Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Blog Announcement

I'm sorry to inform my lovely audience here at Worlds Of Ink And Paper that I will be going on an unofficial hiatus for June and July.
I may still blog occasionally, but it will not be regular or very often unfortunately. You see, as Miss Lucy Agnes made me realize, the summer really is too short and goes by too fast to spend a lot of time on the computer typing (even if it is for the loveliest crowd), so I'm going to just enjoy it while it lasts. Sorry! I hope you can forgive me, and meanwhile read other lovely blogs until I return (if such other equals exist, haha). ;) Partiro!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Meet The Books! - All's Fair

Hello! It's time for another Meet The Books!... finally, haha. :P Anyways, though, this one's an interesting one, because this is no ordinary novel (I mean, obviously none of my novels are, but you know what I mean). ;) This project of mine, started only two weeks exactly after the last book I introduced was, is a musical. That's right, like Broadway, dancing, singing, super funny ridiculous scenarios musical, by the name of All's Fair.
What is the genre?
Well, as I said, it's a (wanna-be) Broadway musical. However, were it an ordinary novel, it would fit into the category of Romantic Comedy.
What is the title? Time period?
The title is All's Fair, after something one of the characters says, and after that one Shakespeare quote - "All's fair in love and war". And, speaking of love and war, that brings us to the time period, which is World War II. Aren't wartime musicals the best???!!! :D Which is exactly why I wanted to write one. ;)
How is it written (Point of view, MC, etc.)?
Well, it's written in play format, but it was written in novel format first, so it does have a POV sort-of. When it was in novel format, it was in third person (limited). The main character is a rather irate American pilot named Cap. Mont Williams.
Who are the characters?
Well... :)
Mont Williams is a 22 year-old pilot who is rather easily made irritated, and can be a bit easily distracted at times. He is an American, and - just so you know - he is what I call an AF/A, in other words, an Air Force/ Army (you see, up to a certain point in WWII, the Air Force didn't even exist, but was only a part of the other two branches at that time, so Mont is currently in the Army technically, but I like to say he's in the Air Force, as that is my favored, inherited branch of the military). He has brown hair, hazel eyes, and is about six foot or so - maybe more, maybe less.
Ned Norster  is Mont's sometimes bumbling best friend. Ned is a very jokey sort, and imagines himself to be extremely well-off with the ladies, but is in reality quite laughable in his flirting attempts. He is also a pilot, and an American. He's peanut-butter-blond, and has bright blue-ish eyes. He is fit, but rather short, being only 5'9 (and believe me, he gets teased about it plenty by Mont and Irv).
Haha, this is how Ned would love to think that he is. ;)
Irv Baines is, unlike his friends, Mont and Ned, not a pilot. He is an ensign (a minor officer) in the Navy. And he rather likes to rub it in, too (because, even though his rank is technically lower than Mont and Ned's, he persists in saying that the Navy is better than the Air Force/Army). He can be rather a bit of a jerk at times, as Ned is always telling him (but I think that Ned's just jealous, because Irv actually is quite a proud proficient with the women). ;) Irv is very tall, strong of build, and fairly handsome (which he also loves to rub in), being about six foot two. He has hair that's in between black and dark brown, and has dark blue-gray eyes.
And.... yep. That's Irv all right. :P


Doctor Lucie Lavet is a French/American doctor at Mont and Ned's base who is eventually at the front. She is rather unimpressed with any of the soldiers, who - since she is one of the few women on the front - all pay plenty of attention to her. She is uninterested in romance, and uninterested in anyone seemingly, though quite willing to give a rude or sarcastic comment to any soldier who dares to try and gain her favor. She is almost as tall as Ned, being five foot seven and a half, but is very slender. She has bright red hair and silvery-blue eyes.
This could very well be Lavet and Miss No-Name, though it's unusual for Lavet to be so silly, even in a picture.
Miss Girl Without A Name is a sweet girl, who - as indicated previously - does not yet have a name. :P I'm pretty sure she's a performer for the troops, but originally she was a nurse. Truly, I can't say much about her without giving spoilers, but I can at least tell you that there's a little more to her than meets the eye. She has golden-blond hair, and has aqua-blue eyes.
And then there will be various soldiers and a couple other nurses who will appear, but none of them have set-in-stone names yet.
What does the plot consist of?
Well, hmm... How's about I show the Broadway poster I made for it to explain this? :)


The inscription reads:
All's Fair! - It's the Air Force versus the Navy in a wartime musical like you've never seen before! When two pilots meet an old naval pal on the front, the three become engaged in a hilarious three-way for a hard-to-catch Army nurse. As it goes on, the gimmicks and songs become greater and greater all in the name of the rivalry's slogan - "All's fair in love and war"!
So, perhaps you can figure out what the plot is just from that purposefully over-dramatized summary, but if not, I'll lay it out. So, due to a certain chain of events, Irv, Ned, and (due to the other two's cajoling) Mont challenge each other to try and gain the impossible Dr. Lavet's favor in a certain amount of time. Because it is for a friendly bet, none of them is afraid to use any amount of gimmick or trick to get ahead of the other, resulting in quite a comedy. However, bind this plot in with Mont and Ned's immense wish to help on the front, and then the war hitting them, and all that going on, and then the nameless girl's whole sub-plot, and this is what All's Fair consists of.
What is the setting?
Why, WWII, of course! It starts out in a random base in Haiti, but then *spoilers* Mont and Ned's wish of going to the front is fulfilled *spoilers end* and it takes place on the front in Italy from there.
Don't ask about the quote... it is indeed fitting for a certain character in the story, but I won't say who... :)
Who are the favorite characters in it?
So far, everybody (meaning the only two readers I have for it and myself) has favored Ned. He has risen rather to levels that he was not meant to go to in people's favor. So much so, that I may or may not kill him off. Just kidding.... maybe. ;)
What is the favorite scene?
Um, so far there's only one written scene that's really been noted above the others. A scene in which Mont converses rather briefly and irately with Lavet, and ends by running off (because he was late for something very important, due to Ned, which was also why he was irritated).
Any themes of music for this work?
Well, originally, back when it was just a novel, it was inspired by the old song I Left My Hat In Haiti, from the movie Royal Wedding. And I had also considered as a romantic theme once the song I Won't Dance by Frank Sinatra. However, now, it has the songs I have written for it. I would put a pic of the music, but I am a bit paranoid about random people finding it and taking it. :P The songs I've written for it so far are (the temporarily-named) A Piece Of Advice, sung by Irv, and contributed to a little by Ned; Even Now, a duet between Mont and Lavet; The Almost Bride, another Irv song, but this one a solo, and then a vague idea for one of Ned's songs, which I have also temporarily named I Guess So.
Any drawings?
Besides that Broadway poster, only one unfinished one of Irv and a girl (whom I will not name in case there are spoiler-seeking readers in the crowd). I will not share it, only because the girl's looks are very much a giveaway to the keen reader, not to mention the pose that the two are depicted in.
Strong point in story?
Probably the characters. I feel like - especially in writing songs for them - their voices are coming through very well, especially Irv.
Weak point in story?
Well, probably the slow beginning. I mean, if it were a normal novel, nobody among modern readers would really probably take a second look, because the beginning is fairly quiet and very much non action-packed.
What are you plans for it?
Well, to finish composing the music, finish putting it into play form, and then give it to the world! I know it's rather ambitious, but I want to try and actually get it out there and performed. I know... in my dreams... :P :)
Any particular writing habits for it?
Well, when I'm writing the music, I always sit and do it at my piano, and I generally take a pretty long time tweaking it. When I'm writing the actual story, I often listen to Oldies music (particularly songs from old movies), and also like to eat mini-pretzels while doing so.
If it were made into a movie, what would be your ideal cast for it?
Well, I'm sure I do envision it as a movie someday, and is definitely intended to be performed in some manner or other. I think I would take Gene Kelly as Mont Williams, just with brown hair instead of black. And for Ned, I can see either Santino Fontana or Nelson Eddy playing him, though I suppose a young Frank Sinatra would also act the part well. And Irv, I can see being played by a dark-haired Howard Keel (though Thomas Hampson playing him would be most amusing indeed). I would have Esther Williams as Dr. Lavet, and either Laura Osnes or a blond Katherine Grayson as the nameless sweet girl.
Anyways, though, that's about all there is for the story of All's Fair. Now to go and write more songs for it! :D
What did you think? Would you read it? Would you go and see it if it were being performed? Is anyone a little nervous about Belle attempting to be a composer? Was anybody not bored out of their skull reading this? ;)



Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Top 10 Best Opera Characters Of All Time

You know, I have been listening to a ton of opera lately. Of course, this is not abnormal (for me), but it did make me want to write a post on it. So, for all you people who were going to hang yourselves, shoot your date, or jump into a volcano if you didn't know (wink, wink to any and all opera nerds in here), I'm going to show you the best of the best characters in this amazing art. ;)
#10 - Don Alfonso from Cosi Fan Tutte (Women Are Like That)
Well, I'm not exactly sure how this guy got his way onto the list, but he's one charismatic, slippery fellow. He has a rather low opinion of the faithfulness of women, as implied by the statement of his which makes up the title for this opera. He is so charismatic, in fact, that he convinced two friends to aid each other in proving their own fiancées fickleness and infidelity. Don Alfonso sent Ferrando after Giuliarmo's girl, and Giuliarmo after Ferrando's girl, convincing them to prove which girl was most faithful, and ending up only proving exactly what Don Alfonso had been saying the whole time - women are like that. But, despite his cheapskate ways and his low opinion of female faithfulness, Don Alfonso somehow wormed his way into this list and my heart. :) I don't remember who played the really good Don Alfonso, but I just remember that it was in the 2006 version of Cosi Fan Tutte.  Don Alfonso's best aria is the one beginning the opera's first act, a trio song with Ferrando and Giuliarmo (sorry, but I cannot remember the name of it). I think that Don Alfonso is a baritone part, but I'm not sure.
Haha, yes, Don Alfonso is eating a banana. Not exactly sure why... :P
#9 - Adina from L'Elisir D'Amore (The Love Potion)
Oh my goodness, is this girl stubborn or what?! She is determined never to settle down with anyone, especially not faithful, unwavering, humble Nemerino, who has been seeking her hand for years. I mean, where is her sense?! But, somehow, you gotta like her (which is extremely frustrating). And nothing is more fun than seeing her finally fall from her throne in the end, walking out a chapel hand-in-hand with Nemerino after all, even despite all those obstacles she threw in the way herself. ;) The best version of Adina is done by Angela Gheorghiu. Adina's best aria is either Della Crudele Isotta (The Tale of Cruel Isolde), or Quanto Amore! (Such Love!). She is a soprano part.
#8 - Susannah from Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro)
Susannah is much sought-after by men, surely, but she only wants her fiancée, Figaro. And the clever girl is ready to think up just about any scheme to get other men off her trail so she can marry him. This lovely, cunning lady is also responsible for making one of her suitors, The Conte Di Almaviva, willingly return to his poor wife by the end of the opera (as well as herself FINALLY getting to marry Figaro). Her best aria is a duet with the Contess Di Almaviva, called Sull'aria (the meaning of the title is debatable,  but the first line which it is a part of is supposed to mean A New Breeze Blows Through The Pines). Um, I might say the best playing of Susannah is by Cecelia Bartoli. Susannah often switches between being a soprano and mezzo-soprano part, but is intended to be a soprano.
#7 - Graf Danilo from Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow)
I love this guy! Especially when he's played by either Thomas Hampson or Thomas Weinhappel (whom I call Thomas Pineapple, and whose Graf Danilo you absolutely must look up on Youtube!). I guess he's kind-of a cheat on this list, though, because he's actually from an operetta, not an opera. But, hey, we'll just turn a blind eye to that fact, right? ;) He's so funny. Even though his commanding officer, his fellows, and the lady herself are all trying to get him to woo a rich widow, he  doesn't want to. He does it at first only because of them. But then, bit by bit, he has his everything in it - all due to this particular widow's playful strategy against him. And, of course, he ends up with her (and no more mind-changes). ;) His best aria.... Oh man, that's hard. I might say it's Da Geh Ich Zu Maxim (not sure what it translates to, as I have never seen the translation, and do not know very much German). He is supposed to be a tenor part, but is often nowadays cast as a baritone instead.
#6 - Alfredo Germont from La Traviata (The Fallen Woman)
Oh, poor, pitiable Alfredo! He's got a bit of a temper, yes, but I still was very tempted to weep for him during the two final acts of the opera. And I had to include him here, I just had to. After all, he's the male lead in this opera, which just happens to be my all-time favorite tragic opera ever (and one of my favorite operas period). However, even he was not my favorite character (as you'll see later on in this post). He is one of the most tragic male opera figures there is (that you can actually pity - most of them are tragic, but they mostly bring it upon themselves, so you cannot really pity them). Poor guy spent sooooo long loving Violetta Valery - even through her refusals - and then, he had her... for a short period of time. And the rest is just the way the opera goes, friends (unfortunately). The best playing of Alfredo is by David Miller. Alfredo is very much a tenor role, and his best aria is the Brindisi from this opera (it has a name, but is just called The Brindisi often - much like how Carmen's Act One aria in the opera Carmen is always called The Habenera rather than its actual name). 
The Miller couple, David and Sarah Joy, as Alfredo and Violetta of La Traviata.


#5 - Papageno from Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
Okay, so he's not quite up to the same respectable level of Alfredo or Susannah. So he's a very obviously comic opera character. Well, he's one of the best - despite his tendency in the beginning to tell fibs, brag, or be melodramatic (hey - melodrama is allowed in the opera!). The main funny thing about Papageno was that he was very desperate to have a girl. And, unlike most opera men, not even a particular one. Just a girl - any girl - who was willing to be faithful to him and let him be faithful to her. In fact, he was so desperate to have a girl that he used a variety of methods to try and get one (from using the title's magic flute to try and call one, to summoning fairies to help him, to comically failing at hanging himself). But, he gets his wish in the end... ;) Also, something a bit bizarre about him is - well, you get the impression that he thinks he's a bird. At least, he talks about himself like he does. Who knows why? *shrugs* :P The best version of him is done by Thomas Weinhappel. Papageno is a baritone role, and his best aria to be sure is a duet (with a certain long-desired somebody he wanted) called Pa Pa Pa (And, no, there is no translation to that because it's not a word, it's a bird noise, haha). ;) :P
Haha, don't ask. :P ;) If you look up Papageno pictures, I would be willing to bet that you'd find far more ludicrous ones than this. Normally nowadays, he has rather unusual costumes. This is when he's trying to use the flute to summon a girl.


#4 - Escamillo the Toreador from Carmen
It's not altogether surprising that only one character from the opera Carmen made it here, haha. I mean, Carmen herself is a bit questionable (so why on earth did they name it after her...?). And then Don Jose goes insane by the end of it, so... :P However. Escamillo is absolutely hilarious/really cool. He is incredibly arrogant at times, but it's that funny sort-of arrogant that you can't really take seriously. Problem is, you do have to take it at least semi-seriously, because he really can do and has done everything he says. So... he's just as cool as he claims, the character. *shakes head* The best representation of him is either Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey, or Thomas Weinhappel. Escamillo is a Bass/Baritone role, and his best aria is certainly Votre Toast! (I Speak A Toast!), also called The Toreador Song after him.
#3 - Figaro from Il Barbiere Di Siviglia (The Barber Of Seville) and Le Nozze Di Figaro (The Marriage Of Figaro)
Figaro is one of the only opera characters I know of who has a sequel. You see him first as that busybody, bossed-around barber, and then next thing you know - well, he hasn't really changed in character much actually, but now he's getting married to Susannah. Figaro, as I said, is a busybody to be sure. However, it seems that he gave up busybody-ing (at least for the moment) to marry Susanna, because in the latter of his two operas, it's Susannah that's doing most of the busybody-ing. However, he is still a bossed-around barber. I'd be willing to bet that anybody in this crowd has heard his very famous aria complaining about how he gets bossed around so much, Largo Al Factotum. It's his best aria! :D And Thomas Hampson is the best Figaro I've ever seen, especially at that aria (no others are even worth comparing). Figaro is a baritone role in the first opera, but can be switched from tenor or baritone in the second (it is written for a tenor).
#2 - Nemerino from L'Elisir D'Amore (The Love Potion)
I am beyond proud that Nemerino made it all the way to second place. I was worried that I'd just have a list of mostly anti-heroes or comically flawed characters on here like Alfredo, Adina, or Escamillo. But, no! Here is possibly the most virtuous character in the opera that I know. Granted he's ever-so-slightly naïve, but you kind-of have to expect that from a simple tramp, as Nemerino is (yeah, who knew that the most virtuous character in the opera was a common tramp?). *starts singing He's A Tramp* However, he's not a roamer. He has stayed in one town for almost his whole life, being faithful to one girl who doesn't even care about him (yet!). For years, the humble Nemerino has quietly sought Adina's favor. And you know what Adina does? She teases him, makes fun of him, and laughs at him (and even hits him with the wrong end of a horsewhip at one point). Is anybody else wondering about now why I put Adina on this list too...? :P But, you know, it all turns out. And along the way, Nemerino spends his last cent trying to get Adina, and even enlists himself in a regiment all for her hand. And you know what? It all pays off! The opera ends with Adina and Nemerino's wedding party (don't ask me how that happened because it's a very long story). Nemerino is a tenor role, and his best aria is Una Furtiva Lagrima (A Single Silent Tear). The best representation of him is by Roberto Alagna.
Lovely ole dreamer Nemerino... :)


#1 - Violetta Valery from La Traviata (The Fallen Woman)
Ha! I bet all of you were super surprised not to see a guy opera character's name here on numero uno. Well, I can tell you, so was I. When I compiled the list, and somehow found Violetta's name on top, I nearly had a heart attack right there. But, if any opera character deserves it, she does. I can tell you, no opera character ever made me cry like Violetta. Read the plot to the opera and you'll know half the reason, but not the whole. Read the translation... then you'll know. You can never know the full sadness of Violetta until you read the translation of her songs... especially the very last one. No one can ever put into words the character of Violetta! Poor girl... She was in a bad business for so very long in the beginning (read the opera's plot and you'll know what I mean), and then gave it up to be with faithful Alfredo. But then, something happened. Something which caused her to choose - most sorrowfully - to separate from Alfredo. And it was all because of her past, which she has been endlessly regretting for so long. But she chooses to give up her own life of happiness - even to have her greatest love, Alfredo, hate her - just so that another can have joy and a steady life. I can't spoil too much of the details, but I can tell you that the ending is super sad. Oh, if only I could pen the words of that last aria she sang... Asking for forgiveness for her past, always only praying that Alfredo would come back, and that they could somehow reunite. And Alfredo does come back... Just in time to relieve Violetta's so long-endured suffering... and just in time to see her die of the terrible illness that had been long-consuming her. I know, right! TERRIBLE ENDING!!! But, I suppose that's the opera for you. :'( Go and see Angela Gheorghiu's famous acting of Violetta. Watch it with the translation. I guarantee that you will cry. Violetta is a soprano part, and her best aria is Sempre Libera.


Well, that's all of them. The ten best characters in the greatest musical art existent. Whether comic like Papageno, or tragic like Violetta, or kind-of in the middle like Escamillo, I have enjoyed (and been in agony over) every single performance of them. And I highly suggest looking them up - whether it's on Youtube, or whether you're taking a bold move and just buying a dvd of one of these operas (P.S. look up plot and details of opera always before you buy a disc of it - even some of the ones I have mentioned here can be made distasteful by certain years or casts, and I do realize that there is a skip button on a remote for a reason sometimes).
So what did you think? Which character sounded most appealing to you? Which opera sounded the best? Do you think you'd prefer comic, tragic, or comique (tragic, ironic comedy) operas? (an example of each would be L'Elisir D'Amore, La Traviata, and Romeo And Juliet or Carmen.) Are you banging your fists against the keyboard to comment because you're bored out of your mind after reading this post? ;)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Catholicism Explained: The Sacrament Of Baptism

Hello! Sorry I've been gone so long, on my unannounced hiatus. A close relative died recently, and that combined with plain lack of ideas, I just haven't wanted to do much. Today I am going to talk about a very important Sacrament of the Catholic Church. Why is it so important? Because not only is it the very first Sacrament one receives, but because it is the door to receiving other Sacraments validly. One cannot receive any other Sacrament validly without Baptism coming first. What is Baptism? Let's dig into that! :) But first, here are the links to the previous Catholicism Explained posts, and Lucy Agnes' - the founder of CE - blog, where all the ones before my charge can be found.
Catholicism Explained: The Sacraments
Catholicism Explained: Devotions And Sacramentals (Part II, The Origins Of)
Catholicism Explained: Devotions And Sacramentals (Part I, What Are They?)
Catholicism Explained: The Three Sacred Authorities
Catholicism Explained: Purgatory
TangleWebs And Fairy Rings
Alrighty, now let's dig into it! ;)
Basic Theology
Baptism is a sealed Sacrament (see the previous post for more details), meaning it can only be received once, and it leaves an inerasable mark upon your soul when you do receive it. To separate it into the most basic of basics, physically it consists of being cleansed in water, and spiritually, it consists of being cleansed in grace. The water removes dirt, perhaps, but it represents what is really going on in the Sacrament - the grace removing sin. So, like I explained in the last post, it really is accomplishing what it represents - it's not just symbolic alone. It is also the rite of initiation that makes you a part of Christ's Mystical Body - the Church. Once baptized, you are an inseparable part of the Church, though you may stray from your baptismal vows later in life. Depending on the age of the person, sometimes the baptismal vows are made for them, by their parents and godparents, or - if they are an adult - they say their baptismal vows for themselves.
Baptism is only valid when administered by a bishop, priest or deacon to someone for the first time. Often, among Catholic families, we are often baptized as infants, rather than when older. My siblings and I were all baptized within two months of birth, if that gives you a rough idea of average age for infant baptism. As I mentioned, only a bishop, priest or deacon may administer the Sacrament, except in cases of extreme necessity, in which a laity, or correctly intentioned non-baptized (see Catechism of The Catholic Church, 1256) may also do so, using the Trinitarian formula ("...In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit..."). Here is the definition of Baptism from the good old CCC:

"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 'Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.'"
(Catechism Of The Catholic Church, 1213)
The Celebration Of Baptism
I'd bet there's at least one person here wondering 'Who are the godparents?', 'Why water?', 'What are baptismal vows?', etc. These are the aspects of Baptism that I shall now explain. First of all, the godparents are - to put it simply - the spiritual parents of the person (usually child) being baptized. While the person may have practicing, religious, living biological parents, they will still be given a second set of 'parents', whose job is specifically to nurture the individual spiritually (unlike the true parents, which are to nurture every necessary aspect of the child). Usually the godparents are hand-picked by the true parents, unless the person being baptized is an adult. The godparents, along with the parents (and sometimes the grandparents), take the baptismal vows for the child being baptized, so that the child may confirm and renew them himself/herself in Confirmation later in life. Godparents may only consist of one Catholically-baptized, practicing woman, and one Catholically-baptized, practicing man. They do not have to be a married couple (or a couple at all), and many times aren't, but they do have to work together for the child's spiritual wellbeing (most of my siblings, and myself also, have married couples as our godparents, mainly because my mother has a preference for such). As for why we use water, well, it's biblical! (See quotes below.)
And besides, what better physically represents the cleansing of the soul than something that cleanses the body? As for the baptismal vows, they are vows taken in baptism for the purpose of promising God one's soul. In our baptismal vows, we vow to follow the Lord to the best of our ability, and to renounce Satan, who is all that is against Our Lord. Often these vows are taken for us when we are children, by our godparents (and sometimes parents or grandparents), but an adult convert takes them himself/herself. They also represent another thing - wedding vows. In wedding vows, we vow to love someone forever and to cherish and aid them. In baptismal vows, we do the same thing, but for Christ rather than an earthly spouse. Because Baptism makes one a part of Christ's Church, and Christ's Church is His Holy Bride, it only makes sense that becoming a part of Christ's Bride involves something rather like marriage vows. There are other aspects of Baptism which have to do with the way we celebrate it, but they are not quite as relevant, though still important enough. For instance, the candle one often receives at baptism. It's usually given to the parents or godparents to keep for the child, but if it is an adult being baptized, then they take it for themselves. It represents the light now inside of the person - a flame for Christ - to burn brightly forever. And then there is the method of Baptism. I named the three methods in my previous CE post, but I'll list them again here:
1. Being anointed with holy water.
2. Being immersed in holy water.
3. Being sprinkled with holy water.
All of the methods have been used, and they have a beautiful symbolism to them*. Firstly, the anointing is after a custom in the Old Testament, where priests, kings, and victims would be anointed before their ordination/coronation/sacrifice. Since we Catholics go out into the world as priests, kings, and victims for Christ, this method's symbolism is only appropriate. Secondly, immersion also symbolizes something. It represents being completely buried in Christ's cleansing grace, and very visibly so.
*Well, according to my research, Catholics do not now use sprinkling, but it has been used by Christian peoples in the past.
Awwwwwwwwww! This picture is soooooo cute!
Some Objections
Why would you baptize infants? They can't make their baptismal vows for themselves, so why should they be baptized?
Good question. You see, whether or not we may speak for ourselves at the time of baptism, we all should be able to be received into the Church, and be able to gain the graces of baptism, which enable us to merit salvation. So, unless we would prevent non-adults from being in the Church at all, the only logical decision is infant baptism. And often in early Church history it occurred that the whole households were baptized, not just the adults or the family members, but also servants and children. The same vows made at baptism for the child will be confirmed to be true by him/her at his/her Confirmation. Not to mention something Jesus Himself said - you know, about letting the little children come to Him? ;)
But surely it isn't necessary for Salvation?
Actually, yes it is. Very much so! Take a look at these verses, and then try and draw your answer.


"Jesus answered, and said to him: 'Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
(John 3:3,5)


So what do you think? ;) However, this - despite what some may think - does not exclude all who are not validly baptized or not baptized at all from Heaven. You see, there are three forms of baptism that may enter one into God's kingdom:
1. Sacramental Baptism (in other words, the actual receiving of a visible water Baptism).
2. Baptism of desire (dying with the strong intent of being Sacramentally baptized, but before one actually can).
3. Baptism of blood (Unbaptized Martyrdom - dying for the faith before being Sacramentally baptized).
All of these count as Baptism that may enter one into Heaven. And even if Baptism were not necessary to be saved, we should still do it. Why? Jesus did it Himself, which means it must be a good thing, and if it is a good thing, then why should we not do it after His example?
Some Quotes...
Seriously, this part is my favorite part of Catholicism Explained. ;)


"I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost."
(John 1:33)


"Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: 'Thou are my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.'"
(Luke 3: 21-22)


"For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life."
(Romans 6:4)
"Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him"
(St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40)


"Let none of you turn deserter. Let your baptism be your armor; your faith, your helmet; your love, your spear; your patient endurance, your panoply"
(St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarp 6)


"When we are baptized, we are enlightened. Being enlightened, we are adopted as sons. Adopted as sons, we are made perfect. Made perfect, we become immortal... 'and sons of the Most High; [Psalm 82:6]. This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. It is a washing by which we are cleansed of sins, a gift of grace by which the punishments due our sins are remitted, an illumination by which we behold the holy light of salvation"
(St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 1:6:26:1)


"This sacrament...  signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one 'can enter the kingdom of God.'"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1215)
Significance
I think - and I am somewhat ashamed, because I feel like I say this every time - that the significance is fairly apparent. Baptism is significant in its aid for getting us to Heaven. If we can't go to Heaven without it, then it is truly very significant indeed. And I think that - while this post isn't terribly long - I have perhaps covered enough. But I would love to answer any questions or concerns in the comments if you have any. :)
My Sources
Douay-Rheims Translation Bible.
Catholicism of the Catholic Church.
Why Is That In Tradition?, by Patrick Madrid.
Daily Defense, by Jimmy Akin.
A Catholic Dictionary, by Donald Attwalter.
So what did you think? Did I cover it well enough? I am merely being vain in thinking that this is perhaps one of my better put-together CE posts? :P Have anything to add? Anything to ask? Any concerns or comments on the subject? Any suggestions for the bettering of Catholicism Explained? Anything to note that I did in this post that you would like to see in future CEs?




Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beautiful People - Blakely (And Brothers)

Hello! I am so excited that Beautiful People is back!!! I was so sad when it was down in April... (granted I didn't have time to do it anyways, but... I was still sad). :P Anyways, this lovely little link-up is hosted by Cait and Sky, for the purpose of developing characters... and of course getting to rant about your beautiful little ink-and-paper people. ;) So, without further ado, I bring you my beautiful person for this month, Prince Blakely of an unnamed country... with a side appearance of his two irrepressible brothers, Francis and Edmonde.
1. Overall, how good is their relationship with their parents?
Well, Blakely is very, very close to his mother. All three of them are, but Blakely particularly. The three princes love their mother very, very much, even though they show it in different ways. Blakely - more by helping her, and being her confidant. Queen Gianna (their mother) relies on Blakely much at times, because the age is very dangerous, and Blakely is not only wise for his years, but incredibly like his father, and strong in character. Francis and Edmonde show their love in more teasy, affectionate ways, though, such as bringing her flowers, giving her a kiss, teasing her, pretending to worry her, or by play-bothering Blakely around her. Their relationship with their father was fairly close, too, though I suppose that they are closer to their mother because she has been the only one around for about seven years. Their relationship with their mother perhaps blossomed more because of it. But it may also be because of other difficulties. You see, Queen Gianna isn't incredibly old, and is still (as she always was) rather pretty (not to mention being a widowed queen) and so, occasionally, she receives a suitor or two in the palace. It makes the princes rather angry, especially since Gianna has absolutely no interest in any such thing. She, of course, can take care of herself, and is polite, but unyielding to the suitors, merely humoring. However, despite this, the princes, especially the two younger, get extremely suspicious for her, and dislike her suitors (particularly because most of them only want the throne). There is one particular foppish courtier that, while he never outright does anything about it, rather treats the queen in an enamored way, and it irks the princes. Duke Roanwall (that's his name) is also a rather foppish fool, and presumes to be a close advisor to the royal family, and always is close in presence, so he especially earns the dislike of the princes. Not to mention, he is aware of what the princes think of him, and is rather uncivil to them because of it. Not that they care as much about that as Roanwall's attentions to their mother. Blakely is mostly respectful to Gianna's suitors (unless they step over boundaries), but has no love of them. Francis and Edmonde, on the other hand, are rather outrightly rude to them at times, and always make clear their feelings on the matter.
Why is it that the only pictures I can ever find to fit Blakely's face are little kid ones?! Oh well. Since this is a parental addition of BP, I guess it doesn't matter as much.
2. Do they know both their biological parents? If not, how do they cope with this loss/absence and how has it affected their life?
Well, their father has been dead for seven years, but they have coped with it well enough through the years. Probably because they have always felt like - without their father - their mother needed their protection, and so they were to comfort her rather than feel sorry for themselves about it. And they have done quite the job protecting her, too, though she doesn't really need it. Blakely particularly has always been a stronghold for his mother.
These two look a bit like Francis and Edmonde, except that they don't look quite enough alike.
3. How did their parents meet?
Blakely's father was coming back from hunting, and a royal party from another country had come to treaty with Blakely's grandfather. With the party had come the rulers' children, including a young daughter. Blakely's father befriended the young princess, and they eventually were courting. Blakely's father liked to joke that when the treating party came, he was absolutely unattached in even the slightest fancying, and once it left, he was already wed. :)
4. How would they feel if they were told “you’re turning out like your parent(s)”?
Blakely would feel very blessed, but of course would deny that he had turned out quite so good as his parents. He has always respected and looked up to them, both his father and his dear mother, and so to even be able to half measure up to them would make him a very good leader, and he believes he would be very blessed to be so. But, I believe that he has already fully measured up to them, and perhaps will one day be even better of a leader and a person.
The king and Gianna.
5. What were your character’s parents doing when they were your character’s age?
Let's see... Blakely is 21, so at that age, Gianna was already married to Blakely's father, and was currently expecting Francis. Blakely's father at that age had just seen Blakely's first birthday, and was crowned king (because Blakely's father was about two years older than Gianna).
6. Is there something they adamantly disagree on?
Not really in Blakely's case. Blakely and Queen Gianna are very much alike in some ways. As for Francis and Edmonde, the only thing they really greatly disagree with Gianna on is the subject of hwo she treats her suitors. Ideally to them, she would just send them away immediately, without any formalities or civilities.
Okay, this looks EXACTLY like one of them as a kid (especially Edmonde).
 7. What did the parent(s) find hardest about raising your character?
Blakely was easy-peasy to raise, because he was almost just like his mother, and the only things he differed in made him an even more loveable child. Francis and Edmonde... Well, let's just say their pranking on people (particularly their pet teasing-subject, Blakely) got them into trouble a good few times (despite the fact that, unless it went too far, Blakely also thought it was funny).
8. What's their most vivid memory with their parental figure(s)?
Blakely - when his father first was teaching him to fence. He remembers very well the first time he caught his father in a moment of hesitation and won the duel, while Gianna stood by and watched her Blakely smilingly. It's a memory that always causes Blakely to smile, and often causes him to become rather distracted in thought. Francis and Edmonde mostly share memories, for it was (and is) rare that they're apart for any space of time. Francis, though, remembers best a time when his father wouldn't let him into his parents' room, and kept preventing Francis from going in there. However - beyond all odds - Francis broke his way in. Gianna was in there, in bed holding little newborn Edmonde. She sighed, laughed a little and beckoned for Francis to come and see his new brother. Only seconds later, Francis' father arrived on the scene looking for Francis, ready to scold him. But, on seeing, the little scene, smiled, and relented, letting Francis stay to see his new sibling. Edmonde jokingly claims to remember this, but of course he doesn't, as Francis well knows.
This looks exactly like a young Queen Gianna.
9. What were they like as a baby/toddler?
Blakely was a very quiet baby, and for a while his parents wondered if he even could speak. Soon enough, he showed that he indeed could, but was more a thoughtful sort than a talkative sort. Francis and Edmonde, on the other hand, were quite opposite to this. They were always either talking or getting into something or other.
10. Why and how did the parents choose their name?
Blakely's name is an older name of the country with an irrelevant meaning (it means 'blackened', but - as I said - its meaning is irrelevant as to why it was chosen). They chose it for a different meaning. A neighboring country (which in the introduction of this story, I temporarily named Nova Italia) has a similar name, Belicilio, which means 'beautiful heavens'. Gianna, very young at the time she had Blakely, is now ever-so-slightly embarrassed to admit that she chose this similar name for him because of his very blue eyes, which reminded her of the 'beautiful heavens'. Blakely's father never ceased to tease her about that little fancy. ;) As for Francis and Edmonde, they were merely noble names of the country chosen because Gianna thought they were nice, innocent-sounding names (hah, you can see that names don't always match the person they are for, as time showed for Francis and Edmonde).
Well, that wraps it up, sadly. :( But there'll be another one next month! :D Also, by the by, there will not be a Catholicism Explained tomorrow because, due to celebration of two of my brothers' birthday, I did not have time to finish it, and I will be gone all day tomorrow. Sorry! :P But, what did you think of this Beautiful People? What do you think of Blakely? What about his two, ah, brothers? ;) Which of the three do you like best? Did you do Beautiful People this month? :) Tell me all about it! :D

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why Not To Be Obsessed With Harry Potter

Most of you, my audience, are probably feeling skeptical at this title. Probably something along the lines of "What? 'Why Not To Be Obsessed With Harry Potter'? But it's soooo good!". Well, before you go away, I'll tell you that this is not an anti-Harry Potter post. It's just an urge for moderation. I myself enjoy a bit of Harry Potter here or there. But not everywhere, all the time, every single second, like it so often is in the fan world. And it's not just personal preference, but reasoning behind it too. Still unsure about the post? Let me show you what I mean...


There's A General Obsession With Harry Potter
Everywhere you see it. EVERYWHERE. In bookshops anywhere you'll find the books, in movie shops anywhere you'll find the movies, in shops of miscellaneous types anywhere you'll find its various merchandise. Online, everywhere you go, memes and products of this fantastical craze. And it's gotten a new resurgence with the eighth book and the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them movie. Rare is it that on any list of great modern writers compiled that you don't find J. K. Rowling, this series' authoress. Rarer still is it that any actor or actress associated with the Harry Potters is ever forgotten as such. And rarest of all is it to find somebody who hasn't at least heard of Harry Potter. Why is this exactly? Let me lay out the values of Harry Potter:
1. It is even on first glance very unusual, and there is no literature preceding it that was along the same ideas. In other words, it seems incredibly creative.
2. The characters are in large quantities, thus making it easy for just about any reader to find at least one character that they love.
3. The sub-plots are numerous and complex enough to satisfy the most picky readers.
4. It's extremely popular, and if you've read it then you will not have a hard time finding at least one other person who has.
5. The main moral virtue displayed in the book is courage, which is a very pleasing virtue to read about, of course.
6. The world-building in it is very assuming, seeming to be of incredible loftiness in genius.
7. The writing set a new era in fiction and fantasy particularly, making way for many new concepts and types of writing.
These, I believe, are the main values of Harry Potter. And now that I have laid them out, showing I do see value in this series, I shall proceed with my argument concerning it. In light of these values, why shouldn't we be obsessed with Harry Potter? Here are a few reasons.


The Writing
This may seem like a contradiction to #7 in the list of values, but the writing is very sketchy. (Please, before you jump down my throat for this, because I do the things I am listing of Harry Potter in my own writing, remember that I am writing this post as a reader more than a writer, and that these are published books, expected to be better in writing, whereas mine are not.) The writing is just messy at times. Many people reviewing the books have trouble even figuring out what POV they are written in. The writing often goes into lapses of the exact same phrases, sayings, and thoughts. For instance, if I had a dollar for every time somebody said/thought 'such a git', or 'some bloke', I would have enough money to buy myself a formal evening dress. The language in it is very unrefined, though actual swearing isn't in it for the most part. The language patterns of everyone are almost the same, with only a few exceptions.  And many times you see a scene's POV being led by someone who is not the MC, and has no personal relation to him, and only appears once in the entire series (this isn't as much a technical problem as the others, as some of these random POVs had a point, but it still bothered me personally). And sometimes the world or the characters can be rather inconsistent. Inconsistency in world, particularly the magic factor, can be found especially in the movies, but also in the books occasionally. This is not to even mention the factor of small-scale writing, such as creativity or consistency in what is stated to have happened (things like 'he said', or 'she picked it up'). I can thank the book for setting a new era of writing, from which came many a good development and enjoyable book, but I can also be frustrated with it because many not so favorable (or tasteful) books came from this era as well. Overall, the writing is extremely modern in this factor, and I'm not too terribly impressed with it. However, it's not technical perfection that makes a book perfect, and I am all for reading books that are not technically perfect, it's just that their other values must outbalance this.
The Characters
Again, you may think I'm contradicting myself when I say that many of the characters are not their own person, but merely a wind-chime for whatever bit of plot or comic relief to blow through. There were many characters that had almost the exact same speech pattern/opinions/phrases/reactions very frequently. I sense that this is perhaps just a channeling of Rowling's 'character style', a.k.a. her tendency to make a certain kind of character when no other ideas for it were to be had. For instance, many of the so-called 'quirks' of smaller characters (such as Dean Thomas or Lavender Brown) are often stated once, maybe twice at the very most, and then left out of the character completely, making that character rather disappointingly a 'blank slate' once more. Truly, for many characters, I felt as though the name, gender, and Hogwarts House was all I had to go on for their character. I can say the same for some of the teachers even (in particular, Professor Sinistra). I am rather ashamed to say it, but I can actually see very well why certain characters were not shown in the movie. That is to say, they merely did not have enough character in them to make it to the chopped-up movie screen. Now, there were a good many lively, creative, wonderful characters to. Professor Snape (particularly movie man) was an amazingly well thought-out character, and I can well say that the only part in any of the movies which caused me to cry was the climax revealing his past. And no Harry Potter quote makes me more sappy than that lovely little "Always" of Snape's. And then characters like Hermione were also fairly thorough, though not quite so likeable or pitiable as Snape. I think my problem with the characters mainly is that Rowling put too much of the same elements in all of them, elements that were not to the effect of showing her style, but merely making the characters rough mirrors of each other. All the good guys liked to wittily insult/disrespect the bad guys. All the bad guys had greasy hair or were huge. It's only these stereotypes of Rowling's that bother me. Other than these, I enjoyed the characters very much, and they were in great quantity to be enjoyed to be sure.
The World
I'm going to make this very short, because my only complaint is perhaps a slightly unfair one (as I willingly admit), but still worth mentioning as a note. I see in many aspects of the creatures and places of Rowling's thing perhaps too similar to other fictional worlds. There are many creatures/places/concepts of the Harry Potter world that are rather copied (whether intentional or not) off of the original great fantasies, like J. R. R. Tolkien's work, and also that of C. S. Lewis. Now, like I said, this a bit of an unfair complaint, because you really just can't write a fantasy that doesn't copy one of the greats in some way. They just formed the genre fantasy, especially Tolkien's Middle Earth-related books. There is about a 90% chance that if you write a fantasy, it will have something in common with Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, or The Chronicles Of Narnia. However, I have mentioned this scruple merely because it is worth noting, lest another person note it and think more critically of it.
The Attitude Behind It
I'm just going to say it, and hope that no one jumps down my throat. I'm sorry, but many of the attitudes Rowling has taken concerning Harry Potter are very highly disturbing. For instance, how many here know that she was herself interested in real witchcraft and demonic arts before she wrote Harry Potter? Obviously you wouldn't guess that much reading the book, but just hearing about it kind-of shook me for the book. And then there's her constant publicity-netting. Anything to get publicity. Write an eighth book with a bajillion contradictions and absolutely no point? Sure, that should get some publicity! Let the whole thing practically be written by somebody else and just put Rowling's name on it for that publicity? Why not? Make a movie, and somehow eventually another saga off of a single book Rowling wrote that didn't even tell a story but was for Harry Potter world research? Somehow glean a whole tale that wasn't there from it? What a brilliant idea! Change anything at all about Harry Potter in interviews and everything previously said on the spur of the moment, just to keep it out as hot stuff? Of course! And then there's Rowling's support of LGBT stuff, also - I believe - for publicity. In fact, she has even proposed the idea that in the prologue to Harry Potter (which is what has been named Fantastic Beast And Where To Find Them) she will make Professor/Headmaster Dumbledore LGBT. In fact, she now claims that he was the entire time, even though there is absolutely no proof of this in the original books. While one can look past all this, it is still a bit unsettling. For me, I just don't particularly relish reading books with an authoress who takes these attitudes towards them.
The Magic And The Morals
To those who G. K. Chesterton would describe as 'bigots' (in other words, someone who disapproves of certain sets of morals but has none of their own), I would suggest they don't read this one. Because morals is one of my biggest problems with Harry Potter, and I don't intend to skim over the subject. If this post has become too critical for anybody, then I merely suggest that they stop reading.
My problem with the magic is not, as I've mentioned it, that it's inconsistent, but merely that it is too suspiciously close to real witchcraft. Surely to the ordinary reader it is innocent and quite fine. However, sometimes you reach certain tiny little details about the world that are suspicious. Like the use of terms such as 'astrology', 'divination', and 'transfiguration'. Things that smell of real witchcraft's odds and ends. This disturbs me, especially for someone who knows books like those of Montague Summers, one of the most renowned authorities and historians on the subject. And, even reading only bits of his books, I can see perhaps too clearly the resemblance to Harry Potter. Now, because the books themselves are mostly innocent of real, evil witchcraft, I would pass this by. But then, because of those details, it opens the mind of the reader up to the real thing. Bit by bit, the reader find themselves less and less closed-up to the idea of magic. Now this wouldn't be a problem for a mature, well-taught reader. But it is those readers who have no idea that it is a problem for. Most of my audience are probably right about now very skeptical. But, this is not my only problem moral-wise with Harry Potter. In fact, the far more obvious problem with its morals, and perhaps the one to be worried about, is the attitudes of the characters. They are unforgiving, often disrespectful, and sometimes even deceitful. Often they cheat, lie, break rules, or steal to get their objectives, and have very little scruple about it. Now, think of how that looks to the very young reader of Harry Potter. It looks as though they're saying that stealing/lying/cheating/breaking rules is okay if it gets you what you need. That's not a very comforting moral message, is it? And none of the main characters in Harry Potter seem to have much respect for their fellow being. They frequently insult, wish to hurt, or otherwise disrespect people who don't agree with them or are mean to them. And it's not just the people they're against, even. I cannot count the times when Harry himself got angry at his friends and just started rolling out insults or rants because some childish complex of his is being hurt. And I have never seen a book where more anger is portrayed. I don't read them often, and I make intervals in between reading them, because I find sometimes it can make me angry if I read them too often and too close together. It just makes a book less enjoyable for me when all the characters are constantly angry at their enemies, at one another, and at just about everything that happens. It just makes me feel on edge and guilty, as though I were the one being so unforgiving and angry. And rare is it, unless it was his friends he was yelling at, that Harry Potter ever apologizes for his tantrums or fights. And his best friend, Ron, is - if possible - a worse case, as he often doesn't even apologize when it is his friends he fought with. I just find it unusual that someone should be obsessed with an anger-fest book, or rather an anger-fest series of books.

The Hype
This is a more personal, rather than logical or philosophical reason for disliking Harry Potter. But I feel that, when something has as many slightly out-of-place details as Harry Potter does, and is already as hyped and famous as Harry Potter is, then you don't need to fangirl over it or spread it on the world like butter on bread. And seeing as those books are about as well-known as PB&Js, they really don't need any help getting into the world.
Totally how it is.
Conclusion
So they're not the most flawless books. But they are still very enjoyable! I would only caution that strictly mature readers alone should read them, and definitely only mature watchers should see the movies. While there are many a reason why Harry Potter isn't perfect, there are still many good things to it. So, I'm not trying to tell anyone they shouldn't like Harry Potter or shouldn't read Harry Potter, only why not to be completely obsessed with it. Trust me, there are many a good fandom out there just waiting to be obsessed over madly. Harry Potter can afford to be a slightly lesser one on your list. :)
What did you think? Will I now get a blast of comments for insulting the nigh-untouched Harry Potter? Or perhaps there are readers who can agree with a point or two of the discussion...? I am eager to hear any thoughts on it - agreeing or not - so long as they're kept logical and polite.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Catholicism Explained: The Sacraments

So, I said I would try, didn't I? Well, this is me trying. I can only hope that these posts don't go completely wrong because of their frequent appearance. :) Today, I am discussing the Sacraments, a few of which have already been individually discussed. However, before I ship off the discussion, here are links to the previous CE posts, and to Miss Lucy Agnes' - the founder of this feature - blog, where the original Catholicism Explained posts can be found.
Catholicism Explained: Purgatory
Catholicism Explained: The Three Sacred Authorities
Catholicism Explained: Devotions and Sacramentals (Part I, What Are They?)
Catholicism Explained: Devotions and Sacramentals (Part II, The Origins Of)
Tanglewebs And Fairy Rings
Alright, now let's get to it! :D
Definition
A Sacrament, as defined by the Catholic Church, is an instituted sign of certain divine graces being bestowed. Here's a quote from the Catechism Of The Catholic Church on the matter:

"Sacraments are 'powers that come forth' from the Body of Christ [a.k.a., the Church], which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the holy spirit at work in his body, the Church. They are 'the masterworks of God' in the new and everlasting covenant."
- CCC, 1116 -
Basic Theology
So, in short, it's something that not only gives us grace from God, but is visible, so that we can know of those graces being given. These are very special things, Sacraments. They not only signify graces, but also carry out the graces that they represent. There are seven Sacraments, each with a special purpose. I'll go through them briefly today, and then do follow-up posts on each one separately (except in the case of it already having been covered by Miss Lucy).
Baptism
Baptism is the very first Sacrament a Christian receives, and is the 'key', so to speak, that unlocks your ability to participate in the other Sacraments. It's like the door that you open to get into the Church. :)  It gives you the graces of a member of the Body of Christ, and also absolves any sins upon your soul at the time you are baptized. There are different ways of participating in the visible sign, though, while the actual spiritual goings-on always remains the same in the valid Sacrament. For instance, the three ways I have heard of for being baptized are these:
1. The anointing of the individual's head with Holy Water (generally most Baptisms are done by a priest, but a deacon is also permitted to do so).
2. The sprinkling of the individual with Holy Water.
3. The immersing of the individual in Holy Water.
All three of these are valid, assuming that the proper rites are observed. None is greater or more grace-giving than another, and all are true Baptism. Usually, in a Catholic parish we tend to use the first method, but the others can be used (and are from time to time). For instance, all of my seven siblings were baptized this way, and as was I. There are several 'little t' traditions and 'big T' Traditions surrounding Baptism, but as I said, I will speak on more on the Sacraments separately at a later date.
Reconciliation
Reconciliation, also called the Sacrament of Penance, or Confession, is a Sacrament of immeasurable value. The graces it gives are those of absolution, or cleansing, which removes all trace of sin from the soul (like Baptism does, except you can receive this Sacrament as often as you need, whereas it is absolutely unallowed to receive Baptism more than once). The Sacrament of Reconciliation consists of a Christian confessing the sins that are upon his soul to a priest. The priest hears them, and, in God's name, absolves the person of those sins. The priest is only a mediator in the Sacrament, and is only there to be the forgiving mouth of Christ, and not as himself. Because it is a priest's job to bridge the distance between Christ and the faithful, it is only proper that this role in Reconciliation be fulfilled by a priest. This Sacrament will not receive a separate post, because Miss Lucy has already covered it most thoroughly here and here.
Holy Communion
Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, is the most important Sacrament of all. It is the transubstantiation of bread and wine into Christ's true Body and Blood. The faithful then receive His Body and Blood, under the guise of bread and wine. This Sacrament is what the Mass revolves around, and its Consecration is one of the great privileges of a priest. This, like Reconciliation, will not have its own separate post, because Miss Lucy has already done an incredibly job explaining it here and here.
Confirmation
This is the Sacrament that I have most recently received - the Sacrament of full initiation into the Catholic Church. You are a member when you are baptized, but when you are confirmed, you 'confirm' that you wish to be a part of the Church, you wish to serve it, and you wish to do as God commands. With this promise, you are initiated fully - as an adult in Christ, now responsible for your own soul and your own spiritual life in the Faith. This Sacrament bestows the graces of the Holy Spirit, called the fruits, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation, like Baptism, can only be received once in your life.
Matrimony
Matrimony, commonly called marriage, is one of the most beautiful Sacraments in my opinion. It bestows the grace of an unbreakable union between one man and one woman in God' sight, with His people as witnesses. It is for three purposes:
1. Procreation, to share in God's creative nature.
2. To share the most intimate, deep love that can be found within two human beings, enhanced in God's grace.
3. To aid both people in getting to Heaven, by each other's loving and spiritual help.
It is NOT for purpose of pleasure, lust, experiment, mere loneliness, or joke. Getting married for any of these reasons would be a horrendous crime against the Sacrament.
Holy Orders
This is the Sacrament that serves a similar purpose as marriage. However, instead of physical life-giving, the individual receiving the priesthood - or Holy Orders - has a duty of spiritual life-giving. In other words, he is to bring Christ's message to the world - to convert and save the life of all souls. The priesthood is a very hard vocation, and you can only receive it once in your life. The reason for this is that once you receive it, it cannot be undone. Once you are validly made a priest, you are a priest forever. However, there are cases where the priesthood is not valid, as in the case of female priests or unbaptized priests. Only baptized, fully in Communion, Catholic men can be priests in the Catholic Church.

Last Rites
Last Rites is a Sacrament only given to sick or dying faithful. It is only administered in the case where there is a possibility of death for the individual. It is a last Sacrament, meant to prepare one's soul for Heaven. It is only administered by a priest, and only to those who are sick or injured to the possibility of death.
Sealed... or Non-Sealed?
There are two types of Sacraments - those that have a spiritual seal, and those that don't. The ones that are sealed can only be received once, because to do otherwise would be against their nature (and Sacraments cannot be undone!). One that are not sealed can be received more than once, and some of them even are meant to be received often. These are the Sacraments that have a seal:
Baptism
Confirmation
Holy Orders
And these are the Sacraments that can be received more than once (though they also are inerasable):
Reconciliation
Holy Communion
Matrimony
Last Rites
Matrimony and Last Rites, though, can only be received a second time in special circumstances. For instance, Matrimony can only be received a second time if the first spouse is dead, and  Last Rites is received again on the occasion that you lived through your first possibly fatal injury/sickness (where you would have received Last Rites the first time), and then got another one (whereupon you would receive it again, see?).
Some Common Objections
Are you sure that they're even supposed to be taken as literal grace-giving things? What if they are just the sign, and not the fulfillment?
Sacraments are both sign and fulfillment. For instance, what would be the point of making a show of forgiving sin if they could not actually be forgiven? And would that seem rather unkind if sins couldn't be forgiven? And what would be the point of the Eucharist if all we were doing was pretending to receive Christ, while we were really just eating bread and drinking wine? Christ instituted the Eucharist so that we could still have Him even after he had gone up to Heaven. He would not leave us only play-acting, rather than truly Him. Don't you remember what he said at the Last Supper? This is my body, which is given for you. (Luke 22:19)
Why are the Sacraments so exclusive? Surely a person who lives like a Christian, but is not baptized, can receive the Eucharist? Or a woman receive the priesthood? Or an already-married person receive the Sacrament of Matrimony?
The Sacraments aren't exclusive! In fact, they are very inclusive. Any faithful Christian, living like a Christian, receives Baptism. And if it is not possible for them to receive Baptism, how is it possible for them to receive any other Sacrament? As for women becoming priests, we Christian women were perfectly happy not being priests  for long ages. Only with the feminist movement has any Christian woman started to consider the priesthood her 'right'. And feminism's core, to serve women and self, is exactly against the priesthood, which is to serve God. The priesthood is not a right. It is a gift from God, not a granted permit from men. Only men are gifted with the vocation to priesthood, because they are fulfilling the role of Christ - a man. However, women may be gifted with the vocation to religious life, which - excepting the role of Christ, which is the reason for only men priests anyways - has the same objective as the priesthood. And an already-married person cannot receive Matrimony. Matrimony involves making a vow to someone to stay with them as long as life will last. If they have already made this vow to a person, then it would be breaking a promise to them to remarry, and it would be lying to whom they wish to marry.
Summary
A Sacrament is an inerasable, both visible and fulfilling sign of God's grace given to His faithful. There are some which can only be received once, and there are some we may receive as often as every day. Some are for those just entered in the Church, and some are for those just about to enter Heaven. But all of them are important. They give us the grace to do what God wishes, and to avoid what He despises. They also can help us grow closer to Him, for they appeal to us in their visibility. I have received four. Others have received more. All I can say is that, in these troubling times, their value is immense to us, and they should never be abandoned. My only hope is that al the faithful can realize that.






What do you think? Are you perhaps also intrigued by the Sacraments? Or are you trying to learn about them? Was my post helpful? Any concerns? Debates? Additions? Comments? Anything at all is welcome, just so long as it is undemeaning, kind and well-meant. (P.S. Happy Mother's Day to everyone! And if any mothers are reading this, go listen to Il Divo's Mama today. It's a Mother's Day song if ever I've heard one, and so beautiful for all you lovely mamas.)