21 June 2016

Summer Solstice marks summer's arrival

The sun rises as thousands of revelers gathered at the ancient stone circle Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, near Salisbury, England, on June 21, 2015.   (Tim Ireland / AP)

09 June 2016

Pope Francis: Want to celebrate well? Drink wine. by Elise Harris

Pope Francis laughing outside of St. Peter's Basilica during the general audience on April 1, 2015. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
.- In an in-depth look at Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, Pope Francis pointed to several key moments in the scene that illuminate our understanding of Christ.

One of these key moments, he said, comes with Mary’s observation that newlywed couple’s resources have depleted, and that at a certain point “they have no wine.”

“How is it possible to celebrate the wedding and have a party if you lack what the prophets indicated was a typical element of the messianic banquet?” the Pope asked.

While water is necessary to live, “wine expresses the abundance of the banquet and the joy of the feast,” Francis said, noting that “a wedding feast lacking wine embarrasses the newlyweds – imagine finishing the wedding feast drinking tea? It would be an embarrassment!”

“Wine is necessary for the feast,” he said, and pointed to how Jesus, in turning the water into wine, makes “an eloquent sign,” because “he transforms the Law of Moses into the Gospel, bringer of joy.”

Pope Francis spoke to the thousands of pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his general audience. He continued his ongoing catechesis on mercy, turning from Jesus’ parables to his miracles.

However, before beginning his address, the Pope took a moment to greet a group of couples present celebrating 50 years of marriage.

“That's the good wine of the family!” he said of the couples, and told them that “yours is a witness that the newlyweds I'll greet after and the youth must learn. It's a beautiful witness. Thank you for your testimony!”

Francis then turned to the second chapter in the Gospel of John, which recounts the miracle that began Jesus’ public ministry: turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana, upon the request of his mother.

This miracle, the Pope said, serves as “an ‘entry point’ in which are engraved the words and expressions that illuminate the entire mystery of Christ and open the hearts of the disciples to the faith.”

In the expression that Jesus was “with his disciples,” it’s made clear that the ones Jesus has called to follow him are now bound together as a community and as a family, he said.

By initiating his public ministry at the wedding at Cana, Jesus both reveals himself as the bridegroom of the People of God who had been announced by the prophets, and also shows “the depth of the relationship which unites us to him: it’s a New Covenant of love.”

Francis said that the foundation of our faith is “an act of mercy with which Jesus has bound us to himself.” The Christian life, then, “is a response to this love, it’s the story of two lovers.”

Another key point in the passage is when Mary, after informing Jesus that the newlywed couple had run out of wine, tells the servants to “do whatever he tells you.”

Pope Francis said “it’s curious” that these are the last words spoken by Mary in the Gospels, and that as such “they are her legacy which she presents to all of us. This is the legacy that she has left us and it’s beautiful!”

He noted how Mary’s expression is similar to another -- ‘What the Lord has said, we will do!’ – which was used by the people of Israel when they received the covenant with God on Mount Sinai.

In the wedding at Cana, a New Covenant is “truly stipulated” and the servants of the Lord, who are “the entire Church,” are entrusted with a new mission, the Pope explained.

This mission, following Mary’s directive to “Do whatever he tells you,” means serving the Lord by listening to his Word and putting it into practice, Francis continued, adding that “it’s the simple but essential recommendation of the Mother of Jesus and it’s the program of the Christian life.”

Jesus began his public works at Cana, revealing his glory to his disciples and cementing their belief in him, the Pope observed. Given these facts, “the wedding of Cana is much more than a simple story about Jesus’ first miracle.”

“Like a treasure chest, (Jesus) guards the secret of his person and the purpose for his coming,” Pope Francis said, explaining that it is through this wedding that Jesus binds his disciples to himself “with a new and definitive covenant.”
Francis closed his address by noting how Cana marks the place where Jesus’ disciples become his family and “the faith of the Church is born,” adding that “we are all invited to that wedding, because the new wine will never be lacking!”


O.C. judge censured for having sex in chambers wins courthouse race - Orange County Register

“Judge Steiner is proud of the job he’s done on the bench,
 and the voters agree,” said his campaign manager, Scott Hart,
on Tuesday night.  At least two maybe.

Voters appeared to forgive censured Orange County Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner on Tuesday, as he beat veteran prosecutor Karen Schatzle to retain his post. Meanwhile, three other prosecutors had commanding leads for other seats on the Superior Court bench.

Steiner, 42, won another term in his first bid for re-election after being censured in 2014 by the state’s judicial watchdog for having sex with two former law students in his chambers.

“Judge Steiner is proud of the job he’s done on the bench, and the voters agree,” said his campaign manager, Scott Hart, on Tuesday night.

Hart declined to address Steiner’s previous conduct, but in past statements District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Tom Dominguez, president of the deputy sheriffs union, said Steiner had learned from his mistakes.

“The voters will get what they voted for.”

Steiner was censured by the Commission on Judicial Performance for having sex in his chambers as well as for trying to help one of his sex partners get a job at the District Attorney’s Office.

He also was faulted for failing to disqualify himself in a case involving a longtime friend and for other violations related to conflicts of interest.

The Orange County Bar Association gave Steiner its lowest rating for a judicial candidate: not qualified.


08 June 2016

Rumi film will challenge Muslim stereotypes, says Gladiator writer

An Afghan boy plays in the ruins of a house that once belonged to the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.
Photograph: Farshad Usyan/AFP/Getty Images
by Kareem Shaheen in Istanbul
An Oscar-winning screenwriter has agreed to work on a biopic about the 13th-century poet Jalaluddin al-Rumi.
     David Franzoni, who wrote the script for the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator, and Stephen Joel Brown, a producer on the Rumi film, said they wanted to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema by charting the life of the great Sufi scholar.
     “He’s like a Shakespeare,” Franzoni said. “He’s a character who has enormous talent and worth to his society and his people, and obviously resonates today. Those people are always worth exploring.”
     Producers hope to begin shooting the film next year. Franzoni and Brown were in Istanbul last week to meet with Rumi experts and visited the mystic’s mausoleum in Konya.
Portrait of Rumi, the celebrated poet and Muslim scholar.
Photograph: Alamy
     “It’s a very exciting project – and obviously challenging,” Franzoni said. “There are a lot of reasons we’re making a product like this right now. I think it’s a world that needs to be spoken to; Rumi is hugely popular in the United States. I think it gives him a face and a story.”
     Rumi’s spiritual and mystical epics, the Masnavi and the Divan, are widely considered among the best poetry ever written and have been translated into numerous languages. The Sufi teacher, who fled in his youth from his birthplace in present-day Afghanistan during the Mongol invasion, travelled through Baghdad, Mecca and Damascus with his family as a refugee before settling in Konya, in modern-day Turkey, where he died in old age. 
     Rumi’s encounter with the enigmatic mystic Shams of Tabriz, believed to have occurred in 1244, altered the course of his life. After Shams’s mysterious disappearance, an aggrieved Rumi wrote much of the love poetry that he is widely known for in the west – couplets that endure in pocketbook versions of his writings, which have made him the bestselling poet in the US.  
      Franzoni and Brown said they would like Leonardo DiCaprio to play Rumi, and Robert Downey Jr to star as Shams of Tabriz, though they said it was too early to begin casting. “This is the level of casting that we’re talking about,” said Brown, chief executive of Y Productions, who was also a producer on other hit films such as Se7en, The Fugitive and the Devil’s Advocate. The movie will be co-produced by Y Productions and Es Film.
     A key challenge will be trying to build credible and identifiable profiles of Rumi and Shams from a considerable body of mythology. Even the basic facts of their lives are in dispute. Revered Islamic figures in popular discourse tend to be mythologised as saints rather than flawed characters, with their achievements embellished and their flaws papered over.
     “We’re trying to invent and resurrect a character at the same time because there is so much missing in the shadow of history, and some of it is idealised so you have to go back and find the human being who became a saint, because we can’t write about a saint,” said Franzoni.
     Shams’s character is also complicated to portray. While those working on the film do not see him as a villain, they do view him as a chaotic influence who distracted Rumi from his teachings and family. The ambiguities could allow writers and producers greater artistic licence, and they hope the intellectual arm-wrestling of the two key figures in the story will make for compelling viewing. “The greatness of Rumi, so much of it came out of that unpredictability and being challenged,” said Franzoni.

A Sufi whirling performance of the Mevlevi order, founded by Rumi. Photograph: AP
     Franzoni said the film would probably include a prologue of Rumi’s flight from his birthplace, a situation he said had parallels with modern times. The Mongol invasions bore some semblance to the rampage of extremists in the Middle East today, and the ensuing flight of civilians, he said. 
    The film will focus on Rumi’s teachings as well as his encounter with Shams, while giving prominence to Kimya, the poet’s outspoken daughter who some scholars believe may have married Shams.
     Franzoni and Brown said the main reason they wanted to make the movie was to introduce Rumi’s life story to the millennial generation that so loved Rumi’s poetry. Franzoni said he hoped the audience would be able to identify with the poet. “What’s fascinating is where did this all come from? It’s the 21st century and we’re rolling in it and embracing it. If we position ourselves carefully, [we can say] now we’re going to tell you where something you love came from,” he said.
     “I think it’s obvious why people love his poetry. There’s a line about Lawrence of Arabia when they ask him why he likes the desert, and he says ‘because it’s clean’. There’s something profoundly ‘gettable’ about Rumi. You get it. And not only do you get it but it involves you.”

Tribute to Stan by Bob Costas