Friday Five (Vol. 22)

— 1 —

Kindergarten Roundup for my youngest child is today at her school. Already in pre-school she was so excited for today that she didn’t want to go to bed last night, though she cried during supper that she “didn’t want to get shot.” I about choked on my food and asked her what she meant. She had misunderstood something she’d heard from her mom or brothers about vaccinations and once we were able to clarify this for her she visibly relaxed.

It’s trite to say this I suppose, but it really does seem like only yesterday that we were attending this same “roundup” with our oldest child, now 16 and a sophomore in high school. I was able to be there that day with my wife as we watched him be led off hand-in-hand with his future classmates and teacher as they went to visit the classroom that would be theirs the following fall, while parents stayed behind to listen to the school administration and fill out forms. He looked back just once, and then grudgingly walked on. Three years ago we did the same thing for our 2nd grader. He never looked back and was eager to go.

I am unable to be there today to watch my daughter make this same walk. I have this photo taken of her last fall to have an idea of what it will be like for my wife.

— 2 —

Psalm 107

One of the neatest projects I’ve come across in a long while is the creation of the illuminated St. John’s Bible. It is the first illuminated bible commissioned in over 500 years and took a decade to complete. Calligrapher Donald Jackson led this project that resulted in a hand-written, hand-illuminated Bible. The website for this project is worth looking at to get an idea of the process involved in putting together this amazing work. It has been featured on the Today show, and a massive tour various locations in the world allowed people to view this magnificent work in person. This epic piece of art is comprised of seven volumes. I received my first volume yesterday, Gospels and Acts, and spent much time last night looking through it. It is large in size (10” x 15”) and 136 pages of beautifully handwritten calligraphy as text. But what really makes this book unique is the artwork involved. While the originals must be stunning in their use of gold inlay to truly illuminate the page, the reproductions are still in themselves unlike anything I’d seen before. I plan to purchase the six remaining volumes over the course of the year and look forward to using them often. I also purchased The Art of Saint John’s Bible: A Reader’s Guide to Pentateuch, Psalms, Gospels and Acts as a companion to help educate myself on the techniques as well as a guide for reflection.

I invite you to explore each volume by paging through them here.

To see a small example of what is meant by “illumination” and how light is incorporated into the reading/meditating/praying experience, go here.

— 3 —

Several years ago I had remarked to a friend of mine who is a priest that I would love to handwrite and/or illustrate in a similar manner a Book of the Hours. At that time I had been reading Eamon Duffy’s Marking the Hours: English People and Their Prayers, 1240-1570. I was also becoming an avid participant in praying the Divine Office, something I still do today. In Duffy’s book he provides an excellent history of the use of the Book of Hours as well as a lot of fascinating illustrations of the lavish illuminated manuscripts used by the wealthy or the noble, to the mass-produced and sparsely illustrated volumes used by the common man or woman. You are able to see where the books became customized by their owners with the inclusion of their own prayers, or as they were handed down from generation to generation. I recall one particular book where you could see the name of the Pope and other things Catholic vigorously erased and replaced by more inane names at the time of the Reformation. This was done to avoid the persecution that raged in England and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Catholics including those who were caught with this book in their possession.

I’d still love to pursue a project like that one day. While it wouldn’t be handwritten I think that with computer technology being what it is and my experience with publishing software, I’m sure I could produce a pretty fair “book” of my very own.

To see an excellent example of one of a 15th century Book of Hours, go here.

— 4 —

I can recall on several occasions during my lifetime as a Protestant and a Catholic hearing this phrase:

“If you are ever accused of being a Christian will there be enough evidence to convict you?”

It seemed a trite saying, said with the smug confidence of those who felt safe and secure of their living in the United States of America. Given all that’s been going on in this land, building slowly over time and reaching a crescendo with the current administration, it doesn’t seem so trite to many of us anymore. I had never in my wildest dreams thought that my lifetime or even my own children’s lifetimes might actually see the words “Christian” and “convict” in the same sentence.

Watching the news the past few days it is plain to see that the prejudices and selfishness as old as man and woman are still rampant and at work today. The historical ignorance and lack of rational thought or argument is staggering to behold. As it has been for over 2000 years the boogeyman to these fools is the Church. Stalin had a name for their ilk: useful idiots. He used them to rid Russia of the Church. These artists, intelligentsia and the like did his dirty work. They metaphorically dug the mass grave for him. And then when their task was complete he lined them up in front of that hole and shot them, covering their bodies under layers of the earth and the lost pages of history. The history that is not lost teaches us that dangerous fools, these useful idiots, will always be among us.

I will not go quietly.

— 5 —

I’ve spoken often of historical ignorance on this blog, including this installment. I own a degree in History and have never stopped being an historian. Watching The History Channel is not the same thing. Sorry people. It don’t cut it.

H/T: Mark Shea for the graphic, and for astutely naming this generation: Generation Narcissus.


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