Sunday, November 29, 2015
After listening to Palestrina, Peter Kreeft realized the power of sacred music and it propelled him further into the arms of the Catholic Church. This little episode reveals to us that there is something about sacred music that speaks to the soul and stirs within us a deeper longing for Heaven. Sacred music is very powerful and speaks to anyone who has ears to hear.
Suffice to say, there is no sacred music in Hell.
Music has been a vital part of society for thousands of years. For example, “Plato based his whole ‘ideal’ society, in The Republic, on its educational system, and he based the whole educational system on music as its first step” (The Snakebite Letters, 61, emphasis added). Plato esteemed music so much that he said a society would erode “first through a decay in music” (Ibid.).Share
The reason why music is able influence society so much is on account of its ability to bypass reason. As humans, we “don’t think about it, [we] just feel it” (Ibid, 62). The most powerful music goes even further, through our feelings and into the “deep center of the soul.” (Ibid).
Many throughout the centuries have converted to Christianity through music; more specifically “sacred music,” the music of the Church. There is even a tradition that God created the world through music, which Tolkien eloquently portrayed in his fictional tale The Silmarillion. Similarly, music is thought to be the “language of Heaven” (Ibid).
This is why the devil hates sacred music so much. It reaches the depths of our soul and raises us up to the Heaven. It should be no surprise to us when a parish’s sacred music program is single-handedly dismantled. He will do all he can to prevent us from hearing the Divine Voice of God. (Read more.)
Both my parents don’t believe in God, so I was raised as an atheist. We had a Christmas tree, but my parents were definitely upfront about the fact that they thought religions weren’t true. I was the kid in high school who worked to get us to stop doing a toy drive for Samaritan’s Purse (which uses the toys to evangelize to poor children). And, post-conversion, I still think that’s a wildly inappropriate charity for a public school to partner with.Share
I grew up on Long Island, where the vast majority of my classmates were secular Jews, so between that and my family, I thought of religion as something that was not only wrong, but wrong enough to be below the level of hypothesis that deserve attention. Most of the time, when I encountered religion, it was in the news, when some religiously-informed policy intruded on the lives of people like me (like evangelicals fighting evolution in public schools).
College was the first place I encountered a Christianity I couldn’t casually dismiss. I joined the Political Union as a freshman (a debating group where you only argue what you actually believe and there are no points and no judges – you “win” by changing other people’s minds or your own). I tended to gravitate to the most interesting “wrong” people I could find, and that was definitely the Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
A lot of the counter-apologetics I knew were of the Dawkins-God Delusion type – targeted toward biblical literalists, God-of-the-Gaps people. And they didn’t apply to my new friends.
So, I didn’t think they were right, but I knew I had to do more reading to convince them they were wrong, and that’s how I actually starting reading people like Chesterton and Lewis. (Read more.)
Saturday, November 28, 2015
|A case used by Marie Antoinette while she was imprisoned in the Temple.|
If you look up "whole milk" in the government's official Dietary Guidelines, it states pretty definitively that people should only drink skim or 1% milk. "If you currently drink whole milk," it says, "gradually switch to lower fat versions."Share
This is the same advice the government has been issuing for many years. And it's wrong.
Research published in recent years shows that people "might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk," according to a front-page story in the Washington Post on Wednesday. "People who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease."
The story goes on to note that the government's push for Americans to eat a high-carb diet "provokes a number of heart disease risk factors."
As the Harvard School of Public Health's Walter Willett put it, the "campaign to reduce fat in the diet has had some pretty disastrous consequences."
The Post goes on to note that this "has raised questions about the scientific foundations of the government's diet advice."
Based on flimsy evidence, the USDA first started urging people to eat low-fat diets in 1977. As evidence grew that this advice was misguided — at best — it steadfastly refused to change course. So what we have here is the U.S. government using its power and might to push Americans — quite successfully — to change their eating habits in ways that likely killed many of them. (Read more.)
Treating chaos and messiness like it’s a virtue is a weird modern tick. It’s the flip side of acting like a beautiful home qualifies you for canonization. Both are disordered attitudes, and both make for uncomfortable living. Peace and harmony are found in the balance. So, how do you find that balance? In some ways, you have to figure it out for yourself. I can only tell you how I’ve found it (and how the moms whose housekeeping skills I respect the most have found it). Take what you will from this, and ignore the rest. (Read more.)Share
Friday, November 27, 2015
Here are my books:
The Paradise Tree: A Novel
“Elena Maria Vidal’s latest book, The Paradise Tree, is the fictionalized true story of the author’s devoutly Catholic ancestors who immigrated to Canada from Ireland. It is filled with rich detailed history recounting the hardships and joys of the 19th century O’Connor Family. Beautifully written with great attention to historical, geographical and religious accuracy, this fascinating and moving family saga is a treasure that I highly recommend!” ~Ellen Gable Hrkach, award-winning author of In Name Only and four other novels
"An Irish immigrant builds a new life in Canada, the decades marked by marriage, children and the odd otherworldly encounter....An imaginative, meticulously told history that will especially appeal to those with Irish roots." ~ from Kirkus Reviews
"This is a stunningly lovely book, the perfect thing to get lost in for an afternoon." ~from the San Francisco Book Review (starred review)
"...Historical fiction at its best" ~D.Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
The Paradise Tree does what good novels should. It tells us a story, it shows us what it means to be human—replete with the triumphs, sadness, and conflicts entailed in being human—while whisking us away to another world that is not our own. For 232 pages we are extracted from our lives and into the lives of the O’Connor family. We root for them. We feel their hardships. We feel their connection and disconnection as a family while we are shown a distant time and place, filled with potentially unfamiliar folkways. In the end we are pleasantly reminded that the O’Connors’ story is just as much ours as we traverse the familiar territory of faith, family, and love, and how we still find ourselves dancing in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.~ The Portland Book Review
"Vidal does an excellent job of demonstrating the lifeline that the Catholic faith becomes for the O'Connor family and how it binds them together in the toughest of circumstances." ~Savvy Verse and Wit
"Weaving fact with fiction...realistic and stirring. An emotional tale of hardship, struggle to survive...with vivid descriptions of life in that place and time period. This book will appeal to those that like a good historical fiction story with depth and new beginnings." ~Just One More Chapter
"Vidal was able to write about devout Catholicism in a way that Protestants and other non-Catholics could follow." ~West Metro Mommy Reads
"The Paradise Tree by Elena Maria Vidal is a sweeping tale of an Irish-Canadian family that I happily dare to mention in the same breath as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind" ~ from Back Porchervations
"As we journey through the years of the O'Connor family the author brings alive the joys, triumphs, struggles, and sorrows in such a vivid way that often you feel as though you are experiencing them yourself." ~Peeking Between the Pages
"Despite the sadness of many of the scenes, there is great charm in the lively portrayal of a family filled with love of learning and poetry. The hope of eternal life sustains Daniel, his wife and children through many tragedies. Joy continually mingles with sorrow." ~Cross of Laeken
"The Paradise Tree is one of those books that made me feel happy and secure while reading even though some really terrible things happened to the family. I always had the sense that they would persevere and thrive. The Paradise Tree is a sweeping family saga that I will be suggesting to my friends and family. It was such an enjoyable book."~A Book Geek
"The people in the story felt so real to me and almost like they could have also been my ancestors."~Book Drunkard
"I loved the historical perspective that Elena Maria Vidal presented in The Paradise Tree: A Novel. It was interesting and informative to learn about the Irish. Vidal's writing was engaging and the story was filled with heart, soul, family loyalty, history, and unexpected twists and turns. I enjoyed this beautiful story and recommend it." ~Book Nerd
"Whoever you are, wherever your people came from, and whatever you enjoy doing with your free time, I don’t hesitate for a moment to recommend purchasing Elena Maria Vidal’s latest historical fiction novel The Paradise Tree." ~Lear, Kent, Fool
"A good historical fiction novel takes you back in time and presents the good, the bad and the ugly in a manner that informs and clarifies. A great historical fiction novel goes beyond that to lift up your soul as the heroes and heroines overcome obstacles both man made and natural. The result is the reader is left open jawed amazed and transformed. This book is a great historical fiction novel. I wept with them, I laughed at them but most importantly, I felt privileged to be invited to gaze inside their paradise tree." ~Stephen's review of The Paradise Tree on Goodreads
Purchase The Paradise Tree HERE.
Trianon: A Novel of Royal France
"What distinguishes this short and readable book from others is Vidal's examining their lives in light of their Catholic faith in a country that, until the Revolution, was the 'eldest daughter of the Church.'" ~Mike May, Pittsburgh Magazine
"Exhaustively researched and yet completely accessible for those who wish to understand the events from a very personal perspective." ~Genevieve Kineke, Canticle Magazine
"Through the tragedy and the violence, the genocide and the thousand petty cruelties, Trianon remains, resolutely, a novel of hope." --Gareth Russell, author of Popular and The Emperors
"It's very refreshing to see fiction that strays away from the popular view of Marie Antoinette. Vidal has done extensive research on the royal family and it truly shows." ~Anna Gibson at Reading Treasure
"For me, reading Trianon was like the Heavens opening up and hearing the angels sing. It's the 'be all and end all' of all things Antoinette." ~Book Drunkard
"A master of storytelling, the author makes you laugh and cry, right along with the characters. A true masterpiece, I rank this book along with the great Classics." ~Wilsonville Public Library Blog
"Be prepared to learn history as it should have been told. You will experience their life, their love, their faith, for you have never known them as you will after reading this book...Be prepared to be moved beyond belief." ~Enchanted by Josephine
"Elegantly written, it is, quite simply, a heart-wrenching account of the trials and martyrdom of the king and queen of France, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette." ~Christine Niles, radio host of Forward Boldly
Purchase Trianon HERE.
Madame Royale: A Novel
"An unforgettable portrait of a royal life... Madame Royale is a fantastic tribute to one of Europe's most tragic, but courageous princesses." ~Gareth Russell, author of Popular and The Emperors
"The...backdrop of this heartrending story is that none of us can choose the circumstances into which we are born, and yet those...circumstances are the very proving ground of virtue, our own gymnasium of charity." ~Genevieve Kineke, Canticle Magazine
"Vidal gives us a gripping portrait of a woman whose personal destiny is enmeshed with the convulsions of the French Revolution and European history." ~Catherine Delors, author of For the King and Mistress of the Revolution
"In Trianon, faith gives the King and Queen the courage to face death; in Madame Royale, faith gives their daughter the courage to face life. Marie-Thérèse's story is truly one of bloodless martyrdom." ~Cross of Laeken
Purchase Madame Royale HERE.
The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars
"From the first page, Vidal draws the reader into a vibrant world of action and emotion. Raphaelle de Miramande is an engaging young heroine, bravely facing physical and moral dangers and dilemmas in search of truth and love. Vidal's novel captures the spirit of the Middle Ages." ~Stephanie A. Mann, author of Supremacy and Survival
"A harrowing and engrossing journey." ~Catherine Delors, author of Mistress of the Revolution and For the King
"The novel illustrates how easily and insidiously the abhorrent becomes desirable, the selfish honorable when individuals seek nothing beyond the fulfillment of their own desires, a message perhaps even more relevant today than it was centuries ago." ~Julianne Douglas, Writing the Renaissance
"Elena Maria Vidal has been gifted with an eye for historical detail, an energetic imagination, an elegant writing style, and a keen and informed faith, all of which blend attractively together in this her latest work." ~Christine Niles, radio host of Forward Boldly
"In the first chapter the setting, plot, and all the main characters are all well-established....The novel moves on, mixing history and drama, at a good pace. Raphaelle is caught up in several major dilemmas; we can truly sympathize with what she is going through." ~Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller, blogger
Chronic malnutrition and famine cannot be understood, let alone prevented, if they are detached from the realities of power. Consider the role of war. As Rieff writes, “While there have been famines in times of peace, there have been few major wars without famine.” Somewhere between 50 and 72 million people died on account of the Second World War. Roughly 20 million deaths were caused by hunger, about half of them in the Soviet Union. The famine in Greece in 1941-42, when some 300,000 people perished out of a population of less than 7.5 million, was mainly a result of plunder by German occupying forces and a British naval blockade. Exacerbated by a harsh winter, the last European famine of the Second World War occurred in those regions of the Netherlands still under German occupation in 1944-45.Share
Going further back, the Great Irish Famine of 1845-50 and the Great Bengal Famine of 1943-44 were both artifacts of imperial rule. The Soviet famine under Lenin in 1920-22 occurred during a civil war, but the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33 was a direct result of Stalin’s policies of collectivisation. The Chinese famine of 1958-62, which Rieff describes as “probably the most lethal single event in history”, was caused largely by Mao’s disastrous rush to industrialisation. Summing up, Rieff writes: “To the extent that one can view the last part of the 19th century as the age of imperialist famines, it is equally appropriate to view much of the 20th century as the age of socialist ones.” (Read more.)