A few quick hits. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to get this list out today as I’m still catching up at work from having been gone half of the week due to pneumonia. Which, by the way, shows no signs of abating despite five days of antibiotics. In fact it now feels like someone has shoved an ice pick through my ribcage and into my right lung about four inches below my armpit. Deep breaths are not much fun right now.
All of which has worn me down. I’m weary. And the complete and utter nonsense that continues to flow downhill from the above ground cesspool that is Washington DC isn’t helping. So I’ve tuned it out and preserved my energy. It’s amazing how when one wears down to the point of consciously needing to salvage their energy they can focus in on the things that really matter. I wish I had this focus all of the time.
I love the first week of October. We commemorated Saint Thérèse of Lisieux on October 1, our Holy Guardian Angels on October 2, and today is the feast of my confirmation saint: St. Francis of Assisi. Our Lady of the Rosary is on Monday and October is in fact the Month of the Rosary.
And unrelated but vital nonetheless: soon it will be time to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
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When Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí was tragically killed by a train in 1926, he was in the middle of building of his masterpiece—the Barcelona basilica, Sagrada Familia. Eighty-six years later, the church still isn’t complete. But according to Jordi Faulí, the current architect on the magnificent life-sized sand castle, it’ll be done by 2026. This is what it’s going to look like.
Construction on Sagrada Familia began in 1882, and since Gaudí’s death, nine architects have been put on the famously never-ending project. One of the controversial roadblocks to its completion was the fire in the crypt of Sagrada Familia in 1936, which destroyed all the plans, sketches, and models Gaudí had left behind, forcing later designers to interpret what they thought the brilliant Gaudí wanted the basilica to look like.
It will be beautiful.
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I had never heard of the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania until coming across this article by George Weigel on the First Things website. After a web search I learned enough to add yet another place to visit on my ever growing list should I venture outside of the United States.
No one knows when pious Lithuanians first erected crosses of all sizes on a hill about seven miles north of the city of Siauliai; it may have been after an abortive 1831 uprising against Russian rule over the small Baltic country. Oftentimes, the bodies of Lithuanian patriots killed during that rebellion, and a similar revolt in 1863, could not be found. So their families planted crosses in their memory on a small mound that was eventually covered with memorials. During the country’s brief moment of independence between the First and Second World Wars, citizens of a free Lithuania continued to plant crosses near Siauliai, as the Hill of Crosses became a pilgrimage center.
Time after time, the Soviets took down the crosses, bulldozing the site on several occasions. And each time the crosses, large and small, went back up—a dogged display of religious conviction and political courage that embodied a small, beleaguered nation’s refusal to kowtow to atheistic propaganda and totalitarian power.
The exact number of crosses located on the hill are unknown, but estimates were about 55,000 in 1990 and over 100,000 in 2006.
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One of the coolest places I’ve visited with my family was the Grotto of the Redemption. It is located in West Bend, Iowa, in the northwestern section of the state. We stopped by to check it out on our way to Minneapolis a few years ago and were impressed by what we found. The Grotto’s Facebook page recently posted this article that provides some background information as well as terrific photos and a brief video about the shrine that had its humble beginnings in the mind and effort of a simple German parish priest, Father Paul Dobberstein. When he started the first grotto in 1912 it was simply three half-circles built in honor of the three divine persons.
But what exactly is a grotto?
A grotto is a type of cave, usually artificially constructed. There are many around the world built to attract religious or spiritual pilgrims. Father Dobberstein’s structure contains materials such as petrified wood, malachite, azurite, agates, geodes, jasper, quartz, topaz, calcite, stalactites and stalagmites. Some he gathered himself, others were purchased or donated to the grotto over the years. He had the help of others with this construction, of course, and as he aged a new parish priest eventually took over. Father Dobberstein died in 1954. The new priest, Father Greving, was both church pastor and grotto director. Father Greving died in 2002. Since that time, lay people have been in charge of maintaining the grotto and grounds. Its current director is Mary Straub Lavelle. She oversees the daily operation of the site and is its main fundraiser. The grotto employs administrative staff, tour guides and, of course, maintainence staff.
In the article there is a photo taken of Mary holding Jesus at the foot of the cross. This is the highest point of the grotto. I took a similar photo during the morning that shows the eastern sunrise reflecting brilliantly off of the face of the large rock beneath the cross against a clear blue morning sky.
It may not look like much of a place worth visiting to some in our razzle-dazzle world. But the subtle symbolism and size and scope of the various rocks from around the world does what any great work of art is designed to do. It makes you slow down, take it all in, and contemplate its message and meaning.
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From Yahoo! News:
Look up at the nighttime sky and what do you see? If you’re like most, the answer is probably not “stars,” but the orange wash of streetlights reflected in the sky above.
Light pollution from ambient nighttime lighting is an unrelenting drain on energy reserves worldwide, and a problem that’s growing at a rate of four percent annually. The consistent glare of illumination can adversely affect everything around it, including ecosystems and wildlife.
But at the Mount John Observatory in New Zealand, star-gazers can enjoy a crystal-clear view from Earth of the solar system above, due in part to the nearby township of Lake Tekapo, which increasingly powers down its ambient lights at night.
Check out the brief video included with this news snippet. Is there anything more glorious than being underneath a blanket of galaxies and stars with a view unencumbered by urban lights?
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Here’s a fun little quiz from the folks at AbeBooks.com that I’m inviting you to take and report back your results in the comments section. This was mine.
I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor.
Ok…not really. But how cool would that be?