which I replayed this game drove him nuts.  I loved Drake, the noble mercenary who defies a powerful necromancer as he foils all the necromancer’s plots.  It’s an old game and somewhat simple, but I loved the story and the combat.

4. You discover a Pokemon egg in your room.  It will hatch into whatever Pokemon you wish.  What do you choose and why?

An Arcanine.  I never got into Pokemon, but that one looks cool.

Arcanine

5. If you were to give advice for someone trying to start a blog, what would be the one tip you’d give them?

Be sure to read and comment on other blogs.  That’s the most important thing.  It’s better to write once a fortnight as long as one is active in the blogging community than to write frequently in obscurity.

6. Apples or Oranges?

Oranges.  They taste better and are used for more cocktails–especially the Old Fashioned!

7. What is your favorite non-anime TV show?

Magnum P.I.  Tom Selleck plays a great Hawaiian P.I. with a very complex history and persona.

8. Name one old TV series that should not be rebooted.

The Brady Bunch.

9. What board game should Michael Bay turn into a movie next?

Shadows over Camelot.  It would be fun to see how he weaves the game’s features into Arthurian legend–especially whether he shall include a traitor among the Knights of the Round Table.

10. What is your favorite Animal?

Wolves.  I have always been fascinated by how wolves run a kind of society and they are beautiful creatures.

Two Wolves

Now for Tobby’s questions:

1. What sort of music do you like?

J-pop, Classical, and 80’s music.

2. Is there a foreigner-made artwork that you really like?

I have a print of Jesus during the agony in the garden signed by Vicente Roso.  I believe this is the same Roso who’s famous for the comic Florita, but I might be wrong.  I love how the picture displays the world lying in darkness while Jesus is the light which will scatter this darkness.  In addition, Christ appears alone against all this darkness–even the three apostles lie in a deep sleep, but He is looking up to show that He has confidence in His Father’s plans for Him.

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3. Is there a fictional story that you would like to recommend?

Having read the comment that no one reads Sir Walter Scott anymore and determined that experience shows this to be true, I want to recommend Quentin Durward to my readers.  It focuses on a young Scot who travels to France to join King Louis XI’s Scottish bodyguards.  It also features the character Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy and stands as the most fun and easy to read of Sir Walter Scott’s works–at least, to my knowledge.

4. What do you usually do when you’re in the Internet?

I suppose blogging or playing on chess.com occupy most of my web browsing.

5. Have you ever had to deal with a really short-tempered child?

No, thankfully.

6. Do you think that you are an optimist?

Yes, sometimes I think that I’m crazy for being one, but I still am.

7. What is your preferred way of dealing with people who hate you?

I pray for them and stay out of their hair.  If I were a better Christian, I would greet them with smiles, but I confess to being rather lousy!

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Padre Pio, one of my favorite models for leading a Christian life.

8. Do you think that the death penalty is a good way to curb crime?

Yes, it prevents repeat offenses.  At any rate, there seem to be a certain set of people who are either impenitent or will repent at nothing less than the threat of their own demise.

9. Who is the family member that inspired you most?

I believe that my mother, father, grandfather, and grandmother have all inspired me greatly.  Of all of them, I feel most inspired by my grandfather, who had several languages under his command, was a great student of European history, and led a very interesting life in Croatia during the Second World War, under the Communists afterwards, and when he emigrated for America in 1967.

10. In three to five words, what are your values?

Wisdom, Knowledge, Compassion, Patience, Loyalty.

11. What is your favorite food?

A stew based on a family recipe known as gumbo, though the concoction of pasta sauce, barbeque sauce, Tabasco, peppers, garlic, onion, chicken, and hot Italian sausage does not count as a traditional gumbo.  Over spaghetti with the right amount of heat, nothing else is so good!

Inuyasha and Ramen

Now for Josh W’s questions:

1. Prog rock or punk?

Definitely progressive rock!

2. What book(s) are you reading right now?

I have the horrendous practice of perusing many works until a particular work absorbs my interest and I read through it.  At the moment, I’m reading the following: Virgil’s Aeneid (in Latin, of course.  Translations of this work are lame.), The Lord of the Rings, St. Thomas Aquinas’ On Prayer and Contemplation, Aquinas’ Catena Aurea: Gospel of Matthew, Michael Dirda’s On Conan Doyle, Kipling’s The Light That Failed, volume one of Churchill’s history of WWII, Vikings: A History of the Norse Peoples by Martin J. Doughty, and Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova.  I might also add that I listen to Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities or Stevenson’s Treasure Island while driving or occupied such that I cannot focus on a printed book.  I could also add various manga, but that list is already long enough.

3. If you could instantaneously become fluent in one language which you are not already, which would it be?

Might as well pick a language I feel is beyond my capabilities: Classical Chinese.  Then, I would read the Four Great Classical Novels in the original form: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber.

4. Name one piece of media, literary, musical, visual etc. which you believe has had a significant effect on your life.

Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk by Fr. M. Raymond.  This is the most profound work I’ve ever read.  It teaches about the importance of each individual person in the history of salvation, and I would highly recommend my fellow Catholics to read it.

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5. Has your worldview ever undergone dramatic changes? How many times?

I suppose that reading Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk counts as the first.  Oblomov convincing me of the importance of friends stands as the second.  I can think of other changes, but they do not seem as dramatic to me.

6. Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest?

Never played Dragon Quest, and so I must go with Final Fantasy–especially Final Fantasy VIII.  I remember the days when the graphics of that game held me spellbound!

7. Favourite kind of verse?

Classical love poetry.  Ovid is my favorite poet, and I would heartily recommend his Heroides and Erotic Poems.  Concerning the latter, the seventh poem in book three has to be the funniest poem I’ve ever read–and not rated X, I assure you!

8. Are you a bot pretending to be a human? Please type: rI45yeARal3

Aquinas Bot

9. Favourite short story collection?

Of anything which I have read, nothing beats Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes.  I’ll just put The Complete Sherlock Holmes here.

10. Is it obvious that I am straining to come up with questions at this point?

It was obvious at #8.  I’ll be in the same boat shortly.

11. Would you rather be in Agamemnon’s army, or Odysseus’ crew?

Agamemnon’s army.  The chance for glory on the battlefield seems greater than finding it by risking death from cyclopes, oblivion by way of opium, or walking off a roof with a hangover.

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My nominees:

Gaikokumaniakku

A Journey Through Life

Croatia by Us

Fox Diary

GAR GAR Stegosaurus

Gentlemanotoku’s Anime Circle

Yaranakya

Viking History with C. J. Adrian

The Null Set

Pretense w/Glasses

Head Noises

I hope that you enjoyed reading my answers in this oppressively long article!  Now, I shall wrap up with the questions I have for my nominees, which may not significantly differ from the questions I answered above.

  1. Do you watch the Olympics?
  2. Who is your favorite historical figure?
  3. Vikings vs. Samurai.  Who wins on a level playing ground?
  4. Do you like Jane Austen’s books?
  5. If your were marooned on a desert island with little possibility of rescue, which five books would you want to have with you?
  6. Also, a lifetime supply of what drink would you want to have with you on that island?
  7. Have you ever thought about joining the military or joined it?  Which branch?
  8. If for one night you could dine with anyone–living or dead, who would it be?
  9. If for a fortnight you could be transported into a fantasy world before returning to the real world, which one would it be?
  10. (For men) If you could grow a beard like JEB Stuart’s, would you?  (For women) If you could be any height you wished, what would it be?
  11. What’s your favorite sea creature?

And here’s a picture of Jeb Stuart if you are unfamiliar with his glorious beard:

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On Joy and Suffering in This Life

The thought came to my mind that people use times of joy and suffering in the opposite way from which they were intended.  During good times, we think that God loves us very much (as He does regardless of circumstances) and we grow more attached to this life.  During the latter times, we become vexed with God and groan and complain for Him to improve our lot.  Perhaps the thought crosses our mind that God hates us–an impossibility.  Rather, prosperity is not a sure sign that we are pleasing to God.  It might even be a sign that our lot is not with God but in this life.  On the other hand, St. Pio avers: “Suffering is the sure sign that God is loving us.”

St. Pio carrying Christ's cross

I mentioned in my article on Arpeggio of Blue Steel that God wishes us to be His friends.  If we look at human friendships, we might rate them as follows from least to greatest: 1) friendships of utility, 2) fair weather friends, 3) friends of long duration, 4) friends who remain friends in difficult times, and 5) friends who suffer with us.  Though God loves all of us infinitely–even those who actively hate Him, who can doubt that those who most perfectly share the cross of Christ must be considered best friends?  He wishes to transform those of mercenary temperament to serve him out of love, is pained by seeing the unwillingness of second group to stay with Him in suffering, looks with great fondness on those who stay by His side though weakly, is consoled by those who remember His Passion often, and who can describe the joy and pleasure He takes in souls that share in His Passion through suffering?  And so, when we suffer, we ought to be more inclined to thank God for these very sufferings than complain of them.  As St. Peter writes: “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

Leonardo da Vinci's crucifixion of St. Peter

The whole purpose of prosperity is to prepare us to suffer.  We thank God for good things so that we might later be able to say with Job: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  This time on earth is the most important time in our lives, but it pales in comparison to the eons we shall enjoy in the presence of God.  Such a long time is incomprehensible to us!  Everything good and beautiful here should lift our minds to the splendor and joys of paradise.  If the flowers and verdure of spring can give us such pleasure, how much more will paradise delight us with its beauties?

beautiful garden

Lest the thorny and rocky path to this delightful paradise disquiet us, let us remember that path smooth and strewn with flowers but leads to the gaping maw of hell.  Even if we allow the storms of life to choke our faith, God will never forget the least moment we shared His sufferings.  Who can doubt that He shall shine the warmest rays of His Mercy on such a soul even to the last moment of life so that it might still attain eternal life in heaven?

Defensio Pudoris: Against the Shameless Philosophy of Kill la Kill

Well, I have watched Kill la Kill for three episodes and am not completely sure how to think of it.  The heroine, as with any character voiced by Ami Koshimizu, is incredibly cute and the action rather amusing.  I required the insight of other bloggers to form a more coherent opinion of the show.  With the help of JoeAnimated’s article and the one he links to, I have discerned that Nietzsche’s philosophy, to which I am no friend, imbues the series.  Apparently, this series attempts to attack Japanese notions of shame.  According to the series, shame prevents one from attaining their goals.  After all, ordinary shame would have prevented Matoi from seeking vengeance in that terribly revealing outfit.  Kiryuin, the antagonist, accuses Matoi of allowing “the values of the masses,” i.e. modesty, to prevent her from achieving true fusion with her kamui or power suit and thus from her goal of getting vengeance for her father.  Nevermind that idea of vengeance and vendettas, as with the Viking and Germanic pagans of the Middle Ages, reside in the normal Japanese psyche as well!

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From my title, defensio pudoris, you might understand that I have a hearty disagreement with this view of shame.  My aversion to the idea of shame hindering humanity is so great that I feel like dropping the show right here.  Yet, I have been accused of excessive prejudice in my literary judgments.  That article accuses me of allowing my religious and philosophical prejudices to blind me to the greatness of works written under opposing ideologies.  To which, I respond that people of opposing views can certainly write a good work; but, a great author must have a great message in addition to a knack for memorable characters, great dialogue, engaging plots, vivid settings, and beautiful literary style.  Everyone loves the truth, or at least everyone worth his salt does.  (General Lee referred to one general in the Mexican War who as the only person he met indifferent to truth and falsehood.  May none of us ever gain the same disregard for the truth!)  Therefore, it is no surprise that my top ten list  contains authors who come closest to the truth as I understand it.  And judging from my friend’s top ten list–also on the blog, he stands guilty of the same laudable charge with the single aberration of H. G. Wells.  The noble thought of overcoming my prejudices induces me to continue watching Kill la Kill with all its foolish Nietzschean conceptions of the will to power and of the abandonment of common morality.

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At any rate, shame is essential to developing virtue.  When the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope saw a young man blushing, he said: “Courage, my boy, that is the color of virtue.”  Then again, Nitobe Inazo claimed that the way the Japanese would avert their children from bad behavior would be by telling them that they should be ashamed of it.  Also, we see that shame is essential in the practice of religion.  Who doubts that the ancient Israelites had forgotten shame prior to the Babylonian Exile when they worshiped other gods even around the temple, sacrificed blemished animals, father-in-laws bedded their sons’ wives, and the powerful oppressed orphans and widows?  Their hearts had become so gross that they could not longer tell right from wrong!  The Israelites even told a certain prophet that they have done nothing wrong, and they believed that God did not see their iniquities.  They were shameless, and their very shamelessness prevented their repentance!

Every Japanophile needs to read Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo.  It offers incredible insights into the Japanese.

Every Japanophile needs to read Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo. It offers incredible insights into the Japanese.

I remember reading about Padre Pio breaking down in the confessional after confessing minor sins.  When the confessor expressed surprise at his tears, Padre Pio told him that it was his infidelity that brought him to tears.  In the same way, a spouse might be filled with shame at enjoying a kiss from someone outside their marriage.  And I am certain that a delicacy of conscience is necessary for sainthood.

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It is also certain that shameless people cannot relate well with others, as we see from the example of Kiryuin in Kill la Kill.  Does anyone find her clubbable?  Rather she is far too superior to care for ordinary mortals or feel ashamed before them.  The best persons to have in authority are those capable of shame, as we see in the example of the best kings from the Middle Ages.  Why did Canute have himself brought to the shore to command impotently the waves to turn back except that he was ashamed at the ridiculous praise his courtiers heaped on him?  Kiryuin surely ought to be ashamed for claiming so many special privileges, casting off feminine modesty, and having all treat her as a goddess!

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Shame allows human beings to remain human.  Without shame, the possession of virtue and the execution of many good deeds becomes impossible.  Without shame, we cannot repent of our failings.  Without shame, we cannot walk humbly with God or our fellow human beings.  Of course, there can be excesses of shame, as when a person refuses to go to confession or to speak where necessary.  However, a well formed conscience works best with a sense of shame: confession produces less amendment and speech becomes too bold without shame.  It is easier to overcome shame on the right occasions than for a shameless mind to act justly and considerately.

What is God’s Will and Why One Should Strive to Follow it

Interestingly, people sometimes become nervous when they hear about God’s will.  Perhaps because they expect it will take a great sacrifice or they associate this term with misfortunes–e.g. “It was just God’s will.”  Yet, who is it that is willing for us to follow His will?  A perfect and infinitely good God who is absolutely merciful and just.  He wishes all things to come to perfection, which for human beings is nothing other than our happiness.

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So, God wishes us to be happy and to be perfectly happy with Him for all eternity, sharing in God’s own happiness.  Therefore, God’s will cannot be other than His Glory and our complete happiness.  Indeed, if we should all become happy in the way that God wished, like the blessed Virgin Mary–the only human being to perfectly follow God’s will in all respects (Of course, Jesus Christ followed His Father’s will perfectly too, but He was also God), then we should all be saints and the happiness of one would increase our own happiness.  How greatly would God’s glory be revealed!  The saints dwell in perfect happiness in heaven and were more joyful on earth than us ordinary sinners.

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Yet, why this hesitation and fear of following God’s will if it leads us to perfect happiness?  The great crosses in the lives of the saints might deter us; yet, is there a life without a cross–that gift from a most loving God?  If suffering be our lot whether we are saints or sinners, why not suffer for the sake of virtue and our happiness rather than going against God’s will?  Is it possible that we shall have a lighter cross by doing what ultimately makes us unhappy, even if it might seem the easier route?

I should like to compare three lives for you, all of which seemed to have been lived by God’s will: St. Padre Pio, Louis Martin, and J. R. R. Tolkien.    One does find crosses therein, but these same people seem to be happier than most.

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On one hand, the life of Padre Pio seems to have been stuffed with crosses: demonic persecutions, persecution by church authorities, people maligning his good name, much pain, and many severe physical illnesses.  On the other hand, he delighted to suffer because suffering increased his likeness and closeness to Our Lord and Master–to the degree that he was marked with the Stigmata.  Furthermore, he was able to help people reconcile with Christ through his ministry of the Confessional and his example of a life dedicated to Jesus Christ.  Doing so brought him so many spiritual children than he could have had as the father of a family.  No other kind of life would have made Padre Pio happier.

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You might know that Louis Martin was the father of St. Therese of Lisieux.  If I remember rightly, he owned a jewelry business and delighted in his family: a loving wife, who has also entered the process of canonization, and five daughters who became religious sisters.  He strictly observed the sabbath, exercised patience toward all, was always the first to respond to the village fire alarm, made time for quiet meditation, and loved his daughters dearly.  If he had gone into religion, as he had planned, we would never have had St. Therese of Lisieux, and he would never have enjoyed the love of his family and been an example to all his neighbors.  And despite his illnesses toward the end of his life, he actually seemed to grow happier and holier and edified people even by his death.

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Lastly, Tolkien’s early life also contained suffering: his mother was disowned by her family after converting to Catholicism and she died a widow while Tolkien was in his teens, he was forced to separate from his fiancee for years without contact (save once) and almost lost her to another man, and suffered many illnesses and wounds while at the front lines in World War I–losing all save one friend in the war.  Yet, his mother’s sacrifices increased his fervor for the Faith, his separation and reunion with his beloved purified and strengthened their love, and his suffering in the war increased his understanding.

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Suffering does increase understanding.  How well could Tolkien have written The Lord of the Rings without this experience?  Could he have written the romance of Luthien and Beren?  How much less penetrating his academic articles?  Truth and wisdom are great possessions.  Can anyone doubt that Tolkien was anything less than happy in dramatically reading the first fifty lines of Beowulf before new classes?

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All these lives are happy and according to God’s will.  One might judge Padre Pio’s life to have been more according to God’s will because he’s a canonized saint, but that is speculation: we shall not know until we have arrived in heaven, and I am certain that we shall see all three of them there!  What we can be sure that Padre Pio would not have been happy as a teacher of Old English, Tolkien as a jeweler, or Louis Martin as a monk.  Each person was made to be happy in a different fashion, but all of these lives are focused on Christ and following the Will of God: your salvation and happiness.

Found a Great Page on Padre Pio

It seems that everyone except me is busy posting this time of year.  (The certain result of my lazy nature.)  I don’t know where I’ll find the time to read them all.  At any rate, I’d like to share a page on Padre Pio which I found recently.  It has more pictures than I thought possible of this great saint as well as several amusing stories.  I confess that sometimes when I’m feeling particularly down, seeing Padre Pio often brightens my day.  It makes me wish we had photographs of more great saints, and wonder how great a consolation it would be if we even had one photograph of Our Lord.

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Anyway, I got to work on a paper now.  Hopefully, I’ll have an anime article up by this evening.

Kiba and Cheza’s Love as Symbolic of Jesus and Mary’s

While watching Wolf’s Rain this time, the utter delight Kiba and Cheza had in each other’s company struck me.  Those of my dear readers familiar with Wolf’s Rain know that this show is essentially a Christian allegory.  Though, I must confess to being so obtuse that I actually missed on this obvious connection the first time; but, this only proves how well it works as an allegory: the symbolism works such that it falls short of being blatant, which marks a perfect allegory.

Of course, one of this pair of characters might be conceived of as the Church rather than Mary, as the love of Our Lord for the Church is unfathomable; but, traditionally, many places in Scripture which some say refers to the Church, others say refer to Mary–the Song of Songs being a perfect example.  This is due to Mary being the most perfect disciple of Our Lord.  (Feminists please note that this honor was not given to a man, nor the honor of being the most powerful intercessor among the saints, nor did any other saint have as important a role in the history of salvation, nor is anyone else’s heart so like the Sacred Heart.)

I wrote “one of this pair” above because I hesitate to name either Kiba or Cheza as definitely Jesus or Mary.  If we were to assign them by gender, Kiba would symbolize Jesus and Cheza Mary; yet, Cheza has healing powers, is the one being sought by the pack, and is depicted as if crucified.  On the other hand, Kiba needs to save Cheza, is gravely wounded especially toward the end, and is the obvious leader of the pack–despite his unwillingness to be recognized in that role.  But this similarity brings out a fine point: the better a believer becomes, the closer he approximates Our Lord.  We have the examples of those people who seem so sweet and filled with goodness that we never wish to leave them.  Some people approach Christ-likeness so perfectly that they become an image of Him, as in the Orthodox idea that icons of Christ point to the Father as icons of the saints point to Christ.  Once when someone saw Padre Pio at prayer, he believed he saw Jesus Christ praying.

Also, I remember Louis de Montfort’s claim that it is easier to separate Our Lord from all created beings and things than to separate Him from Mary.  This is similar to Kiba and Cheza’s love.  When Cheza is present, Kiba is always at her side.  When she is absent, she’s all Kiba thinks about.  When Cheza thinks about the pack or feels that the wolves are near, Kiba is the first name that comes to her mind.  At the end of the series, when everyone else has perished, Kiba and Cheza hold each other in a firm embrace.

But that last scene reminds me of a symbol of how Christ is united to his Church, which I cannot pass without remarking: the blood pouring from Kiba and Cheza’s wounds changes into water as it flows out into the sea.  At Mass, a little water is mingled with the wine before consecration.  The water symbolizes the Church, and the mingling with the wine means that Christ is always united with His Church.  And this perpetual union I wish for you all.

Seeing this show again also makes me wonder whether it would have been better to have ended the show at episode 26 rather than creating another four episodes.  After all, the person symbolizing the devil has been destroyed and good victorious.  Even though one may say that the show doesn’t seem complete since the wolves haven’t found paradise, do we not experience the same thing in our lives?  Christ has conquered sin and death, but we still struggle with living virtuously, and, though we possess the Kingdom (“The Kingdom of God is within you” Luke 17:21), we do not yet enjoy the Beatific Vision.

So, what do you think?  Would it have been better to have ended Wolf’s Rain at episode 26 or does the addition of four more episodes make for a superior ending?

Advice on Prayer: Introduction

Well, dear readers, I’d like to give a little introduction to the series of articles which will be posted here.  For a little while, my thoughts dwelt on why so many people either fall away from the Faith or become lukewarm.  In the modern world, things like fear of man (aka human respect), being brought up in a religiously ambivalent environment, and either having a poor religious education or being seduced by secular ideologies tend to be some of the most prominent culprits.  But, greatly influenced by St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s The Great Means of Salvation, the greatest error of those who have fallen away is that they did not persevere in prayer.  Of course, you might be better served by reading that wonderful work; but I must warn you that, besides encouraging the Faithful to pray, this book is a work of Counter Reformation apologetics, including many arguments against the Martin Luther’s and John Calvin’s theologies.  If you would be put off by all those arguments to which St. Alphonsus adds the backing of several Fathers of the Church, stick with my series of articles.  Despite being written from a Catholic perspective, they should prove useful to all Christians and even other Monotheists.  My articles wish to show:

1) The Necessity of Prayer

2) How Not to Pray

3) What to Pray

4) Troubleshooting, or How to Overcome Certain Obstacles in Prayer

Feel free to pick and choose from the advice I give.  For example, however much I should wish it, Protestants are not going to pray to saints.  (Though, might I encourage you to speak to your guardian angel sometimes?  God did provide them with the mission of watching over us, and they deserve some acknowledgement!)  Also, I might just plain be in error on some points, so listen to the advice of someone older and wiser if possible.

Devout persons, people who barely practice religion, those in a state of doubt, and those who would like to believe form my target audience.  For those who are happily atheists, agnostics, and apathiests, please do read the first article then consider whether you arrived at your respective conclusions rightly.  If yes, read no further.  If no, read on.  And comments about how I could improve my arguments will be greatly appreciated.  But, the main thrust of them will be that people are saved sola gratia, “by grace alone,” and that “Prayer is the key which opens the Heart of God” (Padre Pio).  I hope that you enjoy these articles!