Friday, February 08, 2008

In the Spotlight

With the "Potomac Primary" coming up on Tuesday (when Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., have their primary elections), the University of Maryland will be hosting two campaign events: Mike Huckabee will be on campus on Saturday, and Barack Obama will be here on Monday.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The custom is to give up something for Lent. A priest once explained that, because Lent is a time of prayer, charity, and fasting, one should give up whatever is getting in the way of being a follower of Christ. Abstaining from candy is probably not that important. Doing something positive to help others and grow closer to God is a worthy activity. Ryan Anderson, on the First Things blog, suggests reading the Pope’s Lenten Message to get some insight into Lent.

The Psalm in today's Mass was Psalm 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight,
so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance. O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise. For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on thy altar.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Trapp Family Singers

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp, is a very interesting and inspiring book. It tells the story of the von Trapp family, from the time when Maria, as an aspiring nun in Salzburg, Austria, first joined the family to teach one of the children until some time after World War II, when the family had settled in Stowe, Vermont.

Of course, this is the true story of the family better known to the world through the musical The Sound of Music. Some of the early scenes from the book are quite similar to scenes in the movie; after that the two diverge greatly. The book discusses the family's adventures after they left Austria and moved to America. They settled in Philadelphia for awhile. The family worked hard at their music and became a successful musical group (after nearly completely failing). They bought a farm in Vermont. Two sons served in the military during the war. They ran a summer camp where music was taught and enjoyed. Eventually, they became American citizens.

Maria's determined and energetic personality enlivens the book, and she is not afraid to tell stories where she looks silly, due to her poor understanding of English or of the way things work. Her first encounter with an escalator in a New York department store ends with her shutting her eyes and taking a leap of faith.

And through all the changes, the family maintained the traditions they had brought with them from Austria, including their clothing. More importantly, they stayed true to their Catholic faith. When difficult times came, the family always prayed for help; and when good things came into their life, they immediately turned to God with hymns of thanksgiving. In answer to their prayers, friends both new and old and many strangers helped the family with guidance or a place to stay or funding. And the family repaid this, starting a charity after the war to help Austrians who were homeless and starving and collecting goods and money at every town on their tour.

Altogether, it is a wonderful story about a family who, faced with adversity, chooses to pray and work and love, a family with many beautiful voices and one loving heart.