Perhaps you recall, a few months ago, the story of a vandal. Someone broke the left tusk off the statue of an elephant holding atop its back an ancient Egyptian obelisk. This famous work of Bernini is stationed in front of the Roman Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, where it has acted as sentry, for centuries. So great was the outrage poured out over such a heinous act that artisans set to work almost immediately. Thankfully it has been repaired.
You Can Now Address Alexa As “Computer” Because Star Trek Is Real Life
What seemed to be a fixed constant of our Universe — the perennial “next year” for the Chicago Cubs — has finally unravelled after more than a century.
Within this time, there have been world wars, the advent of air travel, radio, television, computers, the Internet, a host of other technological innovations, including sliced bread, as well as all of the societal and cultural changes of the past 108 years. Yet in all that time, never has the famed marquee outside Wrigley declared (except maybe, on April Fools’) the Cubs as World Series Champions.
We lived in Wrigleyville for several years, and after going to class and then clerking in the Loop, I would take the Red Line to the Addison stop. On game days, you could catch a glimpse of the action on the field from the El platform.
As I’d make my way down the stairs from the platform, I’d buy a bag a peanuts from a vendor set up in the station, and walk the few blocks to our apartment. If it wasn’t too far into the autumn, I’d open the French doors to our little patio, and turn on the game on the TV.
It was a surreal experience, watching a Cubs game in that apartment — an outfielder would catch a fly ball or Sammy Sosa would hit a home run, and you’d see the fans cheer on TV, and then, a few seconds later you would hear the roar and din from Wrigley through our patio doors. You could even hear the notes of the organ on the air.
So, while I’m not a “sports guy”, in my heart is a nurtured romance for Wrigley and the Cubs, and a reverence for the pure love of the team’s true fans. I couldn’t be more happy for those loyal North-Siders who, after generations of long suffering patience, have finally breached the gate of baseball paradise.
Even church bells had their say in the Windy City last night.
/ W /
Earlier this year, I posted about my New Year’s Day visit to the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Shortly after my trip, the terrorist bombing of some German tourists at Sultanahmet Square occurred, which was especially alarming to me because I stood at the precise location of the explosion on my way to visit Hagia Sophia a few days before.
In that post about the visit, I wrote:
Before entering the main floor of the Hagia Sophia, our tour guide briefly introduced its history to us, and I’ll never forget the way he did so: he told us that we were “very fortunate to be here today, when Hagia Sophia is still a museum. Turkey is changing,” he said, “and soon Hagia Sophia will be a mosque again. So it is fortunate you are here now, before that happens.” This fellow, with his black leather biker jacket and designed jeans, did not strike me as especially religious. Yet, he spoke with a sort of certainty that filled me with dread.
So, since that visit I’ve noticed a number of news articles concerning the Hagia Sophia. It seems that the warning about re-converting the Hagia to a mosque has essentially proven true.
This article (as well as others elsewhere) states that an imam began leading prayers at Hagia Sophia during Ramadan, and the Turkish press agency Anadolu reports that “…the National Office of Religious Affairs and the Mufti of Fathi in Constantinople jointly decided to appoint a permanent Imam for the Hagia Sophia” and to perform on a “daily basis” the five daily calls to prayer there. The linked article “With the appointment of the Imam, the transformation into a mosque is actually accomplished, independently of an explicit decision.”
Pray for Turkey, and the Christians who remain there.
While in China this summer, we visited Dew Drops Little Flower several times. We met the founders of Little Flower and a lot of the people involved in its operation.
I experienced first-hand the loving care provided to abandoned children by this amazing organization. And, I got to meet and interact with some of the children and babies who live there.
Dew Drops Little Flower receives abandoned babies and children, most of whom have serious, disfiguring, debilitating, or life-threatening conditions, and provides them with a home, love, food, clothing, medicine and medical care. A lot of the children would die without the care they receive at Little Flower. They work to coordinate medical treatment for these children, and provide the funding for that treatment.
Dew Drops operates on a shoestring budget and relies upon monetary assistance from donors and gifts of things like diapers, medicine, supplies, baby formula and food, clothes, etc. Through generous donations and the prudent use of their resources, they save (and change) lives.
In the weeks leading up to our visit, the “word went out” that we could bring donations with us, and boxes of various things started to arrive at our house. One corner of our dining room was stacked with dozens of boxes up to the day before we left. We took all of those shipments and packed them into one huge suitcase for our flight to Beijing.
Today through September 3 there is a special fundraising campaign that will allow donations to be matched by Tencent Public. You can easily donate through Paypal by clicking here. You can set up a one-time or monthly donation. Please consider helping this worthy organization.
Quartermaster’s Note: This is a “guest post” by my oldest son, a 13-year-old beginning 8th grade this year, who traveled with me to China this Summer.
In China there were many times when our group would sit down to a meal, and just be blown away, by food that didn’t even cost half the amount of a much lower-standard American Chinese restaurant, but looked and tasted three times as good!! In this way Chinese cuisine in China was on a whole other level.
One of the things noticeably different in the places we ate, yet such an improvement, was the lack of fried flavorless meat with an overwhelmingly sticky sweet sauce (e.g., lemon chicken, General Tso chicken, orange beef, etc.). Instead, meat was carefully cut according to its cooking method, seasoned and flavored with things like cumin, Szechuan peppercorns, all sorts of other interesting spices and ingredients, and without heavy doses of syrup or sugar.
There were lots of interesting proteins to try: in addition to chicken and beef, we enjoyed pork, lamb, mutton, duck, and an array of fresh seafood. One of my favorite dishes was lamb cut into strips and stir-fried in a hot wok with lots of different spicy peppers and cumin. It was brought to the table atop a little portable stove that kept the aromatic meat sizzling through the meal.
With at least one vegetarian in our group at all times, we enjoyed lots of different
vegetables and tofu. I don’t normally like tofu, in part because it’s rather flavorless, but the preparations of it in China were varied in terms of texture and cooking method — we sampled it in soups, cubed and deep-fried or cut into ribbons and stir-fried. Generally, tofu actually tasted like something edible, and since we always had other dishes with meats at mealtime, the amazingness of the meat balanced out the quantity of tofu, so that the tofu dishes became another fun thing to try.
During my visit to China I learned some things about stereotypes concerning Chinese food. For example, dog as food is not as widely accepted in China as the stereotype suggests. In fact, one of our hosts in Taiyuan shared his experience that animals like dogs and mules are sometimes consumed as food in China, but usually eaten only in certain areas and at specific times, like special festivals. He also told us that he would not eat the meat of an animal that he knew has been mistreated.
Soy sauce is a universal condiment at the Chinese restaurant in the United States, but not something you find on the table in China; it’s still an ingredient in cooking, but it is far more common to find a condiment such as hot chili oil or malt vinegar (certain provinces, such as Shanxi, are famous for special vinegars). All you salty rice lovers, being your own soy sauce.
The weirdest thing I ate in China was definitely scorpion, which we tried on Wong fu Jing street in Beijing. It was my first fried arachnid, and while crunching into something with tiny little legs and a stinger was a new experience, the taste was similar to crispy fried chicken skin, and hence, not bad. The most upsetting part of the experience with eating scorpion was watching the live ones that had been skewered and anchored in display baskets, waiting for their turn in the fryer, squirming around while remaining fixed in place.
As a seafood lover who is especially fond of sushi, I enjoyed visiting the local markets in Beijing, which had an absolute top notch selection of not only fresh and live fish, but all sorts of shellfish, shrimp, crab, octopus and squid, oysters, claims and other mollusks. We saw an amazing variety of things from the sea during our visit.
My personal food favorite of the trip definitely goes to the dumplings (“Jiaozi”). Unlike potstickers common in American restaurants, jiaozi are steamed and very tender. The dumplings contain a delicious mix of meat and vegetable, and usually a little “soup” that escapes when you bite into one. They are served with vinegar and chili oil. I enjoyed them so much, and literally ate dozens of them during the trip.
My trip to China this summer was one of the most tantalizingly awesome trips I have ever embarked upon, for me and my palate. I hope to travel there again very soon, and for anyone reading this, I hope that that your experiences involving China are filled not only with God’s love and grace, but also with the amazing Chinese cuisine that I love so much.
Recently, my oldest son and I returned from a pilgrimage and mission trip to the People’s Republic of China. I hope to share (in a series of posts in the coming weeks) some of what we saw and experienced.
The capital city of Taiyuan is approximately 514 km west of the city of Beijing, with a population of 4 million (source: Wikipedia), and seat to the Archdiocese of Taiyuan and Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (source: UCANews).
Relative to other provinces in China, the treatment of the Catholic Church there is somewhat more relaxed. For example, there is very little distinction between that “above-ground” Patriotic Association Church and the otherwise “underground” Catholic Church in full communion with Rome.
One small clue that this is so can be found in the picture below, outside the Cathedral. A great many churches in China are obscured by a wall or have some barrier between them and the facing street. Here, however, the very short fence is used to stand posters about the teachings of Catholicism, and on the public sidewalk there were two tables, with stools and umbrellas, with an array of Catholic tracts for passers-by.
One of two official pilgrimage sites in the Archdiocese of Taiyuan is Our Lady of Grace Portiuncula Basilica on Bansishan (a mountain). (Source: UCANews). Approximately 100 km north of Taiyuan and 1760 meters above sea level, pilgrims access the Basilica by ascending a winding narrow dirt road that is punctuated by Stations of the Cross monuments carved in stone. (Source: UCANews).
According to local tradition, Mary appeared at Bansishan in 1783 and opened the eyes of a blind child. A Franciscan bishop built a church on the site, and another Franciscan bishop later rebuilt it. (Source: UCANews).
While many pilgrims, particularly the local Chinese Catholics, make their 10 km ascent to the Basilica on foot, we made our way aboard a small bus that gasped and choked from overheat when we arrived. I’m glad that I didn’t know that at least once before a coach loaded with pilgrims has overturned on the rugged road, but miraculously, passengers received only minor injuries. (Source: UCANews).
Atop the mountain sits the Basilica. Thousands of pilgrims make their way there on August 2 each year to receive the “Portiuncula Indulgence”. This year, for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the doors of the Basilica have been designated as one of nine holy doors within the Archdiocese. When they were first opened on January 13, “more than 10,000 Catholics, coming on foot or in long lines of vehicles braved the freezing weather of minus 16 degrees Celsius at the pilgrimage site.” (Source: Sunday Examiner).
While the government of the Shanxi Province treats the Church more diffidently than elsewhere in China, it’s not as though Bansishan hasn’t been through its share of upheavals. In 1966, it was demolished by the Red Guards. It was rebuilt beginning in 1988. (Source: sacredarchitecture.org). As recently as 2008, the local government has interfered with pilgrims making their way to the shrine. On May 24 of that year, “thousands of police” blocked the access road to stop the pilgrims from reaching the Basilica, who were forced to return home. “According to eyewitnesses, the police forces greatly outnumbered the pilgrims.” (Source: asianews).
Further up the mountain, which we hiked, is a rosary garden currently under construction, as well as a golden statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the crest. While atop the mountain, at the foot of the Sacred Heart statue, our pilgrimage group prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before we wended our way back down the mountain for our return to Taiyuan.