September 2002 Archives

The Silence of God as


The Silence of God as Exgesis

For all I know, you may be sick to death of Wilfrid Stinissen, but on two pages I have found material enough for discursive meditation time for a month or more. I'll share one today and one tomorrow so I don't overload. But if you can afford to do so, you would do well to get this book, published by Liguori.

from Nourished by the Word Wifrid Stinissen

We can, for example, ponder why Jesus is silent when the high priest (Caiaphas) asks him: "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" (Mt 26:62) His silence is a direct exeges from God.

When humans will force God to speak, when they will manipulate him or seize him, he becomes silent. To our dumb, egoistic questions, God replies with silence. He does not solve our problems with detailed explanations. For those who have the fortitude to last out God's silence, it will eventually give all necessary replies.If God always gave direct replies, we would never cease to pose irrelevant questions.God's silence will get us to see that much of this questioning and wondering is meaningless, because it means lack of confidence and forgiveness.

Bring this particular revelation into contact with Shusaku Endo's magnificent novel Silence and suddenly even more worlds open up for us within the novel. God's silence as exegesis is one of those mind-boggling Chestertonian paradoxes that for some reason feels exactly right, perfectly situated. Now, to listen to the exegesis, must I find myself in a wadi among the Ravens?

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Poem of the Day--Tiers of Women


Another one from the vaults--ancient beyond reckoning. Okay, not that old, but old enough.

Tiers of Women
Steven Riddle

There is a churning
about everything she does.
A smoldering chaos
that folds
in tight coils in her wake.
The atmosphere is
charged by her
discharged by her
in slick
splits of light.
She doesn't know
where to go
or who to be

lets her soul
fly thread-bound
angel on its
silvery lead.
And wakes up
someone new
every day
forgetting the way
she used to be.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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Prayer Request Please pray for


Prayer Request

Please pray for Katherine, Franklin, and most especially for their daughter Fiona who is undergoing heart surgery tomorrow to have a pace-maker removed (praise God!). She's only six, so this is quite an ordeal. Pray for peace for the parents and the rest of the family. Thank you!!

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One Must Go As One


One Must Go As One is Led

Yesterday Dylan blogged quoting this site's motto.

A beautiful three-step program that I should initiate :

-- Ignoring the imperfections of others
-- Preserving (or at least increasing) silence
-- Preserving continual communion with God.

There may be a cutback in my blogging soon, a diminution of the number of per diem posts. And the posting may continue to be per diem, and the reading of the other excellent blogs may continue to be per diem, but I can't elude the suspicion that I might be the better for a week-long retreat from the blogosphere in the not-too-distant future. I've done my share of generating heat, despite error503's stated aim of lowering the blood-pressure, and sticking to what's best in "Catholicism, poetry and culture."

It is an excellent, meritorious thought, and driven all by the right concerns. However, I hesitate, because silence, the glorious silence in which we meet with, engage with, sometimes wrestle with, more often commune with God, is not merely a matter of closing human lips. Silence, as with speech, is not simply cutting off communication, but saying what needs to be said and not saying what does not need to be said. We will be called to account for every idle word. Such words are not the words of splendid poets and great divines, they are not the words of saints, nor are they the words that in reflection we share with the world what we have experienced of God. They are not even the words of what we enjoy--baseball, football, movies, books, tennis, fine wine, you name it. These words build community, understanding, human solidarity. They help us to more readily "love our neighbor" because many of us labor to love an abstract, but someone with real concerns, hopes, joys, wishes, thoughts, desires, pains, this person we can approach more readily. The great Saints were able to discern all of these things without much conversation, but we are (most of us) not yet great Saints. We are saints in training. And some saints were particularly voluble and sociable, still preserving and virtuous silence--St. Alphonsus di Liguori springs to mind as one who has written more than I, in my lifetime, seem likely to be able to read, so too St. Francis de Sales. I also think of St. Philip Neri, the laughing Saint.

Thus, while I commend the motive and the thought, I bemoan the possibility. More, I wonder if such a silence, imposed from within, as it were, is effective in the way we wish it to be. It seems to me that points one and three of Dylan's plan lead very naturally to point two, without the imposition of a silence that might be frustrating, aggravating, or bothersome. Now, of course, that is from the outside. I am not Dylan, nor may I speak for him, and we must allow our consciences to form the ground of our being. If God so leads him, then I must not interfere. But I do speak to clarify. Our first duty is to ignore the rampant goings-on and detractions that can take place in a world where there is much communication, but very little identity. It is very easy to criticize, fault, and abjure, when one knows nothing of the individuals involved save a few random communications. Here we know only as much as people wish us to know through their postings. (Dare I say it, "We see as through some glass, darkly). Unless we are friends on the other side of the glass screen, we know nothing of the people posting. How much better for us then, if we refrain from any comments on the activities of others we cannot know. All we may legitimately comment upon are their words and their ideas. Mistaken notions must always, for the sake of the person holding them, be corrected--it is, in fact a Christian duty. But a person must never be diminished in the glory of personhood. Each person has a unique identity in Christ and an insult to the person is spit in the face, a crown of thorns, and a nail. Jesus told us that when we call our brother "Thou fool" we commit murder in our hearts. What a terrible thing! So, we must correct mistaken notions, all the while preserving the integrity and dignity of the person holding them. No person is discountable, no person is not worthy of our notice, no person is disposable. Every person bears within them the fractured image of Christ, and we should be assisting them in perfecting that image. So better to ignore goings on, to wander in the gardens of blogdom and pick such flowers as we may find in bloom.

So, the long and the short of this. We do well to ignore the goings-on that tend to distract us from the beauty of God that flows through each person. We also must preserve, to the extent possible, continual communion with God. This can be extraordinarily difficult to cultivate, and comes as a part of grace. But God is gracious, and He does help us when our intentions are directed toward Him. This communion comes in short glances among the pots and pans in the kitchen, while sewing, or indeed while blogging and thinking not only of God, but of the love He would have us share. This is a vehicle to spread that love far and wide.

Sometimes we must retreat into complete silence, I suppose, to more clearly focus and hear God. But more often, it is in talking and sharing our ideas that our communion with God is supported. We are not monastics, we are not cloistered from the world. Few of us have the ability to withstand the forces of secularity on our own. In this enclave, we build up a conversation and a communion that continually allows us to turn our minds toward God. That is why I don't visit some places in blogdom with great frequency. While they contribute a tremendous amount to the community, I often cannot bear what they are telling me. I often find myself succumbing to my very worst impulses, and so I retreat to this shell, the small part of blogdom I visit, that more often than not allows me to stand exposed to God rather than retreating into a shell, separating myself at once from the world and from God. Blogs like those I have listed, support me in my prayer life. They help me on the way to preserving that continuous communion with God. Good things and good words are posted that allow me to fly to God rather than away from Him. Blogdom has served to help me hone my prayer life because I have been able to talk to others and thus, more than anything, teach and convince myself. God convicts me of His love as I tell others about it.

Thus I encourage Master Dylan to follow the course of his conscience, but to bear in mind that his words, thoughts, passions, interests, and ideas serve a great many people each day, help to feed them news of God rather than news of the world. In many ways, those who serve in these far-flung outposts of blogdom, those that get a mere trickle of readers, the "tidepools" on the great ocean, perform an enormous service to all of us who seek a solidarity that can be hard to find moment to moment in the world at large. Any shrinking of that pool makes conditions a little less salutary for all. So while I speak to Dylan, I also speak to everyone out there who happens by--share the good that God has done for you because you will raise up the spirits of someone who reads in the course of a day. You are all valuable, unique, wonderful, supportive, loving, helpful, Spirit-filled people who have much to give to the world, both within and outside of blogdom, and I am exceedingly blessed at having found such a haven.

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Last Blog at least Until


Last Blog at least Until Evening

This is an example of a catalog poet--as if you couldn't tell from the title. The catalog poem is a very specialized subcategory of the imagist poem. Catalogs formed parts of longer poems, as in Epics and other longer poems. But the poets of the imagist school, following on Japanese and Chinese forbears elaborated the catalog poem into a genre unto itself. Needless to say, one would not want to read an entire book of these at a sitting, but they make for nice variety among other more structured poems.

A Brief Catalog of Farewells Steven Riddle

A perfume fountain
forms on the crest of
warm summer. The whisper
of kelp in sand,
of salt in air. The call of
foam and fire sunsets
dancing the blue-green waves.
Open kitchen windows.
From the pool two jade
divers surface.
Leaves swirl to hide a pond
and mist takes human form.
Notebook pages flutter. Fire
etches a stain on the window. A bat
snags a firefly in the dusk.
Sound of broken glass from
a frog jump. A narrow road crumbles.
Stones ripple
the sky in the pond.

The purpose of the catalog poem is to bring together images that suit the theme or idea. As such they do not withstand close scrutiny, although the juxtaposition of the imagery can lead to some interesting ideas and some sardonic commentary. Imagists were dedicated to recording "Things as they are." But, as Wallace Stevens so kindly informed us in "Man with a Blue Guitar" (which could be read as a commentary on imagist and cubist schools), "Things as they are/are changed upon the blue guitar."

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More Poetry--Surprise--Not Mine!


For those looking for some delightful light satire/verse, hie thee quickly to Catholic Light and see this post from Alexandra Baldwin's mother via the redoubtable Ms. Baldwin herself--"Sister Nouveau Mary Addresses the Statue of the Blessed Mother. " Enjoy!

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Jonathan Edwards When you read


Jonathan Edwards

When you read through the great Puritan ministers you are likely to stumble across a great many things that will surprise you. And there is a certain irony (if I remember my family history correctly) that Rose Lathorp Hawthorne, daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne, prominent Catholic and founder of an order of Hospital Workers (?), is a direct lineal descendant of this great Puritan preacher. I really like Edwards's work. We all have been exposed to "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," for our portion of fire and brimstone, but here's something completely unexpected from that quarter.

from A Sermon by Jonathan Edwards A sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God's nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ's beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God's grace from the false.

Who would have thought that a puritan minister would lavish so much time and thought upon the question of beauty and God's beneficence as expressed in beauty. Thomas Dubay (The Evidential Power of Beauty) yes, Jonathan Edwards no. So, just as we encourage our protestant brethren to bury some of their presuppositions and ideas, it's well past time to vanquish some of our own. I do not encourage those who are not doctrinally well-founded to peruse these works. But if you are grounded in your Catholic Faith these brilliant and lovely sermons can only help to add to your appreciate of God's splendor and glory.

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Becoming Whole I am amazed


Becoming Whole

I am amazed by Wilfrid Stinissen. Some of the insights, while possibly not original, are said in a way that makes sense at a level I cannot explain. Perhaps it is because he is a Carmelite, perhaps he is just particularly gifted in writing about the spirituality of Scripture. Whatever the reason, some of the passages from Nourished by the Word really speak to me.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

Adam is an incomplete first sketch of Christ. Adam is created in God's image, but Christ is God's image. This relationship to Christ remains even after Adam's Fall. The most profound thing about him, that he is created in God's image, is not destroyed by the Fall. In an indirect way, we get right from the Bible's first chapter the consolation that even fallen humans have a likeness to Christ.Something in them is unaffected by the sin. All of our earthly life is a wandering, a seeking, in order to completely find our identity in this unaffected part.

All of life is a search for completion, which is why when we find that completion in anything less than God, there is a hollowness, a vaccuum that we cannot deny. When we try to stuff the God-shaped void with possessions, power, sex, glory, self, anything less than God, the hole remains, and now is more like an infected wound, we are aware of it--it aches and hurts all the time. We groan in our emptiness, unhappy ourselves and needing to share our unhappiness.

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Another Wonderful 17th Century Poet


Another Wonderful 17th Century Poet

American Poet, and virtual unknown Edward Taylor. While Calvinist to the core, his meditations are quite beautiful.

Meditation 1 Edward Taylor

What Love is this of thine, that Cannot bee
In thine Infinity, O Lord, Confinde,
Unless it in thy very Person see,
Infinity, and Finity Conjoyn'd?
What hath thy Godhead, as not satisfide
Marri'de our Manhood, making it its Bride?

Oh, Matchless Love! filling Heaven to the brim!
O're running it: all running o're beside
This World! Nay Overflowing Hell; wherein
For thine Elect, there rose a mighty Tide!
That there our Veans might through thy Person bleed,
To quench those flames, that else would on us feed.

Oh! that thy Love might overflow my Heart!
To fire the same with Love: for Love I would.
But oh! my streight'ned Breast! my Lifeless Sparke!
My Fireless Flame! What Chilly Love, and Cold?
In measure small! In Manner Chilly! See.
Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love Enflame in mee.

"Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love Enflame in mee." Reminiscent of the poems of Donne, and a prayer for all hearts that seek to move ever closer to our Lord. We cannot set ourselve on fire, no more can we fan those flames. What we need to do is remove the obstacles to the fanning, so set the fire to rights so that when it is fanned, it bursts into greater, warmer, more welcoming fire, rather than going out. Too often we smother the flame that the Lord would ignite as a beacon for all, and we do it through our sloth, selfishness, self-centeredness, and even through the squandering of time in endeavors that would be good in measure. So I repeat, "Lord blow the Coal: Thy Love Enflame in mee."

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A Gift for Dylan From


A Gift for Dylan

From a collection with a Greek Title that has letters that look like XAIPE.

6 e.e.cummings dying is fne)but Death


wouldn't like

Death if Death

when(instead of stopping to think)you

begin to feel of it, dying
's miraculous

cause dying is

perfectly natural; perfectly
it mildly lively(but


is strictly
& artificial &

evil & legal)

we thank thee
almighty for dying

(forgive us, o life!the sin of Death

I am not a fan of cummings, but I found this, for some reason deeply affecting and deeply true in a way that few poems have been. I note the only capital in the poem is Death. That speaks volumes in itself. More than that, I cannot say right now. Except perhaps a thank you to Dylan for the introduction.

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John Keats


John Keats

I find sometimes the need of great calmness. Sometimes I retire to the psalms, sometimes, to bad vintage television. But here I post one of the most delightful and relaxing ways I come to terms with the world. I don't post the entire poem, merely for length. If you wish to find it, visit the Representative Poetry On-Line and Look for Keats. His poetry, even though he isn't 17th century, is among the very best in the language.

from "Ode to a Nightingale"
John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,--
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

I don't know what I find so calming--perhaps it is just the loveliness of some of the image, or some of the words. "A drowsy numbness pains/ My sense." Say it aloud, let the words roll over the tongue and echo in the brain. "With beaded bubbles winking at the brim. . ." Just be lulled by the gentle language, the beautiful images and let the blood pressure drop. The very best of the Romantic Era of poetry seems to do this as a matter of course. Yes, you have Shelley occasionally railing away, and Byron tends to be more sardonic than pastoral. But Keats, Wordsworth and Coleridge all seem to have a sense of the beauty of nature that is embedded and inextricable from their beautiful language. Read "Kubla Khan" or "Ode: Intimations of Immortality Recollected from Early Childhood."

You know, until you get to the modern era I like more poetry than I dislike. And perhaps with such an able guide as Dylan I can even convert my anti-modernism.

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The Amazing Roger Williams


The Amazing Roger Williams

I am a great fan of Early American History, most particularly the History of Virginia. But there are people who profoundly move me with their wisdom and the depth of their humanity. One of these is Roger Williams.

Roger Williams from "The Bloody Tenet of Persecution" Whether thou standest charged with ten or but two talents, if thou huntest any for cause of conscience how canst thou say thou followest the Lamb of God who so abhorred that practice?

from "A Letter to the Town of Providence"
It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists, and Potestants, Jews and Turks, may be emnbarked in one ship; upon which supposal I affirm, that all the liberty of conscience, that ever I pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges--that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks be forced to come to the ship's prayers or worship, nor compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any.

For these lines alone, the man should be held in awe. In an age when Catholics were still unsafe in England, when it was no uncommon practice to hunt priests from house to house to martyr entire households for the sake of harboring priests, here is a man who argues not only no compulsion to prayer, but also no prevention, and further, he doe not even compel those who worship in no way. I must study the life of this great man a good deal more.

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Another, Much Older, Much More Fun


Here's another poem, much older, and more for fun. It is loosely patterned after an idea first presented by the Greeks and Romans and taken up in earnest by Alexander Pope in his Essay on Criticism and Essay on Man. This is the idea of treating serious thoughts and investigations in poetry rather than prose. It doesn't hold up well in the 21st century, but that may be more perception than reality.

Making Sense Out of Time
Steven Riddle

The bridge
between this second and the
next is burned before
this second has elapsed.

How lightly we talk about time
as running or flowing as a brook
when we all know it shakes
and shudders, stumbling

one second to the next,
with never a certainty that we
have chosen the right way
to see it move

or that one second will
not crowd another
and trip the crucial domino
that will spin out some grand design.

We know we cannot trust
glass metal, springs and gears,
we use the moon to spell out months,
out place in the sun to name a year.

If we stop all clocks,
calendars and dates
have we stopped time?
Or if we use them still

and let them run does time move
all the same, or is it some
vast lake which moves little
if at all, and we move

through it, measuring
by our stroke as we go? Is time like
space, measured in length and breadth
and depth that we have not yet seen?

Now check, stop and see
if time flows past
or if we flow
and time stands still.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

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Visit Floyd County, Virginia For


Visit Floyd County, Virginia

For a mostly tranquil, lovely break, visit Mr. First in Floyd County, Virginia. Today he has a wonderful, beautiful, and delicate picture of some sort of Lobelia. The name means little to me, but the pictures really help to make this site wonderful. Do yourself a favor and take a break in Floyd!

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Another Poem This time


This time it's mine, and because it is very highly personal, don't expect that meaning will necessary leap out at you. It was also highly experimental for me at the time, although I think most traces of that have more or less vanished. Just as a point of information--I consider the silver birch and the white birch among the most beautiful trees in the world (at least for northern climes).

The Meaning of the Birch
Steven Riddle

In a twist of air on an ragged day,
the last of a raw burnt-out stretch of ember days and nights,
when the only thoughts have been the pains of yesterday
and tomorrow, the hours stretching to the white
hot edge of time and whatever passes for a life,
one afternoon I tasted a trace of mystery,
a tantilizing breath, a glimpse of knife-
sharp childhood days seeking the perfect tree--
a birch to plant in the neglected nation of our back
yard, in the wide stretch of green ocean that became,
on the shores of memory, the home ground, rack
and hew of all the days of summer, curiously the same,
and yet perfect in distant vision. And in that moment
catching that tremor of a taste, I think I can
pierce the veil that keeps me here in ageless days pent
up and longing for a time that now is
more than memory and
less than real. How can the longing heart not skip a beat,
when it stands transfixed by that it can never again meet.

©2000,2002 Steven Riddle

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Important Reminder--Memorial/Feast Coming Up

Yes, the memorial (for you non-Carmelite types) or Feast, for us Carmelite types, of St. Therese of Lisieux looms just around the corner. I hope to be posting something special for you all on that day. What special will consist of will depend on the day itself--but I am certain that I will come up with something. Meanwhile, for those who read French, a link to the complete works is available in the left-hand column.

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While on the Subject


While I'm on the subject of the left-hand column. Have you tried some of the links? Among them is a link to a daily meditation on Scripture passages, many fine Carmelite links, collections of poetry beyond imagination. Browse there sometime, I'm sure you will find some things to interest and entertain you. Well, maybe not entertain in precisely the way we so often use it, but at least enlighten, or may aggravate--oh, whatever!

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From One of My Favorites


From One of My Favorites

Okay, you've already noticed that I tend to favor seventeenth century poetry--American or European. But another of my favorite schools of poetry is the imagist school, largely derived from the very compressed ultimately imagist poetry of China and Japan. So, without further ado, a tanka from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu or One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (See the left-hand column for a link to the entire work.)

Ono no Komachi

Color of the flower
Has already faded away,
While in idle thoughts

My life passes vainly by,
As I watch the long rains fall.

The gentle melancholy of this particular tanka appeals to me. Many of these poems have references to places that must conjure images for the Japanese, but for Westerners they serve only to produce some distance. But here, there are no such references. This could occur on the slopes of Fujiyama, or in Indiana. The universalilty of the thought and experience causes this poem, among many others, to really speak to the human heart.

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Loyalty to the Church Please


Loyalty to the Church
Please read this wonderful insight from Kevin Miller. I really, really, really like his blog. I just wish he would answer my question about Balthasar. (If you stop by Mr. Miller, look at your comments on the Balthasar you posted two days ago. My mind is still reeling over "inchoate act of presence." It hurts my brain. Thanks!)

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More on Lancelot Andrewes


More on Lancelot Andrewes

I wanted to post this link, a remarkable PDF. I had not noticed before, but it includes the translation of the Greek Devotions from Tracts for Our Times 88 by John Henry Newman (done before his conversion to Catholicism, I think), along with an additional section of devotions tranlated by a man named Neale and intended as a companion to the Newman translation. It is from this section of the Document that I posted yesterday's excerpt. This PDF will yield a highly printable, highly readable, nicely formatted version of the Devotions for those who are interested.

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The Wrath of God--according to


The Wrath of God--according to Some

This morning Dylan notes that there are some who definitively approve wrath over mercy. Since the time of Jonah it has ever been thus. But I am reminded of an absolutely delightful book to recommend to everyone. Actually a set of three books, thus far, by a man named Philip Gulley. (I've only read two of them so I cannot unconditional recommend the third, but if it follows in suit. . .) The books are about Harmony, a small town in the midwest (Indiana, I think) called Harmony. Home to Harmony is the book I was put in mind of. The protagonist, a Quaker minister who is looking for work, returns to Harmony. The minister of the local Quaker meeting dies and as there is no one else who everyone can agree upon Sam Gardner is asked to take on the position. At his first sermon, Easter, he preaches the love and triumph of Jesus Christ, redemption, salvation, and mercy. There is a comment in the book regarding one of the character, "Fawn" I think, who found this particular minister wanting--she happened to know that Jesus had a list of people He was ready to smite, and she had more than a few she wished to add to the list. If you like the fiction of Jan Karon, you may like these books. While they are similar, I like these somewhat better as they are both shorter and pithier.

In fiction, this is charming and gently satirical. In real life, it is terribly sad. What a notion of God such a person must have. I have been blessed thus far this morning to have avoided any interaction, but I know that I must pray. This notion of God is so similar to the God of Heinlein's Job or the monster of Philip Pullman's atrocious and highly detrimental His Dark Materials trilogy. (Note to Franklin, if you're reading, this is definitely one to stay FAR away from). What would ever give you this notion of God? What a tremendous hardship it is, and what a terrible life it leads to. I cannot imagine a fate worse than that of Jonah, perpetually unhappy because God is a God of Mercy and love.

Jonah 4:1-4 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, "I pray thee, Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish for I knew that thou art a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and repentest of evil. Therefore now O Lord, take my life from me, I beseech thee, for it is better for me to die than to live."

Overall, I prefer the life of one who holds with this:

1 John 4 6 We are of God; he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby we know the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us: that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 Herein is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby we know that we dwell in Him and He in us: because He hath given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath for us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19 We love Him, because He first loved us. 20 If a man say, "I love God," and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loveth God love his brother also.

I note that Dylan posts from the first chapter of the same epistle. Great source for wonderful knowledge of what God is really like, rather than our preferred conception. Rather than being Jonahs or other wretched, unhappy wrath-seekers, wouldn't our lives be so much better if we saw everyone as potential a companion for eternity in the beatific vision?

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From the Extraordinary Lancelot Andrewes

I blogged a couple of days ago about the celebration of the memorial of Lancelot Andrewes. Mr. Core was kind enough to discover a couple of links to the Newman translation of Andrewes, one of them in a superbly formatted PDF file. From that I offer this wonderful penitential prayer.

from Private Devotions Lancelot Andrewes

An Act of Pleading
The Triumph of Mercy, Thy Name’s Sake, the glory of Thy Name, the truth of Thy Promise, intervention of Thine Oath, comfort of Love, bowels of mercies. Thy Mercy which is manifold, great (Ps. 51. 1), ancient (Ps. 25. 6), plenteous (Ps. 130. 7), everlasting (Ps. 136), exceeding (Eph. 2. 4), marvellous (Ps. 117. 8), the riches of Thy Mercy (Eph. 1. 7), its abundance (Eph. 1. 8), its excess (1 Tim. 1. 14), its superabundance (Rom. 5. 20), its exceeding riches (Eph. 2. 7), its victory over all Thy works (Ps. 145. 9), over justice (James 2. 13), the satisfaction and merits of Christ, the consolation of the Holy Ghost. Thy Mercy by which it is that we are not consumed (Lam. 3. 22), that preventeth (Ps. 79. 8), followeth (Ps. 23. 6), surroundeth (Ps. 32. 10), forgiveth (Ps. 103. 3), crowneth (Ps. 103. 4), hath length, breadth, depth, height (Eph. 3. 18), is from everlasting (Ps. 25. 6) to everlasting (Ps. 89. 2), reacheth to Heaven (Ps. 108. 4), reacheth to hell (Ps. 86. 13), is over all (Rom. 2. 32), is tender (Luke 1. 78), sweet (Ps. 69. 16; 129. 21), better than life (Ps. 113. 3), as is Thy Majesty (Ecclus. 2. 18), pardoning until seventy times seven (Matt. 18. 12), hating nothing that it hath made, neglecting neither the young ravens (Matt. 6. 26) nor the sparrow, willing that all should be saved (1 Tim. 2. 4), willing not that any should perish (2 Pet. 3. 9), bringing back the lost sheep on the shoulder (Luke 25. 5), sweeping the house for the lost drachma (Luke 25. 6), forgiving the ten thousand talents (Matt. 28. 27), binding up the wounds of the half dead (Luke 10. 34), joyfully meeting the Prodigal Son (Luke 25. 20), that freed the fugitive Jonah, received the denying Peter, did not reject the incredulous Thomas, converted the blaspheming Saul, liberated the woman taken in adultery, received Mary Magdalene, opened Paradise to the thief, standeth at the door and knocketh, the Lord Himself entreating His own servants (2 Cor. 5. 20), whose place is the Throne of Grace, the Mercy-seat, whose time is the Day of Salvation. I have deferred repentance, and Thou hast prolonged patience by Mercy, O Thou fountain inexhaustible!

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Amphibious Goat, Redux For those


Amphibious Goat, Redux

For those of you with profound pro-life convictions, this entry and the blog it occurs in are critical reading. The blogmaster spends much time going up against various proponents of the Culture of Death and could do with our support.

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Poem du Jour


Poem du Jour

This is one of three that I wrote over a very unproductive twelve-month period. I was engaged in trying to write some serious prose at the time so there was little time for poetry. But I liked this a great deal--it was one of the many outpourings of grace received during a protracted (nine month) Ignatian Retreat that moved me firmly and relentlessly into my Carmelite vocation. The title is still a working title that doesn't quite indicate the theme I had in mind. I need to give the casual reader more of a clue, but for the moment, this will do.

Waiting on Perfection
Steven Riddle

I dream of a last rose of summer
bloomed late
in August that somehow outlasts
autumn's weary weight,
and meets December on its doorstep
still white
like a perfect winter morning's first light.

Full blown, bloomed,
brilliant in the wind
that winds around the month,
it waits on snow;
each petal braced to bear
the winter white
and chill beneath it.

And though it waits
on snow, is kissed
by ice instead and wakes
glittering more brilliantly
than dew and frost and snow
could make--
its petals perfected under
icy weight.

© 1996, 2002 Steven Riddle

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Precautions and Counsels Yes, I'm


Precautions and Counsels

Yes, I'm afraid it's true. I'm back to stun you all into silence (although it was very quiet yesterday) with St. John of the Cross. I know many saints have said much the same thing as St. John. I know that his spirituality is rooted in the Bible. But sometimes his phrases have such a profound and ringing clarity that he deserves special notice.

from "Precautions" St. John of the Cross

9. For, should you desire to pay heed to things, many will seem wrong, even were you to live among angels, because of your not understanding the substance of them. Take Lot's wife as an example: Because she was troubled at the destruction of the Sodomites and turned her head to watch what was happening, God punished her by converting her into a pillar of salt [Gn. 19:26]. You are thus to understand God's will: that even were you to live among devils you should not turn the head of your thoughts to their affairs, but forget these things entirely and strive to keep your soul occupied purely and entirely in God, and not let the thought of this thing or that hinder you from so doing.

From Special Counsels
St. John of the Cross

2. In order to practice the first counsel, concerning resignation, you should live in the monastery as though no one else were in it. And thus you should never, by word or by thought, meddle in things that happen in the community, nor with individuals in it, desiring not to notice their good or bad qualities or their conduct. And in order to preserve your tranquility of soul, even if the whole world crumbles you should not desire to advert to these things or interfere, remembering Lot's wife who was changed into hard stone because she turned her head to look at those who in the midst of much clamor and noise were perishing [Gn. 19:26]. You should practice this with great fortitude, for you will thereby free yourself from many sins and imperfections and guard the tranquility and quietude of your soul with much profit before God and others. Ponder this often, because it is so important that, for not observing it, many religious not only failed to improve through their other works of virtue and religious observance, but ever slipped back from bad to worse.

While the "Precautions" and "Special Counsels" were written specifically to cloistered Religious, they have much to say to us today. This is an age in which information can quickly make the rounds--there are good and bad points to that. While we learn much quickly, we rarely know whether what we have learned bears the stamp of reality. A case in point, and I don't desire to be a controversialist, is the question of Iraq. We "know" that they have or have had and may be developing weapons of mass destruction. But do we "know" this because it is true or do we "know" it because it is convenient to the present agenda? I do not know, but I also do not worry too much about it because the entire situation is in the hands of a God who loves us and whatever happens will happen in His will--if not in His ordained will, at least within His permissive will, and whatever comes from His hands I will accept with joy because of who He is.

Things that travel quickly, news that flashes by us, are like riptides. They unbalance us, drag us off course, and ultimately lead us to our own destruction if we follow them too closely. St. John rightly points out that the better part of valor is not to meddle in these things, not to comment on them, not to think about them, not to notice them, if it were possible. Our assigned task in the world is to love God as completely as He may be loved, with "all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength," and to make this love manifest by "loving our neighbor as ourselves." Leaving aside the question of how little we love ourselves and whether that gives us permission to be less loving to others (an argument weirdly compelling in its ultimate perversity), we are called to love our neighbors in a way that we would want to be loved, and that, in fact we are loved. As we grow in closeness to God, we can see that while we are unlovable much of the time (like a three-year old in a constant screaming, whining, tantrum) there are times (mostly when we are "asleep" in God) when we are truly adorable, and truly reflective of the image of the God who created us. So let us endeavor not to be wrapped up in the disconcerting news of the day but to find rest and sleep in prayer. Let us leave off our day to day tantrums and turn with loving hearts to the God who makes us worthy of His love, and then to beam that love outward to all in what we do and what we say and how we behave ourselves in ordinary things.

Shalom to all.

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De Vertutibus--I really like this


De Vertutibus--I really like this blog

Even while I acknowledge that I will really understand and assimilate less than two percent of the total if what is there already is any indication. But Kevin Miller's blogspot is very obviously for those of a Disputational disposition.

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Joining the Lamentation Fr.


Joining the Lamentation

Fr. Keyes C. PP.S. laments in a past blog that people simply do not wish to engage in conversation about spiritual matters.(It didn't help that shortly after his post, his commenting system went out of phase for about a day and a half, during which any thought I may have had about St. Gaspar's letter completely fled my head.) I have commented before on the awed (or stunned, or bored) silence that ensues upon a post that seems particularly "difficult". And there are a great many explanations for this phenomenon ranging from those initial emotional reactions already mentioned, to assent not requiring comment. But go and tell Fr. Keyes about it so that he won't feel so alone in his difficulties.

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Request for Prayers Melissa


Request for Prayers

Melissa is struggling with a very difficult familial and financial situation. Please remember her in your prayers.

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More Poetry--Threnody


I acknowledge that most occasional, strike that, almost all occasional poetry is bad. Nevertheless. sometimes, because the occasion does not depart, it is needed. Therefore I contribute my meager offering to the cause.

Threnody for the Victims of Abortion
Steven Riddle

Weep for the children
unborn, unheard, unmourned.
Weep for the mothers
with unseen scars
that harden their lives
and selves.
Weep for the people
lost in themselves
who think they've
found freedom.
Weep for the nation
reduced to
whimpering for rights
and devouring its young.
Weep for the trespass
of God's law
that marks us
Weep for the land
that does not know
it should weep.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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Jesus Christ, Verbum Abbreviatum Some


Jesus Christ, Verbum Abbreviatum

Some reflection on reading the scriptures by a Swedish Carmelite Priest.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

In Christ, the entire Bible finds its unity because everything in it is striving towards him. Christ makes of the many words in the Scriptures a single word, God's word. The incarnate Word has traditionally often been called Verbum abbreviatum, the abbreviated word. In him all the condensed words of the Bible are summarized. . . .

The Church Fathers happily cite Psalm 62:11: Semel locutus est Deus (God has spoken once). God speaks only a single word, the son, the Word which gives meaning to all the words which have been spoke about him. It is in him and only in him that everything becomes comprehensible.

"Everything becomes comprehensible," what felicitous wording. I don't know if Stinissen intended at this point to extend his argument from looking at biblical texts to an examination of reality as a whole; however, regardless of his intent, this phrase does so. Nothing that happens to us makes any sense outside of God. This is why the atheistic nihilism of a Samuel Beckett so clearly does make sense. Without God in the picture there is no sense to anything. When you deny His existence things fall apart. In fact, Beckett was fortunate when compared with Neitzsche who went mad--partially as a consequence of his own philosophy.

Outside of Jesus Christ there is not a moment of our lives that makes sense. Which is comforting, because within the body of Christ everything is incorporated. We must embrace who we are, where we are in life, and where those around us find themselves. Our struggle is not a struggle to better ourselves, but to better the condition of all, to build on Earth the Kingdom of God. We start on that path by accepting God as architect--God as the Word that must be spoken, not only in preaching, but in the preaching that is our individual actions and individual lives. Fullness of life and joy are found only in accepting and embracing Jesus Christ as and where we are. Anything other leads to confusion, frustration, sin, and perhaps alienation. Deep communion with God and with the body of Christ is the only thing that leads us out of confusion.

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Addressing the Canon


Now, I'm not a canonist, by any stretch of the imagination. I do not think everything starts and ends with a select group of works by a mostly male constituency (nor do I think that being mostly male invalidates those works from consideration as classics, nor should we lower our standards of what is considered first class literature to accommodate the disadvantaged. Great work is great work and is done by people of all races and sexes throughout all of time. We need merely find it.) However, Mr. Kairos raised an interesting question on his blog today that I copy in its entirety because I want to reflect upon several things at length.

Is it better to assign books in high school that will inspire a love of reading or that form a part of the canon? In looking over the list, I realize I have read less than 1/3 of it. Some of it was not read but assigned, some read and assigned, and some not assigned but read anyway. About another 1/3 I tried to read and just wasn't inspired to finish. ("Heart of Darkness" was assigned, and attempted in high school, then attempted a couple of times since. "Apocalypse Now" is much more accessible, and the Secret Sharer is better written.)

I read constantly, voraciously, and find that I was not capable, at 14 or 15, of understanding many of these books in any meaningful way. I'm 32 and still too inexperienced for some of them. And, frankly, some of them just aren't all that great, either as writing or as ideas. Thomas Hardy is just overwritten.

Now, some issues are worthy of addressing in detail, but let's start with a couple that are not. "Thomas Hardy is just overwritten." I have to say that I could not disagree more. Thomas Hardy, particularly in the later novels, but most especially in his poetry employed a deft and apt touch, saying as much as needed said without saying more. Sometimes the mode in which he said it is foreign to eyes and ears that want to run with every idea and dispense with it within ten seconds of consideration--but Hardy wrote for a reader who was ready and willing to read. Overwriting is a serious charge, and it is, in fact, simply a matter of opinion. In this area Mr. Kairos and I disagree. With Hardy, as with James and Conrad, it is the journey, not the arrival that matters. The writing is for one who wishes to linger over scenes and over writing, not for someone who wants to get to the end of the story and find out what happened. Indeed, with any of the three, if that is your aim, you are wasting your time in reading them. When you get to the end of The Golden Bowl or even a short work like "Daisy Miller," or "Turn of the Screw" you ask yourself, when summarizing--so is that all that really happened? Think about it--summarized Turn of the Screw: A man presents to a group of interested listeners the story of a governess who goes to attend two children who may or may not have secret converse with a particularly nasty spirit. In attempting to resolve the mystery the governess may or may not have precipitated a tragic end. This is not a story packed with incident and event. And yet... it is one of the finest stories of its type ever written--precisely because it is in thinking about what has gone on that the terror grows and with it the horrifying possibilities. Enough on that point--we disagree on Hardy.

"The Secret Sharer" is shorter, somewhat more intense, but certainly not superior to "Heart of Darkness." It did not have the cachet to get butchered into the psychedelic and infinitely interesting (on numerous levels) Apocalypse Now, nor did it go on to influence the likes of V.S. Naipaul to produce a magnificent indictment of activity in Modern Africa like A Bend in the River. Accessible, does not necessarily make it better--sometimes the taste of the fruit you must work for lingers longer. However, I will be the first to say that at a high-school, perhaps even at undergraduate College level, Mr. Kairos is correct--"The Secret Sharer" is probably a more reasonable approach to Conrad. Students at those ages simply don't have sufficient maturity to be able to absorb much of what is going on in "Heart of Darkness". When an understanding doesn't come from within, then it simply looks like a cookie-cutter template impressed from outside. Students erroneously start to look for "hidden meanings," when, in fact, the vast majority of works of literature are made to be nearly transparent. (We are not talking about certain authors--T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein (if you even want to go there), or Samuel Beckett--although Beckett has basically a single chord with multiple and ultimately tiresome riffs). Okay, so two disagreements, but here more in kind than in substance.

Now to the points on which we agree. Students are very naturally ready for certain works at certain ages. The works and the ages vary by student. Some may never be ready for Joseph Conrad, some may never get anything from Jane Austen, no matter how much you point out the cutting satire and wit. A "canon" of books makes assumptions about the capabilities of students that are simply unfair to many. I would answer Mr. Kairos's initial question, "Is it better to assign books in high school that will inspire a love of reading or that form a part of the canon?" this way: yes. The two are not necessarily contradictory. Much depends on how they are taught. If they are presented in the way we were taught, then there is a tension. A teacher is insisting upon students finding some "meaning" which is known to the teachers and not the students. You get points for cleverness and finding all sorts of clues, but that leaves out about eighty percent of the student population which just isn't interested in playing those kinds of games. They have no time for it. I remember reading Canto I of The Faerie Queen as part of the advanced placement English Course in high school. Yes it was required, yes it was canon. But you know what? The teacher found something to interest us. Yes, it appealed to the most base level, but I can recite it today. The Red Cross Knight observes someone whom he thinks is the faire Una (Church of England) but who is really foul and insidious Duessa (Whore of Babylon/Catholic Church) "in wanton lust and lewd embrace" with another knight. Our teacher left us to discover that little gem ourselves, but he hinted throughout of its existence. While it may not be the basis for a great discussion of literature, it sure got us reading. (No, I do not recommend that you try this at home, nor in your schools). My point is merely that the canon is not boring, it is only boring when you are forced to read it as a series of more or less interesting puzzles or games in which the author is always attempting to keep hidden from you his or her real intent. What thorough nonsense! Almost everyone I know of who calls themselves a writer of any kind expresses the desire to communicate--to enrich, sometimes, but communicate clearly what they are trying to say. Most do not try to draw obscure and hidden veils of meaning over what they have written.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that what Kairos implies--teaching literature should be about inspiring students to love to read--is absolutely correct. Now, I think that should include as many genres and disciplines as possible. I think students should be told from very early on to read a poem aloud and listen to its music--not to puzzle over its significance, which will come with reading and rereading because you love the sound of the words. "Prufrock" means something to me not because I puzzled out all of Eliot's intent (as if that would ever be possible), but because I loved the sound of it and read it time and time and time again. Do I know what Eliot intended or meant when he wrote, "In the room women come and go/talking of Michelangelo?" Probably not, but by reading the poem for the sheer beauty of it, I have developed a meaning for it. The teaching of reading should be about helping students develop skills such as contextualization for definition, and simply learning to use tools such as dictionaries and encyclopedias to help when necessary. It should not be about puzzling out, or even necessarily identifying "symbols." Certainly these are good things to talk about in class, and they enrich the reading. But what is more horrifying than seeing a question like, "Write a paragraph about the symbolism of mirrors in Macbeth." Is there any? If so what? Would Shakespeare even have called them mirrors? I remember writing a three page essay on the word mirror and whether Shakespeare would have been likely to call them that and whether one can have a mirror as a symbol if the author didn't know the word. (See, I was great at deconstructing tests and wearing my teachers down. Then as now, I could go on.)

The joy of reading is multiplied by being given the tools, interesting things to read and tests that focus not so much on deep hidden things in the text, but on base-level understandings. Can you read a sentence by Henry James and then restate the thought in your own words. Here's an example of two types of question:

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day thou art more lovely and more temperate rough winds do shake the darling buds of May and summer's lease hath all too short a date. . ."

Question 1: In the context of the sonnet what is the symbolism of "the darling buds of May" and why did Shakespeare use that rather than some other image?

Question 2: What is Shakespeare saying and to whom do you think he is talking? What evidence is there?

The second questions seem simplistic compared to the first, but they get at the point of having written the poem in the first place. Maybe the darling buds have some secret deep meaning, but sometimes in our desire to get students to think critically, we leap over the first fence--figure out what the author is saying on a literal level and what cues you have to tell you this is true.

No, the canon is not sacred, neither is it necessarily dull, boring, and uninteresting. For example, Dante, particularly without really good explanatory notes, may mean absolutely nothing to a modern reader. So you get the excellent poetry--have students read a canto, and then you go to Niven and Pournelle's Inferno to give modern relevance, if necessary. And actually, much of this is not a teacher's duty, it is the duty of the parents to assist and help in the learning. Teachers are already taxed to the limits and beyond with idiotic testing that provides spurious and superficial "accountability" and basically teaches students to be able to respond well under pressure. Without doubt, a magnificent skill, but hardly the point of an entire educational system. For most thirteen year-old boys one trip to the locker-room at the beginning of school proves more than enough education in that particular skill.

So, apart from a few quibbles that may be a result of that magical difference in age, if I have parsed Mr. Kairos's message correctly and inferred the notion properly, we are in complete accord. Teaching literature should be about teaching one how to enjoy reading and how to continue to enjoy the experience. How one goes about this is dependent on the individual teacher and on a lot of work directly with students. Sometimes one substitutes modern works for works from the canon. What should never be done is to assume that a work is without interest because it isn't modern. Most kids, even today, have enough of the idealist and the romantic in them to truly enjoy great works from the canon. Not all, perhaps not even very many, but to neglect to teach some works of classic literature (even if not canonical) is surely a disservice to our youth.

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Last Blog before Lunch--More Poetry


Last Blog before Lunch--More Poetry

Pastoral Blue Steven Riddle

So, pastoral blue it is,
shielding, shepherding and keeping
us apart.

What would it take
to crack the brittle sky
and see beyond
the surface?

I know this sky is
only as thick as air--
a stern blue eggshell
that hides from me
the source of my new birth.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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Book Review--Alice Sebold--The Lovely Bones

I honestly don't know what to make of this book. It came highly touted by the likes of Anna Quindlen (usually reliable) and Jonathan Franzen (hardly a recommendation at all). It took me forever to get into it due to huge expanses of the flattest, least interesting writing I had encountered in many a day. Below is a sample.

She came with her father. They were standing in the corner near a glass case that held a chalice used during the Revolutionary War, when the church had been a hospital. Mr. and Mrs. Dewitt were making small talk with them. At home on her desk, Mrs. Dewitt had a poem of Ruth's. On Monday she was going to the guidance counselor with it.It was a poem about me. (p. 110)

It goes on seemingly endlessly in these flat declarative sentences. One may argue that it is part of the effect Sebold was trying to achieve. If so, it is an alienating choice of effects, I am uncertain of what it was trying to achieve.

Add to that minor errors of fact and word misuse. In one passage she refers to the death of Virginia Woolf, correctly noting that she had stuffed her pockets with rocks and then, incorrectly, implied that Woolf died at sea, stating that she vanished beneath the waves, when, in fact Woolf drowned herself in the river Ouse. In another passage Sebold uses "toothsome" when she means "toothy."

At the very end the narrator dispatches the villain of the piece with an icicle. You mean to tell me that after all those years of watching, and all the pain her family suffered, this was the first time she had an opportunity?

Add to that that the "heaven" described in the book sounds a great deal like purgatory, not paradise, and I'd generally conclude you were about a millimeter away from a toss-it-across-the-room-in-disgust book. But I would have been wrong.

The following two passages go a long way toward explaining why this book, while neither spectacular, nor particularly entertaining, is still well worth reading.

I realized how much I wished I could be where my mother was. His love for my mother wasn't about looking back and loving something that would never change. It was about loving my mother for everything--for her brokenness and her fleeing, for her being there right then in that moment before the sun rose and the hospital staff came in. It was about touching that hair with the side of his fingertip, and knowing yet plumbing fearlessly the depths of her ocean eyes. (p. 280-281)

These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence--sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent--that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. (p. 320)

So despite some pronounced, even severe flaws the novel has a good heart and tries to lead us to a good place.

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A "Saint" of the


A "Saint" of the Anglican Church

Given the propensity of some branches of the Anglican Church to name saints at the turning of a page, one always approaches these questions with caution. However, today is the day that the Anglican communion celebrates Lancelot Andrewes, a man well worthy of remembering. Below is an excerpt from a bulletin sent out by Project Canterbury that details WHY Anglicans so appreciate him.

Lancelot Andrewes from a bulletin for Project Canterbury by Fr. Rodney Hacking

In the 1604 Hampton Court Conference, the seminal event in the production of the Authorised Version, this man of "great holiness and great learning" was charged with the responsibility of the Old Testament Books from Genesis to 2 Kings. There were 47 other scholars and divines enrolled in the commission, but no other of Andrewes's authority and assurance. In an age of fiercely learned men he was exceptional: Thomas Fuller paid this compliment, that Andrewes "could serve as INTERPRETER GENERAL at the confusion of Tongues."

The A.V., or King James Bible, was published in 1611. It was worked on at the time William Shakespeare was writing the plays of his deep, language-intoxicated maturity; at the time that John Donne, the foremost love poet in English, was easing himself toward the decision to take orders, and to become, along with Andrewes, one of England's foremost preachers; when Francis Bacon was busy with his essays. The Authorised Version, in other words, was in embryo when the language itself, under pressure from some of the most gifted agents in all its history, was taking shape. . . .

But it will not serve to urge people to read Andrewes if what he wrote for himself does not have its own and discrete charm and force. It will certainly not do when we are urging 500-year-old sermons, sermons moreover of great density and knottiness, that even some of his contemporaries found stiff going.

A sermon by Andrewes is a word-by-word progress through a biblical citation, a progress of fantastic discrimination and analysis, of winding and unwinding paths of meaning from each single word, and from the whole in combination. There is nothing else quite like it in English. It is a kind of logical and verbal gymnastics driven by what I will call a furious holiness. Reading Andrewes, despite our distance from his age and ethos, is exciting.

No less a poet of our time than T. S. Eliot, the magpie of modernism, incorporated stretches of Andrewes, taken directly and with minimum alteration from the sermons, into some of his most inviting work. The opening lines of The Journey of the Magi have Eliot smuggling Andrewes into the 20th century:

A cold coming we had of it
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

In fact, it is mostly due to Eliot that, outside a circle of connoisseurs and specialists, Andrewes's name survives in our time. The 1928 essay Homage to Lancelot Andrewes, in which Eliot ranked the prose of Andrewes "among the best of his own, or of any time," woke many a student to his existence, and served as a passionate and exacting recommendation for a neglected master.

The frequently remarked austerity of Andrewes is greatly overstressed. He is often plain and playful, frequently beautiful, with passages of astonishing simplicity and directness. We forget sometimes how much of what impresses us in Scripture is almost unutterably simple and direct: "Let there be light." "In the beginning was the Word." "Jesus wept."

A portion of that pristine, spare beauty is to be found in the thickets of Andrewes's sermons, a beauty that radiates all the more intensely for its context, a flower on a steep, bare path.

Rigour, beauty and cadence. Enough to stay our cascade into a new and noisome millennium. Lancelot Andrewes, 17th-century divine -- just the best guide for such a journey.

Project Canterbury is proud to be able to publish many of Bishop Andrewes's Works. This is mainly through the diligence and energy of Dr Marianne Dorman, whose splendid Homepage you can visit here

Bishop Andrewes's sermons (including new additions to Volume 5) can be found here.

Essays on Bishops Andrewes by Dorman now have a special site here.

Not mentioned here, but worthy of attention is Lancelot Andrewes book of private devotions compiled some time back, probably no longer available. Bishop Andrewes was truly a great man of his time to whom we owe a great deal.

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Poem for an Approaching


Poem for an Approaching Date

In honor of a coming change of date and the Patroness of the Missions (though this poem has nothing whatsoever to do with the latter):

October First
Steven Riddle

Old ladies still
cling to September's masts,
climb the rigging
of their laundry lines
to hang sheets that bear
the wind.
They go to captain
old wooden ships driven before
these sails,
to watch as they pass
over the dateline into October.

At night they hang
kerosene lanterns
from pegs--a sign to others

Long winter ahead--they signal
over vast seas
that separate each
from her neighbor,
They greet the change
with great woolen shawls pulled over
shriveled shoulders and salute
each other from deck chairs
on the bow.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

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More from the AVP


There are some advantages to the small domestic disturbances that of an evening cause us some loss of sleep. The discovery of the huge collection of poetry at the AVP is one of these. Among the collections is a book of verse by Jones Very, a poet with whom I am little acquainted, having heard the name and seen a few poems at Dylan's site one time.

Jones Very

I cannot tell the sorrows that I feel
By the night's darkness, by the prison's gloom;
There is no sight that can the death reveal
The spirit suffers in a living tomb;
There is no sound of grief that mourners raise,
No moaning of the wind, or dirge-like sea,
Nor hymns, though prophet tones inspire the lays,
That can the spirit's grief awake in thee.
Thou too must suffer as it suffers here
The death in Christ to know the Father's love;
Then in the strains that angels love to hear
Thou too shalt hear the Spirit's song above,
And learn in grief what these can never tell,
A note too deep for earthly voice to swell.

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The Foremost Proponent of the


The Foremost Proponent of the Cinquain, Redux

This page at the American Verse Project has the "Complete Works" of Ms. Crapsey. The AVP looks worth further examination.

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Ethical Philosohy Thanks to Mr.


Ethical Philosohy

Thanks to Mr. Higham, I found this Ethical Philosophy selector. My results are detailed below.

1. Augustine (100%) 2. Kant (82%) 3. Ockham (69%) 4. Spinoza (66%) 5. Aquinas (62%) 6. Prescriptivism (62%) 7. Mill (46%) 8. Noddings (46%) 9. Sartre (46%) 10. Bentham (45%) 11. Cynics (37%) 12. Nietzsche (37%) 13. Plato (34%) 14. Rand (32%) 15. Stoics (30%) 16. Aristotle (28%) 17. Epicureans (24%) 18. Hume (24%) 19. Hobbes (0%)

And this is what they say about Augustine's philosophy--I am dubious of the accuracy of some of this:

Augustine (354-430)

Happiness is a union of the soul with God after one has died
Bodily pleasures are relatively inferior to spiritual pleasures.
Philosophical reasoning is not the path to wisdom and happiness.
A love of God and faith in Jesus is the only path to happiness.
God is the one to allow people to practice the love of God.
One must love God in order to fulfill moral law.
People are inherently evil; only the grace of God (or is it merit to be saved?) can save them.

I wonder about the "inherently evil." Because of the doctrine of original sin, I suppose you could say that Augustine held to something like this, but I don't think "evil" is the right word. I think it might be better to say "inherently flawed" or "inherently inclilned to evil action." Surely Augustine did not deny the first chapter of Genesis? But I leave that to those who better understand/know these philosophers.

I have some considerable pleasure in contemplating the fact that the Philosopher who would exclude poets shows up relatively low on my list. I am surprised how high Immanuel Kant shows up on my list considering how little I care for anything he has to say.

Here's what the site says about Kant:

We can make a prior judgments; the negation of such judgments would a logical absurdity because a priori knowledge is known without sensory data. We combine a priori and a posteriori knowledge to We have freedom God is not essential for his moral argumentation The objective facts about the human knowledge leads to Kant's morality We must act ought of a sense of duty in order to be moral Moral action does not come out of following inclinations Moral standards must be followed without qualification We must always act so that the means of our actions could be a universal law We must always treat people as ends not means

However, if this is all true, it doesn't sound nearly so bad as Kant in person.

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Lost Her Job for Refusing


Lost Her Job for Refusing an Abortion!

I don't do controversy well. I don't like to entertain it at all. However, the sitemaster at Musings of an Amphibious Goat does. Please go here and read the reflections and notion of this very insightful individual. We would all do well to expand our understanding of the many issues she addresses.

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Recovering the Lost Posts Because


Recovering the Lost Posts

Because of the server work this morning, Blogger ate at least one of my posts which I will try to reconstruct here.

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A Passion of Mine--Waimea


A Passion of Mine--Waimea Bay

Don't ask, I don't know why. I don't surf myself, but I love everything about it--from Bruce Brown's surfing films to watching the surfers on the rather wimpy waves at Canaveral National Seashore. (On the other hand, what is there not to love about a stretch of coast that allows not only views of well-cared-for dunes, and endangered Brown Pelicans, but the VAB and the Shuttle Launch Pad, and Surfing?). So here's part of my interest expressed somewhat more coherently. Oh, please note--Waimea bay is noted for incredible, and ofter extraordinarily beautiful waves. But they are apparently the result of winter storms over the North Pacific. I am told (all my evidence is anecdotal) that during off-season you wouldn't be able to tell that Waimea was a surfer's challenge.

Waimea Bay Steven Riddle I didn't know the winter waves went away, the thirty foot wall of water wasn't always there. So I was surprised when I went to the shore to see waves like those of any place on earth. This could be a Cleveland lake, a pool in a dip on the sidewalk, a beaker on a blue bench. I came to find the waterwall and found instead the flat blue envelope of the sea, the momentary breathing of some restless giant, hidden because I have chosen to look. Were I to turn my back, the towering waves would wake from their watery sleep and rise to new heights to secretly sweep me away before I could catch them myself.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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A Mysterious and Unaccountable Hush


A Mysterious and Unaccountable Hush

Has descended on blogdom, or my portion thereof. Usually the hours from about six in the evening to about nine are a rush a flurry of activity. I can only assume some even of nation importance was transpiring, of which, Praise the Lord! I was completely ignorant.

I have had about ten zillion visitors looking for the meter of John Donne's "Holy Sonnet 14" and for them, I apologize for I have said nothing of the meter nor have I any intention of addressing it. That is not my interest in the sonnet, and I am truly sorry that Google somehow links those words together on my site.

This hush combined with the red skies this morning and the deep grey clouds and portents of our usual "liquid sunshine" promise for a long and arduous day. I hope that presently I am merely in the eye of a storm that will lift before its battering winds assail me.

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Adelaide Crapsey


Okay, okay, okay. I need to curl up with my Luci Shaw, but first I needed to post a couple of things by this poet whom I have only recently discovered. She apparently wrote in the early part of the twentieth century and composed many different types of poems. Some of the most effective are reminiscent of the poetry of our own Mr. Core, q.v. I find it very similar to one of my favorite schools of more recent poetry--imagist. (Of course no one can even hope to equal the grandeur of the Cavalier and Metaphysical poets.) Here's a couple of short pieces by Ms. Crapsey.

Poems by Adelaide Crapsey

The Warning

Just now,
Out of the strange
Still dust . . . as strange, as still . . .
A white moth flew . . . Why am I grown
So cold?

The Guarded Wound

If it
Were lighter touch
Than petal of flower resting
On grass, oh still too heavy it were,
Too heavy!

There is a haiku-like simplicity and a sheer joy in careful creation and cultivation of image. There is an oblique relation between title and poem that sets up a kind of dynamic tension. What precisely is the guarded wound? We might never know, and yet the image puts us tantilizing close to grasping the reality the poet was trying to convey. In short, I have found another poet I need to study in depth. There is a brilliant, subtle, quiet, passionate, and sad beauty in these two short pieces.

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"Judge Not Lest Ye Be


"Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged"

I promised this blog, but I'm nearly exhausted from the diatribe of the other two I've posted this evening. In addition I received Polishing the Petoskey Stone by Luci Shaw from the library today, and I'm really eager to get to these wonderful poems. But this requires some fairly serious consideration and time. I may have to start this evening and continue sometime tomorrow.

John at Disputations reflects on what judgment means, and what how this sentence of Jesus would be if strictly applied on judgment day. In so doing he makes a very good point--we are NEVER to judge people, and most particularly not the final disposition of people, as in "Thank God those hijackers are burning in Hell." We are not permitted that judgment, and in making it we endanger our own immortal souls because we pronounce sentence on ourselves. But modern Christians seem very confused about this prohibition of Jesus.

I think of it very simply. A person must never be judged, period. One simply doesn't judge people, no matter what the circumstances. Even in a court of law we should not be judging a person but the putative actions of any such person. Actions we may judge, and we may use them to discern whether association with a given person is good or detrimental to our spiritual life. This is called discernment. It does not mean you judge the person, but you can and must judge the actions, ideas, and values held. You must evaluate them in the light of the truth, and, after proper prayer and discernment act upon those judgements.

If you hang around with a person who burns crosses on people's yards, whose language is peppered with racial epithets, and who is known to boast about betting up people of a certain ethnicity, you are implicated in those actions, more if you didn't try to stop them, but still implicated if you choose to continue the association. You have supported things that are unsupportable by gospel standards. Correct action might entail trying to convince the person to quit. Getting a friend and trying to get the person to quit, and finally, shunning the person, all the while praying for them.

We are called to judge ideas, values, and notions. We are not called to then label a person based upon our judgements. The fellow in the last paragraph should not be labeled a bigot, but it would be said that he has and holds bigoted ideas. A person is never a label and a label is the first step to depersonalization. If you have seen Silence of the Lambs you will recall that the first actions of the serial killer were to depersonalize his victims, "It will rub lotion on its skin or it will get the water again." Depersonalization, by race, by idea, by gender, by sexuality, by anything extraneous to a person's inherent dignity in being a smudged and warped image of God, is a sin against God in that person. Judging, labeling a person, is one step on that removal of dignity.

However, there is no problem with saying "Cannibalism is wrong. Communism is an ineffective economic system. Unrestrained capitalism is damaging to the world's good." These judgments, while some may be controversial, are permissible. We must judge which ideas and value support the gospel life and we must adhere to them.

This has all been a very long-winded way of saying--Judge a Person--Never. Judge ideas--always. Live always in conformity with gospel ideals and you cannot do so if you do not discern what they are.

However, this "judge not" causes a lot of consternation and difficulty in the Christian community.

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Lawrence Lessig and Eldred v.


Lawrence Lessig and Eldred v. Ashcroft

This is a matter near and dear to my heart. It is also one that really steams me. I truly believe in the right of an artist to control his or her own works for as long as he lives or is capable of managing his estate. What really annoys me is the mass of material that is being "held prisoner" for sake of the Mouse. Disney and other large corporate interests have basically purchased longer and longer periods of copyright in order to preserve the status of Mickey Mouse.

If the present copyright law were in force from constitutional times, we would find ourselves in a situation in which Tom Sawyer and Moby Dick would still be covered by copyright. This would effectively bar these words from any form of popular culture as clearing rights to this works would be far beyond anything any motion picture producer would be likely to consider. Think about it. How many "literary" novels published between 1923 and 1970 do you see being made into movies? There is a reason for this. And perhaps the absence of such from cinema is not truly harmful--but. . . Anything published by a young author today could be under copyright for as much as 150 years. While this sounds good, what actually happens is that it dooms this young artist to obscurity from about five to ten years after publication. The vast majority of authors simply go out of print. If their material is in copyright, they will never be picked up and redistributed by public domain sources.

Okay, it's guilty secret time. Two of my favorite authors are H. Rider Haggard and Thorne Smith. Haggard, as a standard has between five and ten of a corpus of about seventy novels in print (usually King Solomon's Mines, She and some selection of the Quatermain novels. A majority of these are now in the public domain in the US, so they are becoming available in electronic formats (see Blackmask in the left column for one location). However, everything published after 1923 has been grandfathered in to the new copyright law. As a result all post 1923 Haggard books are out of print and basically unavailable legally to readers in the US. Readers in Australia are more fortunate as all copyright expires fifty years after the death of the author. Thorne Smith, my second example, may not have a single book in print presently. I have ancient copies of Topper, Topper Takes a Trip, The Rain in the Door, Nightlife of the Gods, I Married a Witch, and The Bishop's Jaegars. These works are essentially unavailable to the reading public in any form whatsoever. Under present copyright law, the works of C.S. Lewis (which under reasonably law would already be public domain) will not become public domain until 2053 (1963 + 90 years). This is ludicrous and ultimately detrimental. If the same were true of much of Chesterton, we would have no editions of his works available.

Eldred v. Ashcroft seeks to redress the harm done through the continuous extension of copyright law. The original framework provided copyright protection for a total of 34 years. While this seems unfair (that an author's work might leave their control during their lifetime) it is certainly more reasonable than the current 100 years or more.

Being one of those authors who might otherwise be remanded to totally obscurity, I ardently support the effort undertaken by Lawrence Lessig to have this control mechanism overturned.

Next week: Why I would like to try to a distributist featuring mega-book-sellers with staffs who know almost nothing about books. (I once called Borders to ask for a book called "Emerson Among the Eccentrics." The Clerk said "Emerson?" I said, "Yes, as in Ralph Waldo Emerson." The Clerk said, "Is that I-m-m-e-r-s-o-n?" From illiterate booksellers and sour-faced saints, good Lord deliver us.)

Okay--we will now enter the diatribe-free zone. Thank you for listening.

For more cogent, reasoned, and reasonable argument on the same topic see Macaulay on Copyright. The points made therein are as valid today as they were when articulated over 150 years ago.

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On Reading Poetry


On Reading Poetry

Mr. Abbot posts something provocative in the comments column of a post below and I thank him both for his generosity of comment and for his deep humility:

I liked the final four lines, but the everything prior to that I'm having a hard time interpreting. Like I said, though, I'm poetically illiterate, so it's probably like a kindergartner trying to solve a high school algebra problem.

And I want to respond first with a profound, and deeply humble, thank you for reading it at all. And then with the following encouragement. The short form is--everyone out there can read any poem there is and appreciate it or not--it is not a reflection on the individual's ability to understand poetry or the on individual. I've had dozens of people scan my site for my insights into "Holy Sonnet 14" and Thomas Hardy's "Total Eclipse." Let me tell you all something--you are all capable of reading these and making them your own. I know your professors don't help you feel confident in this--but take my word for it, you are capable, you needn't share or even believe my insights, as they come from personal experience, not necessarily deep study.

I didn't want to talk about this in the context of the poem involved, because it begins to sound defensive. The point I want to make from this is that our educational system makes people feel poetically illiterate and inept. In truth, poetry is one of the easiest of the writing disciplines to appreciate if you are not concerned with "interpreting" it. Sometimes the images and words are unclear--that is certainly a possibility I must examine in the poem in question as I revise and reconsider, but more often, we are taught to seek what is not necessarily there, to fabricate some web of meaning. T. S. Eliot did us all a serious disservice with "The Waste Land." He stole poetry from the populace and remanded it to the ivory tower.

I am not a poet of the ivory tower school, nor do I particularly relish many such poets. Poetry needs to appeal on a fundamental level--are the images accurate and clean does the language flow? There is no particular skill needed to read a poem. Perhaps you don't immediately absorb all the levels of meaning. But then one wouldn't expect to do so in looking at any text.

Enjoy it first. Listen to the words, read it aloud. I'm not saying my poetry is the best for this. Start with the Keats below and read aloud the Sonnet "To Sleep." Savor the sound of the words and don't worry about interpreting it.

Sometimes things are obscure because they may be too personal. This is likely in the San Antonio Poem--it is a very personal reflection. But poetry IS personal and it is personal both for the poet and for the audience. Even the very best audience cannot make every poem personally their own. Witness my appalling inability to read very many of the moderns. I'm sure even Dylan, who is the among the best of us in the appreciation of poetry, has poets he has difficulty with. This does not mean that the reader is illiterate, merely that not everything speaks to everyone.

But I think my most important advice to anyone reading a poem is--relax. Don't interpret, enjoy. There isn't going to be a quiz. No one is going to cross-examine you to see if you obtained every nuance of meaning. I promise I will not send you an e-mail that asks you if you got the obscure cross reference to a forgotten Irish-Scots expatriate Elizabethan poet in line seven. It doesn't matter if you do. What matters is that you allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying the poetry at the very surface. Swim with it, speak with it, read it aloud. If it has a message for you, listen. If not, don't worry, not everything will.

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my guilty pleasures. I don't know if any of his poetry has any meaning whatsoever outside of the surface of the poem. But when I read something like "The Bells" with a refrain similar to this from the first section:

from "The Bells" Edgar Allan Poe Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells- From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

I find that I want to say it, sing it, shout it, play with it. Does it have any great meaning? Perhaps, but even so, so what? Revel! feast! enjoy! That is what poetry is about. We knew that as children and had it torn out of us by relentless teachers who were desperately trying to impart to us a sense that there is another way to enjoy poetry. Many of us came to learn that way, but it is important to remember neither is better nor worse, poetry should be enjoyable on whatever level you try to read it.

So, my advice to readers. Don't worry about interpretation. If you love a poem you will read it and reread it and reread it and it will come to have meaning after meaning after meaning based on your experience of it and your experience of the truths that it tells.

Do we understand every nuance of Psalm 23--I doubt it. But as we have grown, our understanding of it has changed from something like a word-picture (when we were little children) to something portending great comfort and great support.

So, I appreciate the compliment of a good soul reading my poetry and struggling with levels of meaning, but please don't trouble yourself with that. Enjoy the word-picture first, if it appeals, read it again, and accept whatever meaning it may have for you. If it doesn't appeal, if the picture doesn't make sense, don't attribute it to your own deficiencies as a reader, but understand that sometimes communication is imperfect. Poets are imperfect and the poetic craft is such that not every poem is meant for every ear or heart. That is okay. Remember, you probably like some Psalms a great deal more than you like others. Even the grandest poetry inspired by God cannot appeal to every person at every point in life's journey. Please believe me when I say I am not one of the great intellects in the world, anything I write is accessible to nearly everyone, and everyone is welcome. I don't anticipate that all poems will appeal to everyone. Dylan has an extraordinarily broad range of tolerance, appreciating poetry that I find, to put it politely, not to my taste. But in reading what he has posted, I begin to understand that part of my deficiency in taste is a reaction people who wanted me to interpret and "get something out of" the poem, to poseurs who read certain kinds of poetry because it was de rigeur in the prevelant intellectual atmosphere. This is simply the wrong approach. Take heart everyone, poetry really is open to you all, and as you read more and simply move with its rhythms and enjoy its language. You will discover that your ability to read it vastly increases. You may never be one of the foremost poetry critics of the world, but you will find that poetry present a pleasant little occupation for a still moment. After all, you needn't spend the time on a poem that you spend on a novel!

My last word--ENJOY!!!

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Coming Soon to a Blog


Coming Soon to a Blog Near You:

I had hoped to blog at lunchtime. Too much time spent eating and chatting--so, this evening when more time abounds--Lawrence Lessig (have to have time for this as the cause is so close to my heart) and "Judge not lest yet be judged."

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One Last, More Serious Poem


One Last, More Serious Poem

Okay, here's one last orignially unfinished poem that decided it was actually finished after all. I had three more lines that trailed off into oblivion, but upon reflection, the poem called itself complete as I present it below.

Impression: San Antonio
Steven Riddle

From a perch in Hill Country my fake-adobe cell
opens onto iron grillwork of a ledge, not a balcony,
that hangs tightly over a handsbreadth
of green and flowers. "Just press here. Some folks seen
a wasp's nest and called and we come right out and
take care of it." I thank him and pass a small
baton of green and see him out. A wasp's nest--
I'm thinking now how did I happen to be here--all
the way across the river and the wide expanse
of plain from where my heart cries out to be,
here in the city that sat at the crossroads of
a history--reduced now to a swarming black sea
of twisted, braided byways. As I look
into the distance
will the church that once transformed a world
loom up and fill the horizon? Or will the waste
of plastic malls and all-the-same eateries mold
this landscape into unhallowed ground.

©2002 Steven Riddle

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Lest You Come to Admire


Lest You Come to Admire My Art too Greatly

For those who stand in awe of poets because of what they do--here's something to lower your estimation. I suppose we can refer to this as "daily doggerel."

Nessie Steven Riddle (upon reading that an Italian geologist "solved" the mystery of the Loch Ness monster)

The Loch Ness Monster
appears with a shake,
so we must dismiss it
as an earthquake.

The Latin is clear,
what Columba fought
shouldn't be feared
and shouldn't be thought

of as monster
at all, but a roll
and a shudder,
a shifting of Earth.

Thus dies a mystery,
without a fight,
we undo all history
and put out all light.

©2002 Steven Riddle

Even Dylan, with all his grace and aplomb will find it extraordinarily difficult to find anything redeeming in this poem. If you are all a very polite audience, I will not try your patience with my other little spectacular piece "Evolution." Although, because I'm feeling mean, I will share the following untitled "poem" written to my Grandmother.

Untitled Steven Riddle to my Grandmother, on her birthday

The day you were born
was the happiest day of my life,
for without you,
my father would have no wife.

©2002 Steven Riddle

There, that should take care of your esteem for poets for a while!

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Foreknowledge and Predestination I have


Foreknowledge and Predestination

I have always wondered about predestination. In certain translations of the Bible there is no question that some verse indicate that we are "predestined." And how does predestination fit in with free will. If we are truly predestined in the way humans must understand this, then free will is a farce and not worthy of further consideration.

It seems to me that predestination is actually an open-ended path. Think of it this way. God knows all things. He knows all the possibilities of all things. Our lives are often a series of branching choices. Each of those choices leads to a predestined end. At the end of each choice are more choices, and so forth. Like a master chess player, God sees the end of all moves and knows all the possibilities. There is a predestined end for those whose choices are always self-centered and largely unthinking, equally there is a predestined end for those who have God at the center of all the choices. God knows all the paths we will take and so He knows ultimately whether or not we will come to Him. (I would also favor with a God of mercy and justice that the paths may be ever so slightly rigged in His favor). Thus we are predestined in the sense that every outcome is known, but we are not predestined in the sense that ever choice has been made in advance. Our choices do make a difference and they do shape the paths of our lives in ways already known.

Each time we opt for closeness to God, the paths tend to lead us further in the same direction. In this sense we can begin to understand the claim "Once saved, always saved." It isn't true, as Paul tells us when he says that he "is working out my salvation in fear and trembling." However, it certainly appears to be the way things happened. Once we make a choice for Christ it is more probable that our next choice will also be made for Christ and so forth.

Do not let that lull you. Choices can be made, and are made all the time, that lead away from Jesus. We can and do sin. Each sin is a choice made against the paths God would have us follow, and each sin draws us further away from that path that stays closest to God. You can fall away--many have. Even so, we are assured that the good shepherd will leave the ninety-nine to go and seek the one. It is through these life choices and paths that we are sought. Even on the paths totally lost in dissolution and darkness, we can choose to move back toward God. They may not be dramatic choices at each step, but getting out of the eddies at the bank and back into waters that lead to the deeper channels is a choice made in the right direction.

God knows our lives, He knows their shape. He allows us a shape that does not conform to Him, and yet conforms perfectly to the shape of all other lives. He also allows us a shape that is in close, if not perfect conformity to Him. We choose, spiritual laws direct. God knows us, and His knowledge is judgment and mercy. He is a good father who, refrains as long as He can from discipline, hoping that the discipline will come from within. But sometimes the precipitous decline of our fortunes is the chastening required to hurry us back to the right path.

Thus the twenty-third psalm can be called the "Psalm of Predestination" for those who heed its advice and who choose to follow the shepherd. "He leadeth me in right paths for His name's sake." Those paths, the paths of foreknowledge and predestination, always converge in the throne room of our Lord. The Shepherd cannot lead us wrong, we can only stray from His guidance.

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Bending the Knee?" I loved


Bending the Knee?"

I loved this blog by Father Jim Tucker-- partially because I have borrowed some of my gestures from the true beauty of the Byzantine rite and then spend most of my time being incensed if someone kneels before the right syllable is pronounced. And partially because if I ask six Catholics what you are supposed to do, I often get a plethora of possibilities. No wonder so many are doing so many different things.

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Amy Welborn's Book of Saints


Amy Welborn's Book of Saints

I just wanted to share with everyone a brief review of a very nice book I just came by St. Blog's own Ms. Welborn, who has a number of these (I think) published by Loyola press. The one I have is a hardbound book called Book of Saints. It is a very nicely written book for, I imagine, the middle school to perhaps early high-school crowd. Readability does not strike me as high, so home-schooled fourth and fifth graders may be able to get a good deal from reading it. After a general introduction, Ms. Welborn produces some short lives of saints. They are divided into categories designed to be high interest and motivate reading. For example, "Saints are people who surprise others" includes St. Simeon Stylites, St. Celestine V, St. Joan of Arc, and St. Catherine of Siena. "Saints are people who create" includes St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of the Cross among others. There are 15 such categories with 4-6 saints in each category making for a total of about 66 saints covered--some aggregates, such as the Martyrs of Compèigne.

The writing is eloquent and simple without being condescending. Each biography starts with an "interest grabber" to encourage the child to read on. Each ends with a very brief summary statement that wraps up the point of the small biography presented. The biographies themselves run no more than 4-5 pages, making them suitable for all readers. I can see a myriad of interesting religion lessons coming from books so well constructed. The writing itself suggests a number of different creative writing and expository writing assignments. For example, within a cluster, it would be interesting to choose two of your favorites and compare and contrast their lives. What does this tell you about God's grace in the lives of saints.

For those of you with school-age children at home, you would do well to consider such marvelous books as gifts. God-fathers and God-mothers these would make excellent presents for any occasion.

I hope and pray Ms. Welborn continues the wonderful work that I see in these books. Normally, I don't plug things, but given that this is one of our own parishioners, and on her blogsite she doesn't seem to do a lot of self promotion--or else it gets lost in the commotion, I thought I'd give you an outsider's point of view.

One thing I would suggest for future editions, companion books, or similar books (and it may already be available) are lesson plans including writing possibilities, strengthening reading comprehension, and other craft and art related lessons that could be derived from these short biographies.

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Update on Prayer Request Well,


Update on Prayer Request

Well, the family I mentioned some time ago finally got word, and they will be moving to the Northern Virginia area. I thank you all for praying thus far and ask for your continued prayers. The previous post got a few volunteers to help out with advice, etc. If you could consider assisting, largely with advice and info it would be very helpful, please comment below, or send me an e-mail with whatever contact information you are willing to share. This is likely to be a long trial as the family consists of five children in addition to the parents and Mom is likely to be left at home for some time as initial things are worked out on the NoVA end. So please continue your prayers. Thanks so much!

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We're All Individuals
Important Update:A correspondent pointed out an error in the blog below--St. Catherine of Siena is not a contemporary of Sts. Aquinas, Albert, and Bonaventure. My apologies to all and my thanks to the person who caught my error.

I know that Monty Python, most particularly Life of Brian is regarded with some horror in Christian circles, and perhaps some of that is warranted. However, what Monty Python most successfully skewered in their very sharp satire was not Christianity, but certain kinds of Christians and society in general.

There is a moment in the film when Brian is lecturing the crowd. He says to them "We're all individuals." The crowd intones back "We're all individuals," except for one lone voice that says, "I'm not." I love this because it is the story of America in so many ways. We are the rugged individualists, each making our own way through the wilderness, each forging a path through whatever is the new frontier (Frederick Jackson Turner is probably terribly outmoded at this point, but early in history, he may have had a number of valid points.). I doubt this was ever true. There have always been isolated individuals--Daniel Boones who did their own thing. However, these truly were the "I'm not" part of the crowd. Frontier life in fact demanded a certain conformity for the sake of safety. There may have been rugged individualism, but it was an individualism en masse. Which is why I don't find the lack of individualism today surprising, even though I do find it lamentable.

Continuing on some of the thoughts of Stephen Carter (earlier post) and Dylan's eloquent panegyric ici. Now I talk about one of the root causes of the problem and how Christianity addresses or fails to address it.

The lack of ability to break away from what others are doing, to set your own standards and adhere to them, to be something different and hold your ground, is a defining characteristic of modern American individualism. We are individual Goths, who all are completely different--their piercings, black clothing, taste in music, moribund attitude toward life being the defining individualism. We're angry brothers, or we're Angry privileged white middle class kids. This I have never understood. I can understand some of the anger simmering and seething out of some forms of rap and other music, but what do privileged, upper middle class, silver-spoon-in-the-mouth, spring-break-in-Cancun kids have to do with this anger and this culture. In what way are they disenfranchised? No Mercedes? I don't understand. But I also don't understand the reluctance to stand tall on your own. There are remarkably few Alan Keyes and Stephen L. Carters. When an African American makes it to the Supreme Court and stands on his conservative rulings he is immediately an "Uncle Tom." I'm not part of those most affected, so I suppose I cannot understand the problem "from the inside" as it were.

The problem is that we are all individuals, and not a single one of us wants to step out in any significant way. Now, I understand not wanting to bring attention to yourself, and I'm not suggesting that it is a good idea to do so. However, Christianity, the way Jesus would have it, doesn't allow us the luxury of being like everyone else in a culture of death--it simply isn't an option. Moreover, if we are to live our Christian life to the fullest, we have no choice but to be who we are in Christ, and that will always call us to stand out from the crowd--even a crowd of Christians. Our unique identities in Jesus makes each of us stellar and a leading light in a different way. Proof? Look at the saints. Look at saints who were very close in proximity and time--Didn't St. Albert, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Bonaventure teach at the same university? Didn't St. Catherine of Siena wander through Europe at about the same time? What, besides a deep and abiding love of Christ do these saints have in common? Almost nothing. What woman in her right mind wandered through Europe virtually alone in the 13th century?

Christianity, properly practiced is not the religion of sheep, even though we are all part of the flock. Christianity does not allow us a moment of conformity, but constantly calls us to challenge society and even individuals in the deep way that Jesus Christ did when He was among us. We are called to question and correct in love. We are called to challenge each other to grow and to leave behind our pet prejudices and beliefs. We are called to preach Jesus Christ, if not in words, in our lives, in our actions, and most of all in the love we show our wayward, and terribly conformist brothers.

Anyone who has had army training knows that an Army is trained to march out of step over a bridge because all of those feet moving in the same rhythm could potentially set up a resonance that would destroy the bridge and send everyone "into the drink." Our conformist society is busy crossing the bridge of civilization--without a few stalwarts to disturb the rhythm of all of those lockstep "individuals" we stand in great danger of losing it all.

But we must remember, God is all merciful, all kind, all loving, all compassionate, and He is constantly with us--if we only pay attention. And in paying attention to God we cannot help but be different from all of those around us. So our Salvation lies in Jesus Christ, in the still, small voice that replies to the claim, "We're all Individuals," with a squeaky, "I'm not!" We don't need to push our individuality in Christ into people's faces, but we do have to live it out faithfully and continue our constant striving in prayer for Union with God.

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Another Very Old Poem


This one needs some work about the edges, but I like the central image--I need to rethink certain aspects of how it is handled and have been questioned as to whether it might not be too esoteric.

Bubble Chamber
Steven Riddle

Golden Alpha skater
inscribes arcs in ice
chills steel
to cut sunlight.

Six straight lines
around a central hub
perfectly skated
forward and back.

Alpha stops
to admire his work,
sees a spiral that
worms away from the center.

Six straight lines
perfectly skated, forward and back--
a spiral inscribed
that was never skated.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

Yes, you can see bristling from the edges all of the imperfections; nevertheless, the central image is intriguing. For the central image always struck me as an instance of God's handwriting--clues for those looking that ultimately, when you had explained everything, there would remain things that could not be explained. Just as Gödel's theorem hints at a larger realtiy, so too this image.

For those who don't know, Gödel's theorem proves mathematically that within any closed system there are theorems that can be proposed but cannot be proven by the elements of the system. Ultimately, that there are things that simply cannot be known. It is a daring, intriguing, and fascinating theorem. Every time I think about it or study it, it becomes more and more suggestive. Some have posited it as a "proof" of faith or of God. It is nothing of the sort, of course, although it hints at a metasystem in which all closed systems operate, and thus an operation of an ultimately open system. But, that is perhaps drawing too much even from such a rich stream.

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Stephen L. Carter Many of


Stephen L. Carter

Many of you may already be aware of the excellent work of Stephen L. Carter. I have long admired his nonfiction and his incisive intellect. I find, more often than not, that I agree with him entirely. I recently received a copy of his novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park from the library and expected him not to be quite so successful in fiction. I'm pleased to say that I am probably wrong there as well.

But what I want to share are some of his nonfiction.

from God's Name in Vain Stephen L. Carter

Ah, how depressingly common the refrain--even when, as in this case, those speaking in a religious voice were careful to be prophetic rather than coercive. The Vatican paper did not call for a new state regulatory regime to force advertising agencies to do the right thing. It did not demand a boycott or threaten litigation. The report tried instead, in the manner of the great prophets, to persuade the executives themselves to do the right thing. But the cultural wall of separation between religion and morality is often higher than the constitutional wall of separation between church and state. Even the prophetic voice, it turns out , is often dishonored, treated as though it should be ignored simply because it is religious. Our culture is so awash in self-seeking and self-fulfillment and simple selfishness that the merest suggestion of voluntary self-restraint is viewed as an interference with individual freedom. . . the freedom, that is, to hear no contrary moral argument. Maybe advertising agencies, like abortion clinics, should be entitled to the physical protection of special zone designed to prevent those who believe they are speaking the Lord's words from getting too close to those who do not want to listen.
(p. 111)

But American culture nowadays demands as much of our time as it can get. And, by allowing us all less time, our culture is beginning to devalue the very act that make us humans unique in the animal kingdom. I refer to thinking itself. We devalue thinking. Not thought--not intelligence-- but thinking. (p. 117)

"The mere suggestion of self-restraint is viewed as an interference with individual freedom." Lines like this ring like prophetic and deeply true indictments of American culture. While freedom is precious above a great many things, its corruption--license--drains the value of freedom. We are no longer a free society by a licentious society. We are offended if someone suggests that we might want to keep the pornographic magazines behind the counter. We begin to fly into a tizzy if anyone makes the suggestion that some things need not be said, and certainly should not be shared. We leap upon the first amendment guarantee of free speech as though it came from God Himself.

Freedom of speech is important, as is freedom of conscience. But perhaps more important is freedom of the intellect that guides the former--freedom from the constraints of societal pressures to mold it in ways that cause individual expression to be the highest good. We have in the recent past been exposed at various blogs to tales of people who have said things that once fed the fires of the holocaust they seek to reimage.

All of this supports the second post. People are not taught nor are they encouraged to think. What we call critical thinking is a series of tricks for parsing language and inferring what the questioner really wants to hear. We do not wish to think. We most especially do not wish to think if we are likely to be lead away from the flock. Thinking stands to separate us from others who may think differently and reach different conclusions. This is what we fear. But if we were to spend a moment considering the matter, we would also conclude that thinking is all that allows us to build bridges between those differences. Thinking allows us to dismiss prejudice and to see through some of the surface. Thinking allows us to discern the proper direction to go. Thinking, Divine Reason, is given us as a gift, a grace, and a guide. Learning the proper employment of such a faculty is of critical importance to the person who would follow Christ and lead others to Him. It is not the most important thing, but it is important and not to be neglected. However, we fear thinking. We fear ridicule. We fear arriving at a conclusion that would force us to take action that would make us different from others.

But more critically, as a society we have been made lazy. Thinking requires effort and it may require a momentary silence of the din, exterior and interior. Concluding a train of thought requires an effort of will. Thinking also requires that we rely heavily upon Grace. We all have the ability to do it, but too often we dredge up past arguments, meager slat-and-stile fences as a bulwark against change. But thinking, deep thinking, careful consider is an incredibly important activity that too often we refuse to engage in.

Mr. Carter's books are most wonderful because they challenge one to think. They seek to fill the deeply rutted paths into which we have sunk and to show that there are new and good places to go--places that are not threatening, but enlightening and a source of hope for people who have long been abandoned. Thinking is not our salvation, but it is one of the gifts we have been given, and one which we are expected to use. Remember the parable of the talents, and start to consider what you will respond when God asks what you have done with your marvelous gift of intellect.

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We Skip to the Romantics


We Skip to the Romantics

For this poem by Keats:

To Sleep John Keats

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close
In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,
Or wait the "Amen," ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,--
Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.

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The Newest in Services I


The Newest in Services

I want to sign up for THIS service. Where can I join? How do I get the Icon? Thank you kindly, Mr. Miller.

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Bible Translation Redux Kairos


Bible Translation Redux

Kairos makes some further points about the KJV in comment below. Here is an abbreviated response.

Anything can cause error and rift--similarly, anything can lead to truth if the person is seeking. I find no problem with KJV.

As to doctrinal errors--I would simply lean upon the spirit of the time and note that they were dealing with the sacred words and with the sure knowledge that there would literally be "hell to pay" for tampering with them. I sincerely doubt anything was introduced in the words--I suspect that error came in the interpretation thereof.

For further investigation of KJV, I highly recommend Mr.Core's Catholic Page which has a link to the KJV of 1611 (here).

Your point about the Hebrew is well taken. Many still disagree as to the translation of phrases today. Hebrew is a language of many subtleties. As to your most important point. I think you would be better served by reading the philosophy and ideas of the people who produced the TMB as well as appropriate reviews and endorsements and deciding for yourself. (Such can be found here.) I found them persuasive and I find the TMB to be wonderful; however, I have a high tolerance for all things protestant, having come from the stock--so any error potential is effectively limited or neutralized. After all, any error that creeps in is counteracted by Church teaching. Moreover, as I believe I intimated before, I read the Bible to become acquainted with Christ, not to argue doctrine.

Also, Dylan has an interesting exposition and point that may or may not support your original contention, I am uncertain, as I have combed through KJVs for the last 100 years or so and have not found any such passage, even looking at the particular passage sited by Dylan. He didn't indicate whether that translation wound up in the AV of 1611.

One last word. One reason I react as strongly as I do is that people of less integrity than those that visit my site, and certainly less than I have come to know Mr. Kairos as having, sometimes use this whole chain of reasoning in a reverse "Jack Chick" tactic. I am a strong adherent of Ut Unum Sint and tend to look first for those things that can and should unite us. I think the TMB (I can't speak to the NKJV as I find it atrocious in its own right) is an example of the way things can be done right.

I guess on the Bible, I am sort of like those who favor "old Church" architecture and vent so much spleen over the new Cathedral. Modern translations tend to stun the reader into a passivity and apathy from which it is difficult to recover. Beauty of language is important to me. However, not more important that the central truths exposed. If the NAB were all I had, I would read it faithfully and thankfully for the knowledge of our Lord and Savior. Fortunately, that is not the case, and a good many very fine translations are available. While we are stuck with the NAB for liturgy (I pray the Lord lift this burden soon). I would recommend nearly ANYTHING else for personal reading, reflection, and study. My Bible of choice is TMB--but that is not everyone's cup of tea, nor should it be.

Remember, after all, I am the founder and propagator of the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society. What translation would you expect me to favor?

Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify and to make this last point: While I favor the KJV or its derivitives, I would recommend to each person that they do some careful investigation into the available translations. Most libraries have a number of Bibles on their shelves. Check them out and compare them before you decide which one will best serve you in your prayer life. (I would say however that I am highly suspicious of anything with "New" appended to an old translation--New RSV, or New Jerusalem, for example. Inclusivism to the point of lunacy seems to have crept into these translation attempts.)

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Another Very Old Poem Here's


Another Very Old Poem

Here's another from the archives:

She Encounters Herself Unclothed

Wishing she could pull
the dew up into a
cloak, like the moon
does, she stoops on
the bank to touch
the mirror, and perhaps
disturb the eyes that
watch from above.

c2002 Steven Riddle

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Slow Blogging to Start This


Slow Blogging to Start

This morning I am leading my Church's reading group. The book of the month is a very gentle, very lovely book by Augusta Trobaugh entitled Resting in the Bosom of the Lamb. After we had read a good many novels that have classically been identified as Catholic Novels, th group decided that they wanted to expand our reading to take in other novels in which religion plays a major part. For our purposes this is a most interesting novel--it is about a group of elderly white women in Georgia who live with an African American woman who has waited on them and served them their entire lives. It is the story of all of these women coming to terms with a secret buried deep in their past. The religion featured is Southern Baptist or a variant thereof, complete with a tent rivival in Georgia summer. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As I said it is gentle, beautiful, interesting, and provides a nice comparison of how spiritual matters are handled in novels in a tradition outside of Catholicism. Needless to say, there are some pronounced differences between the two in how spiritual matters affect the outcomes and characters.

The group has expressed an interest in reading one nonfiction piece--Donald Currie's Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic. Most of the reading group members are cradle Catholics and so don't have any profound understanding of where a protestant is coming from. This book is helpful in understanding the protestant mindset, and would probably have helped before reading Trobaugh's book.

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More on Bible Translations


In the comments below Mr. Kairos says:

But how accurate are TMB and KJ21? The big problem with KJV was not its poetry but its accuracy: have they removed the horns from Moses coming down the mountain?

I have read the KJV for most of my life and have never come across this "inaccuracy." If you are referring to the Statue of Moses by Michaelangelo with the "horns" those, as I understand it, were a result of an imperfection in the marble that did not allow Michaelangelo to complete the halo that they were to represent. He left the horns in place to try to hint at the halo. Please feel free to check my accuracy by looking at this site. Perhaps I have missed this, and if so, I tender my sincere apologies for overlooking it.

I figure a version of the Bible that guided Christians for nearly four centuries (into the 20th century) without serious errors regarding most "mere Christianity" doctrinal points is probably sufficient to guide us in the 21st century. It may not be accurate enough for the most careful philological studies. However, I use this Bible as a devotional tool. A devotional tool is most effective if it is carefully and frequently read. There is almost no other Bible that I WANT to read daily. The supposedly highly accurate NASB is nearly incoherent in its accuracy. From what I'm hearing of the NAB there are some serious questions I have regarding the sudden "inclusiveness" of language. For example, in this entry from 16 September Mass readings, I know of no other translation that includes the first line below:

Brothers and sisters:
In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact
that your meetings are doing more harm than good.
First of all, I hear that when you meet as a Church
there are divisions among you,
and to a degree I believe it;

Even if this is merely a carry-over from a previous verse to indicate that we are reading a letter addressed to people, I find it implausible that Paul, in his time, would have used such an address.

Compare it with the same passage from King James:

Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that you come together not for the better, but for the worse...

This second passage is clearly a rebuke. The NAB sounds like the beginning of a paean of praise. "I do not praise..." is a phrase that always invites the reader to listen for the "However", which never comes.

Also, I noted in Sunday's Gospel passage:

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

The phrase translated here as "seventy-seven times", in nearly every other translation of the Bible I have read has been translated "seven time seventy times." I cannot reproduce for you the Greek characters here (I suppose I could, but I just don't feel like coding it) but it reads "seven times seventy times." Now this certainly can be a result of variant texts, but then, the question of variant texts is always with us.

The question of accuracy has much to do with your purposes--obviously you don't want blatant error, but I prefer the translation of the verse in Isaiah to say, "A virgin shall be with child" as opposed to "A young woman," in the second instance there is certainly nothing notable or remarkable. The King James version did have some inaccuracies, but none, that I am aware of central to faith or to the mystery of Jesus Christ, Word Incarnate. And in many cases the language is far more accurate and precise than the substitutions we have allowed to creep in all but unacknowledged. Often translations substitute "Justice" for "judgment" in reference to God's "judgment." The two are not equivalent.

Moreover, I once had a very devout, very Holy Jesuit recommend that everyone read, for devotional purposes, The Good News Bible. So, my very long answer to Mr. Kairos is--the degree of accuracy necessary depends much upon the purpose to which you are putting the text. As a devotional text, that is most useful which you most often read. If you want the very best for close study purposes, I am told that the RSV serves that purpose well and manages to preserve some of the majestic language and beauty present in the KJV.

I hope the above is not too strident, but I'm always a little disturbed by these charges of inaccuracy. Many biblical scholars will tell you that passages are still hazy, that variant texts make things very difficult to decipher. Finally, I think it does a disservice to the translators of the King James Version who worked their very best with the materials at hand. Perhaps there are inaccuracies, but the beauty of the language and the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit who accompanies us in prayer and in the understanding of Scripture, along with the firm guidance of the teaching Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church would keep us from serious error.

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from "Monet at Giverny"
Steven Riddle

June 1922
The end
of my stay, my art,
my canvasses, my footbridge,
the waterlilies will be here
when I cannot see them.
Just now they fade from my sight,
dimming against the water.
I think it is sunset.

My house is cold,
a rose in frost with no door.
I am alone,
the evening is more red than sunset,
I stand at the center of a flower
opening dew-laden petals.
It is morning.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

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Reflection on Psalm 84 From


Reflection on Psalm 84

From an unfinished piece:

Reflection on Psalm 84 Steven Riddle

1. How lovely is thy dwelling place, Lord God of Hosts.

How could we know? What clues are given us by the psalmist that we could begin to recognize the loveliness of God's dwelling place?

Open your eyes! Where do you think God dwells? In some far distant heaven, some place above the clouds and beyond the stars? Well, of course you are right in part.-Certainly He dwells there. But that is only part of the answer, because He also dwells within the blue of the sky and within the heat of the sun on a warm summer day. In fact He dwells within every molecule and every vacuum empty space, in every place you can conceive of and in unimaginable places you cannot know. And, perhaps most mysteriously of all He dwells within every human heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. These hearts are His preferred dwelling places. And certainly to Him there is no more handsome seat, no lovelier abode than the yielding heart that prepares Him even the smallest, most cramped space. Teach me to see the true loveliness of your dwelling places, O Lord.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

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Bible Translations From Dylan, who


Bible Translations

From Dylan, who has an ear for language:

I've discovered that the 21st Century King James Bible (KJ21) and the Third Millennium Bible (TMB) are, in fact, the same translation with this solitary difference : TMB has Apocrypha; KJ21 doesn't. Both are quite good.

I may continue using the RSV for Biblical quotations, and 1928 BCP for the Psalms, unless otherwise noted. But I'm thinking of switching to a KJ21/TMB reference.

What I would like to know is--who approves the leaden translation we are forced to use in our liturgies? Accuracy (to which I cannot speak) aside, it has to be the most pedestrian, dull, and flat translation in recent years. The revision seems only to exacerbate the difficulties of the original. It is a truly "impossible to memorize" translation as the language lacks memorable imagery and rhythm. I think of the passage in yesterday's(?) mass. In the marvelous King James version it reads "Now we see as in a glass darkly." The approved translation comes out "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror." Not only is it dramatically unmemorable, it makes no sense. There are very few people in the present day who have mirrors that do not reflect clearly. This statement simply has no meaning to a civilization that largely tends to forget its history and its relics. How is seeing in a mirror indistinct? Sometimes it is sharper than the unaided eye. But the language "in a glass darkly" sets the whole image in the right context--when mirrors were not silvered but mica-backed and very imperfect based upon the mica itself. When we redo the liturgy, would someone in power please ask the good Bishops to consider a translation with some body, depth, rhythm, and resonance? I'm not saying that we should revert to the King James, but surely we can come to a compromise that preserves some of the beauty of Biblical English and provides clarity of understanding.

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Love and Reason T. S.


Love and Reason

T. S. O'rama makes the following comment on his blog:

That would seem to be the way it should be, the way we were designed. Faith and reason side-by-side in glorious company. On the other hand, if one must choose, choose the heart! For Aquinas' vision stands as a warning to us all: all his writings were as straw compared to Love.

This is a very interesting point. I believe that they do ALWAYS exist side by side, but usually terribly out of balance. For that reason some of us need to focus our energies in different ways. As Maureen notes in the comment box below, it probably wouldn't hurt for those who are very "love-oriented" to have a better grasp of the intellectual aspects of faith. I hear all manner of anti-intellectualism in the church--from a gross misunderstanding of what the historical-critical method is and can accomplish, to completely off-the-wall interpretations of Vatican II documents that cannot be read by any person in full possessiion of their faculties to mean what some have made them out to mean. Yes, love and reason do exist side by side, but not as fully integrated most times as they were in those great Saints Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. And with modernism and post-modernism deconstructing people all over the place. . .

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The Welborn Protocol Discussion continues

With clarifications by Dylan that better approximate my original intent (that is, if one is not using the correspondent's words but expressing an anonymous general intent), an amusing entry by T.S. O'Rama that makes sly jabs at other church goings-on, comments below by Mr. Kairos (with whom I respectfully maintain my disagreement), and Karen Marie Knapp, and a blog by Mr. Core (again with whom I respectfully disagree, but with some qualifications--multiple e-mails and absence of comment boxes do add extenuating conditions). Overall it has been fascinating to examine reactions. I hope you all enjoy as well.

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Temporary Removal Removed So that


Temporary Removal Removed

So that you are all not burdened by extremely slow page-loading, I have temporarily removed Haloscan (commenting) code. If this promises to be a feature every day, it will be removed permanently. If you have comments, please e-mail me. Please let me know if I may share your comments in future entries. Thank you.

Later (11:45) Commenting back on. Haloscan's explanation seems quite reasonable and feasible--the vagaries of the net and those who actually control it. . .

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The Dangers of Attachment to


The Dangers of Attachment to Very Good Things

The preceding discussion of tide pools was meant to launch this little column because I intend to present one of the harder aspects of St. John of the Cross's teachings. One thing John points out is that there are very real, substantive, spiritual goods to which people become attached and which, as a result, hinder such people from growing closer to God. I thought I'd share a real example from my own life that chronicles an on-going struggle, as well as a partially resolved struggle.

At one time I was approached by a local apologetics group to consider joining them in their mission. This was appealing in a number of ways. First, it was flattering that someone would seek my membership in anything (vanity). Second, I like to argue. No, let's not say argue, as many take that the wrong way, I like to reason, to bump up ideas against one another and see what happens. That said, I also like to swap sides in any debate or discussion at a moment's notice and argue the other side (hardly helpful in apologetics). Third, I thought that it would provide me with, as Saint Paul enjoins, the ability, "to give reasons for the joy you know." (probably misquoting, but you know what I'm talking about.)

What I did not take into account is the very real dangers of preparing for apologetics. Everyone should be ready to defend the Gospel and the Church, but not everyone should necessarily defend it in the forum of apologetics. Within the group that invited me, I saw a number of twisted, bitter, inflexible, angry people who saw in every action and every word the deliberate deconstruction of the Church they loved. Holding hands during the Our Father was second only to the Modernist Heresy in the evils of the modern Church. (Frankly, while it may be an issue--I find dissenting Priests and Bishops, Nuns for Choice, and other difficulties far more pressing and far more in urgent need of rectification than holding hands.) In addition, the question of apologetics appealed very strongly to my intellect. While that might seem a good thing, I came to realize that, for me, it was, in fact, a very bad thing.

Let me digress for a moment here to talk about my decision to become a Carmelite. I had a very good friend who was a Benedictine Oblate. When I told her about this desire she said to me, "Carmelites are all heart and no head, you need to join something like the Dominicans or the Benedictines." At the time, I did not recognize the error of the statement, and accepted it at face value. God, in fact, used it to confirm my vocation, because when she said that, my immediate response was, "God is entirely in my head, I need for Him to trickle down to my Heart and change it." The Carmelites, if they were all heart, was precisely where I belonged. So as not to needlessly lengthen this digression, which has as its point that last sentence, I will perhaps talk about the error implicit in the statement at another time.

Apologetics had the same appeal. I tend to be very much in my head all the time. Apologetics feeds the head of certain types of individuals. That is why I believe the act of apologetics is a very real vocation, as much as is a Carmelite vocation. To properly do apologetics, there must be a very strong, established pathway between head and heart. One must be much as Aquinas, living in the head automatically and expansively feeds the heart that loves God. Not so for me. Feeding the head served to make me more distant from God. The more I know about God the less I tend to practice any practical love for Him, assuming that the practice consists in knowing of Him. It is ironic. But I am not Augustine or Aquinas, and my model for faith really needs to be a Therese or a Bernadette. Therese was highly intelligent and capable, but her faith and approach to God was very simple and deliberate. Bernadette was not gifted intellectually, but her faith was a brilliant, shining jewel of child-like simplicity. Those had to be my models. Thus, for me, apologetics was a dangerous path and a dangerous attachment. Now, I sit and marvel at the wonderful spun-glass texture of the arguments and intricacies of apologetics, but I sit amazed as a spectator at the construction, not as a participant.

However, I haven't entirely escaped the danger. One thing I truly love are commentary and "apologetics" Bibles. The new Ignatius version of the Gospels that are coming out, the IVP Commentary on Scripture, the Navarre, etc. What happens to me when I read such a Bible is that I grow exceedingly distant from God. I move from knowing Him to knowing about Him. I suddenly know all sorts of facts about words and about how Ancient Hebrews viewed certain things, and about what the Church Fathers thought about certain passages of Scripture. What I don't know is what God wants ME to see in scripture. My indulgence in these very good things, my attachment to these readings, prevents me from entering into real prayer. Scripture no longer is a vehicle for entering into prayer, it is an elaborate complex of semantic games, archaeological discussions, historical-critical methods, and any number of other pieces of scholarly folderol that serve only to keep me from the core of what I should be doing. That said, I have to say that there are many of substantially different personality who may be able to integrate these things seamlessly into a glorious and beautiful faith-life. Not so for me, because I view the whole as a sort of game and a kind of intellectual play. This very good thing, and my attachment to it, keeps me from God.

Now, I recognize this problem, and so, I must wean myself from my reliance on these things and get back to the word. Yes, having been through this will help to contextualize the word, and perhaps make Lectio more fruitful, but it has also served as a check on knowing and loving God as I should.

I present this story simply to give everyone cause for reflection and realization, and also to make more concrete what St. John of the Cross means when he talks about the ability of very good spiritual practices to hamper our access to God. We can let the lesser good obscure our view of the greater. In fact, almost all of us do. It is very important to see what practices, books, thoughts, deeds, objects, people, or events serve to distract us most from serving God.

At the present time, blogging has served to deepen my faith life. I find that to explain what I believe I must analyze it carefully and subject it to the greater light of prayer. I need to understand my vocation to tell others about it. But when blogging becomes a blockade to union with God, when it no longer helps me strengthen my faith or deepen my love of God, it will have to go. Blogging often serves as a time of deep thought and deep prayer, and writing to you, whoever my readers may be, allows God to speak to me, as He has done in this very blog.

My prayer is that all of this writing may help each person who reads it to come to a deeper love and understanding of God and a closer walk with Jesus Christ. I hope that it serves as an "apologetics" of life and helps everyone to clarify their individual callings and aspirations. Further, may it serve also as an aid to an examen that will allow each person conducting it a closer more intimate relationship with God. I know those are high aspirations, but those same aspirations serve to guide what is shared here from day to day. May you who read this benefit as greatly as the writer. But most of all, may God be praised and brought forward in every mind, may He be present in every heart, may He be heard on every tongue, and may every life glorify Him, Father, Son , and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Being a Tidepool There are


Being a Tidepool

There are distinct advantages to being a tidepool on the Ocean of Blogdom. A tidepool is a relatively serene little community of critters that lives out the time between complete submergence in relative harmony. Here, I can say just about anything I care to without raising much of a ruckus or ripple. I like that--a lot. I like conversation that does not need to scream to be heard. I like civil disagreement and I like being able to talk about things that, when presented elsewhere would raise the banner of war. In short, there are certain advantages to being ignored by people who aren't interested in the main theme of this blog. I like being a tidepool, and I hope you all like the gentle aspects of visiting such a community. I sincerely hope that it is one of a number of places of rest, repose, and challenge of a different sort--challenge on a deep spiritual level. Because that's what I'd like to present to all, encouragement and challenge.

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Thank You First, my sincere


Thank You

First, my sincere thanks for all who prayed for Linda and I yesterday. The projected trial was a good deal less arduous and difficult than imagined, and everything is looking good. We'd appreciate prayers for the next couple of weeks as things really get moving, but thank you. Also, please continue to pray for JB, we still don't know anything, but I'll be certain to inform you when we do. Thanks.

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This Just In from


This Just In from Andrew Sullivan

From Andrew Sullivan (whom I never read as it taxes my charitable impulse to its limits) via Dylan: The next pope is likely to be Catholic!

He states that the next pope is likely to make the present pontiff seem like a liberal (I rather doubt it, but I don't think that would be entirely bad). He is a Catholic that revels in "post-Vatican II Catholicism." When statements like these are made in certain circles you can substitute the whole phrase for "moderate-to-liberal Episcopalianism." I consider myself a fully post Vatican II Catholic--after all, I didn't even enter the Church until after all the reforms were firmly in place. But the Vatican II that I hear some invoke, and that for which I have read the council papers are mere shadows of one another. I prefer the one documented on paper. In general, I must agree with Dylan's comments subsequent to the excerpt. No more John Shelby Spongs please--I prefer Christianity.

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More Wisdom from St. John


More Wisdom from St. John of the Cross

This short excerpt from his letters provides us with a glimpse into heaven.

Letter 3
St. John of the Cross

[To Madre Ana de San Alberto, prioress of Caravaca7

Granada, 1582]

...since you say nothing to me, I tell you not to be foolish and not to walk with fears that intimidate your soul. Return to God what he has given you and gives you each day. It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity, but it will not be so. Prepare yourself, for God desires to grant you a great favor.

There are two things I love about this letter--it's straightforward simplicity and its firm direction. "Return to God what he has given you and gives you each day." That is, don't store it up and plan to return it at some other time. Don't hoard the treasures God showers on you. Every day as you receive, give out. As you are blessed, bless those around you. As God graces you, let the graces flow through you and out to grace the entire world. In a small sense, I suppose, we are all distributors of God's grace, we all act in miniature as the Blessed Mother. People who are ignorant of Christ can be blessed and "graced" by us. The starving, the thirsty, the poor, the downtrodden, even the merely sad or grieving can be lifted up by the spirit of Christ within us and graced by the same Holy Spirit--if we choose to allow it. Mother Teresa was a prime example of someone whose very presence lifted up God's people, because she gave back to Him, in the persons of all those around her, all that she received in a day.

The second wonderful moment in this brief letter is, "It seems you want to measure God by the measure of your own capacity," this is powerful beyond words, and true for every one of us. We, most unconsciously, put limits on what God can accomplish. We are not big enough, so God cannot do what is needed. We are so inelastic, so inflexible, so rigidly set, that we restrict the channels of grace through which God may work. If you recall Jesus could do no miracles in His own home town, "A prophet is without honor in his own country." This is not because He could not work miracles, but the stubborn unbelief and inflexibility of the inhabitants restricted God's action. He will not force us to accept any of His gifts. He may plead, cajole, and offer, but He will not force. So, if we measure God by the narrow margins of our own human hearts, we are casting out the wonderful possibilities inherent in His grace, because God came not to fit into the narrow boundaries of the heart, but to expand our hearts into His own. For that we need to accept the radical necessity for a fundamental change in our outlooks.

And we are told, "Prepare yourself for God desires to grant you a great favor." What greater favor could there be than to replace our stony hearts with hearts of flesh (to quote Ezekiel, I think)? What greater favor than to take away our human limitations to love and replace them with His own love? In so doing, He removes our self-involvement, our self-centeredness, our fear. We must cooperate in this work, we must prepare ourselves. We do so through the sacraments, through prayer, and through actions in the world that let God speak to others. We do so in putting ourselves aside and "putting on Christ." We do so whenever we break out of ourselves enough to breathe the air of heaven and when we use that to change the world in which we live, be it ever so slightly. When we smile at someone who has grown accustomed to our scowl, when we wave at someone to thank them as we drive our cars, when we share a cup of coffee, or listen to someone who desperately needs an ear. All of these things, small though they seem, prepare the way of the Lord.

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Prayer Request Hi all! There


Prayer Request

Hi all! There are two needs for which I would like to request prayers. A very dear friend's daughter (daughter's name is JB) has as yet undiagnosed lumps in her breast, please pray for her health and the peace of mind of her family. My wife and I have an arduous trial to face today and could do with as many prayers as we could get. Thank you.

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William Blake In some things


William Blake

In some things we must admit that Blake was a good deal ahead of his time. His strange mysticism has always given me pause, but the occasionally transcendent verse has always thrilled me. Thus with this wonderful little piece.

The Divine Image William Blake To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love All pray in their distress; And to these virtues of delight Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is Man, his child and care.

For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.

Too bad even some Christians cannot remember this. Gandhi was once, perhaps apocryphally, quoted as saying, "Christianity is a fine religion, too bad so few practice it." Are we vehicles of God's Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love? If someone were in serious trouble could they come to us without hesitation? Or, do we sit in judgment on everything that comes to us? Are we inviting and welcoming people, or are we people who alienate those who would rely upon us? Too often, without even knowing it, people can see themselves condemned in our eyes. They see themselves as guilty and us as the jury that found the guilt. I know that chief on my list of "things to do" is let God look out through my eyes, so that what people see when they see me is the welcome that Jesus gave tax collectors and others who did not live up to society's expectations. Always my prayer is , "May God use me today to bring someone the love of Jesus."

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Visit the William F. Buckley


Visit the William F. Buckley Blogsite!

Courtesy of T. S. O'Rama, this very amusing bit of reportage is worth your time, as is the wonderful quotation from Muggeridge immediately (?) below. Enjoy!

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The "Welborn Protocol" I am


The "Welborn Protocol"

I am filled with tremendous trepidation as I write. I have no wish to stir up controversy, nor should this writing be taken as an indictment of any individual, most especially not the individual whose name is appended to the protocol, but I have long been disturbed by a growing trend that is exemplified in this.

Courtesy and etiquette has fallen victim to convenience everywhere around us. We have young salespeople who are suddenly our best friends, calling us by our first names. In some restaurants we have servers who sit down at the table to take your order, essentially inviting themselves into a family gathering or intimate dinner. The "Welborn Protocol" is the blog exemplification. Throughout history, letters, and notes have been considered private, privileged communication--not to be shared willy-nilly, and certainly not to be quoted, extracted, or otherwise used by the recipient for any purpose without the express prior, usually WRITTEN consent of the individual. Mail is a private means of communication. On most sites that announce that they adhere to the "Welborn Protocol" there is a very obvious ability to leave comments--thus, if a person communicating wished to do so, he or she could leave a public communication for everyone to see. The privacy of an e-mail should be assumed as the privacy of any communication between two people not intended for a larger audience. The posting of a notice to the effect that you can be quoted if you do not specify otherwise is hardly a compensation.

What is happening is that traditionally accepted protocols, courtesy, and etiquette is abandoned in favor of the convenience of an author or poster. I have almost never written e-mail to a site that posts the "Welborn Protocol" because I am put in the awkward position of having to say that I think that what I have chosen to communicate privately is indeed private. This hardly seems to be a way to make someone feel at home. Once, in extreme duress, to express solidarity with someone I was moved to write such a letter and was galled at having to say that private things should remain private.

I suppose if commenting services were not so widely available, I might see more wisdom in this. But I still think the better, more traditionally acceptable, and more courteous road would be to ask people to state in their note whether what they write can be shared, rather than assuming that it is so. This seems a presumption that dominates society.

I suppose that as Christians we should hold to a standard higher than personal convenience. If something occurs in a private communication that might make for an interesting blog, why not write that individual requesting permission to share their ideas?

Yes, I know that some sites receive enormous traffic and that this might lead to a lot of work. In such a case perhaps the better part of valor is to resolve that materials arrive in e-mail will not be used under any circumstances. I doubt that the blogsite would lose many of its blogs, and the example of care, courtesy, and true Christian charity and respect for the individual would shine out.

Once again, I repeat, I do not impute any motives to those who adhere to the protocol. At this point it is rather an "Everyone is doing it " phenomenon. But rather than "everyone doing it" shouldn't we be carefully thinking through the ramifications of doing so, and shouldn't we choose not to do so if the message sent is that we respect our own time and convenience more than the persons who visit our site?

One explanation for my reactions, I suppose, is that I was raised with a EXTREMELY southern sense of courtesy and hospitality. The rules were strict, inflexible, and in place for a very good reason. For example, in the south, one rarely launches immediately into business (particularly in a small town) without inquiring about the health and happiness of various kin, etc. Yes--I know the modern age is push, push, push, hurry, hurry, hurry. But isn't that precisely one of the things we should be combating.

To all who drop by who presently use the protocol, I respectfully ask that you carefully consider it in the light of traditional values and what it is really accomplishing for you. I don't ask that you change it, that would be intrusive, but I do beg that you consider what implications it has, and what it says about the value we place on people. If you do not have a huge heavy-volume website, perhaps the protocol is entirely unnecessary.

I expect a great deal of criticism and I sincerely apologize right now if my arguments above have offended anyone. They are not intended to do so, and, frankly, I am horrified at the thought. I present them simply to provide an alternative perspective on an issue that I believe has gone largely unexamined. Every person who visits here is precious in the eyes of God and to me. I pray for the people who read the entries here every day (largely that I haven't said anything stupid or erroneous that would lead them astray, but for their own intentions and needs as well). I want to do the very best I can to respect each person and respect that person's right to speak to me, either in public or in private, and to allow that communication to remain public or private material.

Now it is said, I have done my part and my conscience is satisfied. End diatribe.

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Contemplation in the 19th


Contemplation in the 19th Century

Behold, this extract, which was long in coming, but hard won from a poet that I have mixed feelings about. He has some of the most undeniably beautiful lyrics in the language and some of the most dreadfully maudlin doggerel to every have made its way onto a page. But then Wordsworth was a prodigiously prolific poet--few poets, have an Oeuvre nearly so great--Blake and Browning come to mind in sheer volume of words (cummings if you are merely counting pages).

From "Tintern Abbey" William Wordsworth

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

Although no real mention is made of it here, this seems to be a perfect picture of what the prayer of recollection and contemplation are all about. One gets away from the cares of the world--not necessarily to a place remote, as the description here, but to a space of silence that has been carefully cultivated over years of practice and prayer. In so doing, one moves to spend time with the ground of our being, "Almost suspended, we are laid asleep/in body" is a line almost out of St. John of the Cross. Now Wordsworth is rather like Blake, an ambiguous Christian at best, combining with Christianity the seeds of that which would become transcendentalism--a kind of pantheism. But there is no question, that a line like "while with an eye made quiet by the power/ Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,/We see into the life of things," is highly suggestive of a very well formed life of prayer and contemplation. Because this is precisely what can happen in the course of contemplation. What is described is one of the "consolations" of prayer that are not to be sought after for themselves. But in the course of seeking after Jesus in prayer, we find ourselves, from time to time in possession of such a state--and that is a grace from God to be treasured. So, in reading Wordsworth, we have a momentary taste of this (or as Omar Khayyam would have it--"A momentary taste of being from the well amid the waste. . .") and perhaps are given reason to continue on what may be an arduous journey. However we take it, "Tintern Abbey," provides us with some beautiful pictures of what it is to be able to stop for a moment and truly appreciate all that we have been given in this magnificent creation and wondrous life.

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Opening the Treasure of Scripture


Opening the Treasure of Scripture (Part I of ?)

I truly loved this bit of commentary from a relatively recent Carmelite Father.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

God is the Word. Therefore, the Word resounds in everything he created. But the Word was concentrated when it was spoken to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all of Israel. The Word was concentrated more and more, and received even greater density until it finally became flesh in Jesus Christ. This Word thus has a name; it is a person. There is now no longer any place in the Scriptures where one does not meet Jesus Christ. . . .

Just as we in our life ought constantly to remind ourselves about our origins, that we here and now exist through God's creating Word, so we should also in our Bible-reading let ourselves be taken back by the Spirit to the origin of the Word, to the place where the Word was expressed before it was written down. And the place is the Father who sends the Word, his Son, to be the light and life of all people. When I read the Bible--both the Old and the New Testament--I hear the Father speaking to me, and what he speaks is the Word, Jesus Christ.

(p. 26)

Jesus Christ, word Incarnate, is present in the entire body of the Scriptures. He is more easily perceived where He is more directly talked about, but as Christians we acknowledge his presence throughout the entirety of the Old and New Testaments. God does not speak in vain, but any speech that is not the Word is wasted words. All conversation that does not have as its aim and end the glorification of Jesus Christ, is not speech at all, but as Romano Guardini would have it, mere talk. Now, talk is not necessarily harmful, it helps to create bridges between people and to establish ground for a relationship. But talk is mere words and can lead equally to sin and terrible tragedy. There is no way that the Word can do so. Nor can any thought, conversation, meditation, or action that has as its focus the Word Incarnate.

When we sit down with the Bible, we are inviting God to visit us. If what we read on the page is simply a string of words that tell one of many already familiar story, we waste our time. If what we read on the page is God's gift to us, an inspired love letter that reaches through the ages, and despite what story may be told, touches us and says gently--"You are my beloved child," then we are approaching scripture in something like the manner it deserves.

Reading scripture has multiple purposes. One of these is to become familiar with Jesus Christ, whom we purport to serve and love. I believe Saint Jerome has been quoted as saying, "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." I cannot begin to imagine the quality of my life were I completely ignorant of Jesus Christ. Equally, I cannot begin to imagine the quality of my life if I were intimately familiar with Jesus Christ. Careful, prayerful reading of the scripture is one of the ways in which we become familiar with Jesus. It is not sufficient to listen to the Mass readings. Certainly we should do so, attentively. But we are called to make those readings ours--to internalize them and what they say. Moreover, we are called to make the Person of those Readings our constant abiding companion. We do so more readily when we have at our grasp some definitive knowledge of scripture. I was raised on the magnificent and beautiful King James Version of the Bible. The cadences and echoes of that version seem to me to allow for a better memorization. "Ack!" you say, "memorization? Yuck. Why?" The answer is simply the same reason one has pictures of one's loved ones, or icons. Scripture, is in fact, the only true picture of Jesus we have. If we love an icon for its beauty and that icon puts us in mind of Jesus Christ, that is fine. But if the Jesus it puts us in mind of bears no resemblance to the Man of scriptures, how has the icon helped us? Memorization of scripture, is like carrying a picture of Jesus with you. You tend to memorize those things that speak to you boldly. Sometimes the words of Jesus, "Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon is all of his glory was never arrayed as one of these." Sometimes they are the verbal images given us by Paul, "In my weakness is His strength." "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Whatever we remember, it is a moment away from the grind of work. To think the words of Scripture, is one way to offer back to God the most beautiful and enduring sign of His love for us--the Word.

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Love in Carmelite Writings Mr.


Love in Carmelite Writings

Mr. González (my deepest thanks to him for introducing this point), in the comment box below, posts the following excerpt from St. John of the Cross letter 13:

from Letter 13 St. John of the Cross

"For if in any way the will can comprehend God and be united with him, it is through love and not through any gratification of the appetite. And since the delight, sweetness, and satisfaction that can come to the will is not love, none of the delightful feelings can be an adequate means for union of the will with God; it is the operation of the will that is the proportionate means for this union. The will's operation is quite distinct from the will's feeling: By its operation, which is love, the will is united with God and terminates in him, and not by the feeling and gratification of its appetite that remains in the soul and goes no further. The feelings only serve as stimulants to love, if the will desires to pass beyond them; and they serve for no more. Thus the delightful feelings do not of themselves lead the soul to God, but rather cause it to become attached to delightful feelings. But the operation of the will, which is the love of God, concentrates the affection, joy, plea sure, satisfaction, and love of the soul only on God, leaving aside all things and loving him above them all.

In isolation, this is a singularly difficult passage. It compresses into a very small space much of the teaching of St. John of the Cross about prayer, consolation, and love. But there is an interesting addendum that must be considered. St. John of the Cross insists (rightfully so) on love as an action of will, not merely a feeling. Such an act may be accompanied by a feeling, but the feeling is not the fullness of love, nor in any true sense love at all (John above, refers to it as "stimulants to love.) Skip ahead three centuries to St. Thérèse. There we find that love is indeed an act of will that must be manifested in exterior actions. That is, St. Thérèse, in a sense, provides what I term "The Letter of James" corrective to the notion of love. If love remains only an action of will and is not manifested in how we treat those about us, it, like faith, is dead. Not all actions of love will have these exterior actions immediately, but every motion of love in the will is transformative and will lead to actions toward the beloved, in the person of those people who surround us. This is implied in John's letters, spelled out in some of the other writings, but made magnificently clear in the writings of St. Thérèse. This is, in part, why "The Little Flower," despite a relatively limited body of work was made a Doctor of the Church. Her vocation, "To become love at the heart of the Church," demands that love be taught clearly, resoundingly, and without compromise. The action of love can be as small as a gentle smile, or simply sitting still when what you really want to do is smack the person who is running on endlessly. (Kind of like this post--please, keep all soft vegetation for the soliloquy later.)

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Blessed Yom Kippur And following


Blessed Yom Kippur

And following a beautiful tradition, long ago established even on internet sites, I hereby tender my sincere apologies and promises of all due penance to anyone I have harmed through my writing, directly or indirectly; to any I may have offended or alienated; to any to whom I have not given proper due to their thoughts, opinions, or sharing; to anyone who may have felt demeaned; and even to those who wasted time because a search engine inadvertantly sent them to my site (the mildest of penances--my mea culpa here is very small). May peace reign in your house, where you work, in our communities, in our country and throughout the whole world. May we leave this day ready to start anew, refreshed, forgiven, and washed clean. May God grant all a sense of repentance and may we join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in their great Holy Day. Shalom to all.

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Return to Poetry--God's Storm


Return to Poetry

I know I said I would cease, but Dylan's wonderful post this weekend caused me to reconsider (read: inspired me to continue). The following poem needs work--as does everything placed here so far, but I hope that you will enjoy it.

God's Storm
Steven Riddle

God storms in me--
the brightest sun
and sky deepest
cotton puff pure
white clouds and breeze
that breathes the scent
of fresh-mown grass;
noises of children
in yards as deep
as the sea and
taste of cool tea
on a shaded
porch with neighbors
out walking by
this once to raise
a greeting hand
and smile.

In me God rages
waiting in the womb
unborn and kicking
caught in fowlers nets
a macaw calling
a single crystal
bell so clear and loud
calling first to me
and then to all who
will hear, "Come to me
all who bear heavy
burdens and cry out;
Come to me thirsty
for living water
and see what I can
give you. Come to me
and quietly rage--fight
the war of flowers
and of dew. Come you
who know the world so
well, and you who know
yourselves. Rage with me
the rage of healing
and hope, the anger
of joy and repose,
the wrath of turtle
doves and lambs."

God strikes me
concern and
deep caring
I must take
and others
strike to make
them simple,
whole and one.
He tells me
"Feed my sheep."
And I say,
"Love me, Lord."
As at my
command, He

c 2002 Steven Riddle

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Hallmarks of a Beginner in Prayer


This is from a study of the works of St. John of the Cross available at ICS (see left column).

from The Contemporary Challenge of St. John of the Cross--Chapter 4 Leonard Doohan

The pride of beginners leads to spiritual avarice. Their attachment and possessiveness of heart centers on "hearing counsels," "learning spiritual maxims," and accumulating religious objects. Nowadays, for example, this spiritual avarice can lead beginners to an attendance at innumerable prayer workshops, the needless accumulation of books on prayer, and the constant comfort and consolation of ever longer retreats and workshops.
Spiritual gluttony is also a common failing of beginners. Some manifest spiritual gluttony in seeking only the comfort, consolation, and satisfaction that involvement in the spiritual life can bring. "All their time is spent looking for satisfaction and spiritual consolation" (N, 1, 6, 6).

Two other weaknesses follow from those already mentioned, namely spiritual envy and sloth. Beginners often become dissatisfied with the comfort they experience and are envious at anyone else's spiritual growth. Moreover, emphasis on the consolations that sometimes accompany the early stages of spiritual growth leads beginners to a distaste for the unpleasant sacrifices needed to advance. "Because of their sloth, they subordinate the way of the pleasure and delight of their own will" (N, 1, 7, 3).

The cryptic numberings simply refer you to the correlated sections of Dark Night of the Soul. What I find most interesting here is the pattern I have observed in myself. I used to spend a tremendous amount of time poring over all the new spiritual books and guides and looking for the latest in self-help prayer books. I still spend far more time than may be helpful doing the same. I have longed to attend workshops and retreats on prayer and have attended an extended (32 week) Ignatian Retreat. All of these things convict me. And yet, when I settle down with the Bible or with St. John of the Cross, this impulse seems to fade away. I haven't scoured shelves in months. Now I look at all those things I've accumulated and wonder why I ever thought the book was useful.

One of the more important things indicated in the passage is the "wrong reason" for mysticism. Many people undertake the prayer of St. John and St. Teresa for the consolation involved--the feeling that they are becoming connected to God. While consolations are wonderful gifts that should be accepted and appreciated, both St. John and St. Teresa note that the consolation should be forgotten as soon as it passes--that consolations, be they visions, locutions, levitations, simply good feelings of accomplishment, should be let go as soon as they are apprehended. One should not dwell on these minor things that are to feed the faltering soul. The reason for prayer is far beyond mere consolation, and pausing there causes you to lose the momentum toward your ultimate destination--Love.

Now, I've not had a whole lot of consolations in prayer, but as I've indicated, I am probably not even truly a beginner--I'm standing in the vestibule and timorously approaching the somewhat daunting oak doors that seal me off from true prayer and reflection. But I have had a few, and unfortunately, part of what happens--without willing it, is a feeling of accomplishment as though one had achieved some sort of status in the prayer world. As soon as that creeps in a sort of spiritual pride begins to take form and take over. The only cure--acknowledge the phenomenon and confess it.

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Bizarre Archive Foolery Looking at


Bizarre Archive Foolery

Looking at my archive this morning I found that I had a huge collection of material prior to the time I actually started my blog. Actually clicking any of these links brought me to a site that was in Arabic and so did not display. Republishing did nothing. This is strange indeed, and I suppose another of those blogspot things that will vanish in the course of the day--but it is disconcerting.

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Great Translation Mr. González at


Great Translation

Mr. González at fotos delapocalipsis, carrying on a discussion of not using such things as Babelfish to translate presents this superb example of translation.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit", says the Lord of Hosts (Zacarias, 4, 6) "No cerca pudo ni por energía, pero por mi alcohol" dice a SEÑOR de anfitriones (Google)

Now, I'm certain that I am not seeing everything that is wrong with that translation--but even to my eyes the Spirit referred to is certainly not the spirit that is there in translation. I also wonder about "energia" but as I have said, my spanish is rudimentary at best, and I piece together what senor González tries to tell me. There was a wonderful poem there the other day, that I have some sense of, but I'm going to take to my translation department to see if I can get a better handle at least on a literal level. Anyway, thanks for the chuckle!

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Lesson from Nature Please, go


Lesson from Nature

Please, go here quickly and savor the delights of the lessons that Nature teaches. Mr. Bell from Notes from a Hillside Farm has an amusing observation WITH illustration--actually photograph. Entitled "One reason why sheep do not rule the world," you wonder that sheep even survived to be domesticated!

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More Advice from St. John


More Advice from St. John of the Cross

In his Sayings of Light and Love John offers what I would call "meditation starters." They are maxims for the proper leading of life--compressed sayings like those of the Desert Fathers. If you listen carefully, you will hear the "still, small voice" that is to guide conscience.

from Sayings of Light and Love St. John of the Cross

141. Speak little and do not meddle in matters about which you are not asked.
142. Strive always to keep God present and to preserve within yourself the purity he teaches you.
143. Do not excuse yourself or refuse to be corrected by all; listen to every reproof with a serene countenance; think that God utters it.

The first saying is a guiding light that is too infrequently followed. If each of us considered our own life and our own concerns with greater care, we would not have time to criticize others. We are too caught up in things of the world. We seek sensation rather than serenity. We feel that we must be informed--and yet, where does information lead us? Usually it deprives us of peace and time with God. We get caught up in words, events, and concerns that are really not ours. We do not need to offer opinions on every event, every nuance, every momentary catastrophe. Once we begin to formulate such opinions, we stir ourselves up. Our "righteous indignation" exceeds all bounds--we enter into a vicious cycle that robs us of our peace.

The second maxim is the core of all mysticism, but I think too, the core of all real Christian practice. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection refers to this as "the practice of the presence of God." St. Paul tells us to "pray constantly." The only way to peace is to have God clearly in sight regardless of what we are engaged in. God must be the constantly guiding light, but it is a light that comes from within--not a lighthouse, a distant and unreliable source of light, but an internal and eternal source of light. For it to shine forth, we need to clean the windows, to preserve them pure and clear, or the light becomes obscured. That purity is essential to keeping God in mind. I believe it was Kierkegaard who indicated that "Purity of heart is to will one thing." And St. Thomas Aquinas shows us that God is ultimately simple, undivided, of one essence and one will. We must strive to be likewise. Our wills must be given over entirely to God's will--we must will as He wills, or we are not willing one thing--we have created duplicity--a human will separate from God's own desires.

The third maxim must be the hardest. Accept reproof, accept that you are not perfect without seeking the imperfections of those who are criticizing. Let's face it, every one of us fails. We fail in so many ways that if someone catches us out and comments on only one of those failings, we should be delighted that the extent of our imperfection is not known. When someone finds fault with us, we should dance before God in the spirit of liberation. We cannot see the extent of our imperfection--every one that is exposed is one more that we can offer up to the refining fire of our gracious Lord. If we accept the reproof, knowing the truth of what is said, even if it is said in malice, spite, fear, anger, frustration, or any of a myriad of emotions, we have taken a step toward Christlikeness. This, the greatest of Men, did not speak out when struck with reeds, crowned with thorns, and crucified for apparent imperfections. He took upon Himself every imperfection to destroy their power upon the cross, and He did this with dignity, serenity, and Grace. So too, we must take upon ourselves the imperfections, and slay them as we slay our self-centeredness. Offer those things we are accused of to God and in some little measure destroy them for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way, as St. Paul says, "We make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ." I had always wondered about this mysterious phrase--but it seems that we are always called to make Christ present to our brothers and sisters. The only thing that could be "lacking" is immediate temporal presence, because what happened to Jesus happened in Eternity (even though it happened at a definitive time in a definitive space)--a place we have access to only in limited ways. When we accept the abuse and the imprecations of our fellow humans, we are manifesting, once again, some small part of our Savior's glory. He is granting us an opportunity to speak for Him in our actions.

These three maxims are only part of the rich treasury of St. John's sayings. The book is short, the reading light, and I recommend it to all as a help in meditation and in the attempt to live the Christian life more perfectly. Visit the Institute for Carmelite Studies (see left column) choose Archives and select The Sayings of Light and Love. You will be glad that you did.

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A Magnificent Magnificat


A Magnificent Magnificat

I have written before that I thought the villanelle must be among the more difficult poetic forms to get right. The right balance of line with new material is absolutely critical--and the better villanelles, it seems to me, allow for minor variations in the repeated lines. Dylan has offered a truly magnificent villanelle based on the Magnificat. EVERYONE, poetry lover or not, should see this truly wonderful poem. It is of such quality that one feels that momentary "Salieri" feeling in the presence of a Mozart. Thank you, Dylan the poem is superb--and it should have made its debut somewhere like "First Things" or some such other publication, not on a website. You must see about getting this wider circulation.

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Another Poetic Treasure Here's another


Another Poetic Treasure

Here's another poem stumbled upon in my ramblings, and I shall be posting more from this particular poet. First off--she's Eighteenth Century--yes, not so grand as the seventeenth, yet nevertheless illustrious in its own way. Secondly, she has much to say to us today, as this poem amply exhibits. I'd like to dedicate this poem to all of those who work so hard in the cause of the pro-life movement and to parents who have followed God's will in having and caring for the children He gave them.


Germ of new life, whose powers expanding slow
For many a moon their full perfection wait,--
Haste, precious pledge of happy love, to go
Auspicious borne through life's mysterious gate.

What powers lie folded in thy curious frame,--
Senses from objects locked, and mind from thought!
How little canst thou guess thy lofty claim
To grasp at all the worlds the Almighty wrought!

And see, the genial season's warmth to share,
Fresh younglings shoot, and opening roses glow!
Swarms of new life exulting fill the air,--
Haste, infant bud of being, haste to blow!

For thee the nurse prepares her lulling songs,
The eager matrons count the lingering day;
But far the most thy anxious parent longs
On thy soft cheek a mother's kiss to lay.

She only asks to lay her burden down,
That her glad arms that burden may resume;
And nature's sharpest pangs her wishes crown,
That free thee living from thy living tomb.

She longs to fold to her maternal breast
Part of herself, yet to herself unknown;
To see and to salute the stranger guest,
Fed with her life through many a tedious moon.

Come, reap thy rich inheritance of love!
Bask in the fondness of a Mother's eye!
Nor wit nor eloquence her heart shall move
Like the first accents of thy feeble cry.

Haste, little captive, burst thy prison doors!
Launch on the living world, and spring to light!
Nature for thee displays her various stores,
Opens her thousand inlets of delight.

If charmed verse or muttered prayers had power,
With favouring spells to speed thee on thy way,
Anxious I'd bid my beads each passing hour,
Till thy wished smile thy mother's pangs o'erpay.

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La Traviata Have you ever


La Traviata

Have you ever wondered how someone dying of consumption can belt out that aria just prior to her demise? I don't mean to make fun, as it is very serious--but here is a poetic equivalent, similar to that of Chidiock Tychburn (or any number of other spellings as you may like). It is at once, lovely, touching, and astonishing if the title is truly indicative of its composition.


THOU, who dost all my worldly thoughts employ,
Thou pleasing source of all my earthly joy :
Thou tend'rest husband, and thou best of friends,
To thee this first, this last adieu I send.
At length the conqu'ror death asserts his right,
And will for ever veil me from thy sight.
He wooes me to him with a chearful grace ;
And not one terror clouds his meagre face.
He promises a lasting rest from pain ;
And shews that all life's fleeting joys are vain.
Th' eternal scenes of heav'n he sets in view,
And tells me that no other joys are true.
But love, fond love, would yet resist his pow'r ;
Would fain awhile defer the parting hour :
He brings thy mourning image to my eyes,
And would obstruct my journey to the skies.
But say, thou dearest, thou unwearied friend ;
Say, should'st thou grieve to see my sorrows end ?
Thou know'st a painful pilgrimage I've past ;
And should'st thou grieve that rest is come at last ?
Rather rejoice to see me shake off life,
And die as I have liv'd, thy faithful wife.

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John Keble I found this


John Keble

I found this on Project Canterbury, which seems to be an Anglo-Catholic site. I would recommend the entire sermon to everyone, as it is remarkably appropos for today. In a sense, this is comforting--surely the trends we see today are those observed for a very long time--whether they were as severe or we are advancing at a more rapid pace, I cannot say. But I draw comfort that humans were ever thus.

National Apostasy John Keble

One of the most alarming, as a symptom, is the growing indifference, in which men indulge themselves, to other men's religious sentiments. Under the guise of charity and toleration we are come almost to this pass; that no difference, in matters of faith, is to disqualify for our approbation and confidence, whether in public or domestic life. Can we conceal it from ourselves, that every year the practice is becoming more common, of trusting men unreservedly in the most delicate and important matters, without one serious inquiry, whether they do not hold principles which make it impossible for them to be loyal to their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier? Are not offices conferred, partnerships formed, intimacies courted,—nay, (what is almost too painful to think of,) do not parents commit their children to be educated, do they not encourage them to intermarry, in houses, on which Apostolical Authority would rather teach them to set a mark, as unfit to be entered by a faithful servant of Christ?

I do not now speak of public measures only or chiefly; many things of that kind may be thought, whether wisely or no, to become from time to time necessary, which are in reality as little desired by those who lend them a seeming concurrence, as they are, in themselves, undesirable. But I speak of the spirit which leads men to exult in every step of that kind; to congratulate one another on the supposed decay of what they call an exclusive system.

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A 17th Century Wonder I Stumbled Onto


A 17th Century Wonder I Stumbled Onto

I found this poem while looking through the Classical Christian Poetry Site. The poet was unfamiliar to me--I knew John Fletcher of Beaumont and Fletcher fame, but I had not heard of Phineas. I don't know the relationship, if any, between these two.

A Litany
Phineas Fletcher

Drop, drop, slow tears,
And bathe those beauteous feet
Which brought from Heaven
The news and Prince of Peace:
Cease not, wet eyes,
His mercy to entreat;
To cry for vengeance
Sin doth never cease.
In your deep floods
Drown all my faults and fears;
Nor let His eye
See sin, but through my tears.

There is a very gentle rhythm here and a beauty in the pleas of the the poet. "Nor let His eye/See sin, but through my tears," is a beautiful evocation of what every act of contrition begs of Jesus.

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A Carmelite Reflection on Forgiveness


A Carmelite Reflection on Forgiveness

Forgiveness, and the Holy Father's absolute temerity in doing what Christ demands (what could he have been thinking?) has been much the subject of conversation all over the web this week. This guided lectio provides the scripture readings and some questions to ponder--however, it doesn't provide any answers (Praise God!) It seems good to spend some time thinking about forgiveness and where we stand in the spectrum this week. Wherever I am, I pray God move me somewhat closer to Christ. I offer the same prayer for all.

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A Sobering Reminder Even


A Sobering Reminder

Even while it's all in fun, this passage from Samuel Butler's Hudibras (can you guess the century?) has some profound implications for any resolution by conflict. Of course we all know all of this--but I had to have a reason to post from this wonderful poem--one that in even in many colleges is taught in a short excerpt, if at all. That's a shame, because, while the politics and ideals may be difficult, and after the Victorian Age we received a much scrubbed and polished image of Oliver Cromwell, the poem still is quite a amusing and quite well constructed for a mock epic.

from Hudibras Part I Canto III Samuel Butler

Ah me! what perils do environ
The man that meddles with cold iron!
What plaguy mischiefs and mishaps
Do dog him still with after-claps!
For though dame Fortune seem to smile
And leer upon him for a while,
She'll after shew him, in the nick
Of all his glories, a dog-trick.
This any man may sing or say,
I' th' ditty call'd, What if a Day?
For HUDIBRAS, who thought h' had won
The field, as certain as a gun;
And having routed the whole troop,
With victory was cock a-hoop;
Thinking h' had done enough to purchase
Thanksgiving-day among the Churches,
Wherein his mettle, and brave worth,
Might be explain'd by Holder-forth,
And register'd, by fame eternal,
In deathless pages of diurnal;
Found in few minutes, to his cost,
He did but count without his host;
And that a turn-stile is more certain
Than, in events of war, dame Fortune.

For those who enjoyed this brief taste, you can get the entire poem here.

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Thomas Hardy as Poet


The purveyor of the largest number of the most completely depressing novels written in English (note, by number we eliminate Malcolm Lowry, and by Enlgish we eliminate Celine and Zola) also wrote some of the most depressing poetry in English. Here's an example. Down, but lovely.

At a Lunar Eclipse
Thomas Hardy

Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon's meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.

How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?

And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven's high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?

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Translators Mr. González at fotos



Mr. González at fotos del apocalipsis looks at the translating programs from his side and finds the same ludicrous results that Dylan previously recounted. So heeding his advice, I'll either puzzle it out myself, or where I cannot make out enough of it, take it to my translation department. But we all know the ludicrous inaccuracy possible so caution is required. If you're looking for a single word, maybe better to go to one of the on-line dictionaries. I'll see if I can dig up a few.


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Poetry is Breaking Out All Over


In my short sojourn in the blogworld, I have been delighted by the number of talented writers and now poets I have found. Recently (as in this morning) Dylan, our friend at La Vita Nuova, and able poetry critic decided to be more forthcoming about his own career as poet. Check out his contribution.

Our own Lane Core has a page devoted to his poetry. I owe Mr. Core an apology for not explaining myself better in a note about his own poetry. I indicated that his poetry was "not to my taste." And this is actually an inaccurate representation--it was, in fact, "not immediately to my taste." As with all such things that I do not take to immediately, I find that they grow upon reflection. Those interested in the poetry world would do themselves a service by visiting his poetry page and then dropping a note. There is nothing a poet or writer appreciates so much as hearing from someone who has read something. I may need to add Mr. Core's poetry page to my own side list here.

Again, you owe to yourselves and to the world at large to support your local poets. Heaven knows there are few enough to start with , and those with some form of recognizable faith informing their writing are vanishingly few. And Catholic Poets--to date I can name 4 worthy of the name and a possible fifty. (Of course Dylan could name twenty-three without pausing for a breath--but then, we all have our skills.)

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Two Poems


Two Poems

Okay, these are the last for a while. One does not wish to wear out one's welcome and inundating a captive audience is the best way to do so. So far, everyone has been very polite--nary a jeer or a hiss from the audience, and I thank you. But I've selected two shorter and much lighter poems, and I thank you for being a polite and respectful audience.

Angel Head
I close my eyes and
see a black bowl
filled with golden stars.
A head from a painting--
An angel head
Dali's momentary genius.
And I wonder
at the meaningless meaning
I find for it.
A bowl of black and gold
black and gold.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

The following is a variation on a haiku suggested by American poets that found the 5-7-5 syllabification too expansive. In this case they suggested the much tighter compression of 3-5-3. I have further varied it by my own addition of a 3 syllable line. This is a very small sketch of an incident occuring as we were returning across the bridge from Merritt Island (Cape Canaveral's location) across the Indian River to the mainland.


Eighteen inch
triangular fin
smooth surface
(summer light)

c2002 Steven Riddle

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Pacifism I want to start



I want to start by saying that the Church does not teach pacifism except, perhaps in a certain very restricted sense. However, I greatly admire the ideal, and I'm led to wonder what is its status for an individual? That is, can an individual hold pacifist ideals within the larger framework of church teaching.

Now I need to explain what I mean because I've just confused the issue. The Church acknowledges that there is such a thing as a "just war" that depends upon a number of conditions. I accept that teaching as a true son of the Church. However, I ask the question, "Is it possible that some few, by an interior call of conscience can be pacifist?" In other words, even given that I acknowledge that the cause is just, and by Church teaching the war is just, is it possible that I could find it sinful to participate in it?

I think that the hierarchy of discipline is God--church teaching--conscience. That is the strictest obedience must be paid to God and to God's laws. Church teaching fleshes out God's law. That is, if we were to strictly adhere to God's law we would have little guidance in the modern era about what we should be doing. The Magisterium of the Church, among other things, continues the pronouncement of God's law and serves as a kind of Talmud or continuing commentary and elaboration of the law, not adding to the Deposit of Faith so much as explicating it for the times. (I could have this wrong, and if so gladly welcome correction.) The final level of the hierarchy is conscience, which is called to be obedient to all of the teachings of the Church, and to God, but I believe God may have formed individuals in such away that the demands of conscience increase the other sources. Thinking this, I ask, is it possible to be a pacifist in the Church?

I believe that it is. I have always admired pacifists, and still admire the ideal. To be a strong pacifist, despite protestations to the contrary, takes an enormous amount of courage and strength of will. One must oppose the predominant social forces by oneself. (This, of course, does not make it right). I admire much of Civil Disobedience as I admire the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Stanley Hauerwas and Richard Foster are two modern voices (one Mennonite(?) and one Quaker) that speak persuasively of the need for and injunction to not only nonviolence but nonresistance. I find that their discussions are in line with biblical teaching and persuasive.

What I believe is NOT allowable is for me to impress this doctrine of nonviolence/nonresistance on others. That is, I am called to state my conscience--"I cannot kill others, it is forbidden regardless of the cause." But I am NOT called to defy church teaching and tell others that they cannot do so in a demonstrably "just war." Does this make any sense? I can, by conscience be a pacifist, but I cannot be an evangelist of pacifism because it is a calling of conscience not a teaching of God or the Church. I can evangelize by lifestyle or by presenting my reasons for my thought, but not by rebuking others for holding that it may be just to fight certain aggressors. I cannot hold others to the standard of my conscience, just as they cannot hold me to their standard of say, vegetarianism (another notion I have entertained for moral reasons).

Anyway is this simply wishful thinking or special pleading? Does the church categorically say that if a just war is declared it is the obligation of every person to fight in that just war? Or does the doctrine of just war simply indicate that those called by profession or by vocation to fight in this war can do so without fearing pain of sin for things which, outside of these circumstances, would normally be mortal? What do you all think about it? I'd like some input on the theoretical issues, not really the question of whether pacifism is good or evil in itself--that is another discussion entirely.

Normally I don't like controversy, I don't like to stir the waters, as it were, but this is important enough that I want to be certain of my grounding, and I certainly have no wish to be violating church teaching, nor do I wish to give offense to any. Hopefully we can talk gently and logically of this matter. I am certain I can rely upon a couple of my visitors to give me good feedback either here or at their own sites. Thanks.

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THANK YOU! Yes, I'm shouting,



Yes, I'm shouting, or yelling, or whatever at the wonderful response from the blog community. I want to thank everyone who expressed the intent to pray for my lovely wife yesterday and all of those who, I am certain, prayed without expressing intent--we've got a lot of shy people, but no doubt well intentioned. Thank you--the day was lovely and she enjoyed herself thoroughly. Boy seemed to be on his very best behavior and of course his joy added to our own--what a precious gift a child is!

Thank you all again.

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St. Francis Borgia


St. Francis Borgia

Here's a mind-boggling concept from the Life of St. Francis Borgia.

From the time that he began to give himself totally to the divine service Francis Borgia, who was canonized in 1671, learned the importance and difficulty of attaining to humility, and he tried unremittingly to humble himself in the divine presence and within himself. Amidst the honours and respect that were shown him at Valladolid, his companion, Father Bustamante, noticed that he was not only quiet but more than ordinarily self-effacing, for which he asked the reason. "I considered", said St Francis, "in my morning meditation that Hell is my due. I think that all men and even dumb creatures ought to cry out after me, 'Hell is your place'." He one day told the novices that in meditating on the actions of Christ he had for six years always placed himself in spirit at the feet of Judas; but then he realized that Christ had washed the feet even of that traitor, so that he thenceforth felt unworthy to approach even him.
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Praying for Others On Mr.


Praying for Others

On Mr. Shea's blog a question arose as to whether it might ever be improper to pray for the repose of the soul of anyone. The particular person fingered was Judas. Below is my response with a couple of other thoughts appended.

You ask whether it would be appropriate to pray privately or have a mass said for the repose of the soul of Judas. St. Francis Borgia prayed about/ for Judas quite frequently as part of his personal devotion.

There is an upside to "Judge not lest ye be judged," and that is, that it is legitimate to say a prayer for the repose of the soul of ANYBODY because we do not know what God's will was for them, nor are we required to know. We are required merely to extend to others what we would have them do for us. If Judas is in heaven, I would certainly want him praying for me, because he who is forgiven much, loves very much and the love is undoubtedly reciprocated.

I guess that's a long way of saying that prayer for anyone is never wrong. If the fate of that person has already been determined, God can use the willingness to do good things to other purposes. God is, after all, God, and prayer for others is, in part, about changing yourself into a better likeness of Jesus.

Most of us add the "Fatima Prayer" to each decade of the Rosary. If we are serious about that prayer, "Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy," we must include everyone. Here's the hard and frightening part, the part that has gotten the Holy Father criticism from some circles--"all souls" includes Osama Bin Laden, those who perpetrated the hideous crimes of last year, Slobodan Milosovic, those who masterminded the Genocide in Rwanda, Robert Mbotu, and all sorts of peole for whom we would rather not be praying. However, if we pray that single, simple prayer in each decade of the Rosary, we are indeed praying for those we would probably just as soon not. Isn't it wonderful the way our Lady gave us the opportunity to do the right thing in a way that would be easy to us?

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Lovely, lovely, lovely, and


Lovely, lovely, lovely, and still more lovely

Be sure to check out Mr. Ekeh's revamped site. He's added pictures both of himself and of some artwork that is incredibly lovely. More, he provides insights into an Afro-Latino culture that is most interesting. Do yourself a favor and make this site a frequent stop--you're likely to hear or learn something. Oh, and he's added the ability to e-mail him. Thank you, Mr. Ekeh!

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The Most Famous Prayer of


The Most Famous Prayer of St. Thérèse
The following, in the original French with an English translation, is the most famous of the prayer of St. Thérèse--justly so.

Offrande de moi-même comme Victime d'Holocauste à l'Amour Miséricordieux du Bon Dieu St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Ô mon Dieu ! Trinité Bienheureuse, je désire vous Aimer et vous faire Aimer, travailler à la glorification de la Sainte Église en sauvant les âmes qui sont sur la terre et [en] délivrant celles qui souffrent dans le purgatoire. Je désire accomplir parfaitement votre volonté et arriver au degré de gloire que vous m'avez préparé dans votre royaume, en un mot, je désire être Sainte, mais je sens mon impuissance et je vous demande, ô mon Dieu ! d'être vous-même ma Sainteté.

Puisque vous m'avez aimée jusqu'à me donner votre Fils unique pour être mon Sauveur et mon Époux, les trésors infinis de ses mérites sont à moi, je vous les offre avec bonheur, vous suppliant de ne me regarder qu'à travers la Face de Jésus et dans son Coeur brûlant d'Amour.

Je vous offre encore tous les mérites des Saints (qui sont au Ciel et sur la terre) leurs actes d'Amour et ceux des Saints Anges enfin je vous offre, ô Bienheureuse Trinité ! L'Amour et les mérites de la Sainte Vierge, ma Mère chérie, c'est à elle que j'abandonne mon offrande la priant de vous la présenter. Son divin Fils, mon Époux Bien-Aimé, aux jours de sa vie mortelle, nous a dit : « Tout ce que vous demanderez à mon Père, en [1v°/2r°] mon nom, Il vous le donnera ! » Je suis donc certaine que vous exaucerez mes désirs ; je le sais, ô mon Dieu ! (plus vous voulez donner, plus vous faites désirer). Je sens en mon coeur des désirs immenses et c'est avec confiance que je vous demande de venir prendre possession de mon âme. Ah ! je ne puis recevoir la Sainte Communion aussi souvent que je le désire, mais, Seigneur, n'êtes-vous pas Tout-Puissant ?... Restez en moi, comme au tabernacle, ne vous éloignez jamais de votre petite hostie......

Je voudrais vous consoler de l'ingratitude des méchants et je vous supplie de m'ôter la liberté de vous déplaire, si par faiblesse je tombe quelquefois qu'aussitôt votre Divin Regard purifie mon âme consumant toutes mes imperfections, comme le feu qui transforme toute chose en lui-même......

Je vous remercie, ô mon Dieu ! de toutes les grâces que vous m'avez accordées, en particulier de m'avoir fait passer par le creuset de la souffrance. C'est avec joie que je vous contemplerai au dernier jour portant le sceptre de la Croix puisque vous [avez] daigné me donner en partage cette Croix si précieuse, j'espère au Ciel vous ressembler et voir briller sur mon corps glorifié les sacrés stigmates de votre Passion...

Après l'exil de la terre, j'espère aller jouir de vous dans la Patrie, mais je ne veux pas amasser de mérites pour le Ciel, je veux travailler pour votre seul Amour, dans l'unique but de vous faire plaisir, de consoler votre Coeur Sacré et de sauver des âmes qui vous aimeront éternellement.

Au soir de cette vie, je paraîtrai devant vous les mains vides, car je ne vous demande pas, Seigneur, de compter mes oeuvres. Toutes nos justices ont des taches à vos yeux. Je veux donc me revêtir de votre propre Justice et recevoir de votre Amour la possession éternelle de Vous-même. Je ne veux point d'autre Trône et d'autre Couronne que Vous, ô mon Bien-Aimé !......

A vos yeux le temps n'est rien, un seul jour est comme mille ans, vous pouvez donc en un instant me préparer à paraître devant vous...

Afin de vivre dans un acte de parfait Amour, je m'offre comme victime d'holocauste à votre Amour miséricordieux, vous suppliant de me consumer [2v°] sans cesse laissant déborder en mon âme les flots de tendresse infinie qui sont renfermés en vous et qu'ainsi je devienne Martyre de votre Amour, ô mon Dieu !...
Que ce martyre après m'avoir préparée à paraître devant vous me fasse enfin mourir et que mon âme s'élance sans retard dans l'éternel embrassement de Votre Miséricordieux Amour...

Je veux, ô mon Bien-Aimé, à chaque battement de mon coeur vous renouveler cette offrande un nombre infini de fois, jusqu'à ce que les ombres s'étant évanouies je puisse vous redire mon Amour dans un Face à Face Éternel !...

Marie, Françoise, Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus
et de la Sainte Face
rel. carm. ind.

Fête de la Très Sainte Trinité
Le 9 juin de l'an de grâce 1895.

St Thérèse of Lisieux


Offering of myself
as a Victim of Holocaust
to God's Merciful Love

O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to Love You and make You Loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish Your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory You have prepared for me in Your Kingdom. I desire, in a word, to be a saint, but I feel my helplessness and I beg You, O my God! to be Yourself my Sanctity!

Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love.

I offer You, too, all the merits of the saints (in heaven and on earth), their acts of Love, and those of the holy angels. Finally, I offer You, O Blessed Trinity! the Love and merits of the Blessed Virgin, my dear Mother. It is to her I abandon my offering, begging her to present it to You. Her Divine Son, my Beloved Spouse, told us in the days of His mortal life: "Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name he will give it to you!" I am certain, then, that You will grant my desires; I know, O my God! that the more You want to give, the more You make us desire. I feel in my heart immense desires and it is with confidence I ask You to come and take possession of my soul. Ah! I cannot receive Holy Communion as often as I desire, but, Lord, are You not all-powerful?Remain in me as in a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim.

I want to console You for the ingratitude of the wicked, and I beg of You to take away my freedom to displease You. If through weakness I sometimes fall, may Your Divine Glance cleanse my soul immediately, consuming all my imperfections like the fire that transforms everything into itself.

I thank You, O my God! for all the graces You have granted me, especially the grace of making me pass through the crucible of suffering. It is with joy I shall contemplate You on the Last Day carrying the sceptre of Your Cross. Since You deigned to give me a share in this very precious Cross, I hope in heaven to resemble You and to see shining in my glorified body the sacred stigmata of Your Passion.

After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.

In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!

May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.

I want, O my Beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew this offering to You an infinite number of times, until the shadows having disappeared I may be able to tell You of my Love in an Eternal Face to Face!

Marie, Francoise, Therese of the Child Jesus
and the Holy Face, unworthy Carmelite religious.

This 9th day of June,
Feast of the Most Holy Trinity,
In the year of grace, 1895.

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Request for Prayers Today is


Request for Prayers

Today is my wife's birthday and it would make a great birthday gift if you would remember her intentions in a prayer today! Thanks.

(Oh, and it may mean less blogging today that usual. I've taken off work (as usual) and Wife, Boy, and I shall be celebrating in one of many venues.

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An Apt Comment from Argentina


An Apt Comment from Argentina

I do not read Spanish directly--I know a few words of Spanish and mostly piece the message together from cognates in Latin and French (I'm going to have to start using Babelfish or something like that that I saw at Disputations--just don't have the time most of the time), so my interpretation of this message may not be the best--but if I understood Mr. González accurately, I could not agree more. It is not enough to be merely a pacifist--one needs to resist the zeitgeist--the emotion of the crowd that would drive us along to destruction. Democracy is a wonderful mode of government, but it is a terrible way to determine right from wrong. Unfortunately we too often depend upon the decision of the majority when we should stand fast and determined, stand on the Rock, the Truth, the Way and the Life, against the tide of popular opinion, or as it is more commonly manifested--"the madness of crowds."

Also, thank you kindly Mr. González for your kind thoughts at the end of the message.

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Depersonalization A very old, and



A very old, and I fear, very imperfect poem, that still manages to convey most of my intent. It is one of those things that you keep digging up to work one, and yet it never seems to achieve exactly the effect or balance you have in mind, and so, you let it go anyway. Sometimes, one needs to settle for merely good enough.

La Dame Fichue (The Demolished Woman) Steven Riddle

We surgeons click
pieces back together
like pearls on a waxed strand.
The winding thread of sand
where we found bits
of the Demolished Woman
artfully dissected,
but not skillfully.
This Guernica model reject
lolled on the beach
perhaps awaiting a painter.
We surgeons in our rubber gloves
gathered her up with tongs
and put the bits in plastic pails
knowing we would not reassemble her.
But spread her out more beautifully
than had been done before
and wait for her to dry.
We would perfect this exploded woman
and ship her off, nicely
latinized, and preserve only the memory
of our perfect art, pure and clean.

c 2002 Steven Riddle

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Loving Love from Nicholas of


Loving Love

from Nicholas of Cusa
But to love Christ most ardently is to hasten toward him by spiritual movement, for he is not only lovable but is love itself. When by the steps of love the spirit hastens to love itself, it is engulfed in love itself not temporally but above all time and all worldly movement.

Love of God is entry into the eternal. We pass from the linear, temporal movement into eternity when we abandon ourselves entirely to God. Abandoning to God means entering Love. To do so means leaving the self behind in a radical way. We cannot enter Love wrapped with all the things normally use to protect ourselves. Among these are the masks, the lies, the stories we tell about ourselves. These must be purified and burned away. The last vestige of them must be eradicated. The Holy Spirit within works with each of us to purify and refine. Trials, temptations, adversity, turmoils, and all manner of difficulties prove us. They transform us (if we are faithful) gradually into the image of Love--for only Love can enter Love. This indeed is the principle of purgatory--nothing "unclean", nothing that is not pure Love can enter heaven because it would be destroyed and with it the soul that bears that impurity. It is not a punishment, but a spiritual law. So, in our earthly lives, we need to recognize and embrace the trials sent us--they are the gifts God has seen fit to give us to make us more like Him. When we do so we being to live a mysterious life of grace. The world is transformed (more accurately our ability to perceive is transformed) and suddenly, we can see God in places where we would never have thought to look for Him. St. Francis saw Him in nature and the world around Him. Mother Teresa recognized Him within the persons of the impoverished and dying. This gift is the gift of eternity, of heaven on Earth, of love and transformation, and of enthusiastic service of God toward our fellow human beings. This gift is, as Ms. Knapp so aptly described the other day, "The Pearl of Great Price" which once purchased does not count what was spent, but merely exults in the magnificence and beauty of the Pearl.

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Our Intrepid Ms. Knapp Ms.


Our Intrepid Ms. Knapp

Ms. Knapp, once again showing more guts than twenty or thirty postculturist posturing professors dares to post this beautiful, and possibly controversial piece by Mark Twain. God bless her for the reminder.

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Death Be Not Proud Even


Death Be Not Proud

Even as we remember, we need also to keep everything in the proper perspective. Death, for those who know God, is merely the change from life to Life, from seeing "through a glass darkly" to living in the presence of glory.

Holy Sonnet X John Donne Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe, For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow, Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee; From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee, Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee doe goe, Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie. Thou'art slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell, And poppie,' or charmes can make us sleepe as well, And better then they stroake; why swell'st thou then? One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally, And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die.

One short sleep past and we wake eternally to spend that time with God. There is no death save that of not knowing and embracing God and I pray that not one of His children shall ever see that death. May He, in His mercy, grant us all the mercy of knowing and loving Him, of denying to death a victory that he has not earned and denying to Satan a prize that pride does not deserve. May we all be restored to glorious light and enjoy eternally the love and favor of God, our tender and caring Father.

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Request for Prayers and Assistance:Northern Virginia

I just received word that some very dear friends of mine may be relocating to Northern Virginia--a blessed event--under some very trying circumstances. I would like to ask everyone to pray for this family. I would particularly ask those of you from Northern Virginia who would be willing to help with advice and information to comment below with contact information or to e-mail me with information that I could forward to my friend. I know your prayers are needed, and even though I am a native son, I am not presently in No. Va. and so I am certain any assistance you could provide would be a blessing (Churches, Order meetings, places to go/not to go, traffic--you know all the essentials). Thank you!

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John Donne--Prayer The following prayer


John Donne--Prayer

The following prayer was composed as part of a larger work when Donne felt that he was soon to die of an illness for which he was being treated.

from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions XVIII John Donne


O ETERNAL and most gracious God, I have a new occasion of thanks, and a new occasion of prayer to thee from the ringing of this bell. Thou toldest me in the other voice that I was mortal and approaching to death; in this I may hear thee say that I am dead in an irremediable, in an irrecoverable state for bodily health. If that be thy language in this voice, how infinitely am I bound to thy heavenly Majesty for speaking so plainly unto me? for even that voice, that I must die now, is not the voice of a judge that speaks by way of condemnation, but of a physician that presents health in that. Thou presentest me death as the cure of my disease, not as the exaltation of it; if I mistake thy voice herein, if I overrun thy pace, and prevent thy hand, and imagine death more instant upon me than thou hast bid him be, yet the voice belongs to me; I am dead, I was born dead, and from the first laying of these mud walls in my conception, they have mouldered away, and the whole course of life is but an active death. Whether this voice instruct me that I am a dead man now, or remember me that I have been a dead man all this while.

I humbly thank thee for speaking in this voice to my soul; and I humbly beseech thee also to accept my prayers in his behalf, by whose occasion this voice, this sound, is come to me. For though he be by death transplanted to thee, and so in possession of inexpressible happiness there, yet here upon earth thou hast given us such a portion of heaven, as that though men dispute whether thy saints in heaven do know what we in earth in particular do stand in need of, yet, without all disputation, we upon earth do know what thy saints in heaven lack yet for the consummation of their happiness, and therefore thou hast afforded us the dignity that we may pray for them. That therefore this soul, now newly departed to thy kingdom, may quickly return to a joyful reunion to that body which it hath left, and that we with it may soon enjoy the full consummation of all in body and soul, I humbly beg at thy hand, O our most merciful God, for thy Son Christ Jesus' sake. That that blessed Son of thine may have the consummation of his dignity, by entering into his last office, the office of a judge, and may have society of human bodies in heaven, as well as he hath had ever of souls; and that as thou hatest sin itself, thy hate to sin may be expressed in the abolishing of all instruments of so, the allurements of this world, and the world itself; and all the temporary revenges of sin, the stings of sickness and of death; and all the castles, and prisons, and monuments of sin, in the grave. That time may be swallowed up in eternity, and hope swallowed in possession, and ends swallowed in infiniteness, and all men ordained to salvation in body and soul be one entire and everlasting sacrifice to thee, where thou mayst receive delight from them, and they glory from thee, for evermore. Amen.

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Philip Freneau


Philip Freneau

Philip Freneau was once one of the most famous poets in America. For the most part, his poetry has, unjustly, been forgotten. The following elegy, written for those who died in a battle of the Revolutionary War is distinctive, but much of what it has to say works well to commemorate this day.

To the Memory of the Brave Americans
Philip Freneau

Under General Greene, in South Carolina,
who fell in the action of September 8, 1781

AT Eutaw Springs the valiant died;
Their limbs with dust are covered o'er--
Weep on, ye springs, your tearful tide;
How many heroes are no more!
If in this wreck or ruin, they
Can yet be thought to claim a tear,
O smite your gentle breast, and say
The friends of freedom slumber here!
Thou, who shalt trace this bloody plain,
If goodness rules thy generous breast,
Sigh for the wasted rural reign;
Sign for the shepherds, sunk to rest!
Stranger, their humble graves adorn;
You too may fall, and ask a tear;
'Tis not the beauty of the morn
That proves the evening shall be clear.--
They saw their injured country's woe;
The flaming town, the wasted field;
Then rushed to meet the insulting foe;
They took the spear--but left the shield.
Led by thy conquering genius, Greene,
The Britons they compelled to fly;
None distant viewed the fatal plain,
None grieved, in such a cause to die--
But, like the Parthian, famed of old,
Who, flying, still their arrows threw,
These routed Britons, full as bold,
Retreated, and retreating slew.
Now rest in peace, our patriot band,
Though far from nature's limits thrown,
We trust they find a happier land,
A brighter sunshine of their own.

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And now, a word from


And now, a word from Jeremiah

A reminder that in the midst of affliction, God is still there. In fact, perhaps more there and more immediately present to us than at other times.

Lamentations 3:1-33 1: I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; 2: he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; 3: surely against me he turns his hand again and again the whole day long. 4: He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; 5: he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6: he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago. 7: He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; 8: though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9: he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. 10: He is to me like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding; 11: he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; 12: he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow. 13: He drove into my heart the arrows of his quiver; 14: I have become the laughingstock of all peoples, the burden of their songs all day long. 15: He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood. 16: He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; 17: my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is; 18: so I say, "Gone is my glory, and my expectation from the LORD." 19: Remember my affliction and my bitterness, the wormwood and the gall! 20: My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. 21: But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23: they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. 24: "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." 25: The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26: It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27: It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28: Let him sit alone in silence when he has laid it on him; 29: let him put his mouth in the dust -- there may yet be hope; 30: let him give his cheek to the smiter, and be filled with insults. 31: For the Lord will not cast off for ever, 32: but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33: for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.
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St. John Chrysostom An excerpt


St. John Chrysostom

An excerpt from a reading in a small book entitled On Living Simply

So do I possess anything? Yes, I possess the virtues which during my life have grown and flourished within my soul. Inasmuch as I have grown in love, I possess love. Inasmuch as I have grown in faith, I possess faith. Inasmuch as I have grown in gentleness, I possess gentleness. These things are immortal; they are divine gifts which God will not take away, because he wants heaven itself to be filled with virtue. And, of course, I possess my soul, in which these virtues have thier roots.

All else is less than meaningless, more worthless than dross--deader than death itself. Attachments to all material things are deadly to the soul. Our object is to have our souls transformed and to participate to the greatest extent we can through acts of will, charity, ascesis, and alignment with God's will. Our transformation is the first step to the transformation of the world into a place where we will not have to commemorate the dreadful things we presently find cause to. Our transformation is not merely a step into heaven, but it is the beginning of forging the kingdom of God on Earth.

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The Heart of Man Gerald


The Heart of Man

Gerald Vann was a Dominican writing in the first half of the twentieth Century. One of his books (probably retitled by Sophia Press) is called The Seven Sweet Blessings of Christ and in it is the following wonderful quotation.

from The Seven Sweet Blessings of Christ Gerald Vann O.P. "The Call to Love and Serve"

The heart of man is not a house that can be emptied of one set of furnishings that another may be installed: it is not the objects of our love that have to be changed, it is our love that has to be changed by being transformed into the love which is the heart of Christ.

As we look at the headlines and at the day, the truth of this comes home powerfully. When we are still wrapped up and tied to material things, our affections are distorted. Whatever the good we love, it is not the supreme good and when our chief love is not the supreme good, then those goods we love tend to become lesser and lesser goods, until our loves degenerate into obsessions and sin. Christ calls us to a change of heart. It is said that Catherine of Siena experienced a mystical exchange of hearts with Christ and thereafter prayed for what was "in thy heart." This mystical exchange requires that we root out all that is selfish and self-centered in our own loves and lives.

The only cure for the ills of the world is the Heart of Jesus beating in the breast of every single living human being. As long as we are bound to the things of the world, we will long for money and power and signs of our superiority, and symbols of the love others have for us. Power is simply the desire for love gone astray. We feel so unloved, unwanted, unneeded, uncared for, that we substitute all kinds of things for the one thing that matters. But we feel unloved because we stay in our own hearts, doors barred, windows shut and locked and dare anyone to get in.

Someone once pointed out that to open any area of access would be to become vulnerable to others. Well, Jesus was vulnerable to death for love of us--and as frightening as that is, it seems better to die of love than to die of want. Jesus did not die wanting--He died in the fullness of life, in the fullness of love, and in the apotheosis of humanity. He died to show us how to live--and living that way death is not death, but victory because our lives mirror His and our deaths call to others and inspire others to follow Him. As frightening as vulnerability is, it is far less frightening that remaining locked in the fortress of self. God save us from ourselves--the worst wardens, the worst dictators, the worst rulers the world has ever seen. The tyranny of self-love is the destruction of the world.

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A Small Tribute


On the anniversary of such a somber ocassion, there is little to say that does not border on the mawkish or the idiotic. This, in fact, will be all that I say on the matter--other than the prayers that I offer for all.

I wrote the following poem after my mother died and I dedicate it respectfully to all of those who have been left behind.

Steven Riddle

for my mother

In green finery she walks the hallowed floor
(the clipping of her slippers on the wood
throws me off guard) and moves to the door
that leads to the hall where the glass-cased
Bastille key fills the wall (more or less)
and onward without a word into the blue
ballroom with chairs along the wall as though just
moments ago cleared for the first dance.
She neither glances back nor moves her head,
but glides on quietly, assured of her step--
her destination--the boxwood hedge--she leads
me and seems to know I follow, though how
I cannot say. Through the wrought-iron gate,
she scuffs the brownstones of the path
as she moves to the center, there to wait
for me. Still she does not face me, but I know
her for one who lost me years ago as she went
on and I was left behind. So now I go
through the gate and up the garden path,
praying as I do that she does not look back.
And then a glance, a moment's lapse, a laugh
(or is it a cry?) breaks the quiet and
as a storm surge tears the sand from the beach
I am pulled from the path-gone-out of her reach.
Pulled back, bereft of this promised paradise,
I now know what it is to be Eurydice.

c2002 Steven Riddle

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Edwin Arlington Robinson


Certain forms of poetry constitute a challenge all their own. The sestina, which has an elaborate rhyme scheme that retains the same six end-rhymes but rotates them from stanza to stanza. The villanelle must be one of the most difficult such forms. One of the most famous of these is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle." The scheme of the villanelle isn't to keep simply an end-rhyme, but to retain one full line of the original triolet in each subsequent stanza and then in the final stanza to repeat all three lines with one additional line.

Here's an example from Edwin Arlington Robinson which is quite pleasing.

Villanelle of Change Edwin Arlington Robinson Since Persia fell at Marathon, The yellow years have gathered fast: Long centuries have come and gone.

And yet (they say) the place will don
A phantom fury of the past,
Since Persia fell at Marathon;

And as of old, when Helicon
Trembled and swayed with rapture vast
(Long centuries have come and gone),

This ancient plain, when night comes on,
Shakes to a ghostly battle-blast,
Since Persia fell at Marathon.

But into soundless Acheron
The glory of Greek shame was cast:
Long centuries have come and gone,

The suns of Hellas have all shone,
The first has fallen to the last:—
Since Persia fell at Marathon,
Long centuries have come and gone.

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NOT the Seventeenth Century The


NOT the Seventeenth Century

The following passage is from a very short, lovely treatise by Walter Hilton called "The Song of Angels." The entire thing is available here.

Also, our Lord comforts a soul by angel's song. This song cannot be described by any bodily likeness, for it is spiritual, and above all imagination and reason. It may be felt and perceived in a soul, but it may not be showed. Nevertheless, I will speak of it to you as I think. When a soul is purified by the love of God, illumined by wisdom, and stabilized by the might of God, then the eye of the soul is opened to see spiritual things, as virtues and angels and holy souls, and heavenly things. Then, because it is clean, the soul is able to feel the touching, the speaking of good angels. This touching and speaking is spiritual and not bodily. For when the soul is lifted and ravished out of the sensuality, and out of mind of any earthly things, then in great fervour of love and light (if our Lord deigns) the soul may hear and feel heavenly sound, made by the presence of angels in loving God. Not that this song of angels is the supreme joy of the soul; but because of the difference between a person's soul in flesh and an angel, due to uncleanness, a soul may not hear it except by ravishing in love, and it must be much purified and well cleaned, and filled with much love, before it will be able to hear heavenly sound. For the supreme and essential joy is in the love of God by Himself and for Himself, and the secondary is in communing with and beholding angels and spiritual creatures. For just as a soul, in understanding spiritual things, is often touched and moved through bodily imagination by the work of angels, as when Ezekiel the prophet saw in bodily imagination the truth of God's hidden mysteries, just so, in the love of God, a soul by the presence of angels is ravished out of mind of all earthly and fleshly things and filled with a heavenly joy, to hear angel's song and heavenly sound, according to the measure of its love. I think that no soul may truly feel the angel's song or heavenly sound, unless it is in perfect love, though not all that are in perfect love have felt it, but only the soul that is so purified in the fire of love that all earthly savor is burned out of it, and all obstacles between the soul and the cleanness of angels are broken and put away from it. Then truly may he sing a new song, and truly may he hear a blessed heavenly sound, and angel's song, without deceit or feigning. Our Lord knows the soul that, for abundance of burning love, is worthy to hear angel's song.

"You may hear and feel the heavenly sound, made by the presence of Angels in loving God." This song is such that it does not consist of mere words. This song may be felt as well as heard. It is a song that enters the flesh through the grace of God, and serves as another consolation.

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Christ Altogether Lovely


John Flavel who lived (as though there is some other century in this blog) in the seventeenth century was an English Presbyterian minister. Some of his works are still extant, most particularly his sermons. There are many very beautiful things in them. But I often think about this one sermon, and I am over and over again carried away by the beauty and truth of what Flavel teaches us.

from "Christ Altogether Lovely" John Flavel

Let us consider this excellent expression, and particularly reflect on what is contained in it, and you shall find this expression "altogether lovely."

First, It excludes all unloveliness and disagreeableness from Jesus Christ. As a theologian long ago said, "There is nothing in him which is not loveable." The excellencies of Jesus Christ are perfectly exclusive of all their opposites; there is nothing of a contrary property or quality found in him to contaminate or devaluate his excellency. And in this respect Christ infinitely transcends the most excellent and loveliest of created things. Whatsoever loveliness is found in them, it is not without a bad aftertaste. The fairest pictures must have their shadows: The rarest and most brilliant gems must have dark backgrounds to set off their beauty; the best creature is but a bitter sweet at best: If there is something pleasing, there is also something sour. if a person has every ability, both innate and acquired, to delight us, yet there is also some natural corruption intermixed with it to put us off. But it is not so in our altogether lovely Christ, his excellencies are pure and unmixed. He is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.

Secondly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. There is nothing unlovely found in him, so all that is in him is wholly lovely. As every ray of God is precious, so every thing that is in Christ is precious: Who can weigh Christ in a pair of balances, and tell you what his worth is? "His price is above rubies, and all that thou canst desire is not to be compared with him," Prov. 8:11.

Thirdly "Altogether lovely," i.e. He embraces all things that are lovely: he seals up the sum of all loveliness. Things that shine as single stars with a particular glory, all meet in Christ as a glorious constellation. Col. 1:19, "It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell." Cast your eyes among all created beings, survey the universe: you will observe strength in one, beauty in a second, faithfulness in a third, wisdom in a fourth; but you shall find none excelling in them all as Christ does. Bread has one quality, water another, raiment another, medicine another; but none has them all in itself as Christ does. He is bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, a garment to the naked, healing to the wounded; and whatever a soul can desire is found in him, 1 Cor. 1:30.

Fourthly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. Nothing is lovely in opposition to him, or in separation from him. If he truly is altogether lovely, then whatsoever is opposite to him, or separate from him can have no loveliness in it. Take away Christ, and where is the loveliness of any enjoyment? The best creature-comfort apart from Christ is but a broken cistern. It cannot hold one drop of true comfort, Psalm 73:26. It is with the creature--the sweetest and loveliest creature--as with a beautiful image in the mirror: turn away the face and where is the image? Riches, honours, and comfortable relations are sweet when the face of Christ smiles upon us through them; but without him, what empty trifles are they all?

Fifthly, "Altogether lovely," i.e. Transcending all created excellencies in beauty and loveliness. If you compare Christ and other things, no matter how lovely, no matter how excellent and desirable, Christ carries away all loveliness from them. "He is (as the apostle says) before all things," Col. 1:17. Not only before all things in time, nature, and order; but before all things in dignity, glory, and true excellence. In all things he must have the pre-eminence. Let us but compare Christ's excellence with the creature's in a few particulars, and how manifest will the transcendent loveliness of Jesus Christ appear!

Christ is altogether lovely. Altogether lovely. Lovable, loving, Love Incarnate, altogether lovely. Are any other words necessary or meaningful in this relation?

In His humanity--altogether lovely,
In His divinity--altogether lovely,
In His humility--altogether lovely,
In His devotion--altogether lovely,
In His speech--altogether lovely,
In His appearance--altogether lovely,
In His life--altogether lovely,
In His words--altogether lovely,
In His sacrifice--altogether lovely,
In His death--altogether lovely,
In His friendship--altogether lovely,
In His anger--altogether lovely,
In His generosity--altogether lovely,
In His teaching--altogether lovely,
In His subservience--altogether lovely,
In His transcendence--altogether lovely,
In His apostles--altogether lovely,
In His saints--altogether lovely,
In His people--altogether lovely,
In all people--Christ is altogether lovely,
In His creation--Christ is altogether lovely.

Lord, teach me always and everywhere to live in awe, wonder, and constant attention to your loveliness--the loveliness of the most beautiful of God's creations or man's cocreations pales in comparison. Teach me to look upon this and desire this alone. Teach me to let go of everything that is not You--for in you alone is there anything worthwhile.

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Mr. Alexander's Return Our good


Mr. Alexander's Return

Our good friend and most excellent and interesting blogger, Mr. Matthew Alexander, respectfully requests that we inform all and sundry that he is back to blogging. Do yourself a favor and venture there to savor all kinds of things heretofore untold-- (at least in his words.)

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The SCARIEST blog of All


Read Ms. Knapp on the frightening reality of her blog. Abagail is partially right--to those not used to it, someone with such a clear focus can be very daunting. All I can say is an encouraging--"Keep on Daunting!" A beautiful column, as usual.

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Senses Working Overtime As much


Senses Working Overtime

As much as I love the presentations over at Disputations, I particularly loved this reflection on (in part) the meaning of sin. Seems Blogmaster and I were on a similar channel yesterday and this reflection just hit the spot for me.

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Poetry du Jour


I have thought long and hard before deciding to take this step. And the conclusion of my thought is that I have determined to try to share some of my own poetic endeavors from time to time. The poetry market seems mostly closed--I've tried time and again to break in, but other than little magazines, no one is really taking anything from any new voice. Or, perhaps, (and believe me this reality has hit home often) my poetry really doesn't deserve publication. That's hard for me to believe, particularly when I look at some of the stuff that does make its way into the paying market. Surely there is good stuff, and just as surely there is stuff that amounts to the emperor's new clothes. People have been told that it is good, and it is new, and that has been accepted. Whatever the reality, I humbly offer this poem for your delectation and delight (please keep any horror and repugnance to yourself--some things are best savored alone). And please pardon me if this seems too bold a step.

Completion: A Valediction
Steven Riddle

for Joyce M

The thousand paper cranes have been folded.
The day has come to set them to their flight.
As we pause to ponder, something like dread
threatens to consume us, as though we might
not be able to fold these birds again.
Our touch will be gone, the paper too coarse,
the folds too hard, our hearts too sad. But when
we think of our first efforts, and rehearse
our first completed crane, we see the hands
that guided us, feel their touch, and know that
they will show us how to shape and mold and
make new figures even at a distance. What
we thought would be the end, becomes the start
of even greater paper-folding art.

c. 2002 Steven Riddle

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Jesus Wept Many who read


Jesus Wept

Many who read this have been spared the ordeal of Baptist Sunday School. I say ordeal, although at the time I am sure that I enjoyed it, and its effects have remained with me for a very long time. One aspect of this type of Sunday school was verse memorization. You would pick a chapter and verse of scripture and memorize it word for word in the King James (Authorized) Edition. As I said, something of this sort stays with you. However, there were weeks when you didn't have time to memorize, and every so often the verse you came up with was, "Jesus wept." Two words, not particularly difficult to remember. I believe they are found in the gospel of Luke, I forget the citation at this time. But I remember the verse.

One of the reasons I remember it is that it was the first time I realized that events and actions that affect us affect God. God, in fact, loves us so much that He allows Himself to be changed by us. The unchangeable allows Himself to be persuaded, cajoled, petitioned, and ultimately moved by the creation He loves so much. Too often I forget this. Too often in prayer I seem to be talking to a distant God who may or may not have much interest in what I am saying and what is happening to me here and now. What I need to remember at those times is "Jesus wept." Jesus, God incarnate, is moved for his creation. In fact, Jesus weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem that he foresees upon looking at the city. Jesus is moved by pity. Jesus is moved and He is changed by His creation. Not that He must be changed--he could remain as fixed as the center point of the Universe if He so willed. God has the capacity to resist any change or any force. But He allows the force of our lives, our needs, our wants, our love to move Him.

Time and again we see that God grieves with us, or God is moved by us. In the magnificent story of Jonah, God "repents" of His promised destruction of the city of Nineveh when the people of the town showed deep remorse. Jonah, in a fit of pique, wishes himself dead. God comforts him with the growth of a bean plant and then withers it. Jonah, apparently not the most happy of people at the best of times, once again sulks and God gently reminds Him that while Jonah had done nothing for the bean plant, God had thousands of men, women, and children who were utterly dependent upon Him and who acknowledged their dependence. How could He not heed their cries?

Jesus wept. And my guess is, He still weeps for us. As our companion in all of life's difficulties, He weeps for us when we lose someone, not because they are lost--after all, He knows where they are--but because we hurt and He knows the sharpness of that hurt. Jesus rejoices with us when we rejoice. He is our constant companion, our closest and most intimate friend, the Person who loves us best of all. In our sorrow and in our joy, we have the solace and the companionship of the God who deigned to become like us. This God, who could have saved in any way He wished, chose to show how much we meant by becoming one of us. He chose to give us Himself in all humanity so that we could not say He did not understand our problems--for indeed He does.

Jesus wept, and Jesus still weeps and God is still moved by His creation. There is enormous mystery in those words and thoughts. There is great strangeness in that reality. As we mourn, or as we rejoice, we should make an effort to be aware of Jesus who is with us through everything.

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Sadness of the State Fair


Sadness of the State Fair

A nice description of some of the true joys and interests of state fairs and of their unfortunate decline is available at Sainteros.

I have, for some reason, been thinking along the same lines for some time. Recent events in blogdom and in life has led me to really think about my appreciation of things rural. Being a suburban boy, this is a tough thing for me--the rural has all the horrors of the unknown, and yet those self-same beauties. We are too disconnected as a society and people. We have gradually obtained a sense that we are somehow above or outside of nature. This is a serious fallacy and a serious problem.

My solution--I have no wisdom here. But I believe that I shall attend next year's county fair and the Strawberry Festival in nearby Lakeland. It's only a bit of a reconnect, but it sure seems I'm being moved that way. Thanks Mr. First from Floyd, Mr. Bell from Front Royal, and Mr. Brobeck. Sometimes I need emphatic reminders.

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Site Motto As soon as


Site Motto

As soon as I come up with an appropriate way to do so, I want to post the following quotation from The Sayings of Light and Love as site motto and reminder.

from Sayings of Light and Love Saint John of the Cross

118. Ignoring the imperfections of others, preserving silence and a continual communion with God will eradicate great imperfections from the soul and make it the possessor of great virtues.

My temptation is often to focus out from myself. I look at others and I see all sorts of undesirable qualities. What I need to remember is the psychological and spiritual reality articulated by Jesus--"Judge not, lest yet be judged."

When I look out into the world and see things I don't like, I must remember I am looking into a mirror. Those irritations and imperfections that upset me are my own in greater or lesser degree. When I judge them, when I lash out against them, I am in some sense judging what I do not like in myself.

But getting away from the whole question of judging--when I am looking at the blemishes of others, I prevent myself from seeing Christ in them. When I am focusing on the things that irritate me, I am incapable of perceiving Jesus who stands right beside me attempting to instruct me in love. In fact, ignoring the imperfections of others is the only way to begin to preserve silence and perfect communion with God. If we are obsessed with imperfections, charity would demand that we assist others in conquering them. Moreover, when we are continually examining those imperfections, we set ourselves up God and judge. We must speak, for not to speak would be to condemn the other to their imperfection. We exalt ourselves.

Better to maintain silence. Perhaps what we see as an imperfection God perceives as the pinnacle of perfection of a virtue we are neither interested in nor looking for. Our focus should be on Jesus Christ. When we look at others, we should see the image of Christ looking out to us. We need to reach out to that perfect image and lose ourselves in service. We need to serve Christ. If we are busy cataloguing imperfections, we will not serve anyone or anything other than our own prejudices. This is a place where I need a lot of grace. I need God's continual help and support, and I need the daily reminder--hence the site motto.

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Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is considered amongst the finest flowering of the "graveyard school" of poetry. Yes, there is such a thing--fortunately a phenomenon relatively short lived, but giving rise to this one great elegiac tribute. Here is an excerpt that gave us another famous work.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Thomas Gray . . . Th' applause of list'ning senates to command, The threats of pain and ruin to despise, To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev'n these bones from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
. . .

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Sin: Speech and Talk, Silence


Sin: Speech and Talk, Silence and Dumbness

This series of excerpts from Romano Guardini's great "Meditations Before Mass" provides a lot of food for thought.

Meditations Before Mass Romano Guardini "Silence and the Word"

But truth can be recognized only from silence. The constant talker will never, or at least rarely, grasp truth. Of course even he must experience some truths, otherwise he could not exist. He does notice certain facts, observe certain relations, draw conclusions and make plans. But he does not yet possess genuine truth, which comes into being only when the essence of an object, the significance of a relation, and what is valid and eternal in this world reveal themselves. This requires the spaciousness, freedom, and pure receptiveness of that inner "clean-swept room" which silence alone can create. The constant talker knows no such room within himself; hence he cannot know truth. Truth, and consequently the reality of speech, depends upon the speaker's ability to speak and to be silent in turn.
The heart incapable of storing anything, of withdrawing into itself, cannot thrive. Like a field that must constantly produce, it is soon impoverished.
Just as there exists a perverted variety of speech, "talk," there exists also a perverted silence, dumbness. Dumbness is just as bad as garrulity. It occurs when silence, sealed in the dungeon of a heart that has no outlet, becomes cramped and oppressive.
Consequently, even for the sake of speech we must practice silence. To a large extent the liturgy consists of words which we address to and receive from God. They must not degenerate to mere talk, which is the fate of all words, even the profoundest and holiest, when they are spoken improperly.

There is such a storehouse of wisdom in a few simple phrases. I particularly liked,” Truth, and consequently the reality of speech, depends upon the speaker's ability to speak and to be silent in turn. " I'm not sure I fully understand it, but I believe that there are two parts to what Guardini is saying. Truth is dynamic. That is, because of its nature it requires a direct interaction from us. If we are completely silent all of them time, we cannot begin to internalize truth. It seems to fully understand it, we must converse with it in a serious fashion. However, the second half of this I understand thoroughly. If one's mouth is constantly running, there can be no pause no space in which to hear the truth. If we are constantly speaking, we cannot hear. And perhaps that is why some of us are constantly talking--hearing the truth is hard. As much as we may love Jesus and want to please Him, we don't really want to know the truth about ourselves--we suspect that it would be too ugly and too hard.

We may be right. But it seems to me that when you face the crucifix, you are facing the ugliest and hardest truth about yourself that there is. Even if you don't feel it, even if you only pay lip-service to it. The truth revealed to us in the crucifix is that we all contributed to this. That is sin is not a potential, it is a reality, and it is a destructive, ugly, hard reality that means real pain for real people. Disobedience is not a matter lightly undertaken because it is a nail in the hand of Christ. Speaking poorly of our neighbors and friends is a hammer blow. Christ didn't lecture at us from the Cross telling us the meaning of the spectacle before us, rather he prayed for us and worked for us, all the while that we stared and did nothing. Yes--that is the truth and the hard reality. In the suffering of Jesus Christ , we did not exhibit merely the potential for cruelty; rather, we stood by and at the last moment offered Him a vinegar-soaked rag. That is the hard truth exhibited in every crucifix. It is, I suspect, the reason why some protestant sects have nothing corresponding to a crucifix. The truth is far too difficult to look upon--we can talk about utter depravity, but we can't face the consequences of our talk.

The truth is also that our cruelty is like the cruelty of children. Jesus Himself said it, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." We don't recognize that actions have eternal consequences. We don't realize that "a little sin" has a great echo. Like a shockwave in a tectonic plate under the ocean, we precipitate a ripple in the water, which, when it approaches shore becomes a tsunami of destruction. It may not seem so bad to look at our Playboys and other such magazines. Surely the swimsuit issue of Sport's Illustrated would be okay. It isn't so terrible to get a little tipsy and then drive ourselves home. Surely eating three times more than any normal person possibly could isn't so terrible an act. But every sin, every straying from the perfection of the life God would have us lead is a dire and dangerous thing. Small deviations from expectations gradually lead us to become more daring. From Playboy we may slip into depersonalizing our spouse or perhaps even adultery. From tipsy we move to drunk, to having killed some innocent because of our gross irresponsibility and sin. Venial sins are only venial when they are repudiated and confessed. Within them is the capacity to so warp our image of self and God that we move gradually into mortal sin without recognizing it. As with Church Doctrine--we dissent from some small teaching, something seemingly insignificant, for which we can bring enormous evidence to support our position--suddenly we find that we can accept no teaching because we "have broken the Authority" with which the Church teaches. Church teachings become simply a smorgasbord of suggestions about how we might lead better lives. So too with sin--one small step begins to unbind the authority of Conscience. Soon, we are lost, not knowing how we got there.

But we are never lost. Jesus is always there. Look at a crucifix in time of temptation. Place yourself not at the foot of the cross, but as one of those who is binding the Lord to it. Hold the hammer in your hand and feel its weight. Bring it down upon a nail. One moment of that, one turn of the thought of what you are doing, and if you are not our good friend Alex from A Clockwork Orange the wave of revulsion you feel may be enough to dissuade you from the action. Realizing the enormity of sin is one step toward avoiding near occasions of sin. The next time we think about sinning, this exercise, and a momentary consideration of how our sin extends beyond ourselves, may provide strong persuasion to refrain from our considered act.

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"For the Snark was .


"For the Snark was . . ."

A dear friend expressed the need for "Jabberwocky." So in my inimitably perverse way, I provide him solace via the eighth fit of "The Hunting of the Snark."

from "The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits" Lewis Carroll Fit the Eighth. THE VANISHING.

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.

They shuddered to think that the chase might fail,
And the Beaver, excited at last,
Went bounding along on the tip of its tail,
For the daylight was nearly past.

"There is Thingumbob shouting!" the Bellman said,
"He is shouting like mad, only hark!
He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
He has certainly found a Snark!"

They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
"He was always a desperate wag!"
They beheld him--their Baker--their hero unnamed--
On the top of a neighbouring crag,

Erect and sublime, for one moment of time
In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
While they waited and listened in awe.

"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"

Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
A weary and wandering sigh
Then sounded like "-jum!" but the others declare
It was only a breeze that went by.

They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

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More Notes on Japanese Poetry


If you want a perfect example of the nearly complete opacity of Japanese Verse, go to the link below and visit Station 23, Hiraizumi. Click on each of the four different translations and see what the different translators make of the haiku that are included in the narrative. My own reading suggests that Corum's translation is the most accurate of the four, but it is nearly completely disjointed--abbreviated to the point of obscurity. What a challenge translating this must be!

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One day, less than that, and I'm already endlessly in debt to Mr. Bell. This wonderful link is the latest in things discovered on his blog. I have an edition of Basho called, The Narrow Road to Oku which has magnificent plates accompanying the poems, along with some of the original Japanese for me to puzzle and marvel over (those chains of syllables that appear to have no real connectors in the way of verbs--fascinating stuff). But at this site you may choose one of four different translators or read the original Japanese, if you're so inclined. Even if you don't read it, it is wonderful to look at. I always marvel at the way that Japanese rains down on the page in beautiful rivulets. Given that they have phonograms (two different sets--one for Japanese words, one for non-Japanese) and Logograms, the symbols move from ripe, plump meaningful mysterys, to spare but gorgeous squiggles. One of the phonograms looks like it is escaping from being a "schwa." Enjoy the site. I'll be adding it to the permanent list, as this is one of my very favorite works of Asian poetry.

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Selections from Japanese Poetry


Selections from Japanese Poetry
Just a couple of short pieces:

Lady Heguri
A thousand years, you said,
As our hearts melted.
I look at the hand you held,
And the ache is hard to bear.

from Six Tanka for Yakamochi
Lady Kasa

Like the pearl of dew
On the grass in my garden
In the evening shadows,
I shall be no more.

Even the grains of sand
On a beach eight hundred days wide
Would not be more than my love,
Watchman of the island coast.

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Wendell Berry It took me


Wendell Berry

It took me quite a while to acquire the taste for this poet. However once I did, nothing I looked at seemed the same. There is power in his words that transcends my ability to describe, but I have come to love his work. The following poem is from The Country of Marriage.

The Cruel Plumage (A Theme of Edwin Muir) Wendell Berry

All our days are arrows; now at the turn
of life, half-fledged and knowledgeable, I face
the coming of the rest, their grief and pain
made accurate by their joy. So I will learn
the world. full-feathered, I must fly to an unknown

And one more, from the collection Openings

The Want of Peace Wendell Berry

All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman's silence
recieving the river's grace,
the gardener's musing on rows.

I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.

I can't say enough about this latter poem. I suppose a poet speaks to where you are and where you have been. Mr. Berry is a poet for me for now, speaking volumes of truth in few words--few, but beautiful.

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One for Dylan


One for Dylan

Here's a relatively contemporary poet whom, I imagine, even Dylan has not had much of an encounter with. I knew this man personally and his poetry was potentially some of the very finest I have ever set eyes on. The only problem is that he did not believe in revision or revisiting in any extensive sense. It gave rise to some infelicities in language. But, all that can be forgiven for some of this beauty:

The Moon Has No Motion I Can Move
Jay Bradford Fowler Jr.

The moon has no motion I can move
Nor the trees in the night can I have
As my green leaves.

The moon made a soft motion
In the night and the leaves
Whispered closer to themselves.

My dream turns as softly
As the moon and thought, like leaves,
Grow in peace among their branches.

The moon is no maker. It does not mean.
And the leaves in the wind I cannot do.
The moon is no maker but for me to make

The letting of the moon grow soft
Upon my shoulder. The leaves are no wisdom.
They do not speak, but for saying
my prayers as I sleep.

from "When the Secret Taper Descends

When the secret taper decends
And holds steady on the tips of the phlox
Until they burst into blooms of pink
The man on the porch opens the door
To the yard and walks out into
The dark garden to hold his face among
Their blooms and smell their incense. . .

from "A Straight Line of Love

My father will not ascend into heaven.
He will drive there in his Packard.
And the drive will be north, through
Connecticut and New Hampshire, to Maine,
And beyond. One night my father will rise
From his bed and leave the little
Room with the chest of drawers and its wild
Garden of photographs. . .

Jay was a beautiful and unique voice in poetry. It is a shame he is no longer with us. It would be a greater shame if his poetry, which he loved as nothing else, were to be utterly unremembered.

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Treasures Come from Digging Sounds


Treasures Come from Digging

Sounds rather like an A. A. Fair title, does it not? Oh well--don't expect Bertha Cool here. What I found via my wanderings is this wonderful excerpt:

from "Prayer and Life"
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh


1. The Search for the Vision of Things as God Sees Them

What, then, is the nature of this contemplation? It is the function, the constant, unceasing situation of the Christian, irrespective of his position: he may belong to a contemplative Order, or to any other Order; or again he may be simply a layman who is doubly committed, that is, committed in relation to God and, by that very fact, totally committed in relation to all the rest of the created world, the world of men and things. The first fact to note is that this contemplation is a steady gaze, an attentive gaze, deriving from a lucid mind, concentrating on things, people and events, on both their static reality and their dynamism. It is a gaze fixed wholly on its object, and at the same time an ear wholly straining towards what it will hear, what will reach it from without. And to achieve this calls for a very definite and indispensable ascesis, for one must know how to be self-detached in order to see and hear. As long as we remain self-centred, we can only see a reflection of ourselves in the things that surround us, or a reflection of what surrounds us in the restless, troubled waters of our conscience. We must know how to be silent in order to hear; we must know how to gaze earnestly before believing that we have seen. We have to be at once free of ourselves and given over to God and to the object of his contemplation. Only then will we be able to see things in their objective reality.

This site seems to be devoted to his writings and worthy of several visits. Thanks to Mr. Bell again.

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Notes from a Hillside Farm


Notes from a Hillside Farm

Sometimes things simply speak to you. I was casting about for new blogs to read and new places to explore. I stumbled upon Mr. Bell's Notes from a Hillside Farm and immediately knew this would be a place I would visit often. I consider Northern/Tidewater Virginia home (Northern, because family is there, Tidewater, because it is where I seem always to be longing for). But the mountains of Virginia near Winchester, Front Royal, and most particularly Massanutten Mountain were the sites of some of my earliest work in geology, and still very, very dear to me. In addition, Mr. Bell seems to have some good insights and shares with me some of the things that are not presently possible for me to do. I'll be a frequent visitor.

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More Modern Christian Poets


More Modern Christian Poets

I've long wanted to blog some of the poetry of Luci Shaw. You can find one here. Search the index for this site to find other, she is often published in magazines such as First Things.

Sister Miriam Pollard O.C.S.O. is another fine poet. Here is a short excerpt from her poem "Elijah in December." Many of her poems follow this pattern of prosody. The book is available from Ignatius Press.

from "Elijah in December"
in Neither Be Afraid
Sr. Miriam Pollard OCSO

Nothing now sparkles and flashes,
Notheing here thunders or rings.
There's only the silvery rustle
Of something like wings.

Not in the sky's explosion,
Not where the mountains fall--
Stand and cover your face
Where a hush is all.

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Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit


Dylan has blogged a poem from a Carmelite poet I have long considered placing on the site. The poetry of Jessica Powers is, for the most part, quite lovely and quite evocative. We have in our Chapter Book for Carmelite meetings a poem of Sr. Miriam which can be sung to the Music of "Ode to Joy." The OCDS publication Clarion Call often includes one of Sr. Miriam's poems. So, go and enjoy. I'll just have to find another poet to blog first.

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Loreena McKennitt


Loreena McKennitt

Mr González very generously responded to my plea for help and then gave me a surprising bonus--a comment to comment upon.

Odd coincidence: I intended to comment in my weblog about some some english translations of "En una noche oscura ... " Perhaps next week... (did you hear the -somewhat 'new-age' but not bad- Loreena McKennit version?) If you know of some good english versions, please tell me.

I love the music of Loreena McKennitt, and while I can't claim to have been with her from the very beginning, I started loving her when I heard the fantastic song, "All Soul's Night" from The Visit while listening to my local classical music station. Loreena does vaguely Enya-like stuff--but the emphasis seems more Celtic than New Age--though I suppose the two are so closely allied in most aspects that they are difficult to separate.

What I particularly like about Loreena McKennitt's albums is that each one has one "Narrative Poem" set to music. On The Visit we have "The Lady of Shalott," on The Book of Secrets we have "The Highwayman," and on The Mask and the Mirror we have two: "The Dark Night of the Soul" and "The Bonny Swans." Actually "The Bonny Swans" is an old song, so the lyrics have entered the world of poetry by the back door.

The music is that lovely, largely minor key Celtic-themed material played largely on traditional instruments and Ms. McKennitt's voice is a beautiful accompaniment. I cannot say enough good about her, even though I have not of recent date picked up her albums. I will have to remedy that as soon as I have a chance.

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Availablity of the Works of


Availablity of the Works of San Juan de la Cruz
First, many thanks to Mr. González for the advice on Spanish Versions of San Juan's works.

Now, a response to the query he posited--what are considered the very best English translations of San Juan's works can be found at ICS publications site. Go to the Archives and you'll find on-line English translations of everything except Ascent of Mount Carmel. The somewhat stodgier, older translation of Ascent by E. Allison Peers is available here. The Kiernan Kavanaugh/Ottilio Rodriguez translations available at ICS are considered among the finest. Also, they did tremendous editorial work that resulted in a much expanded version of The Sayings of Light and Love. Enjoy!

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Two Childhood Favorites I


Two Childhood Favorites

I almost feel the need to apologize for the following, but I have loved it ever since I was a little child, and I will read it often to my own children. The lesson taught is more relevant than ever.

The Spider and the Fly Mary Howitt

"Will you walk into my parlour?" said the Spider to the Fly,"
'Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show you when you are there."
"Oh no, no," said the Fly, "to ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair can ne'er come down again."

"I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?" said the Spider to the Fly.
"There are pretty curtains drawn around, the sheets are fine and thin;
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "for I've often heard it said
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, "Dear friend, what can I do
To prove that warm affection I've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice;
I'm sure you're very welcome - will you please take a slice?"
"Oh no, no," said the little Fly, "kind sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!"

"Sweet creature," said the Spider, "you're witty and you're wise;
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I have a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf;
If you step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself."
"I thank you, gentle sir," she said, "for what you're pleased to say;
And bidding good morning now, I'll call another day."

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again;
So he wove a subtle web in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
"Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple, there's a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are as dull as lead."

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, Then near and nearer drew, -
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue;
Thinking only of her crested head - poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den
Within his little parlour - but she ne'er came out again!

And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne'er heed;
Unto an evil counsellor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.

And here's another of the same, from the poet who brought you "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" and other such nostalgiac, and largely saccharine verse. Doesn't matter--I really like this one:

The Duel Eugene Field The gingham dog and the calico cat Side by side on the table sat; T'was half past twelve, and (what do you think!) Nor one nor t'other had slept a wink! The old Dutch clock and the Chinese plate Appeared to know as sure as fate There was going to be a terrible spat (I wasn't there; I simply state What was told to me by the Chinese plate!)

The gingham dog went "Bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "Mee-ow!"
The air was littered, an hour or so,
With bits of gingham and calico,
While the old Dutch clock in the chimney-place
Up with its hands before its face,
For it always dreaded a family row!

(Now mind: I'm only telling you
What the old Dutch clock declares is true!)
The Chinese plate looked very blue,
And wailed, "Oh, dear! what shall we do!"
But the gingham dog and the calico cat
Wallowed this way and tumbled that,
Employing every tooth and claw
In the awfulest way you ever saw--
And oh! How the gingham and calico flew!
(Don't fancy I exaggerate--I got my news from the Chinese plate!)

Next morning, where the two had sat
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole that pair away!
But the truth about that cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!
Now what do you really think of that!
(The old Dutch clock it told me so,
And that is how I came to know.)

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The Poetry of Science


I was seeking to regale you with the delightsome poetry of Erasmus Darwin and I stumbled upon this wonderful site. It contains something close to 100 poems and I include a couple of highlights here.

from The Botanic Garden
Erasmus Darwin

She comes!--the Goddess!--through the whispering air,
Bright as the morn, descends her blushing car;
Each circling wheel a wreath of flowers intwines,
and gemd with flowers the silken harness shines;
The golden bits with flowery studs are deck'd,
And knots of flowers the crimson reisn connect.--
And now on earth the silver axle rings,
And the shell sinks upon its slender springs;
Light from airy feat the Goddess bounds,
And steps celestial press the pansied grounds.

In my years as geologist one of the great prizes in fossil collecting was a trilobite. I did much of my work in areas where these were not uncommon; however, you often found only bits and pieces. I found a single sclerite (body plate) of the Ohio State fossil--Isotelus gigas (for a photograph see this site)that was more than an inch across it's anterior-posterior dimension. Estimating the overall size, the trilobite would have been on the order of three and a half feet long. Hence this excerpt:

Lay of the Trilobite May Kendall

A mountain's giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.

So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!

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As Forewarned--Fulke Greville I had


As Forewarned--Fulke Greville

I had forgotten for a long while about the work of Lord Brooke, until I stumbled upon the Luminarium. I would hardly consider him a major voice of his time, but some of his poems are amusing and interesting. I've a particular interest in heresies exposed in verse and so I present this delightful little ditty:

Caelica Sonnet 89 Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke

The Manicheans did no idols make
Without themselves, nor worship gods of wood,
Yet idols did in their Ideas take,
And figured Christ as on the cross he stood.
Thus did they when they earnestly did pray,
Till clearer Faith this idol took away.

We seem more inwardly to know the Son,
And see our own salvation in his blood.
When this is said, we think the work is done,
And with the Father hold our portion good,
As if true life within these words were laid
For him that in life never words obeyed.

If this be safe, it is a pleasant way,
The Cross of Christ is very easily borne;
But six days' labour makes the sabbath day,
The flesh is dead before grace can be born.
The heart must first bear witness with the book,
The earth must burn, ere we for Christ can look.

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Request for Assistance--San Juan de


Request for Assistance--San Juan de la Cruz

At one time I had two different sources for Works of San Juan in Spanish. I was unable to get to either of these locations when I tried recently. My Carmelite group has a largely hispanic contingent and it seemed to make more sense for people who could read Spanish more easily than English to read St. John in the original. In addition, they could advise when our translations went astray. If you know of a place where the complete works are on-line in Spanish, or failing that a site at which I could find Subida al Monte Carmelo I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

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More Early American Poetry


More Early American Poetry

Here's another I stumbled upon in my reading which I find "rich and strange" by its juxtaposition of Christ and, or all possibilities, an apple tree.

Christ the Apple-Tree
Anonymous circa 1761

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit, and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be,
Compared with Christ the apple-tree.

His beauty doth all things excel;
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell,
The glory which I now can see,
In Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I miss'd of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple-tree.

I'm weary'd with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest a while:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

With great delight I'll make my stay,
There's non shall fright my soul away:
Among the sons of men I see
There's none like Christ the apple-tree.

I'll sit and eat this fruit divine,
It cheers my heart like spirit'al wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me
That grows on Christ the apple-tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my would in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple-tree.

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Shaker Songs and Poetry


I have a very soft spot in my heart for both Shakers and Quakers. Shakers particularly grab my imagination, as they were the closest thing the protestant faiths had to a monastic, contemplative society. Founded by Mother Ann Lee in England, quickly transported and rooted in American soil--Shakers have left a lasting mark on the landscape, furniture, faith, and music of America. Here's one of their hymns.

Walk Softly
Shaker Hymn

When we assemble here to worship God,
To sing his praises and to hear his word
We will walk softly.

With purity of heart; and with clean hands,
Our souls are free, we're free from Satan's bands
We will walk softly.

While we are passing thro' the sacred door,
Into the fold where Christ has gone before,
We will walk softly.

We'll worship and bow down we will rejoice
And when we hear the shepherd's gentle voice
We will walk softly.

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Melville's Poetry


Melville's Poetry
As a general thing, I'm not overly impressed with Melville either as a prose stylist or as a poet. However, all rules (except this) have their exceptions and I was reading through some Early American poetry and stumbled on this delightful ditty.

The Maldive Shark
Herman Melville

About the Shark, phlegmatical one,
Pale sot of the Maldive sea,
The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim,
How alert in attendance be.
From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw
They have nothing of harm to dread,
But liquidly glide on his ghostly flank
Or before his Gorgonian head;
Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth
In white triple tiers of glittering gates,
And there find a haven when peril's abroad,
An asylum in jaws of the Fates!
They are friends; and fiendly they guide him to prey,
Yet never partake of the treat--
Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargie and dull,
Pale raverner of horrible meat.

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I started this as a response over on Dylan's blog, but realized it was too long-winded and too intricate for a mere comment box. So please bear with the thank you section (or skip it).

First to Dylan--thanks for introducing or reintroducing me to Countee Cullen. Not enough good can be said of what you have done for me in terms of poetic life. Before I get mawkish and embarrassing, let me leave it, but let me also say to everyone who blesses my blog with a visit--you would do yourself a great favor by visiting Error 503--La Vita Nuova every day to see what treats Dylan has very courteously prepared for you. I have noted that if you are very nice to him, he will even go to the extent of laying out special things on occasion. That said, on with the main thrust of this portion of the blog.

Of recent date, I've become a Cullen evangelist, wondering why he isn't in more of our text books. You've read some of his selections here and at Dylan's blog, and you can recognize fine poetry. Too often textbook publishers and anthologists in their desperation to represent diversity include some of the most incredibly awful second- or third- rate poetry by modern Hispanic and/or African American authors. Were one to judge from such texts, one might conclude that the tradition of African American poetry in this country began with Nikki Giovanni and culminated with the writings of Maya Angelou. And I am certain both of these fine writers would be among the first to try to disabuse you of the notion.

However, the name of Countee Cullen rarely, if ever shows up in the annals of poetry from this century taught at anything below the college level. I know that in eighth grade students are often reading, if not analyzing sonnets--why is his writing not included. Here is where I draw the line in the sand.

I am not a multiculturalist for the sake of representation. I find that kind of nonsense does a service to no one. However, true multiculturalism--people who with an eye to good writing return to the writers of the past who have been glossed over and neglected, for whatever reason--these people should be taken seriously and respected. African American writers have contributed extensively to the American Idiom and to the poetic venture. And yet we seem to neglect, with impunity, such fine writers as Countee Cullen and Phillis Wheatley.

People who have championed the multicultural cause have done us all both a great service and a grave disservice. Those who seek to rewrite history and literature to enhance the contributions of underrepresented writers simply damage the integrity of the cause. But those who have directed our attention to much neglected writers such as Countee Cullen (a deeply religious poet), Phillis Wheatley, and, on the African Continent, Wole Soyinka, Amos Tuoela, Chinua Achebe, and others, serve us all well. Great poetry, great writing, greatness of heart should not be judged by presence in the established pantheon nor by skin color or any other external attribute. I can think of a dozen frequently anthologized white and minority poets who I could easily dispense with for the sake of the real art embodied in some of these writers.

The purpose of multiculturalism--to bring to a struggling people examples from the past and present of persons to emulate, to show that our culture isn't composed solely of the writings and thoughts of white men of the past--are admirable. Where the goal goes astray--seeking to entirely eradicate the contributions of white males as representative merely of the oppression of past years, or overbalancing in favor of writers who have neither influenced nor contributed much, if anything, to the mainstream of American Writers--multiculturalist should be criticized. But when a person says to me, "Countee Cullen has not influenced poetry as much as he would have had he been given proper representation in materials presented to students," I find myself nodding in agreement.

People who truly love the arts serve us all well when they hold up examples of extraordinary work. Dylan does this consistently at his blog. I attempt to do it, but I admit to diluting the overall effect by including things that I may like regardless of their actual merit. (In case you couldn't tell I'm extremely fond of poets prior to 1770, or so. I like a lot after that as well, but it seems most people would probably be better acquainted with poets from those centuries. Moreover, it is perhaps better to stay with what you love because you can at least explain what it is about the poem that you find meaningful or important.) I am profound grateful for every blogger who takes time to post even a single poem or great piece of prose. Great writing is only one of the gifts God has showered upon us, but in such a medium it is certainly one that we can all share and enjoy.

Thank you all for your patience, and I would dearly love to continue the discussion of multiculturalism if anyone would like to take up the thread.

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Some Misconceptions about Detachment


Some Misconceptions about Detachment

If you listen to some wags, who don't understand him, nor have taken the time to understand his writing, you might get the impression of St. John of the Cross as an austere, rigid, cold, distant, unmovable, unlovable man. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some would point to his teaching and claim for it an almost manicheean distaste for physical reality and the Earth around us. Again, untrue. Anyone who knows of his life knows that some of his greatest inspiration came from wandering the fields and hills around Toledo, Campo del Medina, and other places where he spent time. St. John of the Cross was a true love of nature and of God.

"But his teachings--didn't he teach detachment?" Yes, in fact, he did. But people have some strange notions of what detachment entails. Today I encountered a person who said to me that they "prayed not to like something" as a road to detachment. Detachment isn't about liking or loving or not liking, or not loving. We should never pray to be anything other than what we are in God's eyes. And to be the fullness of that should be the main body of our prayer. If God gave us a taste for something, we shouldn't pray that He remove that from us--that is not detachment. That, in fact, may be contrary to God's will. (To say that it is seems to presume that I know fully what God's will is).

Detachment is the willingness to leave behind the truly good things of Earth in our pursuit of the only Really Good Persons. Detachment is not about pretending not to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner--it is about not whining when no wine is available for dinner. Detachment is not thinking that the world is bad and full of evil things; it is about loving all the good things of earth and being ready in a moment to abandon all of them at the behest of God. If you see six Sand Hill Cranes strutting through the field in the back of your home and they fly away, you experience a moment of bliss at the sight and perhaps sorry at the flight. But detachment is letting them go. You know you're attached when you go out and build a pen to keep the six cranes on your property at all time.

Detachment is an essential part of the Carmelite Life. We are called to be detached from all Earthly things, material and immaterial. And it is mostly in the realm of the latter that we have the greatest difficulty. Most of us are very much attached to our image of Jesus Christ and of God the Father. And most of us have highly inaccurate pictures of Jesus and God the Father. Most of us have fashioned Jesus in such a way as He would approve of most of what we do. Some of us have Jesus as "comfy buddy," who keeps us company and comforts our sorrows, but never thinks of challenging us in what we do or think. Some of us have Jesus as radical militant social reformer who commands that we reverse the social order no matter who we have to destroy, displace, or discomfit in any number of ways to do us. Sometimes those radical departures from the image of Jesus are easier to correct than some of the very subtle inaccuracies we have grown attached to. Sometimes our Jesus is almost exactly what Jesus really is, He is just ever so slightly more this, or less that. This attachment we have to "knowing" Jesus may be one of the hardest things to overcome.

Another myth concerning detachment is how you come by it. You don't repudiate the world's goods. You don't attempt to shake off the bonds of the corporeal or physical. You don't pray concerning each little thing to which you find yourself attached. You don't even pray for detachment. No, instead, you focus clearly on Jesus. In lectio, in meditation, and if you've been granted the grace for it, in contemplation, you spent time with Christ, listening to Him, looking at Him in love. Jesus gave us the key to detachment, "Wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be." When Jesus truly becomes our treasure, rather than the "treasure" we pay lip service to; when spending time with Him becomes a priority that outweighs nearly everything else in our lives, detachment is a natural concomitant of that. As we grow in love with the greater, we will naturally desire to leave behind the less, and we will find ourselves in a better place to do so.

Most of you are probably not much concerned with detachment. The main outlines of your spiritual direction don't seem to call for it. But all of the Orders have a primary focus--and detachment and contemplation are the focus of the Carmelites. And as with all such, it is merely the primary emphasis. If one were to look beneath the hood of the saints of any order, detachment would have been one of the qualities of the saint. That is by way of saying that detachment is by no means unique to the Carmelites, it is simply more obvious. So to the main charisms of all the orders. Each has its "defining characteristics," but all great Saints have integrated in greater or lesser degree all of the charisms of the orders. Nevertheless, each saint retains his or her particular personality, so too each order retains its definitive charism and personality.

Detachment is an essential, but it is an odd essential because it cannot be approached directly. As soon as one is pursuing detachment as an end, it has become an attachment of the spiritual kind, one of the kinds of attachment that are most difficult to address and to turn around.

Detachment is a great gift, received in profound prayer and union with Jesus Christ in God. One cannot achieve it by will, nor by the exercise of the virtues--although it may naturally follow from some of these things. One cannot achieve it by making it a goal and trying to achieve it. Detachment is best achieved by, curiously, detachment.

Thanks for listening to me go on and on. I truly love St. John of the Cross, perhaps more than any other Carmelite Saint (save Our Lady Herself). I love his deep warmth, his true humanity, and his vast love of God. He is not an easy saint to follow--on the other hand, I have a feeling that he is interceding for me on a nearly constant basis, and as with the importunate widow and the unjust Judge, God helps me out just to get St. John off of his back. (No, I know heaven doesn't work that way, but sometimes with the blessings I feel, it seems like it just might.)

Bless you all. May all of your prayers be exactly as God wills.

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Apologies for the Late


Apologies for the Late Blogging

The first Saturday of each month is the day on which my Carmelite community gathers. I have been blessed/cursed with having been formation master/director/ and returned to the position of formation master. The Carmelites I meet with are some of the most wonderful and loving people you could imagine, and the faith in that single room often boggles my mind. Last month I had set a hard task--everyone was to read and choose at least 5 of The sayings of Light and Love. From those five each person was to choose one and explain it or describe the relevance of it to their own life. You cannot begin to imagine the blessings showered on everyone present at that meeting. Everyone in the group shared at least one of the sayings, and some more than one. We dispelled a number of misconceptions regarding San Juan de la Cruz and next month we're going to reread select parts of the Sayings in preparation for The Ascent of Mount Carmel.

I guess you didn't need all this detail, but I really wanted to share a little bit about how wonderful, responsive, loving, and caring the whole group is. The other advantage is that we have an amazing mix of people--People from Haiti, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, The Philippines, USA, Mexico, and a number of other countries. Everyone contributes to providing the food and so we have quite a multinational and tasty brunch during the meeting.

I never fail to be stunned by God's tremendous mercy and generosity toward me. Yes, I know the group is not there for me alone, but I am so blessed to be able to meet with such wonderful, faith-filled people. Praise the Lord!

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Welcome Visitors from Mr. Serafin's


Welcome Visitors from Mr. Serafin's Estimable Blog

I was stunned to discover the visitor count when I arrived home. Normally a Saturday is akin to a Friday only flatter. But I had more people than I had ever have visit on a weekend by three o'clock. Looking, I discovered that Mr. Serafin had very kindly directed people my way. You are all truly welcome, and thank you for taking the time to come and look at the blog. I am flattered and touched.

Thank you all again, and thank you Mr. Serafin for your kind words and for your reference to this sight, I am truly pleased that something here pleased you!

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I fear I may have been misinterpreted because my language was so lax. When I indicated that I would "not go there" with respect to Edwin Arlington Robinson, I meant merely that I would not defend the following two poems, which, while not in my top Ten, are very, very high indeed in my estimation. But I leave it at that. I can't "justify" my liking on literary merit or poetic merit (not because they lack it, but because I simply don't see them in those ways any more, they are too close.) So, without further ado--"Miniver Cheevy" (spelled it incorrectly in prior post) and "Richard Cory."

Edward Arlington Robinson Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.

Miniver loved the days of old
When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
The vision of a warrior bold
Would set him dancing.

Miniver sighed for what was not,
And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
And Priam's neighbors.

Miniver mourned the ripe renown
That made so many a name so fragrant;
He mourned Romance, now on the town,
And Art, a vagrant.

Miniver loved the Medici,
Albeit he had never seen one;
He would have sinned incessantly
Could he have been one.

Miniver cursed the commonplace
And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
He missed the mediæval grace
Of iron clothing.

Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
But sore annoyed was he without it;
Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
And thought about it.

Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Richard Cory
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Mr. Robinson endeared himself to me as a poet with his remarkable Arthurian Poetry. It may be finer than nearly everything (post Medieval/Renaissance). I would prize only Tennyson's remarkable "Lady of Shalott" above Arlington's quite remarkable "Merlin." If you can find it, highly recommended. (I like long narrative poetry A LOT--it is conceivable that I am the only living fan of Alexander Pope (love almost everything) and John Dryden (in part).)

[Note: correct Edward to Edwin above in response to Dylan's note. Thank you.

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Meditation on an Advertisement


Meditation on an Advertisement
Today, as I was leaving work I looked in my mailbox and found a small gem. I had somehow transmogrified into "today's high-powered, senior-level technology executive." The risible inaccuracies of this single phrase are so numerous they would try the reader's patience to delineate. Therefore I sha'n't. Suffice to say that I am not any of those things, nor do I aspire to be.

But I thought for a moment, "Are there people who think of themselves like that?" If so, God bless them, how sad. Such people lean upon empty words to feel good about themselves. They do not have a center, they rely upon others for definition. Our only definition is in God's eyes. Who we are to God: beloved (but misbehaved and dirty, dirty, dirty, children), loving servants, blessed followers, greater than the angels, the people of His Son's Blood, children of His Daughter, Children of His Spouse, Brothers of His Son, Redeemed, Saved, Loved.

Just a short reflection, but a cautionary one, we shouldn't come to believe what others have to say of us, nor what we say about ourselves. We should only heed what God has to say to us.

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Billy Collins Oh, I


Billy Collins

Oh, I could weep. Indeed my lament is great. I heard bits and pieces of the "poem" that Collins read to congress in New York today and I was. . . oh, be charitable, unimpressed. "Names so many they could not fit on the walls of the heart." I suppose all ocassional verse is bad, but surely this must hold some sort of record. I guess I need to see the whole thing. Perhaps as a whole it is better than it acts as a sound bite. But I'm not sure I can overlook so terrible a line.

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One of My Top Ten


One of My Top Ten Favorites

I am certain that I have not posted, nor have I seen posted, this, among the most spectacular of the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets ("Society members," he said, primly through pursed lips, "attend.") I present to you one of my very favorite poems of all time. (Tres triste, if I disappoint, but I must fess up).

To His Coy Mistress Andrew Marvell

  Had we but world enough, and time,
  This coyness, lady, were no crime.
  We would sit down and think which way
  To walk, and pass our long love's day;
  Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
  Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
  Of Humber would complain. I would
  Love you ten years before the Flood;
  And you should, if you please, refuse
  Till the conversion of the Jews.
  My vegetable love should grow
  Vaster than empires, and more slow.
  An hundred years should go to praise
  Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
  Two hundred to adore each breast,
  But thirty thousand to the rest;
  An age at least to every part,
  And the last age should show your heart.
  For, lady, you deserve this state,
  Nor would I love at lower rate.

  But at my back I always hear
  Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
  And yonder all before us lie
  Deserts of vast eternity.
  Thy beauty shall no more be found,
  Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
  My echoing song; then worms shall try
  That long preserv'd virginity,
  And your quaint honour turn to dust,
  And into ashes all my lust.
  The grave's a fine and private place,
  But none I think do there embrace.

  Now therefore, while the youthful hue
  Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
  And while thy willing soul transpires
  At every pore with instant fires,
  Now let us sport us while we may;
  And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
  Rather at once our time devour,
  Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
  Let us roll all our strength, and all
  Our sweetness, up into one ball;
  And tear our pleasures with rough strife
  Thorough the iron gates of life.
  Thus, though we cannot make our sun
  Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Yes, I know, and cheerfully admit, the most elaborate come-on line in all of history. But I have had such good use for a few of the lines. For nearly any decision making operation or planning event in any business, "Vaster than empires and more slow." And ultimately, putting a kind of Christian cast to the whole thing, I could very easily envision Jesus saying to each soul, "Had we world enough and time, this coyness lady were no crime." How often we refuse His advances--and the metaphysicals did not have the extreme body/soul divisions that show up starting with the Puritans. If we recall, part of the marriage vows during this time was the line, "With my body, I pledge thee troth."

Oh well. Don't make too much of it, but do please enjoy the lush language and imagery. It truly deserves its status as one of the most anthologized poems ever. (So do "Richard Cory" and "Miniver Cheever," but we won't go there.)

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The Great T'ang Poets


Fr. Jim at Dappled Things references a couple of epitaphs by Pound at the Widening Gyre. These epitaphs are for the great Chinese poets of the T'ang Dynasty Li Po and Tu Fu. (Yes, I use the Wade-Giles transliteration system rather than the abominable, unpronounceable, and often incomprehensible PinYin system, which, I swear, must have been developed with Irish orthography [explain to me sometime how Siobhan eventually becomes something vaguely like Jah-vahn]).

The post put me in mind of the fact that we have not much talked about the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese poets, and that is a shame. In future times I will post here not merely Tu Fu, Li Po, Wang-an Shih, Ou-yang Shih, Su-T'ung Po, but Saigyo, Basho, and others. The poetry (particularly of Li Po and Tu Fu) can be extraordinarily beautiful, but it is very strange to western ears and does take a certain amount of adjustment to read and appreciate. However, that said, even in translation, these poems can be quite lovely. And some of the Japanese Court poetry experiments lend themselves to a rather interesting possibility of internet collaborative poetry. One poet introduces a haiku (poem of 5/7/5 syllables or various other possibilities in English), the second "finishes" the Haiku into a Tanka by adding two seven syllable lines, and then adds an additional haiku that elaborates on the theme or diverts the theme into a new channel. I have done this numerous times and ended up with gigantic wandering poems, which, while not tremendous literature, were extraordinary fun to compose.

Anyway, more on oriental poets at a later date. Thanks Fr. Jim for the goad.

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Countee Cullen Revisited


Some days or weeks ago, Dylan included Mr. Cullen in a list of underrated poets. The name rang a bell although I don't know that I had read anything by him before that time. I recognized the name as one of the "Harlem Renaissance" school of poets (although labels tend to get in the way of the real power of any poet). I picked up a thick volume of his work and started to read--I was surprised by the power and the beauty of the poetry. A poem from Mr. Cullen is, perhaps, a good introduction to the thoughts on my mind for the day.

Any Human to Another
Countee Cullen

The ills I sorrow at
Not me alone
Like an arrow,
Pierce to the marrow,
Through the fat
And past the bone.

Your grief and mine
Must intertwine
Like sea and river,
Be fused and mingle,
Diverse yet single,
Forever and Forever.

Let no man be so proud
And confident,
To think he is allowed
A little tent
Pitched in a meadow
Of sun and shadow
All his little own.

Joy may be shy, unique,
Friendly to a few,
Sorrow never scorned to speak
To any who
Were false or true.
Your every grief
Like a blade
Shining and unsheathed
Must strike me down.
Of bitter aloes wreathed,
My sorrow must be laid
On your head like a crown.

There are two points I'd like to make about this wonderful little poem. First, the comparison with John Donne's remarkable "No man is an iland" meditation is immediate and interesting. The themes of both are the shared burden of each individual--what affects one affects all through our incorporation in the Body of Christ. These meditations are sisters.

But the Cullen piece adds a unique interpretive twist. Because there is no audience and the title "Any Human to Another" opens up the possibility that we have at points the poetic voice speaking to Christ, and Christ returning that speech. The final seven lines are indicative of the possible fruitful ambiguity of the poem. I could see the lines "Your every grief/ Like a blade/ Shining and unsheathed/ Must strike me down.", as spoken by Jesus, and I think particularly of the scene at Mary and Martha's before the tomb of Lazarus. Or for that matter, weeping for lost Jerusalem. Every grief weighs heavily of Christ's head. The last three lines, I speak to Him, "Of bitter aloes wreathed,/ My sorrow must be laid/ On your head like a crown." My sorrows, and particularly those sorrows and sicknesses of spirit that we call sins helped to form the crown of thorns (I imagine that this crown of aloes is little less painful) pressed down upon the sacred brow.

Now, I don't insist that this is what Countee Cullen was trying to do, nor is it an exposition of the fullness of the poem. But good poetry and good poetic language gives rise to "fruitful ambiguities" that allow a reader to , in Harold Bloom's famous phrase, "be read by the work of literature." I see in this poem, in part, what I bring to it. The poem acts as a partial mirror, as any great poem will. We can find within its structure things that may not have been intended by the poet, but which naturally arise because the poet is communicating with a vast audience all of whom have different backgrounds, and so different interpretive texts. In good poetry, all interpretive texts will find a key in the words. I believe this to be not merely a good poem, but truly a beautiful poem, and ultimately a truthful poem. Mr. Cullen has opened up a rich storehouse of meaning and possibility in a very simple, very streamlined poem. And he notes a truth--whatever happens to any one of us ripples out and touches all of us, directly or indirectly.

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The Stunning Grace of God


The Stunning Grace of God

I don't read Spanish well, and so I may have misinterpeted what is at fotos del apocalipsis today. But if I am reading correctly this passage:

Míos son los cielos y mía es la tierra; mías son las gentes, los justos son míos y míos los pecadores; los ángeles son míos, y la Madre de Dios y todas las cosas son mías; y el mismo Dios es mío y para mí, porque Cristo es mío y todo para mí. Pues ¿qué pides y buscas, alma mía? Tuyo es todo esto, y todo es para ti

is a portion of this passage which I placed in my spiritual commonplace book today:

Sayings of Light and Love St. John of the Cross

Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you. Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father's table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart.

Doesn't God have amusing and amazing ways of reinforcing his particular messages for us. The message for me was "Do not engage yourself in something less. . ." I am so grateful for blogging, because it has forced me to engage in something more. As I have written and as I have listened and shared with others, I have grown in understanding and in my desire to serve God. Writing is a form of prayer for me. In doing so, I let down defenses that I normally place in God's way--things that defend me from His ministrations. But over and over again I have been reminded, "Do not worry about that, nor that, nor that, nor that. Focus your attention on Jesus Christ, the Crucified, the Triumphant." And here, I put it in my commonplace book and stumble upon it later in another blog. What can I say except, Thank you, Lord!

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Mere Surfaces and Sensations


or What Would You Expect from a Carmelite Follower of St. John of the Cross? :-) [Do these blogs have smileys?]
Luis remarks in the comment box below:

We need not apologize that we have a body or throw away its usefulness in pointing to THE Beauty. Just as creation points to our God, let our churches do so, while understanding of course that beauty is in the eye of the beholder to some extent.

My thanks to Luis who has given me the chance and the impetus to clarify my thoughts. I just realized looking over the original what I seem to saying is not what I intended. I was trying to gently say that it is perhaps better not to criticize buildings that do not suit our taste. I apologize for the misunderstanding. Obviously the original context and the language caused me to be overly vague. I do not think that everything should be ugly to accentuate worship, and reading my post, it certainly does sound like that was what I was saying. Once again, my apologies form misspeaking. My point here is a good deal more subtle than the overly blunt language makes it. I was trying, without faulting anyone, to say that we do everyone a disservice when we emphasize aesthetics over Real Presence. Many people are stuck with the Church they have, there is no real viable alternative for them. How are they helped if their Church is held up as an example of an "unfortunate Church?"

There is absolutely nothing wrong with beauty in a worship space. There is nothing wrong with building beautiful churches. I do, however, find something wrong with posting pictures of "unfortunate churches" or "ugly churches." Comments on the aesthetic merit of any edifice can potentially distract the faithful from the most beautiful thing of all--what happens within the building. Beauty is wonderful if it is available, but if not, do we build up the Body of Christ by pointing out how ugly we deem the Church some must go to?

Thanks to Luis and my anonymous poster for pointing out how much my previous post had missed the real point I was trying to make. I do not think, however that I will change either the post below nor the one on Ms. Welborn's blog, as I don't really want to criticize anyone in so many words. I just abjure all to remember that every such comment does potential damage to large numbers of people, and it isn't really worth it.

(On the other hand, I stand by the orginal post. St. John of the Cross teaches that a thing is good insofar as it leads to God and that even a very good, very holy, very religious thing becomes destructive when it stands in the way of our progress toward union. If the appearance of a Church becomes a true impediment to Union with Jesus Christ, it is time to examine priorities. But then--I am a Carmelite and not everyone follows the same way--it is a distinctive mark of Carmelite Spirituality. God Bless you all!)

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Mere Surfaces and Sensations I


Mere Surfaces and Sensations

I post here a response I made on Amy Welborn's blog, and which I have repeated in variations in many places over blogdom regarding the huge controversy surrounding the Cathedral and the undue focus on the appearance of Churches.

Dear Amy,

Perhaps ugly and "regrettable" churches are one of the many ways that God reminds us not to be attached to things that do not matter. We won't occupy Earth forever, so we should be storing up our treasures in Heaven--what treasure could possibly excel the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Precious Savior, regardless of the surroundings in which it is offered up for us?

Detachment from these things allows us to refocus on the essential--Love of God, first, foremost, and always.

What a building looks like simply doesn't matter if we are fed with the life of Our Savior. Everything else is "mere surface and sensation," smoke and mirrors. Some environments may be more conducive to receiving and perceiving God, but we are called to move beyond those things into a constant attention to His Divine Presence in our lives. Whether I am in the Los Angeles Cathedral or in a mudhole somewhere in the middle of Iowa, God is there with me. When I am in His Real Presence, what difference does stained glass and marble make? Should I even notice these things in the transcendant glory of Incarnate Love. To be distracted by these things, even holy and good things, is simply not to focus on what is best because of something good--in short, a failure.

God wants us to be present, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. Anything less fails Him. Grant Lord, that I may never fail you in this. Grant that I may always wait upon You and rejoice in You.

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Musings on a Paraphrase


Musings on a Paraphrase of Luis of Granada

In the first chapter of A Sinner's Guide the Venerable Luis of Granada says (and I paraphrase), "If all the seas were filled with ink, and all the scribes that ever were or ever would be were given all the paper that could be made, and were the seas drained and the papers filled and the scribes laid to rest, they would not have even begun to describe a single of God's perfections."

Of a particular perfection--mercy--it occurred to me, that every breath I breathe I breathe at the behest of God Almighty. In His supreme mercy He holds back from me knowledge of all the ills that the emanations of my sinful actions have caused in the world. Were I to be aware of one-millionth of the misery I have caused even inadvertantly, I would be completely overwhelmed and unable to lift a finger to do anything.

Jesus comes to my House and knocks interminably upon the door. I have stopped my ears and sit with feet firmly opposing entrance, and yet, in His profound Mercy, He does not leave me, but He enters through the window left open behind me and starts to set the place to rights until I get up and chase Him out again.

What a God! What a merciful, wonderful, beautiful, Lord who serves us not only with His spirit, but with His Body and Blood. All the Earth with one voice should cry aloud, Praise the Lord! All that is praises Him without end--open your ears, batter your hardened hearts and hear the voices raised in the Praise of our Great God on High. Thank You Lord, for being my Lord. Master me, Lord, so that my only delight is in Your presence and Praise!

Praise Him!

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Chidiock Tichborne At Dylan's blog,


Chidiock Tichborne

At Dylan's blog, we have what may be the single extant poem from his hand, and quite lovely it is too. Elegaic and moving, it is his own elegy, written prior to his execution for treason. I hadn't heard of the man, so I needed to do some work to find out more. Here from Louis Untermeyer is a précis. My apologies to Dylan, direct linking is broken, and I do not wish to lose this lovely poem to obscurity, so I repeat the entire thing below the excerpt from Untermeyer, including Dylan's lead comment. (Just drop me a line if you wish me to remove it--I'll log it on my PDA and get rid of it, if need be).

Louis Untermeyer source unattributed

Tichborne was not pre-eminently a poet but a conspirator. History is not sure of the part he played in the attempt to do away with Queen Elizabeth. Conjecture has it that he was born about 1558 somewhere in Southampton, and it is said that his father, Peter Tichburne, traced his descent from Roger de Tichburne, a knight in the reign of Henry II. His family was ardently Catholic and both Chidiock and his father were zealous champions of the Church of Rome; they did not scruple to abet the king of Spain in "holy" attacks on the English government. In 1583, Chidiock and his father were questioned concerning the possession and use of certain "popish relics"; somewhat later they were further implicated as to their "sacrilegious and subversive practices". In April 1586, Chidiock joined a group of onspirators. In June, at a meeting held in St.Giles-in-the-Fields he agreed to be one of the six who were pledged to murder the Queen and restore the kingdom to Rome. The conspiracy was discovered in time; most of the conspirators fled. But Tichborne, who had remained in London because of an injured leg, was captured on August 14th and taken to the Tower. On September 14th, he was tried and pled guilty. He was executed on September 20th. In a grim finale, history relates, he was "disembowelled before life was extinct" and the news of the barbarity "reached the ears of Elizabeth, who forbade the recurrence."

On September 19, 1586, the night before he was executed, Chidiock wrote to his wife Agnes. The letter enclosed three stanzas beginning:"My prime of youth is but a frost of cares."

This elegy is so restrained yet so eloquent, so spontaneous, and so skillfully made that it must be ranked among the little masterpieces of literature. The grave but not yet depressing music of the lines is emphasized by the repetition of the rhymed refrain, as though the poet were anticipating the slow tolling of the bell announcing his death.

He was twenty-eight years old.

Now, complete from Dylan's blog go there and see. (Once again, my apologies Dylan).

'My prime of youth is but a frost of cares'

[We note in this poem from the Glorious Sixteenth Century a kinship to a much later poem : Francis Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven," especially those lines near the middle of the poem : My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap ... My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream ... with the difference that there seems to be no Godward-turning, no note of praise at the end of Tichborne's poem. A bleak psalm, well-wrought and simple, which speaks from the centre of a very sad heart.]

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and I yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

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The Glorious 16th Century,


The Glorious 16th Century, Redux Redux

Right now, Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis later, by (perhaps facetious) request the Grand Writings of Fulke Greville, most particularly his "Sonnets" from Caelica.

Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis Sir Philip Sidney Leave me, O Love, which reaches but to dust; And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things; Grow rich in that which never taketh rust; Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings. Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might to that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be; Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light, That doth both shine and give us sight to see. O Take fast hold; let that light be thy guide In this small course which birth draws out to death, And think how evil becometh him to slide, Who seeketh heaven, and comes of heavenly breath. Then farewell, world; thy uttermost I see; Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me.

A prayer, like incense, sent to heaven, for all who visit and for myself. "Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me!"

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Thanks and Praise My thanks


Thanks and Praise

My thanks to the many visitors who stop by to partake of some of the maunderings that occur herein. My especial thanks for all the blessings you shared with me over the past two days. I have been blessed to overfull by your interest, compassion, sympathy, and kind words.

And my thanks and Praise to God, the illimitable, the radiant, who shines on saints and sinners alike. His rays have been working extra hard to pierce the shell I have placed around myself and cause me to be a kinder, gentler, and better image of His Son--the great Image without equal. It is my prayer that you all may be blessed to become more like Him every day.

Thanks to all of you, Sons and Daughters of the Divine, and most of all thanks for sharing some of God's great love with me.

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Hail to the 16th


Hail to the 16th Century [redux]

This text of Robert Southwell, a martyred Jesuit, who I believe is a Saint, is taken from the Oxford Book of Mystical Verse, 1917 available online at Bartleby.

Of the Blessed Sacrament of the Aulter Robert Southwell  (?1561–1595)    THE ANGELLS’ eyes, whome veyles cannot deceive,   Might best disclose that best they do descerne; Men must with sounde and silent faith receive   More then they can by sence or reason lerne; God’s poure our proofes, His workes our witt exceede,          The doer’s might is reason of His deede.   A body is endew’d with ghostly rightes;   And Nature’s worke from Nature’s law is free; In heavenly sunne lye hidd eternall lightes,   Lightes cleere and neere, yet them no eye can see;         Dedd formes a never-dyinge life do shroude; A boundlesse sea lyes in a little cloude.   The God of hoastes in slender hoste doth dwell,   Yea, God and man with all to ether dewe, That God that rules the heavens and rifled hell,          That man whose death did us to life renewe: That God and man that is the angells’ blisse, In forme of bredd and wyne our nurture is.   Whole may His body be in smallest breadd,   Whole in the whole, yea whole in every crumme;        With which be one or be tenn thowsand fedd,   All to ech one, to all but one doth cumme; And though ech one as much as all receive, Not one too much, nor all too little have.   One soule in man is all in everye part;           One face at once in many mirrhors shynes; One fearefull noyse doth make a thowsand start;   One eye at once of countlesse thinges defynes; If proofes of one in many, Nature frame, God may in straunger sort performe the same.        God present is at once in everye place,   Yett God in every place is ever one; So may there be by giftes of ghostly grace,   One man in many roomes, yett filling none Sith angells may effects of bodyes shewe,         God angells’ giftes on bodyes may bestowe.
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The Glorious 16th Century Okay,


The Glorious 16th Century

Okay, he was virulently, almost comically anti-catholic (read about the dragon that spews papist pamphlets all over the Red Crosse Knighte in the first book [canto?] of the Faerie Queene). But when he was right, Edmund Spenser was right, and here's a wonderful example of him being right on. (You can see the entire Amoretti at Renascence Editions--see left column.)

from Amoretti Edmund Spenser Sonnet LXVIII.

MOST glorious Lord of lyfe that on this day,
  Didst make thy triumph ouer death and sin:
  and hauing harrowd hell didst bring away,
  captiuity thence captiue vs to win.
This ioyous day, deare Lord, with ioy begin,
  and grant that we for whom thou didest dye
  being with thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
  may liue foreuer in felicity.
And that thy loue we weighing worthily,
  may likewise loue thee for the same againe:
  and for thy sake that all lyke deare didst buy,
  with loue may one another entertayne.
So let vs loue, deare loue, lyke as we ought,
  loue is the lesson which the Lord vs taught.

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Great News for Great Books


Great News for Great Books

Mr. David Moynihan of Blackmask Fame has just started posting a series of texts derived from Harry Plantinga's CCEL site (see left column). These are the writings of the Anti-Nicene Fathers. Present texts include Origen, Tertullian, and others. Mr. Moynihan promises more for the future, and there is no reason whatsoever to doubt him as he has been prodigious in his outpouring of texts. This is a tremendous service to those of us without the resources to own the thirty volume set and for those of us with portable e-book readers. Check it out!

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Donne to Music Mr Steven


Donne to Music

Mr Steven Schultz of Catholic Light (a very fine blog for those interested in matters liturgical and musical) gives us a truly delightful link to an MP3 file of a setting of John Donne's Holy Sonnet VII, posted here a couple days back. Go and enjoy a musical treat!

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On Queztalcoatl Both ibidem and


On Queztalcoatl
Both ibidem and Musings of an Amphibious Goat (Newman fans will be interested in the latter as well) have had truly wonderful posts on the controversy surrounding Quezalcoatl on the doors of the Cathedral. Read them, they are illustrative of the need to check your facts before panicking. In fact, to check your facts and then don't react anyway.

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Belated Thanks Yestereday I read


Belated Thanks

Yestereday I read this excerpt from C.S. Lewis at Dylan's blog, and realized later that it influenced much of what I wrote and did for the day. The excerpt is one of my very favorite pieces of writing, and combine that with having seen Malcolm Muggeridge's Something Beautiful for God it put me into a sort of altered state. Thanks Dylan.

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Final Blog for the Evening


Final Blog for the Evening

It has been an exhausting day. God has been most generous in His blessings. He has given me the beginnings of some thoughts that may grow into something worthy of presentation. But more He has given me San Juan de la Cruz and "The prayer of a Soul Taken with Love"

from Sayings of Light and Love St. John of the Cross from 26--Prayer of a Soul taken with Love

You will not take from me, my God, what you once gave me in your only Son, Jesus Christ, in whom you gave me all I desire. Hence I rejoice that if I wait for you, you will not delay.

In Jesus is the fullness of all the hopes of Earth. In Jesus is the fullness of all the Promises of Heaven. In Jesus is the fullness of the Love of the Father. In Jesus is the fulfillment of all dreams, hopes, wishes, thoughts, and being. Jesus is above all, in all, through all, with all, the constant companion of my soul, the one and the only--the God who chooses to blossom in my fellow man. The God, the Brother, the Lord, the end-all and be-all for whom there is not praise enough nor words enough to express my joy, my delight, my love, my sense of the precious. He is all-in-all and He incorporates me into the Holy Body of His Sacred Bride. He is beyond all hope, all expectation and yet He is the exact fulfillment of all hopes and all expectations. If I wait upon Him an eternity will be a moment; if I turn from Him a moment is an eternity. How can I say enough the great Love Jesus has given me and I long to return to Him. Simply--I am Your servant Lord and I wait for You alone, and all my waiting is the greatest work I can do. Thank you, my Lord and my God.

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John Donne On Today's Themes


John Donne On Today's Themes

Holy Sonnet XV John Donne

Wilt thou love God, as he thee? then digest,
My Soule, this wholsome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by Angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy brest.
The Father having begot a Sonne most blest,
And still begetting, (for he ne'r begonne)
Hath deign'd to chuse thee by adoption,
Coheire to his glory, and Sabbaths endlesse rest;
And as a robb'd man, which by search doth finde
His stolne stuffe sold, must lose or buy it againe;
The Sonne of glory came downe, and was slaine,
Us whom he had made, and Satan stolne, to unbinde.
'Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.

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Brief Prayer I'm sure


Brief Prayer

I'm sure this prayer follows that of famous men, but the words come to me, I share them.

Lord, let me always see my own imperfections
before I look to those of others.
Let me always know my own brokeness
before I point out that of others.
Let me always be aware of the ways that I fail you
so that I do not look for the failings of others.
Lord grant me the grace always
to love You in Your immortal loveliness,
and to bear Your flame to those
who live in darkness.
Lord have mercy on a broken servant!

Praise to Jesus Christ, Lord Now, Lord Triumphant forever.

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The Proper Dwelling Place of


The Proper Dwelling Place of God
A Meditation/Examen on the reaction to the Dedication of Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral

You have all seen the articles delineating the reactions to the Cathedral. One thing this inspired in me was an intense questioning and an intense examination of my own life.

2 Samuel 7:4-7 (RSV) 4. But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan. 5. "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6. I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7. In all the places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel saying, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?"

God does not need me, nor Cardinal Mahony, nor the people of Los Angeles, nor any people to build Him a house. That is not what the Cathedral is about and it cannot be judged in terms of whether it is suitable for God. In fact, the building has been constructed, it is done, and the time for evaluating and judging is over. The great jubilee of worship can begin--that is the duty and the responsibility of the people who go to the Cathedral, and it is our duty to support them with all of our prayers and our hopes for them.

But what then is the proper dwelling place of God? If God is not confined to a house, where does He live? The only vessel potentially large enough, warm enough, expansive enough, alive enough is the human heart. In "A Temple of the Holy Spirit" Flannery O'Connor records the conversation of two schoolgirls as they joke about "being a temple of the Holy Spirit." But it is very evident in the context and growth of the story that Ms. O'Connor regarded them as exactly that. I turn to myself and ask the famous fundamentalist/evangelical question--"If I were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?"

Now I rephrase the question, "To those who meet me, is there any indication whatsoever that my heart is a dwelling place for God?" And my answer, sadly is, "Vanishingly little." I leap to judgment, I am harsh, critical, unrelenting. My heart is a hard and stony place, fit only for my own prejudices and my own ways. I do not share the troubles of the world, rather I add to them through my inaction and through my judgment. This was resoundingly brought home to me through a post by our own Ms. Knapp in the comments box on this page. I had made some off-hand remark about Archbishop Rembert Weakland, based largely on hearsay and gossip. And Ms. Knapp responded:

. . .[D]o not believe all that you hear from the professionally outraged. You would have joined us in learning to live a holy and prayerful life, in love with Jesus and with the help of all the sacraments he gave us. (Yes, I will always owe a great debt to the ninth archbishop.)

As retirement neared, even before the debacle, we worried. Would the next bishop be a CEO, or a Church politician, or maybe someone kicked upstairs over The Situation??? We had become accustomed to a prayerful bishop of shepherd's heart, who made no secret of loving us --- could we even dare to hope for another like that in our lifetime?

I had listened to hearsay, gossip, and backbiting. Even now I hear the same things of other Archbishops, and sidelong blows to other officials, and I ask myself, do I listen to these? And if I do, what harm have I done countless who rely upon such men for the sacraments? Should I not rather pray and raise these men up before God rather than tearing them down before men?

In my prejudice, in my listening to gossip and half-truths (or even full-truths that carry more the fruit of harm) do I let my heart draw tight and become a narrow, restricted, hardened place? Do I listen to complaints about art, architecture, liturgy, and forget that Jesus is there, whether everything is exactly as it should be or not. Jesus is present. Jesus enters me, joins with me intimately. Is this the heart that Jesus would welcome as a home? (Fortunately the answer is yes). Is this the heart I would like to offer Jesus as home, this the dwelling I would offer to the Lord I love? (The answer is a resounding NO!) For "it is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him."

I think and I tremble, and I remember the exalted experience of Isaiah who saw the Seraphim who waited upon the Lord and was able to say, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts!" (Is 6: 5). But I am not lost, because Jesus can sweep this heart clean. He can move the walls of this heart so they are not so narrow. He can change this dried out, shrunken hardened knot of a heart into a gentle bower for His head. I need merely say to him, "If you will it, I shall be healed." And we all know that Jesus wills it. He wills that my whole heart be entirely transformed for His greater glory.

The only fit dwelling for the Lord of Hosts
is the human heart,
His only chariot,
human legs,
His only servants,
human hands,
His only rest--conversation in love.

Too long have I neglected you, O Jesus My Lord. Too long have I listened to what is not proper to listen to. Too long have I not spoken up and warned those who speak that every idle word will be called to account. I am an unworthy servant, and yet, I rejoice greatly in being even an unworthy servant because if you will, I shall be allowed even greater service. I shall be called up from the foot of the table to give you drink and serve you food. Lord count me among the humblest of thy servants, the most unworthy, and use this unworthy vessel to bring to you greater and more worthy. Lord, thank you, thank you so much for the invitation to serve, and the reminder that a servant does not remark upon the habits of those upon whom he waits. Thank you for the blessings of servitude. Better a thousand years your slave than a single moment my own! Amen.

Thank all of you for so patiently enduring this and allowing me a moment to apologize to all I have offended through action or inaction. It is not my intent to hurt any, and with every action I seem to knock down twenty. Praise God! In my weakness is His strength.

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A Most Excellent Meditative Sharing


A Most Excellent Meditative Sharing
Dylan at Error 503 has given a most beautiful reflection on the Benedictus, a prayer those accustomed to reciting the morning hours stumble over nearly every morning. (I say that mostly recording my own experiences. Sometimes morning prayer is a deep and piercing beam of light, but often it is a duty that begins the day properly. Without it, the day is without substance). Meditative time with scripture improves our prayer lives and consequently the lives of all those around us. This sort of reflection is the kind of gift we may all aspire to accept.

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Commenting Please be aware: you



Please be aware: you are not being censored. After a DDoS, Haloscan is recovering and resynching, so I've noticed that comments appear and disappear seemingly at random. Many comments made yesterday evening have vanished, hopefully to reappear later today. These DDoS are really vile sorts of things and I don't understand what motivates people unless it be the cause I mentioned below in my post about Othello.

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Sacrificing the Need To Be Right


As Christians, one of the most difficult things we have to do is to put ourselves aside and serve others. We have to abandon our own definitions of ourselves in order to be what God has made us to be. We are no longer allowed to cling to outmoded ways of being right. We can't lean on the vaguely puritan and Calvinist sense that if we are doing well in the world we are somehow specially liked by God. Truly, God has blessed us and has loved us, but we are not in any way any more special than the leper in the streets of Calcutta or the starving child in Zimbabwe.

As Christians, we need to give up being right. We need to sacrifice the constant affirmation we rely upon in the world. Blogs are simply one example of this. A blog serves as our voice to a world of people we do not know, and we all write to be heard. We not only wish to be heard, but we want desperately to be affirmed. We want people to notice us and to say, "Yes, you're right." Or we want a chance to explain our views and to say why someone else is wrong. But blogs are a single manifestation of this need, and not by any means the most pronounced. In the business world, we need to be right--our view needs to trump the views of those around us. Isn't it sufficient to be useful? Why, then do we need to be right?

Being right means being loved. We want everyone to love us. The reality is that outside of Christ our ability to love the other is very, very limited. We know this internally, and so to win the love of someone else, the acclaim, or the approbation, seems a grand and glorious prize. We have made something of ourselves. But, in fact, what have we accomplished? Little or nothing. No starving child was fed because I wrote in this blog. Likely few people were moved to go and serve in soup kitchens. Christ is not better glorified because I said He ought to be. In short, our need to be right serves no one but ourselves.

But writing here can be training in one part of humility. We can sacrifice the need to be right, and do what we do solely for the glory of God. Rather than seeking to be clever, to be read, or to be popular, we can seek to be of service. We can encourage one another to pray, and we can be the irenic souls who pour oil on boiling waters. We can be the voices that calm the tempests, and the voices of reason that call everyone to focus on the central issue--Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.

If we do anything outside of Jesus Christ, it is done in vain. Prayer that is not prayed for the glory of God is mere words. Yes, we may petition, and yes, God will answer, but the best petition is made in humble acknowledgement that we do not know the proper way, nor may we see the fullness of His Will. In prayer, we give up the need to be right. We become again like children on our Father's knee, and we ask Him to open up the world again.

If you have a young child look at her or him. Look through their eyes and see the wonders of the world. That is what we must be as Christians--children who do not need to be right, but who seek to absorb the wonder of the wide world around them. It is terrifying, and it is thrilling. And we have as our guide and protector the greatest of Fathers and the best Big Brother ever.

So--let us give up the need to be right, sacrifice the need to be perfect, slay the need to be the center of attention, sacrifice the need to be loved. In so doing we will be able to accept the fact that we are loved beyond our wildest imaginings. We can drop the masks, the pretences, and the falsenesses. We can abandon our prejudices and our notions of how the world should work as we sit on our Father's knees and we are once again shown the world and the people that He loves. He will open our eyes to the vast splendor of all that He has created, and we will be able to fall in love again, perhaps truly for the first time with the Father who loves us and wishes us above all the everlasting bliss of knowing Him and knowing the world as He knows it. We can become servants of the most high, who serve with humble and great delight. We can join the chorus of praises and thank God every day for the opportunities He has showered upon us. Praise God in His Heavenly Abode! Praise Him in all His Creation! Praise the Lord Jesus Christ through whom we live and move and have our being! Praise all the goodness that permeates creation, for as Jesus said, "Only the Father is good," so whatsoever we perceive to partake of the good partakes of the Father in that degree. Praise God and thank Him today and always.

Praise God, the source of our life, our refuge, our shelter, our Loving Father, our compassionate brother. Praise God!

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For No Reason Whatsoever From


For No Reason Whatsoever

From Othello, a passage that my college Shakespeare professor required us all to memorize and which, subsequently, hasn't left my head for a moment. It is really a very concise reflection on the nature of evil.

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3 Iago: Not poppy, nor mandragora,   Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,   Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep   Which thou ow’dst yesterday.

Normally played as an aside or Iago speaking under his breath in the very presence of Othello. One could attribute Iago's actions to prejudice, to petty hatred because of a slight, or to any other of a myriad of causes. But the most likely explanation of Iago's act, it seems to me, is that he does what he does because he can. Pure and simple, he has the ability to destroy a life, and almost as an experiment, he does so. There's relatively little passion surrounding Iago's behavior and the play provides scant hints of reasons. But as a reflection on evil, Iago stands head and shoulders above the crowd. We have the ability to do so, therefore let us do it--how many "solutions" in the twentieth century have been mandated by this wisp of a reason?

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New Inductees Though I cannot


New Inductees

Though I cannot begin to fathom why it should be so, Dylan has applied and been accepted into Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society. As I've said, his work promotes far more than the seventeenth century and I am humbled that he would even want to belong. Our other, most honored Inductee, by his own request is none other than the illustrious Lane Core, Jr. A warm round of applause for our two inductees. And I greet you with appropriate words from our good friends Beaumont and Fletcher from their extravagant Opus, Knight of the Burning Pestle:

These be the fair rewards of them that love! Oh, you that live in freedom, never prove The travail of a mind led by desire!

Gentles, welcome to our small society.

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Living Ordinary Things in an


Living Ordinary Things in an Extraordinary Way

from the Angelus Message of 9.1.02 His Holiness, Pope John Paul II

Afterward John Paul II emphasized that returning to everyday life was not always easy and that sometimes it was hard to re-adjust. "However," he underlined, "it is in everyday life where God calls us to gain a maturity in our spiritual life which consists in living ordinary things in an extraordinary way."

"Sanctity is achieved," he concluded, "by pursuing Jesus without escaping from reality and from trials, but by confronting them with the light and strength of his spirit."

Praise God! Our teacher continues to teach with the simple wisdom of all the saints. We are so tremendously blessed in this great leader of the Church.

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The Grand and the Glorious


The Grand and the Glorious

aka Praise God for John Donne. Here's another of his nearly miraculous Holy Sonnets. I had wondered where Philip Jose Farmer had gotten the fantastic title for one of the novels (the 2nd?) in his Riverboat series. "When what to my wondering eyes should appear..." this Holy Sonnet.

Holy Sonnet VII John Donne

At the round earths imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattred bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, sage, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
'Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou'hadst seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.

Forthcoming, another inductee into the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society. (Hint: it's not Dylan, he transcends mere centuries! Truly A Man for All Seasons (and I don't say that lightly considering the high esteem in which I hold the original of that title)).

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A New Inductee I'm


A New Inductee

I'm pleased to announce that the delightful Karen Marie Knapp has been duly nominated and voted into the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poets Society for this contribution to the web. Congratulations Ms. Knapp (and thanks for the poem/song).

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Being a People of Prayer


Oh woe, I just wrote a very long blog regarding this and I destroyed it because I used my PC commands on my Macintosh. I hope I can recreate some sense of it below.

We are a people of perpetual dissatisfaction. We move from place to place and from scandal to scandal, wildfire leaping from the tops of trees over the firebreaks. We move from outrage at priestly pederasty, to outrage at the cover-up, to outrage at Vatican inaction, to outrage over Bishops' overreaction, to outrage at Vatican action, to outrage regarding someone suggesting that the Pope might not be the best administrator, to outrage over those pederasty-supporters who think that the Pope is still a pretty good guy. And when it seems that we've used up the fuel of that scandal, we move along to be outraged by the architecture of a cathedral, and we cast about anxiously for the next outrage.

We live in a world of flux. Nothing is the same from one moment to the next and we are constantly having to shape our lives to this change. We are uncomfortable with it and we look for permanence. Many of us find it in orthodoxy and orthopraxis. We grab onto these externals and clutch them like the last piece of a wreckage, the last refuge from the storm. In so doing, we denounce anything that does not conform to the standard we exalt. We must feel good about ourselves and that entails anger toward those who do not toe the line.

But is that what the Church is about? More importantly, did Jesus Christ come to establish Orthodoxy and Orthopraxis? Are we to hold these up as the standards that represent the very best of Jesus Christ? When we get to heaven, is Jesus going to ask us if we crossed ourselves with our right hand or our left hand, if we genuflected on right knee or left? Is he going to ask the architects whether they built a Cathedral in proper alignment with the compass? I don't think so. Seems that he set a standard that was very clear, the sheep shall be separated from the goats on the basis of the question: "When I was thirsty did you give me to drink? Naked, clothe me? In prison, comfort me... you all know the drill.

Jesus gave us the Church as a guide. He gave us the blessing of the teaching magisterium of the Church to help it sail the waters of all times, to help it to cope with things that would come up. He did not give us the Church as a new cross of orthodoxy and orthopraxis on which to crucify ourselves. These things are important because they give us structure. But sometimes it is important to lay waste to the structure and to do as Christ Himself commands. One might question just how "Orthodox" Mother Teresa of Calcutta was. After all, there was no religious admission test to her hospital. Children, be they Hindi, Sikh, or Muslim were cared for in the hospitals she put together without a question as to what the faith of their parents was. She did not harangue the dying with endless speeches about accepting Jesus Christ as savior. Instead, contrary to what orthodoxy seems to propose, she simply accepted the people as people and showed them the deep love of Jesus Christ, their savior. Whether they knew His name or not, they met Him in the person of Mother Teresa and her workers. That is what knowing Jesus is about.

Most of us do not really know Jesus. We know what we would like Jesus to be. We define God in our own image and then sic him on all foes. But this is not Jesus. Most of us are very comfortable with the Jesus we know, and thus, following the dictum of Soren Kierkegaard, "If you are comfortable with Christ, you do not know Him."

Jesus is a constant challenge to us. In the storms of scandal he stands upon the raging waters in the midst of the storm and says, "Come to me." How many of us venture out of the boat. How many of us spend a moment more than we have to contemplating Jesus Christ in word, in creation, in reality? How many of us lead a true life of prayer?

Prayer is the heart of the Church. Knowing Jesus Christ as He is, deeply, intimately, lovingly--this is the only way to true orthodoxy. If you truly love Jesus Christ, you will love His church and you cannot fail to be orthodox in your belief, but the orthodoxy is natural, pliant, an interior support, like a spine, not a stiff exterior carapace designed to keep all that is uncomfortable outside. Knowing Jesus Christ will make you uncomfortable and provide you with the greatest of all comforts. You will be uncomfortable because you know that you cannot do enough, and comfortable because you know the love of Love Incarnate.

Prayer is the way through scandal. Prayer combined with forceful, merciful, appropriate action is the way through any scandal. Rather than recrimination, vituperation, and endless roiling, seething, anguished anger and finger-pointing, we start and end in prayer. We pray for the victims of the scandal and for their healing. Even as we remand to justice those who have perpetrated the acts, we pray for their souls, knowing that "It would be better for them that a millstone were hung about their necks and they were cast into the sea" than what they have already done. We pray for the leaders that they will do what is right--not what we THINK is right, not what we might suggest, not what pops into their heads first thing upon considering the matter, but what Jesus Christ, our Lord, Master, and Brother, shows them is right. We pray that our bishops are less administrators than they are men of God, following clearly the lead He has marked out for them. A true follower of Christ cannot help but be a good administrator. We stop centering all of our energies on ourselves and on our expectations and we center on Jesus Christ.

The nature of blogs is to constantly stir the pot. News will arise, new things will crop up that suggest that the world is going to hell in a handbasket (and when was it not?). People will become outraged over the most outrageous things. Rather than expend that huge sum of energy in outrage, anger, and vitriol, expend it in a way that will help--intimate, devout prayer. St. Therese of Lisieux never left her small convent in France, but through her prayers she assisted in the missions and has become the Patroness of the Missions. As an individual, I cannot affect the course of the Bishops' decisions, or the Curia of the Vatican. But by my prayers joined to those of countless others, I can affect these groups to their very foundations.

We are prayer warriors. We are called to know Christ and to bring Him into the world. We are to incarnate Christ in each one of us, bringing hope, joy, and release wherever we happen to be. How can we presume to do this if we do not know hope and joy ourselves? How can we bring Christ to the world if we are hopelessly mired in the world?

Prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, and again prayer. Everything should begin in, proceed in, and end in prayer. And we should be praying not to the image of God we have made, but to the real Jesus Christ. How do we begin to know Him? We start by stripping away ourselves and our protections. We lay ourselves open to the action of God. We let Him touch us, move us, hold us, guide us. He is our Lord and Salvation. He is our rock and our comfort. We abandon those things that keep us from Him. We abandon, not orthodoxy and orthopraxis, but the idols we have made of them. And we allow God to remake us in His image. It is impossible to truly love the real Jesus Christ and not to be orthodox. We might love an image we have made of Him and be led astray, but not the real Jesus.

How do we get to know Him? Read the scriptures. Not just the Mass readings every day, but read the gospels every day and every night. Did you know that one of the three general grants of indulgences is for the reading of scripture--and if that reading is for more than a half-hour each day the indulgence is plenary? Such is the power the Church recognizes in the transformative capabilities of the Word. St. Augustine said, "You cannot love what you do not know." How many of us have actually been to Calvary with Jesus? How many of us have borne His Cross like Simon the Cyrenian?

Prayer is the beginning and the end of becoming and being Christian. We must immolate the old man in prayer so that the new man may be born in Jesus Christ. We must stop evaluating the scandals and evaluating the evaluators and dredging up new scandal to paradoxically feel better about ourselves. We cannot feel better about ourselves if we are mired in the world. Prayer is the starting point of changing everything, right down to the roots of the world. If we spent one-tenth of the time in prayer that we spend in being scandalized, we would already be well along to making the Kingdom of God present on Earth. Prayer, loving presence to Jesus Christ, first, last and always.

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Los Angeles Cathedral I thought


Los Angeles Cathedral

I thought I'd repost this little ditty that I have originally placed in a comment box on Mr. Serafin's Blog. This is a beginning, as I have a lot of disparate thoughts about this building, and I will subject you to them as I work them out.

I don't know if I like this as a Cathedral. Looks like Mies van der Rhoe or Le Corbusier got dumped in a blender and poured out. Not at all fond of modernist designs. On the other hand, it is not the building that makes the faithful. True, a good building can help to build a proper atmosphere for worship, but worship can occur in a grass hut if the faithful are focused appropriately.

I think we do a disservice to those who will be using the Cathedral to shed so much verbiage abusing the building. If it is not to our taste, that is as may be; however, it is not blasphemy, nor sacrilege. It may not be constructed according to Church Rubrics, I can't speak to that. And I don't know how I would feel participating in a liturgy within that cavernous interior. But still, I haven't been there and God is present in the gathering of the people, in the reading of the Word, and in the real presence of the Eucharist--this is true in a tar-paper shack or in a marble palace.

God bless Cardinal Mahony and the people of Los Angeles in their new Cathedral. May it be a place of Real Presence and an opportunity for evangelism. May it stand as a Rock in the center of a city that needs a foundation. May God bless the architect and all the people who are privileged to gather in the place. And may this Cathedral be a true beacon on a Hill, calling to the faithful and unfaithful alike, reminding them of the presence of God.

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The Amazing Margaret Cavendish


Now, here's a poet who would give the Sitwell Family a run for its money (although her poetry is, shall we say, not of the first water). Ms. Cavendish was not what we would call a happy person. She was one who felt the oppression of her sex more than many others. She wrote a great many poems, here's a couple of poems from a series called "The Atomic Poems."

from "The Atomic Poems"
Margaret Cavendish
What Atomes make Life.

ALL pointed Atomes to Life do tend
Whether pointed all or at one end.
Or whether Round, are set like to a Ring;
Or whether Long, are roul'd as on a String.
Those which are pointed, straight, quick Motion give;
But those that bowe and bend, more dull do live.
For Life lives dull, or merrilie,
According as Sharpe Atomes be.
The Cause why things do live and dye,
Is, as the mixed Atomes lye.

What Atomes make Death.

LIfe is a Fire, and burnes full hot,
But when Round watry Atomes power have got:
Then do they quench Lifes Atomes out,
Blunting their Points, and kill their courage stout.
Thus they sometimes do quite thrust out each other,
When equall mix'd, live quietly together.
The cause why things do live and dye,
Is as the mixed Atomes lye.

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The Proper Role of the


The Proper Role of the Artist
I may be sharing a lot of this particular letter, as it is one that speaks to me, and yet one in which I find a certain dissatisfaction and a certain wrestling with meaning and possibility.

However to start the discussion, there is no disagreement whatsoever with the following excerpt.

from "Letter to Artists" His Holiness Pope John Paul II

3. A noted Polish poet, Cyprian Norwid, wrote that “beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to raise us up”.(3)

The theme of beauty is decisive for a discourse on art. It was already present when I stressed God's delighted gaze upon creation. In perceiving that all he had created was good, God saw that it was beautiful as well.(4) The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. This was well understood by the Greeks who, by fusing the two concepts, coined a term which embraces both: kalokagathía, or beauty-goodness. On this point Plato writes: “The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful”.(5)

It is in living and acting that man establishes his relationship with being, with the truth and with the good. The artist has a special relationship to beauty. In a very true sense it can be said that beauty is the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator in the gift of “artistic talent”. And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

Here we touch on an essential point. Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation—as poet, writer, sculptor, architect, musician, actor and so on—feel at the same time the obligation not to waste this talent but to develop it, in order to put it at the service of their neighbour and of humanity as a whole.

One minor quibble--a point which probably should have been brought forth more explicitly, particularly in light of the Keatsian destruction of the ancient triad, is the relationship of Truth to both beauty and goodness. This may be developed more explicitly later in the letter, but it is an essentially ingredient in any art.

What I find profound here is the discussion of the vocation of the artist as one to seek out the beautiful. This is not necessarily the pleasing, nor is it necessarily the profound, although in truly beautiful things both meaning and depth are likely to be present. But it is certainly not the outré, the bizarre, the merely offensive. I suppose it is possible that true beauty is likely to offend. The beauty of the Cross is a scandal among men. The beauty of the lives of Martyrs and their witness (although this sort of beauty is not art in the human sense but in the divine sense.) Art is truly about exploring boundaries and widening itself to make more accessible and redemptive the expression of beauty. In this sense we are able to wander through endless galleries of much modern "art"--broken mirrors and bricks on museum floors, dung encrusted paintings, and much else.

Let me reflect on one art "experience" I had. Within the exhibit space, a small room had been built of mesh with one wooden wall on which was a grid that held, perhaps 200 ears of dry field corn. Within the room was a large bin of dog food from which a bold of coarse muslin had been draped. Throughout the room were thousands of white moths, being bred in the dog food. The "artist" sat on a stool and knitted a la Madame Defarge, a never-ending scarf and answered questions about her performance. While I found the whole thing interesting, perhaps intriguing, I also found it ultimately futile and pretentious. This "work of art" vanished when the exhibit was disassembled. Now, the fact that it made some impression on a few people might cause one to think that it has a lasting effect. But does it really? And was it really about beauty? The best that could be said of such a work is that it was not offensive. There was no obscene writing nor any unsavory element (save perhaps for the smell of the dog food) about the thing. But is it really art? Is it really an expression of goodness and beauty? Perhaps, but I would tend to say no--it was an interesting experiment in what the limits of art could be. It was more effective that the room with a spiral of slate stones laid out, the room with the thirty-five mechanical toy horses and the film loop of Niagara falls, or any of the other twenty or thirty exhibits that I cannot at this remove recall even in the slightest.

Art is about beauty and goodness and truth. If any of these three is lacking, the work is simply not art. You can call it art, and you can redefine your parameters to display any sort of mess at all. But it is simply not art and cannot be. Given all of these things, I would propose further that Art, to be Art, should be comprehensible by someone other than the artist. That isn't to say that others would know the fullness of the design or plan, but that each might be able to perceive something of it and take it away. This is particularly true of literature. When words cease to mean and become simply sounds or images on a page, I think that the language has moved away from Art.

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Prayer Surprises I never fail


Prayer Surprises

I never fail to be amazed by the powerful imagery in prayers from the Eastern Churches. There is a freshness and a profound truth to the following Akathist to the Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ. The prayer opens with an invocation of Christ the Warrior. This juxtaposition has almost the effect of a Zen koan, startling us into new understandings of Jesus. Of course, it does seem to grate on my not-to-deeply hidden anabaptist (Mennonite) proclivities--but that is probably all to the good. Thanks to Dylan and to Wayne Olson who has a link to an Orthodox Prayer book on his site.

AKATHIST to our Sweetest Lord Jesus Christ

Kontakion 1
Warrior-Chieftain and Lord, Vanquisher of hell, I Thy creature and servant offer Thee songs of praise, for Thou hast delivered me from eternal death. But as Thou hast unutterable loving-kindness, free me from every danger, as I cry: Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.

Oikos 1
Creator of Angels and Lord of Hosts! As of old Thou didst open ear and tongue to the deaf and dumb, likewise open now my perplexed mind and tongue to the praise of Thy Most Holy Name, that I may cry to Thee: Jesus All-Wonderful, Angels' Astonishment! Jesus All-Powerful, Forefathers' Deliverance! Jesus All-Sweetest, Patriarchs' Exaltation! Jesus All-Glorious, Kings' Stronghold! Jesus All-Beloved, Prophets' Fulfillment! Jesus All-Marvellous, Martyrs' Strength! Jesus All-Peaceful, Monks' Joy! Jesus All-Gracious, Presbyters' Sweetness! Jesus All-Merciful, Fasters' Abstinence! Jesus All-Tenderest, Saints' Rejoicing! Jesus All-Honorable, Virgins' Chastity! Jesus everlasting, Sinners' Salvation! Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me!

In addition, from a different site, here is a portion of an Akathist to the Theotokos. What we see in this splendid prayer is the wealth and breadth of imagery for the Blessed Virgin. Here is true hyperdulia, blessing us all with the blessing of the Virgin.

Hail, O Space of the Spaceless God! Hail, O Gate of the Sublime Mystery! Hail, O Message unsure to men without faith! Hail, O Glory most certain to those who believe! Hail, O Sacred Chariot of the One above the Cherubim! Hail, Perfect Dwelling of the One above the Seraphim! Hail, O you who reconciled opposites! Hail, O you who combined maidenhood and motherhood! Hail, O you through whom transgression was erased; Hail, O you through whom Paradise was opened! Hail, O Key to the Kingdom of Christ! Hail, O Hope for the Ages of Bliss! Hail, O Bride and Maiden ever-pure!
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Sara Teasdale


Sara Teasdale

Dylan has tried, and come close, but no cigar. Sara is still Sara, hard as she tries. She takes a subject like moonlight--one that is literally dipping with poetic cliche and ready to drool poetry all over some innocent bystander, and turns it into. . . well read the poem and decide for yourself. For Sara, I'd say it was magnificent, but, we are all given different talents and I fear Ms. Teasdale's were not among the first order.

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Thomas Hardy Dylan has given


Thomas Hardy

Dylan has given us some short poems by Thomas Hardy, a poet I greatly admire. In fact, other than Hopkins, he may be my favorite Victorian/Edwardian poet. However, as with his novels, I find the poems too depressing for words and have difficulty reading more than one or two.

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Some Wisdom from William Penn,


Some Wisdom from William
Penn, that is. William Penn is one of my favorite historical figures, but then I've always been drawn to Penn, Fox, Woolman, Ann Lee, Hannah Whittal Smith, and other of the Quaker and Shaker persuasion. These are mystics run rampant, without the guidelines of the Church to help them. Nevertheless, from much of what they accomplished, one must assume that the Holy Spirit kept them mostly on track. As a result, they have much to say to us. Now, from several works, William Penn offers us some words of wisdom.

William Penn from Some Fruits of Solitude (1693) Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders, than from the arguments of it opposers.

Knowledge is the treasure, but judgment the treasurer of a wise man. He that has more knowledge than judgment, is made for another man's use more than his own.

Right is right, even if everyone is against it; and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.

from No Cross, No Crown
No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown.

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A Melancholy Admission Inspired by


A Melancholy Admission

Inspired by good Mr. Dylan's obvious love of, and precise blogging of, the poet e.e.cummings, I went to the library and decided to find out what I was missing. I have come to the melancholy conclusion that I must wait upon Mr. Dylan and his choices as most of what I saw there was either experimental or pretentious (depending upon the degree and severity of judgment you wish to exercise) beyond the limits of my tolerance. On the other hand, there are some obvious gems and some quite beautiful poems (many of them very early work). So, I am resigned to my limited taste, and will simply trust that Mr. Dylan will keep up his efforts to lift us out of our prejudices and continue to delight us with the choicest gems of such poets and writers. By so doing, he offers the community of St. Blog's a wonderful service. A round of applause please.

(In the room women coming and go, talking of Michaelangelo). Oh well, if it's any consolation, "I do not think they sing to me" either.

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The Celebration is Today And


The Celebration is Today

And to mark the celebration another hint--as though yesterday's bludgeon weren't sufficient.

from Amoretti Edmund Spenser Sonnet IX Long-while I sought to what I might compare those powrefull eies, which lighten my dark spright, yet find I nought on earth to which I dare resemble th' ymage of their goodly light. Not to the Sun: for they doo shine by night; nor to the Moone: for they are changed neuer; nor to the Starres: for they haue purer sight; nor to the fire: for they consume not euer; Nor to the lightning: for they still perseuer; nor to the Diamond: for they are more tender; nor vnto Christall: for nought may them seuer; nor vnto glasse: such basenesse mought offend her; Then to the Maker selfe they likest be, whose light doth lighten all that here we see.
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Another Lesser-Known Poet We have


Another Lesser-Known Poet

We have much to learn from Rachel Speght. Her magnificent work, an excerpt presented below, examines parts and portions of the human condition and provides some insight in to how to live within these limitations. Below three excerpts:

from Mortalities Memorandum (1621) Rachel Speght

The Hauen of my voyage is remote
I haue not yet attain'd my iourneyes end;
Yet know I not, nor can I giue a guesse,
How short a time I in this place shall spend.
For that high power, which sent me to this place,
Doth onely know the period of my race.

The reason of my sadnesse at this time,
Is, 'cause I feele my selfe nor very well,
Vnto you I shall much obliged bee,
If for my griefe a remedie you'le tell.
Quoth shee, if you your maladie will show,
My best aduise I'le willingly bestow.

My griefe, quoth I, is called Ignorance,
Which makes me differ little from a brute:
For animals are led by natures lore,
Their seeming science is but customes fruit;
When they are hurt they haue a sense of paine;
But want the sense to cure themselues againe.

And euer since this griefe did me oppresse,
Instinct of nature is my chiefest guide;
I feele disease, yet know not what I ayle,
I finde a sore, but can no salue prouide;
I hungry am, yet cannot seeke for foode;
Because I know not what is bad or good.


I met my old acquaintance, Truth by name;
Whom I requested briefely to declare,
The vertue of that plant I found so rare.

Quoth shee, by it Gods image man doth beare,
Without it he is but a humane shape,
Worse then the Deuill; for he knoweth much;
Without it who can any ill escape?
By vertue of it euils are withstood;
The minde without it is not counted good.

Who wanteth Knowledge is a Scripture foole,
Against the Ignorant the Prophets pray;
And Hosea threatens iudgement vnto those,
Whom want of Knowledge made to runne astray.
Without it thou no practique good canst show,
More then by hap, as blind men hit a Crow.

True Knowledge is the Window of the soule,
Through which her obiects she doth speculate;
It is the mother of faith, hope, and loue;
Without it who can vertue estimate?
By it, in grace thou shalt desire to grow;
'Tis life eternall God and Christ to Know.

[A Memento Mori]
The manner of Deaths comming, How 'twill be,
God hath conceal'd to make vs vigilant.
Some die by sicknesse, others by mishap,
Some die with surfeit, other some with want:
Some die by fire, some perish by the Sword,
Some drown'd in Water swim vnto the Lord.

Pope Adrian was stifeled with a Gnatt,
Old Anacreon strangled with a Grape,
A little hayre did choake great Fabius,
Saphira could not sodeine Death escape.
Into this life we all but one way came,
But diuers wayes we goe out of the same.

If God from perill did not vs protect,
Our daily food might stop our vitall breath,
The things we neither doubt, nor feare, may proue
The instruments of an vntimely Death.
And in a moment worke our liues decay,
When we least thinke vpon our ending day.

'Tis God omniscient which doth onely know
The time of life, that man on earth must liue,
At his appoyntment Moses must goe die,
Who bounds and limmit vnto time doth giue:
Man happen may to aske Where, When, and How,
Death will surprize, but God sayth Thus, here, now.

The Memorandum itself is a somewhat sobering document, well worth the time and effort to study it.

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Psalm 148 This is another


Psalm 148
This is another beautiful exposition on the Psalms.

from Catechesis on Psalm 148 His Holiness John Paul II

Let us now entrust to St John Chrysostom the task of casting a comprehensive look upon this immense chorus. He does so in words that refer also to the Canticle of the three young men in the fiery furnace, which we meditated upon in the last catechesis.

The great Father of the Church and Patriarch of Constantinople says: "Because of their great rectitude of spirit, when the saints gather to thank God, they used to invite many to join with them in singing his praise, urging them to take part with them in this beautiful liturgy. This is what the three young men in the furnace also did, when they called the whole of creation to praise and sing hymns to God for the benefit received" (Dn 3).

This Psalm does the same calling both parts of the world, that which is above and that which is below, the sentient and the intelligent. The Prophet Isaiah also did this, when he said: "Sing for joy, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth! ... for the Lord has comforted his people and shows mercy to his afflicted" (Is 49,13). The Psalter goes on: "When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language ... the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs" (Ps 113[114],1,4); and elsewhere in Isaiah, "Let the heavens rain down justice like dew from above" (Is 45,8). Indeed, considering themselves inadequate on their own to sing praise to the Lord, the saints "turn to all sides involving all things in singing a common hymn" (Expositio in psalmum CXLVIII: PG 55, 484-485).

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Interesting Sites For those interested


Interesting Sites

For those interested in pro-life views, you will find much of interest on Mr. Russell's site Reflection and Thoughts. And for a different, and utterly fascinating perspective on this issue, I cannot recommend highly enough John Augustine's pro-life feminist and Catholic Feminist site Musings of an Amphibious Goat. There is much here that is very, very orthodox, and at the same time, very, very feminist. And yes, before you ask, it is possible. Read the pieces on the site and find out how! There are a great many varieties of feminism, some of them totally incompatible with Catholic belief, and some very much in tune with the Holy See.

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An Upbeat Selection from Another


An Upbeat Selection from Another Voice Rarely Heard

The following is from a poem by Aemelia Lanyard, a courtier of Elizabeth I (and therefore in my mind suspect immediately). Nevertheless, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum has some interesting bits (when you get away or can screen out the endless passages flattering other courtiers--you know, give me "The Pillow Book" any time--no flattery there at all). Here's a very lovely, hopeful passage from early on:

from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum Aemelia Lanyard Tis He that doth behold thy inward cares, And will regard the sorrowes of thy Soule; Tis He that guides thy feet from Sathans snares, And in his Wisedome, doth thy waies controule: He through afflictions, still thy Minde prepares, And all thy glorious Trialls will enroule: That when darke daies of terror shall appeare, Thou as the Sunne shalt shine; or much more cleare.

The Heav'ns shall perish as a garment olde,
Or as a vesture by the maker chang'd,
And shall depart, as when a skrowle is rolde;
Yet thou from him shalt never be estrang'd,
When He shall come in glory, that was solde
For all our sinnes; we happily are chang'd,
Who for our faults put on his righteousnesse,
Although full oft his Lawes we doe transgresse.

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Still Searching


My search continued, and in so doing, I stumbled across the first chapter of a book on the Psalms by Rowland E. Protheroe. This passage spoke to me:

from The Psalms in Human Life, Chapter 1 Rowland E. Protheroe Above the couch of David, according to Rabbinical tradition, there hung a harp. The midnight breeze, as it rippled over the strings, made such music that the poet-king was constrained to rise from his bed, and, till the dawn flushed the eastern skies, he wedded words to the strains. The poetry of that tradition is condensed in the saying that the Book of Psalms contains the whole music of the heart of man, swept by the hand of his Maker. In it are gathered the lyrical burst of his tenderness, the moan of his penitence, the pathos of his sorrow, the triumph of his victory, the despair of his defeat, the firmness of his confidence, the rapture of his assured hope. In it is presented the anatomy of all parts of the human soul ; in it, as Heine says are collected `sunrise and sunset, birth and death promise and fulfilment-the whole drama of humanity'.
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A Wonderful Resource for Psalms


A Wonderful Resource for Psalms
While searching for the Sidney-Pembroke Psalter, I stumbled upon this wonderful resource for the psalms. Each psalm is available in a variety of translations including "The Bay Psalm Book," "Scottish," "Brady and Tate", "Sternhold and Hopkins," "Watts," and as they are available "Psalms for Singing" ( with a midi file of the suggested tune) and other authors such as "Milton." If you are interested in the Psalms and how they can be set for group reading/performance, you may want to look at this resource.

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Take Up Thy Cross Yesterday


Take Up Thy Cross

Yesterday at the Vigil Mass, Father John spoke on the necessity of enduring and of taking up our crosses. He used a phrase that reminded me of a great little treatise written by William Penn during a time of great persecution--"No Cross, No Crown." That is, without assuming our crosses, there is no crown of victory.

But the homily inspired two related thoughts about assuming our crosses. First, and most importantly, we are individually called to assume our unique crosses. Too often we feel the need to share our cross with those willing and equally with those unwilling. That is, we may assume our cross, but we spend too much time complaining, griping, moaning, lashing out at the innocents around us. Our Cross gives us "a right to be angry" or "a right to be a burden ourselves." By taking up our Cross we should not become a Cross to others. How often do our children, our spouses, and those around us suffer because we have assumed the burden of our Cross?

The second point is that you do not have a choice of Crosses. Just as Jesus didn't shape His end, but carried his cross to Calvary, so too, we have no choice about the shape of the device we carry. It could be illness, it could be financial burdens, it could be familial difficulties, it could be any number of things. The point is, you do not have a choice--your cross is your cross--you may either embrace it and walk with Jesus, or reject it and go your own way. Even in "rejecting" it, you still bear the burden, you simply choose to bear that burden completely alone, without the aid of a savior who has walked this way before. He knows every stone in the path. He knows ever dip in the road. He knows the way of all crosses and the weight of their burden. In many cases, were we to decide to try to carry the burden alone it would crush us. Jesus becomes our guide on the way, our Simon of Cyrene, taking up our burdens when they threaten to overburden us and destroy us.

Our crosses are unique and real. They are the emblem we wear that allow us an identity with Christ in His suffering. Rejecting the Cross is not a real option anyway. Thus, it seems logical to embrace the cross we are given and thank God that, unlike Him who first bore the Cross, we are not completely alone in bearing our burden; we have a Savior who knows the weight and the agony of that road. We have a Savior who has trodden the path, and we have around us the company of Saints, all of whom have borne their own Crosses, and whose only desire is that all should come to God. They help us, living and dead, through the power of their prayers and through their palpable fellowship. They are their with us in great crowds, loving us to Glory, praying us to salvation in Christ Jesus.

Thanks be to God for this great company of assistance, our brothers and sisters who pray for us and support us here on Earth, and those who have gone before us and who support us as we continue this Earthly journey. And she who bore the greatest Cross but one is our mainstay and chief support. She knows grief and sorrow; she knows what it is to lose a child in an ignominious way. It is a certainty that if we turn to her, she will assure that no other child is lost to her in such a way. All will come to God through her Son, and that rejoices her heart as much as the first cross sorrowed her. In our necessity, when the burden becomes too great, when we feel at an extremity, we need merely turn to our Mother and ask her for her intercession for us. Her prayers will be as effective as her entreaty at Cana. She is a sure resource and a constant attendant upon us. Thank God for His wisdom in providing us with such a Mother.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2002 listed from newest to oldest.

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