October 2002 Archives

Okay, One Last Word Going


Okay, One Last Word
Going into the kitchen to prepare dinner I opened the refrigerator to discover some limes one of our coworkers brought in from their tree. I sliced into this wonderful fruit and it had the thinnest skin, juicest pulp and most aromatic and soour flavor. Squeezed some into tonic and am contemplating ceviche or lime salsa for dinner tomorrow. (Have to pick up the shrimp and whitefish).

Oh, and TMC claims to be running London After Midnight, which, to the best of my understanding had been lost. Also, Vampyr, which, if I recall is by the director (Carl Theodor Dreyer) who gave us the magnificent silent epic The Passion of Joan of Arc. Truly a surfeit of lampreys, oops! I mean riches. Goodnight all!

Bookmark and Share

Blogs You Missed Out On


Blogs You Missed Out On

I was going to blog on the differences between the five different translations of Basho text 26 (not nearly so dull as it might sound). And I am formulating an extensive reply, obligato, fantasia and variations on the running start that Dylan made on an essay about Epics. In addition I probably had another nine-hundred things to say. But I am tired and you have been very patient with me today, so I will save Basho for tomorrow morning or evening. Meanwhile I go to reflect a bit on which saints I can cajole into promoting my cause(s) in heaven. Á bientôt!

Bookmark and Share

To Transform Your Lives Put


To Transform Your Lives

Put what you will find at Fr. Keyes's blog into practice. (The Link is not presently working as it ought--go here and look for the Title "Prayer or Action?"

Start with enlightened self interest, end in paradise.

Bookmark and Share

Commenting on Universalism Mr.


Commenting on Universalism

Mr. Thomas S. O'Rama has this to say at his blog:

On universalism: Wasn't the Fatima apparation approved by the Church and didn't one of the children see hell with souls in it? I understand it is a private revelation, but it is a private revelation approved by the Church. The existence of Hell is probably the most difficult doctrine to believe of all, according to Peter Kreeft.

To which I respond: I believe you are correct, there was a very distinct vision of Hell. And what are we to make of that? Was this a vision of Hell, or was this vision akin to those of St. John in viewing the Apocalypse? It seems arguments can be made either way. In one case the vision could simply have been a vision of the results of NOT praying the Fatima prayer. For even if a seer explains his or her vision, how do we know the explanation is more authoratative than the vision. (Thus Holy Mother Church's wisdom in not demanding attention be paid to private revelation). I tend to hold more with the "revelation" of the Eucharistic Prayer and the Fatima Prayer--that it is through prayer and through the power of Jesus Christ that those who presently are unaware of their danger CAN be saved from Hell. They may not be. The chances of this not happening are greatly increased if we do not pray and work to show these poor souls the true loving embrace of Jesus Christ.

This is so dreadfully important. And so when Mr. O'Rama asks us to pray for an agnostic step-son, the prayers are made all the more urgent by the possibilities.

Finally, read the entry on Mr. O'Rama's site located two down, titled One Step Forward, Two Steps. . . These three posts of Mr. O'Ramas form a nice triad of salvation, fear/hope/ and the need for prayer. Most beautiful.

Bookmark and Share

Questions on the Epic Comments


Questions on the Epic

Comments left Chez Dylan on the question of the epic.

A fragment of thought, a mere wisp crosses my deadened brain. What then do we make of Derek Walcott--all questions of worthiness put aside for the moment? (I happen to like his work). What does one make of Omeros?

Is perhaps another notion that the epic impulse is largely dead in the west? That we have moved so far from the roots of the epic in nature and the battles against nature and God that we have abandoned the field of the Epic?

Or did our passage through The Dunciad and The Rape of the Lock forever dim our view of the epic purpose?

I suppose these are questions other than those that you set yourself, but I ask them nevertheless, as a start on elaborating on this marvelous discussion.

Bookmark and Share

Make That Two Poems


Make That Two Poems

Another poem, more recent vintage (only just slightly) from the working files, so expect the occasional clinker.

Sinner's Song
A Journey from near Repentance to (self) Justification

I have so long annihilated self
on the altar of self,
so often sacrificed myself to myself--
the God of my own body,
tastebuds, passion, blood.

I have sought to forget myself
in self, to hide from
who I am in what I do.
So long have I fled myself
I have come not to know
Him whom I flee.

I have cut off offending
hands, plucked out offending
eyes to find they
hydra-like return, now
twice as active.

I have hidden from the truth
and marred the truth
beyond hope of recognition.
I have a pretended virginity
that I use to seduce
those so sure of themselves.

I have spoken to God, to myself,
wondering always if it
is to Him or to me all homage
is due. I have taken
His tribute upon me and
returned nothing.

Will God ever cut me loose
say, "Begone sinner from
my sight?" Does His patience
last forever, does His
mercy endure beyond knowing?

I live only because He gives
thought to me, to the atoms
that move through me. I draw
breath by His sweet will
and I move at His command.
So I must conclude that He
keeps me, no matter how far
I am from Him.

And I resent His care
with the resentment of one
poor offered charity unasked for.
I resent his love as a man
resents the wife of his youth
who he hopes will let go
and give him back
new vistas of women.

I am lost in God
without a compass, drowned
in love, and thrashing.
I sin and sin again, and marvel
as He stays His hand.
And taunt Him--what kind
of king are you who
offers me everything that does
not matter here on Earth?
Come down from that cross
and give me something
that matters.

I don't want redemption
and joy, I want only
the freedom to be me
and to find myself
in all my revels and my
dreams, in all the things
that now only taunt me
with pale hints of freedom.

I do not ask for Mercy,
nor for love, nor passion,
nor any distant spiritual
thing. I ask only for the
reality that is me. I ask only
the favor of being
who I am and knowing
it for the first time.
I ask only for the freedom
to ask no more and make
my path MY path.
I ask only for the reign of the
simple hell of self rather
than perpetual bondage to those
who do not love me.

Give me all the world, I do not
as for more.

I do not ask for all the worlds,
for dead eternity.

Only for the light I am.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Another Day, Another Poem


Another Day, Another Poem

A reply, after a fashion, to the contentions of the murderer in Name of the Rose.

The Wedding
Do you suppose at Cana Jesus frowned
at all the guests? Scowled at every request
from host and hostess, mother and all? Droned
endlessly about Himself and suggested
ways each person could improve his life and
then stormed away like a prima donna
when they were far too drunk to understand
a word He said? Or do you think He laughed
and sang and wished the couple joy, and ate
and danced and showed all there how to live well?
Do you suppose he stood away, now quiet
distant and removed? Or did Jesus tell
a joke and talk to everyone?

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Priests for Life Information Center


Priests for Life Information Center

Generally, I do not like to make a political point. But at some point we must declare our allegiances and our deep-founded beliefs or abandon all hope. An opportune time to declare solidarity is when requested by a good blogging friend like Tom Abbot at Goodform. Indeed, it would be badform to refuse. Please consider putting this on your own blogsite if so inclined. Information is never a bad commodity--its use is the determinant.

Bookmark and Share

Exegesis of the Epic Dylan's


Exegesis of the Epic

Dylan's foreshadow ruminations and reflection on the nature of the modern epic are available for perusal and comment. The wise among you would do well to partake, keeping in mind this caution from Pope:

from"Essay on Criticism" Alexander Pope      A little learning is a dang'rous thing;     Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:       There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,      And drinking largely sobers us again.
Bookmark and Share

Reminder: Pro-Life Novena

Published daily chez Jeff Miller. The Dog and Pony show we were endlessly subjected to yesterday is a sure sign that all of our leaders need all the prayers we can muster up. Please join us in this Novena. Thanks.

Bookmark and Share

A Fragment of Gioia Not


A Fragment of Gioia

Not enough to convince, but hopefully enough to entice--

from "Prayer" Dana Gioia

Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn's opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.

Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper travelling the wires.

This portion of the poem is a catalogue poem to itself. In a catalogue one simply lists attributes or things related to the subject of the poem. The purpose of a catalogue is to suggest without telling. In a true imagist catalogue, one attempts to record all of the attributes as objectively as possible while still making clear how one feels about the object. It is the selection of the details or items in the catalogue that makes the feeling. In this poem an introductory catalogue is held in tension with the actual petition of the prayer. In such a way we are allowed a glimpse of both sides of the poet's approach to God.

Bookmark and Share

A Tidbit for the Season


By way of an apology (in the modern connotation of the word, not the formal sense one might find here in St. Blogs). From one of the most wonderful and beautiful of the works by a man whose nearly every work was a marvel. Tell me the tale and the teller and whereabouts one may find it.

 Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves;   And ye, that on the sands with printless foot   Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him   When he comes back; you demi-puppets, that   By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make    Whereof the ewe not bites; and you, whose pastime   Is to make midnight mushrooms; that rejoice   To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,—   Weak masters though ye be—I have bedimm’d   The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,   And ’twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault   Set roaring war: to the dread-rattling thunder   Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak    With his own bolt: the strong-bas’d promontory   Have I made shake; and by the spurs pluck’d up   The pine and cedar: graves at my command   Have wak’d their sleepers, op’d, and let them forth   By my so potent art. But this rough magic   I here abjure; and, when I have requir’d   Some heavenly music,—which even now I do,—   To work mine end upon their senses that    This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff,   Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,   And, deeper than did ever plummet sound,   I’ll drown my book. 

And because I cannot resist one further:

  Now my charms are all o’erthrown, And what strength I have ’s mine own; Which is most faint: now, ’tis true, I must be here confin’d by you, Or sent to Naples. Let me not, Since I have my dukedom got And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell In this bare island by your spell; But release me from my bands With the help of your good hands. Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill, or else my project fails, Which was to please. Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant; And my ending is despair, Unless I be reliev’d by prayer, Which pierces so that it assaults Mercy itself and frees all faults. As you from crimes would pardon’d be, Let your indulgence set me free. 
Bookmark and Share

The Intrepid, nay Bold Ms.


The Intrepid, nay Bold Ms. Knapp

Assuming the mode of Master Sergeant, our own Ms Knapp provides us with a bracing set of marching orders that we would all do well to heed to the best of our ability (assuming that we are not already doing so). Once again wise, beautiful, humane, but pulling no punches. I award to her this morning the St. Catherine of Siena Award for bearding the lion in his den. Thank you, Ms. Knapp, you are if not a national treasure, at least the hidden Jewel of St. Blogs! Please go and read.

Bookmark and Share

Hi There, I'm Back After


Hi There, I'm Back

After my brief holiday in the Furies, I'm pleased to return and report to you news of the world.

Unlike yesterday, the sky this morning was not red, but roseate--somewhat like the spoonbills here and there in the the trees as I was driving to work. Not full red, but that flowing white-pink so easy to pick out in the early morning sun. The clouds were limned with morning light--cast into full relief and glowing nimbi--quite, quite lovely--but not red. I'm praying that there will be a cessation of hostilities and a lack of stormy weather for the day.

So here's to hoping for a return to the irenic. I promise that I will neither listen nor read about the antics of certain groups of people (read politicians) any more. "Nie weider krieg" Forgive my bad German spelling.

Bookmark and Share

Urgent Prayer Request Okay, no


Urgent Prayer Request

Okay, no more time for self-indulgence (Praise God!)--my friends in San Diego are facing a major decision. Please pray especially hard for them. If you can spare a decade of the Rosary, I'm sure they'd be very grateful. Thank you.

Bookmark and Share

Theme and Variationa: on "Lady


Theme and Variationa: on "Lady Lazarus"

[a passing eddy in the tidepool--ignore it gentle reader and move on, say a prayer or two for the poor soul who so unburdens himself that he may soon return to dancing before the Lord.]

aka Where is Thomas Chatterton when you need him?

[much deliberation about posting this, perhaps too much. Post it and then in your chagrin delete it. No one need know, no one will be looking, it's fine?]

It has been a day and more than a day. So below I vent, give rise to a smallish cloud of black dust which will fall to Earth unbidden and unseen. Those looking for edification would do well simply to skip this post and let me vent. Undoubtedly, all will be back to normal soon. Although, I am with Macbeth at this moment concerning circumstance, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." As Jesus said in another context, "This kind is only driven out through prayer." And at least there is the consolation of prayerful conversation, I have much to be thankful for, if only I can make THAT my frame of reference these irritants would slip into perspective.

from "Lady Lazarus" Sylvia Plath

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr god, Herr Lucifer

from "In a Dark Time"
Theodore Roethke

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man. . .

from "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
T.S. Eliot

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

Bookmark and Share

The Rest is Silence I


The Rest is Silence

I have been convinced.

Bookmark and Share

Another Work in Progress Here's


Another Work in Progress

Here's another poem, a work in progress, part of a larger work in progress. Made under the aegis of Mendelsohn's magnificent Oratorio.

Wadi Cherith

The thin water ripples on the shingle,
shatters the sun, yellow sparkling
swells are not graceful though they
slap the dark strand and vanish
drawn into the desert heart.

You sit in the shadow of the overhang
and wait the word from on high
that tells you the mission has begun,
the time has at last rolled round
to begin whatever God has planned.

Had you known then of the prophets
of Ba'al, had you seen the challenge
of Ahab, had you seen the night cave
where you heard the sounds of God,
would you have fled? Running through
the desert like another madman,
another who would come to bathe
in the Jordan and cause others also
to be made clean.

                    And like another
who also would feed the hungry
with endless food from nothing?

     What would you have done?
          Isn't it better this way, alone
     in the desert fed by carrion birds
          and resting in the shade?
     Better the silence of God
     sometimes than His speech.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

There is a deliberate chronological confusion notable in the verb tenses which may or may not work with the poem as i move it into future drafts. But I welcome observations.

Bookmark and Share

On Hallowe'en Ms. vonHuben has


On Hallowe'en
Ms. vonHuben has a very reasonable post with which I am predominantly in agreement. After all, one of the reasons for having All Saints on November 1 was to partially coopt Samhain and "Christianize" it--a strategy employed by Pope St. Gregory the Great for a great many Christian feast days. I understand the reservations of some. And my child will not participate in "beggar's night" or "trick or treating" largely due to my reservations about modern times and not the holiday. However, he will light his (fake) "Spooky Ooky" Jack 'o Lantern (reference to Rolly Polly Ollie, I think) and dance to "The Wiggles" all night long. Next year we'll probably take him to one of the many church sponsored "Harvest Parties" where the children can dress up and get together.

As with most of these issues, I believe the key is parental guidance, supervision, and discussion. Many things otherwise untenable or perhaps more dangerous are defused when the boundaries are clearly defined and the reasoning (once one reaches the age of reason, around 35) clearly explained.

Bookmark and Share

A Public Appeal In


A Public Appeal

In his comment below, and again on his Blog, Dylan has tantilized us with the following promise:

I might blog something about fragmentation and modern "epics" : the tendency which became most notable with Eliot's The Waste Land -- and upon close re-reading, we see passages of beauty and great technical accomplishment! --perhaps began with our rambunctious buddy Walt Whitman and "Song of Myself" (where, praise God, he does write about many things other than himself!).

I am anxiously awaiting this, and I am certain that there will be much of interest and much for me to comment on. So this is a public appeal to make certain that it happens. (Dylan is actually very good about these things--when he posts an intent, generally we get the result--this is just an encouragement).

Bookmark and Share

Dare We Hope That All


Dare We Hope That All May Be Saved?

I start with a confession--before I knew the Church taught against it, I was a universalist. Yes, heretic, splitter, hardened religious criminal. I joke, but I do realize that the Church speaks quite firmly against the heresy of universalism, and wishing to be a good son of the church, I accept that as part of my faith. But my heart strives against it. My heart is interested in God's mercy and not nearly so interested in His justice. As I see it, Earth is the realm for justice, and if given a choice in the after-life, I opt for mercy. All of this is said in the interest of full disclosure.

However, I do think that there is cause for hope in this issue. Yes, I know all the arguments you can summon against it, I've heard them all, and they are one of the things that do keep me in check. But as I said, my heart longs for a God defined more by mercy and love than by a taste for justice.

One of the bits of evidence I point to is admittedly weak. It comes from the stockpile of private revelation, and thus is not binding on any Catholic believer. However, I am certain that the majority of Catholics who pray the Rosary follow this particular private revelation. Many of us pray the Fatima Prayer at the end of each decade. Think for a moment about what is said there: "forgive us our sings" nothing extraordinary in the way of a prayer, fairly common. However, "lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy." If we pray this prayer, and if we believe that this prayer came from the hand of our Lady, surely it must say something to us. There seems to me no way to understand this prayer rightly and not hope that all may be saved. If we believe the private revelation, why would our Lady tell us to pray for something that patently would not, could not, should not happen? The prayer makes no allowance for "all souls close to a state of grace", or "all repentant souls." Now, the words stare you in the face--it is without exception "all souls." What is the sense of this prayer if we are not hoping in theological hope for the salvation of all?

Not proof, I grant you. There is much that weighs against these words in the Gospels. The Fatima Prayer, as I point out, comes from the stock of private revelation which is binding on no one and cannot be said to be part of the doctrinal deposit of faith. Still, if we do believe in this apparition, it appears very clear to me that there must be hope that all may see God in Eternity. My heart, which cannot be restrained by the leashes of reason, desperately desires this to be true, because I honestly can't see a way to heaven for the majority of us recidivist sinners (my cloaking device expression for "ME"), without an infinitely merciful, loving God.

Now, universalism is a heresy. I think that the council of Trent even pronounced anathema on those who say that while Hell may exist, it lacks occupants (that is for more erudite minds than my own). And I suppose by that we can mean that the fallen angels cannot be redeemed (presumably these are not "souls"). I don't know. I follow the guidance of my church, but I willingly cling to the arguments offered by Hans Urs van Balthasar and Richard John Neuhaus. Human reason is faulty, divine reason mostly incomprehensible. In the gap between the two is perhaps where the hope resides.

Now I stand ready to be corrected. I accept all criticisms and critiques. But I will warn you, my obstinate heart is hard to convince, its longing after God is not an impartial witness. I apologize if by my words I have offended any, and most especially, I ask forgiveness if I have sinned against God or erred and led any astray by these statements. But here is the single place I know where heart has conquered head, and I let it lead in the hope that the heart grows stronger and the head takes its proper place in the regulation, not the domination, of life.

Shalom to all. May His peace be upon you all and upon your houses.

Bookmark and Share

Pro-Life Novena It's not too


Pro-Life Novena

It's not too late to join Jeff Miller at Atheist to a Theist for a pro-life novena before election day. Our country desperately needs this prayer.

Bookmark and Share

From the Pen of the


From the Pen of the Delightful Ms. Knapp

Virtual Pen, I should say. This, profound, humane, compassionate, and utterly sensible (if somtimes difficult to implement) meditation on what it means to be Catholic. She's likely to take a lot of flack for it, but I'll be there to back her up if it happens.

A profound thank you, Ms. Knapp--you are ever an inspiration to those of us with a good deal less charity and a good deal more rapid-fire mouths. I stand in good stead to learn from what you teach. Thanks.

Bookmark and Share

Two Very Fine Poems At


Two Very Fine Poems

At Sainteros a delight entitled Diamond Head Sutra and another short companion piece. Well worth your attention.

Bookmark and Share

Primary Sources in History The


Primary Sources in History

The National Parks system has made available a number of really fine primary sources. If you are interested in the History of the National Park Service or some of the National Parks, check this out.

For those interested in Victorian London, there is an entire site devoted to primary sources here. I really like first-hand accounts rather than much of the modern trend of historical revisionism. I like to know what people at the time thought and said about the events they experienced.

Bookmark and Share

For Those Interested in Classical


For Those Interested in Classical Music

I do need to point out the wonderful music writing of Robert Reilly (a sample may be found here). Mr. Reilly writes for Crisis and thus far his criticism has been dead on. As I compose this at home, I am listening to Gerald Finzi's Cello Concerto. A work that I would have summarily pass over had it not been for the notice given by Mr. Reilly. If you are interested in or need to build up your classical collection (homeschoolers be aware), Mr. Reilly is a fairly reliable star to steer that ship by.

Bookmark and Share

One of Those Things


One of Those Things That Give One Pause

As I was leaving the house this morning, I saw a package on the doorstep that meant the library had delivered a book I had requested--the only book this library had by Geoffrey Hill, The Triumph of Love (and there are other more deplorable omissions, too many to recount). This book is a sequence poem that is nearly impenetrable in its complexity (a cursory reading shows).

I opened the book at random and flipped through to see if there was any section of it that simply made grammatical sense in English. (I'm delighted to say that there are.) In so doing I happened upon this:

from The Triumph of Love Geoffrey Hill

Whatever may be meant by moral landscape,
it is for me increasingly a terrain
seen in cross-section: igneous, sedimentary,
conglomerate, metamorphic rock-
strata, in which particular grace,
individual love, decency, endurance,
are traceable across the faults.

I am disappointed. This, one of our most erudite poets--obscure to the point of "Wastelandism"--brilliant, intellectual, and profound, makes an enormous blunder for the sound of the words. Here the major sin is in the litany of rock-types. We have igneous, sedimentary, conglomerate, and metamorphic, implying a four-fold division. In fact, conglomerate is a type of sedimentary creating a hidden redundancy. A proper catalogue would have said something like "granite, gneiss, conglomerate and schist." Or perhaps we could have used more erudite terms for some of the same "hawaiite (or alaskite), augengneiss, conglomerate, and eclogite." We would have attained the same obscurity, perhaps even greater obscurity, and retained the typing. For those unacquainted with geology, let me move the list to another more familiar field to make clear where I see the problem. It would be as though one were listing the amniote vertebrates and one were to say, "Reptiles, Birds, Flamingos, and Mammals."

A minor point, and this post was originally of much greater length and much less charity. But I suppose what I want to get at is that a reader entrusts him or herself to the writer's hands. One wishes them to be both clean and certain; a slip such as this makes one suspect the latter quality.

Let us draw a curtain of charity over this admittedly very minor oversight. I will speak more of the whole sequence when I've had a chance to read it more reflectively.

Bookmark and Share

Review: The Lonely Passion of


Review: The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

This first novel of Brian Moore is said to be a masterpiece of the Catholic Novel. If by that we mean a masterpiece of the tortured religious consciousness constantly at odds with the world around it through no circumstances of its own, I suppose there is a certain amount of truth to the statement.

Strangely, this book has elements of many another Catholic Novel. In this case, the novel is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The mechanism of Ms. Hearne's trial is, not surprisingly, alcoholism and something reminiscent of delirium tremens. The first three-quarters of the book are spent given us sufficient background to support the "passion" at the end of the book. Miss Hearne resembles at a distance the whiskey priest from The Power and the Glory, but more than anything else, this book reminds one of Endo's Silence in mood and, to some extent, resolution.

Miss Hearne is a middle-aged, plain spinster (although played in the film by the redoubtable Maggie Smith, who is anything BUT plain) who has squandered her youth in the care of an aged Aunt who ultimately leaves her with very little to live on and virtually no relationships to support. The novel starts as we watch Miss Hearne unpack her trunk in a new bed-sitting-room and carefully place the photography of her aunt and a picture of the Sacred Heart. In a gradual peeling of layers we have a "romance" for Miss Hearne from an older man who has returned from the states as a result of an accident. He "romances" Miss Hearne because he believes she has money to invest in a business venture he is contemplating in Dublin. She mistakes this for romantic overtures, and thus we have the set-up, which, when it collapses precipitates Miss Hearne's crisis.

Now, the crisis. Miss Hearne appears to go on something like a three or four day binge, takes all of her money out of the bank, and spend it staying at the Plaza Hotel. Due to the collapse of this romance (among other things--this is simply the straw that broke the camel's back), she has concluded that there is no God, and that the bread of the Eucharist is merely that. After barging in drunk to a priest's residence and asking him about the real presence and getting nothing like a satisfactory answer, she stops her taxi on the way home and goes in to assault the tabernacle. This gets her thrown into a convalescent home where the passion and crisis meet resolution.

The book has sharp-edged portrayals, and throughout is completely believable. Miss Hearne and all of those who surround her are real people. There are very few present who represent Christianity at its best, but the one, whom Ms. Hearne is certain she has lost as a friend because she has been regarded as a Charity case, is the mechanism of Ms. Hearne's questionable redemption.

There is a certain variety of the Catholic Novel that is completely bound up in the idea of crisis of faith, and this novel is exemplary of that strain. It is not a favorite of mine, though I suppose it is to some extent necessary to portray some dramatic tension. I prefer the strain of Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor where the tension comes not so much from questions about whether or not there is a God, but the realization of His action in the world. In some sense, there is a strain of this in The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. While she claims not to believe, what she is struggling with is the ineluctable Silence that Endo treats so profoundly.

In the final analysis a novel well worth reading, and particularly good as the investment of time is minimal. The whole crisis plays itself out in a little over two-hundred pages. I've noted that the really great Catholic Novels (with the exception of those of Walker Percy) tend to be quite short. As they tend to be focused on a single point, this is all to the good. One could not bear too much of the company of Miss Hearne as sad and as touching as her story may be, she doesn't make for pleasant company.

Bookmark and Share

Avoiding Hypocrisy Found via More


Avoiding Hypocrisy

Found via More Like Mary. . .

As an "antidote to hypocrisy" -- a flaw not unknown in academic circles -- the Holy Father suggested "a constant exchange between what is known and what is lived; between the message of truth received as a gift with the Christian vocation, and concrete personal and communal attitudes."

"In other words: between knowing the faith and the holiness of life," the Pope said.

A salutary bit of advice for all of us. Those of us in more mundane circles of life say it somewhat more simply--Practice what you preach!

Bookmark and Share

Talk About Apostolic Succession


Talk About Apostolic Succession

Check out this genealogy by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes C.PP.S. And while you're at it, say a prayer for him and for all the good men who do us the tremendous service of living the sacrificial life of a priest. But especially for him so close to ordination day.

Bookmark and Share

For Those of You into


For Those of You into Homeschooling

You may want to check out More Like Mary, Less Like Martha. It appears to be one of those sites of infinite common sense and interesting discussion.

Bookmark and Share

Quirky, Cool, and Fun And


Quirky, Cool, and Fun

And the blogmaster has a great URL. If you're a fan of science fiction, fantasy, Manga, or Anime AND you're a faithful Catholic, Aliens in this World is a pretty cool hang out!

Bookmark and Share

I tried to post the following three times yesterday. I am sorry for the delay, but I am delighted that it appears I shall be able to post it this morning.

Wilfrid Stinissen is rapidly becoming my favorite guide to reading scripture contemplatively (in the more common sense of that word, and I hope eventually in the more narrow definition of the word). The following passage is just wonderful for understanding what it is to read poetry or Scripture.

from Nourished by the Word
Wilfrid Stinissen

It is typical of poetry, as for all art, that it appeals to the reader's (or observer's) creativity. A poem is no tract where the thoughts are already thought out and have received their definitive formulation. A poem opens a door, often several doors simultaneously, and readers themselves decide which way they choose and how far they will take it. It is, among other things, this combination of guidance and freedom which causes one to thrive in the domain of poetry. One feel respected and taken seriously. We ourselves get to think and interpret and associate, to be fellow creators ourselves.

This concerns also our company with God's word, which has breadth and manifold meanings that purely human words cannot cover. As one free child of God, I get to play in the Bible's paradise. I get to make the old text into a new song which corresponds to my personal experience, my present needs. I can be certain that God approves of this way of playing with the text: "Then I was beside him, like a master worker: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always" (Prov 8:30). When I do so, I attach myself to the Church's centuries long tradition. The Church Fathers read Scripture in this way and the Church does it in its official liturgy. It is truly not psychoanalysis which has invented the act of free association. The Church makes use of it with extreme virtuosity. (p. 56)

Admittedly, one must be very careful to make a distinction here between individual application (which subsequent passages show that Stinissen is talking about) and individualistic interpretation, which is dangerous and schismatic. Everyone has individual interpretations, but as Catholics, those interpretations are guided and ruled by the general teaching of the Church and held in line by our understanding of the Magisterium. The Church has spoken definitively on the interpretation of very few individual passages of Scripture, but we are guided by the various Pontifical Councils on the Bible to understand Scripture as the Church has understood it for two thousand years. So casting aside the possible reading of this passage as meaning run with whatever meaning you happen to get from reading scripture, we are left with application.

Harold Bloom, speaking of the great books, has a wonderful metaphor for this act of application. He refers to the great books as not so much being read as reading us. That is, when we are brought into contact with a great work of literature, we bring to it all that we are and all that we know. Our reaction to the book is more often what it says about us than what we read in it. This is multiply true of Scripture. When we read a passage, the Bible speaks to us where we are.

You have undoubtedly had the experience either of hearing in Church or of picking up and reading a passage from the Bible and saying, I never noticed that before. If you're noticing it now, pay attention--it probably has something to say to you right here, right now in your life. Application of Scripture, contra interpretation, is the act of realizing what is being spoken to you personally and putting it into action. For example at one time in your life you may have read, "Go and spread the Good News to all the lands." Now, we all know we are called to do this, but at one time you may have felt called to the Priesthood, or to some other vocation that would more directly bear on this verse. You may have been called to stand outside abortion clinics and pray, or called to help serve the St. Vincent de Paul Society, any number of possibilities. THAT is application, not interpretation. You hear the message and act upon it.

Stinissen concludes this magnificent chapter with the following observation, which I believe sums up the nature of personal application:

The playful, personal reading causes the Scripture to become a splendid and constant new instrument of the Spirit. The Spirit blows where it will (Jn 3:8), and if we are sensitive to his wind in our lives, he will show us unexpected and hidden meanings in the Scriptures, and reveal many secrets about who God is. (p. 59)

This sounds vaguely gnostic, but I think it is more along the lines of meeting a woman for the first time. You may have heard many talk of her, you know what she looks like, you may even know something of her quirks and habits. This correlates to a superficial acquaintance with Scripture. But, as you meet and continue to meet, and perhaps fall in love, you discover that your picture was only a small part of what there was to know about this person. I think this is the light in which to interpret Stinissen's statement about "hidden meanings" and "many secrets." They are open meanings and open secrets, anyone is welcome to partake of them, but few choose to do so because it requires application and the hard realization that the words of Scripture are intended for each of us.

I cannot recommend highly enough this slender book . It is only 118 pages long, but it is packed with wonderful insights and guides for helping us to understand scripture.

Bookmark and Share

More on Reading the Bible


More on Reading the Bible

In the comment directly below (thanks to a blogger outage, I was unable to post most of what I wanted to yesterday), Tom asks a question about NAB study Bible. Here's my take on study bibles:

You might look into the Ignatius Study Bible in pieces--if you've a mind to start immediately or you want a sampling, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts are available. I have found it reasonably useful, although some of the guides seem unreasonably literal. For example, in Matthew commentary about leprosy, the authors point out the Levitical law regarding leprosy of person, clothes, and house. While these are truly Levitical, a house cannot have leprosy. In addition the commentary notes only the exterior features of the disease saying that sins makes us leprous. True enough, but the real horror of the disease is the eventual destruction of the peripheral nervous system that cuts off any ability to perceive the world. In an analogical reading, this is by far a better sense of what sin does to us--it desensitizes or destroys our ability to perceive God in the world and in our lives.

Okay, so there are some minor inadequacies. But I think that for most people, these will be a stunning revelation in the mode of Catholic Study Bibles. Given my long history of Study Bibles, I don't find this particularly great, but it is head and shoulders above much of the rest.

As for Frank's suggestion--which I think a good one. You might want to look at Stephen Ray's Gospel of John study available from Ignatius. It's lengthy, it looks to the thorough, and it is a great gospel to have a good guide to. My problem with most study bibles is that they tend to distract me from what I believe to be the main purpose of bible reading--to expand the reach of my heart and make me more able to imitate Jesus through knowing Him. Often I become distracted (as in the case above) by small absurdities in notes, or by commentary that seems to come out of left field. Bible Study should be given a separate time from reflective or meditative Bible reading--I don't think the two are compatible in the same time period. I DO believe that they are complementary, at least inasmuch as one Bible Study gives one a firmer foundation on which to base reflection and meditation, and Lectio or Meditation helps increase the hunger for knowing clearly what God is asking.

Hope this is helpful.

Bookmark and Share

On the NAB again Mr.


On the NAB again

Mr. McManus has left a couple of wonderful posts, both very insightful and thought-provoking. I quote one in full here to comment on it somewhat better than would be allowed by a comment box.

Comment by Mr. Frank McManus

I'm not entirely convinced by your discussion of submissive vs. subordinate. I can't see how the latter could possibly be more politically correct than the former, so I'm disinclined to attribute sinister motives to the translators. Whichever option is more accurate depends wholly on the meaning of the original, and you do not address this question.

I'm certainly no expert, but my overall impression is that the revised NAB NT is a considerable improvement over the original NAB NT. (The revised Psalms are another story.) The old NT was often a virtual paraphrase, and a very klutzy one at that, on a par with the Good News Bible.

I'm not defending the NAB; I prefer Bibles that sound more traditional, such as the RSV. For this reason I think that, until Ignatius finally issues a complete study Bible, with a "revised" Catholic RSV (which I assume will mean eliminating the archaic language) - until that long-awaited day, check out the new English Standard Version (ESV). It's excellent - what the NRSV should have been. Unfortunately there's no Catholic edition, nor even an edition with the "Apocrypha". Apart from that, it's my favorite translation. Fans of the NKJV in particular should take a look - the ESV cleans up many of the infelicities of the NKJV.

First, addressing Mr. McManus directly: Thank you for that respectful questioning of the point. You are correct that I haven't fully presented the case, and perhaps I have been foolish in presenting this much of it. But my reaction isn't to this single passage or element, it is to a number of things embodied in many passages that I have heard over time, liberties taken with the text, which while not as damaging, lead me to suspect the motive behind what is going on.

As to the translation: I am not expert in Greek myself; however, I have consulted every interlinear translation I have (5) and the Latin Vulgate and in every case the word involved is indeed "submit" or "submissive." Here, I know I'm relying on other translators, but I do think it notable that in the history of translations claiming to be other than paraphrases, this substitution does not occur. The RSV uses subject, which I suppose has the same flavor as subordinate, but certain has less of the boardroom or the military about it.

But I think this translation is "the straw that broke the camel's back." For example, every fragment of a letter is introduced with the phrase, "Brothers and Sisters." Now, those words are interpolations into the text--nothing wrong in themselves, but they do constitute tampering with the text "for the sake of understanding." However, if the reading is announced as it usually is,"A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians," why is the interpolation necessary? And if an interpolation IS deemed necessary, why don't we use the words of St. Paul in Ephesians 1:1: "To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus?" This would be a more effective announcement and continuation of the notion that we are all called to be Saints.

While at Mass I have observed other "softer" wordings in the Gospels and in the Letters. The Old Testament readings seem to be less tampered with. I should not impute some subversive motive; however, this is not the conclusion of a moment it is the culmination of a series of observations. When the translation is so deliberately counter to tradition, one must wonder what other reason might underlie the change. Accuracy is possible, but I have noted that all the harsh or hard words seem to have been softened in this translation.

Admittedly, I am conveying an impression. Nevertheless, I find the NAB a seriously flawed translation on a number of fronts. The language is dull, flat, and unmemorizable. This last would seem to be a trivial concern, and yet, if we are to lead scriptural lives, without our noses stuck in a book all day long, we need to carry with us some portion of scripture that lives in the memory. The NAB doesn't even live as it is being pronounced. Add to that that in many cases the sense of what is being said is no more clear than it is in the older translations. I will readily acquiesce that there are passages in the older translations that are incomprehensible but most of the changes in the NAB do nothing to facilitate translation while depriving the translation of all the glories of the old.

I have pointed out before that the NAB are sometimes inane. For example St. Paul's famous, "We see now as in a glass, darkly," becomes "At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror. . ." Tell me how that makes sense to any child learning scripture today. They can look in a mirror and see for themselves that what they see is not indistinct. In fact, in some mirrors what one might see is more distinct than everyday reality. Any high-school student knows that mirrors are used for gathering light in a great many telescopes, including Hubble. Suddenly, we have moved from mere infelicity to a disorientation and perhaps alienation of the alert student. (I was this kind of nit-picker in my time, and guess I still am). The KJV, "In a glass, darkly," makes less sense to a child who has not been given the opportunity to see either the Elizabethan version of a looking glass or what passed for mirrors in Roman time. Once this has happened though, there is a fairly clear understanding of the enormous difference between a "glass" and a "mirror." I spend overmuch time on the point.

Yes, perhaps the fault can be attributed to simple incompetence and lack of liguistic ability. Perhaps it is due to a poor sort of pedagogy that has permeated the modern sensibility (largely based in a chronological chauvinism), a distorted pedagogy that desires the elimination of all objects that do not have correlatives in the modern world. It may stem from any number of reasons, but the combined result is that the NAB is an entirely unsatisfactory Bible to have proclaimed from the Ambo. It offers neither greater clarity nor more euphonious translations; it can be read as satisfying the agendas of dissident groups (although, as Mr. McManus points out, in charity we should not rush to that assumption); and it can be disorienting, confusing, and alienating to intelligent readers.

Ultimately, we are in agreement that, for whatever reasons it is generally a poor translation. Perhaps I am incorrect, but I thought that the rubrics in the U.S. allowed for one of two different translations--either this or the RSV-CE. I guess some of my questions were, if this is so, how does one go about making the case for the RSV-CE? If it is not, how does one go about making the case for adding it as a possibility?

Now that I have rephrased an argument all are probably tired of, I must once again thank Mr. McManus for asking the questions or, more correctly, stating the propositions that led to this post. I truly appreciate being forced to clarify my own thought and to back away from merely reacting to trying to give substance to the reaction.

Bookmark and Share

If blame is to be assessed. However if plaudits and acclaim, I gladly accept them. His off-hand mention sent me plunging into the American Verse Project (see left-hand column) to find and remind one of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. This came to hand:

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

IN golden youth when seems the earth
A Summer-land of singing mirth,
When souls are glad and hearts are light,
And not a shadow lurks in sight,
We do not know it, but there lies
Somewhere veiled under evening skies
A garden which we all must see —
The garden of Gethsemane.

With joyous steps we go our ways,
Love lends a halo to our days;
Light sorrows sail like clouds afar,
We laugh, and say how strong we are.
We hurry on; and hurrying, go
Close to the border-land of woe,
That waits for you, and waits for me —
Forever waits Gethsemane.

Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams,
Bridged over by our broken dreams;
Behind the misty caps of years,
Beyond the great salt fount of tears,
The garden lies. Strive as you may,
You cannot miss it in your way.
All paths that have been, or shall be,
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.

All those who journey, soon or late,
Must pass within the garden's gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there,
And battle with some fierce despair.
God pity those who can not say,
"Not mine but thine," who only pray,
"Let this cup pass," and cannot see
The purpose in Gethsemane.

Bookmark and Share

This little song from the opera Nosferatu which I have never heard nor seen performed, and yet which I would very much like to enjoy is at the tail end of an essay on metrical verse. It is an example of how metrical verse works, and it is also quite a lovely poem in itself.

Vampire's Nocturne from Nosferatu
Dana Gioia

I am the image that darkens your glass,
The shadow that falls wherever you pass.
I am the dream you cannot forget,
The face you remember without having met.

I am the truth that must not be spoken,
The midnight vow that cannot be broken.
I am the bell that tolls out the hours.
I am the fire that warms and devours.

I am the hunger that you have denied,
The ache of desire piercing your side.
I am the sin you have never confessed,
The forbidden hand caressing your breast.

You've heard me inside you speak in your dreams,
Sigh in the ocean, whisper in streams.
I am the future you crave and you fear.
You know what I bring. Now I am here.

For more of Dana Gioia's work, look here. I particularly recommend the very touching "Planting a Sycamore" written on the death of his infant son.

[Note later: I do this every time, so I leave the error here to remind me. The title of the poem is "Planting a Sequoia", now, Steven repeat after me, "Sequoia, not Sycamore" ... "Sequoia sempervivens" ... "Gosh darn it, they aren't even in the same Division of Plantae. . ."

Bookmark and Share

An Introduction to Samuel Taylor


An Introduction to Samuel Taylor Coleridge

For sheer lushness of language and richness of imagery this poem-fragment must stand alone in the gathering of the Romantic Poets. I present this as a taste of Coleridge as I mull over whether or not to present the wonderful "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," or the truly dark and interesting "Cristabel." Both are quite long, so I approach them with some apprehension for the patience of my gentle audience. But I continue to consider as I present this wonderful poem:

Kubla Khan Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

"For he on honey-dew hath fed,/And drunk the milk of Paradise." I love the end of the fragment, and truly thank God for that visitor (though the story may be apocryphal) who interrupted the construction of this poem. Had it gone on, I am not sure it would stand as surely as it does today. Sometimes grace transforms might have been a mediocre work into a masterpiece simply by staying the poet's hand.

Bookmark and Share

Two New Blogs out there


Two New Blogs out there

With a great title, but a trifle too much baseball for my taste (though we must allow people their enthusiasms, mustn't we--after all them as live in brick houses stones should neither gather nor throw) Inn at the End of the World (sounds more that a trifle William Morrisy) is well worth your time. Alos, I wonder about the URL, could we have another Aubrey and Maturin fan onboard? (Not that I am, but when one's spouse is attendant upon every mailing list and group related to the two, it can't help but seep into consciousness.) Also, one must note, the blogmaster seems to be very interested in and knowledgeable about the saints of many calendars, and he appears to have a profound interest in, and perhaps even makes his lliving or part thereof as one who plays the bagpipes.

The second is a man who could do with our very best apologetics help and understanding. Metanoia hosted by Mr. Jim Kalb is one very interesting series of questions and observations after another.

I believe I shall be keeping an eye on these two. Gives me something to do when the lazy-bones bloggers enter their torpor.

Bookmark and Share

Reading the Bible in the


Reading the Bible in the Catholic Church

I pick on T.S. O'Rama yet again. He posted this provocative note:

Now since I wasn't alive pre-Vatican II, I have no idea if what I am about to say is completely true. It is what I've heard. Second-hand. So correct me if I'm wrong. But what I've heard is that the Church, paternalistically, told the faithful just to read the Baltimore Catechism and accept the answers unquestioningly. My understanding is that there were not bible study classes; which is understandable given that scripture in the wrong hands is dangerous (i.e. it fractured the Church). Not to mention that form criticism and historical criticism has weakened many a faith (my mother's among them - she said her faith was much stronger in the 50s..especially before she decided the infancy narratives were 'made up'). So...is it better to be dumb with a strong faith or smart, in the ways of biblical criticism, and have a weak faith? I leave it to another mother, Mater Ecclesia.

I cannot speak to the truth of the first part of this. I have heard both that it was discouraged and that it was encouraged in the pre-Vatican II Church. Certainly it was permitted and to some extent expected among religious--witness St. Thérèse's compiled little book of the gospels. However, whether lay people participated or were encouraged to do so, I do not know and I would like to find out.

What I wished to note was the question with regard to Form Criticism and most particularly the historical-critical method. I read Fr. Raymond Brown's "Birth of the Messiah" and arrived at a different conclusion. This is not to fault those who did swallow the whole argument or what they may have seen as the argument. What I concluded from a careful reading the entire work is that the historical-critical method was a tool insufficient to the job in the case. Fr. Brown basically concluded that based on the evidence of the historical-critical method the infancy narratives could not be shown to be historical. And my answer to that was, "So?" I decided that the method was hampered by its essential tenets and that given that form of study there was a limit to what it could say or prove. In fact, it functioned merely to say whether a given set of propositions is supported by evidence outside the Bible itself. It cannot be use to "prove" something was made up or untrue, it can only be used to say that given the limitations of the method we cannot show something to have been historical. T.S. is correct in saying that such material should be handled very carefully and not simply disseminated for the faithful without a good and truthful guide that spells out clearly what a method can and cannot accomplish. To read Brown's book without this knowledge is a serious endangerment of Faith, although I am certain Fr. Brown did not intend this. I believe that as a scholar he was often terribly ignorant of the possible effects of reading the book. Many scholars are so cocooned in their ivory towers that they have little sense of what a lay person reading their work might conclude.

So, I say we need not choose one or the other, but if something poses a real danger to faith, it should be avoided at all costs. It is one of the reasons I avoid certain types of argument and controversy, and I avoid reading even the "good work" of people who later had dubious work--Haring, Rahner, Schillbeckx, and de Mello come to mind. I know that there is much to enrich the faith there. But, it is also easy to become so used to the tone, argument, and influence of the person that you follow them straight into the errors that led them astray from Orthodoxy. It is also why I am very cautious about people like de Lubac and von Balthasar. There is still the lingering stigma of the Garrigou-Lagrange school. However, I have seen sufficient evidence that the majority of what these two theologians thought and taught is fairly orthodox.

I also know that certain practices properly undertaken are probably faith enhancing; however, centering prayer has always struck me as not particularly Christian in its initial axioms. If I am asked, I always express this caution and avoid the practice of the prayer myself. However, others may find it very helpful under the guidance of a truly gifted and God-discerning spiritual director. Sometimes living in such a privileged and educated society carries a tremendous price of caution. Jesus told us, "To whom much is given, much is expected."

It's a shame that some have been led astray and their faith weakened. But in all things, if eyes are firmly focused on Christ, if we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, the teaching of the Magisterium, and the unalloyed (non-NAB) teaching of the Bible, we cannot go wrong. Christ Himself promised that the good shepherd would leave the ninety-nine and go in search of the single stray lamb.

Bookmark and Share

Oriana Fallaci Once Again For


Oriana Fallaci Once Again

For whatever reason, I find this writer absolutely fascinating. We're treated to a review of her most recent book at The Weekly Standard. An excerpt of that review follows:

ITALIAN JOURNALIST and professional provocateur Oriana Fallaci may once have embodied enlightened postwar Western Europe. But with the release of her new book, "The Rage and the Pride"--a biting polemic against anti-Americanism, political correctness, and Islam's "reverse crusade"--she has managed to become a pariah in European intellectual circles.

A self-declared "political refugee," Fallaci broke her ten-year refusal to comment on political issues after the terrorist atrocities committed by Islamic fundamentalists on September 11. Sick with cancer, the seventy-two-year-old Fallaci, who spends most of her time in New York City, let her fury erupt in an "anger that eliminates every detachment." Only days after the attacks, the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera published Fallaci's scathing essay entitled "La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio." The article was a sensation, igniting bitter controversy all over Europe. Soon after, the Italian publisher Rizzoli persuaded her to extend her essay into a small book, which has sold one million copies in Italy, and has now been translated into English by Fallaci herself.

Fallaci's antagonists have accused her of being a xenophobe and Islamophobe. In France, an anti-racist group has attempted to have her book banned. Two other groups demanded disclaimers that the book doesn't accurately portray Islam. The head of Editions Grasset, one of France's most prominent publishers, said: "It's a regressive book, which will be read by people with reptilian brains." Rana Kabbani wrote, "Fallaci's hatred and fear of Muslims is both visceral and hysterical."

Fallaci--an anti-Fascist resistance fighter as a teenager and a war correspondent for most of her career as a journalist--is unlikely to have been motivated by fear. "The Rage and the Pride" is unfocused, but it is not hysterical, and, though uncompromising, is certainly not visceral. "War you wanted, war you want?" she declares. "Good. As far as I am concerned, war is and war will be. Until the last breath."

With words like those above coming from French critics, you know it must be worth reading.

Bookmark and Share

Now I'm Incensed Okay, I've


Now I'm Incensed

Okay, I've complained about the NAB before, but now I'm seriously incensed. I read some of the readings for next week when I stumbled upon this atrocity:

Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the Church, he himself the savior of the Body. As the Church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.

Now, we all know what the word should be in place of subordinate. But because subordinate sounds so much more corporate and politically correct, we have this gross alteration of biblical text to accommodate modern sensibilities. I am distressed, chagrined, and overall torqued. By what right does anyone tinker with the word of God to adjust to anyone. The Word of God is a constant challenge to all of us. Here is a quote from an e-mail I sent that nicely encapsulates what I thought at the time and still think.

I am profoundly offended at this sneaky revision of translation that disguises itself as NAB. The Ephesians reading substitutes the more political correct, softer, and utterly inane "be subordinate" for "be submissive." They are not the same either denotatively or connotatively, and it is undermining all that gets taught. I am subordinate to God, whether I act it or not--subordination is a fact of life, submission is an act of will.

As I said, subordination is a fact of life, a reality--women are NOT naturally subordinate to men, but to be subordinate indicates nothing of the will. I can be subordinate but utterly deprecating of those in power. I can do as they ask and undermine them at the same time. Subordination is about power. Submission is about love--it is an act of will that joins two persons in a relationship. If one is submissive, one not merely does the will but goes beyond to try to do what may lie in the future. Submission requires not only the action but also the intent behind the action in the doer. We do what we do for love of God, not merely to fulfill a commandment. I am seriously distressed at this infelicity of language and at the revision that has taken place over the course of a couple of years, slowly and subtly replacing difficult texts. I know that the old NAB had the word submissive in these lines. So the question comes down to, why aren't the defenders of the faith minding the store a bit better. It's one of the reasons that some groups of protestants prize the KJV. Admittedly, there have been changes through the years, but it's difficult to pull some of this subtle language shifting and wholesale slaughter of intent.

I guess more correctly what I'm asking, is what can I do about this? How can I contribute to stopping this creeping modernism that assaults, disassembles and dissects a text reassembling it into some Frankenstein's monster of its original. Altering the words of scripture is altering the deposit of faith and it is occurring now, as we watch, beneath our very noses, and most of us don't even notice it. I've pointed out before the atrocity of the translation--the sheer lack of facility with the language that seems to dominate the translation council.

Where is the loyalty to tradition in this constantly shifting translation? How can I make this travesty known to those who do care about these things? To quote from one of my favorite films--so apropos in so many situations: "Is anybody there? Does anybody care?"

Bookmark and Share

Reading Difficult Books Here, thanks


Reading Difficult Books
Here, thanks to Minute Particulars an interesting quote from Jonathan Franzen, who, I think desires that his novel, The Corrections be numbered among those "difficult to read" and thus "literary." Haven't quite gotten over his snit at Oprah for choosing him and making for him a small fortune among her legions of fans. Oprah's books are, you know, according to this great mind of our age, "Middlebrow."

Jonathan Franzen has an interesting article in the 9/30/02 issue of The New Yorker magazine on hard-to-read books. He describes his reading of William Gaddis's The Recognitions as follows:
Every morning for a week and a half I went from the breakfast table to a beige ultrasučde sofa module, turned on a lamp, and read non-stop for six or eight hours. I had some professional curiosity about Gaddis, but a few hundred pages of "The Recognitions" would have satisfied it. I sat and read the extra seven hundred pages in something like a fugue state, as if planting my feet on a steep slope, climbing. I was reluctant to leave my ultrasučde perch for any reason. The only way I could justify sitting there and spending borrowed money was to make a regular job, with regular hours, out of climbing the mountain.

(I can't help but point out the pretentiousness and even the preciousness of adding that darling little accent to suede. We have immediately marked ourselves head and shoulders above the crowd. Very likely we also pronounce Sidney Lanier's last name lahn-yea. It's just too too.)

The Recognitions IS difficult to read. I won't compare it to Ulysses as that would serve no purpose to a person who has read neither. However, I would like to address the question T.S. O'Rama asks (by whom I found this link).

I'm not sure I get the point of needful obscurity. Obscurity can be beautiful; sprinkled words of a foreign language even look beautiful on the printed page. But some of it I think appeals to the pride of the reader - I got this allusion! It's art as a glorified crossword puzzle I guess. Shakespeare wrote plays that sound obscure to us only because of the antiquated language. To people of his day, it was plainly understood, albeit laden with rich prose, foreshadowings, symbolism, etc. The very beauty and comprehensiveness of Shakespeare perhaps spoiled the broth for later generations who could not compete. Ultimately, the moderns often have less to say but have very creative ways of saying it. But perhaps this is merely sour grapes for not "getting it".

I am not certain that obscurity is so much needful as ingrained. There are people who write what is in their heads, and what is there is obscure. The point is not to be obscure, but perhaps to convey a richness of expression and vision. I must concur, that reading these obscure books can give rise to "pride," I would say rather a certain rich pleasure. For example, in The Corrections (the title of which is deliberately patterned on The Recognitions) one of the characters has an email address that ends in gaddisfly.com. Of course, this is making a deliberate allusion to one of the monoliths of modernism. Perhaps second only to Ulysses this book is revered by those who would abscond away with literature and lock it in an ivory tower well secured from all the "middle-brows" out there who would pretend to better themselves. They will of course never be first rate intellects, and the test of The Recognitions can readily demonstrate that.

Now, in defense of The Recognitions I agree with part of what Franzen said, but I didn't find the point particularly difficult to grasp. I thought the work interesting, involved, entertaining, and yes, partly obscure, but nothing truly beyond the capabilities of a reader dedicated to the task. But then, I believe the same of nearly every work I've encountered. Gaddis wrote the book that he alone was capable of, and I found it a good deal more relevant and comprehensible than say, Gravity's Rainbow the praises of which elude me entirely.

Okay, so I didn't answer T.S. O'Rama's question. But I hope this has been obscure enough to live up to its progenitors.

Bookmark and Share

Dana Gioia has been nominated to be the next head of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia is an accomplished poet who has steadily insisted upon a return to the basics of poetry and whose work shows the fruit of such an endeavor.

This information found via Mr. Bell's Notes from a Hillside Farm, q.v. for more.

Bookmark and Share

A New Apocalypse Yes, part


A New Apocalypse

Yes, part of my "West Virginia Sequence." I offer this apocalyptic view of the world:

Apocalypse of the Foxes

First time I saw a triangle head and
an orange-red body and long tail, I thought
a frightened animal had, in the dark run
and found in a jump the razor wire. Caught
by its neck, the fox hung there paws aloft
sharing with all its surprise at the end
it had found.
                       But another had been dropped
nearby, and further on my heart began
to dread some lemming plague that felled a field
of foxes, killing them one fearful night,
a vengeful divine hand had closed and sealed
the fate of all their world.
                         I asked what might
have been the cause of all this death, and heard
a woman close by say, "It's the farmer's
way out here. Kill them and leave them to scare
off others."
            "And does it work?" I asked her,
looking once again. She shrugged and then stared
into the distance saying, "I'd say not."
Tracing her gaze, I saw half a dozen
foxes in a troupe through thigh-high fields trot
away into hidden brush, a fat hen
grasped tightly in the jaws on one of them.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

The Raven--The Grand Finale So


The Raven--The Grand Finale

So now, the end of one of the wonderful narrative poems in English. I'm seriously considering serializing "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" next. Great for our slide toward Hallowe'en. Let me know what you think about "Rime"

The Raven (part 4 of 4)
Edgar Allan Poe

               "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
           By that Heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
                Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
               It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
           Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
                       Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

               "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
            "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
                Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
              Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door!
          Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
                      Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

              And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
          On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
              And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
              And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
          And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                      Shall be lifted--nevermore!

What a great dismissal--"Take thy beak from out my heart, and thy form from off my door. . ." Great line for the next Jehovah's Witness or Mormon Invasion of the community.

Bookmark and Share

Representative Poetry Online


Representative Poetry Online
Representative Poetry Online, or RPO as they are calling themselves, has change not only its URL but its format. It's great, take a look.

Bookmark and Share

Proportionality and Sin [snicker]

This story from T.S. O'Rama amused me beyond all proportionality. Do you suppose amusement beyond proportionality is a sin? Are we waging "just hilarity?" Should we define this? After all, Eco reminds us in Name of the Rose Jesus never laughed. (Or at least the Gospels don't tell us He did.)

Bookmark and Share

Words from Samuel Daniel Here's


Words from Samuel Daniel

Here's a bit of philosoophy from Elizabethan times that might be carefully considered in our own. I particularly like the ultimate conclusion despite the railing of the first part of the paragraph. Daniel basically grasps the idea that language in a living entity, subject to change, to additions and deletions, and ultimately to become something completely other than what it was.

from "A Defense of Rhyme" Samuel Daniel

    Next to this deformitie stands our affectation, wherein we alwayes bewray our selues to be both vnkinde, and vnnaturall to our owne natiue language, in disguising or forging strange or uvnvsuall wordes, as if it were to make our verse seeme an other kind of speach out of the course of our vsuall practise, displacing our wordes, or inuesting new, onely vpon a singularitie: when our owne accustomed phrase, set in the due place, would expresse vs more familiarly and to better delight, than all this idle affectation of antiquitie, or noueltie can euer doe. And I can not but wonder at the strange presumption of some men that dare so audaciously aduenture to introduce any whatsoeuer forraine wordes, be they neuer so strange; and of themselues as it were, without a Parliament, without any consent, or allowance, establish them as Free-denizens in our language. But this is but a Character of that perpetuall reuolution which wee see to be in all things that neuer remaine the same, and we must heerein be content to submit our selves to the law of time, which in few yeeres wil make al that, for which we now contend, Nothing.

Bookmark and Share

I Guess It's Poetry Morning


I Guess It's Poetry Morning

Just what happens when you stumble across a patch of poetry that you really, really like. Surveying some Elizabethans, I came upon Good Sir Henry Howard and this delight:

  Complaint of a Lover Rebuked Sir Henry Howard

LOVE, that liveth and reigneth in my thought,
That built his seat within my captive breast ;
Clad in the arms wherein with me he fought,
Oft in my face he doth his banner rest.
She, that taught me to love, and suffer pain ;
My doubtful hope, and eke my hot desire
With shamefaced cloak to shadow and restrain,
Her smiling grace converteth straight to ire.
And coward Love then to the heart apace
Taketh his flight ; whereas he lurks, and plains
His purpose lost, and dare not shew his face.
For my Lord's guilt thus faultless bide I pains.
    Yet from my Lord shall not my foot remove :
   Sweet is his death, that takes his end by love.

Bookmark and Share

The Ever-Delightful Countess of Pembroke

Yes, she's back for another of her wonderful translations of the Psalms. I have yet to find a complete Psalter, but from various sources I may be able to piece one together eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the rhythms, cadence and rich language that turns this Psalm back into a singable song.

  Psalm 75 :  Confitebimur Tibi Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke

Wee O God to thee do sing
Wee to thee do prayses bring
        For thy name is nigh
When our cause assistance needs
        Us with succour to supply
Therfore saved wondrously
We recount thy wondrous deeds.

As for me, when so they shall
Under my direction fall
        Who to me pertain
Righteous doome shall banish wrong
        This loose hand I will again
        Into sounder site restrain,
I will make her Pillars strong.

I will say to braggards then
Bragg no more to wicked men,
        Set not up your horn,
Set not up your horn on high
        Be no more perversely born
        Onward with rebellious scorn
Thus to speak repiningly!

East when climing sun ascends
West when sliding sun descends
        South his standing tide
Can to no man honour bring
        Only God who all doth guide
        Makes men climb, or stand or slide
Makes the caitife and the King;

Then not me, God you understand
Him whose ever right right hand
        Holds a filled cupp:
Not of wine by winy lees
        Of the which they all shall supp;
        Supp said I, nay suck it up
Whom unjust his justice sees.

So then I will spend my dayes
In recording still his prayse
        Still my song shall flow
From the land of Jacobs God.
        I will crop ill doers low
        I will make well-doers grow
Spreading branches from abroad.

Bookmark and Share

"The Raven", Part III


"The Raven", Part III

"The Raven" (part 3 of 4)
Edgar Allan Poe

      Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
  "Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
      Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
      Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
  Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
              Of 'Never--nevermore'."

      But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
  Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
      Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
      Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore--
  What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
              Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

      This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
  To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
      This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
      On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
  But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
              She shall press, ah, nevermore!

      Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
  Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
      "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath sent thee
      Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
  Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
              Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

      "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!--
  Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
      Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
      On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore--
  Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
              Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Note the tone. Note how the questions seem to change gradually. Charles Baudelaire translated Poe into French. Much of the decadent school of poetry derives from Baudelaire and his school, and thus indirectly from Poe. What a shame he has so much to account for even indirectly.

Bookmark and Share

"The Raven", Part II The


"The Raven", Part II

The Raven (2 of 4)
Edgar Allan Poe

Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door--
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore--
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered--not a feather then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before--
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Note the internal rhyme in lines 1 and 3 of each stanza. Also note that lines 4 and 5 are often repetitions of the same idea. Something about that recursive rhythm makes this a particularly haunting poem in the hallways of memory.

Bookmark and Share

Oh Those Wacky Domincans! Nuns


Oh Those Wacky Domincans!
Nuns face charges in missile protest Apparently a group of nuns representing something called Jonah House decided to damage government property to make their point.

Sorry John da Fiesole, couldn't resist the temptation. I know I should, but to quote my good friend Oscar, "I can resist anything but temptation." And since it seems unlikely that anyone will ever again see posts from me, given the blogger server blogjam, I figured, why not? Also my first test of "blog this." I conclude therefrom that it works--too bad it isn't available for Mac.

Bookmark and Share

Blogger fun again Records a


Blogger fun again

Records a successful transfer, then it doesn't show on sight. Not useful.

Bookmark and Share

Heisenberg and Free Will In


Heisenberg and Free Will

In the post below, Kairos Guy says:

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle should answer the boy: It is impossible to know both the state of an object and its vector.

In other words, free will cannot help but be true within our universe.

As for God, He lives outside of time, where every possibility unfolds in a way that makes "the knowing" much less certain. Though it is vain to quote oneself, I will risk it. Look here for my answer from back in June:

I have two problems with this invocation of Heisenberg. (1) Heisenberg's uncertainty principle can only be invoked with respect to someone who is not omniscient. It IS possible to know these two things in an act of knowledge without measuring, which leads to point two. (2) The reason one cannot know both the velocity and position of a particle (subatomic) with accuracy is that the act of measuring one alters the other. In the subatomic realm, even bouncing a photon off of a particle alters the momentum of the particle because even if mass is not imparted, energy/momentum is. Thus Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle is primarily a principle that states the act of observation can/does alter what is observed. It is often improperly invoked to say that nothing can be certain. Or it pertains to objects in the macroscopic world, when for all practical purposes it does not. For example, you can know both the position and the velocity of a soccer ball. Bouncing a photon off a soccer ball does alter its velocity, but so minutely as to not be measurable for any practical, calculable purpose. You would have to have a great many more than thirty decimal places in your calculation of velocity to see the effect a photon would have on the velocity of a soccer ball. Since all practical measurement requires no more than three or four decimal places, you do not need this precision of description. Before that amount of velocity change would be macroscopically exhibited, the object would have already accelerated due to friction with the grass or another kick.

Because God does not use instrumentation to know the velocity/position of a particle, it is possible for God to know both. Free will in not assured by Heisenberg. In a similar way, when Gödel's Theorem is used as much more than metaphor, it is also misemployed in argument.

As to the remainder of the argument, I find it plausible, and essentially I restated the same (without realizing it--as I had not previously read the argument.) However, Heisenberg is not a useful principle in the question of free will.

All that said, I may have misunderstood the original intent, and will be happy to entertain further consideration of the proposition. Also, look for more on Gödel's Theorem in the near future.

Bookmark and Share

Geoffrey Hill

Although Mr. Hill received a rather negative review for The Orchards of Syon in a recent issue of Crisis, I have paid attention to what is being posted chez Dylan and I have looked into a couple of poems. First impression is favorable. My conclusion from this--Crisis, usually trustworthy in these matters, may be wrong. Or, they may be right about the particular work and I have improperly generalized their conclusion. Whatever the case may be, the following poem, a spectacularly well-wrought sonnet, is presented for your edification and delight.

Lachrimae Amantis
Geoffrey Hill

What is there in my heart that you should sue
so fiercely for its love? What kind of care
brings you as though a stranger to my door
through the long night and in the icy dew

seeking the heart that will not harbor you,
that keeps itself religiously secure?

At this dark solstice filled with frost and fire
your passion's ancient wounds must bleed anew.

So many nights the angel of my house
has fed such urgent comfort through a dream,
whispered, 'your lord is coming, he is close'

that I have drowsed half-faithful for a time
bathed in pure tones of promise and remorse:
'tomorrow I shall wake to welcome him.'

Bookmark and Share

Yes, I like "The Raven." In fact, Poe's poetry in general appeals to me. I love narrative verse and Poe's has a strong, some might claim overly strong, sense of rhythm, cadence, and weight. His subject is nearly always the same--a lost love--in this case "Lenore," but in others "Annabel Lee," and "Ulalume." So without further ado, Poe's most famous poem.

The Raven (Part 1 of 4)
Edgar Allan Poe

        Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
        While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    "'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
                Only this and nothing more."

        Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
    And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
        Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore--
  For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
              Nameless here for evermore.

      And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
  Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
      So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
      "'Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door--
  Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;--
              This it is and nothing more."

      Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
  "Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
      But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
      And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
  That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door;--
              Darkness there and nothing more.

      Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
  Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
      But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
      And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
  This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"--
              Merely this and nothing more.

At one time I had much of this poem committed to memory--alas no more, merely this and nothing more--I still retain the first two stanzas or so. What I love in the construction of this poem are lines like this one:

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
  Thrilled me--filled me

Poe is so unabashedly over the top with the alliteration and assonance in the line. I treasure that greatly--it seems a sign of great craft, great care, and great time to make a line that unwinds so beautifully to its finish. Yes, the whole thing is rather melodramatic--but then television was not an entertainment available at that time, and the written word needed to include whole realms of things we would dismiss. Come back tomorrow for part II and more thoughts about Poe's dead women.

Bookmark and Share

Jewels in the Reliquary I


Jewels in the Reliquary

I was thinking about prayer, dryness, and trials. Why is life so difficult for so many people? And why are there so many ways for life to be difficult? Why so many trials?

An analogy--we are all gems of God's creation--jewels in the rough. We are all significantly flawed as well. The flaw is different, just as each person is different. When a jewel cutter encounters a stone with a flaw there are two choices--recut the stone or discard it.

God will not willingly discard any stone. We choose that for ourselves. So the only alternative is that the stone must be recut. This requires work with hammer, chisel, saw, and grinder, depending on the type of stone. In addition, we resist the Stone Cutter, we vibrate, buck, and shift, so that He is constantly having to recut and reshape.

We will know when we get to heaven the extent of that recut by the size of the jewel that we are. Great saints who started early and ended quickly, St. Thérèse for example, are huge stones that put the Hope Diamond to shame. We are such that the diamonds in most women's wedding rings will be far larger than we.

Bookmark and Share

The Underground Grammarian

The hyperactively observant among you probably noticed the addition of The Underground Grammarian to the side column. Thanks to Mr. Miller of De Vertutibus for the link. I also saw it in another location, my apology to the blogger I am presently forgetting.

Recommended. No, strongly recommended. No, required. Just as Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language" is required. And what's more--enjoyable. So go, enjoy. Come back to your blog and tell everyone about it.

Bookmark and Share

Mathematics and God T. S.


Mathematics and God

T. S. O'Rama comments below:

My stepson is fascinated by mathematics and God but reaches a different conclusion - that free will is an illusion. That if all variables are known, every human action is predictable. And he adheres to the famous complaint: "how can there be free will if God knows how it turns out?". I pointed out that Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him three times but that it did not impinge on Peter's free will to deny him.

And this is an interesting proposition, but it is contingent upon a hidden axiom which is integral to the conclusion. The stepson assumes that all reality is a single closed system and not a series of infinitely contingent systems. If the former is true, the conclusion holds; however, if the latter is true, then a choice, or a bifurcation point, can be known, but the spinning out of the system totally contingent upon it. In other words, God knows all the pathways, all the bifurcations, and our choices are free, but the end result is still known in God's mind without restricting free will. God knows the end results of every single choice and does not dictate (in the vast majority of cases) which choice is made.

In this sense free-will can be called an illusion, but it is an illusion with the depth of reality of imaginary numbers, which are, in no way, imaginary. We do not know the depths of the mysteries of God, and our minds encompass only a small portion of the reality that God knows in its entirety. Further, all of this is argument by analogy, the weakest form of argument, presenting but a flawed mirror in which to view what is happening. Mathematics is only a way to begin to examine the mysteries of God, it is not a system whereby God may be proven or even "coaxed out of hiding." We can convince ourselves of anything, but we encounter propositions within this system that cannot be proven with the tools within the system.

Bookmark and Share

A Brief Summary of the


A Brief Summary of the Entry Below
As anyone who visits will see this entry first, here's a brief summary of the blathering below:

When you choose to open your eyes and see God, you will see Him. When you choose to remain ignorant of His action, you will remain ignorant.

With rare exceptions (road to Damascus) God is a gentleman who forces His attentions on no one, but who provides ample demonstrations of His Divine love to those who choose to receive love.

Bookmark and Share

Mathematics and God

Mathematics offers a lot of wonderful and weird corners to kick around in thinking about God. I'll share one of my favorites.

It has been shown that in iterative systems of non-linear equations certain sets of things can happen. Systems can immediately stabilize, or have an "orbit" of 1. That is if f(x)=x^3 and you start with a value of 1 and use the solution for the next iteration of the function, you will discover that the solution is always 1.

Another thing that can happen is that the value can waver between 2 numbers and you can have an orbit of period 2 in which the two are always feeding back and forth, or you can achieve a "hopf bifurcation" in which as the value approaches the bifurcating point it eventually "lands" on one of two options and then follows a trajectory from that point, no longer wavering between two values. Up to the value of bifurcation, there is a tendency of the value to "wobble" back and forth. Many other things can happen as well. There are stable orbits of periods 2, 4, and higher numbers, where the values in the system will always be one of two or four numbers.

But the number three is particularly important. If a system achieves an orbit of period 3, it is considered the gateway to chaos. Technically chaos looks a lot like randomness, but it is nothing of the sort. Chaos might be better termed weak determinism. That is, if you knew every factor affecting the system, and factored them all in, you would be able to predict what would happen for the next two or three cycles of the system, but then your predictions would become less and less accurate. This is one reason why long-term weather forecasting is unfeasible. We don't know all of the factors affecting the system AND even if we did, our ability to model weather mathematically has a finite limit defined by how many decimal places we use to calculate the next cycle, and it is in a place beyond the last decimal used that there is enough variation to create wildly different scenarios.

I once modeled the logistical difference equation using double precision (so about 16 decimal places) and starting the model with an initial difference of point 15 zeros 1. What this means is that I ran a "mathematical experiment" twice. You plug a value into the equation, then you take the results and put them back into the equation. You do this for as many rounds as you like. I did this for one hundred rounds on the first trial. I started the second trial with a value infinitesimally different. After only 5 repetitions, small differences had emerged. At ten repetitions the graphs of the two experiments looked like I had started with diametrically opposed numbers. From that point on, there was no similarity in the graphs.

Now, what I find most interesting in this is the number of different systems that can be modeled using non-linear dynamics. In fact, it seems, almost anything can be modeled in this way. Computer "random-number generators" are in fact, weakly deterministic in this way.

For the theologically minded this whole complicated mess appears to suggest that behind the apparent chaos at the surface of things, in fact, most systems are "weakly deterministic" that is weakly predictable, given all possible information, and ultimately guided very strictly along their paths, although these paths are never seen.

Okay, so I've guided you through the morass to this conclusion--it appears that many systems are both governed and guided by some overarching considerations and if one could know all possible parameters affecting the system at all times, one could predict what would happen in the system.

To me, that speaks profoundly of the action of God. He is, after all, omniscient and omnipotent. So He indeed can know every factor that affects a system, and He can know the outcomes that are hidden from all of us. Now, admittedly, we are talking merely metaphorical references here. But the study of Chaotic Dynamics was only one of the things that profoundly convinced me of the presence of God's guiding hand in all that is.

This is NOT a proof of the existence of God. Or, if it is, it is flawed in the way many such proofs are by presupposing elements that would tend toward that existence anyway. In other words, if one starts by believing, this simply is an element of reinforcing belief, but if one is an unbeliever, this argument by analogy and metaphor is not a convincing proof, or even a very good support for one's contention.

But I am stunned by these "hidden jewels" that open up worlds of thought, speculation, and appreciation for the Divine Grace that penetrates and permeates all that is. In thinking through these complex questions, one catches a glimpse of Divine Action as one allows the Divine to enter into one's way of perceiving the world. As I said, in the course of my studies, this was only one among many of the marvelous "proofs" or evidences of God's action in the world. I hope in the future to share others.

Bookmark and Share

Teilhard de Chardin Dylan asks


Teilhard de Chardin

Dylan asks a question below that begs more space than a mere comment box reply and touches deeply two areas of profound interest for me. So I repeat his question below, and then fumble my way toward an answer:

Original Question from Dylan

Are you "pro" or "con" Teilhard de Chardin? He's spoken-well-of by both Abp Fulton Sheen (see Footprints in a Darkened Forest) & by the Holy Father JP2 in that wonderful small book Gift and Mystery. But I think he (T de C) needlessly complicates things! I struggle to understand half a word he writes.

My feelings are tied up in a complex assembly of things. I am not entirely certain whether Teilhard de Chardin (TDC henceforth) was unjustly maligned or had a significant role in the perpetration of one of the most significantly harmful scientific frauds of the 20th century--the construction of the so-called "Piltdown" Man. One way or the other, I must fault either his integrity or his lack of scientific objectivity. Perhaps he was not so expert in these things as he ought to have been, but surely then, he should have refrained from involvement and comment. So there's a significant black mark against him whether or not he actually assisted in the perpetration of the fraud.

I am very leery of the attempt to combine evolution and theology that seems to pervade much of his work. I see no reason why the two must be joined and find the attempt somewhat odd and not particularly conducive to a clear understanding of the truth. I was somewhat surprised by John Paul II's seeming approbation of TDC, and I am equally surprised to hear of Archbishop Sheen's remarks. However, neither of these men, intelligent though they are, can be considered empirical scientists and so they are not evaluating the work in the same way I do.

I find that by attempting to have theology make sense in light of evolution, odd twists occur, particularly in TDC notion of the human person. Very honestly, I am probably not competent to judge all these things because he may be teaching very traditional material, but every time I run up against a "Spirit-of Vatican-II" avatar, TDC seems to be a chief tool in the bag of tricks--so unfortunately does some of the later Merton. So TDC is tainted with this generally wide acceptance among those who do not accept a particularly Catholic view of the faith as it is presently. That may have nothing whatsoever to do with the content of Teilhard de Chardin's teaching, but because there are so many more interesting and less controversial figures, I have given TDC fairly wide berth.

So, my conclusion--his science is colored by a spectacular failure. Either a failure of imagination or a failure of integrity. His theology seems an odd attempt to combine religion and science, which is unnecesary for either and detrimental to both. But when asked straight out, pro or con, I have to answer, for myself, I steer clear, but I bow to the judgment of those in a better place than I to know.

Bookmark and Share

Robert Herrick Again


Robert Herrick Again

Robert Herrick is included in both the group of metaphysical poets and the group of cavalier poets--probably one of the reasons he seems to be the center of study of nearly any seventeenth century poetry class. Here is an example of one of the less secular works.

His Litany to the Holy Spirit
Robert Herrick

IN the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drown'd in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the artless doctor sees
No one hope, but on his fees,
And his skill runs on the lees,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When his potion and his pill
Has, or none, or little skill,
Meet for nothing, but to kill ;
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the passing bell doth toll,
And the furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And that number more than true,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the priest his last hath prayed,
And I nod to what is said,
'Cause my speech is now decayed,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When, God knows, I'm toss'd about,
Either with despair, or doubt ;
Yet before the glass be out,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the tempter me pursu'th
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears, and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When the judgment is reveal'd,
And that open'd which was seal'd,
When to Thee I have appeal'd,
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

I can't help but admire the two stanzas concerning Doctors. In his time, and not infrequently in our own, they are too true.

When the artless doctor sees No one hope, but on his fees, And his skill runs on the lees,                  Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

When his potion and his pill
Has, or none, or little skill,
Meet for nothing, but to kill ;
                 Sweet Spirit, comfort me !

Bookmark and Share

Favorite Disorienting Interview Questions from the Past

Try facing these delights in an interview situation. Feel free to provide your own responses, who knows, I may need them in the future:

(1) German Chocolate Cake or Key Lime Pie?

(2) A patron returns an expensive art book which she announces she has "made suitable" for the public. Among the items removed is a print of Botticelli's Birth of Venus. What do you do?

(3) Name an age-level appropriate (age 5-8) book about nuclear holocaust.

(4) What is the appropriate term for the conflict occurring between 1860 and 1865 in the United States? (In some states and portions of states the correct answer to this one is a make-or-break)

(5) What is your greatest weakness and how would you market it as a strength? (And they didn't take any of those answers that are strengths wrapped up in weaknesses from a business point of view--you know the "I"m a workaholic" kind of answers.)

(6) If you were constructing a CD-ROM for an audience of blind people, how would you design the interface to indicate interactability of several colored pieces in forming a tessalated surface?

(7) Goya or Van Gogh?

(8) Bach or Mozart? (My answer here--do I have to choose?)

Bookmark and Share

On the Blessed (?St.)


On the Blessed (?St.) Niels Stensen

If paleontology is to have a patron, it will have to be this great holy man. He was a great scientist, having made contributions in anatomy, Paleontology, sedimentology, crystallography, and other disciplines. In addition, He was Bishop in an extremely hostile see. So much so that I have often seen him regarded as a "Missionary" Bishop in Holland.On October 23, 1988, Pope John Paul II conferred the title "blessed" on him.

Steno's primary contribution to paleontology was an explanation of how things like shark's teeth came to be embedded in rocks. In this way he established a foundational understanding of the principles of sedimentology and paleontology. After all, until one could understand how once-living things became part of a rock, you could make no sense of the meaning of things embedded in the rock.

I suppose I point to Steno because I hear how backward and anti-science the Church is. People toss up the Galileo issue all the time; and yet, it seems without a deep understanding of what actually led to the condemnation. While the condemnation may have been ill-considered and wrong-headed, it was more a personal statement about the exceedingly unpleasant Galileo than it was a statement about "how the heavens go," to quote the second half of Bellarmine's famous aphorism.

Stensen (Steno) was also the discoverer of one of the foundational laws of crystallography. Called Steno's Law, it states simply that the angle between the sides of a given crystal (if left to grow without interference) is always the same. Thus, the similarity one sees among the shapes of quartz crystals that form in voids in rock but do not infill it.

From time to time I will probably mention other Saints who contributed, directly or indirectly, to the fields of science in which I was involved. Men of God are not necessarily opposed to Science. One needs to remember that it was the Church which provided a foundation for the modern sciences, not vice versa. With the proposition that God existed came the corollary that His universe was ordered and explainable. This, in fact, is critical for the pursuit of any knowledge. If everything occurs at random, there is no point in seeking to explain how it occurs. In holding to the inner conviction of an ordered universe, the Church held firm the foundation set by Greek and Roman scientists (in the western world) but threatened by the ransacking of the Old Empire.

I do not know if Blessed Niels Stensen has yet been canonized, but it is my prayer than it happen soon--an acknowledgment that faith and science need not be in conflict. (Nor for that matter, in case it wasn't obvious by this blog, do Science and the Arts--although to judge from some University Campuses one would not suppose this to be a truth.).

Bookmark and Share

From Rosarium Virginis Mariae One


From Rosarium Virginis Mariae

One thing I find interesting is a constant reference to what appears to be "course correction" or "focus" constantly uttered by the Popes to the faithful. In the course of this letter, there must be dozens of references to the Christological aspects of the Rosary. I'm certain all the readers of things like blogs have the "proper" focus when praying the Rosary. However, I know of people for whom that focus is not so clear, and for whom, in fact, the communion of the Saints is not terribly clear. When St. Teresa or St. Anthony obtains something for these people, one gets the impression that the given saint is granting some gift, no matter how carefully worded the petition. If this is rampant in the total communion of Saints, how much more true for that greatest of Saints. The reiteration of the Christological focus of the Rosary is an anodyne to many of the anxieties about it that come from converts from more evangelical or fundamentalist mentalities. While the Rosary opens the opportunity to see Christ through the eyes not only of a loving mother but of his Chief disciple and primary Apostle, it remains intently, narrowly focused on the Life , Mission, Death, and Glories of Jesus Christ.

With regard to the new mysteries of the Rosary, to put everyone at ease, article 19 clearly spells out the Pope's intent in promulgating these:

from Rosarium Virginis Mariae
His Holiness Pope John Paul II

I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional lpattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities could broaden it to include the the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion.

(bold-face emphasis mine)

Thus, clearly delineated for even the most skeptical, our Pope makes clear he is offering new mysteries that do not have to be said. But I know that for me the proposed additions do precisely what the Pope would like them to do , "This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary's place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and glory."

Bookmark and Share

Where We Find God Some


Where We Find God

Some post the beauty of the stars.
Others (i.e. here) choose the small and intricate things of Earth.
All things show His glory.
All things sing His praise in their beauty.
All things relentlessly prove the existence of God
and the falseness of a Dawkins.
Let us pray that the Dawkinses of the world
see His hand, before they come to stand before Him.

Let us pray that we who see His hand in all,
follow His commands in all.

Bookmark and Share

Leperditia Okay, I promise I



Okay, I promise I won't bore you to death with these, but this is a particularly important one because it marks a watershed bad fieldtrip. I recall that we traveled over 250 miles in the course of this three-day fieldtrip and this was the largest, most interesting fossil in the lot. These little guys are ostracods, an animals somewhat similar to Daphnia which is an aquatic bivalved arthropod.

scale in cms--
Images from the Paleontological Research Institute

These are from New York, but the ones I saw were in West Virginia in approximately coeval rocks--the Salina member of the Tonoloway Formation. We inferred that the Salina member was from a highly saline depositional environment because these little ostracods often, as you see only an eighth to a quarter inch cm, were monstrously large at about half to a full cm. This often happens in modern saline stressed environments, either in brackish or in hypersaline waters, and is otherwise virtually unknown (it is not caused, for example, by sexual dimorphism).

However, 250 miles of travel for a lesson in stratigraphy and no fossils may have been the least profitable field trip I'd ever taken. After all, when we got there and surveyed the outcrop we at first thought someone had been by with a bag of lentils.

All that said, and all that in retrospect, I must say that the first time I ever saw these little ones, I was astounded at their number, their simplicity, and yes, frankly, their beauty. Even the little things of the Earth sing His praises and call us all to join them.

Praise Him!

Bookmark and Share

Tullimonstrum gregarium

I promised from time to time I would write about something outside of literature and spiritual concerns, and today, for some reason, the Tullymonster has been on my mind a lot. I suppose I should preface the whole discussion below with the note that I don't expect many of you to care, but it will give your brains a break from the usual twisting they must receive upon arriving at my site.

Reconstruction from the Illinois State Museum Webpage.

It's the state fossil of Illinois, for one thing. And no one can quite figure it out. Some think it to be some sort of vertebrate, others claim that it represents a long extinct group. One thing for certain, there's been nothing else found quite like it. Because of the unusual conditions present during the time that the Mazon Creek Formation was being laid down, soft-bodied fossils were preserved with enormous amounts of detail. Our Tullimonstrum is one of the results of that unusual mode of fossil preservation. It is sometimes called saponification, and I leave it to our Latin experts out there to explicate the word.

I love the Tullimonstrum. It is, in fact, exemplary of Hopkins's:

All things counter, original, spáre, strange; Whatever is fickle, frecklčd, (who knows how?) With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím; He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change: Práise hím.

from "Pied Beauty"
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Take one look at this thing and tell me it doesn't meet the criteria!

In addition, the Latin name is a delight. This isn't just Tully's monster, but it is the gregarious one--in part because a large number of fossils of this strange creature were found, but probably also in part due to the sense of humor of the namer.

So a little view into another corner of my world--hope it provides perspective.

Bookmark and Share

Two Faces of Volunteerism Yesterday,


Two Faces of Volunteerism

Yesterday, while leading my small class on the Catholic Novel (for those interested the next book will be The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne) I ran into some member of the parish's St. Vincent de Paul Society, as well as some of the people they serve. We both meet in a smallish outbuilding, originally designed to hold the Parish Offices. As I came in through the foyer, there were about four people crowded in, waiting in chairs for something. I realized this was a service day.

It occurred to me that I could likely join this group of men and help in service of the poor. And for a moment the idea sparkled and then faded.

That afternoon, I went to a board meeting of a group dedicated to starting a new publication for the local historical society. They want to start publishing a small journal dedicated to our region's History. (Very frankly, I didn't realize it had any, which is one of the reasons I volunteered to help with this endeavor). Anyway, they need peer reviewers, editors, selectors--you name it, they need it. They even need submissions. They want to publish the first edition in February (given that there is nothing in place yet, it seems ambitious, but it is doable). As I left, I told the woman in charge that she could feel free to call me for anything she needed--advise, editor, writer, etc.

Now I look back on these two opportunities--after all, the possibility of working with the St. Vincent De Paul society has not slipped away, and I wonder at my reactions. Why was one so immediately appealing and the other so appealing, and then unappealing. I find several factors:

(1) Familiarity--I know a great deal about the editorial process and publishing. This is the environment in which I thrive. There is an intellectual stimulation in that I will learn something about the local area, and history is utterly fascinating to me--that way that it leaves nearly invisible and yet profound imprints on things all around me. St. Vincent de Paul is not familiar, nor is it comfortable. And everyone in the society appears to be thirty to forty years older than me. In this church, at least, it's a whole bunch of ex-New York, hale-fellow-well-met, possibly beer-drinking buddies from way-back. That's perception. But let me define how many things I dislike about the perception: don't like anything that smacks of "fraternities" (won't join Emmaus or Knights of Columbus or any such organization). Don't drink beer, wine, or any alcohol. I am not now nor ever will be a "hale-fellow-well-met." At best I'm an extremely cautious, "Pleasant sort of day isn't it." No back-slapping please! New York is a wonderful place, but I passed a set of exceedingly difficult years there and unfortunately my feelings about the place are tainted by the years. (In other words, couldn't share any fond reminiscences.)

(2) The fear factor--in encountering those less-well-off that I am, I am nearly overcome with dread. It has nothing to do with fear for my person or goods, it is more a "there but for the grace of God go I" fear. I suppose some deep, dark, superstitious pocket of my soul identifies poverty with the flu and wonders if it is catching (particularly in the present economy).

(3)Showy vs. silent--My involvement with the historical center can and will be done without fanfare, with anyone other than the few on the council and the person who helped me to get involved knowing anything about it. In the St. Vincent de Paul society, every volunteer action is know by a bazillion people--the entire society and their entire network of friends. The friendly, but much to be avoided, eye of the pastor would pass over me noting my presence in this group (along with the five million other groups). He does frown on multiple participation, but sometimes laments that the entire mission of the parish seems to revolve around a core of about 50 people, even though we have 10,000 enrolled.

(4) The tenor of the two groups. I'm sorry, I'm just not a good joiner for boisterous, enthusiastic, loud groups. Chamber music over marching band any day of the week.

So what is the point of all this? I wanted to share some of my imperfection in a confessional sort of way. But I also wanted to talk myself into seeing this opportunity in a better light. I know that I am being called more and more to service--and while I do a great deal, much of my work is "preaching to the converted." I run the formation for my group of Carmelites, am, at least ostensibly in charge of coordinating the regional formation. I give lecture on spiritual journaling, prayer, and just about any other topic the church happens to need talk on. I work with RCIA in both supporting the Catechumens and in giving some of the teachings. One might say I live a fair life of the mind. But perhaps the time has come to move from that to more substantive work, work more meaningful to those with less firm connection to the Church. And the Vincent de Paul society may be a leg up. Many of the things I could do are precluded by being weekday things--Soup Kitchen, Volunteer Health Center, Crisis (Domestic Abuse) center, etc.

I suppose the time has come to stop merely buying my way out of these activities and finding a way to truly support them. But rather than leaping into them, I will be praying about this a while. I ask all of you who read this to pray for me for discernment. I don't want to start and stop in this walk, as it would be too easy not to bother starting again.

Bookmark and Share

Feast Day of St. Gaspare


Feast Day of St. Gaspare del Bufalo

Just wanted to remind/tell every who doesn't frequent the New Gasparian, that that this is the feastday of the founder of founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. To find out more visit Fr. Keyes C. PP. S here. To all such Missionaries who visit here, have a blessed feast day. I will remember you in my prayers for the day.

Bookmark and Share

For Those Who Doubt Yet


For Those Who Doubt Yet Seek

A wonderful reflection by Robert Herrick, one of my very favorite poets.

To Find God
Robert Herrick

WEIGH me the fire ; or canst thou find
A way to measure out the wind ;
Distinguish all those floods that are
Mix'd in that watery theatre ;
And taste thou them as saltless there
As in their channel first they were.
Tell me the people that do keep
Within the kingdoms of the deep ;
Or fetch me back that cloud again,
Beshiver'd into seeds of rain ;
Tell me the motes, dust, sands, and spears
Of corn, when summer shakes his ears ;
Show me that world of stars, and whence
They noiseless spill their influence :
This if thou canst, then show me Him
That rides the glorious cherubim.

Bookmark and Share

A Different Kind of Poem


A different kind of offering:

Shimmering Ridge

They tore down the firetower on Shimmering Ridge,
or so my grandmother told me last night.
Somehow, I can't imagine it.

She said some person bought the land,
thought the tower a threat
to children (more likely he thought it
a place to attract visitors--and rightfully so).

From the height of the tower
(even though you could not get
into the grey painted house itself,
you could stand on a landing
just below it and look)

what you would see...
it's hard to say,
the ridge changed in a hour
so in a day, month or year,
a thousand, a million pictures of what
is and what is to come, what was,
and what will be again.

So he tore it down.

Every Shimmering Ridge has its tower
and children have climbed them for ages.
When I went, I could see the ghostly
guards in green who chased children
away from the dangerous heights,
the perilous, life-changing sights.

But, when it closed down
parents were still there,
underneath, telling their children
to be careful
to take it easy
the platform is high,
they might fall.

And, of course, it never occurred
to the children that they might fall too.
No, they would drift, a softest
flailing drift and land
as autumn leaves at its base.

The tower held no terror
for those whose eyes were set on
the Shimmering Ridge,
no fear for those who fell
into the rich foliage of fall.

And now, it is no more,
but must always be, a way of
seeing beyond sight, a way of
being beyond mere construction.

The firetower is no more
and stands still on the ridge,
looking out as it always did,
shimmering with the ridge itself.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Book Group Discussion--Angela Elwell Hunt--The Immortal

Blogging today approximately normal, although I have two meetings. The first is our Catholic Reading Group, and we're discussing today an interesting little book by Angela Elwell Hunt titled The Immortal.

The novel is a nice piece of fiction rather better written than most of the rest of what I have read in the same "genre" (Christian Fiction). Because the main character is an agnostic or non-practicing Christian of some sort we don't get bludgeoned to death with religion until the middle to end of the book, and even there it is somewhat lighter than its compatriots.

The story centers around the legend of the Wandering Jew and the advent of the Antichrist. Naturally, in a book of this type, we get heaping tablespoons of literal interpretation of Daniel and Revelations centered around ludicrous numerology and other literal understandings of the texts. But once again, it's all in good fun, AND it is considerably better written than the multi-dreadful "Left Behind" series that I had eventually to go to abridged books on tape simply to tolerate. (The story elements are fascinating, the writing execrable).

Ms. Hunt's main character Claudia is a witness-screener whose job it is to "read people" and help select jury members most likely to acquit a given defendant. She is approached by representatives of the Unione Globale, or some such, to help in their personnel department which means working in Rome for about six months. In this course of this time she meets "The Wandering Jew," who, in fact is a Roman (something not surprising for a fundamentalist novelist wishing to remove deplorable strains of anti-Semitism that go with the legend. A laudable motive, but I'm always a bit uneasy about too great a change--this one works.) He was in fact Porter for Pontius Pilate and present at our Lord's Via Dolorosa. Along this way, he struck Jesus, and Jesus "cursed" him to walking the Earth--"You see me now, but you will live until you see me clearly."

This man wants a job as a translator of Santos Davide Justus (note 666 in the name--a dead give away, and to her credit, a red herring--although the real antichrist is a man somewhat predictably named Synn). Our wanderer wishes to do away with him before he establishes the novo ordo seculorum which will herald the beginning of the time of tribulations.

Enough plot summary. It is a reasonably well-written, very interesting book, with a few flaws. One of them being that in the city of Rome our heroine stumbles into the local Baptist church to achieve redemption. That said, to our author's credit, I did not find traces of the overt anti-Catholicism that seems to plague the "Left Behind" books. So she chooses what is familiar to her for her heroine's epiphany--I think that's probably understandable.

Overall, if you're interested in this genre, the book is worth your time and effort. The writer did her research and produced a nice, interesting, readable novel. Personally, I would have loved more stories of the Wanderer, but alas, that would have been a different book, and perhaps not quite so suspenseful and maybe not even as readable as this.

For light reading, beachtime fun, mountain retreat time-passer, or simply relief from the burden of reading this blog and its endless commentary on the new Apostolic Letter (hopefully more to come today) I would recommend this book highly. Not Catholic, but it does provide an interesting window into Fundamentalist (particularly Baptist) thought and practice.

Bookmark and Share

For those who read French


For those who read French
This lovely piece. While I read French I dare not compose in it--the offense to native French ears would probably precipitate an international crisis.

Bookmark and Share

Okay, my site meters are off the scale for a Friday. Usually we are slumping toward the weekend, but not today.

I decided to do some careful investigation to determine the source of this phenomenon, and whatduhyaknow? I found the source. No one source is sending people my way, it must be some other phenomenon. I call it the LAZYBONES principle. You see, it turns out that very few of the blogs I normally visit had posted for Friday as of 12:00. Thus all of the traffic that would normally be drained off into normal, happier channels ends up in my blog. I am happy, but never have I seen so many silent people trudging through so gloomily, desperately searching for fodder for mind and soul. For some tidbit, no matter how small with just (as Pooh would have it) a smackeral of interest.

So I hereby declare that everyone who is listed in my left-hand column who did not post as of noon on Friday (with the exception of the Clergy, because this is my blog and I can be arbitrary any way I like) is a Lazybones. I don't know what this means or what its consequences are, but I am certain that they are VERY serious. In the words of John the Baptist, "Repent." And "Rend your hearts, not your garments." You have left literally tens of readers without recourse, they have been forced to my blog and my endless maunderings over the new Rosary Letter. Aren't you ashamed of yourselves? No, I don't want to hear those usual excuses--having a life, other things to do--all blogsters have a responsibility to the huge mass of readers out there. So, I will be watching, please avoid future ratings of Lazybones, or some action will have to be taken. Something dire, something portentous. Perhaps I will have to post from an incredibly lengthy set of meditations on Medieval mystical poetry, written in the York or Kent dialect (the meditations I mean, not the poetry--although this probably is too.) Please do not force my hand!

Bookmark and Share

The Kairos Protocol


Do yourself a favor go to Kairos's site and read the entry "The Kairos Protocol" (direct linking a little cranky this morning). Good advice for all of us, though I don't find myself getting too passionate about most things. However, occasionally, I will run across a person or two who will insist that Jacobean Rhetoric is not the end-all be-all of prose and poetry--even though he is supposedly a member in good standing of the Glorious 17th century Poets Society. No, I don't carry a grudge or long remember even the most trifling slight to my favourites, or see red or speak harshly.. . . I don't need the protocol, why ever would you ask?

Bookmark and Share

Translations of Anselm, Nicholas of


Translations of Anselm, Nicholas of Cusa, and Hugh of Balma

Glancing through the On-Line Books page, I came upon reference to this site run by a certain Professor Hopkins. As best I can determine, the works are copyrighted, but appear to be few to use. I cannot speak to the accuracy of the translations, but given my rusty Latin and the difficulty of the works involved, any translation is welcome. In addition the works are available in PDF format (unfortunate for those of us with PDAs, but otherwise very nice). The list of works follows:

Anselm of Canterbury, English translations of:
Translators' Preface
Debate with Gaunilo
De Grammatico
De Veritate
De Libertate Arbitrii
De Casu Diaboli
Two Letters concerning Roscelin
De Incarnatione Verbi
Cur Deus Homo I
Cur Deus Homo II
Fragmenta Philosophica
Meditatio Redemptionis Humanae
De Conceptu Virginali
De Processione Spiritus Sancti
De Sacramentis
De Concordia
"On Translating Anselm's Complete Treatises"
"Anselm's Debate with Gaunilo"
"Some Alleged Metaphysical and Psychological Aspects of the Ontological Argument"
"What Is a Translation"

Nicholas of Cusa, English translations of:
Preface to Translations
De Docta Ignorantia
Translator's Introduction
Book I
Book II
Book III
De Coniecturis
De Deo Abscondito
De Quaerendo Deum
De Filiatione Dei
De Dato Patris Luminum
De Genesi
De Ignota Litteratura (Wenck)
Apologia Doctae Ignorantiae
De Sapientia
De Mente
De Staticis Experimentis
De Pace Fidei
De Visione Dei
De Theologicis Complementis
De Beryllo
De Aequalitate
De Principio
De Possest
Cribratio Alkorani
Book I
Book II
Book III
De Li Non Aliud
De Ludo Globi
De Venatione Sapientiae
De Apice Theoriae
Cusa on Wisdom and Knowledge

* Hugh of Balma's De Theologia Mystica: English translations of
Preface and Introduction
Prologus and Via Purgativa
Via Illuminativa
Via Unitiva
Quaestio Difficilis

Bookmark and Share

More for Your Amusement I


More for Your Amusement

I am so glad that we have the dynamic duo of Oblique House's blogmistress, Ms vonHuben, and Mr. Miller of Atheist to a Theist. This morning, to add to the lidless eye mysteries of yesterday, and the incomparable Ms. Florence Foster Jenkins (whom if you have not heard, you are depriving yourself) we have this sharp-eyed investigation of porcine planned parenthood.

The diversity of the blogworld is never ended, its riches inexhaustable.

Bookmark and Share

More on Rosarium Virginis Mariae


More on Rosarium Virginis Mariae

I have noted the tremendous splash I've been making in these shared reflections on the newest Apostolic Letter, so building on that profound success, I thought I would share some more. (That was a joke not a plea for responses--as I have intimated earlier, even if no one ever responded I would write what I write).

This letter seems so simple, lucid, and clear as almost to have some from another hand. But the limpid depth of thought, reflection, and true contemplation, and the intimacy and immediacy of the writing belie that conclusion.

While there are a great many things that I like about the letter, so many, in fact, that I may produce, eventually, an article by article commentary on it (although, you can all breathe now, I may not inflict it on you), one point I like best is about contemplation. Time and again throughout the letter, when the Holy Father refers to contemplation he focuses on the FACE of Christ.

from Rosarium Virginis Mariae His Holiness Pope John Paul II

(3) To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.

(9) The Gospel scene of Christ's transfiguration, in which the three Apostles Peter, James and John appear entranced by the beauty of the Redeemer, can be seen as an icon of Christian contemplation. To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seat in glory at the right had of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ's face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life. . .

(10)The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. . . . No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. . . . In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she "wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger." (Lk 2:7)

The contemplation of Christ's face is an important theme of the letter. And it provides a better focus for most of our rambling prayers and discursive meditations. I have meditated on Christ's mission, on his Death and Resurrection, on his Nativity, on his Sacred Heart, on his five wounds. I have meditated on the mysteries of the Rosary (more or less), but I haven't really thought much about his face. Now, contemplation is not thought, and I am certain the Holy Father is very deliberate in his choice of words. By these he is inviting us all into true contemplation. Not thinking about, not discursive meditation, but true rest in the presence of the Lord. Now, this may not be infused contemplation, but it is one of the many stepping stones on the journey. It is far easier simply to gaze at a face and remain in presence that it is to keep track of the sometimes wayward thoughts of a discursive meditation. We are invited to contemplate Christ's face, that is, make Him personal in our lives. In the same way that we gaze upon the face of someone we love dearly, trying to internalize the features and understand the depth of feeling, so we are called to do with Christ.

Looking upon Christ's face is one way to rest in the Lord. It is a beautiful way, because once we know the lines of that face we will begin to see it in all of the faces around us. Focusing on Christ's face forces us to gaze into the divine, and like ducklings, once that image is fixed and certain, there is a certain imprinting on the soul--we will both follow it and seek to become like it.

I don't know how many other treasure might be in store for me as I read this wonderful letter--but it is about the Rosary and about far more--it is a plan for living out the Year of the Rosary, and for living out our Christian vocations. I urge everyone to take the time to read this remarkably simple document and to pray about it as they plan how they will take advantage of the wonderful opportunity a Rosary year opens for us.

May you be blessed as I have been blessed in just this short time.

Bookmark and Share

I Thought She Had Been Lost Forever


But thanks to the miracles of modern technology and the intrepid attention to trivia of Mr. Rothwell of The Contrarian, you can once again be astounded (if I choose the correct state of being) by the multifaceted talents of the amazing Ms. Florence Foster Jenkins. If you have not heard the Swedish Jackdaw, the Columbian Crow, the Romanian Raven, or whatever nom de chante (or perhaps ignomen chanteuse) she may have had, now is your golden opportunity. Do not miss it!

Bookmark and Share

More on Rosarium Virginis Mariae--Shared Lectio

I'm sorry to presume one more time on your patience, but as I was sitting at lunch reading (no car, unable to make it to Mass, alas) I came upon this passage and spent several minutes thinking a marveling, realizing what a revelation it was to me. Perhaps that revelation will also come as news, or at least as a reminder to you.

from Rosarium Virginis Mariae His Holiness Pope John Paul II

The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.2 It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian people sits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer.

Nothing stunning here, you say. Done this for years, you say. And well you may have. But I have not. I have done the Rosary largely because I was told to do the Rosary. I dutifully said the prayers and realized that yes, the mysteries were centered on the life of Christ, but always wondered vaguely what it was I was doing. Yes, I'm honoring God through His Mother, and that's well and good, but I had no real focus for the Rosary. Not being a cradle-Catholic the devotion was perhaps not as meaningful from the get-go for me. But here, I have a sudden notion. I sit at the feet of, or thinking of myself as a child, in the lap of Mary, and here her tell me about her son. I am given the privilege of talking to the one who loved Christ nearly as much as He loved the world. And being with her, I am honored by being able to see through a mother's eyes, the reality of the Person who was Love itself. Too often Jesus is an abstract. Yes, He's an historical figure, and yes, He is a person of the personal God. But too often, He remains up there in His lofty abstraction, never really speaking to me personally, but looking down as an Icon, not fiercely or judgmentally, but too distant to be embraced. Here, with Mary, we begin to realize the personhood of Jesus. We begin to recognize the depth of Love, real, human Love, both emotion and act of will, but act of Will that transcended His own. I begin to understand Jesus as one who cares about me personally. I have done this in other ways, but it has never been the focus of my Rosary devotion. Too often my Rosary is simply said to have said it. I get to the end of it, and it's one more checklist item in the obedience column. No levitation, no transcendental states, if truth be told, probably not much in the way of prayer. But, had I known that in the course of this prayer I was supposed to be finding out about Someone--it might then have had more purpose and more meaning.

So, I'm a slow learner. Or perhaps no one has ever spoken this quite so directly to me. But even leaving out the new mysteries (which I absolutely love and which I will pray at least as often as the Holy Father recommends) this simple paragraph gives new meaning and new life to the praying of the Rosary. Thank you, your Holiness, for helping at least one poor soul who had somewhat lost his way.

Bookmark and Share

A Word of Great Consolation--Here


A Word of Great Consolation--Here I Stand: I Can Do No Other

I have not had time to really read and study the magnificent new Apostolic Letter, but I'm pleased to see on first acquaintance, than no matter how frail the body seems, the intellect is lively and sparking. John Paul II is truly an embodiment of courage, strength, and confidence in God and his hope instills hope in all Christians united to him in the faith. I mourn for our separated brethren, and here I refer not to Protestants, who as a whole afford John Paul II greater respect than some in his own Church, but to these latter who would detract from and denigrate the accomplishments of a truly brilliant, amazingly loving man. God give him many good years.

from Rosarium Virginis Mariae His Holiness Pope John Paul II

39. . . .The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation.

Today I willingly entrust to the power of this prayer – as I mentioned at the beginning – the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family.

Much has been written in recent days about following one's own judgment and prudential judgments vs. authoritative teachings. Frankly, I would rather make the mistake of following the prudential judgment of the man who wrote something this powerful and meaningful, than the sheer folly of following my own "best judgment" in the same matter. There is no question but that before any such judgment is announced careful reflection, consideration, and thought, in amounts far greater than I am likely to spend on the same question, have been put into the pronouncement. No, we cannot abandon responsibility for our choices. I cannot wholesale surrender my conscience to the will of the Bishops; however, when the Bishop of Rome speaks, either authoritatively or prudentially, it is incumbent upon me until such time as I give the matter serious prayerful reflection to accept those judgments. When I have done so, and only then, am I entitled in conscience to say nay. But, I think the probability of that, given this man of such great depth and breadth of soul, are vanishingly unlikely. For this loyalty, I gladly accept any name you place upon it, but I steadfastly refuse to abandon it. John Paul II has been instrumental in showing me the way into the Church and into the heart of Christ, how can I possibly look upon him other than as an affectionate and learned father?

Bookmark and Share

Being Who You Are in Christ


Sometimes we treat ourselves very poorly. We may do something foolish and then kick ourselves to next week and back. And to some extent that is a justifiable treatment. But not continuously, and not even if one learns nothing from the experience. And certainly not if it is for the wrong purpose.

All things need to be done in the Light of Jesus Christ. God created each one of us, unique, without match in all the world. And at that moment He had a plan and a purpose for us--a goal to which we could rise. He loved us into existence and loves us to the end of our Earthly lives and beyond. We can choose to follow His plan or our own. Whichever way we choose, He will weave what we do into His plan. But one way we will find happiness and ourselves, and the other way we will find only self-will.

No other person can do what God has for us to do. I cannot be St. Teresa, nor can I be Cardinal Mahony. I cannot be anything other than what I am. Thus, I am limited by what I am, and unlimited by what I can do through Christ. He wants each one of us to be a Saint--to be hope for someone who is in a very similar position. Most of us, in fact, are better encouragement than many saints, because we have lived lives that others can empathize with. I know that as my Carmelite group read Story of a Soul the comment kept coming up that "I couldn't be like that, look how holy she was at the age of four." True--you can't be like that, and the story of St. Therese is a little unearthly for most of us. We can't really empathize with that life. That is not to say that it isn't a profound inspiration and a profound blessing to all of us, but few of us spent our childhoods playing "Vow-of-Silence" Monks!

But take St. Augustine. Here is a saint I can empathize yet. And even in my mature years I find myself praying with him, "Lord make me chaste [I'd say Good] but not yet." Here is a man of passion of true human sympathies from the ground up--imperfect, headstrong, frustrating, in short someone we see when we look in the mirror. Some of us started life and are living lives as Therese (this concept boggles my mind--but I know it is true) the vast majority of us are more like Augustine. And being like Augustine in the modern world, we can offer more hope to those around us. They can see us rise from our merely human condition to become Human in God's eyes. It shows that such an ascent is possible for all. I think about Dorothy Day who, pregnant out-of-wedlock had an abortion and went on to become one a great saintly person (if not yet a Saint). Matt Talbot who spent much of his early life curled up in a bottle came by the strength (through God) to give it up and become another saintly person. Blessed (Venerable, St. ?) Charles Foucauld was reputed to be something of a playboy but he went on to be a Martyr. There are hundreds of examples of such people.

When we assume our identity in Christ, when we start to live that life of heroic virtue, our past life becomes a picture of hope for people in similar circumstances. When we rise above ourselves to assume the place God has for us in His plan, others can see that conquest of self is possible through Christ who strengthens us. Yes, lament your failures, your shortcomings, your own loses and stupidities, but embrace Him who loves you and share that sorrow. Become Who you are rather than remaining who you are. Assume your place in the body of Christ, with all your imperfections, flaws, and failures and let others know that there is hope for them. God has made you who and what you are for a specific mission. We will not see clearly the exact contours of that mission until we stand in His Presence. But trust Him and He will guide you in the paths that will make you what you must be--you can assume your identity in Christ.

Bookmark and Share

I Am and Wish Always


I Am and Wish Always to be . . .

I am and wish always to be a true son of the Church. All that I say or do I wish to be in conformity with Her teachings. Where I stray, I pray for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to bring me back. However, in all that I say, do, or otherwise make public, I wish always to express Her mind in the issue and I submit all matters of faith and morals to her judgments and humbly accept correction when and where necessary.

I love the Church. I think with the Church, but I am a broken, distant image of Him whom I would follow, and therefore I fail. I struggle with a great many things that the Church Teaches. But nothing in the centrality of the Creed or in the understanding of the hierarchy or teaching authority of the Church.

I like this expression far more than the one I posted before. I believe it to be truer, closer to the heart of the matter, and more personal. The Church is a Mother for me--I cannot bear to see those who would disgrace Her or tear Her down, be they revolutionaries or reactionaries. But being human, I struggle mightily with some of her teachings, to understand and accept them. These struggles are, however, my own. And to the best of my ability to do so, I would always state first and foremost what the Church teaches--it is sheer arrogance and pride to assume that in my span of years I could have accumulated sufficient knowledge to refute what she may teach. The Church is my teacher, in my immaturity, I struggle with some of what She teaches--but that is more a reflection on me that it is on the doctrines of the Church. And as I struggle, I pray I struggle toward truth and not toward self-will. To even begin to do this, I must defer my doubts to the wisdom of the teaching authority of the Church.

And I feel compelled to post even this much because so many would deny the teachings of the Bishops. It seems that every time they open their mouths someone is telling them to shut up. See one of the comments (you'll know the one) on this post at Disputations if you wonder whereof I speak. So, my apologies for the abortive and ultimately unsatisfactory attempt at definition this morning. This afternoon I say simply, I stand with my Bishops until such time as they teach out-and-out heresy (and I do not believe they [en masse] will ever do so.)

Later--Apologies Rereading this blog at a later time I realized that it could have been read to have accused the blogmaster at Disputations of holding some of the views I repudiate. That was not my intention and I hope the clarification above makes more clear what I was trying to say.

Bookmark and Share

Stealing Wholesale--A Prayer to Capture a Murderer

From Disputations, this excellent perpetual novena composed and/or adapted by John da Fiesole for the capture of the murderer-at-large in the Washington D.C. area. Please join us in praying it every day, or, I suppose, more often.

So I think I will start a perpetual novena to St. Anthony until the sniper is caught.

O Holy St. Anthony, gentlest of Saints, your love for God and Charity for His creatures made you worthy, when on earth, to possess miraculous powers. Miracles waited on your word, which you were ever ready to speak for those in trouble or anxiety. Encouraged by this thought, I implore of you to obtain for my neighbors and me the arrest and confinement of those responsible for the murderous sniper attacks on the innocent people of this region. The answer to my prayer may require a miracle, even so, you are the Saint of Miracles. O gentle and loving St. Anthony, whose heart was ever full of human sympathy, whisper my petition into the ears of the Sweet Infant Jesus, who loved to be folded in your arms, and the gratitude of my heart will ever be yours. Amen.

Our Father, ...

Hail Mary, ...

Glory be ...

Pray for us, St. Anthony, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Bookmark and Share

Some Notes from Theodore Roethke


Inspired to look once again at Roethke by another blogger, I have selected some pieces from Straw for the Fire, a strange kind of selected bits from thousands of notebook pages. I have to say that while I may not agree with Mr. Roethke in all points, there is some interesting "straw for the fire" in these words.

from Straw for the Fire Theodore Roethke from "The Proverbs of Purgatory"

For him God was always there, like an ugly wife.
Those who almost see are most terrified.
The Devil is intuitive, not articulate.
Surround yourself with rising waters, the flood will teach you how to swim.
God does not like to be asked too violently to step in.
Despair and the most transcendental love of God are inseparable.
The angels ask but never answer.

from” Straw for the Fire"
I need to become learned in the literature of exasperation. In my worst state, once I think of my contemporaries, I'm immediately revived.
I'd like to be sure of something--even if it's just going to sleep.
God's the denial of denials,
Meister Eckhart said.
I like to forget denials
in bed.

And so forth. What Roethke is doing here is thinking and struggling with all sorts of things--his image of himself as poet, his idea of poetry, his idea of God. To read these fragments is to get a sense of struggle against "a sea of troubles/ and by opposing, end them." Roethke is one of the finest poets of the mid-century, a palliative to the endless whining and proto-bad-rap of the beats and their nauseating offspring. He is in line with Plath when she's not too introverted, and has produced some of the most memorable, and perhaps mystical poetry an American poet has to offer. I know vanishingly little of his personal life (always a boon), but sense from the poetry a constant, epic struggle against some form of mental illness--perhaps depression. I could be wrong here, but a line like , "In a dark time the eye begins to see," tends to cue one in to something going on.

Straw for the Fire is at times heartbreakingly beautiful. It is horrifying that this poet tosses away lines that are better than much of my entire work. But then I pause to reflect that these single lines are garnered from thousands and thousands of pages of the same kind of drift that I have in my notebooks. An unbiased observer might be able to go through and cull some gems from that mountain as well. I rather doubt that my work will generate such an unbiased observer--which is quite all right, because the world needs only one such collection to cause future poets some worry.

Bookmark and Share

Okay Celtiphiles, see how many of the following references you can identify clearly and place in Irish Folklore/Poetry. (Note: all spellings anglicized--even then--good luck pronouncing them. Irish orthography and phonemics, fundamental contradictions in terminology) Good luck.

Battle Song of the Sons of Cuchulain
Ta na la the trumpets sound to         herald day from her sweet rest
even now the bird calls throng,         boring through the darkened forest.
Of heroes old and days of deeds        only ancients can remember,
knolls of Fay, the Sidhe of Dannan        Oisin and his fated family,
fireside stories for the evening when         the slaughter will be over.
Hence now for the frosty fields where        Emer wandered all alone, where the
Druid sought out Fergus, and where        Ulster won their battles.
Not for such as Maeve's beauty        can we stay our swords much longer,
Only now we seek our vengeance        where our fathers died in battle.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Note, these are supposed to be two approximately equal half-lines on the same level--many browsers will not display them that way. Sorry.

Bookmark and Share

Observations from a Glorious


Observations from a Glorious St. Teresa Day

Giving thanks:
What could be lovelier
--to be in one's car on the way to Mass
--on a delightfully warm (75-80 F) day
--listening to the eerily beautiful original piano arrangement of "Trois Gymnopedies"
--seeing the single tree, a sycamore, that autumn has kissed with color, reds--deep maroon, yellows proclaimed against the lush tropical green.
Praise Him!

*Note--unlike some partisans that have elsewhere indicated their preference for ice, "I'd hold with those who favor fire." I hear that it's likely to drop to 60 as a low tomorrow and think, need to bring in the Dendrobium, the Phaelenopsis, and the Cattelya, the Odontoglossum can take a bit more, you know--all those "freezy" winter things.

Bookmark and Share

Dedicated with great admiration and gratitude to those in the forefront of those who support the sanctity of human life.


Soon they all say.
It is so soon too.

Soon say the doctors
with the big spoons.
Soon momma says.
They nod their heads.
Smoothely the mound of her
belly moves--so slowly.

Is the music playing
says momma.
The music is playing.

The doctors play
with the shiny spoons.
The light
inside is warm
and dark.

Soon the slide will speed me
out to momma. Soon in
all the quiet.

Momma's belly

O momma, I say
as the slide moves me.
Is the music playing
momma. Inside
she says, soon soon.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Continuing Prayers Needed For the


Continuing Prayers Needed

For the people of Bali, Indonesia, and Australia in their sorrow and loss.

For the people of the Washington Metropolitan area that the murderer-at-large is soon apprehended. (For this cause the Blogmeister at Disputations has committed to this perpetual novena, in which I shall join him.)

For Katherine and Franklin and family that their employment situation be resolved.

For Christine and Gordon and family for a resolution to an employment situation.

For one who prefers to remain unnamed--a dear friend--in need of God's counsel and Love.

For Kairos Guy and Sally, for continued healing and mending from their recent heartbreak.

Thank you all, you are really great to help out in all of these needs.

Bookmark and Share

More on St. Teresa


Like St. Joan of Arc, our Saint of the day has a propensity for showing up in the oddest places. Witness this:

from Middlemarch "Prelude"
George Eliot

Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child-pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.

Here she is used on the very first page of a massive novel as an example of a vibrant, truly alive woman. A women who took care of a group of (perhaps often cranky) young nuns, founded new monasteries, wrote books, played tambourine and danced, and still found time for prayer that led her to union with God, is certainly an example for all of us. What she could do is, obviously, possible with proper love of God. More than that, it is a desirable way to spend one's life.

Bookmark and Share

Quote of the Day "It


Quote of the Day
"It is not a matter of thinking a great deal but of loving a great deal, so do whatever arouses you most to love." ~ St. Teresa of Avila

Bookmark and Share

For La Madre


For La Madre

Perhaps more appropriate for the Feast of the Transverberation. Nevertheless, offered here for your delectation.

"The Flaming Heart Upon the Book and Picture of Saint Teresa"
(As she is usually expressed with a Seraphim beside her.)
Richard Crashaw

WELL meaning readers! you that come as friends
And catch the precious name this piece pretends;
Make not too much haste to admire
That fair-cheeked fallacy of fire.
That is a Seraphim, they say
And this the great Teresia.
Readers, be rul'd by me; and make
Here a well-plac'd and wise mistake
You must transpose the picture quite,
And spell it wrong to read it right;
Read him for her, and her for him;
And call the saint the Seraphim.
Painter, what did'st thou understand
To put her dart into his hand!
See, even the years and size of him
Shows this the mother Seraphim.
This is the mistress flame; and duteous he
Her happy fireworks, here comes down to see.
O most poor-spirited of men!
Had thy cold pencil kist her pen
Thou couldst not so unkindly err
To show us this faint shade for her.
Why man, this speaks pure mortal frame;
And mocks with female frost love's manly flame.
One would suspect, thou meant'st to paint
Some weak, inferior, woman saint.
But had thy pale-fac'd purple took
Fire from the burning cheeks of that bright book
Thou wouldst on her have leapt up all
That could be found seraphical;
Whate'er this youth of fire wears fair,
Rosy fingers, radiant hair,
Glowing cheek, and glistering wings,
All those fair and flagrant things,
But before all, that fiery dart
Had fill'd the hand of this great heart.
Do then as equal right requires,
Since his the blushes be, and hers the fires,
Resume and rectify thy rude design;
Undress thy Seraphim into mine.
Redeem this injury of thy art;
Give him the veil, give her the dart.
Give him the veil; that he may cover
The red cheeks of a rivall'd lover.
Asham'd that our world, now, can show
Nests of new Seraphims here below.
Give her the dart for it is she
(Fair youth) shoots both thy shaft and thee.
Say, all ye wise and well-pierc'd hearts
That live and die amidst her darts,
What is't your tasteful spirits do prove
In that rare life of her, and love?
Say and bear witness. Sends she not
A Seraphim at every shot?
What magazines of immortal arms there shine!
Heav'n's great artillery in each love-spun line.
Give then the dart to her who gives the flame;
Give him the veil, who kindly takes the shame.
But if it be the frequent fate
Of worst faults to be fortunate;
If all's prescription; and proud wrong
Hearkens not to an humble song;
For all the gallantry of him,
Give me the suff'ring Seraphim.
His be the bravery of all those bright things,
The glowing cheeks, the glistering wings;
The rosy hand, the radiant dart;
Leave her alone, the Flaming Heart.
Leave her that; and thou shalt leave her
Not one loose shaft but love's whole quiver.
For in love's field was never found
A nobler weapon than a wound.
Love's passives are his activ'st part.
The wounded is the wounding heart.
O heart! the equal poise of love's both parts
Big alike with wound and darts.
Live in these conquering leaves; live all the same;
And walk through all tongues one triumphant flame.
Live here, great heart; and love and die and kill;
And bleed and wound; and yield and conquer still.
Let this immortal life where'er it comes
Walk in a crowd of loves and martyrdoms.
Let mystic deaths wait on't; and wise souls be
The love-slain witnesses of this life of thee.
O sweet incendiary! show here thy art,
Upon this carcass of a hard, cold heart,
Let all thy scatter'd shafts of light, that play
Among the leaves of thy large books of day,
Combined against this breast at once break in
And take away from me my self and sin,
This gracious robbery shall thy bounty be;
And my best fortunes such fair spoils of me.
O thou undaunted daughter of desires!
By all thy dow'r of lights and fires;
By all the eagle in thee, all the dove;
By all thy lives and deaths of love;
By thy large draughts of intellectual day,
And by thy thirsts of love more large than they;
By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire
By the last morning's draught of liquid fire;
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seiz'd thy parting soul, and seal'd thee his;
By all the heav'ns thou hast in him
(Fair sister of the Seraphim!)
By all of him we have in thee;
Leave nothing of my self in me.
Let me so read thy life, that I
Unto all life of mine may die.

The poetic transfiguration of St. Teresa into a Seraphim is really quite nice. And I'm uncertain that there are any lines in relgious poetry quite so powerful as:

"By all thy brim-fill'd bowls of fierce desire
By the last morning's draught of liquid fire;
By the full kingdom of that final kiss
That seiz'd thy parting soul, and seal'd thee his; "

I'm certain there must be, but most certainly not on this day. St. Teresa of Avila is one of those saints you can't help not only admiring, but once you come to know her, really liking. To show this two small anecdotes:

Writing to her Foundations and advising the young nuns there St. Teresa of Avila said something to the effect: "If you believe you are having visions, you need to eat more."

Upon arriving at an important interview with a local Bishop, she dismounted and stepped or fell into a puddle of mud, upon which she raised her eyes to heaven and said, "If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few."

May this day be a blessing upon all of you and through the intercession of La Madre, may your prayers and your prayer life improve today and each day that you turn your heart to God.

Bookmark and Share

Eternally Expanding Word of God


Eternally Expanding Word of God

The following comment really provoked my imagination and fascination.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

Just as God did not create the universe once and for all, but continuously, so the Spirit creates the Scriptures continuously. And just as space becomes greater and greater because the galaxies are moving away from each other, so the Scriptures become greater and greater, at least for those who read them with faith.

Scripture is created continuously. Within each devout reader the Holy Spirit speaks the words that God would have the believer know. These words never vary from the deposit of faith, but they are suited to each person as our persons are suited for our spirits. God knows what we need and He provides it bountifully, abundantly, full measure and overflowing. God continues to bless us every time we open the Scripture. Its treasury cannot be exhausted, so do not fail to plunder it--God has opened broken down the treasury doors for precisely that reason. (The Holy Mother Church in her wisdom grants to those who meet all the other requirements and who engage in one-half hour of reading of Scripture a Plenary Indulgence. So, if not for your own sake, for the sake of the poor souls in purgatory, read Scripture--the act of Charity will help to make the effort even lighter and will increase the blessing that comes from directly engaging in discourse with God.)

Bookmark and Share

Mr. Miller's Remarkable Post On


Mr. Miller's Remarkable Post

On universal healthcare is here. It is wonderfully succinct and piquant.

Bookmark and Share

Vocation is a Vacation I


I hate motivational speaker lines, but I thought this one up myself as I was studying St. Thérèse, and it fits so well (if I do say so myself). Now of course, I am talking etymologically and not literally, but every vocation is in fact a call to vacation. And what primarily we must vacate is our notion of self and our self-centered universe.

We construct certain realities by the masks we wear--father, spouse, teacher, worker, boss, etc. Many of us are five or twenty-five people rolled into one. Not so with the Saints who truly sought after God. They were all, to a person, one person. They may have been bishops, teachers, wanderers, or wayfarers, or one after another of these. However, whatever they were, they belonged to Christ, and were marked by Christ in their authenticity. They did not need masks and had no time for the games that go with masks. St. Catherine of Siena went to the Pope in Avignon when told to do so and told him flat-out that he was wrong to remain where he was, period. No questions, no wiggle-room, just simply, "God says get your butt back to Rome, so what do you think you're doing?" Mother Teresa went to a national prayer breakfast and faced the greatest proponent of the slaughter of children since Herod himself with a speech about the evils of abortion--no punches pulled--just a straight out, "You are committing a great sin and an enormous crime." Unfortunately this saintly woman was not facing a person with the integrity of the Pope that St. Catherine went to see.

Vocation requires that we vacate to make room for God. And once God fills us up, there is no room for masks, pretences, or anything other than the lamp on a lampstand He wants each one of us to be.

Bookmark and Share

Apocryphal Gospels redux Just


Apocryphal Gospels redux

Just Your Average Catholic Guy, Mr. John Betts has picked up once more his marvelous thread on the Apocryphal Gospels, this time featuring The Gospel of Peter.

Bookmark and Share

Dealing with God


Sometimes, in fact more often than not, God seems some very distant figure--rather like a stage director in the tragedy or comedy of our lives. I know that I often suffer from this. When I am saying morning prayer and I'm feeling particularly dry, I imagine the words trailing up like smoke from a fire, taking an idle turn about Heaven and joining those much more grateful, robust strands of incense in the great Throneroom where certainly God can notice them, but does He? I often feel at a very great distance. And the reality is, of course, that I am, because I have placed myself there. I have chosen to be at a great distance for one reason or another that I may not even be aware of.

In the course of a day, or a week, or a month, I can and do move closer, or I should more properly say, I feel closer, because I could not possibly be closer. Because of my baptism and the grace of my confirmation I have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that proceeds from the love of the Father and the Son for each other is part of my make-up. I may ignore Him, I may not turn a thought to Him at any time. I may choose some other substitute for Him. But He is there, and when I cannot pray, He is praying with groanings beyond human hearing.

But what about the feeling? I've always wondered about this, and it is a very difficult point. We humans place so much trust in feelings that change and transmute, are here today and gone five seconds later. We can plunge from ecstatic happiness to tears in a matter of moments. We can rise from the abyss (but that always seems to take a great deal longer). St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila teach us that feelings are another example of "consolations" in prayer. They are sometimes granted for the purposes of strengthening our resolve, but they are not to be sought after.

My preferred thinking about this feeling of closeness parallels the teaching of St. Thérèse of Lisieux on Love. While Love carries with it feelings of involvement, it is not primarily a feeling, it is a continual series of actions--it is a movement of the will that results in a movement of the person to action on part of the loved one. So too the feeling of closeness to God. We should not trust or rely upon feeling, it is deceptive and potentially destructive. Here we must trust our minds to allow the truth to trickle down to our hearts and change them. Whether we "feel" God's presence or not, we are told that He is present. It is a tenet of our faith that not only is He present, but He lives within us. And if we direct our attention to Him for a moment, we know it--we may not feel it, but we do know it in some way that transcends rational thought. Trust the knowing and forget the feeling. In this case the feelings may be manipulated by any number of factors. Loving God and feeling His presence, is an act of will that results in tangible actions toward those around us. It is something that should occupy our every waking moment. Loving God, who loves us enough to live within us despite conditions that would resemble deepest, darkest Detroit at our very best times, is the one key to life on Earth. Loving Him despite what we may feel about His distance or His lack of concern.

God is concerned about us. He does love us. And sometimes the love He shows us is harsh and difficult. We would prefer to live our own lives than the life of love of God. I think about St. Thérèse and the awfulness of the last 18 months of her life--the terrible darkness in which she lived, uncertain even of the existence of God, and yet, in some mysterious way, never doubting and never ceasing her enormous love for Him. l so much so that her dying words, "O How I Love Him," still resound in the miracles she performs and in the immediacy with which she seems to attend each person who earnestly implores her assistance.

Closeness to God is a reality. Our feelings are untrustworthy. As Scrooge says to Marley regarding why he does not trust his senses, "A little thing can disturb them. You could be a bit of undigested beef or a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you." So too our feelings about God--they are moved by little motions within us--fear and anger are the principle currents that drive how close we feel. We cannot control our emotions, or if we do so they may ultimately turn on us anyway, but we can balance the emotional sense of things with the reality that we face over and over when we open the Bible. We are "the apple of His eye," we are "written on the palm of His hand." We are the people of John 3:16--"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth on Him should not die but should have life everlasting." When our feelings get in the way, we need to retreat, even if only momentarily, to reality.

Bookmark and Share

For a Fellow-Traveler, a Fragment


This poem is not completely ready for prime-time. Something is missing and I'm uncertain where to take it or how to go. But I'm convinced that this fragment was given me to address a specific misconception that many may secretly hold.

What a narrow hardened place, the human heart
where you have deigned to have your home,
where wizened walls would squeeze you out,
and we would live, imperious, alone.

Locked outside this chamber sere and harsh,
the hardest place that God has ever known--
You who came in love to die for all beg leave
to change to flesh this heart of stone.

You ask the master of this desert place
if you might enter and start to sweep it clean,
an indifferent shrug the single silent reply
and a door left ajar that could only mean

come in and be about your business now,
before I have a chance to change my mind.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Pray Constantly As with many


Pray Constantly

As with many parents of very young children, I spend most of Mass getting my son to face forward, stand, sit, kneel, try to say some of the prayers, stop watching the people behind me, stop kicking the pew in front of me, whisper--don't talk, etc. etc. You who are parents know the drill. As a result, I feel terrible about Sunday Mass, often as though I haven't heard a thing (I haven't) and I haven't properly served the Lord (although I have in my vocation as Father and in my attempt to make certain that the young 'en isn't too disruptive to those around him). I usually "make up" for this feeling by attending weekday Mass, and really participating.

As with many previous Sundays, I had these same feelings until I relaxed a bit and started to pray. I wasn't really praying Mass, because it was more than my brain could handle. But the entire time I prayed, "Thank you, Jesus." For every disruptive effort and annoyance, I prayed twice as hard and fast. And you know what? I didn't leave Mass feeling like a failure. I left feeling as though I had offered thanksgiving for many who may not give a thought to the wonderful treasure they receive at the Holy Sacrifice of Mass. No, I didn't participate in the way I would if I were without the distraction, but somehow I felt that God accepted what little I could offer in the spirit in which I offered it.

Then I realized on my way home that this little prayer can be prayed constantly. Occasionally one thought or another intrudes, but when it has run its course, I can just thank Jesus for that as well. Like the Jesus prayer, only simpler, and appealing to me because I owe so much thanks and I say so little, this prayer can always bring me back to the main point of life itself--the mercy, goodness, and life-giving person of Jesus Christ.

Try it for a day. Just start by saying it as you get up in the morning. Allow it to become the basso ostinato to the entire day. Let life play against the background of this glorious and simple prayer. The name of Jesus itself is a fragrant balm and to be able to thank Him for all that we are and all that we have is such a gift. It frees us so thoroughly from ourselves. It opens us to Him and at the same time is a constant acknowledgment of our debt to Him. It is a perfect accompaniment for the Jesus Prayer because it is a thank you for the mercies already tendered, and in its simplicity it acknowledges our need for future mercies.

It may not substitute for praying and assisting at Mass, I'm human and there I shall probably fail as long as my young son needs guidance. But at least I can offer this much as I am directing attention and limiting distraction.

Bookmark and Share

Note of Change of Test


Note of Change of Test Day

Upon reading that last blog entry it sounds very much like the scene in Willy Wonka in which the teacher announces that the Test, which is normally held on Friday after all the material has been taught will be moved to Monday before everything is taught, but as today is Wednesday it makes no difference whatsoever. And, you know, that suits me to a "T."

Bookmark and Share

Note on Persons I tried


Note on Persons

I tried with the entries this morning to remove the damning "we" and replace them with the more specific "I." The first person is beneficial in a number of ways, I am not able to hide my own complicity and the process of writing is the process of examen. However, the process of reading and endless stream of stuff about I, I, I, must be cataclysmically boring for the reader, in addition, it simply fosters the cult of ego I live in already way too much. So, I have been thinking about using the third person--"one." The problem with this is that it sounds impossibly formal and distant, so I do not believe it viable.

It comes down to the fact that the "we" is, possibly, more engaging. So what I may end up doing is posting everything as I have before, but adding a disclaimer periodically that declares that the "we" to whom I refer is, in fact, myself. These notes are reminders and indictments directed solely at myself. If they strike a chord with other, or if others may benefit from them, so much the better. But, please never assume that I am writing about anyone in particular. Should I be moved to do so, I will make that as clear as possible in the particular entry.

Bless you all, may the Lord God of Hosts, protect you, smile down upon you, and speed you to His desired goal.

Bookmark and Share



One place I am often remiss in my prayer is the proper sense of Gratitude. Sometimes I take for granted the wonderful privilege God has granted me in allowing direct communication with Him and with those who have gone before us. God need do no such thing. He could be the God envisioned by the Deists--the God who set the Universe in motion and forgot it entirely thereafter--the disinterested God, the Distant God.

But He is not. He is close. As close as a word turned His direction, as close as a thought. I need not go somewhere special. I need not do something special. Of course I can, should I choose to do so, but I need not.

I am not grateful enough. I recall the words of a priest who used to serve in the Parish I belong to. He said that a truly grateful person could not be unhappy. As a corollary, I am not certain that he spelled this out, much of our personal unhappiness spills out of a lack of gratitude. If I have a sense, even subconsciously, that I am owed something by the world, or that I have been cheated of something, or that I do not have enough--either spiritual or material good--I will be unhappy. No matter what the cause, much of my unhappiness flows from an inflated sense of self, by a lack of perception of my true worth. If I pause even for a short moment to consider the lot of the vast majority of humankind, I would realize what a truly privileged position I occupy. Compared to something on the order of 80% of humanity, I am in the position of the rich young man who approached Christ. Now, in my own society there is no way in which I could be considered rich and privileged; but, my own society is a distortion, an artificial construct.

I need to return to a prayer of gratitude and praise. I need to remember the purpose of many of my vocal prayers--they remind me that I am the creature and I speak to the creator. Praise and thanksgiving help me to place myself in proper perspective. They are the foundation of humility--a true understanding of my stature (or more properly lack thereof) before almighty God. These reminders, it seems to me, are as important as the Memento Mori of Elizabethan times. They choose the reminders of mortality for these purposes and perhaps they would serve the same today, although they would tend to draw attention to oneself. So rather than memento mori, perhaps a good substitute would be a good dose of conscious, deliberate, heart-felt gratitude for who we are, what we have, and the grace God has given us in allowing us to speak to Him.

Praise Him!

Bookmark and Share

On Public Prayer A long


On Public Prayer

A long excerpt from a recently "published" piece at project Canterbury.

A Discourse Concerning The daily Frequenting the Common Prayer.

By Thomas Comber, D.D. and Prebendary of York.

London: Printed for Charles Brome, at the Gun at the West end of St. Paul’s Church-yard. 1687.
[16 pp]

Bookmark and Share

Toward an Essay on the


Toward an Essay on the Interpretation of Poetry

Tom Abbot at GoodForm blogged the following poem, among other interesting entries.

A Poem by Robert Frost My friend Steven Riddle (Flos Carmelli) has piqued my interest in poetry. He has posted some good information on how to read poetry that has helped me to see that even I can appreciate poetry.

Anyway, I decided to do a little searching on the web last night for some poetry and I came up with this one by Robert Frost courtesy of The Robert Frost Web Site:

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Afterwards Mr. Abbott asked whether it was proper to treat a poem as a riddle to be solved. In his comment box, this was my answer:

Play with the poem as the poem suggests. If it has for you a puzzle to unlock, then work at the puzzle. If it has a sound to repeat, repeat the sound.

Reading poetry is personally tailored experience. There may be those who have rules and requirements about how you go about it--but the best way to go about it is the way that gives you not just enjoyment, but the great joy of encountering a wonderful work. Frost is a great poet to start with. His lines are lucid, clear, uncompromising. His meanings not always at the surface, sometimes wisps and suggestions.

The poem has engaged you and has suggested to you a riddle. Entertain that aspect of the poem--obviously it has interacted with part of who you are, and speaks to you in the depths. Great art should do that.

Afterwards, Tom blogged a possible interpretation of the poem. He asked whether he was on-target. The following two entries were my replies:

Unless you are the poet in question and you are commenting on how close someone came to your intention, it is sheer pretension to comment on someone else's interpretation.

Interpretation is the interaction of the individual with the poem. In a sense, to paraphrase Harold Bloom, in interpretation the poem reads you.

If what you find is consistent, logical, and satisfying, then one need nothing more from it.

To give you my notion of what the poem is saying (and this is NOT definitive)--I see it as the nighttime lament of the Agnostic looking for God.

He says, I know darkness. I have walked in it again and again. I have walked in the rain and walked beyond any sign of human civilization.

I've looked down the saddest city lane (and seen clearly the evidence that God does not exist)and realizing this hid my face from the person who was seeking to find what I knew.

I have stopped walking at the sound of an interrupted cry--but not one that called me back. etc.

The ambiguity of the time is simply still not knowing--desiring to believe, but in the face of growing evidence not being able to decide to believe.

I'll comment on another reading in the next post.

Now I'll give you a second possible reading, almost diametrically opposed to the first. We'll call this the "St. John of the Cross" reading. (Highly unlikely, given Frost, but very likely considering Steven)

I know the nights of purgations, the darkness of wandering seemingly alone, in penance, in rain. I have wandered far from the things that hold me bound to Earth. I have seen the saddest city street of my soul, a street I am so ashamed of I cannot explain. I have stopped the sound of my feet and heard and interrupted cry. But I am so far called beyond all earthly things, that this temptation does not draw me back from my continual seeking.

At an unearthly height (thus approaching my beloved God) I see the clock against the sky that is neither right nor wrong because I am detached from it. It does not need to mean to me--wrong or right makes no difference to the reality I am experiencing--the dark night of the soul.

Now, given Frost, this is a fanciful interpretation of the work. But the point is that a poem means a million things to a million different readers. And in this case at least a million and one to a million readers, because I have two ways of seeing it.

If you gave me another ten minutes, I could probably come up with yet another possible meaning for it.

That is the joy of good poetry. It has many levels and many possibilities. You read here the man with something on his conscience. I read both the Agnostic and the Mystic. I think elements of the poem can be used to support any of these interpretations.

I would offer for your interpretation the significance of the clock being neither wrong nor right is the sudden realization that you need an alibi and don't know on what to base it.

Ultimately, the joy of poetry is the world that it opens up the the dedicated reader. There are great depths in truly great poets. In lesser poets (among whom I would rank Lord Byron) are tremendous pleasures of language and image.

Bookmark and Share

Back from the Meeting Back


Back from the Meeting

Back from the meeting and I can say that you all had upwards of 70 Carmelites praying for you--some of you by name. It was wonderful and utterly exhausting. I have never seen such a dedicated, serious, loving, concerned, and dynamic group of people. This was my first exposure to the entire Region, and I am stunned and humbled to have been asked to guide this group. Obviously, I am not up to the task, but the Holy Spirit within me will take the lead if only I listen and let Him do what is necessary.

If all Christians could be like these people, we would still have our problems, but there would be the possibility of working them out much more amicably. The day has been a magnificent blessing--I only hope that those who attended were as blessed as I (Acted as MC of the day and gave one of the shorter talks).

Bookmark and Share

Une Piece Surrealiste


I may have complained publicly about so-called surrealist poetry that consists largely of strings of words that together mean nothing. The following, imperfect though it may be, gets at what i would like surrealist poetry to be. So, maybe it's just a different brand of poetry entirely and I'm arguing semantics.

at a lecture

Do we need a synthesis? Sometimes
my ears cannot hear
words and must hear past
words. Then you
wonder which way.
Too much, too often,
and speaking up, the small man said,
"Black please," but they spilled
the milk. And served it
black anayway. It was swept away on the
shoestring of an
old woman's sneakers
as she was shopping through
bin after bin for bargain shoes.
The salesman thought it best to pass
on the bootblack, the season being warm
and the weather turning wet.
Don't you wander where you're going
sometimes, she said, he said, but they doubted both,
and listened to the minister himself.
Where do you find remainders after division has healed
the multiplication of ills? Not as easily
the blacksmith would reply were
he not a

© 2002 Steven Riddle

To paraphrase Eugene Ionesco, from one of the most amusing plays I have read--"Have a lovely cartesian quarter of an hour with it."

Later in the same play, a conversation overheard,

"What about the Bald Soprano?" (La Cantatrice Chauve)

"I love the way she does her hair."

Bookmark and Share

Later Today I hope to


Later Today

I hope to be able to cobble together the first part of a little treatise on the interpretation of poetry. (As a preview--overall I'm against it). And maybe a report on the retreat.

Bookmark and Share

One Ring to Rule Them


One Ring to Rule Them All

From Mark Shea's blog--this piece of political commentary.

Bookmark and Share

Blogging Today and Tomorrow I'll


Blogging Today and Tomorrow

I'll be leading a large-area lay Carmelite retreat tomorrow and must soon retreat to reflect and consider what exactly I can say about St. Thérèse that hasn't been said before a million times better. So once I'm done tonight there will be no blogging until Tomorrow afternoon--unless I'm up far earlier than I've any intention of being. But one can never tell.

Please pray for me, and most especially for all the Carmelites who will be gathering tomorrow. We, in turn, shall pray for all of you.

Bookmark and Share

Marian Doctrine Revisited For those


Marian Doctrine Revisited

For those who wondered about the questions asked below, John at Disputations provides a preternaturally clear and apt expalantion of the doctrine of Mary as Mediatrix to offer to our protestant brothers and sisters, if your so inclined. Otherwise, it makes for nice reading and reflection for spiritual growth.

Bookmark and Share

Great Stuff from the Amphibious


Great Stuff from the Amphibious Goat

The blogmaster at Musings of an Amphibious Goat has provided some superb link information for a 32 page version of John Paul II "Love and Responsibility". You may want to take a look at this.

Bookmark and Share

Marian Doctrine Query I may


Marian Doctrine Query

I may be mistaken because I hear from so many partisans, but I thought that Mary was regarded in doctrine as the Mediatrix of All Graces. I've been thinking about this because I have read in places that she has been named mediatrix and coredemptrix. Now, I'm fairly certain the latter title has not been officially conferred, but, once again I could be wrong. Would someone who is more well-versed in these matters, or someone who knows where I could find this in the Catechism or other resource, please leave a comment? Thank you.

Bookmark and Share

Last Post on Dubay's Book


Last Post on Dubay's Book

I have finished reading Fr. Thomas Dubay's wonderful and insightful Blessed Are You Poor (available from Ignatius Press, and highly recommended). This last entry has little to do with poverty, and much to do with the intent of this blog.

from Blessed Are You Poor Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.

Pleasures are localized in a particular part of the body. Delicious food delights taste buds but nothing else. Joy is not restricted to one bodily area; rather it accompanies a general well-being of the person as a person. It is compatible with general suffering.

Pleasures are caused by specific material stimulus: food, drink, fragrance, color, sexual contact. Joy arises either from intellectually appreciated stimuli (beautiful music or scenery) or from immaterial reality itself ( a brilliant idea, superb literature, moral goodness, authentic being in love). Pleasure springs from things, for it is a surface phenomenon. Joy springs from beauty and goodness; it is deep in origin and cause and effect.

I would like this blog to, upon occasion, bring joy to one of its readers. I can't hope for every day. But the reason for the blend of reflection, poetry, and other things you see here is to bring some of the beautiful, the good, and the true (note that Fr. Dubay left out the good from his description, perhaps assuming it, but perhaps falling victim to the Keatsian collapse of the Platonic Triad--I would have to ask him). I would like this to be a very calm, very welcoming place--even if it appears a bit daunting--like walking into an elegantly decorated dining room. Please be assured, we are both child-friendly and stain-treated. Have a seat, enjoy yourself. Chat among yourselves or with your host. Hospitality, as any good Benedictine will tell you, is one of the first signs of true charity. Allow me to be hospitable, and tell me how I might better accommodate you.

I recognize that poetry isn't comfortable for everyone. But if you see it often enough, one loses some of that apprehension that has been introduced through the auspices of well-intentioned teachers. It isn't scary, and it can be very beautiful, and very much a reminder that at all times we are surrounded by "clouds of witnesses" and by the loving care of a very personal God.

So please be at home and if you lack anything, please ask it. If it is within my means to offer it, you shall have it.

"Joy is the serious business of heaven."--C. S. Lewis.

Bookmark and Share

An Open Apology I received


An Open Apology

I received a note this morning that suggested that I may have been discourteous or actually rude to some of my guests. If you have received that impression, please accept my deepest apologies and forgive me. The medium of words sometimes lends itself to be misconstrued. Meanings can be derived that were never intended in the original writing. I hope that I have not offended anyone, as that is not my intent and is Anathema to my very core.

If I were to have a difficulty with someone that were to transcend a mere disagreement over terms, ideas, thoughts, or viewpoints, I would never express it in such a way that it would invite comment from others. That is neither charitable, nor particularly polite. So rest assured, if I have an disagreement, or I have been deeply troubled by something, I will take that message off-line to e-mail. I would never involve the blogging community.

I would like this to be a welcoming, open place. If I have in any way made it anything less, please forgive me. Drop me a line in e-mail and I will do what I can to make amends.

Once again, my deepest apologies to any I may have caused harm or difficulty. It is, in fact, the furthest thing from my thoughts.

Bookmark and Share

A Tribute to the Hawthorne


A Tribute to the Hawthorne Domincans
A tribute to this group along with some additional comment regarding their fame is available at Disputations. This is a wonderful entry in blogdom. I had always wondered about the Order to which Hawthorne's daughter belonged. (Guess he must have spent a good deal too much time on the Continent?)

Bookmark and Share

Grasping the Truth


I sometimes wonder why we all seem to be so poorly configured for grasping the truth. Why is it that we are so easily led astray? Why do we not focus on what really matters? Why are we always so distant from the Truth our hearts tell us?

I have thought of two comparisons. Many of us think we are mature. What we are, in fact, is aging. Jesus said, speaking of children, that "Unless you come unto me as one of these little ones, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." I used to view that as a nearly impossible task, having an attitude similar to Nicodemus' when facing the concept of needing to be born again. But now I wonder if Jesus might not have simply been putting things in a very gentle way for us. What I see Him as saying now is, "Look, you can't see it, because your eyes do not see the truth, but every one of you is like these children. You may be adults in body, but in spirit, forget it." In other words, we have no choice but to come unto Him as a Child, because despite our vast knowledge, we keep our eyes and spirits so closed that they do not grow. We are spiritually two-year-olds--most of us.

That is why a Mother Teresa or a Padre Pio seems such a marvel. They've grown beyond the age of two, and they're showing us what has always been there. Think about the way a two- or three- year-old regards their parents. I know my own little boy says to me, "You're my best hero." (Touching the way they express affection--even if ultimately unsupportable--it does make you want to try to live up to that expectation). We look at a Mother Teresa and Padre Pio and we gawp. They are magicians, pulling rabbits out of hats and making people disappear. When, in fact, they simply allowed themselves to be led by grace and to mature. They live in a different realm from the rest of us, because they have entered the Kingdom of God here on Earth. As Jesus told us, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." That means within reach, here and now. Most of us never grow to where we can see the entrance. The great saints have done so, and they constantly try to show us the way. But then, try showing a two-year-old much of anything.

The second analogy I came up with is that we are autistics, but I would call us culpable autistics. An autistic person cannot screen out the figure from the ground in terms of signal. Every impulse has equal importance. A dust mote floating in a beam of light is as significant as a mother's hand. There is no way to filter the sensory data. We have chosen this mode of life. We blind ourselves with the numerous things of the world--the scandals at hand, the improper actions of our brothers and sisters, our new home, our new car, the baseball game, Dharma and Greg, what brand of beer we drink, what kind of food we eat, the clothes we wear. We pay attention to every trivial detail of our lives, and yet we pay no or little attention to those details most important. How am I reflecting God to others? Where do I stand in my prayer life? Do I love my brothers and sisters as I love myself? Do I love God first and foremost, above all and in all? Do I really seek time to pray, or do I flee prayer? We are unable to screen out these motes, from the hand of the Father that beckons us to enter the Kingdom, the door to which is Jesus Christ.

We choose this life, in one sense. We are like Peter Pan's--or worse, like Oskar Matzerath, the vaguely malignant eternal three-year-old of Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum. We refuse to grow up, and we impose this expectation on others, often holding them back. It takes a saint to buck the crowd and to grow despite pressure to stay. It takes courage to walk through the door that is Christ and to live on the other side. It also takes the realization that we are not doing it. We need to drop the lip service and begin the real service. We need to turn to Christ and to not seek out the imperfections of others, but to work with Jesus on resolving our own so that we may help others to see the Door and walk through to new and glorious life.

Bookmark and Share

Work in Progress I wanted


Work in Progress

I wanted to share this for any comments or reactions. There are two points that I am a bit concerned about. First, I realized the title is suggestive of Vachel Lindsay's magnificent "General Booth Enters Heaven." It is not intended to refer to that poem, nor is the content even remotely similar. The second is that it may seem to approach universalism by implication. I am not a universalist, largely because the Church has put the whole idea under Anathema. But let me say that my approach is very similar to what I understand of both Hans Balthasar and, more recently, Richard John Neuhaus. I am somewhat concerned about Jesus saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged." Here I hope I have not judged, but only played out a scenario both possible, and it is my prayer, probable for all us weak mortals.

Jesus Greets Sir Richard Rich

My perjurer,
My chancellor,
my saint-maker,
my conniving fool,
my puppet,
my liar,
my escapee.

Your fine clothes
betray you,
lock you up
again and again.

You ask no
quarter, gave
none. You gave
me a martyr,
and helped to slay
the conscience
of a king
far gone along
that way.

Oh my fellow,
what shall I
do to you?
But for the
prayers of
that merry
one, who twists
words with the rest
of the puzzlers--
with Good Robert
of the Canon Code,
and Jerome
who made me
known to all.
With Thomas
who loved me
with words all straw,
and Francis
who laughs them all
to silliness.
That man, good
friend, has bent
my ear for
year upon year.

So though your case
was perilous
close, my father's
Grace, through my
mother's hands
brought me yet
another bought
with my own blood.

Oh my perjurer,
meet him whom
you doomed and be
welcomed through
his love to
this heaven, though
it be hell
your actions earned.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Camera Obscura Literally. And Like


Camera Obscura


And Like Shadows, Flow Away

Meet me on a plain
of glass.
Fly to me there
we are the only monuments.

Come to me
                        across the water
chasing your reflection
until you fall
                       in love
with a shadow

twin. Together
we will bind
our reflections,
the shadows that chase
us.          And flow away.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Poetry Offering


Here's my offering for the day. Duck everyone!


Chains bind
and part. They close,
in fences they unite.

My chains burn,

they freeze
and I am part of them,
unwilling to part.

So I wake from darkness
and fall to darkness.
Unclear eyes

refuse to focus
on the world around me.

Seeking to rip
the veils,
I slip on the chains
that bind me.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

More from Fr. Dubay Father


More from Fr. Dubay

Father Dubay certainly write persuasively. Chapter 7 of his book is particularly difficult:

from Blessed Are You Poor Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.

Biblical writers were not philosophers, but they knew well enough that material sharing is a consequence of any sincere love. If the goods of earth are extensions of my person and if I love my neighbor as myself, I naturally share my good things. It is idle for me to proclaim concern for the poor, the homeless, for example, and at the same time indulge in elegant dining and drinking, pleasure traveling, and an extensive wardrobe. My life belies my rhetoric.

The third New Testament premise is a corollary of the second. We share with the needy to the point of a rough equality. If I am to love my fellowman as myself, it must follow that I desire that his needs be cared for at least as well as I care for mine. To desire otherwise is not to love him as I love myself.

Our final premise: poverty of spirit is not enough. Availability to others is not enough. A respectful use of creation is not enough. All these are good, of course. They are also convenient and easy prey to rationalization. People who pamper themselves with luxuries can readily convince themselves that they are detached from all they so abundantly use, that they are indeed available to others, that they are dealing with creation respectfully.. . (p. 64-65)

[referring to four New Testament Traditions that "a genuine disciple must share his material possessions with the needy."]
The first is from Luke. When John the Baptist in no uncertain terms demands from the crowd conversion as a preparation for the coming Messiah, the listeners ask what they must do. From the hundreds of precepts in the Old Testament that John could have cited as proof of conversion, he picks the sharing precept: if a person has two tunics and his brother none, he must give one away---and the same with food (Lk 3:10-11). . . (p. 66)

[final excerpt]

Pope Paul VI cited Saint Ambrose when he said:

You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all and not only to the rich. [Populorum progressio, no. 23)

Once again I am stunned almost to the point of silence by the examples and the argumentation. As much as I would like to resist the logic, and as easy as it might be, I don't see any legitimate way around it. Poverty, in the way defined by Thomas Dubay (and it is an intricate and nuanced definition) seems to be a calling for all true disciples. To quote the title of a Bonhoeffer work, it is "the cost of discipleship." And it is a cost that we often try hard to overlook. However, I truly believe that we would all do better to try to live simpler, more frugal, more sharing lives. Of course, I'm a big one to be making this argument--and I'll be the first to admit it. I need to be first into the pool on this one, but that water looks awfully dark and deep and cold. . .

Bookmark and Share




Stumbling about in my usual politically oblivious fog, I came upon some amusing and piquant remarks at Disputations that I must assume are aimed at either a website (I saw reference to such at Bill Cork and I think Gregg the Obscure) or movement to which I have little or no access. You may find his comments enlightening or infuriating, I've seen both reactions.

Bookmark and Share

Prayer Request Kairos blogged


Prayer Request

Kairos blogged this psalm today with a tribute. Please pray it for Brian (Kairos Guy), Sally, the child they lost, and the rest of the family.

Our child was due April 15. With that in mind, here is psalm 15, instead of a hymn.

Psalm 15
1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

Bookmark and Share

Excerpts from an E-mail from


Excerpts from an E-mail from Father Fessio

I thought some of this may be of interest to anyone who has been following the saga of Fr. Fessio. As the e-mail is largely an explanation and solicitation, I feel as though the information is free to share:

Dear Friend of Ignatius Press:

While continuing to be the Editor of Ignatius Press, I have been given a new assignment by my superiors: to become the founding Chancellor of Ave Maria University, the first new Catholic university established in the United States in nearly 50 years.

The story of what has already been accomplished and what is planned for the future would be exciting and encouraging in itself. But I believe that against the background of the present crisis in the Catholic Church, the founding of Ave Maria University will truly be of historic importance in the life of the Church. Let me explain.. . .

Ave Maria University: The History

In 1998, Thomas Monaghan, the founder and owner of Domino’s Pizza, sold Domino’s and, after providing for his wife and four daughters, placed the proceeds of the sale into the Ave Maria Foundation with the intention of spending the rest of his life and fortune in the service of the Church. The main focus of Mr. Monaghan’s efforts has been education. The Ave Maria Foundation has funded several elementary schools: Spiritus Sanctus Academies; a new law school which at the end of its second year has just received provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association and is already in the first tier of U.S law schools: Ave Maria School of Law; and a liberal arts college which is poised to become a major Catholic university: Ave Maria College.

There is already an Ave Maria campus in Nicaragua, and it was there that I heard Mr. Monaghan explain to amazed journalists why he had chosen to spend his fortune on higher education. Mr. Monaghan’s response was disarmingly simple, especially coming from someone who had achieved the pinnacle of worldly success: "The most important thing in life is to get to heaven. I want to get there and bring as many people as I can with me. The best way to help people get to heaven is to give them a Catholic education."

In the past year, Mr. Monaghan has been concentrating his attention more and more on one goal: establishing Ave Maria University and, with God’s help, making it the best Catholic university in the world. . . .

Ave Maria University: The Future

I am extremely grateful that Mr. Nick Healy, Jr., President of Ave Maria University, asked my Jesuit superiors if I could help in making the dream of Ave Maria University a reality, and that they granted this request. As Ave Maria University’s first chancellor, I have been involved in the past several months with the planning of AMU. The vision is an ambitious one. And even though Mr. Monaghan is committing his remaining resources to the task, it will require far more than even Mr. Monaghan   is capable of providing . . .

The ultimate goal is to have a Catholic university with 4,000 undergraduate students, 2,000 graduate students -- and a major intercollegiate sports program of uncompromising integrity!

Because negotiations are still underway, I can’t disclose the location of the new campus. But the plan is to have a 1,500-acre campus contiguous to a new town which will be built simultaneously with the university. At the intersection of the town and university will be the focal point of both: a beautiful university chapel.

Ave Maria University will have a full range of undergraduate programs, including the sciences, business, nursing, and performing arts -- all with a solid, comprehensive Catholic liberal arts core curriculum. Graduate programs will focus on areas especially appropriate for a Catholic university: theology, philosophy, history, literature, education, communications, law. But graduate programs in science and engineering are being planned as well.

This sounds like a wonderful initiative. As I find more, I will let you know about it. Very probably Mr. Shea or Ms. Welborn have already blogged on this, so more info may be available on their blogs.

Bookmark and Share

On Evangelical Poverty


The following paragraph is one of the most convicting that I have ever come across. It is thoroughly frightening because of its uncompromising straighforwardness. Think of this entry as the companion to "Religion without Sacrifice" below. Because, make no mistake, evangelical poverty to which all are called, is a life of sacrifice.

from Happy Are You Poor Thomas Dubay

Words are cheap, actions costly. The world is full of people who talk about "community." Dressed in the latest styles, men and women, religious as well as lay, are eloquent in their grand statements and convention resolutions about securing justice in the world. We see on television screens and in news magazines pictures of babies who are not much more than skin-covered skeletons, and we solemnly pronounce how wretched and tragic it all is. Ye we continue with our energy-consuming cars, our extravagant amusements, expensive vacations, unneeded traveling, lavish wardrobes, elegant drinking and dining. (p. 62)

Okay, after I catch my breath, I can continue.

I'm guilty. And the problem with my guilt is that even as I read the words I struggle to justify in some sense the things that I do have, and I am left wondering, where does the demand for evangelical poverty stop. For example, I own a computer. I spent a good sum of money on that computer and there is little that it does that could not be done in some other way--not as efficiently, but people have lived for thousands of years without them, and they do cost a great deal of money. Yes, I own a car and living where I do am subject to some fairly extravagant amusements. The only one of these that I cannot really claim is an "extravagant wardrobe," and even there, by world standards my five white shirts and five pairs of black pants are pretty extraordinary.

What can I reasonably possess without dispossessing others? What are the limits to the concern about evangelical poverty? I have a house full of books (literally full, every room has some). I could go down a long list of meae culpae, but to no real purpose. I know that I live extravagantly by any standards other than those of the few who live even better than I do. I live in the most privileged country on Earth and so partake of some of the extravagance of that advantage.

It is said by Erasmus that St. Thomas More never drank anything other than cold water; that when he attended a banquet he would only touch his lips to the wine as a courtesy to his host, we would not drink it. Is this the kind of poverty we are called to?

Most Americans eat too much. We eat far more than is necessary to sustain life and we eat far more higher up on the food chain than most of the rest of the world. The diseases of our old age reflect this way of living. Extravagance is also costly.

Later in the book, it appears that there is a checklist of items to help decide these issues. But decision is exactly the problem, because I know what Dubay has presented thus far is true and correct. (You would have to read the book to be convinced of the argument yourselves, but please accept for the moment that my statement above is true and valid). How do we answer the following statement by John Kenneth Galbraith, quoted in the books?

"what is called a high standard of living consists in considerable measure, in arrangements for avoiding muscular energy, for increasing sensual pleasure and enhancing caloric intake above any conceivable nutritional requirement." (p. 102)

Now, I am not really trying to convince anybody of the correctness of what Dubay is saying. But I find myself in the position of the wealthy young man who asks how he might serve the Lord and is told, "Go and sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me." Now, raising a family, I know this injunction is not in its fullness meant to me--but then neither am I allowed to completely ignore it. As I read through the book I shall, from time to time, share my convictions--but convicted I am on two counts--lack of detachment and lack of humility, because as Dubay points out, these are two essential ingredients of evangelical poverty.

Bookmark and Share

Consoling Lines for those with


Consoling Lines for those with Fear of Poetry

From Billy Collins, the following consolation. It isn't a particularly good poem--a bit of light verse in fancy dress with a seeming message. Nevertheless, it does address the issue. I include only the last two stanzas. The first five recount the attempts of the professor to get the students to listen to, read, and enjoy the poem for itself ("hold it up to the light," "press an ear against its hive," etc.)

from "Introduction to Poetry" Billy Collins

But alll they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Well, you sure don't need to beat this poem with a hose to find out what it means. Rather than spend the time going over the flaws in these five lines, I will leave you with the admonition and encouragement that meaning comes from reading and rereading, not from some imaginary imposed construct that your Sophomore English teacher told you to use when you read poetry. First read and enjoy, second find meaning, if you must. The difficulty with most poetry is that unlike prose, it does not blossom on first read. The advantage is that most poetry is sufficiently short that you could read the poem ten or fifteen times in the time it would take to finish one medium-length newspaper article. And the vast majority of poetry, even that of Billy Collins is worth infinitely more than the vast majority of even the best-written newspaper articles. Enjoy, enjoy, and get meaning later. Poetry is not frightening. It doesn't need to be wrestled with, merely read and enjoyed.

Bookmark and Share

The Ever Imploding Blogworld with


The Ever Imploding Blogworld with Guest Host Mr. T. S. O'Rama

T.S. O'Rama has the following observations on blogdom with respect to Mr. Tim Drake's departure from the world. (How does he [Mr. O'Rama] continue to come up with such interesting and thought-provoking little tidbits. One would think that he was thinking of them particularly for me--isn't that a lovely thought?):

Tim's post certainly offers much to ponder. I wonder if that little SiteMeter isn't the devil in disguise? A fellow would-be author and I were discussing writing. I said, "I wouldn't want to write just to get paid. I have to give them something important. But it can't be preachy...". He said, "To the contrary, you should write because you have to. You should write just for yourself, for no credit, even if no one is watching - that is pure." Interesting....

To which I would respond--his friend is probably at least mostly right. A writer writes because there is no alternative. I write because I cannot NOT write. I have thousands of pages of journals, notes, essays, poetry, half-finished fictions, lectios, you name it. I find the blog world wonderful and fascinating because people write things that you can then write more about. Then you can write about writing about them. And you can go places and find things to write about. Why not write so others can see and respond to it, rather than to print it and keep it gathering dust? But mostly I write because there is part of me that cannot imagine not writing. My day-time job involves a lot of writing, I write for my Carmelite newsletter, and when I am not writing I am thinking about what I will write next.

But then, those of you who read this blog regularly realize that it is literally impossible for me to shut up. Even on an off-day, a quiet moment, I run to three or four entries at a minimum. This is neither good nor bad, it simply is the way things are. Much of what I write is what I need to remember for myself. If others benefit, so much the better--but writing is a way (for me at least) to talk to God, to share with Him concerns, ideas, and reactions to things in the world. Admittedly, I don't do much in the way of current events, but that is because in large part I find them almost all to be tempests in teapots. There is a momentary surge of interest and then the next compelling item of the moment. Isn't it far better to dwell on things eternal--the loveliness of God, the efficacy of prayer, the need for Union with God.

Blogging isn't about expressing yourself--at least very few bloggers I see really use it as a personal forum to advance an agenda or a series of carefully considered observations. Rather it is more like notes for something really important--like prayer, like Life with God. Anyone who can make anything of the ramblings is welcome to enter--but audience share isn't what it is about--not even a little. It is about encountering others as they would like themselves to be. In the blogosphere you can know everyone without the blemishes, you can share lovely thoughts, sermons, notions, inventions, ordeals, and never have to know that the person regularly kicks their dog. And even if you do know it, it is easier to forgive.

The blogosphere can be practice for all sorts of things. When your get the nearly ubiquitous Error 104, you learn patience. When you encounter someone who you would really like to strangle and you bite your tongue and pray for them, you are learning love in action.

I love the blogosphere, I love the people I meet in it and I love many of the ideas I encounter. I love the challenges and opportunities it presents to me.

But when you boil it all down to the essence, I write because I cannot do otherwise. When there was no audience, I wrote. When my audience share declines to zero, I shall probably still write--whether or not it is done here, I cannot say. But I can say that there is one other very important opinion about writing to consider. Samuel Johnson is quoted as having said, "No one but a blockhead ever wrote for anything other than money." Oh well, maybe I should change the title of my blog to "Welcome Blockheads."

Bookmark and Share

For Those with Non-Life Sunday


For Those with Non-Life Sunday Churches

Hie thee to Amphibious Goat's blogging of the Kathy Ireland interview on Hannity and Colmes. (Direct linking not working, but it's the blog for Monday, presently the first on the page.)

Bookmark and Share

A Plague of Unblogging Mr.


A Plague of Unblogging
Mr. Robert Gotcher of Catholic Classic Literature has announced that he too has a life and will be taking a hiatus from blogging. Horrors, if this keeps up I will have nothing whatsoever to read. I hope that Mr. Da Fiesole of Disputations and Mr. O'Rama of Video Meliora. . . don't come down with a similar affliction. And Mr. Core has taken far too long to treat us to his observations. Oh, woe is me, the blogosphere threatens implosion, and soon shall become the blogohole--I see the event horizon and don't even desire escape from its exotic and luscious gravity well!

Bookmark and Share

About 90 Years Ago.


About 90 Years Ago. . .

Or, maybe to go along with our guitar masses that should read, "It was 90 years ago today, Washington taught the country to play..." Kairos (peace be upon him and his family) returns to the blogworld with a wonderfully apt, beautiful jab at the deadly flatness of the ICEL translations (you've heard me whine perpetually about these already, so no more for the nonce). Visit the ICEL approved "translation" of the Gettysburg Address

Bookmark and Share

Prayers Requested I'm delighted to


Prayers Requested

I'm delighted to note that Brian (Kairos Guy) is back. Please continue to pray for Brian and Sally in this difficult time. Please continue prayers for Dylan. And please add prayers for my friends Katherine and Franklin as they await news from the endless government bureaucracy--peace and a swift resolution to the current indecision would be very good, but strength to bear with God's Will, however it may be expressed, is always in order. Thank you.

Bookmark and Share

We Are All Passersby


We Are All Passersby

We are a pilgrim people, set on Earth with Heaven at the end. I do not claim to understand this, but the knowledge is burned deep into my bones and as much as I set my mind to deny it, I cannot do so and remain rational. Though I have spent a great deal of my journey wandering down side paths and into alley-ways, I have never once been tempted with the thought that there is no God. Now when I say tempted, I mean not that the thought hasn't crossed my mind, because it has, but that the thought had absolutely no weight in crossing and left no mark. I have never once in my life doubted the existence of God, but I have doubted, and continue to doubt my ability to recognize. Him. Even if I cannot see Him, I will love Him nevertheless by proclaiming to any who will listen that He cannot be doubted without a serious compromise of our ability to operate intellectually and emotionally in the real world. And thus--this imperfect poem--about a pilgrim people.

Finding the Way
Steven Riddle

Pilgrim feet wear flat the coldest cobbles
of a country lane. Bare feet have long trod
and worked the way of water on these bold
markers. Once white, now mottled blue, the veins
of Earth rise with wear. Off this path weary
travelers have rutted clotted red clay
roads to runnels, ditches, paths and dreary
dead ends. An Absolute balm--endless day
lilies embedded in the banks wave heads
heavy with bowing blossom, salute those
who pass but once and walk straight, scent the thread
of people who weave to and fro, who choose
not one step, but a warp and weft--going
and coming, not certain of direction.
These poor souls who wander without knowing
destination, look for benediction
in their motion. Some day these feet will wear
away any sign of stone, and yet they will
not know which way to go--never nearing
the end of the journey because they still
seek the assurance that comes only from
taking one step at a time in the dark,
not seeking light, not trying to see. Home
is as foreign as this unknown, this stark
reality some embrace. Cold stone chills bone
but the dark-opened heart is never alone.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Theodore Roethke--The Waking

God speaks in the beautiful things around us. Imperfect though they may be, they are all like a million little fragents of mirror reflecting the Divine Mercy and Light. This poem by Roethke is one of those fragments. It is a beautiful, imperfect, stumbling and yet apt villanelle that tells us a great deal about the Journey to God. Every moment we should be thanking God for His tender mercies in bestowing such wonders upon us. I love the wonderful ambiguity of the first line--"I wake to sleep and take my waking slow." We wake from a deeper dream into kind of a waking dream, that brings us closer to the reality that is around us. There is such a beautiful surrender in the last line, "I learn by going where I have to go." This is the way we all learn of God's incredible (literally) love for each one of us. We go where we have to, and arriving there, find Him there already.

The Waking Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Bookmark and Share

Religion Without Sacrifice

This excerpt from the homily by Fr. Gordon Bennett at the closing Mass of the Ninth Black Catholic Conference says almost everything that needs to be said:

Today's Gospel comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel that reveals Jesus as the great teacher, as one who says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." In Matthew, we see Jesus take his disciples to the mountaintop and teach them, in the Beatitudes, what his values are and what it means to live in the consciousness of the kingdom of God. In Matthew, Jesus teaches us in the parables the method and the process of God's own heart as it is laid open and bare before us. And in Matthew, Jesus teaches us that most important lesson, the one about love consisting more in deeds than it does in words, and that the most important manifestation of love is one's willingness to bear the cross, to suffer, to sacrifice for the beloved.

None of Jesus' teachings is more important than this one; and none of Jesus' teachings makes any real sense without this one. It is no wonder we find this particular teaching so difficult, so worrisome, so irksome.

If you don't believe me, would you please raise your hand right now if you like carrying your cross; raise your hand if you like suffering.

You see, one of the desires of our fragile and fickle hearts, if we are honest, is that, as much as we want to have religion in our lives, as much as we profess that we value "walking by faith and not by sight," the religion we want is a religion without sacrifice, a religion in which we can experience the ecstasy of spiritual union with God without having to endure the intense and agonizing purification which makes that union possible.

In that sense we are so much like Peter in today's Gospel, who spontaneously blurts out this response to Jesus' teaching on suffering: "God forbid, Lord, no such thing will ever happen to you." This is equivalent to Peter saying: "Jesus, you don't have to suffer and neither do I." Peter, the first pope, knows very little, as Jesus harshly reminds him, about the perfect wisdom of God. He does not yet know that a religion without sacrifice is really merely useless posturing. In fact, a religion without sacrifice is an impossibility. Peter does not yet know this, but he will learn. And he will learn from Jesus.

I know how true this is of me, and I wish it were otherwise. But I'd prefer to get to Divine Union via the shortcut, whatever that may be. St. Thérèse speaks of an "Elevator to God." That is, you simply allow God to lift you up in His arms. That sounds easy enough, but how long does it take until we can abandon our own preconceptions and gladly enter God's arms and allow that elevator to work. For St. Thérèse it happened within a span of 24 or so years. But few of us start our journey with the advantages of family that St. Thérèse had. It is, however, no excuse for our reluctance to progress. We are far too busy filling our heads with ideas about God, notions about who He is, and how He works, while brothers and sisters around us go homeless, hungry and cold. As Fr. Bennett says above, love is not merely feeling, it is about action. St. Thérèse made this point over and over again; a point parallel to St. James point about faith--just as with faith, love without works is dead.

Bookmark and Share

Poem du Jour


Not a spectacular poem, but a nice introduction to what may become a theme for the next few days as I read Fr. Thomas Dubay's superb book, Happy Are You Poor. Holy Poverty is, in a sense, the ideal tonic for nearly all that ails me spiritually. And it has consistently been a calling that I stubbornly resist. Perhaps because I don't understand it, or perhaps because I undertstand it all too well. Anyway, we draw up the curtain on the theme with this poem by Evelyn Underwood, noted writer on spirituality and particularly Mysticism.

The Lady Poverty
Evelyn Underhill

I MET her on the Umbrian hills,
Her hair unbound, her feet unshod:
As one whom secret glory fills
She walked, alone with God.

I met her in the city street:
Oh, changed was all her aspect then!
With heavy eyes and weary feet
She walked alone, with men.

Bookmark and Share

Once Again, Silence Once again,


Once Again, Silence

Once again, I am surprised by how quiet it can get here. Of course we have lost one blogger, and we have another who also needs our prayers. (PLEASE be sure to remember in your prayers Brian and Sally aka Kairos Guy and his wife, through this particularly trying time in their lives.)

But surely the absence of two does not account for the sudden, complete silence that seems to descend like a shroud. What could it be? Oh, I've got it--people have lives outside of blogging. Yes, strange but true. It eludes my understanding, but I suppose I'll get better as time goes on. Thank goodness for Kevin Miller who blogs on weekends or I might just go crazy.

Bookmark and Share

Prayers for Dylan Please remember


Prayers for Dylan

Please remember Dylan of La Vita Nuova in your prayers as he discerns God's callling in his life. I'm sure he can use not only all of our prayers but also all of our well-wishes and our good thoughts as well.

Bookmark and Share

New Responsibility--Skillfully "Passing the Runes"

You have undoubtedly seen that Dylan has announced his departure from the Catholic Blogosphere. While a cause for great wailing and gnashing of teeth, it is even more frightening for those of us who care for poetry. It would seem that the sphere has shrunk to a mere handful of poetry posters. It lays heavily upon my shoulders as I feel that I must fill in the void left by our honored colleague. However, I have decided otherwise. I am no expert in modern poetry, so we shall just have to wait for one to wander through. In the meantime I shall do as I have done since I've started--post what I know, more or less and continue the discussion of spirituality, art, and Carmelite Matters. We shall be without much in the way of modern poetry for a while, but it shall be all fine in the end.

Bookmark and Share

Fr. Thomas Dubay, S. M.


First let me display my enormous ignorance of the alphabet soup of Catholicism. Would someone please advise as to what the S.M. stands for?

Second, let me say that Fr. Dubay has to be one of my very favorite writers of the day. His works are never easy reads, but they have been, for me, enormously rewarding. That is why I delight in a very promisingly title book reissued by Ignatius Happy Are You Poor. Apparently the first edition was released in 1981 and Fr. Dubay has added enough material to get a second copyright for the second edition. Generally this means that the revision contains about 20% new material. The book professes to be about the simple life and spiritual freedom. I know that this is one of the main themes of my reading--so much so that I have abandoned the simple life simply in persuing my reading about it.

Father Dubay's magnificent study of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, The Fire Within must be one of the most profound, but unfortunately not easily digested works on the two saints. I thought about having people read Fr. Dubay's book before we started talking about The Ascent of Mount Carmel but I felt that Dubay's book was, in fact, far more difficult than attacking the writing of the Great Poet-Doctor himself. So too with the remarkable Evidential Power of Beauty and Authenticity. No question but that the good father's books are well beyond the apprehension of a great many who could profit from reading him cover-to-cover. However, they are wonderful, well-written, and quite worthwhile for any who wish to take the time and effort.

Bookmark and Share

Soliciting Advice/Comments--Paul Claudel

Ignatius Press has a new book out by Paul Claudel entitled I Believe in God. The book evidently consists of passages from his works arranged as a reflection of the Apostle's Creed. I am unfamiliar with the work of Claudel, although I know the name. Does anyone have this book? Does anyone have any comments on Claudel in general? Cautions, compliments, approbations, or stern disapprovals all solicited and welcomed.

Bookmark and Share

John Keats It is commonly


John Keats

It is commonly acknowledged in the poetry world that Keats composed 5 major odes, in shorthand--Nightingale, Grecian Urn, Melancholy, Psyche, and To Autumn. "Ode to a Nightingale" may be my favorite for a variety of reasons (much having to do with an introduction by someone who truly loved the poem). But "To Autumn" is a wonderful, short and sumptuous taste of Keats. Some have said that the poem is almost too perfect in rhythm, imagery, cadence, and meaning. To that, I cannot speak, but I do think it a wonder, and it is poetry like this that makes me wonder what of our present crop will see survival into future eras. Nearly all of it pales in comparison.

Note the unusual eleven line stanzas--it is one of those quirks that make this accomplishment that much more magnificent.

To Autumn John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Bookmark and Share

The Glorious Seventeeth Century--Henry Vaughn

I truly love the wonders of seventeenth century poetry. It seems a rather arcane taste shared by relatively few. T. S. Eliot liked a few of the poets (the Metaphysicals) with a particular fondness for John Donne. But I like most of them--Metaphysical and Cavaliers, and part of the reason is that they wrote in a time when Spirit and Flesh had not the enormous division that grew in western culture. You were not body and spirit, but you were body/spirit. The ramifications are enormous, and largely lost to us. All that said, the following poem has nothing to do with the question (well, not nothing, but little enough).

by Henry Vaughan

WITH what deep murmurs, through Time's silent stealth,
Doth thy transparent, cool, and wat'ry wealth,
Here flowing fall,
And chide and call,
As if his liquid, loose retinue stay'd
Ling'ring, and were of this steep place afraid,
The common pass,
Where clear as glass,
All must descend
Not to an end,
But quick'ned by this deep and rocky grave,
Rise to a longer course more bright and brave.

Dear stream ! dear bank ! where often I
Have sat, and pleased my pensive eye ;
Why, since each drop of thy quick store
Runs thither whence it flow'd before,
Should poor souls fear a shade or night,
Who came—sure—from a sea of light ?
Or, since those drops are all sent back
So sure to Thee that none doth lack,
Why should frail flesh doubt any more
That what God takes He'll not restore ?

O useful element and clear !
My sacred wash and cleanser here ;
My first consigner unto those
Fountains of life, where the Lamb goes !
What sublime truths and wholesome themes
Lodge in thy mystical, deep streams !
Such as dull man can never find,
Unless that Spirit lead his mind,
Which first upon thy face did move
And hatch'd all with His quick'ning love.
As this loud brook's incessant fall
In streaming rings restagnates all,
Which reach by course the bank, and then
Are no more seen : just so pass men.
O my invisible estate,
My glorious liberty, still late !
Thou art the channel my soul seeks,
Not this with cataracts and creeks.

Bookmark and Share

Another--The Space Between


The Space Between
More often than not,
the space between
dominates. You cannot be
closer if there
is no distance
to begin.

More simply:
the space between seconds
makes time flow evenly.
Measure it down to
size unimaginable

        there is a break
when one second spills
over into the next.

More importantly:
the breathing
spaces, the living

     never/always filled,
the space where
I wait

for you. Because some

places were made to be
filled. You complete
the pattern as
no other.

The frozen instants
when nothing is
and one second flashes
over into another.
Those strained spaces
flash on and off
with passing time
so fast no one can see.

I say
say you love me
in the space between
the soup and meat
between myself
and the cool sheets.
I say show me
as space turns on
and off. I'm sure
you can't

        fill the space
between us.

So I'm surprised
again and again
as you never fail to
fill the empty spaces
your lips against mine,
our bodies bending
the space between.

© 2002 Steven Riddle

Sorry, can't get the spacing exactly right--proportional font with exact spacing just doesn't work out and I don't want to put this in some ugly courier face.

Bookmark and Share

Poem Appropriate for October


As with many this is old and needs a bit more shaping than the swift brush up it is getting in retyping, but, all of that said, it seemed particularly apropos to October. The poem is build on productive ambiguity of phrase that helps by resonance to expand the poem.

Ars Poetica
Steven Riddle

Let's not talk words
though I am armed
in this escalating race

with books that tell
me how to pull shape
from shapelessness

and how to tell the sound
of a silver bell from a brass.

Sharp words slice the enveloping
sac and lay bare fragile flesh
to scouring sand, wind, and sun.

Words turn on those who utter them
and exact vengeance
for being loose and free

in a world that scarcely
notices a cyclone of them.

Words wrap around the blasted heath
descending to the body of the poet
spent with rage
and hope and feed there.

Promethean in their vengeance
eumenidic in their exactions

they rest forever
outside once uttered always
eating a way in.

©2002 Steven Riddle

The two lines that begin with Greek references seem somewhat weak to me, so abstract as to be flabby and unnecessary, so likely in subsequent renditions they will either be cut or transmuted. I hesitate to bore you with the details, on the other hand, some find the process of growth and revision, particularly of a type of writing they are less familiar with, to be of interest. I'm sure, all of you being quite courteous, I sha'n't hear any complaints, but if you would prefer to hear only perfect and polished gems, drop me a line. I am certain that I can find some somewhere in the works of the 16th-17th century! :-)

Bookmark and Share

Neologism from my Son My


Neologism from my Son

My son, as with every parent's child, is the cleverest, most adorable, most pleasant, and most wonderful child on Earth. All that said he is still in the mode of acquiring language and when he does not have the proper word, or, as in the case that follows, when he has forgotten the proper term, he develops his own.

We were at Mass yesterday morning and he was doing his usual fidgety craning and casting about for amusement. The Priest and the altar-boy had gathered at the back ready for the processional. My son suddenly grabs my shirt sleeve tugs and whispers, "Look a Jesus Broomstick." I looked at him with that look and said, "What?" He replied and pointed at the processional crucifix, which is different from that in the church we normally attend in that the figure of Christ is similar to that of the crucifix of the Holy Father. My son is used to a plain cross. "Look a Jesus Broomstick." It was all I could do not to burst out laughing or give any indication I thought this was amusing. I told him the proper name for it, but I'm not sure it stuck. We may be stuck with a "Jesus Broomstick" for another few Masses.

Bookmark and Share

Prayers for Kairos Guy and


Prayers for Kairos Guy and His Wife
Brian and Sally (Mr. and Mrs. Kairos Guy) need prayers through a time of tremendous sorrow and pain. Please help them through this time by your prayers.

Bookmark and Share

What is a Third Order?


Laura, in a comment below asks a question I too often take for granted and which I think requires something more of an answer than one might infer from writing:

Your blog says you are a member of the third Order of Carmel. What exactly does that mean? I became a full-fledged Catholic in my late 20's and so I don't understand a lot of the lingo. Are you a brother or something else that I am not familiar with?

When I joined the Catholic Church I did not realize the presence of Third Order members, or for that matter have a lot of background on First and Second Orders. I had been in the Church about 15 years before a friend of mine brought to my attention opportunities that exist to enrich your spiritual life. And that is what they must be viewed as opportunities or vocations to a particular spiritual direction.

Many orders have a rule or provision that allow people to live the rule in a way modified to accommodate the fact that the person is in the world and needs to make a living, take care of a family, and attend to other matters that may be part of their first vocation (for example, marriage). In some orders, notably the Benedictines, there is no division (or so I'm told) between First, Second, and Third order (Normally, Brothers or Priests, Sisters, and Lay people). The rule apparently is flexible enough to accommodate all Oblates. These lay people are indeed part of the order, but they are not Religious in the sense of a completely dedicated religious life.

In the Carmelite Order we recognize two major divisions and three groups within each. I'll talk only about the Old Order or O.Carm. group to which I belong. They have a separate rule for first and second, and a rule for lay Carmelites. What this means is that we are indeed part of the order, we are not religious in the sense of being brothers or sisters, but we practice the spirituality of the order and live by a rule that has been promulgated for the lay Carmelite. Our order requires daily prayer, monthly meetings, promises of Obedience and Chastity according to the Station in Life, and other odds and sundries that come down the pike. Our official "habit" you may see occasionally (if you go to Daily Mass, look for them on October 15) is the Large Ceremonial Scapular which is a two pieces of brown cloth about 5" x 5" in size connected by the 1/2" brown ribbon. On the front are the initials BVM and on the back IHS. (The ODCS--lay part of the other division may still be wearing ceremonial scapulars with no initials, I don't know). These are worn only on Feast Days of the Order. There are two such, with a minimal provision for a third this month--Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (October 1) and Feast of St. Teresa of Avila (La Madre-October 15). The wearing of the scapular on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, is, I believe, permitted. In addition, in correspondence not related to the order or to religious matters, we are not permitted to use the T.O. Carm or other designation. We reserve that only for certain internal communications and religious publications.

My personal practice, which is not required by the T.O. Carm rule, but highly encouraged is Morning Prayer, Office of Hours, Evening Prayer, and usually one of the minor hours that I squeeze in just before noon Angelus and Mass, and an additional hour (minimum)of meditative reading, scripture reading (lectio) and meditative prayer. Daily Mass is strongly encouraged but not required. As Carmelites we are called to follow the way of contemplative prayer as outlined by our Great Teachers--St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese of Lisieux. Now, I think it is very important to say that there is very little in these three saints that is not taught by nearly all of the teaching saints with regard to spirituality. What really differs order to order is charism, calling, and emphasis. In the Carmelite order we travel largely by what has been called (properly or not) the via negativa a way of detachment from worldly things and notions. It sounds very difficult, but it makes perfect sense once you understand the point. It's just very hard to put into practice alone. Thus we gather in monthly meetings to pray together, teach one another, and assist one another in advancing along the Carmelite way. It's very important to recognize that this is a vocation and not all are called to it. It takes time and careful discernment to understand whether or not you are being called. As a result the T.O.Carms have a year of preliminary teaching required before you are received and then an additional two years before you profess (fully join the order, requiring a writ of dismissal from Rome to leave). So once you are in, you are truly part of the order.

Hope this helps a bit. If you have other questions please ask. I forget how much I did not realize when I was discovering all that the Church had to offer. Most major orders have tertiaries or third orders--Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Benedictines all do. I hope others who are in a better position to know will let you know about other possibilities for lay people will comment in the comments box.

Shalom, and thank you for taking the time to ask.

Bookmark and Share

St. Francis Quotation Yesterday at


St. Francis Quotation

Yesterday at the sermon (I like the word sermon so much better than homily--Baptist and Southern background--homily sounds either like something one grinds up to make grits or something to spread on toast) the priest attributed the following quotation to St. Francis. Because he has always been accurate before, I have no reason to doubt him, and if St. Francis didn't say it, someone should have.

"The only reason for not smiling is if you are in mortal sin."

Bookmark and Share

Very Light Blogging Day My


Very Light Blogging Day

My sincere apologies, but real life intrudes and event his little time is precious. I shall be running to my Carmelite Meeting where I teach a class on St. John of the Cross and afterwards family matters. But I'll be back by evening, hopefully, with something worthwhile to share.

Bookmark and Share

How Can Satan Deceive?


T.S. O'Rama never fails to post fascinating and thought provoking things. My mind bubbles with all sorts of thoughts all the time and occasionally one struggles to the high-surface tension top of the liquid and explodes with amazing display, usually over some triviality. Not to break that sequence, I must comment on this comment Mr. O'Rama offers.

Perhaps the answer is this: everything but humility. If the Medjugorje messages said, "humble yourselves before your family & neighbor" instead of the unceasing requests to pray, perhaps that would be off-limits as a demonic strategy.

I think I would say, put no good thing beyond Satan's power. That is, if praying the Rosary will keep you at the same level of prayer and cause you not to advance, that is a victory for him. He would encourage you to be very devout in your prayer of the Rosary. If humility seems good, he can make it a marketable commodity, and suddenly people who were full of humility are measuring themselves against others and against a false standard. Satan can use all morally good and neutral things to ill effect. We can be tempted to spend hours round-the-clock before the Blessed Sacrament, indeed a good thing, to keep us from supporting our families and doing our duties in our married vocations. So Jesus told us not to judge by appearances or by what was said ("wolves in sheep’s clothing.") but "by their fruits you shall know them."

Now this becomes an extremely tricky business. Take the matter of the forthcoming canonization of Josemaria Escriva. I have read elsewhere that he encouraged practices that would certainly seem to overstep the bounds of what modern sensibilities could entertain or accept. But do a majority of cooperators engage in these? (Did he indeed encourage any such thing or are these scurrilous rumors? I do not have enough facts at my disposal to say for certain.) What are the fruits?

That is why I simply await the full investigation of anything--apparitions, sainthood, acceptable practices and prayers. Presumably both greater numbers of people and people with a great deal more experience examine these things before they are approved. I think we fall into a trap making assumptions about what Satan can and cannot do and we do better to err on the side of accepting what is traditionally taught. These new apparitions may not make their meaning known for some time. It took a long while before we knew and understood the full revelation of Fatima. Lourdes was not well accepted immediately in its time, and we may not yet have truly absorbed all that is there for us.

Thus my caution. Satan is a lot smarter than we are, with thousands of years of tempting and experience with human souls at his fingertips, I would venture to guess that there is almost nothing that he cannot corrupt, at least in practice. Obviously he cannot make invalid a properly consecrated Eucharist, but he can lead us to believe the lies many modernists would tell of it.

The best thing to do--set your eyes on Christ and do all that you do not for hope of heaven or fear of hell, but from pure love of God. You might be led astray, but it seems unlikely that He would allow it.

Bookmark and Share

Here is one that I have wrestled with a great deal and still am not certain about some of the decisions made.

Evening Gown
Steven Riddle

Her shoulders
white against
starkest black--
a velvet

black promise,
the plump breasts
perfumed, ask
no questions,
and yet are
soft and wise
as eggs

as salmon
in the stream.
Rounded now
hidden now
revealed, seen
anew by
icy eyes.
senses now
perfect, now
and alone.

Forlorn and
neither speak
nor know the truth.

Bookmark and Share

New Philosophy Test Results I


New Philosophy Test Results

I retook the philosophy test (first edition here) when I was somewhat more conscious and aware of what I was doing and came up with results that I think are probably more indicative of my reality:

1.  Augustine   (100%) 
2.  Aquinas   (77%)  
3.  Ockham   (75%)  
4.  Kant   (65%)  
5.  Spinoza   (53%)  
6.  Prescriptivism   (46%)  
7.  Plato   (43%)  
8.  Bentham   (38%)  
9.  Aristotle   (37%)  
10.  Mill   (37%)  
11.  Cynics   (34%)  
12.  Sartre   (33%)  
13.  Noddings   (32%)  
14.  Hume   (30%)  
15.  Rand   (29%)  
16.  Stoics   (28%)  
17.  Nietzsche   (22%)  
18.  Epicureans   (11%)  
19.  Hobbes   (0%)  

I am delighted that Augustine is at the top (I would have sworn Aquinas would edge him out, but not so--there is hope for my hard heart!) I am ecstatic over the relatively low appearancce of the utterly abhorrent Hume, Rand, Nietzsche and Hobbes. Plato is somewhat higher than I like him to be considering his attitude toward poets in general. And I'm still flummoxed by the appearance of Kant (who like Goethe and the vast majority of Germans up to Mann completely eludes me) and Spinoza. But overall, I'm happy with the 1-2-3 of Augustine, Aquinas, and Ockham.

Bookmark and Share

Comments on Confessional Poetry (as


Comments on Confessional Poetry (as though you cared)

I know that you have been waiting with bated breath to discover what stunning revelation was forthcoming in these comments on confessional poets. On the other hand, you might wonder what a confessional poet is. If you belong to either of these two schools (note: not factions) or any in between welcome. Take a seat. I promise not to keep you long.

Confessional Poets--particularly those of the suicidal school--John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton, are probably not completely responsible for the phenomenon, but do bear a burden of responsibility for the progressive diminution of poetry. Surely this started with J. Alfred Prufrock, when the poet started to become so practiced in omphaloskepsis as to preclude the general audience. To some extent poetry became a game for the intellectual elite rather than a recreation for the middle classes as it had been up to that time. Ordinary people read Keats, Wordsworth, the Bronte Sisters, and in the United States, Freneau, Bryant, and Poe. But starting with Eliot (perhaps a bit earlier with some of the symbolists, but at least in English with Eliot) poetry became the purview of the intellectual. "The Waste Land" with its voluminous footnotes, multilingual references and arcane allusions to other poems and structures continues to confound undergraduate literature students who have not been caught in the eddies of the multiculti movement.

However, the real diminution shows up with the concrete poets and the beats who reduced poetry to a few arcane tricks or to a rhythmic, rap-like mostly protest chant (think "Howl" as exemplary of the very worst in the tendency even though the poem is actually rather fine). But I hold the confessional poets most responsible. Where once a Keats could write an ode "To Autumn" or a Wordsworth could gives us "Tintern Abbey" and "Intimations of Immortality" (please forgive the abbreviated titles), all we can get from Sylvia Plath is "Lady Lazarus." Now, understand, Plath is quite an accomplished poet and much of what she wrote is quite beautiful. Anne Sexton perhaps a little less so. To my way of thinking John Berryman is just about unreadable. But these three poets took thriving metaphor and turned the subject matter in to the smallest possible thing--one personal self. Almost every poem is about, you guessed it Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, or John Berryman. Now Robert Frost could give us "The Silken Tent," "On Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," or the magnificent poem that Dylan blogged in part yesterday, "Birches" in which a personal message is couched in a language that allows it to become the possession of all who read it. The confessionals never allow you to touch the poetry. And for the most part, you need to consider that a VERY GOOD THING. If one were to climb inside a confessional poet's poem and take a read, your destination would be less than glorious. Take for example Sylvia Plath's thirtieth or fortieth suicide note "Lady Lazarus" in which she intones deadpan, "Dying/ is an art, like everything else. I do it exceedingly well.// I do it so it feels like hell./I do it so it feels real. I guess you'd say I've a call." I suppose a kind of cheery fodder for a crop of neo-goths, but hardly the kind of poetry that draws you in and makes you want to keep reading.

It is in the intense inward turning, this kind of biography in poetry (which Wordsworth did in "The Prelude" at massive length, but still quite beautifully) or, perhaps more like self-pity in poetry, that we see the ultimate diminution of poetic intent. It has been since the success of these ultimately inward-turning poets that poetry has struggled to be something other than a personal endeavor destined for most people's journals. Sylvia Plath convinced every person with writing ambitions that they could be a poet by sharing their innermost thoughts and secrets. (Which is a shame, because Plath was a skilled artist who could produce some marvelous things--she was not merely a self-indulgent, very depressed young women sharing her innermost feelings.) And if such poetry stays in journals, that is fine and probably therapeutic. But too often it escapes, and we have endless reams of poetry dedicated to telling me things about the poets that I don't really want to know. For a prime example, visit the poetry of James Dickey some time and you'll learn all about what those rural boys get up to in their off-time (believe me, you don't really want to know--just accept my word Deliverance gives you enough of an idea.)

So, what is my point? It is time for poetry to reclaim its audience and its territory. Poetry is the greatest of the writing arts because it requires both the greatest skill at compression and condensation and because it can speak so directly of universals. Certainly there is room now for confessional poetry, but we need more intense, deep, wide-ranging lyrics that reclaim the possibilities of Wordsworth and Keats. Wendell Berry skirts this territory at times, and it is not surprising because he lives in contact with Nature which we try to shut out.

God speaks to individuals in any number of ways. But throughout history many Saints have heard His voice in nature. I always think of two in particular--St. Francis and St. John of the Cross, but there are no doubt many other examples. In the wonders of nature we can see and make seen the hand of God, as easily. or perhaps more easily than in the wonders of human construction. Reclaiming the territory of nature allows us once again to range through the world of metaphor and to make poetry more apt for expressing the larger things that are possible--we can use metaphysical conceits, tame the pantheistic strains of the Romantics and the Transcendentalists, and employ the elaborate correspondences of the symbolists and imagists. We can use the vibrancy and rhythm of the best of the beats, and the intimacy of the confessionals, but we need to break out of the confining, suffocating, and ultimately self-defeating box created by the modernists and nailed shut by the confessionals.

Bookmark and Share

Edward Taylor Redux In addition


Edward Taylor Redux

In addition to about 40 people seeking John Donne, I've had a fairly large influx (perhaps as many as 20 or so in the last few days) from all over the world seeking "Edward Taylor" and particularly "Meditation 1." For such visitors, please visit the site in the left-hand column under "Religion" entitled "Fire and Ice." Seek out the link to "Poems" and you'll find Taylor, Michael Wigglesworth, William Cowper, and a great many others. There are some explanatory notes, but little in the way of interpretation. Good Luck!

Bookmark and Share

Perhaps Coming Tomorrow I will


Perhaps Coming Tomorrow

I will provide proof that the confessional school of poetry has led to the self-destruction of American Culture and to every known ill in the modern world. Well that is, perhaps, overstating the matter, but I will say how it has contributed to some serious problems in modern poetry.

Bookmark and Share

Great New Website Tom Abbott


Great New Website
Tom Abbott at GoodForm brings to our attention a remarkable new web site devoted to Bible study. Casual inspection showed links to an extensive collection of sermons by St. Anthony of Padua, to Magisterial Documents on the Bible, to a version of the Catena Aurea available at CCEL, and other wonderful goodies. This site is going into my side column as soon as I feel like fooling with the template again. Thanks alot Mr. Abbott

Bookmark and Share

On Medjugorje and Private Revelation

T. S. O'Rama blogs at Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor blogs this with respect to the apparitions at Medjugorje:

So she is convinced the manifestations are of a supernatural order, and concedes they could be satanic. But if that were the case, why would the devil urge prayer and fasting on us? A strange means to a diabolic end.

To which my only response is: read carefully The Screwtape Letters and recall that the Devil can site scripture for his own purposes, so it sure wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for him to recommend these disciplines. Mind you, I am not saying that this is happening, merely that it can. On the subject of Medjugorje, I prefer to remain absolutely neutral until Holy Mother Church has made an official investigation and pronouncement, and even then, as subject matter of private revelation, I think I will be inclined to let others take up that banner. To my mind, there is a great deal too much in the treasury of the Church already for me to try to take in any more, better to explore those things that have been tried and true through the centuries. But that is only an opinion and not a law I enjoin upon any at the possible risk of factionalism. :-)

Bookmark and Share

Helping a Swimmer in the


Helping a Swimmer in the Tiber
Sean Roberts at Swimming the Tiber blogs:

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our Parish does Eucharistic Adoration every Thursday after the 8:00 AM Mass. One thing that seems... strange .... is that the klutch of 'babushka-ed ladies' (as Therese Z. calls them) all start loudly praying the Rosary as soon the Eucharistic Adoration starts. It's as if Jesus walked into the room and all anybody can think to say to him is "Hey, where's your Mom?" Am I taking this the wrong way?

I know how disconcerting this can be. We have perpetual adoration at our parish and various groups kept up a nearly perpetual rosary, which, while a lovely idea, is intrusive on those who wish to adore in something approaching silence. Our pastor's approach was to confine the Rosary to the Church after Mass (we have a completely separate building in which there is an adoration Chapel). The only vocal prayer allowed in the adoration chapel as of now is the daily 3:00 pm Divine Mercy prayer.

I don't know if this is a good or bad idea, but I do know that when I avail myself of adoration at 4:00 am, I am at least assured of the same measure of silence I would be likely to find in my home at the same hour.

I have grown to love the Rosary, but it does seem anomalous to me to leap into the Rosary the instant the blessed sacrament is exposed. I far prefer this wonderful prayer that was news to me until Fr. Keyes, C. PP. S. blogged it the other day. You might suggest this as a devotion in which everyone could engage in the future. (Gently, of course, and not insisting upon your own way. After all, you don't want to overthrow years, or even months of tradition.)

Only an opinion, I realize, and perhaps not much help, but I while I do not find them contradictory, I do find them somewhat at odds.

Bookmark and Share

There is something about this poem that always struck me as very autumnal. Though the imagery is not, they seem to be autumn thoughts--a gentle sort of melancholy and then recovery. The entire poem is over two-hundred lines long so I could not post the whole thing, so it came down to selection. Here is what I offer from one of those glorious, beautiful, and sometime overwritten Romantic era poems:

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
William Wordsworth

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
  The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
                Hath had elsewhere its setting,
                  And cometh from afar:
              Not in entire forgetfulness,
              And not in utter nakedness,
  But trailing clouds of glory do we come
              From God, who is our home:
  Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
  Shades of the prison-house begin to close
              Upon the growing Boy,
  But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
              He sees it in his joy;
  The Youth, who daily farther from the east
              Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
              And by the vision splendid
              Is on his way attended;
  At length the Man perceives it die away,
  And fade into the light of common day.

The theme of the entire poem is that while young we seem to have more direct access to the beauties and virtues of heaven. But as we age those things that once stirred us to great heights of emotion--love, devotion, delight, no longer seem to hold the same power over us. Read the entire poem for the resolution--it is truly one of the delights of 19th Century Poetry, and one of the poems that shaped much of the poetic landscape after it. Delight in Wordsworth at his very best.

Bookmark and Share

The Poetics of Science Fiction


The Poetics of Science Fiction

I recall in my graduate career taking a course with this portentous title from one of the most brilliant professors I ever had the pleasure to know. Ultimately the resolution of the course was that science fiction had and could have no poetics due to its foundational structure. I don't know that today I would agree, although I must say that I find little in that world that suggests the possibility of a great poetics. Much of the work seems to have no real love for language, but lavishes its love on ideas. Mind you, I like a great deal of science fiction, but I find that I weary of the "new" for the sake of the new, and I long for the occasional Ursula K. Leguin, or other exquisitely attuned writer to help me regain my childhood love of Science Fiction.

In the meantime, a piece that might fall in that mode, although I think of it more along the lines of Paul Klee's "Mechanical Bird," there is no question of its ultimate influences (viz. "positronic converters:).

Metallic Contours Steven Riddle

How long have you dreamed
in your paper-steel body?
Your glass eyes REM
in a bath of glycerin
and protective salts.
Bellows rising and falling,
diodes, capacitors, transistors, positronic converters,
warming your sensitive flesh.
Dreaming what dreams have you waited?
What dreams behind your
fine eyelids?
I wonder this when my hand traces your perfect metal contours
when I grasp your breast or pull you to me,
I wonder if I should love a machine
turned flesh.
I wonder what new things will
be born of such unions as ours,
half-metal monster
or strange dream of Man.

©2002 Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Jones Very A friend of


Jones Very

A friend of Emerson and Hawthorne, and a composer of some very fine poems, mostly found in ones and twos in obscure anthologies. In my tribute to the American Verse Project, I bring forward this intense, and quite frightening poem (at least to me), because in some ways it seems to describe the life of the average Christian in America.

THE SLAVE. Jones Very

I SAW him forging link by link his chain,
Yet while he felt its length he thought him free,
And sighed for those borne o'er the barren main
To bondage that to his would freedom be;
Yet on he walked with eyes far-gazing still
On wrongs that from his own dark bosom flowed,
And while he thought to do his master's will
He but the more his disobedience showed;
I heard a wild rose by the stony wall,
Whose fragrance reached me in the passing gale,
A lesson give—it gave alike to all—
And I repeat the moral of its tale,
"That from the spot where deep its dark roots grew
Bloomed forth the fragrant rose that all delight to view."

[Please pardon the somewhat melodramatic tone of what follows--the intent is not luddite, but cautionary.]

In my reading of this poem I see a person enslaved by themselves through small actions taken every day. The intent may be good, it may be harmful, or it may be utterly morally neutral, but the ultimate effect is to lead us off-track. Such things as this morally neutral medium, can, when it interferes with family life and the structure of time given to one's loved ones be a powerful instrument of darkness. When we shroud ourselves in an electronic envelop, be it one of television, radio, internet, mp3, cassette, CDs, or what have you, we effectively cut ourselves off from the direct revelation God has for us in the natural world. Many of the great Saints--John of the Cross and Francis come to mind immediately, had a great love for the sight, sounds, and rhythms of nature. We obstruct those and cast them aside, living in a world so artificial as to completely block the signals of God. How many of us today could write the Canticle to Brother Sun and Sister Moon without feeling utterly silly. How many of us really understand any of Keats's five major odes? Does "Nightingale" really make sense to us, much less "To Autumn." How many of us have any idea of what Jesus' Parables are about in real life? How many have handled a sheep, much less called one to him/her?

From this force-field of electromagnetic waves, we shield ourselves from the messages God has for us in the rhythms of nature. Now, we can get other messages through the medium, not available from God, and as with all things, properly used, the electronic media can enhance our appreciation and love of God. But most of us simply forge our chain link by link, blocking out important information that God would give us, and perhaps even more damagingly, putting cracks into the important relationships in our lives through neglect. The electronic media can be very addictive and quite insidious in the hold they have over us. Their use should be a matter of careful discipline and precaution. Now, I will shortly go to heed my own advice.

Bookmark and Share

Emma Lazarus The poet whose


Emma Lazarus

The poet whose oft-quoted line from a sonnet memorializing the Statue of Liberty graces a plaque on that island had a large number of poems that we have entirely forgotten. This is taken from the second volume of her complete poems (available on the American Verse Project page) and is a translation of an older poem by a Jewish author. What I like best about this is the first ten or so lines that seem to be extremely imagist in their thought and connections.


WILL night already spread her wings and weave
Her dusky robe about the day's bright form,
Boldly the sun's fair countenance displacing,
And swathe it with her shadow in broad day?
So a green wreath of mist enrings the moon,
Till envious clouds do quite encompass her.
No wind! and yet the slender stem is stirred,
With faint, slight motion as from inward tremor.
Mine eyes are full of grief — who sees me, asks,
"Oh wherefore dost thou cling unto the ground?"
My friends discourse with sweet and soothing words;
They all are vain, they glide above my head.
I fain would check my tears; would fain enlarge
Unto infinity, my heart — in vain!
Grief presses hard my breast, therefore my tears
Have scarcely dried, ere they again spring forth.
For these are streams no furnace heat may quench,
Nebuchadnezzar's flames may dry them not.
What is the pleasure of the day for me,
If, in its crucible, I must renew
Incessantly the pangs of purifying?
Up, challenge, wrestle, and o'ercome! Be strong!
The late grapes cover all the vine with fruit.
I am not glad, though even the lion's pride
Content itself upon the field's poor grass.
My spirit sinks beneath the tide, soars not
With fluttering seamews on the moist, soft strand.
I follow Fortune not, where'er she lead.
Lord o'er myself, I banish her, compel,
And though her clouds should rain no blessed dew,
Though she withhold the crown, the heart's desire,
Though all deceive, though honey change to gall,
Still am I lord, and will in freedom strive.

Bookmark and Share

Reintroducing Philip Freneau At one


Reintroducing Philip Freneau

At one time Philip Freneau ("The Poet of the Revolution") was well-known, taught, and well-loved in the United States. The poem I include here, I include because, despite some embarrassing sentiments regarding race (looked at with our normal chronological Chauvinism, nay imperialism) it spawned a series of similar poems throughout American History. Dylan may already have blogged Longfellow's contribution on the Jewish Cemetery, and of course Robert Lowell's "Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket." Lowell is a fantastically uneven poet, whom I cannot even pretend to like for the most part, but parts of Quaker Graveyard are quite effective. The poem is taken from an anthology by William Cullen Bryant (whose "Thanatopsis" I nearly blogged, but seemed too heavy for a morning made tremendously pretty by having all of our tropical air sucked into Lily) available on the American Verse Project Site.

Philip Freneau

IN spite of all the learned have said,
I still my old opinion keep;
The posture that we give the dead,
Points out the soul's eternal sleep.

Not so the ancients of these lands:
The Indian, when from life released,
Again is seated with his friends,
And shares again the joyous feast.

His imaged birds and painted bowl,
And venison for a journey dressed,
Bespeak the nature of the soul,
Activity, that knows no rest.

His bow for action ready bent,
And arrows with a head of stone,
Can only mean that life is spent,
And not the old ideas gone.

Thou, stranger, that shalt come this way,
No fraud upon the dead commit;
Observe the swelling turf, and say,
They do not lie , but here they sit .

Here still a lofty rock remains,
On which the curious eye may trace
(Now wasted half by wearing rains)
The fancies of a ruder race.

Here still an aged elm aspires,
Beneath whose far-projecting shade
(And which the shepherd still admires)
The children of the forest played!

There oft a restless Indian queen
(Pale Shebah, with her braided hair),
And many a barbarous form is seen,
To chide the man that lingers there.

By midnight moons, o'er moistening dews,
In habit for the chase arrayed,
The hunter still the deer pursues,
The hunter and the deer, a shade!

And long shall timorous fancy see
The painted chief and pointed spear,
And Reason's self shall bow the knee
To shadows and delusions here.

Bookmark and Share

Odd Synchronicity In an odd


Odd Synchronicity

In an odd synchronicity, it seems that the entire blogger community has descended upon the idea of anger and personalized it in various ways. Dylan's post spawned my own, and Mr. Joseph, at A Christian Conscience, provides us with a very personal view of anger.

Odd the ways that providence works, hien?

Bookmark and Share

Orthodox Catholic Feminism--Not an Oxymoron

I promised the blogmaster at Musings of an Amphibious Goat has a tremendously long, informative, and wonderful entry today about Catholic Feminism. No, it isn't an internal contradiction--it can and does exist, and the site proves it. Please do yourself a favor and visit and read--you will be surprised at how much you may learn. (Or maybe not, but the endeavor will still prove worthwhile).

Bookmark and Share

Josemaria Escriva on Humility


A reader who is very dear to my heart, asked about Escriva's writings on humility. I have this list tacked up on my wall at work.

from The Furrow Blessed (St.) Josemaria Escriva


Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:

—Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say;

—Always wanting to get your own way;

—Arguing when you are not right or — when you are — insisting stubbornly or with bad manners;

—Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so;

—Despising the point of view of others;

—Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan;

—Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own;

—Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation;

—Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you;

—Making excuses when rebuked;

—Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you;

—Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you;

—Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you;

—Refusing to carry out menial tasks;

—Seeking or wanting to be singled out;

—Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige ... ;

—Being ashamed of not having certain possessions ...

I hope this was helpful. It turns out that a better search term is "lack of humility."

Bookmark and Share

I was going to post a little ditty called "Sybaritic Luxuries," influenced by imagist and symbolist schools of poets, but I fear that doing so would make already similar sites almost indistinguishable. So, enjoy the wonderful, exotic, almost overripe offering chez La Vita Nuova and then return for the following non-symbolist, non-imagist (well, at least nearly so) poem:

Evening Conversation
Steven Riddle

The chill evening--the conversation a grey fruit
gravid--with what seed and
future generation--
nightshade, hollyhock, belladonna, yew--
this ghost-breath filled nursery
is silent.

Not until the tick-tick-ticking of the cooling engine
plucks gently and asks,
"Where now, how far, where should we go?"
do you remember how dangerous the prospect
of transplanting any growth, and question
the wisdom of planting at this time
when the workers for the harvest are so uncertain.

But the spell of things now possible hangs thick
in that silver air, and the conversation
coils around again to separate the space from the silence.

©2002 Steven Riddle

Bookmark and Share

Anger and other Assorted Emotions


Dylan has some excellent posts this morning regarding anger and its expression. I quote from one of them below to start my own reflections, because the points hit very close to home.

I've been pondering in recent days these issues of righteous anger vs unrighteous anger, thwarting injustice with a terrible swift sword, not wanting to be martyred or crucified or even offended in the more quotidian pedestrian ways. Of course, righteous anger exists. But I've been terrible throughout my life at "calibrating" the anger -- making it fit the provocation, or even defeating the provocation by a gracious sweetness of temper -- going overboard is so much easier, and more immediately satisfying!

I guess part of what I 'm going to do is go into broken record mode. I do this not so much for my audience, whom I assume must be much less dense than me (otherwise they would be writing this and I would be reading it) but for myself, as I need the constant reminders and occasions of remembrance. I wonder whether it is possible outside of Jesus Himself to have truly righteous anger. What are the sources of anger? I see generally two--one is fear, the other is selfishness. Our righteous indignation, if we dig far enough, may have much to do with someone getting away with something that we ourselves would like to do but feel too bound by laws and rules to get away with. I am not stating this categorically, but I do know from personal experience, I am most angry when I am thwarted in some desire or design. I am most judgmental when someone isn't doing something "by the book." Which is odd, because I don't do everything by the book. However, if someone stands through the eucharistic prayer, or refuses to exchange the sign of peace, I find a mild glow of anger and judgment developing. Why should I, is this righteous anger, or is this feeling slighted? I don't know for certain, but my suspicion, for myself, is that all anger can be sinful. But anger, like love, needs consent of will, and perhaps even a demonstration before it becomes an occasion of sin.

Two of Josemaria Escriva's "Seventeen Evidences of a Lack of Humility" are:

to argue with stubbornness and bad manners whether you are right or wrong

to give your opinion when it has not been requested or when charity does not demand it.

both of which are likely to occur in an occasion of anger.

If anger springs from fear, the sinfulness is, perhaps less, but the root problem remains.

So, having concluded that most occasions of anger are for me sinful or near occasions of sin, what then can I do about the root problem? What is the root problem?

I believe, as with almost all sinful behavior the root problem is attachment to the wrong things. We prize something above Jesus Christ--self, possessions, ideas, whatever. Jesus Christ is not at the center and through our attachments we make ourselves angry people. One of the attachments that is most difficult to eradicate and probably the most sensitive with respect to anger is our self-image. When someone challenges that image of self we are likely to become furious. When they challenge our authority, our integrity, our values, we are up in arms. But, if our center is correct, they can challenge Jesus all they want to and it would be like fighting the breeze. Eventually, they will have to surrender.

Most of the great Saints did not spend their time flying into furies at every slight or action. Perhaps there were a few who did so. But anger is not one of the traits of the saints. I'm convinced that part of this is because they have become detached from their image of self. If someone accuses them of something, they accept it and move on, seeking to make amends for the fault, real or imagined, before God.

So, the remedy to anger--develop detachment. Look at your self and see it for what it really is--a small, sinful, puling, angry, unkempt, screaming brat. Okay, I know most of you are not, but unfortunately, I spend far too much time in that child's body. I used to think it a virtue. I would become angry every time my sense of justice was challenged. Now I realize that I became angry because my personal authority was being denied.

Detachment--how to cultivate it. Well, God did give me the gift of fatherhood, and there is a place I can start to focus attention. When my small son pushes at the envelop of authority, how do I react? Let's be kind and say that I need work in that area, and it is a place I can start to practice detachment.

Obviously detachment is more than practice. It is something we grow into by loving Someone other than ourselves. In that love, we seek His grace and mercy more than we seek our own ends. So by constant prayer and constant practice, we grow in will to be what God has made us.

Detachment is utterly necessary to our assumption of identity in Christ. We cannot become everything we were meant to be unless we allow God to work in us and to show us why He loves each of us. We are each His own Son. We are in fact images of Christ, and God can see than in us no matter how thick the smoke screen we try to place between us. That is the reality that God is trying to bring forth. And because all good things reside in their fullness in Christ, though each of us is an exact, if distorted, image, not one of us is a complete, full image. Thus, when His beauty is brought forth, we will be unique in our identities. I should not strive to be St. John of the Cross, St. Therese, or St. Raphael Kalinowski--God already has one of those. What I need to strive for is to become St. Steven--a unique, complete, identifiable image of Jesus Christ. And that comes through letting go of anger, prayer and grace, practice of the will, and attention to detachment.

St. John of the Cross has many words of advice for us concerning how we might eventually develop detachment, but more of that somewhat later--when I have come more to terms with some of it myself.

Bookmark and Share

The Many Treasures of Maurice


The Many Treasures of Maurice and Thérèse

Dylan mentions below giving Maurice and Thérèse by Father Patrick Ahern a miss the last time he was at the library. This book, along with an exquisite can-you-possibly-guess-the-century translation of Imitation of Christ are constantly to hand on my bedside table. Maurice and Thérèse dramatically changed my life and my attitudes about "The Little Flower." In these simple letters, the depths of her love and wisdom are brought forward dramatically. I quote below my favorite example:

I understand better than ever how much your soul is the sister of my own, since it is called to lift itself up to God by the ELEVATOR of love and not to climb the hard stairway of fear. I am not in the least astonished that the practice of familiarity with Jesus comes a bit hard to you. We don't get to this in a single day. But I am sure that I shall greatly help you to walk more evenly by this delightful way once I have been delivered from my mortal envelope; and soon you will say like St. Augustine, "Love is the weight that pulls me forward."

I'd like to try to make you understand, by a very simple example, how much Jesus loves even very imperfect souls who trust in Him:

I'm thinking of a father who has two children who are mischievous and disobedient, and when he comes to punish them he sees one who trembles and draws away from him in fright, knowing in the bottom of his heart that he deserves to be punished. His brother, on the contrary throws himself into his father's arms, protesting that he is sorry for hurting him, and he loves him, and that to prove it he will be good from now on. Then if this child asks his father to punish him with a kiss, I doubt that the heart of the happy father will be able to resist the childlike confidence of his son, of whose sincerity he is sure. He's well aware that the child will often fall back into these same faults, but he's always ready to forgive him, provided the boy always grasps him by the heart. I say nothing about the first child, dear little brother. Surely you know yourself whether his father can love him as much as the other and treat him with the same indulgence.

Wow! I gasped the first time I read this powerful insight. It helps me to understand that famous verse that became the title of a Flannery O'Connor book, "Since the time of John the Baptist heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by storm." Here is one of the violent, in love, taking Heaven by storm.

This books presents the letters from Thérèse to her missionary "brother." They go a long way to explaining why a cloistered nun is Patroness of the Missions.

Bookmark and Share

The Trinitarianism of Jesus Boy


The Trinitarianism of Jesus

Boy is that title a mouthful! But it is a wonderful summary of the promised second excerpt from Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen.

from Nourished by the Word Wilfrid Stinissen

The Old Testament points to Jesus, and Jesus himself points to the Father. Or, more correctly, to the Trinity. Even when it concerns the New Testament, one can thus talk about a spiritual meaning. When Jesus cries "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34), he reveals not only the world's alienation from God, but also the endless space and chasms found within the Trinity between the divine Persons. One word, however, such as "The Father and I are one" (Jn 10:30) lets us have something of a feeling of the similarly inconceivable proximity there is between them.

I love paradox. Perhaps not in the same way as Chesteron appeared to relish it, but more for the glimpse of a reality that transcends our own. Paradox and the resolutions thereof treat of Gödel's theorem and the possibility of having statements that while provable are not provable within a closed system--empirical reality for example. Anyway, the chasms within and the proximity of the persons of the Trinity are exactly the kind of thing that feeds my prayer with awe and wonder. I am cast down from my exalted intellectual heights and left to goggle as a little child at the sheer beauty and magnificence of what I am seeing. This paradox puts me in "the little way" and lets me abandon my pretense at understanding and simply reach out for the beauty of the transcendent reality that is God.

Bookmark and Share

Great Thoughts from T.S. O'Rama


Great Thoughts from T.S. O'Rama

At Video Meliora... today:

I've been thinking lately about recent divisions within "St. Blog's Parish". Blogging is a mixed bag I think. The problem is that it is a 24-7 controversy-generator because controversy creates hits, and hits are seen (falsely) as a sort of affirmation of our worth. I believe controversy can be good or bad; the openness of the air can help an infected wound and also often brings out truth - but it can also be negative, in that it emphasizes our differences and divides us into camps.

I could not possibly agree more and I consider it a very serious issue. One thing I would prefer not to have on this site is any hint of factions. I hope that all feel welcome and at home. I would very much like this to be a place where people can experience Christ's Love, even if only in the distant and diffuse way dictated by the medium.

But then I got to thinking, what kind of factions might form on my site? A fiercely anti-estlinarian movement, ready to eradicate the slightest hint of typographical anomaly? Or a fiercely pro-metaphysical faction, ready to march into battle over the question of whether the metaphysical conceit is in fact the very finest poetic development since spoken language? I tremble to contemplate. So, I exhort, encourage, and enjoin, all of you, do not join factions, after all, "We're all individuals."

[Note: This change, made 2 October 2002, was produced as Mr. Gregg the Obscure, obviously overwhelmed by grammarian and semantic factionalism (the anti-humpty-dumpty faction which, unaccountably insists upon proper and comprehensible use of the English language; as opposed to those more creative, open-minded Humpty-Dumptyists who insists that a word means what I want it to mean when I use it) enjoined me to say what I was trying to say. The original final sentence, which featured spectacular misusage, is appended in its affected part: "So, I abjure all of you. . ."]

Bookmark and Share

Unlike many people I know in the blogworld, at least according to their own reports, I tend to be a nicer person here than in reality (at least I hope that is true). I don't often answer people in the white heat of anger--I may start, but before I send anything, I very carefully consider it and usually delete one or two responses before I actually post anything. (Except when I'm talking about literature, and I doubt seriously anything I might say about poetry is likely to provoke enormous reaction.) I thought to myself, why do I have this restraint on the blogs and not in real life. The answer is two fold--part on it is that the answer or response need not be in real time. I don't have to answer every comment immediately or even at all.

The second reason is by far more important--I am detached from what happens on the blogs. I care about many people, surprisingly intensely considering my real lack of knowledge, but I don't need to control them. I don't need for them to do as I say. My identity is not wrapped up in whether Mr. X or Ms. Y follows my advice. I can advise and let it go. The person being advised can listen or ignore as the spirit leads them, and all is well. At home however, much is wrapped up in my identity as husband, father, coworker. I need to make this impression or that. I have to have validation from all and sundry. In short, I am terribly attached. As a result everyone around me suffers. I need to let go of that attachment. I need to break free from the need to identify myself in others (the Sartreesque "hell is other people") and identify myself only in God. I need to claim my identity in Christ wholly and to have that identity at all times in every place. I hope and pray that my conduct here is more indicative of what that identity in Christ is likely to be, because otherwise, I would be quite likely to be one of the "sour saints" that St. Teresa prays for deliverance from.

Bookmark and Share

Prayer and Praise Report Thanks


Prayer and Praise Report

Thanks to all of you who were praying for Fiona and her family. Katherine called and told me that she came through the surgery with flying colors and was home before lunch! The whole family still needs prayers as Fiona will need to be carefully monitored over the coming weeks to assure that she indeed no longer needs the pacemaker. Thank you!

Please also continue to pray for the family situation. Thanks again!

Bookmark and Share

At Last, Someone Who Really


At Last, Someone Who Really Understands Billy Collins's Poetry

Okay, I suppose I shouldn't be mean, but reading this review reminded me that poetry need not be a choice between the indecipherable and the sophomoric; however, that is the palette spread before most people. Many fine poets can be found on the web. Stop by Dylan's place some time, or take a cruise by Mr. Core's spot on the web (see left-hand column). Poetry is an art, a craft, a discipline, and ultimately a means of communication. Some have deprived it of one or more of these qualities, prefering instead either that which toes the acadmic line, or that which toes the line of those entranced with half-poetry. I think Mr.Collins suffers most from lack of discipline, his poems are excellent sketches of poems that, for me at least, ultimately don't gel because they are at once too confessional and too confused in imagery and thought. Mr. Collins needs to carefully consider everything he writes, because within each is a wonderful poem just dying to escape the skin he gave it.

Bookmark and Share

Dylan's Poetry Review


Dylan's Poetry Review

This morning Dylan has posted some remarkable poems, one by Gerard Manley Hopkins, the other a portion of "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson.

Bookmark and Share

Here are a few quotes to honor this great Saint:

To the pure all is pure (Titus 1:15), the simple and upright soul sees not evil in anything, since evil exists in impure hearts only and not in material objects.

You are wrong to find fault with one thing and another, and to seek that all should yield to your way of viewing things. We want to be like little children, and little children know not what is best, to them all seems well; let us imitate them. Besides there would be no merit [in obedience] were we only to do what would appear reasonable to us.

Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk..

I am not always faithful, but I am never discouraged; I leave myself wholly in the arms of Divine Lord; He teaches me to draw profit from all--both good and ill that He finds in me. (St. John of the Cross). He teaches me to speculate in the Bank of Love, or rather it is He who acts for me without telling me how He goes to work, that is His affair and not mine; my part is complete surrender, reserving nothing to myself, not even the gratification of knowing how my credit stands at the Bank.

Now that I am about to appear before the good God, more than ever do I understand that there is but one thing necessary: to work solely for Him, and to do nothing for self or for creatures.

To write books of devotion, to compose the most sublime poetry, is of less worth than the least act of self-renunciation.

One could go on at great length, but this is a nice sample of thought, and even of some of the dry humor ("knowing how my credit stands at the Bank.) St. Thérèse is a marvelous, wonderful, sublime, and valuable gift to all of us. St. Thérèse pray for us! Please spend your heaven doing good on Earth for those of us who are weak sinners.

Bookmark and Share

Happy St. Thérèse Day! St.


Happy St. Thérèse Day!

St. Thérèse, is there any point in trying to say anything further about her?

Other than, St. Thérèse, pray for us, words have no capacity to speak of her wonders. This child lived a life in such a way that she became a Doctor of the Church.

I had long wondered whether what she taught really ranked her among those luminaries: Augustine, Chrysostom, Aquinas, St. John of the Cross. I thought it was piety run rampant, a case of religious monomania, perhaps a momentary loss of perspective due to an overabundance of emotion. I was wrong. Had I ever listened to St. Thérèse herself, I would have discovered this. And when I finally did, I was bowled over. May any of you who retain your doubt and skepticism about her place in the church also have a similar experience!

A Prayer of St. Thérèse inspired by the sight of a statue of Joan of Arc

O Lord god of Hosts, Who has said in Thy Gospel: "I am not come to bring peace, but a sword," arm me for the combat. I burn to do battle for Thy Glory, but I pray Thee to enliven my courage. . . Then with holy David I shall be able to exclaim:"Thou alone art my shield it is Thou, O Lord, Who teachest my hands to fight."

O my Beloved! I know the warfare in which I am to engage; it is not on the open field I shall fight. . . I am a prisoner held captive by Thy Love; of my own free will I have riveted the fetters which bind me to Thee and cut me off forever from the world. My sword is Love! with it--like Joan of Arc--"I will drive the stranger from the land, I will have Thee proclaimed King"--over the kingdom of souls.

Of a truth Thou hast no need of so weak an instrument as I, but Joan, Thy chaste and valiant Spouse has said: "We must do battle before God gives the victory." O my Jesus! I will do battle then, for
Thy love, until the evening of my life. As Thou didst not will to enjoy rest upon earth, I wish to follow Thine example; and then this promise which came from Thy Sacred Lips will be fulfilled in me: "If any man minister to Me, let him follow Me, and where I am there also shall My servant be, and . . . him will My Father honor."

To be with Thee, to be in Thee, that is my one desire; this promise of fulfillment which Thou dost give helps me to bear with my exile as I await the joyous Eternal Day when I shall see Thee face to face.

Bookmark and Share



About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2002 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2002 is the previous archive.

November 2002 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll