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The Sun-Woman

Kymrei had never heard of anyone descending below the canopy, that shadowy underworld of mysterious dangers. Much less had she ever expected to do so herself.

It all began on that year’s Day of Flight, the day she had been eagerly anticipating for most of her life. So much had been leading up to this point—the early rides behind her father or mother on the avyars’ backs, her first lessons in how to sit the saddle and work the harness with her feet, her solitary flights for the last couple of years among the branches of the Western Arbor. In the few months before this day, she had practiced with particular industry, flying in all the permitted areas and reviewing every tactic and trick she knew. Then, in the last couple of weeks, she had made her own riding garb, light and comfortable but strong, in the deep blue and white that marked her family. For her emblem, she had chosen a sunburst surrounded with stars, the only image that seemed to convey properly the excitement that she felt.

Now, at last, the day had come. Summer had arrived, and for Kymrei and all the Western Arbor’s youth in their fifteenth summer, it was their Day of Flight. After today, she would be a woman, free to do all the things grown men and women did. Her avyar, Aino, she would no longer have to borrow from the Keeper and ride only in a few places—he would be hers, and she could fly on him wherever she pleased. After this morning . . . they had only to follow the Keeper of the avyars all around the island, showing that they had mastered the art of flying the creatures and could overcome the tricks of land and sky.

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A Silent Consolation

The silence is tremendous here;

My heart is sore and dry;

I’ve wrung out every bloody tear

And found it good to cry.

 

This emptiness that’s taken hold

Seems to be listening

For some word that cannot be told

Except in suffering.

 

I listen with my weary soul,

My spirit limp and still;

Like water welling in a hole,

Fair sights my worn mind fill.

 

The branches this spot encompass

And sprinkle streams of sun;

Leaves glowing green like bits of glass

Quiver while breezes run.

 

The grass gleams back; the insects whirl;

The flowers softly glow;

Blithe birds and little roguish squirrel

All scurrying by me go.

 

And spread out on majestic high,

Its blue and white aflame

With golden sun, the evening sky,

O’er all my world the same.

 

All these are breathing out to me

A signal growing strong,

One thought—joy, joy—pulsing lightly,

A sweet and throbbing song.

 

“Why joy?” I ask. “What is there here

That should my spirit start?

What does your beauty frail to clear

The burden in my heart?”

 

Swift they reply, “Man, we are more

Than only what you see.

Our beauty is not idle, for

It speaks reality.

 

“Such is your Father, such His hand!

Spilling His splendors forth,

Scatt’ring them so you’ll understand

How His love sets your worth!”

 

“Are you His splendors, then?” say I.

“Yet you are not like Him;

For you too change, and slip, and die—

Small joy in what grows dim.”

 

Swift they reply, “Rejoice we must,

And you too, more than all.

We each are bound to die in dust

Since Adam’s grievous fall;

 

“And so we groan in longing, yes,

But longing not in vain;

There runs a song of hopefulness

Through sun and cloud and rain;

 

“For in the second Adam’s rise

We all are made anew,

And though death swallow earth and skies

‘Tis but a passing through.

 

“O learn now what the seedling shows,

That all your suffering

Is but the sowing of what grows

Unto far greater spring.

 

“Rejoice with us, be sown with us,

And fear ye not to dream

That all griefs may joy-blossom thus,

However sight may seem.”

 

So is it thus that flowers fall,

That suns wear out and die,

That loss besieges sinners all

Beneath the dimming sky—

 

So that all things, consumed and spent,

May keep what seedlings hold,

And with the One Who death-bars rent

Spring up a hundredfold?

 

I see it not, it seems so far,

Yet this I shall not lose,

This glimpsing of the things that are—

This I embrace and choose.

 

The Spirit that gives silent things

A mission and a voice

In silence stills my questionings

And calls me to rejoice.

 

Tales of the Night

Sorry, I can’t pretend to be objective here. Michel Ocelot’s Tales of the Night is simply a joy—not a perfect film, but a lyrical celebration of art and imagination, its assortment of stories sparkling like a jeweled mosaic.

Of course, it comes to us from abroad (specifically, from France, in a combined effort of NordQuest Films, Studio O, and Studio Canal). No American studio would produce such a film. The animation is simple, low-budget work, relying on lavish artistry rather than cutting-edge technology, much like The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea (both of which, like Tales of the Night, were brought to the United States by GKIDS). Characters are black silhouettes with eyes, but the backgrounds are a riot of color and detail: flowers and branches, castle walls, a Gothic-style rose window, skies sprinkled with stars or streaked with pink and gold. Almost every frame is shot from the side, giving the images the feel of elaborate dioramas. The six eponymous tales, though none lack some form of excitement, are presented with fairy-tale simplicity and matter-of-factness, without attempts to sensationalize. Why can’t we get more movies like this?

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Love vs. Fear: How 1 John 4:18 Bears on Insecurity

Long, long ago, in the primeval depths of Chaos, a hideous monster was spawned. The sin of Adam unleashed it on the earth, permitting it to ravage him and his offspring. It crept up so stealthily that its victims might not even notice until after it had taken hold, sinking in teeth and claws, after which it destroyed any who did not fight it well. Or rather, it creeps, it destroys; the monster roams the world still. In fact, you’ve probably encountered it . . . it goes by the unassuming name of Insecurity.

Insecurity may be defined as habitual fear of one’s own inadequacies and what others may think of them. It might seem a fairly innocuous problem, calling simply for a pat on the shoulder and assurance that, as One Direction put it, “You don’t know you’re beautiful!” Such responses are good in themselves; indeed, sincere affirmation is crucial for these sufferers. But if offered too glibly, this approach treats their affliction as harmless and perhaps even charming, a sort of excessive modesty. It overlooks not only the intense pain that insecurity causes, but the potential damage to the person’s soul and relationships with others.

To clarify, insecurity is not, in itself, a sin, nor is the person who suffers from it usually to blame. Far be it from me to be hard on any who have endured this monster’s cruel torments. Such a person is, however, at fault if he does not work to overcome his insecure tendencies. If he does not understand this, he may not realize the importance of fighting back. If you, dear reader, have noticed this affliction in your own heart, I hope to help you reject and break free of the thoughts that it inspires in you.

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To my Mother

You raise all sorts of flowers, bright splendor from the dirt;

Their beauty thanks, rewards you, in speech of fragrant words.

But when it comes to washing that hundredth smelly shirt,

Scrubbing that thousandth plate off, or picking bunny turds,

Or raking through the thicket of toys and who knows what,

Or once again erasing that pencilled backwards 5,

Or cutting food for hours, yourself oft getting cut,

Vacuum, detergent, wet wipes, grocery bags, miles to drive—

These may not seem as lovely, their fruits meager and mean;

Scarce color or sweet fragrance floats up your work to hail;

Scant thanks on earth for toils of the domestic queen,

No praises for her battle when chaos-weeds assail.

Yet eyes of higher justice, that watch the hidden things,

Observe her life of giving and see there nothing small;

For her is kept a splendor beyond the themes man sings,

Where something fair shall blossom from humble labors all.

And know you that your efforts are altered even now,

By wise and mighty wonder, to sweet resplendent bloom,

Glowing bright hues exquisite, all gathered—who knows how?—

Around the King of Heaven, His high throne to perfume.

The Mercy of Fatima

Twenty long centuries back through Earth’s story,

Broken man heard gracious words from her Son,

“I came to lead up the fallen to glory,

Seeking the lost, lest sin bring them undone.”

So she, one century past, came descending

Out from the splendor and peace near His throne,

Down ‘mid the ugliness and hate unending

That men were reaping, as first they had sown.

 

She came, our Mother! all mercy and brightness,

Strong seaside beacon, all blazing with grace,

Seeing in tattered souls the divine likeness

Hurtling through lonely chasms of space.

Through humble messengers she gave her warning:

“Turn now from sins, lest they tear you apart!

Answer my Son with your love, not with scorning;

Come and learn virtue from your Mother’s heart.”

 

Her chosen seers, they saw her heart bleeding;

With Heaven’s sight she saw all, maybe wept,

For she beheld many loved children speeding

Through empty lives, faith and pledges unkept;

Swarms of the suffering, deep rivers running

Thick with the flow of their blood and their tears;

Cold, careless souls all the agony shunning;

Stony eyes seeing naught but what appears.

 

Yet in her breast her Son’s own heart beat truly,

His will, His love, were hers, burning to bless;

Dear Mother, gathering her children newly,

Clement Queen, pouring forth Heaven’s largesse!

By words and wisdom, by her Spouse the Spirit,

By lights on high and the sun’s changing face,

She made that field, for all who drew near it,

Even in thought, a great wellspring of grace.

 

Come, tortured hearts! fly in hope to your Mother,

Come, doubting souls, hail your most gracious Queen;

No foul grime-clouds can once hope to smother

The Heaven-star now at Fatima seen!

Once with the sun’s mighty flame she dried sweetly

Thousands who gathered in tempest and rain;

Now souls, with pain or crime sodden completely,

In her Son’s flaming love she warms again!

 

Through this past century, blackest and bleakest

Of any age that has known foolish man,

How many heard, when their spirits grew weakest,

Her gentle call, “Rise, come home–you still can!”

How many came to that high-favored field,

Seeking their share in the grace that she brought,

And found their mustard-seed faith, sown there, yield

Harvest of joy beyond all hope or thought!

The House of Vision

Stars glistened in the darkness above the house. Konom stared up at their tiny lights, floating about the scarcely visible outlines of the high roof and the surrounding trees. For all these decades, this place—the weathered stone walls swathed in ivy, the cluttered kitchen, the quiet tower room, and oh, the East Wing—had been his home and his life. What was to happen now?

Abruptly he shook himself and strode back toward the front door. Having taken his time as usual, he had about made up his mind concerning the next order of business. He only had to go back and review the day’s records.

Once in the vestibule, he took the flickering lamp hanging just above him, as the house was mostly dark now. He turned left, as almost always. Right was the East Wing, and while he brought guests there every day, he hardly ever had occasion to go there himself. After all, his life was so simple . . . usually.

Konom made his way through the hall and across the kitchen, still lit and still strewn about with herbs, leaves, vegetables, grimy pots, and other things. Yes, it wanted tidying; he would see to that later. Coming to the stairs, he began ascending—carefully, as he grimly recalled the proofs in recent days that his body required more caution now. The winding stone steps spiraled upward for two flights. He paused at the top of the first flight, not because he meant to enter the library, but because he was tired—well, it had been a long day!—and in order to give an affectionate, half-sad glance at the intricately carved doors that guarded the books. Yes, it was a fine collection in there, as no one—or almost no one—knew better than he. He would ensure that they continued to be appreciated.

Breaking again out of reverie, he turned back to the stairs and climbed up to the top. Here was the tower room, not really mounted on much of a tower, but high enough to be fairly secluded. For Konom, it was a sort of study, containing a battered, stained desk, a few books for his own personal purposes, a pad of blank pages and some loose papers, some dried leaves of various kinds, and, of course, the Record Book. Were there any more of its kind left in this part of the world? Not likely. Standing upright against the back wall, a little taller than Konom himself, it collected within its fine brown-green leather covers all that transpired in the house each day.

With a short sigh, Konom set the lamp down on the desk and approached the book. Its back was facing toward him, of course, so that the most recent records would be on top; but the two covers were identical, both bearing the Chari-King’s seal and the house’s name, Domus Horoma. The House of Vision—a lonely but steady beacon, Konom thought, more needed than ever in this fogged world, when men had forgotten the higher powers and wonders of the world, once their source of guidance and security. Folk always needed guidance—they were foolish at the best of times—but now they really had grown blind, living in empty places inside their own minds, blind to a better existence that could be theirs. At least there were still places like this to which they could come.

Lifting the back cover, Konom briefly glanced across the nearest page, where the shimmering images, pale but quite lifelike, depicted all that had gone on that day. It had been a busy day, with several calls, but the important part had not come until the evening. Locating its beginning near the bottom of the page, without further ado, he stepped in.

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A Word on the Sacred Heart

As through the midnight shades I go,
Amid the dark I see a glow,
So bright, so warm, a wide window–
O Lord, is it Thy Heart?

I feel its warmth from where I stand,
Its sweetness ‘mid the barren land,
Reach from it, Lord, and take my hand–
Bring me into Thy Heart.

There shall I find all I could miss,
My every true love’s fullest bliss,
If Thou, dear Lord, but grant me this–
To keep me in Thy Heart.

The Necessity of the Resurrection

An interesting exchange took place at my family’s devotions the other evening. Like many Catholics, we pray the Divine Mercy Novena from Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday. This year, however, a long-held concern of my father’s and mine came to a head: namely, the incongruity of repeating “for the sake of His sorrowful Passion” 450 times during the height of the Easter celebration. Thus, we decided to insert the words “and His glorious Resurrection” to help us maintain the spirit of the season. It proved a helpful practice, I think; I for one intend to keep it up until Pentecost. One of my siblings, however, voiced an objection: how could we pray for mercy “for the sake of . . . His glorious Resurrection,” when it was the Cross that paid for our sins? In fact, said sibling opined, it would have been more of a sacrifice if Christ had died knowing that He would not subsequently rise in glory.

Responses to this came quickly to mind; my first thought was of the words of the liturgy: “Dying You destroyed our death; rising You restored our life.” Of course, the Church has always taught that the Resurrection is an essential part of the whole Paschal Mystery. Still, other Catholics seem to have assumptions like my above-mentioned sibling’s, even if they never consciously spell out their thoughts. The way we tend to speak and think about our Lord’s death and Resurrection sometimes implies that the former is really what brought about our redemption, while the latter is important to give the story a happy ending . . . but what does it directly have to do with salvation?

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The Easter Candles

 

Lights out! and all is dark throughout the nave;

Dim faces float like Hades’ ghosts all round,

Gazing out eagerly as from a grave

Toward a faint flicker and a subtle sound.

A voice resounding strong the stillness breaks,

And in our midst leaps up a starlike light;

The heavy night unto its splendor wakes,

Awakes from somberness to God’s delight.

For as the flame advances through our ranks,

Its glow is born afresh in all our hands;

The night turns beautiful as gladsome thanks

Rise from this Vigil, as our faith commands.

Then lights above once more break over all,

And lively bells the hour of triumph call.

 

So lay the weary world in thick of night,

In sin’s long shadow of mortality,

Straining its eyes toward the stupendous fight

Where Light died to flame up eternally.

A world of shades, that only dark’s reign knew,

Awoke and blinked and hailed its rising Sun,

And in His friends’ poor timid hearts there grew

A glow of joy, a fire of love, each one

Receiving these as candle flames from Him,

And passing them to whoso they could find;

So though the earth be wrapped in shadows grim,

Bright joy-flame marks the Risen Savior’s kind,

Who look on toward a day to end all night,

When dark shall flee before the conqu’ring Light.

 

Take then this deathless light He’s kindled here;

Receive it, all you souls who live in gloom;

Let it in all your thoughts and ways appear,

Inflame your heart, and all your world illume.

No longer can we live as men before;

Despair does not become believing hearts;

Our hymn of wond’ring gratitude must soar,

Aglow with love and finest craft of arts.

So though we still dwell on a darkened Earth,

In fairest light and trusting hope we’ll live,

Our souls the candles lit at our rebirth

With that blest fire that Jesus came to give–

Until the stand against the dark is past,

And Day to end all night breaks forth at last!

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