Monday, August 22, 2016


Too many anxious Christians today think that their efforts to preach and teach and enter into outward activities can do more to save the world than the surrender of their souls to God, to become Christ-bearers.

They believe that they can do more than Our Lady did, and they have not time to stop to consider the absurdity of this. They fear that if the world goes on hurling itself ito disaster, as it seems to be doing now, Christ’s Kingdom may be defeated. This is not so; Christ has given his word that he will be with, and in, his “little flock” until the end of the world; however dark our days may seem to be for Christianity, they are not so dark as the night following the crucifixion must have seemed to be to the apostles. For that night Christ had already prepared them. He told them to wait: to wait for the coming of the Holy Ghost. He told them that he was going away that they would no longer see him and know the consolation of this presence with them, but that it was better for them that he should go, and the the condition for the coming of the Holy Ghost, through whom he would live on in them, was his going: “And yet I can say truly that it is better for you I should go away; he who is to befriend you will not come to you unless I do go, but if only I make my way there, I will send him to you” (John xvi.7-8).

Christ himself prepared for his Resurrection by resting in the tomb, just as he had prepared for his birth by resting in his mother’s womb. He did not call the legions of angels whom he could have called to fight back the forces of evil that had crucified him; he simply lay in the tomb at rest and, at the appointed moment in time, rose from death to renew the life of the whole world.

The apostles, like the modern apostles, were afraid, and with good cause; in spite of their utter failure during the Passion, they, with the Mother of Christ, alone stood for Christ’s Kingdom, and the murderous hatred of Christ’s enemies pointed straight at them. They shared the reasonable fear of the modern apostle.

But Christ told them simply to wait in the city until the Holy Ghost came to them; not to run away, not to make plans of their own, not to be troubled, either concerning their own own recent failure and sin or concerning the danger that fenced them all round, but only to wait, with his mother among them, for the coming of the Comforter who would make them strong, heal their wounds, wash the stains from their souls and be their joy.

“And behold, I am sending down upon you the gift which was promised by my Father; you must wait in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke xxiv.49).

Christ does not change, the preparation for the coming of the Spirit is the same today as two thousand years ago, whether it be for the rebirth of Christ one soul that is in the hard winter, or for the return from the grave of Christ, whose blood is shed again by the martyrs; the preparation is the same, the still, quiet mind, acceptance, and remaining close to the Mother of God, resting in her rest while the life of the world grew within her towards the flowering of everlasting joy.

--Caryll Houselander, The Risen Christ (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1958), 109-111.

Friday, August 19, 2016


This week's arts and culture column involved a field trip all the way to the Hollywood-adjacent LA neighborhood of Los Feliz. It's on a Frank Lloyd Wright architectural gem called the Hollyhock House.

The piece begins like this:

Hard by the southwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont, up on a hill, stands a highlight of L.A.’s storied architectural story: Barnsdall Park.

The compound features the Municipal Art Gallery, Community Arts Division, Junior Arts Center, Barnsdall Art Center and the Barnsdall Gallery Theater.

But the crown jewel is the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, built for Philadelphia oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in 1919-1921, known as Hollyhock House.

Barnsdall (1882-1946) was a philanthropist, art collector, bohemian and single-mother-by-choice of a daughter nicknamed “Sugartop,” who she’d conceived out of wedlock with a Polish actor.

Envisioning the creation of an arts complex where she could produce theater in her own venue, Barnsdall bought the 38-acre site, then known as Olive Hill, in 1919. She hired hotshot young architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


Monday, August 15, 2016


Hello there, people, this week's arts and culture piece is on master documentarian Frederick Wiseman, a wonderful power of example for all of us who make a vocation of art, all of us who are aging, and all of us, period.

Here's how the piece begins:

Visions & Voices” is a terrific USC-sponsored arts and humanities initiative. The series features theatrical productions, musical and dance performances, film screenings, lectures and workshops by critically-acclaimed artists and distinguished speakers.

Most of the events are free and open to the public, though seats must be reserved. On Aug. 26, the series will feature world-renowned documentarian Frederick Wiseman. Tickets are available online.

At 2 p.m., the conversation will be “The World According to Frederick Wiseman: Beyond Documentary, Into History.”

That evening at 6 p.m., Wiseman — who is 86 — will screen and discuss his most recent film, “National Gallery.”

“Titicut Follies,” Wiseman’s second documentary, remains one of his best-known. In the spring of 1966, he spent 30 days at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute at Bridgewater, a maximum-security prison for the “criminally insane.” The film was released in the fall of 1967, and though Wiseman had acquired releases from all the depicted patients and staff, an injunction was obtained and the film was not available to the general public until 1989.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it “a small, black-and-white picture, laconic, abrasive, occasionally awkward and always compelling.”


Thursday, August 11, 2016


Jacob's Dream, from World Chronicle, about 1400 - 1410, Regensburg, unknown.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

This week's arts and culture column, on illuminated manuscripts at the Getty, begins like this:

The award-winning filmmaker Ingmar Bergman was the son of a Lutheran minister in Sweden. In his autobiography “The Magic Lantern,” he wrote of his childhood, “I devoted my interest to the church’s mysterious world of low arches, thick walls, the smell of eternity, the colored sunlight quivering above the strangest vegetation of medieval paintings and carved figures on ceilings and walls. There was everything that one’s imagination could desire — angels, saints, dragons, prophets, devils, humans.”

That’s exactly the mood evoked by a current exhibit at the Getty Center (through Sept. 25): “Things Unseen: Vision, Belief and Experience in Illuminated Manuscripts.”

Through ink, gold and pigment, Medieval and Renaissance manuscript illustrators sought to convey in images the intimacy of prayer, the mystery of revelation, and the drama of the human battleground between good and evil. These costly and labor-intensive works depicted Old Testament prophets, events from the life and Passion of Christ and stories of martyrs and saints.


Saturday, August 6, 2016


World War II, Human shadow on bank steps, in Hiroshima 
after the explosion of the atom bomb in August 1945, Japan.
Getty Images

At Hiroshima, Japan, the late Fr. Daniel Berrigan wrote the following poem.


At Hiroshima there’s a museum
and outside that museum there’s a rock,
and on that rock there’s a shadow.
That shadow is all that remains
of the human being who stood there
on August 6, 1945
when the nuclear age began.
In the most real sense of the word,
that is the choice before us.
We shall either end war and the nuclear arms race
now in this generation,
or we will become shadows on the rock.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


Some scenes of the chapel at St. Elizabeth of Hungary, one of my many homes away from home.

The other afternoon I spent a little time there.

Walking home, I came upon these incredible sunflowers, in the front yard of what seems to be a Buddhist temple or dwelling of some kind on North Lake Ave. in Altadena.

Juxtaposing the two sets of photos, they seem strangely similar--the colors, the softness, the light--and in some mysterious way connected.

Household hint: If you happen to spill a sugar-laden paper cup of coffee from Trader Joe's on your iphone5 while fumbling to put away your receipt and credit card post-checkout, and afterwards can't really hear an incoming call or voice message unless you put it on speaker--spray a little eyeglass cleaner on the top mic (that little oblong mesh screen), then give it a good scrub with your Sonicare toothbrush!

All better.

Saturday, July 30, 2016



This week's arts and culture piece is on a getaway everyone in the greater LA area should know about.

Here's how it begins:

The Mary & Joseph Retreat Center’s mission is “to provide an environment of serenity, prayer and natural beauty.”

That won’t happen on your way there, which is going to be down the 110, the 405 or the 605. The center is in Rancho Palos Verdes, on the farthest tip of the South Bay.

The eight-acre grounds feature flowering shade trees and beautifully-tended native plants. There are also hummingbirds, six or so wandering-pilgrim peacocks and the occasional hawk.

The grounds are open during daylight hours so people are welcome to come to enjoy the gardens, walk the labyrinth, or pray in the chapel, which is accessible most days from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. That has to make Mary & Joseph one of L.A.’s best-kept secrets.

The center also has two suites, allowing for overnight accommodations for 69 plus a few rollaway beds, two large conference rooms that can hold around 100 and two smaller ones in the annex room, each holding up to 50 people.

Visitors can attend guided day, weekend and long (five- to eight-day) retreats. They are also welcome, space permitting, to make a private retreat that can range from a single night to up to two weeks.



Wednesday, July 27, 2016


"American Legion Convention, Dallas, Texas" 

"[I]t's important to distinguish between Christian-community nonviolence and nonviolence qua nonviolence. The problem with the word nonviolence is that people think they know what nonviolence is apart from Christ. Then nonviolence becomes a marker more determinative than Jesus--it conceives peace apart from the crucifixion. But in reality, discipleship  is the defining characteristic of what it means for Christians to be nonviolent. It means always being open to having the violence of our lives exposed."

--Stanley Hauerwas, from an interview in Plough Quarterly, Summer, 2016 entitled "Why Community is Dangerous"

Monday, July 25, 2016


This week's arts and culture piece is on that beloved "children's" classic: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.

Here's how it begins:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900 - 1944) was an aviator and writer whose fable “Le Petit Prince” (“The Little Prince”) is the fourth most-translated and one of the highest-selling books in the history of publishing. 

Saint-Exupéry was born in Lyon, France, to an aristocratic, if impoverished, Catholic family.

His first airplane ride was reputedly during the summer of 1912, when he was 12.

A poor student, he briefly studied architecture, was conscripted into the French air force in 1921 and qualified as a military pilot in 1922.

His aviation career was marked by daredevil exploits, great personal and spiritual courage and many accidents. His first fiancé broke off the engagement after a crash in which Saint-Exupéry fractured his skull. He flew airmail routes over Africa, South America and Europe, worked as a test pilot, and reported for Paris-Soir.

In 1931, he married Consuelo Gomez Carillo, a Guatemalan divorcée. The union was stormy. In December, 1935, he crashed in the Sahara and wandered for several days before being rescued by Bedouins.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016


     I wept when I prayed – because of something inside me that felt the need for tears.
        Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?
           I believed I would be drawn into eternity, into that time where
               question and answer would become one.    Elie Wiesel as a young man, before the Night


Awake late at night
finally reading his story
an innocent boy’s beautiful faith
betrayed, put into a ghetto, then deported
it feels like my, like our story.

Praying the psalms next morning
the same ones he recited…
my tears have become my bread, by night, by day
as I hear it said all the day long: ‘ Where is your God?’   Psalm 42
At the end of the sky is the rising sun; to the furthest end of the sky is its course.
There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.  Psalm 18
What could extinguish this holy fire in his soul
what violence and death what hatred and prejudice kill your faith?

A farmer’s morning mowing the summer hay
the mature stems falling in windrows
I think, my God, those who were forced to dig the trenches
and then mowed down in a deadly harvest of bullets
the cattle cars of children disappearing off into the camps.

My lunch plate at noon, full to overflowing
food lovingly cooked and served, and to think
you had so little, scraps of moldy bread, thin soup
and in the end, a living corpse mirrored back to your own haunted eyes.

What they took from you
your mother and sisters, your father, your friends, your village
your faith and your freedom and the joy of your youth
they stole every love surrounding you, Elie
but they could not destroy the endpoint
your deepest question and answer – love, the Eternal.

               Scott Eagan
                        June 6, 2016

     Man questions God and God answers. But we don’t understand His answers.
        We can’t understand them. Because they come from the depths. of the soul, 
             and they stay there until death.   Elie Wiesel

Scott Eagan is a poet, a friend, and a member of the Madonna House apostolate in Combermere, Ontario.
He generously agreed to share "What Is Love." Thank you, Scott.