Archives

Be Happy in Hope, and Let the Sun Shine Through You

“And as each and all of them were warmed without by the sun, so each had a private little sun for her soul to bask in; some dream, some affection, some hobby, at least some remote and distant hope which, though perhaps starving to nothing, still lived on, as hopes will. Thus they were all cheerful, and many of them merry.” – Phase the First – The Maiden, Tess of the d’Ubervilles, by Thomas Hardy

IMG_1664

Let the sun shine through you (photo taken while out for a walk at a near by Canadian Lake)

To put this treasure of a snippet into context, the narrator is speaking about village country girls, sometime in the later half of nineteenth century England, as they dance in a May Day celebration. But as I read this, I thought how fitting it is for young Catholic women. We should all be warmed by some hope, rooted deep within us, that sprouts itself so high it’s peeping out through our faces, where everyone will see it. The specifics need not be known by others. But a dream, a hope, a love should be so firmly rooted in us that it’s as constant and immovable as the sun itself, and warms our whole being so that those whose paths we cross are warmed by the sun within us.

Sometimes it can be tough to hold on to hope in a dream we’ve been holding onto for a long time. But hoping when everything seems hopeless, is what it’s all about. That’s what hope really is. Hope doesn’t die when the road ahead seems too vast or treacherous. On the contrary, this should invigorate us to hold on and persevere with renewed strength, knowing that at some point the road eases, or we’ll finally hit the luscious valley. The key to hope is seeing the end in your mind’s eye, and keep walking to it no matter the ruts, dips and hills that we have to trudge through to get to it.

Sometimes it feels like it’s time to let go of one dream, and find a new one. And sometimes this is the right thing to do, depending on the dream or hope – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes our lives take a turn we didn’t see coming, and it changes the course of our path entirely, perhaps even away from the initial dream we had. It’s okay to let go of one dream, and pick up another. If a dream really has no chance of coming true, is it a good dream to have? Probably not. Real hope means there is a legitimate chance your dream can come true. To hold onto something that has no probable, possible chance of coming true, is not a dream that will foster healthy hope. If a dream will not foster true hope, it will be detrimental to the soul, since hope is a fundamental piece of the soul. If you’re not going up the hill, you’re rolling backwards. If there is no reasonable hope that a dream can come true if you persevere in prayer and action, it should probably be let go of, because it’s unhealthy to live in an irrational dreamland. But don’t mistake this with persevering in your hope or dream that seems like it won’t ever come true. Use the seemingly endless times, the strenuous times, the times when no matter how much you give it feels like you’ll never see your dream fulfilled, to strengthen your spirit, strengthen your resolve, and grow in love for Our Lord.

That hope or dream within you is the warmth carried through your being, that will draw others to you. Let it bring a smile to your face, let it keep you a merry and happy woman, even during the vast and treacherous times. As Catholic young women striving to be valiant, we should always be striving to bring others closer to Our Lord through our lives. And how better to bring others to him then through our own love, hope, dream, secret sunshine that we can use to show others His Love. Let the joy you find within your own hopes, dreams and desires, be magnified by His Love and shine right through you for others to see, always reflecting Our Lord’s Love.

 

2017 Book 7: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh

 

Related image

Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited is a narrative story told from the perspective of one Charles Ryder, an agnostic young man who becomes friends with Sebastian Flyte, a cradle Catholic who struggles with his faith. Charles is quite taken with the members and dynamics of the Flyte Family, (a family of Catholic’s living in 1920s Protestant England) and each of them have their own particular relationship with him. A family torn between a pious mother and a rogue father, each of the four siblings has his/her own struggles. Two are committed Catholics. Two are confused, lost, and somewhat repelled by their faith. Charles witnesses the lives of these different characters as they live out the consequences of their decisions, some outwardly suffering but inwardly excelling in virtue and holiness, others materially excelling but inwardly suffering as they ignore and have anger towards their faith.

Charles himself develops an animosity towards the Catholic faith through the years of knowing the Flyte family. But during WWII, he is brought back to the family estate and as he reflects on his life’s entwinement with this family, he slowly realizes the purpose, the point, the whole mystery of the Catholic faith.

This whole story was a very real example of family circumstances regarding the faith. The mother, a cradle catholic, is a pious soul, whose intuition and ability to communicate do her service in managing and dealing with those she loves. The father, a lapsed convert, is living abroad with his mistress and holds hostile resentment towards his wife. The eldest son is a committed catholic, and goes about his staunch but slightly odd way, never outwardly reprimanding his lapsed siblings but calling things as they are, and not pretending they are otherwise. The elder sister defies her mother and religion by marrying a protestant for his social position, leading her down a path of hardship and saddness. Sebastian feels he can never quite aspire to be the good man he should be, always having an under-lying suspicion that he is too much like his father, and falls into a habit of drunkenness at a young age. The youngest daughter is a pious thing, and although she does not live the life she thought she would, she grows in piety and holiness the older she gets.

Waugh writes about living the catholic faith with such reality. The temptations and struggles each character deals with are very apparent in our day-and-age. The father’s decisions and life choices also affect the children and the struggles they have later in life. This is something I often ponder – generational sin and how our spiritual lives will affect the spiritual lives of those who come after us, just as our spiritual lives are affected by our ancestors. (Generational sin – there are excellent sermon’s online about it). Just as the mother’s piety affects those of her children who are inclined towards that, so the father’s various sins affect those of his children also inclined to those particular sins. It’s a complex thing, but at the same time, simple. The father’s virtue and vice affects his children. The mother’s virtue and vice affects her children. And each child will be affected by it differently, therefore living very different lives, each with his own struggles and successes.

Charles doesn’t quite understand many things within the household, of the dynamics and relationships between various members of the family. But, despite the unsettling feeling the wayward children have towards their mother and more pious siblings, there is still an under-lying understanding of their family and faith. Sebastian comments to Charles a few times that he “just can’t understand” because Charles is not a catholic. Speaking as a cradle catholic, this is more often then not, quite true. Sometimes I find myself in conversations with others who simply can’t grasp what I mean. And it comes down to faith. It’s not something you can explain to another person, particularly if they aren’t wanting or willing to understand. Faith is also a gift, and not everyone has been given it – although all they need do is ask for it.

The “wayward” children know the choices they should make, even if they can’t put a concrete reason as to exactly why. Also what struck me was the emotional outrage stirred up in one character during a particular scene, when her older brother spoke simply and openly about her choice to live in mortal sin. The brother wasn’t unkind or accusatory at all in his speech, but speaking openly and truthfully about her actions ultimately brought her guilt to the forefront. This is too true a scenario. When one runs one’s life catering to the passions, it is naturally the emotions which take over whenever an opposition comes about. It usually ends in an ugly scene where said outraged person is illogical, full of self-pity, and contempt for the opposition (and, I might add, all in the name of “being judged”).

We also see the compassion within the catholic characters, the forgiveness which is such a core part of the faith, and the mercy shown it’s most bitter and ornery children, even if it’s merely moments before death. Because ultimately the catholic faith is about Love and making sure we spend eternity with our one True Love.

I really found this story intriguing. It’s written in a captivating style, keeping every moment interesting. And because it is written in first person, there is a vast chance to ponder the reasons behind different characters actions, which adds so much to the story, if you’re one who likes ruminating on various aspects of life and the soul.

 

2017 Book 6: Bella Poldark, by Winston Graham

Last of this twelve book series! It took a day or two to mourn the loss, but fond remembrances of this series will forever allow me to willingly lend these books out to friends or acquaintances.

I found the relationship state of the main hero & heroine as the book comes to an end somewhat odd, considering. But Winston Graham is not a “sunshine and rainbows” type of author. One character finally does get her happy ending, which was a relief. Another suffers an illness that forever changes the course of her life. That was interesting and unexpected, and she still lives the life she wanted, in the end. More deaths, which was not surprising, but I was also quite shocked, due to events in the previous book.

Maybe one day in years to come I’ll read the whole series over again… for now it’ll sit contently on my bookshelf and continue being lent out to various relations and friends.

2017 Book 5: The Twisted Sword, by Winston Graham

The next book of the ‘Poldark’ series. It includes an under-cover mission to Paris following Napoleon’s initial defeat, a marriage, a major tragedy, pain, loss, beginnings of healing. Can’t possibly give any more info then this without giving away the 10 books before this one.

Winston Graham writes with such understanding of human emotion. Since the very first book of the series, I can identify quite a bit with one of the heroines of the story – temperament, outlook on life, different emotions that come and go, and her ability to sort things out in a logical way, despite the emotional charge surging through her. In this book she goes through such trails (as in past books, but these are of a different type of suffering), it was fascinating to read in Graham’s words exactly what was going through my head as I read the reactions and processing steps going on in one of the heroine’s minds. Every single character (and there are ever so many throughout this 12 book series, multiple side stories of different inhabitants of the Poldark’s area of Cornwall), is entirely unique. Despite it being fiction, Graham writes with such truth of human reality.

 

 

Sorry Blondie, not much changes as you grow up…

Image result for calvin and susie

The other day I was at a favourite restaurant, where they have a kiddie corner with some toys (kiddie corner being unrelated to it being a favourite restaurant). A beautiful little curly haired blondie quietly came and tapped Calvin (little nephew #1, who was sitting beside me) on the shoulder, and asked “do you want to come play with me?” Calvin, who is easily embarrassed, stared downwards at his plate and quietly said “No I don’t”. Blondie looked up at me in puzzlement, I encouraged Calvin to go play, but he was resolute in staring down at his plate and repeated “I don’t want to play with you”. Blondie quietly walked back to her table and buried her face in her mothers body with hurt and dramatics. I over-heard her sympathetic yet rational mother relay “just because he doesn’t want to play, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you”.

Feeling dreadfully sorry for the wee blondie who had enough gumption to make such an inquiry of a strange boy, I urged Calvin to go play with her, she was so nice to come ask him to play. He gazed up at me with his big deep blue sea eyes and replied “but Auntie, I just don’t want to”. I left it at that, knowing his strong will (which he comes by honestly) and calculating ability. I’m sure it wasn’t a full minute later when he casually said while colouring his page, “and I will go play with her, if Fairy (his older sister) will come”. He happily hopped down from his chair, and accompanied by his slightly older sister, went over to Blondie’s table. The three of them scurried over to kiddie corner and played until food arrived.

Pondering this little episode, I realized how little men and women change as we grow older. I greatly sympathize with Blondie. Extroverted and enthusiastic, she worked up the courage to come ask a little boy she thought she would like to come and play with her. He quickly and emphatically shut her down without so much as a “how d’ ye do?” Poor girl. But then, not much changes as you reach adulthood. Extroverted and enthusiastic, I often approach new guys in group situations or after mass, am sociable and easy-going, just wanting to socialize, chat and make the newcomer comfortable, or at least put him at ease. More often then not, I find myself doing this with introverts. Maybe that’s because introverts and I are like magnets… they always seem to be in my vicinity. And then I feel bad for them, usually because they seem so awkward, uncomfortable, not sure what to do. So I gaily approach, introduce myself, and fly wherever conversation chooses to go. There are typically two outcomes: 1) introvert is dreadfully awkward the entire time, and the next time I see them they are still awkward, but perhaps very slightly less so; or 2) it starts of slightly awkward and then they fall into ease and we enjoy conversation, laughs, and general amiability…but who knows what on earth will happen the next time I see them.

I’m speaking primarily of introverted men, of course, as the story above is about a little boy & girl. As a generalization, I quite like introverted men. And as another generalization, they are a confusing lot, sometimes avoiding eye contact, other times smiling as they catch my eye. I’m never quite sure what to make of them, and have often times (no doubt to continue throughout life) gone home thoroughly confused by their conflicting social cues. So Blondie going back to her mom and wailing “he doesn’t like me!” when Calvin rejected her offer to play is pretty accurate for us extroverts, no matter what the age, or the social situation. Of course as time goes by, it becomes less dramatic-flinging-onto-bed-in-tears, and more insight into introverted ways: he doesn’t know you enough to reject you; rather, his inability to make a quick decision (and preference to avoid doing so) regarding any social situation or commitment is what made him freeze, avoid eye contact, and firmly ignore. But upon consideration, mustering the strength to conquer his shyness, and further observance of you, he might just decide to come play with you after all.

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Book 4: The Loving Cup, by Winston Graham

Image result for winston graham poldark book series

Not shown in chronological order

Last week I completed book #10 of Winston Graham’s 12 part “Poldark” series. I really enjoyed this one. I won’t say much about it, since that would give away too much of the entire series.

I watched the first season of BBC’s “Poldark”, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Reading the credits one day I realized the show is based on a series of novels. I happened to find all twelve novels brand new on amazon for a ridiculously low cost, and semi-impluse bought them, knowing I was committing to an entire series I hadn’t yet read one book of, and therefore wasn’t even sure if I would enjoy it. But the series was so enjoyable, surely the books must be even more so (which they generally are). Anyways, having happily avoided the dreaded movie-poster book covers that always come out on novels when they’ve been adapted into television, in the mail came a big box of lovely new paperback novels, to henceforth occupy an entire shelf on one of my bookshelves.

Really, I can’t say much about the novels at all without giving too much away. So instead I will give the situation the story begins on: The year is 1783 and after a few years in the American war, a young squire comes home to Cornwall, England, to find his father dead, his estate in ruins, and the women he loves engaged to marry his best cousin. It’s brilliant, filled with a wide variety of characters, internal struggles, love, rivalries, rebellions, redemption, revenge, history, political workings and more.

I also have to acknowledge how well BBC is doing with the television series in comparison to the novels. They haven’t simply taken the idea and turned it into something new – they are taking the story Winston Graham wrote, and literally putting it to screen. It’s fantastic!

 

N.B. In no way do a I discount movie adaptations in general. In fact, as a generalization I look upon them as separate entities, as the art form is so vastly different one cannot compare.

RIP Stuart McLean, and may The Vinyl Cafe live on

Image result for stuart mclean

Yesterday news shot across the country that a beloved and famous writer, radio show host and story-teller, Stuart McLean, passed away from cancer at age 68.

Not only was “The Vinyl Cafe” (his story-telling radio show on air for 22 years) a Canadian-wide loved show, but he also published multiple books. There’s never been anything like his radio show, nor ever will there be, I’ve no doubt. His captivating stories were somewhat tranquilizing in his soothing tone of voice. He had a way with humour and tugging at one’s heart strings. Listing to Vinyl Cafe, I often found myself laughing one minute, and the next my eyes brimming with tears.

Here is a link to his podcasts. If you’re not Canadian and have never heard of Stuart McLean, or if you are Canadian and for some reason have missed out entirely on his work, take some time tonight and choose a story from The Vinyl Cafe, sit back with a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!

Requiem æternam dona ei Domine; et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.