After lately seeing Larry Nassar receive a nearly 200 year jail sentence, I was reminded of the other profoundly long jail sentences modern courts sometimes set for egregious crimes. In 1994, Charles Scott Robinson was sentenced to 30,000 years in jail after he was convicted of raping six children. This is the longest jail sentence ever given in America, though jail terms in the 500 to 1000 year range are not entirely uncommon. In 1989, a court in Thailand convicted Chamoy Thipyaso of corporate fraud and sentenced him to 141,078 years in jail.
When non-liturgical Christians think about spring holidays and festivities, they too often think only of Easter as an isolated Sunday that comes at some unexpected date that changes every year. The great High Holy Feast day of the Church thus pops in and out of the calendar with little preparation and fanfare. As such, it is quite possible to arrive at church one Sunday for Easter without any of the preparation that Lenten observance or Holy Week services could provide.
God will not always help you rise.
In the first canto of the Comedy, Dante is lost in a dark wood. Then, like the prodigal son, he comes to himself. Unsure of how long he has been lost, Dante sees light emanating from behind a mountain before him. We know that the darkness around him is sin, and the light is God, and that Dante is rising to be with God, his Deliverer. However, his path up the mountain is blocked by three vicious beasts, and Dante retreats back down the mountain where he encounters Virgil, who leads him into Hell.
Talking to the damned is more difficult than you might imagine. When Dante enters Hell, he is lost, lamenting his spiritual malaise, and yet he has been given time and space to find the path to God again. Hell makes for an unusual path to God, for it is littered with the souls of those who finally rejected God. If a man who feared Hell had the chance to talk to a man who had actually been eternally consigned to Hell, what kind of questions would be the most spiritually helpful? Yet, many of the conversations Dante has with the damned strike modern ears as rather bland.
In a little-known novel that I love, a British grandmother, after the devastation of World War One, is left with the care of an orphaned grandson and the ache of a war-scarred family. Seeking a way to care for them all, Lucilla (literally, through a broken window) stumbles upon a worn but beautiful old house and has a vision of what it could mean for them all:
We often get asked about the best books on education. So I asked around the office a bit. Here's what some of the folks on our team had to say.
By my latest count, I have heard the following dictum at least a dozen times in the last month: “literary analysis destroys the love of reading.”
Parents and teachers who say this often assert that reading, especially among the very young, is primarily an experience of the heart and soul, to be shared between parents and children, and that too strong an emphasis on mental exercise prevents them from using story time to build deep relationships.
As modern men, we take the arbitrary nature of the world for granted. Every man is obviously allowed to determine the rules for himself. I pray you have not seen many vampire movies, or many zombie pictures or werewolf films, but if you have, you know that within the first act, the director must establish the particular vampire or zombie rules which will govern this film. Will the vampires in this film be averse to garlic or not? How about holy water? Sunlight? Crosses? Silver bullets? Stakes through the heart?
Are stories and parables told only through words?
Perhaps some might grant that parable-like tales are also told through visual art and music. I’d like to suggest, in addition, that there are many math – and, by logical extension, science – “parables” most of us have never heard. And even if we’ve heard them, many of us have likely overlooked the radically fantastic domain they represent and reflect.
The primary reason for this, sadly, is that few of us were told them as bedtime stories (though somewhat tongue in cheek, I’m actually quite serious about this).
In an earlier season of life, colleagues who retired or cleaned their offices would frequently offload unwanted books to me. Thus I came to own The World of Cheese, a 1960 promotional publication from the J.L. Kraft Company. Who could resist a title like that? The short volume traces the general history of cheese and provides short descriptions of some of the most popular varieties. As it turns out, the history of cheese has a lot in common with the history of education from the ancients and medievals to public schooling and the modern classical education movement.