Of fish, dragons and pity

I needed a down day.

I had a half down day yesterday, too.  I met with my literary group, going on since 1997 now.  We are reading Gerard Manley Hopkins.  If anyone is interesting, drop me a line and I will read some.  He is REALLY hard, and rewarding.

At the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, there is a perfect copy of the … you know what it is.


I light candles, by the way.


Mary is beautifully crowned in her chapel in the Cathedral.

I went to confession, bought hosts and other needful stuff, and some specialized groceries, and enjoyed Xiao Long Bao for lunch, since after breakfast that is all I could imagine eating.

Back home I found tulips in abundance and filled three more vases.


Tonight… a trout and broccholetti prepared by moi.

Garlic, onion, white wine.  Deglazed with white wine and sambucca, reduced, and whipped with a new version of Crème fraiche, this Philly “cooking cream” product.  Seen it?  Not quite Crème fraiche… but it worked.  Chardonnay.  Dessert?  No dessert.  I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.


I will now catch up on cable news, having pity on my brain I used my blessed DVR to cut out commercials and fluff, of which there is a lot, have a tall glass of something… bourbon? scotch? … in a heavy glass, and a cigar, and go to bed early.

BTW… I saw There Be Dragons today.   Have you?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Stephen Matthew says:

    I would gladly see There Be Dragons, but it seems not to be on offer at any of the half dozen places in the area.

  2. JamesA says:

    Sounds like you had a nice day, Father.
    I saw the movie recently with some other seminarians (we got free tickets). We thought it was pretty good. I won’t comment on it too much so as not to spoil.

  3. BaedaBenedictus says:

    I was eager to see it until Steven Greydanus of the NCRegister gave it a bad review. Would you recommend it, Father?

  4. Dorcas says:

    Fr, have you read Frederick Buechner’s “Speak What We Feel: Not What We Ought to Say”? It has a wonderful section on Gerard Manley Hopkins (as well as sections on Shakespeare, Chesterton, and Twain–four who ‘wrote in [their] own blood’ as he puts it.) I recommend it… [Thanks for the recommendation.]

  5. Incaelo says:

    I’d love to hear you read some Hopkins for us, Father. I first encountered him during a course when I studied English, and I find his poetry absolutely fascinating. Hearing it enhances the experience so much more.

  6. C. says:

    I thought it was a very watchable film which portrays the Church and the priesthood in a good light.

    The fictional part of the story, which was criticized by Greydanus, doesn’t fit into any of the conventional movie story arcs. But I and many of my friends found it edifying nonetheless.

  7. rcesq2 says:

    St. Josemaria Escriva is treated sympathetically, but the film as a whole is pretty incoherent. For a truly inspiring movie experience go see Of Gods and Men instead.

  8. Maltese says:

    Hopkins is a hard read, but every time I read “God’s Grandeur” I garner new nuances from it. Btw: if you want to read a REALLY good book by a contemporary Catholic author, Ran Hansen, check out “Exiles”; It’s a semi-biographical fictionalized account of Hopkins writing about the true-life account of the sinking of the Deutchland. That may seem convoluted, but it’s actually a simple, beautiful book.


  9. kallman says:

    We studied Hopkins in High School. The way he always builds tension and releases it right at the end in his poetry worries me for a religious. Speaking of endings how about a picture of that trout on the dinner plate? We have not seen much of your cooking recently Father.

  10. Christina says:

    I was introduced to GMH in high school, but since then I haven’t been able to wrap my head around his stuff. Perhaps a reading would give me a clue on what to do with him?

  11. Grateful Catholic says:


    If you prepare some readings of Fr Hopkins for us, please include Rosa Mystica and The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe. These two poems, particularly the latter (incomparable!), formed me in Our Lady (along with St Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion).

    Thank you.

  12. Goldfinch says:


    Thanks for posting the pictures from around the St. Thomas area. When my wife and I were newly weds we lived right next door to the Grandview Theater. We loved that area. Now living out of state for so many years, it was nice to see a touch of home.

    The last time we were at the Cathedral, they blew up the High Bridge. That’s a long time ago now.

    No walleye for dinner?

  13. Centristian says:

    Is that an altar to Our Lady of Victory (2nd image)? If so, I’ve never seen one outside of Lackawanna, New York.

  14. Patti Day says:

    Father, Would you read, “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins?

    Just before I came in to your blog today, I had listened to three very different readings by three different men on You Tube. It’s the first time I’ve heard the poetry of Manley.

    Sounds like you had a good day. Wear did you get such a trout. It’s eyes were still sparkling.

  15. Sissy says:

    Reading “A Nun Takes The Veil” as a young, pagan child was one of the first steps on my road home. It filled my heart with a desire for a mysterious “something” that I couldn’t name until years later. Reading it still fills me with longing.

  16. It sounds like a great “down day” Father!

  17. Would you recommend that Philly cooking cream? I saw a coupon for it, and my reaction was, “Ick. Why would I need this commercial processed stuff when I could just use real cream?” But I’m open to other opinions on it :)

  18. acroat says:

    I rarely go to movies, but enjoyed There be Dragons very much even the “Prodigal Father” fiction.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    That movie has not played anywhere I have been since it came out. As to GMH, I have found that he appeals to non-Catholic students as well as RCs.

  20. RC2 says:

    Hear Richard Burton do a tour de force reading of The Leaden Echo & The Golden Echo here. Incredible! http://youtu.be/WhQwFf6Qb9U

    [Wow. That was fast! Deft, certainly, but I am not convinced. Hopkins, by the way, indicated that he intended it to be sung.]

    Not the least lash lost!

  21. OPmom says:

    Father, if you could read Hopkins translation of St. Thomas Aquinas’ prayer Adore Te Devote, that would be wonderful.

    I saw Dragons this past weekend and enjoyed it. Is is a perfect movie? No. But, it’s respectful of the priesthood and it has cinematography that reminded me of a David Lean movie.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    Yes, Father! Read Hopkins! “The Blessed Virgin Mary Compared to the Air We Breathe,” certainly – but also, please, “The Windhover”?

    Hopkins must be read aloud. He consciously looked backwards to Anglo-Saxon poetry and its rhythms, alliterations, and internal figures. And that style is meant to be recited, not read.

  23. Father, now you gave me an itch to come visit the Cathedral. I always feel at home there. Wisconsin has nothing equivalent.

  24. Badger: Very few places do. It is one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the USA. Perhaps only Newark’s is more splendid.

  25. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    Of course, Father, you are speaking of the Cathedral in Nork, NJ.


  26. lucy says:

    Saw the movie – thought it showed the priesthood in a good light. Didn’t really like the fictional friend part, but at least we were able to view a film about a saint.

    Thanks for posting your cooking. I’ve missed this lately !! Hint, hint.

    Yes, please do read some of Hopkins’ poetry. It is meant to be heard rather than read.

  27. lucy: I have done very little interesting cooking for a while now.

  28. Andreas says:

    The Cathedral is indeed magnificent. I had the good fortune of being there when the visiting Choir of St. John’s Chapel, Cambridge, gave a lovely evening concert. Transcendent beauty indeed. My visits to the Cathedral were infrequent, however, as I was a member of Monsignor Schuler’s Twin Cities Catholic Chorale at the Church of St. Agnes located but a few miles away.

  29. Mike says:

    I saw “There be Dragons” last week. I enjoyed it. A solid B, I think.

  30. APX says:

    @Fr. Zuhlsdorf
    It is one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the USA
    Yes, it is, and I’m kicking myself for not going inside when I was there!

    The one of the more subtle things which caught my eye, was this:

    Does anyone know how they managed to get such intricate stone work done at the time this was built?

  31. JJMSJ says:

    I vicariously enjoyed the details of your wonderful day from beginning to end.
    My favorite Hopkins is Brothers.

  32. Incaelo says:

    AnAmericanMother, you are quite right. I would think that goes for most poetry.

  33. Maltese says:

    “We studied Hopkins in High School. The way he always builds tension and releases it right at the end in his poetry worries me for a religious.”

    With all respect, kallman, Puhleeez! It’s not your fault at all, because you probably drank that coolaid from your neo-modernist, unahabited nun teachers at your Catholic High School, or from your psychotherapist-Priest, wringing his has to find psycho-sexual meaning in everything!

    I assure you, my friend, Hopkins is a wonderful, wonderful poet ; he was a slight, consumptive, unhealthy Priest, fully in love with Christ and His Mother, who died without publishing his poems, at a very early age; and, really, died for the Church–I’m sure if he had gone the easy route, via the Anglican faith, he would have foregone his early fate. He was a convert, disdained by his friends and family for his love for the Church, fully reflected in his poetry.

    That he had the humility to not publish one of his poems during his lifetime, speaks to his extreme humility and love for poverty and the Church.

    Maybe I am biased, and this coming from an avowed Traditionalist, but also from an English Major who has read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” front-to-back five times, and most major poets: in my opinion he is the finest poet we’ve had in not just from the nineteenth century, but into the twentieth century as well. It’s utterly unique, beautiful, nuanced and profound.

  34. Montenegro says:

    I studied a *lot* of poetry in college, from Donne to Milton to GMH to Jarrell – all white guys! <> One course had only 3 poets in the syllabus: Frost, Jarrell and GMH. Not sure why, but GMH seemed to get the lightest treatment of the 3 – i shall have to pick him up again and revisit in my middle age.

  35. Ame E. says:

    Liked There be Dragons.. Thought it worth seeing.
    Love Hopkins. Think him worth reading.

    I also agree with the poster who wrote to go see Of gods and men.. great film.

  36. Mike says:

    “That he had the humility to not publish one of his poems during his lifetime, speaks to his extreme humility and love for poverty and the Church.”

    Hopkins was humble, and did love the Church and poverty. However, his poetry was ahead of his time, and not really understood. Hence most of it went unpublished in his lifetime.

  37. KAS says:

    I went to see THERE BE DRAGONS twice. I loved the movie the first time, and got even more out of it the second time! Both times I was moved to tears in more than one point in the movie.

    I had been concerned about historical accuracy, I’ve read a number of books on the Spanish Civil War and the three volume Biography of St. Escriva, but to my delight the movie held together and did not appear to take any major liberties–oh there were some as expected in a movie–but nothing that changed the message of the Saint. I urged everyone I know to go see it and few actually did and enjoyed it too. I think though I am the only one I know who went back to see it again.

    Now I wait eagerly for it to come out on DVD so I can purchase it.

  38. oldCatholigirl says:

    The more poetry reading you do, the better, from my point of view. When I heard your last poetry Podcasts, I was delighted–I’d forgotten how much I loved hearing poems come alive. And Hopkins would be a treat. (I never could “get” even part of the meaning of any of his poems without reading them aloud.) About 30 years ago, a friend of mine set “The Windhover” to music for his choir (of which I was privileged to be a member). It was an enlightening experience. Thanks for reminding me.
    Mary Conces

  39. wilky says:

    If you love Hopkin’s poetry and need help understanding it try ‘Hopkins:Theologians’ Poet’ Introduction and Commentary on Selected Poems [20 0f them] by Fr Aidan Nichols, O.P. published by Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University 2006. Fr Edward Oakes, SJ describes Nichols’ work as “a model of clarity, insight, and beauty.”

  40. Banjo pickin girl says:

    EWTN has shown an hour long program on the renovation of that cathedral. It is available on DVD. I forget the name of it. It is very well done. They explained the stonework and windows and stuff and how it is divided into sections with “themes.”

  41. St. Josaphat in Milwaukee is Wisconsin’s finest, but it cant even compare.

    The Cathedral is the epitome of American Catholicism. Up on a hill, near the capital, saving the city from “Pig’s Eye” – and taking a name all Christians can identify with.

    Although I’m sure if I lived in the area I would join St. Agnes, I would certainly spend time at the Cathedral as well.

  42. Melania says:

    I love Hopkins too, a jewel of a poet.

    It was also going to be hard to see “There Be Dragons” in our area, but the local Opus Dei folks organized a fund-raiser to bring it here and arranged for about 200 devout Catholics to attend the first night. The first weekend it had an attendance of about 360 on each night. It has been playing here for two weeks and will probably have its last showing tonight.

    Before I went, I had made the mistake of reading a few negative reviews and so wasn’t sure I would enjoy my evening, but I was committed to go. The reality was quite different from what the reviews reported. I thought the film was very well done, complex and thoughtful. I found myself thinking about it for hours afterwards and ended up seeing it again a few days later.

    I noticed that Roland Joffe seems to like a two-man structure for his films because he used it not only in this one but in “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission.” In this one, the movie switches back and forth between the lives of Josemaria Escriva and his fictional childhood friend, Manolo Torres. Their lives are parallel and there are a lot of mirroring scenes. Perhaps these characters are meant to be different sides of the same person. I noticed at the beginning the little boys are presented as seen through the glasses of the nanny, Geraldine Chaplin, one boy in the right lens and one in the left. Same kid?

    Lots of fathers in this film. Good fathers. Bad fathers. Natural fathers. Spiritual fathers. Men who refuse to be fathers. Derek Jakobi plays a spiritual father to the little boys, as indicated by his placing a piece of chocolate on each of their tongues like a communion host. He then gives them a challenge which Manolo fails. Josemaria succeeds and stays to hear Jakobi’s lesson which proves to be the seed of the idea for Opus Dei. Lovely scene.

    Another theme is the problem of evil which both characters face early in their lives. As a little boy, Josemaria loses a little sister. He asks his mother if she now hates God. She says, “No.” He then asks this disturbing question, “Will you hate Him when He takes me?” Manolo and Josemaria resolve this issue differently and take different paths in life.

    Another theme seems to be love and what kind of love stands up to the horrors of war and the simple everyday reality of human weakness. We’re presented with the Republican leader’s love of his cause and the idealistic, romantic love of the beautiful Hungarian revolutionary and the Christ-like love of the mature Josemaria, etc.

    There’s also the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation.

    I found the framing story a little weak. So in the end, I give this movie a B+ or A-. I look forward to the DVD which I will purchase.

  43. EWTN Rocks says:

    RC2, thank you for including the link to Richard Burton reciting The Leaden Echo & The Golden Echo – I absolutely loved it! I’m sorry to say I had not heard of Gerard Manley Hopkins prior to this post; however, I will definitely read his poetry now that I’ve been introduced to it.

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