Tag Archives: blogging

Tonight: The Hermit Will Be Televised!

So I have some terrific announcements this morning:

Tonight at 8pm Eastern my friend Brother Rex Anthony Norris will be the guest for the hour on EWTN’s “Journey Home” program.  He’ll be talking about not only how he came into the Church, but also about his life as a Franciscan hermit.  I hope you’ll tune in to watch, or catch the re-air or archived video when they appear.

Oh and for those of you watching the game tonight, it doesn’t start until 9:10pm Eastern: therefore you have plenty of time to watch Brother Rex, and still get your snack and beverage array ready in time for tip-off.

Regular readers know that recently Kevin Lowry, Jon Marc Grodi, and yours truly founded the Friends of Little Portion Hermitage.  We’re trying to establish a permanent hermitage for Brother Rex and his successor hermits up in the Diocese of Portland, Maine.  You may already have bookmarked the FLPH site, where Brother Rex posts brief spiritual reflections daily, and will gladly take your personal prayer requests.  And if you haven’t already done so, please follow us on Twitter or “Like” our Facebook page, because we’re about to add some new materials I think you’ll appreciate as much as we do.

So beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, April 8th, and continuing every Tuesday and Thursday for the next several weeks, we’ll be featuring guest posts on the FLPH site from some very gracious, generous friends in Catholic media: people whom you probably already read, watch, or listen to on a regular basis.  They want to help us draw greater attention to this project, so we can get a permanent hermitage established.  They’re also speaking to the value of the life of intense prayer that Brother Rex and others in the eremitic life are living out in the life of the Church.

The Catechism explains that since hermits spend so much of their time every day alone in prayer, they’re really powerful prayer warriors for all of us.  “Hidden from the eyes of men, the life of the hermit is a silent preaching of the Lord, to whom he has surrendered his life simply because he is everything to him. Here is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One,” Catechism of the Catholic Church, #921.

I hope you’ll be watching tonight to see and hear why Brother Rex is such a terrific guy, and in the weeks ahead, that you’ll check out some of the great guest posts we’re going to have to help out this effort!

Franciscan Hermit Brother Rex Anthony Norris

Franciscan Hermit Brother Rex Anthony Norris

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Read This Blog – Then Go Read a Book

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that, like me, you’re reading “stuff” all day long. You glance at the news headlines online and scroll through the blogs you subscribe to; you sift through emails and text messages; you open the mail, read office memos, and so on.  Thanks to these multiple demands on our attention, I suspect many of us who enjoy reading find it difficult to put aside some time to sit down and read a book.

For a bookworm like myself, this is also a practical problem.  When people know that you love books, you tend to receive books as gifts, such as at Christmas or on your birthday.  Similarly, should you find yourself at an event where books are being given away, or where there is a book-signing, you can’t help but pick up a few volumes for yourself.  Within the past six months alone, while I choose not to actually count and tell myself the real number, I would say that I have thus accumulated about two dozen books.

As time passes that stack of unread books, which you have done little more than crack open to have a thumb through, grows ever taller.  Perhaps you hide them away somewhere so you don’t have to look at them, but in the back of your mind you know they are still there, verbally haunting you with a plaintive cry of, “Read me!”  You may even feel guilty about the fact that for months now, these things have been waiting for you to give them a try, while you have wasted countless hours online watching cat videos, arguing about sci-fi movies, or taking quizzes to find out which 90′s pop idol you are (Justin Timberlake, apparently.)

Far be it from me, someone who loves and appreciates what good the internet can do, to tell you to stop using it altogether.  Plenty of good reading material can be found online, and we can use the internet wisely as a tool to expand our knowledge of a subject.  There is also the social aspect of reading something on the internet, which can quickly and easily be shared with our online communities – something that a solitary reader of a book would find it difficult or impossible to do.

Yet that being said, there is nothing quite like settling down on the couch or under the covers with a new book, and savoring the words within it, all by yourself.  Within the pages of a book there is no “share” button to click on, no comments section to scroll through, no ads for unwanted or unpleasant products on the side.  There are only words, which have to stand or fall on their own, depending on how adept the writer is at stringing them together.

The problem remains, however: where do we find the time to have these experiences?

As my readers know, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent, apart from a cursory visit on Sunday mornings just to clear out my inbox and notifications.  Over the past couple of weeks, with that activity out of my life, I have been reading like mad: six books so far.  True, that’s not much of a dent in the stack of unread volumes I need to get through, but it’s a decent start.

The pleasure of quietly reading, with only the scraping sound of a turning page to break the silence, is something too easily drowned out in the noisy assault of media on our senses.  When we are constantly bombarded with visual and audible stimuli, the subtleties of language and the joy of a well-chosen turn of phrase or insightful observation can be utterly lost.  On top of which, I had forgotten that when I pick up a book, I’m reminded that in reading other people’s work, I’m often inspired to pursue my own writing interests.

So now that you’ve read this post, gentle reader, my challenge to you is to go read something else, preferably bound between two covers and printed on paper. Turn off the computer and the television, silence the phone, and spend some time enjoying an activity which today, we too often take for granted among all the bells and whistles of 21st century technology.  For wonderful as that technology is, there really is no substitute anywhere in new media for the experience of quietly paging through a good book.

Detail of "Crackers in Bed" by Norman Rockwell (1921) Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass.

Detail of “Crackers in Bed” by Norman Rockwell (1921)
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass.

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Feeling Pretty Super: WordPress Freshly Pressed

I’m very pleased to report, as some of my readers may already know, that WordPress selected my recent piece “Playing the Online Hero, Offline” for their Freshly Pressed section.  This is now the 4th time the editors at WordPress have done me the honor, and it feels just as good and just as much of a surprise now as it has previously.  For those unfamiliar with what being “Freshly Pressed” means in this context, the editors at WordPress select an individual post from among the thousands upon thousands of blogs on WordPress.com which they find particularly interesting.  They then highlight that post on the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress.com and via Twitter, as a recommendation to others to read it.

With regard to this particular piece, in the email I was sent notifying me that it had been selected the editor commented that it was “an interesting, succinct discussion that allows your readers to think about the ways humans have this need for heroism, and your examples of online gaming to watching the Olympics are timely. I’m thrilled to share it with our wider audience.”  So far, the comments that readers have been leaving on the piece show that it has led people to think about some of the issues I raised in the post, and getting that kind of feedback is a joy for any writer.  Unlike singing in public, for example, where one can gauge by the applause whether you have belted out that particular karaoke cover well, there is often no immediate way for a writer to tell whether or not he has communicated effectively.

At the same time, one could easily point out many other writers who write just as well or better, of course, for I am far from a paragon of perfection in my writing.  And there is always the need for ongoing improvement.  That aside, in all honesty I do love the opportunity that these occasions provide for me to share ideas with a broader audience, as they lead to new connections and some different ideas to consider, not just for those reading the post but for me as a writer.

In any case, thank you again to the editors over at WordPress for selecting my post, and to my readers for sticking with me as I continue to scribble on these virtual pages.

Screenshot

Clearly WordPress editors read all kinds of blog posts…

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A Gala Evening with the Media Research Center

Last evening I had the great pleasure and privilege of being invited to live-tweet from the Media Research Center’s annual Gala here in Washington.  I thank Scooter Schaefer and everyone at the MRC for the opportunity to attend, and to share some of the festivities with my readers and followers.  It was terrific to catch up with friends and acquaintances, as well as to be in the presence of well-known journalists, commentators, and civil servants, including the redoubtable Charles Krauthammer, who received the William F. Buckley Award, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, and many others.  I also had the chance to personally thank the lovely Monica Crowley of Fox News. who was one of the judges for this Top 20 list I somehow managed to land on earlier this year; she even said I was cute, which made me blush like a 13-year-old.

It did not strike me until somewhere around dessert that the reason all of this was happening was because I took a chance, some years ago, and decided to reach out to people I did not actually know through Twitter, a social media platform whose utility for a long time had escaped me.  Unlike blogging, where one puts out into the deep not knowing whether anyone will read what one has written, or podcasting where, similarly, one does not know whether anyone will listen to what is recorded, Twitter is designed around the potential for immediate interaction.  Merely sending a message on Twitter to another person is no guarantee the recipient will respond, of course.  Yet if you have something to say and people like the way you say it, chances are you can not only meet interesting people, but find an audience for what you have to say in a fashion which allows virtually instantaneous opportunities for response and interaction.

The lesson to be learned here however, is something much broader than that of a single new media platform.  When you have something you like to do, and are reasonably adept at, whether it is writing and public speaking, cooking and baking, fishing and hunting, etc., if you take a chance and reach out to others with the same interests, the rewards can be quite tangible.  I would not have been invited last evening if I had not been demonstrated my ability to craft a collection of words into something which a reasonable number of people enjoy reading on a regular basis.

And because all of this stems from having been a blogger for a number of years now, in the end the people whom I really need to thank are you, my readers.  If you did not like what you came across here, you could just as easily be using your limited and valuable reading time to visit someone else’s pages.  So a hearty thanks to you, as well, for allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions with you on a regular basis, something for which I am most deeply grateful.

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At the MRC Gala catching up with two smart young ladies of my acquaintance

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UPDATED: The Courtier’s 5th Birthday Contest

[N.B. I have changed the contest deadline to midnight on August 15, 2013.]

Regular readers know that this blog first appeared on August 16, 2008.  Of course this means we are coming up on the 5th year anniversary of its founding.  So as a special thanks to all of you who drop in to read and share your thoughts, I am inviting you to participate in a contest for a Courtier-related prize.

The Blog of the Courtier takes its name from the “Book of the Courtier” by the Italian author and diplomat Baldassare Castiglione, Count of Novellata, who was born in Mantua in 1478 and died in Madrid in 1529.  In it, the Count uses the literary device of an imaginary after-dinner discussion between several famous Italian nobles and thinkers of his day, to discuss principles which ought to matter to anyone who cares about creating a good society, establishing a just government, and encouraging men and women to better themselves through education and polite behavior.  For centuries it was required reading for any educated person who sought to understand his place in the world, and how to contribute positively to the times in which he lived.

Sadly, in more recent years this book has become something of a historical footnote, as people have moved away from aspiring to be improve themselves and instead have reverted to the kind of slovenly selfishness which Castiglione saw around him and deplored.  In an effort to encourage us to think about the principles which Castiglione saw as forming the foundation for Western society, and to encourage others to rediscover this wonderful work, I will once again be giving away a brand-new, annotated English translation of Castiglione’s masterpiece to the winning entry in this year’s birthday contest.  Past winners have included subscribers to this blog, my followers on Twitter, and people who just happen to have come across the contest through social media.

To enter, simply write in 500 words or less about a person, living or dead, whom you believe embodies the ideals that Count Castiglione was writing about when he noted the following aspects of the character of a good courtier, i.e. the man or woman trying to live a virtuous and good life and do their duty, seeking to improve themselves while at the same time doing the best they can to behave well toward others:

Then the soul, freed from vice, purged by studies of true philosophy, versed in spiritual life, and practiced in matters of the intellect, devoted to the contemplation of her own substance, as if awakened from deepest sleep, opens those eyes which all possess but few use, and sees in herself a ray of that light which is the true image of the angelic beauty communicated to her, and of which she then communicates a faint shadow to the body.

Contest entries will be accepted from today through midnight on August 15, 2013.  I will announce the winner, either by full name or initials, as they choose, on the blog’s birthday.

To submit an entry, simply use the “Contact” tab located above the “Blog of the Courtier” logo on the homepage of this site, and be sure to include an email address on the contact form so that I know how to get in touch with you.  Due to the volume of entries I typically receive, I will not be able to acknowledge each entry individually, but you can be certain that I will read and consider all of them.  I am always greatly impressed by the submissions, some of which show insight into historical figures and famous people, while others praise friends and family members who have always tried to do their best to be a lady or gentleman in whatever they do.

Best of luck with your entries, and thank you for your continued readership of these pages!

Veronese,_Paolo_-_Feast_at_the_House_of_Simon_-_1570-1572

Detail from “The Feast in the House of Simon” by Tintoretto (1570-1572)
Palace of Versailles

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