A sleeping giant

OperationForagerAt the end of the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora” (1970 film about the Dec 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), Admiral Isoroku Yamamato comments, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” It is a great line, prescient in nature, but… Although the quotation may well have encapsulated many of his real feelings about the attack, there is no printed evidence to prove Yamamoto made this statement or wrote it down. William Safire traces its origins to the phrase dubiously attributed to Napoleon, “China is a sickly, sleeping giant. But when she awakes the world will tremble”. But the metaphor of the awakened sleeping giant was apt – and may well have been in Yamamoto’s mind. The admiral had studied, served and traveled in the United States and was well aware of its extensive industrial capability – as were a number of key Japanese military leaders of the day. Continue reading

Looking deeply

corpus-christiMy favorite comic strip is “Calvin and Hobbes.”  If you are not familiar, it features Calvin, a preternaturally bright six year-old, and Hobbes, his imaginary tiger friend. The comic strip manages to infuse wondering (and wandering) on a cosmic scale into an ageless world of lazy Sunday afternoons, space adventures, and tales of befuddled babysitters, teachers, and parents. What I most enjoy about Calvin and Hobbes is that it reminds me of our capacity to be surprised, to imagine, and enter into mystery and wonderment. Calvin’s openness to the mystery of it all allowed him entry to even the theological arts where he mused about the combination of predestination with procrastination, finally concluding, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I am so far behind that I will never die.” Continue reading

A long time ago…

In June 1944, war raged across the globe. Allied forces from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and many other Commonwealth countries opened another front on the War against Nazi Germany. Allied forces had already recaptured Saharan Africa, Sicily, and liberated Rome on June 4, 1944.  Meanwhile in the Pacific, allied forces were already underway for an amphibious landing in the Mariana Islands of Saipan and Guam to begin June 13th. In midst of all this came the most remembered of the days in this single month of June 1944. Today we remember the Allied landings on the beaches of France.

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The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

This weekend the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, a feast perhaps better known by the Latin Corpus Christi. At its core, the solemnity is a celebration of the Tradition and belief in the Eucharist as the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Many folks wonder why this celebration is not integral with Holy Thursday. It was,  mixed in with other themes, e.g., institution of the priesthood. And, all this occurs in the shadow of Good Friday. The placement of the celebration was not one that necessarily lends itself to a joyful celebration. Continue reading

Francis: the First Missions

Francis-missionsAn earlier article had discussed the problems with the rapid growth of members within in the fledgling community friars.  The period from 1213 to 1216 is the most obscure period in Francis’ life and also one of the periods of explosive growth in the movement as the brotherhood spread well beyond Assisi.  How many friars joined the fraternity in those years?  It is impossible to say, but we do know this: in 1217 the annual meeting (called a “chapter”) made the decision to send out missions across the Alps into northern Europe, the Baltic states, and to the Crusader States in the eastern Mediterranean.  Within Italy, six provinces were established; outside of Italy, five provinces were established: Spain, northern and southern France, Germany, and Syria. Continue reading

Letters to the Corinthians

saint-paulToo many irons in the fire, so to speak. I have a whole folder of work-in-progress articles, posts, studies, musings, and a “digital attic” of things in the folder “Interesting ideas.” One of the items in the attic was an introduction to St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians – or rather his on-going somewhat rocky relationship with the community at Corinth.

With the exception of The Letter to the Galatians and The Letter to the Romans, St. Paul’s epistles are pastoral letters, most often responding to some problem in the community – that is not to say they do not carry/imply a consistent theological unpinning – but the letters are pastoral in nature and most often corrective and encouraging. But we are not always sure of the problem that is being addressed. Continue reading

National Doughnut Day

Did you know that today is National Doughnut Day – or Donuts if your prefer. I pretty sure that we all now how to celebrate the day, but did you know the history behind the celebration? We have the Salvation Army (SA) to thank for this holiday. During World War I, the SA sent teams of volunteers to support the troops by meeting some of their needs: baked goods, writing supplies and stamps, and a clothes-mending service. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near to the front lines, the two SA volunteers came up with the idea of providing doughnuts – which were instantly popular.

In 1938 the Chicago area SA wanted to do a fund raiser for the poor of the Great Depression and also to honor the SA volunteers from WWI – the rest is history

You can’t make this stuff up

While on a 5 miles walk about I took the opportunity to listen to my favorite podcast: Hidden Brain. Hosted by Skankar Vedantam, the show explores the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior and questions that lie at the heart of our complex and changing world. Today’s episode was “Why We Hold On To Things.” If you would like to listen….


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Saints we don’t know

angelico-saints-martyrsOn All Saints Day we celebrate, remember, and honor all the saints, known and unknown. Back in the earliest days of the Church, we did not so much think of “saints” but rather martyrs were especially esteemed. It was very much a local event, as the local church celebrated the anniversary of a martyr’s death on the anniversary date and in the place of martyrdom. By the 4th century the list of martyrs had grown considerably with some martyrs being celebrated more universally. The Church was caught between its desire to remember and celebrate the martyr’s witness and death, an ever expanding geography, and the practical matter of finding days to set aside to celebrate. Very soon there was a movement to find a common day to celebrate martyrs that were important to the Church while leaving the local communities to set aside days for martyrs that loomed larger in local memory. Continue reading

I’m only asking

Hamlet_1The first reading for today’s Mass is from the Book of Tobit, chapter 3. There in verse 6 is a simple phrase – in the Greek it is oneidismous pseudeis. Depending on the New American Bible translation being used you will either hear “false reproaches” or the less familiar “calumnies.”

“Calumny” is not a word that finds common usage in most people’s everyday vocabulary. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines “calumny” as “the act of uttering false charges or misrepresentations maliciously calculated to harm another’s reputation.” The word came into English in the 15th century and comes from the Middle French word calomnie of the same meaning. Calomnie, in turn, derives from the Latin word calumnia, (meaning “false accusation,” “false claim,” or “trickery”), which itself traces to the Latin verb calvi, meaning “to deceive.” Calumny made an appearance in these famous words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go.” Hamlet is basically tormenting poor Ophelia. He tells her that, as a woman, she will never escape calumny (slander).

Did you know that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a section on the sin of calumny?

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